Standing over a wheelbarrow lined with aluminum foil and filled with hot coals, 11-year-old Saraphine Dass rotated her pie iron slightly, heating its opposite side.

Inside the apparatus, which looked almost like a panini press on a stick, a grilled cheese cooked slowly — very slowly.

“I flip it like every five minutes, and I have to flip it three times, I think,” Dass said. “It’s going to take a long time, but it’s a very fun experience.”

Nestled in a corner of Lilburn City Park, a dozen or so Girl Scouts hovered around wheelbarrow grills, dutch ovens and box ovens, cooking their lunches alongside Dass.

While an unusual sight at the park — usually pie irons and other makeshift ovens are found in campgrounds — the outdoor living skills “camptivity” at Lilburn Day Camp, a weeklong summer camp for Girl Scouts who live in metro Atlanta, teaches girls how to cook outside of a traditional kitchen, among other lessons.

“Anything you can cook in a regular oven, you can cook in those,” Laurie Zeisel, who oversaw the cooking camptivity, said as she pointed to a box oven. “You can do anything outside that you can do inside.”

Now in its 38th year, Lilburn Day Camp boasts about 500 attendees annually, including staffers. This year, director Lyn Risher said, there were a little more than 300 campers registered, about 100 Camp Aides (CAs), or Girl Scouts who work with adult staff members to plan and lead activities in their units, and 80 adult staff.

“The (campers) learn different things; it’s a little mix of everything,” Risher said of the camp. “In outdoor living skills, they learn how to cook and they’re doing knife skills. In woodworking, they’re learning (hands-on) skills — being outside in Mother Nature. They just learn a ton. This week, they’re learning different things that they might not get in regular school.”

In each of the seven camptivities, which range from outdoor living skills and woodworking to a creek walk and mad science, the girls are taught different lessons, but in an exciting, hands-on way.

Sometimes, the activities are so enjoyable that the Girl Scouts don’t even realize they’re learning, said Anne Harris, who leads the mad science camptivity.

“The (CAs) make slime with the kids and they teach them about the ingredients’ reactions,” Harris said. “There really are a lot of women who like science but they don’t know they like science, so when we tell these little kids, ‘This is science,’ they’re like, ‘Whoa, this is fun!’ I think it’s a good thing that our camp offers kids a little science. It’s worth it for the girls.”

It’s not just school subjects the girls are taught at the camp.

In the creek walk captivity, which is exactly what it sounds — a walk through the creek that runs alongside Lilburn City Park — campers are taught teamwork and CAs are taught leadership skills, which they will hopefully take back to their units.

Units are divided up by age and range from Daisies, or rising kindergartners and first-graders, to Trailblazers, or rising sixth-graders.

Rising seventh-graders enter the Camp Aide Training program, where they learn skills including conflict management, activity leadership and time management skills that help them enter the CA program the following year.

Many, like creek walk leader Janie Kozozemski and her sister, Casey, return to the camp year after year.

“I think it’s just the tradition of it,” Casey Kozozemski, who has been attending for 20 years and now serves as a camp leader, said. “There’s camp friends that I see only this week, so that’s a cool thing to have. I think my favorite part — and I have two favorite parts — is opening on Monday morning because it’s the first day and (the campers) are all fresh and excited to be here, and then closing on Friday.

“Everybody is sad that it’s over (on Friday), but I like to see that, because you know they don’t want it to be over. They enjoy it, they have fun, and that’s cool to see.”

Crime Reporter

Isabel is a crime and health reporter for the Gwinnett Daily Post. She graduated from Emory University in 2016 with a B.A. in international studies. She is originally from the Boston area.

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