Confession: I started Boy Scouts (technically Cub Scouts) when I was 6 years old and became an Eagle Scout at age 18. I still keep close ties to my Scout friends and mentors.
Scouting is amazing. I have two sisters who spent some time in Girl Scouts and my younger brother spent several years in Boy Scout with me. While not everyone commits to staying with Scouting for 12+ years, I would argue that even one year of Scouting is worth it. As my experience is with Boy Scouts, I will primarily focus on that, but I’ll still put a plug in for Girl Scouts that it has extreme value as well.
Boy Scouts (And Cub Scouts) has three key features.
1)They work in a Pack/Troop environment. Within that larger group of boys is smaller groups (Dens/Patrols). These smaller groups typically become pretty close to each other and work towards advancing through the ranks together.
2)They operate under an advancement/achievement system. Scouting encourages (and probably even “pushes”) everyone to work on achievements and advancing. This can be done in a couple different avenues. There are badges and patches that have smaller requirements. These are things like Camping, Swimming, Hiking, Cooking, Archery, Pet Sitting, Law, Public Speaking, Indian Lore, Woodcarving, Citizenship in the Community, etc. These badges teach and train the scouts in specific skills. Complimenting that system is the advancement system through rank – scout, tenderfoot, second class, first class, star, life, and Eagle. Each of these ranks have different tasks to be done – certain knots to be tied, certain camping skills to be learned, and things like that.
3)They foster a love for the outdoors. Many requirements focus on cooking on a camping trip, how to build tents, how to pack a backpack, how to carve something, and many more outdoor themed things. While they work towards advancing, they ultimate purpose is to build a love and appreciation for world we live in. We should appreciate the stars shining in the night sky. We should appreciate the beauty of a fire burning to provide heat on a cold day. We should appreciate the sound of birds in the silence of the morning. We should appreciate what human kind has witnessed for thousands of years: the Great Outdoors.
Scouting is not designed to make you a tree-hugger – but if you do not come to an appreciation for nature and the world we live in, I would argue you missed a key aspect of Boy Scouts.
Scouting encourages adventure – you cannot accurately predict how a camping trip will go. Will it rain? Will it snow? Will it be 104 degrees outside? Will there be enough people there to do everything you planned? Will there be enough food? We would camp somewhere between 7-10 times a year – make that 12 years of my life and I have camped with scouting more times than I can count. I have hiked, gone on canoe trips, kayaked, built a raft, built a shelter to sleep in (Much love to Russ Schoemer for making the Wilderness Survival camp out one of the most memorable experiences of my life), raced a sled in the snow, and more. We played games and ate delicious food (The amount of cast iron cooking you learn is unbelievable). We went on adventures.
So in a world where everyone can pull out their smart phone (or watch now…), what is the point of scouting? I can just Youtube what I need to know about cooking a meal (Or get on Facebook and watch the plethora of food videos). I can watch documentaries on Netflix about history and nature. I can go to a museum and learn about survival over the years. Why be a Boy Scout?
You become a Boy Scout because you will experience life in a different way than you ever will through the tv or phone or watch. You will try to cook over a fire and burn half your meal, and over time you will learn how to do it with excitement and accuracy. You will go on a camp out and realize you forgot a cup and have to humble yourself and borrow from a friend or make do with something else you brought. You will experience frustration that leads to patience, fear that leads to wisdom, joy that leads to hope, and timidity that leads to confidence.
Scouting is an adventure that changes you. It changed me. And I hope you do whatever you can to connect your child to the Scouting organization.
May your dragons be adventurous and exciting this week, and may the hope of the unknown lead to a fulfilled life.
P.S. Shout out to Troop 210 for being a blessing in my life.