Girl Scout creates program to teach children the value of nature

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Chloe Gross, far right, stands with a group of children who hiked to the top of Mount Kearsarge last July as part of her program to interest kids in nature and preserving our environment. She earned the Girl Scout Gold Award for her work, which resulted in a program people everywhere can use. Courtesy photo

Chloe Gross of Deerfield.

DEERFIELD, NH – Chloe Gross believes that if any generation is motivated to see that climate change and biodiversity issues are addressed this Earth Day and all year round, it will be the youngest among us. This Deerfield 18-year-old has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award – the highest honor available to a Girl Scout in grades 9-12 – by creating a program that anyone can use to get kids outdoors, spark an interest in nature, and involve experts in teaching them about the value of a healthy environment.

Her project, EcoKids Environmental Program, is designed to be used as a six-hour day camp or summer camp plan, or used in pieces as an after-school program for children in grades 4-6. Available on her website, ecokidsnational.org, activities can be mixed and matched or substituted for visits from experts. While she tested the plan by running a weeklong program through Deerfield Parks and Recreation, she points out that the program can be used in the city, suburbs, woods, deserts, or plains – anywhere.

“Adaptability is the main goal of EcoKids,” she wrote in the program introduction, “so that every child has the opportunity to connect to the natural world and create a lifelong stewardship to protect our Earth.”

Ellen O’Donnell taught the children in Chloe Gross’s pilot program how to identify trees by their leaves. Each person had a nature journal to keep a record of their leaves and other activities through the week. Courtesy Photo

Incredibly, Chloe created and ran the program, created a website, and designed a curriculum available as a PDF for all to use while sick first with mononucleosis and then Lyme disease during her junior into senior years at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover.

“She’s amazing!” said Ellen O’Donnell, Chloe’s former teacher at Deerfield Community School and Gold Award project advisor. “She took on quite a big task. She wanted to share her love of the outdoors and come up with curriculum.”

Once Chloe conferred with O’Donnell, she took her advisor’s suggestions and ran with them, finding experts on her own and becoming skilled at communicating with adults and organizing a huge number of tasks to create her program. She ran her weeklong program last July in Deerfield, keeping children in grades 3-5 engaged and active. They hiked locally, exploring trails in Pawtuckaway State Park with rescue and geology experts, had a wetlands lesson from an environmental teacher from Vermont, talked about water quality and native plants on the Dowst-Cate Trail, went bird watching and did other activities at Bear Brook State Park, and finished the week with hike up Mount Kearsarge in Warner.

O’Donnell said Chloe didn’t want the children she was working with to know how tired she was during her recovery, powering through presentations and hikes. “She’s a really thoughtful girl, a hard worker,” she said. “She’s one of those bright lights that you remember for the rest of your life.”

Chloe now looks to the future with great confidence.

Beth Heckman taught the kids how to geocache, a method of using GPS data to find hidden boxes in the woods that have trinkets and a small journal. This was part of a hike in Bear Brook State Park, where they practiced staying on the trail, navigating junctions, and of course, geocaching. Courtesy Photo

“When I was compiling my report I was thinking of all things I didn’t even know I learned,” she said. “All these ‘adulting’ memes! But I can write a professional email! That’s one of those things I didn’t even realize I learned. This is so big! Whatever project that is thrown at me, I’ll be able to handle it. It just hit me, if I could make it through last year, being as sick as I was, and still have it be a raging success – not only for myself but the kids who loved it, and the adults. If I really want it, I can put my mind to it, and it can happen!”

O’Donnell agreed. “She’s going to make a mark on the world!”

Chloe is looking forward to starting college in the fall. She plans to attend the University of New Hampshire, studying environmental conservation and sustainability with possible minor in forestry, education, or communications.

Gold Award Girl Scouts don’t just change the world for the better, they change it for good. The Gold Award is earned by girls in grades 9–12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in developing sustainable solutions to local, national, and global challenges. Since 1916, Girl Scouts have answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change. They earn college scholarships, demonstrate high educational and career outcomes, and are active in their communities.

Chloe Gross has answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change, and her Gold Award is a testament to her remarkable dedication to improving her community and the world. The Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable.


About the Girl Scout Gold Award

  • Gold Award Girl Scouts on average spend one to two years on their project.
  • A Gold Award project must be sustainable after the girl’s involvement ends.
  • The average age of Gold Award Girl Scouts is 17.
  • Since 1916, more than 1 million girls have earned the Gold Award or its equivalent.
  • Gold Award Girl Scouts are entitled to enlist at a higher pay grade when they join the military.
  • University research indicates that noting you are a Gold Award Girl Scout on a college application is influential in the admissions decision-making process.
  • Twelve young women from New Hampshire and Vermont earned their Gold Award in the 2018-19 membership year as part of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.
  • The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable!