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Summer camp should be enjoyable.

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  • Summer camp should be enjoyable.

    I have been observing that scouters have complained that summer camps are too expensive, have too many amenities, and concentrate too heavily on merit badges. My troop wilderness camps 6 out of the 12 months. The other months are at parks, district events, or summer camp. If I wanted to wilderness camp with my scouts for a week I would not pick a summer camp. My dream is to do a high adventure week backpacking through Yosemite, sequoia, or other park/forest. Wilderness camping has its place but for a week that is more varsity/venturing territory. The challenge for younger scouts is that they are away from their family. They are out of their comfort zone. Weekend camp trips are quick. Summer camp teaches scouts independence. Having a well developed merit badge program that focuses on the outdoor skills, eating good food in a dinning hall, and havering a big camp fire program makes the time fun. Scouting doesn't have to be miserable. And let's be honest, would you really want to be near the scouts after a week without showers? IMHO for the money scout camp is a cost effective. They are not out to make money off the scouts, but pay for the staff and facility maintenance. Most big camp improvements come from donations or grants.

  • #2
    SM Bob,

    Were you a Scout as a youth? I ask because if you were not, then some of the things us old fogeys complain about may not make sense.

    YOU ARE 110% CORRECT IN THAT SUMMER CAMP SHOULD BE FUN! (caps and bold not only show emphasis, but shouting at you in agreement in a very positive manner, still a Cub leader )

    The problem that some of us old fogey's are seeing is that more and more camps appear to be focusing solely on merit badges, and not enough on the fun. They have classes running all the time, and do not have as much in the way of campwide, nighttime programs, except Opening and Closing Campfires. They are offering "paperpushing" MBs at night. Some camps no longer offer free shooting, free archery, free boating, etc.

    I remember in my youth MBs only being offered in the day light hours, with the exception of Astronomy. Sure a MB may be doing something one night, i.e. wilderness survival camp out, CPR training, etc, But for the most part you had campwide games and activities at nite. I remember playing staff Manhunt with staff members having watermelon bounties on their heads. I remember the OA Powwows that had the Indian Lore MB participants involved with them as well I remember the intertroop competitions that occurred. And I also remember the "Staff Night Off" where each troop came up with their own program. I remember the campsite campfire. I remember the rootbeer float cracker barrells ( and stopping the Canadians from shaking up all the rootbeer when they were with us one year).In looking at the schedule for the camp my son is going to this summer, there are no non-MB activities listed at nite. I do hope that is an oversight and they are developing them as they get their staff together.

    In the afternoons, There were 2 hours on the schedule for free swimming, boating and shooting. That allowed folks who already had the MBs, were interested in the MBs, or just wanted to have fun in those areas, a chance to do so. It also gave an opportunity for those who needed practice in those skills a chance to do so. According to t eh schedule I got for my son's summer camp, there is only 1 hour of free swim, boating isn't listed so I will assume that's open too, but no free time for shooting sports.

    Again from what I am reading, hearing from Scouts who got to camp now, as well as camp staff, the emphasis is on MBs. Little to no real programming at nite. I am told that the reason for this change is due to parents' expectations. But they don't realize camp is suppose to be FUN!

    And the emphasis on earning MBs is even coming from SMs now. I remember both my SPL and SM advised me to take First Aid and Swimming MB, or instructional swim since I didn't pass the swim test, take 2 other MB, 3 if I wanted to push myself, and then have fun with free swim, boating, and shooting sports areas. Most of use would come back with 4 MBs, 5 if we pushed ourselves. But I've listened to a SM complain that a scout didn't take MBs during all 7 or 8 class periods. I've heard a SM complain that a scout decided to skip a MB he" signed up" for (OK the SM told him in no uncertain terms he would be taking this MB and the Scout wasn't interested) in order to take the Kayaking BSA class he really wanted to do ( SM was ticked because he "should have been working on a MB when he was goofing off.")

    So yes, some of us old fogeys are concerned about the changes in summer camp programming and emphasis.

    Now to my disclaimer. When I first got a hold of the Summer camp leader's packet, good to have friends on the camping committee and give you a copy of it before it is published , I went into typical Cub Leader mode and going way overboard. Thankfully I stopped myself, looked at only those thing classes I am interested in, BSA Lifeguard, and the new water safety certs BSA created when they watered down BSA lifeguard.

    I then passed along the MB list for my son to look at and decide what to take with this caveat; "You will NOT take any paperpushing MBs at camp. You are to have fun and try things you want to do." Son then said he understood, then proceeded to ask if he could take Shotgun Shooting MB. With both pride in that he understood the real purpose of summer camp, and regret because of the answer I had to give him, "No, son, I think you need to focus on Rifle Shooting MB first, focusing on and perfecting the basic skills first before you work on Shot Gun MB."


    • Scouter99
      Scouter99 commented
      Editing a comment
      Darn Canadians with their flapping heads and their shaken root beer.

  • #3
    I was not in scouting when I was younger. I got involved with my oldest son. After reading your post I think I am very lucky to have an assistant scoutmaster who grew up scouting and worked 2 yrs at a summer camp. He chooses the summer camp and discusses it with the scouts. My job is to look good at leader meetings and take naps. The camps we have been to do not focus on paper pusher MB's. The MB's they offer are all activity based. The camp schedule lists afternoons as free for activities and hikes. Our troop does not push MB's. If the scouts what to work on them we work on them, but rank is always first.


    • #4
      Camp is supposed to be fun. National standards require a camp to leave time available for patrols or troops to have independent program in their campsite. Sadly, the majority of the leaders and parnets attending summer camp with a troop probably don't possess the skills needed to have separate programs. The troops tend to rely on the camp and staff to offer program for them.


      • dedkad
        dedkad commented
        Editing a comment
        You have an animated avatar! Trippy!

      • Twocubdad
        Twocubdad commented
        Editing a comment
        I disagree with your premise that scouts need more programs offered to them, either from the staff or the unit leadership. What most camps fail to provide is free time boys can take advantage of the camp on their own. Our camp leaves a 90 minute open period in the afternoon. By the time boys get our of their last MB class, head back to the campsite, find their buddies, decide what they want to do and walk to the activity, there is hardly enough time left to actually do anything. Plus, most of the "good" open period activities are reserved by troops. So if you and your mates decide to take a chance and hike over to the shotgun range, there is a good chance the range has been reserved (so much for "open" time). At best, the instructors will try to work you in at the end of the period.

        The problem with the camps with which I am familiar is all the facilities are running merit badge classes ALL DAY. You want to check out a canoe and paddle over to a fishing spot on the far side of the lake? Sorry., we have three canoeing classes using the canoes. Same for all the major program areas.

        Scouts need less programming and more time to just be kid, hang out with their buddies and do what strikes their fancy.

      • Tokala
        Tokala commented
        Editing a comment
        Twocubdad, you misunderstand me. I don't think the camp should offer programming all the time. I said that the Troops and parents expect it. We add lots of open program in the late afternoon and evening. It's available and we don't force them to do anything. They can choose to nap, go on a hike, hit the trading post, free swim, whatever they darn well please. We offer it because the Troops expect it and want it. We don't make them participate.

    • #5
      SM Bob,

      Yep, look good and take naps, that's what an SM is suppose to do at camp. I admit I'm planning on being bad this summer I want to recertify as a lifeguard and get those other aquatics certs. Next year I am hoping to nap.


      Now that I think about it, you're right. last time I worked summer camp, 2001, most of the units did rely on the camp to do programs every night. Kinda sad.

      I still remember being the provisional SM one summer camp and the "troop's" campfire. Most of the scouts were in my home troop, were pyros, and I knew how they built fires. I thought I was being smart when I said, 'Do not light it until I see it." I have to admit, they waited until I entered the campsite and saw the 5 foot high log cabin fire for the troop's campsite program nite before dropping the lighted match onto the fire.

      Camp director saw the fire a few hundred yards away, was impressed, and assigned the provision troop the job of building the closing campfire that week.


      • qwazse
        qwazse commented
        Editing a comment
        Originally posted by Eagle92 View Post
        Yep, look good and take naps, that's what an SM is suppose to do at camp.
        Good thing I'm a crew advisor. I can only pull off the naps!

    • #6
      I like the Scoutmaster MB at Woodruff. You get points for taking a nap or kicking a boy out of your chair.

      I told my sons that camp is for those things that are hard to do at home; outdoor adventure, aquatics, etc. We have had some scouts whose parents made them take 5 MB's on the rush to Eagle...can't say they had fun. Boys today are so overscheduled it is important that they have some 'off' time each day--but it depends on the age of the scout. We let the older (and mature) boys a bit more freedom and the younger guys get more structured activities (group climbs, swim time, etc).


      • SM bob
        SM bob commented
        Editing a comment
        I recently ordered a new comfy collapsible chair just for summer camp. Wife complained, but I bet she will make me order her one once she tries it out.

      • Tampa Turtle
        Tampa Turtle commented
        Editing a comment
        I used to bring my wife's hot pink chair and a lot of boys would not be caught dead in it (during the day at least)

      • Twocubdad
        Twocubdad commented
        Editing a comment
        A few years ago one of the older Scouts decided my camp chair was the place for a nap -- and it was, if you were me. So I painted his toe nails pink -- with the leather dye out of the crafts box. It finally wore off by the end of the summer, about the time his job as a lifeguard wrapped up. His father still cracks up laughing anytime anyone mentions it. The kid not so much so.

    • #7
      I confess I deliberately left my empty chair out as a lure just to get the requirement done...