Twinkle. Scooby. Jester. Lego.
Sounds like this could be the list of characters in a new superhero movie…
But anyone who knows a thing or two about Girl Scout camp knows better. That list actually represents a cherished tradition, passed down from one camp generation to the next: earning your camp name!
Getting a camp name is a big deal. When you’re at camp, these magical nicknames are how others identify you. Plus, they show off a wide spectrum of creativity and personality.
But what do all these names mean…and where did this tradition come from?
As explained by current Camp Holloway Director Flip Flop, camp names are a widespread Girl Scout tradition– but there are ways that Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee makes this tradition its own. (More on that in a minute.)
Camp names became part of GSMIDTN when Holloway opened in 1952 (followed by Sycamore Hills in 1958). Part of their original purpose was practicality: staffers got camp names to prevent confusion. For example, there may be three “Sarahs” working camp, but there will only be one “Stargazer.”
But the heart behind camp names runs deeper.
“I feel like at Girl Scout camp, you’re the same person, but you’re in a different world almost,” said Uno, a Girl Scout Junior who got her camp name this year. “You get a different name, you meet new friends. There are so many opportunities here and you can be anyone you want to be. Getting your camp name represents that.”
Okay, so how do you get a camp name?
Camp names go to all staff, interns, and CITs, as well as girls who have attended Girl Scout camp for four years or more. You’ll only find this at GSMIDTN camps!
“Earning a camp name is a special time,” Flip Flop said. “It means a camper has been part of our community for 4 summers. Not only have they made the commitment to return to camp, but they have changed camp for the better and been changed BY camp.”
And yes- you get to pick your own name! All camp names are unique; you can only choose a particular name if no one has held it in the last 5 years. You also can’t copy a camp horse’s name or a Holloway Heroine/Sycamore Shero name that’s been retired.
“Campers often excitedly tell me when they arrive that THIS is the year they get a camp name,” Flip Flop described. “Parents tell me their campers talk about nothing else before they come for that fourth summer.”
At the end of each camp week, a small ceremony is held for girls marking their fourth year, where their names are officially bestowed upon them.
At Sycamore Hills, girls decorate a ceramic tile with their camp name and place it on the famous silo outside the Red Barn. They choose a camp counselor who has been an important mentor to be part of the ceremony with them.
Cardinal, a Girl Scout Senior, got her name this year. (She chose it because her mother used to attend a Girl Scout camp in Kentucky called Camp Cardinal!) Her sister Mezzo, a Girl Scout Cadette, also earned her name this year.
“You get something fun, and it’s yours,” Cardinal said.
“Exactly. It’s so special,” Mezzo chimed in. She said girls frequently dream about future camp names from their very first year. “You start your list when you’re a Brownie coming to camp and write a new one every year. And then you get your nickname, and nobody else is going to have that.”
Between Camp Holloway and Sycamore Hills, thousands of camp names have been part of the magic throughout the years. They remind us of the amazing family Girl Scout camp creates—how each of us is our own unique self…and then together, we make an amazing team.
We hope to see your camp name on the silo some day too!
The return to camp this past summer was out-of-this-world! Check out our photo album to see more pictures of girls earning their camp names.
Do you have a camp name? Tell us why you chose it and what it means to you!