Focusing on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, with an architectural emphasis on integral sustainability, Camp Trivera is the first Girl Scouts campground of its kind. The space will serve as an educational and community center for the future female leaders of tomorrow in an outdoor setting. Inhabitat caught up with Shannon Evers, the CEO of Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma, to learn more about Camp Trivera. The facility is set to open in September 2020 in Oklahoma City.
Inhabitat: This project has $12.7 million and three years of planning behind it. Can you speak a little bit about the inspiration behind it and how it came to be?
Evers: Our mission: Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.
Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma is proud to lead the way within our community and for the broader network of Girl Scouts throughout the country. Camp Trivera is a space dedicated to progress as a green oasis in the heart of Oklahoma City and a site for girls to pursue STEM education.
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Girl Scouts have been involved since the very beginning of the design process for Camp Trivera. When municipal planning for a new turnpike prompted the closure of a previous campsite, Girl Scouts hosted girls of all ages to discuss a dilemma — part of Camp Cookieland and area homes would be destroyed to make way or Camp Cookieland could be sold to provide land for the project. After a weekend of group discussions, the Girl Scouts’ vote was unanimous to sell Camp Cookieland, and we began the process of envisioning a new camp together. Our goals were to:
• Offer a centralized location in Oklahoma City where residents of surrounding communities could come together,
• Leverage partnerships that would heighten learning opportunities for girls,
• Provide a comfortable space for girls and adults that are new to experiencing the outdoors while also providing progression for everyone to learn new skills along the way, and
• Influence the next generation of STEM leaders by using the property to inspire girls to learn about science, technology, engineering and math.
The new camp will be located east of the Oklahoma City Zoo and Myriad Botanical Gardens in the heart of Oklahoma City’s Adventure District.
Our vision has come to life at Camp Trivera, and every time I walk the site, I see the elements our girls have selected. The site features three treehouses, a sleeping porch for hammocks and a zipline spanning four city blocks, which provides unique access into the Oklahoma City Zoo. There are also outdoor campsites where girls can stargaze and dream under the night canopy. Outdoor areas encourage independence and an appreciation of nature while indoor activities teach campers by allowing them to observe nature — even though we’re technically located in a big city.
Camp Trivera’s STEM focus centers on the anticipated demand for future STEM professionals. Nationally, Girl Scouts of the USA is committed to helping 2.5 million girls find their place in the pipeline for STEM careers by 2025. Sparking girls’ interest in STEM from an early age with expert guidance is key. We look forward to providing the next generation of female leaders with the tools they need to consider a STEM career.
Inhabitat: How will the camp function as a green space?
Evers: Camp Trivera will utilize about half of a designated 40-acre parcel near downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma’s capital. Master gardening techniques will be taught on-site, along with lessons in conservation and how to take care of the space. Outdoor camping also gives participants a chance to be independent and learn how to take care of themselves in nature. Hiking, canoeing and archery will be just some of the activities offered in addition to a zipline that stretches more than four city blocks into the Oklahoma City Zoo’s Sanctuary Asia elephant enclosure, which is located just across the camp’s lake.
Varied Girl Scout programs will also teach girls about the natural environment around them, including programs around everything from astronomy and animal habitats to swimming and rock climbing. Weddings, private events and community celebrations will also take place at Trivera, with intentional green space and minimal environmental impact as part of the amenities offered.
Inhabitat: What are some of the sustainability design aspects of this project? How will it limit environmental impact?
Evers: The site was designed with conservation in mind, and we used it as an opportunity to teach girls about conservation. Several efforts can be found throughout the site. All outdoor lighting is Dark Sky Rated to help minimize light pollution and allow girls to see the stars. Plumbing elements help reduce water use by 30%, and a rainwater harvesting system collects water from the rooftops to feed plants surrounding the building.
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Girl Scouts worked with an arborist during construction to determine which trees could be removed and which trees would be preserved to minimize impact on the existing landscape. Girls also added a butterfly garden to restore natural habitats that were affected by construction. We have also identified several 100- to 200-year-old trees on the property that will be tagged and protected as a learning opportunity for girls.
We used windows as a design feature to maximize natural light and also allow girls to see the outside from key program spaces. We incorporated and reused historical picnic benches that were already onsite to provide gathering spaces throughout the property.
Daily operations also focus on sustainability and environmental stewardship. From recycling and encouraging reusable water bottles to teaching “leave no trace” principles and harvesting invasive plant species to feed to the elephants at the zoo, these best practices are sure to influence future generations’ outdoor habits. Curriculum lessons also include information about soil contamination, agriculture, global warming and noise pollution, in addition to other topics.
Inhabitat: How important is it for you to be able to show girls real-life applications for STEM outside of classroom settings?
Evers: To be competitive in the global market, over the next decade the U.S. will need an astounding 1 million more STEM professionals than it’s on track to produce. In fact, reports show that STEM occupations are growing at double the rate of other professions. At Girl Scouts, we’re committed to filling the STEM workforce pipeline by launching a multi-year initiative to engage girls in hands-on STEM programs that will inspire our future leaders.
But it’s easier said than done. By the time most girls are in third grade, they’ve already formed their STEM identity and have decided if STEM is something they are good at or not. Our goal at Girl Scouts is to provide girls with unique experiences to try new things in a safe space so by the time they are in class, they already have knowledge and expertise that set them up for success and give them confidence to speak up.
STEM will be an integral part of Camp Trivera, where we will show Girl Scouts real-world applications for STEM outside the classroom. Our STEM focus goes beyond textbooks. Camp Trivera will allow us to offer after-school learning and badge-earning opportunities influenced by former Girl Scouts who are leaders in their respective fields.
A NASA-certified instructor will lead designated courses in astronomy. With nearly every female astronaut having been a Girl Scout, the possibilities are endless. From space travel to medicine and more, the camp will host the next generation of female leaders following in the footsteps of Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space and a Girl Scout alumna.
Programming was incorporated into the buildings’ intentional design. For example, the ceiling in our STEM lab was left exposed to show engineering principles at work through air ducts, waterlines and other building systems. A teaching kitchen demonstrates the science of cooking, along with math elements like temperature conversions, weights and measures and how cooking times affect an outcome. The practical application of these school subjects is immediately visible through cause and effect for Girl Scouts when they see how those factors impact things we use every day.
Inhabitat: Why is it important to combine these more contemporary elements of STEM education with traditional outdoor activities, like camping?
Evers: Early childhood and mid-level education studies consistently demonstrate the value of hands-on activities as a primary teaching tool. Working through problems in a real-world setting can help girls excel as problem-solvers. Camp Trivera offers various levels of camping, from traditional campsites to indoor sleeping rooms with domestic amenities. Girls can slowly be introduced to camping where they are most comfortable.
Combining outdoor experiences with STEM also makes it more fun. For instance, our zipline, ‘The Monarch Flyway’, will zip girls across the Zoo Lake while they also learn about butterflies and the science of flight. Our rock wall also serves a dual purpose and teaches girls about geology, fossils and time.
Inhabitat: Are there any other unique architectural or conceptual aspects that set this project apart from other Girl Scout camps?
Evers: Camp Trivera is unlike any other Girl Scout camp in the U.S. With a STEM surprise around every corner, Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma has taken traditional camp activities and turned them into fun, STEM learning opportunities.
Its unique features include a replica of the 2020 night sky permanently incorporated into its constellation-filled ceiling. A Wall of Women showcases more than 100 outstanding local and national female STEM leaders, a pully system in the stairway teaches girls about simple machines, and a technology and art installation in the bathrooms teaches guests about conservation.
The camp’s sleeping options are varied too. Girls will have the ability to sleep in a treehouse, hammock or quadruple bunk-bed. Even seemingly small details are significant and part of the site’s intentional design. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outdoors inside as much as possible, and the varied colors of the brick used on our walls plus an indoor rock wall represent the earth’s strata and the varied geology found in nature.
Camp Trivera is a legacy project that will serve generations of Girl Scouts from across the country, the communities they represent and our own community in Oklahoma City.
Images via Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma