Scouts-L Mail Archive for August of 1999: Council VS Unit Run Summer Camps
Council VS Unit Run Summer Camps
Tue, 10 Aug 1999 03:58:11 -0000
<Sarah Nunez wrote>
>From what I read of Lord Baden-Powell as well as current BSA literature, ALL
summer campouts SHOULD be unit-run camps. I don't know where we got this
idea of a council-run summer camp!
Council-run summer camps have been around for a very long time. Our
council's first organized summer camp was in 1917 on the shores of Lake
Erie. Many other councils were just beginning to BUILD permanent camps at
that time (i.e. Camp Parsons in 1919, Camp Manatoc in 1920 - that's Chief
Seattle Council and Great Trail Council respectively).
BP's original concept was that the troop and patrol controlled the program
at any camp they made. Early in the century, that was still possible in the
US with plenty of wide open spaces and friendly farmers around willing to
let Scouts use their land. Organizing a week-long encampment was also a lot
easier and cheaper since Scouts carried their gear and hiked to camp and the
troop leaders didn't have to deal with restrictive local, state and federal
regulations on "personal space" etc.
Even after local councils bought land and built camps, in many cases the
council-run summer camp was primarily provisional (Scouts attended as
individuals rather than with their troop or patrol). Summer camp was mostly
an activity offered by the council to its Scouts, not by the troop. Today,
the overwhelming majority of Scout troops do not have the resources to
provide the same kind of program a council-run camp can. How many adults in
an average troop can take a week to ten days off to run a week-long camp?
How much money can the average troop spend on such a camp? How much are
parents willing to pay to send their son on such a camp? And I haven't even
mentioned all of the regulations (BSA and otherwise) the average troop has
to deal with depending on the program.
There really isn't anything wrong with a council providing summer camp
opportunities for its troops. Troops that don't have the resources to
provide their own summer program are very happy the council does this.
Troops that DO have the resources, very often, still make use of council
summer camps. The end result of this is that the council uses its resources
to take much of the stress and headache out of summer camp and allows ANY
troop to provide a summer program to their Scouts with a minimum of hassle.
That doesn't mean every troop HAS to use council facilities and program.
<Michael Holmes wrote>
I too see the necessity of having council-run camps. Our camp, however,
does not have a dining hall. All cooking and dining is by patrol. As a
result we often have trouble keeping our troops from "defecting" to other
camps, which provide dining halls. The reason most often given is that
patrol cooking takes away from program time. I guess it's the free
enterprise system in operation. You offer a choice of services, and the
consumers pick the ones they like best.
I submit that the problem you are having isn't so much a case of consumer
preference, but consumer laziness. My first experience with summer camp was
at a patrol cooking camp. I still managed to have a great time, visit every
program area, and participate in every event, despite getting stuck doing KP
almost every day! I'm normally an optimist, but in this case I would have to
say the lack of participation at your camp is probably due to adult leaders
not wanting to deal with their Scouts cooking three meals a day. Now, if you
could find a way to have meals catered... ;-}
So before we go too far into the argument about what's best with respect to
the aims and methods of the Boy Scouts, we need to have a reality check. And
in our council, the reality seems to be that more and more units prefer the
"merit badge mill," and they "vote with their feet" -- so to speak -- like
it or not.
There's a difference between a "merit badge mill" and wanting more time for
program. What the troop leaders in your area are probably looking for is a
situation where Scouts have as much time as possible to do whatever they
want. Without patrol cooking, Scouts have slightly more time to visit the
pool, lake, rifle range, climbing tower, etc. A merit badge mill, on the
other hand, is a place where every possible moment of the day is geared
toward earning merit badges (i.e. the 1970's). Please don't confuse "merit
badge time" with "program time." Now, if the leaders in your area start
asking you to fill the day with merit badges, then I'd get worried!
