After learning that her state’s Fish and Game Department was no longer able to sustain an outreach program encouraging schoolchildren to help protect the endangered New Hampshire state butterfly, one local Girl Scout is working to ensure the dainty blue insects are protected for future generations.
Camden Tillinghast, an Ambassador Girl Scout and senior at Somersworth High School, recently earned her Girl Scout Gold Award for her project addressing the plight of the rare Karner blue butterfly.
Tillinghast, who joined Girl Scouts as a Brownie, wrote, illustrated, and self-published “Saving KB: The Story of Karner Blue,” an informative children’s book that appeals to readers of all ages. “I knew I wanted to write a book about endangered species,” she explained. “So when I learned that the state’s butterfly was endangered and in need of more [educational and public outreach] resources, I started researching right away.”
It was an eye-opening experience for the teen. “As it turns out, a lot of people don’t even know we have a state butterfly,” she said. “And a lot of the information that’s out there is incorrect.”
Declared a federal endangered species in 1992, New Hampshire state and federal Fish and Game biologists began working to re-establish colonies of the Karner Blue butterfly within the pine barren area of Concord. In 2000, the state program “Kids for Karners” was introduced to encourage schoolchildren to grow lupine plants to maintain healthy habitats for the colorful critters. The program was hugely successful, with over 2,000 lupine plants planted in the span of a decade. However, due to funding shortages, Kids for Karners was canceled.
Tillinghast said she’s spent an estimated 130 hours researching butterfly facts – like the insects feed exclusively on lupine leaves – for her book, but she didn’t stop there. Teaming up with the members of Wingate Grange 308 in Dover, the innovative Girl Scout hosted a community sewing bee. The event yielded dozens of bags, which she filled with copies of her book, along with “Karner Kits” containing games, crafts, and word search puzzles.
Since then, the kits and books have been distributed to area libraries and elementary schools. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is also incorporating Tillinghast’s program into its outreach efforts. Wanting to expand her reach not just to young readers in New Hampshire, but also to those around the world, Tillinghast donated books to organizations that work with children in India, the Philippines, Australia, and Africa.
While her Gold Award Project is now completed, she continues to share her book with schoolchildren around the region, regularly reading at local schools. “It’s important for the children to learn to love nature at a young age,” she explains.
Tillinghast credits Girl Scouts for giving her the confidence to follow her dreams. She’s a longtime program aide for the Girl Scouts Coastal Rompers program, which encourages younger girls to take care of the ocean and its natural resources. For her next adventure, she looks forward to visiting England this summer where she and the rest of Troop 12046 of Community 216 have earned their way to be bridged to adults at the WAGGGS World Centre, Pax Lodge.
“The thing about Girl Scouts is you have to stick with it,” she said. “As you get older, you learn more and more about leadership, about advocacy. It’s just made me better.”
After she graduates from high school later this spring, Tillinghast, a high honors student and community ambassador for the National Honor Society, plans to study occupational therapy at the University of New England. She said she’s considering a minor in environmental law and hopes to spend a semester studying in Morocco.
The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout may achieve. Earning the Gold Award requires many hours of planning and implementing a challenging, large-scale project. Successful projects not only engage others, but are sustainable enough to create lasting community impact.