The scouts had plunged into the fresh meat and vegetables to wrap them in foil.

The aspiring young cooks at Camp Perry’s Winter Camp placed their “foil wraps” on the ash-covered coals which simmered as if anticipating some new cuisine to savor and sear.

But it was the scouts Saturday who tried out their culinary curiosities by eating the sizzling contents a few minutes later.

“The cooking class, I like it because it teaches you more than just regular cooking,” said Ivan Badillo, 13. “It teaches more about actually cooking in depth.”

Ivan, a member of Troop 61 from Los Fresnos, was one of 170 scouts who descended on Camp Perry for the annual winter event from Dec. 26-30. For the first time in history, scouts from at least two all-girl troops attended the camp, taking the same classes and earning the same merit badges. Earlier this year, Boy Scouts of America became Scouts BSA and officially allowed the creation of troops for girls.

“It’s great to see the boys and the girls side by side learning,” said Oscar Garza, Winter Camp director.

“The spirit of the girls has really put a lot of energy into it,” he said with admiration.

One of those kids with “a lot of energy” was Scarlet Gutierrez, 11, of Mission. She’d just finished a session at the archery range. As she spoke, she still went through the motions of firing an arrow, demonstrating with gritty zeal what she’d learned.

“He was teaching us the things we had to do, then once we learned everything we needed to know, we’d go to the archery range,” said Scarlet of Troop 11.

Twelve thru sixteen-year-old boys and girls attending the 2019 Camp Perry Winter Camp yesterday took part in archery practice working towards earning their Archery Merit Badge. (Maricela Rodriguez/Valley Morning Star)

“He” was Daniel Mendes, a scoutmaster for Troop 84 in Mission. He was giving the beginner’s archery class to 19 kids.

“They’ve been learning the basics of archery,” he said. “We’ve gone through safety rules, we’ve gone through the part of an arrow, the bow itself. Today we had some actual hands-on training on the range.”

“He would blow a whistle to commence,” Scarlet said. “One of us at a time would fire our bow and he would see if our posture was good and we would see if we got the arrow in the right place.”

Earlier, she took the fingerprinting class for a different merit badge.

“I did the fingerprinting this morning,” she said. “We were doing finger printings for us and our partners and it’s just like a fingerprint card.”

Garza said the scouts from about 40 troops, one all the way from Kingsville, had the opportunity to earn more than 40 merit badges.

“They can work on most of the Eagle-required classes they have to have,” Garza said. “They’re able to do all of their citizenship classes. They can do cooking, they can do first aid, they can do archery. Public speaking and communications, we have weather this year for the first time, and we have law.”

Environmental Science was one of the merit badge topics yesterday at the 2019 Camp Perry Winter Camp. Participants in this group worked on a 100 page report on water pollution and then headed outside to build terrariums using plastic bottles. (Maricela Rodriguez/Valley Morning Star)

More classes, and the recent expansion of the camp with new state-of-the-art facilities, is beginning to draw more scouts from farther places to a camp that had fallen into disrepair. Scouts were going elsewhere for their activities.

“When I came four years ago we were having a downward trend,” Garza said. “Now that we’ve had all the expansion at Camp Perry with the new dining hall, our new activity center — the scouts now have classroom space to be taught classes.”

A turnaround may be in process.

“Our furthest troop that’s attending this is from Kingsville, which is out of council,” Garza said. “That tells us we are on the right track.”