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“Archi-Chicks” Build STEAM Skills, and Cabins

Cabins Built with Girl Power and Sustainable Timber -Trefoil Ranch Girl Scout Camp, Provo Canyon

July 30, 2014 – Three new ecologically sound cabins are being dedicated today at Camp Trefoil Ranch. They will not only provide a more comfortable and safer camping experience for Girl Scouts in Utah, but via their creation also gave the girls invaluable instruction in the art and science of architecture.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony included tours of the cabins, built from locally sourced timber made from beetle-kill pine. Girl Scouts and their architecture mentors, led by architectural faculty members Erin Carraher and Jörg Rügemer, shared their experiences from space planning and building design, to sustainability, material fabrication and construction.

The cabin project is the first of a new partnership—Project: ARCHITECTURE—between the University of Utah’s College of Architecture + Planning and the Girl Scouts of Utah (GSU). The participants hope it will become a model for other Girl Scout councils across the United States.

U faculty approached GSU with the idea of collaborating—lending their expertise to design and overseeing construction on the new cabins, while teaching the girls about engineering and architecture as well as collecting their design ideas.

Becoming an “Archi-Chick”

Because Utah’s population of women studying and working in architecture is well below the national average, bolstering awareness and preparation were key elements of the program. Judging from the number of girls sporting “I Am An Archi-Chick” T-shirts at the events, the program appears to be working.

The cabin project kickoff began in October 2012 with a Leadership Group of middle- and high-school girls along with architecture faculty and students at the U. The girls were introduced to the basics of architecture, design and sustainable use of resources. They were involved in all stages of the project through workshops, visits to the site, design charrettes, tours of architecture firms and the manufacturing facilities.

Next was a daylong event in April 2013, where 75 Girl Scouts from across the state worked in teams with architecture students, faculty, professionals and a Leadership Group scout. The cabin design, developed by Rügemer and Carraher in an integrated design process, was used to teach general principles about architecture, planning, landscape architecture and design. A cross section of professionals was engaged with the girls and the project in a variety of meaningful ways.

“The Girl Scouts Project was a win-win situation for all involved,” said Marin Hebdon, a student working on her master’s degree in architecture at the U. “Professionals taught and mentored architecture students and Girl Scouts through the design process. Students were exposed to real-world architecture, applications of technology, in addition to mentoring and teaching the Girl Scouts. The girls were excited to learn about architecture and were able to see the direct results of the design built at their camp.”

The cabins replace aging platform tents at the beloved 68-year-old camp. But what could have been a straightforward construction project became a cooperative enterprise with elements of learning, teaching, inspiration and environmental awareness built in.

An innovative and sustainable new building material was used in the buildings. Interlocking Cross-Laminated Timber uses locally sourced wood damaged by the pine beetle infestation rampant in the west. Wood that would otherwise be wasted has been reclaimed for a high-value product that uses no glue, binders or other adhesives.

The girls gave input into the way cabins fit into the camping experience. One idea resulted in the addition of craft tables based on the girls’ suggestion, which were designed and built by graduate architecture students using digital fabrication techniques.

“Working with a real client was an empowering experience for us,” said Sarah Winkler, who will receive her master’s degree in 2015. “The teams created three visually dynamic tables that we hope will inspire Girl Scouts in their future creative pursuits.”

Trefoil Ranch

Trefoil Ranch, tucked away on 123 acres in Provo Canyon offers a new lodge — depending on the camp session— girls may learn how to care for and ride a horse, practice archery and get their adrenaline pumping on the high ropes course.  Girl Scout summer camp is a special place where girls meet new friends, build new skills, practice leadership and develop an appreciation for nature.


Utah has trusted Girl Scouts for nearly 100 years! Girl Scouts of Utah was founded in 1920 in Ogden, Utah, and serves girls in grades K–12. With the support of positive volunteer role models, Girl Scouts is recognized as the leader in innovative development programs for girls and young women. Girl Scouts’ promise is to give every girl access to life-changing experiences that inspire her to do great things. Girl Scouts of Utah serves the entire state and currently impacts the lives of over 8,000 girls and 3,500 adult members annually. With service at the heart of the Girl Scout experience, each year our members provide well over 500,000 volunteer hours across the state. For more information click here.