Girl Scouts of Gateway Council participate in 2016 worldwide ‘Jamboree on the Internet’


Northeast Florida girl scouts joined together to communicate with scouts around the globe via Skype during the annual “Jamboree on the Internet (JOTI)” Oct. 15.

Girl Scouts ranging from 6 to 17 years of age attended this year’s event, with older, more experienced scouts helping first-time participants overcome the initial shyness of meeting a scout from another country for the first time, according to John Van Zyl, assistant Girl Scout leader for Troop 1216 in Neptune Beach.

“After the first five minutes, everyone settled down and began to have fun chatting,” Van Zyl said.

This was the fifth year that Troop 1216 participated in the event. The troop hosted the gathering at Christ Church, one of two locations, which had 10 Skype stations set up. The other venue was located in Gainesville.

Early reports indicate that more than 150 Girl Scouts representing Gateway Council contacted 21 different countries. While that number is down from the 52 countries contacted in 2015, Van Zyl said, the girls focused on more meaningful chat sessions this year, with a goal toward quality and knowledge gathering, versus quantity and simply seeing how many countries they could contact.

Topics of discussion included the environment, the differences between the United States and international scouting programs; differences in scout uniforms, school curriculums and sports; and favorite foods, music and movies. The scouts even taught each other international songs over Skype.

The Girls Scouts’ preference was to use Skype, where they could talk to the international scouts face to face via the internet, compared to their Boy Scout counterparts, who still use amateur hams radio as their primary form of communications with the world.

“In this age of technology, apps such as Facetime, Facebook and Skype allow scouts today a face-to-face opportunity, to obtain a rare look at the scouting world beyond U.S.A. borders, and learn how different international scouting is compared to the U.S. models,” Van Zyl said.

This was the sixth year the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council hosted the event, which takes place on the third weekend of October annually.

With a long list of more than 291 scout contacts covering 40 time zones and more than 70 potential scouting countries, the scouts started their international chat sessions early Friday afternoon at 4 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, on Oct. 14. Some scouts participated in supervised overnight lock-ins that continued for the next 36 hours, and well into the early hours of Sunday morning.

For internet safety, the international scout contacts were screened and specially selected over a three-month period prior to the JOTI weekend.