Re: About the Boys [Semi Long] - Scout Camp v. Fun Week?
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Sat, 20 May 1995 02:01:26 -0400
Your question is heartening! This gets at the basics of the program and
is a question that many unit leaders face.
We could do a rehash of the goals and methods of Scouting from Scoutmaster
Fundamentals here, but you probably have already picked up on this line;
e.g. building character, citizenship, etc., which means growth.
Let me cut to the chase here. The program is about personal challenge,
but needs also to be fun for it to work. None of your Scouts will hang
around very long, if the program is boring and unchallenging.
What is fun? Is it just hanging around at a campground with no particular
program for a week? What are they going to do for a week? What's it
going to be like after about three days of just hanging around? Sounds
like a few of the adults are thinking of fun as just sitting around and
letting the boys find their own entertainment. Pretty soon the Scouts
will figure out that they don't have to be in Scouting to have this level
of non-program excitement (a step above couch-potato) I would guess that
unless the Scouts have planned some stuff that's really interesting to
them, that such an adventure will have a doubtful outcome. Have the Scouts
been asked what they would like to do or is this just the adults that are
carping about hou tough its going to be at camp? Ask the Scouts what they
want to do? If they want a fun week of their own making, it probably
could be a good thing, but they'll have to come up with all of the
resources on their own with your help. And if they do plan a trip with
definite goals, places to see, things to do, then it starts
sounding like as much work as going to Scout Camp doesn't it.
Sure Scout Camp can sound intimidating, but it doesn't have to. If you
are using the patrol method and Patrol Leader Council, the Scouts should
be doing a lot of the planning. What do they want to do at camp? Almost
every camp offers a lot of possibilities ranging from idle partipation to
non-stop excitement. At National Camp School the staff learns that it is
important that each Scout take time to watch the clouds and that leaders
need some time to let their Scouts run the program. Many seasoned
Scouters know that the most indispensible item in their kit, is a good
camp chair - sounds like hard duty ;-).
While the camp will offer merit badges, challenge courses, and expect
uniforms, it is up to the unit's leadership (SM & PLC) to decide what
parts of the program they will utilize - how many merit badges, hikes,
etc. The camp program can be fairly well tailored to the needs of each Scout.
Some elements of the camp program will be required - flag ceremonies,
uniforms, campfires and the like.
Now just what will happen to a Scout at camp? He will learn that he is
part of a team and begin to help that team compete. He will learn to
overcome challenges. Most likely he will gain proficiency in a few areas,
at least enough to complete all or some rank requirements and/or merit
badge requirements, ensuring recognition. Is this fun? Check out the
smiles when the badges are awarded! But bear in mind that Scout Camp is
not and should not be a merit badge factory. Better to have a healthy mix
of fun and work.
Ask the Scouts what they think fun is. You'll probably find they love to
swim, canoe, hike, try sports, shot at the range, try a bow and arrow, etc.
They'll also find it fun to survive challenges together. More they will
come back with great memories about how well they did, how they managed to
overcome things. They will also develop a sense of fellowship with the
other Scouts at camp.
Every week that I was a Camp Program Director, my favorite time was
Saturday after the closing flag ceremony when the parents arrived at camp
to pick up their sons. It was wonderful to watch. They were tired,
dirty, and fully of excitement at what they had done and just couldn't
wait to tell some of what they had done. Maybe it was a grueling hike,
making a meal in a reflector oven, catching a fish, canoeing backwards
down a rapids, laughing at a joke, or just a general sense of fun, but the
change in the Scouts from when they unloaded to when they left was clearly
evident. Here Camp is farther away and when I've been to parking lot to
greet incoming buses from camp after a four hour trip, the Scouts have
been a bit more tired, but nonetheless full of stories and excitement.
Sounds like they couldn't have had any fun, right. ;-)
What about the uniforms? Same as you learned in basic training - they
help instill a sense of pride, act as a social leveler (no one needs to
feel bad that they can't afford the latest $$$ outfit or shame that they
didn't catch onto what was the cool outfit for the week), provide a means
for recognition, and give a sense of belonging. But realize this is only
for part of the day when uniforms are required. Most of the time they'll
be wandering about in swim trunks and a t-shirt (you will be thankful they
got wet - they hate the thought of showers).
Now as to the adult leaders - remember the chair? Use it! The camp is
for the Scouts. The leaders will of course help make sure that everyone
has a program of activities and oversee things, but this is a lab for boy
leadership. Let them learn. Sit back once in awhile and let them try it
out, even if they make mistakes and don't do everything perfectly.
They'll learn more this way. Oh and don't forget to buy a coffee mug at
the trading post to go with the chair. Yeah, there's plenty for a leader
to do, but it is important to remember that the leader is not there to do
it for the Scout. They are there to have fun, learn and grow.
Now is a great time to finalize your plans for camp. Coach the PLC or in
a small Troop the SPL and PL on selecting a variety of activities both for
fun and advancement. Give them ownership over what they can choose.
You'll probably be pleasantly surprised at the result.
Now you can tell the other adults to relax and realize this might be
easier than they thought. You can also tell them there will be more at
camp for the Scouts than what they could put together with the Scouts for
a fun week. Take advantage of the opportunites. Have fun!
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
Prof. Beaver, Nat. Capital Area Council, BSA mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City