Friday, 27 January 2012

Why is Scout Camp Important Part 1

So now that its after the first of the year and the end of January is right around the corner, many units have already begun or will shortly begin planning and organizing summer camp. Personally both of the units I am working with including Troop 669 from Soldotna, Alaska and Troop 1316 from Anchorage, Alaska first brought up the subject of summer camp at our second to last week of December which is definitely a lot earlier than when most unit choose to do so. But in my opinion most units do not start planning next years summer camp until it is too late. In my humble opinion Scout camp preparation should start the month after you attended scout camp.

Hold we are getting off subject, so before I go rambling on about when planning should begin for camp, lets focus on a real serious issue that is happening more and more often as resources are less and less. That issue is that of choosing "to go" or "not to go" to Boy Scout summer camp. There are many reasons parents won't allow their son to go to camp or their are rumors among the boys about what summer camp is and isn't. First though lets discuss new Webelos Cross-overs also known as newbie-Scouts or first years. The issue that scares many truly dedicated leaders in the Scouting movement is about these first years, which when I tell parents or other leaders they about look like their going to have a heart attack. For all you who don't know the statistic I am talking about Im referring to the fact that approximately %80 to %90 of 1st year Scouts who don't go to camp will leave your Troop within the 1st year of joining. This isn't something I've made up but it is truly the truth about why we loose so many Scouts within their 1st year of joining. Again there are many other reason's why Scouts leave the Troop in the 1st year but that is a topic for another post, the reason why I share this right off the bat when I am introducing new Scout parents during the first summer camp presentation which should occur in December of last year or in January of the year your going to camp, is to emphasize the importance and for me a mandatory requirement for 1st year Scouts. Parents always come back with excuses or the answer of "i can't believe it and can this possibly be the truth" or are you just making it up to make us as the parents feel bad for not attending scout camp. I will not ever impress parents or treat parents this way but it is a very good opener for your 1st summer camp parent meeting to get their attention.

Now for some reasons why parents don't let their son's to attend camp can include any of the following and most likely dozen's more reason. So here they are:

  1. Its too expensive: this has to be one of the top reasons why and my personal favorite. Here I'm not going to lie, Boy Scout Summer Camp is expensive especially for inner-city or areas that have a high number of people that are at or just above the poverty line. These units have the hardest time getting their Scouts to go to camp while suburbia based units don't have as many problems with this issue. What I usually say to this is there is pretty much always a way to get your son to camp, it just depends on how willing you are to put in the effort to do so. Several different options for units with severe struggles in this area include asking local businesses to sponsor or help support your Troop, raise money through bake sales or car washes, look into if available camperships offerred by council, ask your Unit Commissioner for help, or finally you can always go to your District Executive for help.
  2. Its the same as school: Well yes there are those camps that run like Merit Badge mills which definitely have a school like atmosphere but then again it all comes down to which  summer camp facility you choose to attend. Many camps though usually only let Scouts work on a make of 4 or 5 merit badges because they don't want the Scouts to only work are Merit Badges since that is only part of the Summer Camp experience.
  3. My son gets homesick: Well, well, well yes there is a possibility of your son to get homesick but usually homesickness is caused by a Scout that has never really had any experience with spending a night over at a friends house or (Warning: Please don't be irritated, this is what I have noticed, from my experience with 1st year Boy Scout parent's) the parent is overprotective and/or doesn't allow their son to participate in age appropriate activities. Homesickness is prevented in two ways with the first being helping the youth to prepare for and be ready for camp without having too many worries (there will still be some but that isn't preventable at all). While the second is that once your son gets to camp he will end up so busy with all the opportunities at camp that he really won't have the time to worry about missing you. Finally one more point to mention is that if you as the parent stress about this or worry about this in front of your son, that will only make the problem worse. Trust me their are Scoutmasters and other adult leaders who have experienced and ready to deal with homesickness problems without even having to involve you as the parent because in most cases it is because the Scout had people issues or didn't like a certain aspect of camp.
  4. We can't accommodate camp into are summer plans because of.......: Now lets not create a list of activities or events that could interfere with camp. But some of the major ones include family vacations, sports, or other activities outside of Scouting. That is why most units take a poll or take to many families to figure out when your unit wants to go to camp and the fact that we try to make known the dates for camp as early as possible. Also another important thing you can do to prevent this problem is ask leaders or parents what week they go to camp because of the fact that many Troop's have tradition's about which week they go to camp. It may not be 100% fool proof but it still works in your son's favor for the majority of the time. Second the most popular weeks that units go to camp are the last two weeks in June or the first two weeks in July.

Well before I wear you guys out or you get bored I better wrap it up but anyway here are the common reasons why parents say their son can't go to camp with tips and tricks for leaders, old parents, and new parents on how to prevent these issues from causing Scouts to drop out of the Troop within their first year. Pretty much if Scouts make it through the first year the likely-hood of earning the Eagle Rank or having one of their best times in life for a few years drastically increases.

Next post will start working through what is behind the purpose of Boy Scout Summer Camp and the actual whys and hows about how Summer Camp is one of the Scout's strongest memories after they become a adult or after leaving the program when they come back to reflect on this time during adulthood.

Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Assistant Scoutmaster
Troop 1316, Troop 1616(aka 669), Troop 125
Tustumena District/ Denali District/ Eklutna District, Great Alaska Council
NSJ '05 Youth Participant NSJ '10 Subcamp 7 Youth Staff NSJ '13 Subcamp Staff
WSJ '07 Youth Participant WSJ '11 International Service Team(IST)
Eagle Scout OA Brotherhood Honor Big Horn Denver Area Council NYLT QM Philmont AA '08

If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, then you are called a Scouter

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