Local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts know a thing or two about eco-awareness. In fact, much of their programming focuses on outdoor activities, learning about nature and protecting the environment.
Eric Melton is the district executive for the Boy Scouts' Pelathe District, which encompasses Douglas County and Linwood. He said the various units often plan environment-oriented programs, and individual boys also develop environmental projects.
``All the Scouts do something at some point during the year,'' Melton said. ``The district as a whole takes care of the Bromelsick property. All the troops and many of the Packs get together several times a year for projects.''
The Bromelsick Boy Scout Camp, located just north of Clinton Lake, was purchased with money from a trust established by Alfred Bromelsick at his death in 1950. He left his entire estate to the city's Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and 4-H programs.
To battle soil erosion, Boy Scouts plant trees and grasses and sometimes move rocks or soil to fill in a gully at the camp. They burn dead grass and small trees annually to regenerate the tall grass prairie, and the boys are educated about the importance of the burnings. They also plant native grasses and learn how to manage the prairie.
Melton said the dam at a small pond on the property had become overgrown and tree roots were creating leaks. ``We cleaned the growth off to help the grasses grow back up,'' he said. ``That's an ongoing project.
``We're in the unique position in that we have property that is the sole responsibility of the Scouts, and that's Bromelsick,'' Melton said. ``It's a great educational tool for the kids to learn how to take care of the environment.''
Boy Scouts take on additional environmental projects each spring and fall with work days at both council camps - Camp Theodore Naish in Bonner Springs and H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation in Osceola, Mo.
In addition to their maintenance work at the three sites, Boy Scouts participate each year in the Clinton Lake cleanup. This year's event took place Saturday, and Scouts turned out to lend a hand. Local Boy Scouts also have ``adopted'' a section of U.S. Highway 40 to keep litter-free.
Herb Harris, Scoutmaster for Troop 59, said most of the major awards the boys work for include an environmental aspect, and one required merit badge, Environmental Science, focuses entirely on raising their environmental awareness. Because the scouting program centers on outdoor activities, boys spend much of their time learning about preserving nature.
For example, Harris said, ``There's a lot of training in no-trace camping, taking out everything you bring in and leaving the area just like you found it.''
Individual projects tackled by the Scouts have included planting several hundred trees at Clinton Lake, constructing boxes for wood ducks and blue birds, and reconstructing trails to curb soil erosion, he said.
Mariana Remple, a Girl Scout volunteer for 41 years, said the easiest way to see how Girl Scouts learn about the environment is to flip through the Girl Scout manuals.
Brownie Girl Scouts includes girls in the first, second and third grades. A chapter of the ``Brownie Handbook'' focuses on ``World of the Out-Of-Doors'' and offers various activities to teach young girls about plants, animals and other discoveries that await them in the outdoors. Girls receive recognition patches for completing a certain number of activities, which include an experiment to show how seeds sprout, a lesson in reading trail signs, an ecology treasure hunt, and a look at how sedimentary rock forms.
The handbook also is filled with games, songs, snacks and lessons that pertain to nature and adventures in the outdoors. A section called ``My Natural Environment'' stresses the importance of recycling and conserving water and energy.
Girls in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades participate in Junior Girl Scouts. Part of the Girl Scout Law asks participants to do their best to ``use resources wisely'' and ``to protect and improve the world around me,'' and many of the lessons and projects in the ``Junior Girl Scout Handbook'' involve learning about the environment.
Junior Girl Scouts can earn badges for completing a certain number of activities in various categories. Eighteen of the recognition patches center on projects that either take place outdoors or involve a study of the environment.
One badge, Eco-Action, specifically asks girls to look at environmental issues. Cadettes (grades seven through nine) and Seniors (grades 10 through 12) also work on interest projects to earn recognition patches, and 14 categories focus on outdoor or environment-oriented activities.
Lawrence Girl Scouts also hold an annual ``Spring Fling'' to clean up and maintain the 40-acre Girl Scout campsite, Hidden Valley, purchased with money from the Bromelsick trust fund. This year, troops, leaders and parents plan to plant native species of trees and shrubs, clear trash out of the fence lines and creek beds, seed prairie grasses, spread wood chips donated by KPL on trails, and improve unit sites, fire circles and woodpiles.
Remple, who chairs the Hidden Valley site council and is a troop leader, said it's important for scouting to teach youths about the outdoors and protecting the environment.
``So many girls are growing up in an urban environment and they don't observe this sort of thing around their homes,'' she said. ``Even when they go on vacations in the outdoors, they might go in an RV so they may not learn how to really look at things and understand what they see.''
Remple said she heard a quote that encompasses what the scouting program tries to teach about eco-awareness.
``Somebody said -- and I don't know who it was -- `The question used to be can people survive in the wilderness? Now the question is can the wilderness survive people?''' she said. ``Of course, wilderness applies to the environment in general.''