October 2015 Scouting Update

The Boy earned his Star rank in August, topping off a great Scouting summer.

The day after school let out for the summer, he left with a crew from his troop on a self-supported, 6-day canoe trip (just over 50 miles) on the Buffalo National River. They earned the 50-miler for that trip.

The troop attended summer camp at Kia Kima Scout Reservation in northern Arkansas. The Boy took all the natural science-related Merit Badge classes he could, earning Geology, Fish and Wildlife Management, Nature, Forestry, Mammal Study (and most of Reptile and Amphibian Study), and Soil and Water Conservation. He’s planning to finish up Environmental Science this fall, and that will be all the Merit Badges he needs to earn for the Hornaday Award (I think). He has only Eagle-required Merit Badges left to earn for Life and Eagle. In addition to all the science ones, he also earned Robotics, Photography, and Emergency Preparedness this Summer.

In September, he became our troop’s first Outdoor Ethics Guide. He’s already taken the Outdoor Ethics Orientation class and completed a few more requirements for the Outdoor Ethics Awareness Award, which most of our troop is also currently working on. He plans to take a Leave No Trace Trainer course as soon as he turns 14.

Scouting Update

The Boy has progressed quickly in his new troop. He quickly earned Tenderfoot and was elected Patrol Leader for the new boy patrol in our troop. He went to summer camp for a week in June in the Ozarks, along the beautiful Buffalo National River. Upon returning from camp, he said he didn’t take a shower the last few days, but he “was in the river for an hour or so each day, so that made up for it.” From the way he smelled, I would have to disagree. Perhaps needless to say, he had a blast at summer camp. I thought he might take a little break after summer camp, but he quickly earned Second Class in July, and he earned First Class in August.

He slowed down a bit after that as school started, and since he moved out of the new boy patrol to one of the troops more permanent patrols, he was suddenly without a position of responsibility. It wasn’t until December that he was elected Patrol Leader for his new patrol (the youngest Scout in his patrol, but not the lowest ranked). So, his 4-month tenure for Star rank began in December. He’s earned five of the six merit badges he needs for Star, and the sixth is almost complete. So far, he’s earned (in order): Canoeing, Swimming, Indian Lore, First Aid, and Citizenship in the Nation. He’s almost done with Emergency Preparedness and hopes to finish that over Winter Break.

He’s also started on the Environmental Science merit badge as his first step toward earning a Hornaday Award, which is something he’s been talking about since he first learned about the William T. Hornaday Awards. More on that as he progresses.

The Future of Outdoor Education

In the context of being a Scout Leader and a father of a really outdoorsy boy, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last several years studying (as a layman) the general area of “outdoor education.” It’s also often called “Adventure Education” or “Wilderness Education,” and it lies along the spectrum of experiential education. I’m especially interested in how that can lead to more people interacting positively more often with Nature.

imagesDan Garvey gave a great keynote address at the 2012 NOLS Faculty Conference about who outdoor educators are and what they can do to help shape a better future. (As an aside, what appears to be nearly the entire conference is available as a YouTube playlist of over 40 videos covering a broad range of fascinating talks.)

Garvey cites a study in which Outdoor Ed majors scored the highest of any major in terms of their moral reasoning ability (the ability to make ethical decisions). Does the outdoors draw people who are already inclined to be moral or ethical or is it something in outdoor education that creates or nurtures that in them?

And though creating generally more people who are ethical and moral in their everyday lives is important, the essential things that getting kids exposed to Nature will do is create adults who will take action to preserve our wild spaces. A generation of kids raised on video games who’ve never been camping or hiking or swimming in a creek, or fishing, or hunting, or any other outdoor activities will not be the adults who write the legislation and the checks that help fight to protect our environment, both the wild places and where we live.

reconnect-kids-nature-500x280Creating and nurturing ethical and moral behavior in Scouts is certainly a focus of Scouting, since the outdoors is just one of the methods of Scouting, whose main purpose is to help raise good citizens who are equipped to make moral and ethical choices as adults. (As an aside, I wonder how many of the subjects in that study were Scouts or former Scouts?). That time spent in the outdoors is a major part of the moral and ethical training of Scouts, I’d like to say that would be the case for non-Scouts, too, who spend a lot of time in the outdoors.

Fewer and fewer children spent enough time in Nature these days. Scouting is a good organized way to make that happen, though there are other programs available for getting outside, too, and I’d certainly like to see more of them, and having more people involved in Outdoor Education — both professionally and as volunteers — will help that. With a rise in Outdoor Education programs, hopefully more ethical people will get even more kids outside.

Crossing Over

The Boy finally crossed over to his new Boy Scout troop this past weekend. I say “finally” because he’s been caught in that weird world between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts that is known as Webelos. It’s a fine line to walk, being a Webelos Den Leader. You have to give them more responsibility and do more — especially more outdoors — with them, but you can’t take them as far as Boy Scouts. And the Webelos program is entirely too long at 18-ish months. I think starting them at Tigers Cubs (now “Tigers,” sans “Cubs”) may make Cubs too long, but we have to get to them before sports gets them too deep and their families think they’re too busy to add Scouting, too. Like I said, it’s a fine line. Maybe the Cub Scout program revamp coming in 2015 will fix some of that. I think it’ll help. But, for us, it’ll be mostly academic, as we’ll be deep in Boy Scouting by then.

The Boy did a good job of choosing his troop. Watching him hanging out with their older Scouts after the Crossover ceremony on Saturday night, I could already see how well he fits in with them. And I like the adult leaders, too. Some are from our old Pack, and some are new faces. All are great guys and leaders. I’ve been asked to be an Assistant Scoutmaster and accepted. Looking forward to figuring out my path to serving the boys of our new troop.