Guided Sunday tours of Sea Girt Lighthouse, a popular attraction spring through fall, had even more visitors than usual on a recent Sunday as Girl Scouts volunteered as lighthouse guides to lead younger Scouts, Scout families and others throughout the 115-year-old shore landmark.
In each room and in the tower there was a Scout tour guide who teamed up with an experienced lighthouse docent to greet the visitors and explain the function of the room and artifacts on display.
The 15 Scouts guides, ages 10-14, worked in two shifts of 90-minutes each. They prepared for their assignment by studying the tour script and by taking their own tour earlier the same day. They then chose the rooms in which they would be posted.
With each group of visitors, the Girl Scouts guides grew more confident and expansive in their narrative. Lighthouse docents offered encouragement but did not often have to step in to provide a missing fact.
"I loved seeing my improvement on each tour. I also loved being able to tell people what I know and to see their reactions to different things," said Ellie. "I was surprised that most people seemed to believe that a 12-year-old girl could give a tour."
“I really liked doing it. People should know about the history of the lighthouse. And it’s fun telling them,” said Elizabeth, 12, one of the Scout guides who was on duty in what had been the children’s bedrooms.
She explained the Coast Guard converted the bedrooms into the barracks upon their arrival in 1939. She also pointed out the chairs on display that had belonged to one of the keepers, the folders with keeper documents and the photos and maps on the walls of bygone Sea Girt.
Elizabeth summed up Girl Scout Sunday, saying: “It was just an all-around great time.” She enjoyed the experience so much she has volunteered to come back as a docent for the regular Sunday tours.
Emily, who was on duty in the tower, found the experience "a lot of fun and interesting." She especially enjoyed "helping all the Girl Scouts up and down the ladder" that leads to the lantern room at the top of the tower. She'd consider coming back to help again "because it was a cozy welcoming place." Her advice to other Girl Scouts who give tours in the future: "I would say, be nice and have a smile on your face."
Lighthouse trustee Conrad Yauch, who is in charge of scheduling Sunday tour guides, noted: “Our docents had an easy day of it. Our Scout teammates did an excellent job. They were well prepared, enthusiastic and informative.”
Michelle Masarik, a program specialist with the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, first approached Sea Girt Lighthouse last winter to propose that the Girl Scouts be guides for one day. “This event is a wonderful experience for the girls, who really listened and took their roles seriously,” she said.
“Having the Lighthouse opened up to our Scouts and their families is very exciting,” she added.
Appreciating Lighthouses and Birds
The Scout guides as well as the younger Scouts, who took copious notes in their journals on what they learned, earned colorful lighthouse patches they could add to their distinctive green Girl Scout sashes and vests, which some of the girls wore during the tour.
After the visitors finished their hour-long tour, they walked to the nearby Sea Girt boardwalk and beach for some bird-watching, sketching the lighthouse and studying the coastal ecology.
Girl Scout Sunday at Sea Girt Lighthouse was part of a larger Girl Scout program, Discover Our Lighthouses, with similar events at Barnegat Lighthouse and Twin Lights on separate Sundays.
“Just like ships passed by lighthouses for years, our youth pass by them today with barely a glance,” noted Ms. Masarik. “With our (lighthouse) programs, we hope to create a buzz about lighthouses and about the great historical places that are all around us.”
The selection of these three lights has historic significance, which the Girl Scout guides mentioned while giving tours. Sea Girt Lighthouse was built in 1896 to illuminate a blind spot mariners previously encountered off Sea Girt where they were out of range of the beacons of Barnegat and Twin Lights.
Arriving in Waves
So great was the response to the advance announcement of Girl Scout Sunday, Sea Girt Lighthouse opened that day an hour early at 1 p.m. and ran through the normal closing time of 4 p.m.
Visitors were assigned start times for their tour to keep the traffic flowing smoothly. From 2-4 p.m. they were joined by the usual contingent of drop-in visitors who came for the regular Sunday tour, which made for a lively interaction.
On a typical Sunday tour in May, there might 25 or so visitors. But Girl Scout Sunday brought more than 100 people to Sea Girt Lighthouse. The Scout families came from throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
And by the end of the day, three Scout guides and two mothers volunteered to return as docents.
(Photos courtesy of the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore)