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  • Why the outdoors?

    Why are the outdoors and nature so important to Boy Scouts? I think it is, but I want a simple explanation as to why. As technology makes it easier to get away from nature it seems like this is an important question to answer. It's kind of like, what is Scout Spirit? You know it when you see it but it's hard to describe. Anyway, here's my answer but I'm just trying to start a discussion.

    Nature is a way to get away from our usual lives, it's fun.

    Nature is a source of unpredictability, scouts learn how to solve problems and take care of themselves.

    Nature is a source of awe, after you see how small you are in the world it's easier to be selfless.

    Nature can be an adrenalin rush, exciting, or scary - it teaches scouts how to live.

  • #2
    I think the essence of the answer has to do with what Kudu frequently describes as Baden Powell's idea of a sense of reverence that is achieved through solitary thoughts in 'the woods'. From what little I know about Buddhism, I think there are some similarities to that faith.

    Anyway, that is what works for me. I think the outdoors is important because it gives the boys a chance to have a similar experience.

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    • #3
      I'm reading "Scouting for Boys" this summer for the first time, largely motivated by reading some of the comments.

      BP gives his justification in his Preface, which cleared a lot up for me:

      Scouting has been described by more than one enthusiast as a revolution in education. It is not that.

      It is merely a suggestion thrown out at a venture for a jolly outdoor recreation, which has been found to form also a practical aid to education.

      It may be taken to be complementary to school training, and capable of filling up certain chinks unavoidable in the ordinary school curriculum. It is, in a word, a school of citizenship through woodcraft.

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      • #4
        As Green Bar Bill stated in the 3d ed. SMHB, "OUTING is three-fourths oF ScOUTING." Yes the current BSHB misquotes Bill, and do the math to confirm -

        BP said it far better than I could. But here's my $.02 worth.

        The outdoors gets us away from all the pressures of modern life, and really gives kids their first shot at freedom from parents, teachers, etc. Yes adults are there to make sure everything is safe, but in essence they are on their own. They learn and apply skills that in our modern society 20 and 30 somethings don't know how to do. They are given a chance to do things on their own, and screw up royally and learn from the mistakes. And while Kudu may not like this part I gotta say it, It gives kids responsibilities and leadership experiences that our society are pushing later and later back.

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        • #5
          For me, personally, it is a religious thing. My Lord, before beginning his ministry in full, spent an extended time in the wilderness. I suspect his ability to do that in his 30s was predicated on extensive experience early in life. Other religious traditions seem to have similar models.

          In a similar way, I want my youth to be "comfortable in their own skin" so that they will get the most of whatever their Maker has in store for them. I think that outdoor experience is what adds that particular value to scouting.

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          • #6
            What I have seen it is one of the few places that is away from all other influences. The scouts are free and unencombered by parents, bullies, and other well meaning but controlling people. The scout must do it or it get doesn't get done. He has the opportunity to make decisions and live by the consequences. If he cannot cook, he will be hungry. If he does not bring his raingear, he still must complete the hike. He learns by doing instead of just reading about, watching a video or being lectured at. He finds out that he must rely on others to help him. He learns how to conjole others to work together to reach a goal. It is one of the few places he must actually contend with weather and not just simply hide indoors. Some of it is that nature is just cool.

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            • #7
              One of the reason Baden Powell created the Scout Guide was that his soldiers under his command where showing up to his outpost in Africa without proper knowledge because every one was a shopkeeper.

              Where else are our young men going to learn these skills that are imperitve in becoming a well rounded male?


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              • #8
                For thousands of years, humanity was totally connected to nature. Direct contact with it was vital for his/her existence. However, technology, the machines of mankind have basically disconnected him. His mental and physical health falters as this disconnect increases. As a matter of fact, technology has allowed humankind to be so disconnected from nature he no longer can function in it unless it is a direct effort for seeking it for "entertainment" and then for only short periods of time.

                Such disconnect can be seen reflected in the organic movement and farmers' markets vs. the confinement husbandry and agribusiness projects, and other such programs.

                They say the first major step of technological disconnect was the farm tractor. For the first time ever, a farmer could go about his work and no longer need to touch the ground.

                Unless it be a "chore" how many people do more than mow the lawn, trim bushes, and other yard work and call it something they enjoy. How many people today get a sense of satisfaction by having gotten their hands dirty "playing" in the garden? How many people can say they have eaten something they grew or hunted in the past year?

                I just got back from Door County Wisconsin, where I picked cherries from the trees, brought them home, processed them and the Mrs. made the most fantastic cherry pie! Real whipped cream on top. Sure, I could have gone to the store and bought a cherry pie and it would have been the same... Yeah right! In your dreams. Kinda like pancakes off the campfire griddle taste the same as what you get at iHop!

                Everyone talks about the healing power of nature. Well, there's a reason for it. Once one disconnects, you're on your own.

