A Fun For All District Camp
Sun, 5 Jun 1994 11:05:40 EDT
Here's a District Camp (Camporee for BSA folks) programme concept that I
think is very much worth passing on to everyone. Unfortunately for the
Scouts, I believe there would have to be significant modifications to the
more adventurous aspects of the programme for it to be allowed in a BSA
District setting under BSA rules. There is also the problem of a significant
lack of a decent rail system in many parts of the US. Still, there are many
features that could be used.
This is the programme that was used for the Spring District Camp of the
Benelux District, BSWE County (British Scouts in Western Europe) (County is
the equivalent of a BSA Council). The setting was centred around the Alice
Springs Section of the Grobbendonk Military Training and Staging Ground on
the north side of Herrentals, Belgium. Grobbendonk Training Ground was turned
over to the Belgian Army a few years ago by the British Royal Army, with the
Belgians allowing the Benelux District to continue use of the Alice Springs
area as its District Camp Site. De Brink is a Scout Camp operated by the
Belgian's national Scout Association (excellent facilities, by the way).
Patrols travelled independently by train to the site, under the control of
their Patrol Leaders (no, adults did not travel with them...). This travel
involved journeys of anywhere up to 200 kilometres or so, with international
border crossings for some Scout Groups. Once they arrived in Herrentals, the
Patrols hiked the remaining 5 km to the camp site. Once they arrived, the
Scouts were split into age-level groups due to the programme structure of the
The older group (Explorer Award Scouts) had a more Leader-independent
programme than the middle (Pathfinder Award Scouts) group. The youngest group
(working toward their Scout Award) had a programme structured around basic
camping skills. Programme features for the older Scouts included:
Building a structure for the Patrol so that everyone could sleep two metres
above the ground.
Hiked to de Brink (8 km) on the following day - and stayed there overnight.
Returned to Grobbendonk the following day for a survival overnight without
The middle group remained on site at Grobbendonk for an adventure programme
with closer Leader supervision and guidance. Their programme features centred
around heavy (major) pioneering projects, with the added goodies of raft
building with pioneering materials and empty oil barrels (steam cleaned in
advance). They also built an aerial runway across a narrow section of the
small lake on site. Since the rope could not be tensioned to the breaking
point, heavier Scouts tended to behave like skipping stones approaching the
far end of the ride...
The youngest group worked hard on their Camper's Badge, completing all of the
required skills for the badge - with only the leftover camping nights
remaining before they can be awarded the badge.
There are a few things here worth thinking about, regardless of the country
you happen to live in. Local rules and restrictions aside, this type of
programme can be adapted to your local needs. The main thing to note is the
three-tier activity programme approach:
Camping skills for the youngest group of Scouts.
Supervised adventure for the middle age group.
Independent adventuring for the oldest Scouts.
Time and again we commiserate with each other that we seem to lose the
interest of the older Scouts. This programme seems to me to be a proactive
measure to prevent as much of the resulting wastage as possible. There are
three logical progression steps that are almost guaranteed to give the Scouts
something to look forward to as their abilities improve with experience and
skills over time.
If you stop to think about it, this is an approach that doesn't have to be
limited to District-level programmes. You can include the philosophy in your
own Scout Group's programme. You may need to adjust your programme approach
to ensure the Scouts get the training they need along the way to be capable
of progressing to the next level, and you may need to have separate
activities on occasion to make the approach feasible - but it WILL help you
keep your older Scouts active.
Although you will maintain your normal Patrol structure during Troop Nights,
your weekend activities will gain a three-tier activity scheme that will hold
the interest of all. One of the major reasons for the older Scouts dropping
away seems to revolve around the idea that "we do the same stuff all the
time". The one place where this really hurts is often during the camping
weekends, when there is ample opportunity for the older folks to try
something new - if you put that "something new" into the programme.
The BSA Scout Groups that try this will experience some added difficulties as
they move toward the more Leader-independent programme for the oldest Scouts.
The single biggest obstacle is the "two-deep" adult Leadership rule, which
effectively erases a great deal of the older Scouts' opportunity to be
independent of the adults' direct supervision. It also impairs the ability
most of us in other Scout Associations have to support Patrol camping (where
one Patrol will go camping without the rest of the Troop). The BSA adults
would have to come up with a way to maximise the Scouts' independence, while
still following the adult Leadership coverage they require as a result of the
litigious nature of today's American society (not a criticism - just an
observation). I am interested in reading any creative solutions BSA Leaders
can come up with for this - and am willing to answer questions along the
lines of "How can you justify letting Scouts be involved in a
Scouting-sponsored activity without adult Leaders present?"
By the way - do you have a Patrol that would be competitive in your County
Camping Skills Competition this year. Do you even have such a competition? If
not, wouldn't now be a good time to start getting one put together?
A different summer camp programme idea for Scout Groups with access to the UK
- a walk across northern England from Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire to St.
Bees in Cumbria as outlined in A. Wainwright's book. Takes 10-14 days (or
perhaps less), depending on how you wish to pace the group.
So, here we are - I have now passed some programme ideas to everyone. How
about everyone adding a few thoughts, ideas, or programmes to this one?
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City