Friday, May 22, 2009

Webelos Scout to Boy Scout, part 3


What we accidentally learned was that:
  1. 11 year-old Scouts can handle the Wilderness Survival merit badge. 
  2. This was a great way to stress the importance of the 10 essentials.
  3. Wilderness Survival merit badge can be taught well and effectively as a group.  The more experienced Scouts had plenty of leadership opportunities to teach and demonstrate skills.
  4. The Scouts figured out how little they really need to go camping or backpacking.  Subsequent camping trips have had gear slashed food is well thought out (usually) to account for weight and necessity.
  5. They have figured out how to make each thing they bring do 2 or 3 jobs.
We were able to test out new-found theories out a few weeks ago.  We brought 5 newly crossed-over Scouts camping with us.  Each patrol was able to get their own campsite, all within 100 yards of each other.

The weather was a lot better (sunny and 60s during the day, 30s at night).  The new Scouts were greener than the previous year, so that balanced the weather out.

The older Scouts were anxious to get started, and build much better shelters this year than last.  I challenged them to really pretend they had gotten lost with just their 10 essentials--no sleeping bag.  Some of the shelters I would have gladly slept in--they were well constructed, water resistant, and downright roomy.

The new Scouts were a different story.  We used the same format as last year--instruction, followed by building shelters and having the older Scouts provide advice and encouragement.  Two of the new Scouts were nervous--homesickness and fear crept in.

You could tell that they were considering bolting back to their tent and campsite once it got dark out.

Command decision:  "Guys, let's save some time in the morning, and break down the campsites tonight."  A lot of "deer in the headlights" looks from the new Scout patrol.

An hour later the van was packed, and as the sun went down, they trudged off to their shelters.

...and loved it!  No one had any trouble sleeping, no one woke up afraid in the night, and they had a great new level of confidence and experience to draw on.  

Word has already trickled down to next year's Webelos Scouts that this adventure is waiting for them next April.

What does your troop do to help "break in" the new guys?  What worked well?  What didn't?  Share your experience in the comments.


Garry K. said...

Great series of posts. Obviously the greenhorn scouts learned they could handle a tough meritbadge. Does this experience effect the way the rest of your program runs. I.E. if you can handle wilderness survival you can handle everything else. As a transition tool what does this approach circumvent as a regular issue you experienced before implementing the wilderness survival meritbadge?

FamilyMan said...

Appreciate it.

This was an accidental discovery last year, and I was anxious to test it out this year. Fluke or genuine value?

It allows us to leapfrog some lessons. For instance, we'll be able to point out that they "didn't need such-and-such when they built a shelter and spent a night in the woods, so do you really think you'll need it on a day hike?"

It also lets them have a greater appreciation for "car camping" when they can bring pretty much anything (except cells phones and electronics).

I think what it teaches them the most is what I tell the Webelos Scouts all the time: Boy Scouts is different. I'm not in charge, you are. You are responsible if you forget your sleeping bag/lunch/matches. It is a crash course in Scouting's outdoor life.

If next year's trip is a success, I'll be convinced. Right now I'm "strongly inclined".