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Gaggle of Girl Scouts camps out on White House lawn (+video)

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

(Read caption) President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama joke around as they sit at a pretend campfire during a camp-out for Girl Scouts on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington Tuesday. A group of 50 fourth-grade Girl Scouts spent the night in camping tents on the lawn, a celebration of the scouting movement and the National Park Service centennial.

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Pitching tents, singing campfire songs, and tying knots are all part of the typical Girl Scout experience. Doing all those things on the White House lawn, however, is not so typical.

The first-ever Girl Scout camp-out at the White House, designed to promote first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move! Outside” initiative, was held Tuesday night. The event also celebrated the upcoming 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

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“Did you know that the White House is a national park?” Mrs. Obama, who is the honorary national president of the Girl Scouts, asked the group of 50 fourth-graders gathered on her front lawn. “We have so many beautiful parks all over this country that are free to families and kids. We want people to find their parks all around.”

“What better way to highlight ‘Let’s Move! Outside’ than by having the Girl Scouts camping out right here at a national park at the White House?” she added. “This is something you can tell your kids and your grandkids.”

Over the course of the night, Mrs. Obama engaged in a variety of traditional camping activities with the youngsters, including knot-tying, tent-pitching, rock-climbing, and star-gazing led by Catherine "Cady" Coleman, a US astronaut who spent two years on the International Space Station.

The group also sat on bales of hay and sang songs around a makeshift “campfire,” a pile of lanterns arranged in the middle of the circle, with the president and first lady.

"Remember to put the fire out before you go to bed," President Obama reminded the Scouts before retiring into the White House. "That's what Smokey the Bear said."

When a thunderstorm hit, the party didn’t stop – instead, it moved from the lawn to a conference room in an office building near the White House.

The night ended with a massive group hug, in which the president was swarmed by a mob of young Girl Scouts from all over the country.

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"I thought he was like a serious man who only wanted to work and do business, but he actually has a really nice soft side," one of the Scouts, 11-year-old Blaire Batista of Washington, D.C., told Reuters. "Until I die ... I'm going to have this memory not in the back of my head, but right in the front.”

This report includes material from Reuters.