I'd like to illustrate something about the last three decades of council-run
summer camps as described by David Gottshall. My first summer camp as a
Scout was in 1974. While I don't remember the details of the program, I do
remember what I did, and I did everything. I spent most of my time at the
Scoutcraft area working on skill awards (I already had my merit badge for
Tenderfoot), but cooking meals and doing dishes didn't make it impossible
for me to experience everything there was to experience. As I sit here
writing this, I can't think of a single program area I didn't visit at least
once during the week. I also can't remember a single moment when I had
nothing to do!
My next summer camp experience was in 1976 at a camp with a dining hall.
This was the first year I was really aware of the daily program. Starting at
9 am, every program area was engaged in merit badge instruction. Merit
badges were offered all morning long, and all afternoon. There wasn't a
moment during the day where there wasn't a merit badge offered somewhere.
Each program area also had "free periods" during the day when there were no
merit badges. That's when troops could schedule their "Troop Swimming,"
"Troop Boating," "Troop Shooting," "Troop Archery" or whatever. These were
usually before lunch. You couldn't go to the pool to swim unless it was for
a merit badge, skill award, or troop swim period. After lunch, the "free
periods" at the various program areas became "Open Swimming," "Open
Boating," "Open Shooting," "Open Archery" or whatever. That's when anyone
could use the program area. Campwide programs, special programs, or
non-merit badge programs were extremely rare.
By the early 1980's this sort of "merit badge mill" was no more. My first
experience on camp staff for summer camp (not day camp) was in 1982. That
year, our local camp's daily program had changed slighly. Merit badges were
no longer offered up until dinner time. All merit badge classes were over by
2 pm. After that, every program area opened up. Troops no longer scheduled
their use of program areas. Special programs were being developed (programs
that had nothing to do with merit badges or advancement). And one afternoon,
everything closed up for a special camp-wide program (more like a
mini-camporee) that had something to do with the summer's theme (1982's
games celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Brownsea encampment and
involved a lot of the games BP used at that camp).
By 1988, my last year of summer camp as a troop leader in the 1980's, the
summer camp program had been refined to something very similar to what I've
seen at several camps over the last couple years. The program still provided
plenty of time for merit badges, but the overwhelming focus of the program
was having fun. Merit badges became a secondary concern. In 1978, as a
Scout, there was little else to do at camp other than earning merit badges.
In 1988, there was so much to do that wasn't a merit badge, many Scouts
managed only one or two merit badges (compared to three or four which was
normal when I was a Scout).
In 1996 I had the opportunity to go to summer camp at Camp Parsons. Thing
had changed quite a bit since my last summer camp experience. Merit Badges
were still not the main emphasis of the camp program (a very good sign). In
addition, I discovered that several new programs had been added to the
typical summer camp experience. For one thing, it was a completely different
camp. For another thing, COPE courses and climbing towers were the big
ticket item. More emphasis was placed on special programs (like 1st Class
Emphasis and conservation and scoutcraft awards).
When I was a Scout, the camp staff was primarily concerned with the
advancement process of every Scout. Councelors signed off requirements for
skill awards in the Scout's book. Merit Badges were the primary emphasis of
every program area ("sorry, the archery range is closed for a merit badge
class..."). Today, it's very much the opposite. If a councelor tries to sign
off a requirement in a Scout's book, troop leaders come out of the woodwork
objecting (this BTW is a good thing). Merit badges are a secondary concern
of the program areas. When I was a Scout, the Scoutmasters spent most of
their day lounging around camp and, like parents, always seemed to be
worried about "homework." Today, as a Scoutmaster, I can go to camp and
participate in the program with my Scouts (or loung around camp), and not
worry about "homework" because there's so much else to do. Personally, I
wish I could go to camp as a Scout today - everyone seems to be having so
much fun. Isn't that the purpose?
A. J. Mako, firstname.lastname@example.org , Scoutmaster Troop 381
Home of the Unofficial Win95 Boy Scout Desktop Theme,
Old Portage District, Great Trail Council, BSA
"I used to be an Eagle (C-7-97), but I'll always be an Eagle (1981)"