                Stosh

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                • #9
                  My long answer is to suggest you (and everyone else) read "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv. He details exactly what a lack of connection to nature is doing to our children. The short answer is that being out in nature allows us to experience the real world unmediated by video games (an easy whipping boy), the internet, TV, music, social media, and everything else that distracts us from ourselves and each other. I see it in my son (he's a 10-yo Webelos Scout) and I see it in myself (a 44-yo Scout Leader).

                  I spend 8-12 hours a day in front of a screen (I'm a web developer when I'm not Scouting), and after a weekend in the woods with my son and the other parents and siblings, I just feel BETTER. I'm calmer, I can concentrate better, I don't get as frustrated with myself or (especially) others. It resets all of those jangly nerve points. I find it very much like a really good night's sleep (and I often have those on campouts in my hammock). Do I want to live in the woods all the time? Not really (though I do fantasize about it occasionally). But I do need regular doses to help keep myself centered and connected to the world and people around me.

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                  • #10
                    I'll echo Qwazse in a sense that if you can't find God in the woods you ain't looking. From a more secular perspective, connecting boys to the woods is my attempt to give them an appreciation for the wild places. And the opportunity to keep them wild rather than civilize them. I believe too many folks see places without cell connections as wrongs to be righted rather than special plays to be revered.

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                    • #11
                      Thanks everyone. Sounds like at least one thing we can agree on .

                      Kudzu, I agree, it's a great book. JBlake, trade you some wild black raspberry jam for your cherry pie.

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                      • jblake47
                        jblake47 commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Sorry, my daughter did the jalapeno, raspberry, strawberry, and black raspberry jams this summer already. I traded cherries for the jam. I have a daughter that has followed in her father's footsteps. She's home now doing up zucchini breads right now. Her husband and I filled up both freezers last fall with venison.

                        Last night I was at Sam's Club and checked out the fresh raspberries. It would seem that if I did my math right, she got about $120 worth of raspberries off the bushes this year. It was hard to calculate because we all stuffed our faces as we picked. Same happened at the cherry orchard.

                        It only happens once a year, better make the best of it.

                        Fresh corn-on-the-cob is next... After that, the squash comes in..... Getting ready for a long winter is always great fun.

                    • #12
                      Or this, http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013...rs?ft=1&f=1001.

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                      • #13
                        It seems to be the thought of some today that the outdoors was included in Scouting simply because it was a popular boys' activity of the time because it played up to the heroes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. That would relegate it to being simply a "fad" of the time.

                        I disagree. I believe the wilderness aspect of Scouting has timeless value. My study of the writings of Scouting's founders has also led me to think that they believed this as well.

                        I wrote a blog post on the importance of the Wilderness in Scouting not too long ago. Here it is for anyone interested:

                        http://scoutingrediscovered.com/camp...ss-wos-part-3/

                        I focus on what was the rational of the founders of Scouting when they made it to be a part of the movement. The main reasons that I elaborate on in the post are: Building Self-Reliance, the Spiritual aspect, and The Spirit of Adventure.

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                        • #14
                          Being of a military background, I'm sure the term Scout was chosen by BP as the type of soldier that did not operate within the normal operations of the military, but would instead, move out into unknown territory, prepared for any and all situations and be able to return back with effective military intelligence. Each mission would require the scouts to operate on their own, making their own choices, living off the land and returning safely. Early scout handbooks spent time talking in military terms, i.e. knights, etc. The uniform was patterned after the US military uniform of the time and served a purpose of a military scout.

                          Whereas we have dropped the military aspects and tried to retain many of the skills necessary for a military operation, I'm thinking the scope, focus, and intent of what BP envisioned has changed dramatically. After all, the things a military scout would need to know are now not always an option for the boys. A mess hall was for base camp operations of the military, as were established camps, both of which would not fit well into the operations of a military scout. He was not supposed to be in camp eating out of a mess hall. One does not need such things in the field under scout operations.

                          Can our boys go out in a small patrol (another military term, as is troop) and survive on a mission relying on their own resources and skills? Not in today's scouting, unless mom or dad go along to supervise. The intent of the BP model was to have boys prepared to do it on their own. That skill/aim/focus/scope is not part of the program. One might as well set the boys up in a gymnasium or computer lab in today's scouting.

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                          • ScoutingRediscovered
                            Editing a comment
                            A lot of what you say about BP's conception of the Scout is true according to my research. Also, in his early life before the military, being in the wilderness was important to him for personal and religious reasons as well. Are you saying that the way the Scout Program has changed is positive or negative?

                          • jblake47
                            jblake47 commented
                            Editing a comment
                            I don't think the skills, attitude and culture of BP's idea of scouting is much of what BSA is focused on today.

                        • #15
                          This song just struck me as appropriate to this discussion:

                          http://tinyurl.com/nr4pr6o

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