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Thoughts about training.

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  • #16
    I too love the outdoor adventure's the BSA's best program, and often relegated to the back shelf.

    Why? Others have already mentioned it--too many indoor-oriented adults. Conference room or campfire? Seems to me many scouters are more comfortable with the former.

    There was a point in BSA history when the opposite was true.


    • #17
      To whomever cleaned up my earlier pre-caffeine post:
      Thank you.

      I should know not to touch a dangerous keyboard before my third cup.



      • #18

        Good suggestions. Because too many of us leaders are not knowledgeable in all outdoor areas, there should be classes set up to teach us (and certify us) in new things. There are really two aspects of Boy Scouts in the public eye--the nerdy boy who helps old ladies cross the street, and the super woodsman who can start fires using just two sticks with his eyes closed. We need to capitalize on the second one--the Bear Grylls one.

        As part of this, I would 1) condense the three required citizenship merit badges into one; 2) replace the two extra ones with two outdoorsby badges--maybe a pick two of Wilderness survival, Backpacking, Canoeing, Pioneering, and Climbing.


        • #19
          "As part of this, I would 1) condense the three required citizenship merit badges into one; 2) replace the two extra ones with two outdoorsby badges--maybe a pick two of Wilderness survival, Backpacking, Canoeing, Pioneering, and Climbing."

          Oh heck yeah. I'm in total agreement.

          I'd also like to see a weekend training course for adult leaders in Land Navigation - the area where I think I've heard more incorrect teaching from adults than any other. BSA has watered down the level of knowledge required of scouts. (Triangulation is no longer required, but is an essential tool to help find your position if you are unsure), and if an adult leader is not an experienced outdoorsman, hunter, or former military, he often winds up repeating and teaching information he may not have understood correctly in the first place. Many teach a skill in isolation (like orienting a map to the terrain) without being able to explain to the scout WHY they need to be able to do that.

          The basics of using terrain association to find your position (and even better, continue to know your location on the map, intersection/resection and the BSA triangulation method to find a position, basic orienteering, how to teach a scout his pace count, using UTM, basic GPS, field expedient direction finding, night land nav... Try to teach the class as much in the field instead of the classroom as possible, so the students have a greater sense of confidence in their skills.

          Include basic instruction techniques and ways to make the training interesting and meaningful to scouts - require the students to teach a 15 minute block on an assigned subject as part of the school.

          (This message has been edited by AZMike)


          • #20
            "However, climbing is different in my experience. The Seattle Mountaineers have a "Basic Climbing" course to train members in the skills set needed for climbing. Then they have an "Intermediate Climbing" course for more advanced training. Both involve classroom and field training in a pretty variety of skills needed in climbing, and also require Red Cross Mountaineering First Aid Training.

            Completing the courses does not entitle someone to lead climbs, which requires considerable practical experience in addition to formal training.

            Formal training is a way to short cut the time needed to learn skills, but there is NO SUBSTITUTE for extensive experience in being able to lead climbs, in my opinion.

            It's a lot easier to be a follower on a climb than to be a responsible leader, in my opinion. One of the things I found most attractive about leading climbs is that you pretty much literally have the lives of other people in your hands. The decisions and judgments you make really count.

            That kind of thing might apply to some of the other skill sets you describe, at least in part."

            I agree with you - very technical (and risk-inherent) subjects like climbing could be taught in beginning, advanced, and instructor's modules, like the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) teaches its SAR certifications, and you might need to show that you have participated in a certain number of climbs (with certification from the group leader) before advancing to the next module. You could require on-line study of the basics before the in-person school begins.

            It might also be worthwhile to sweeten the pot by offering college credit for the classes - the BSA could work out an arrangement with a college or university (like Prescott College in Arizona, which offers an Outdoor Leadership degree program). A lot of law enforcement professional training programs offer a similar deal, with credits through Fox Valley Technical College in Virginia for taking classes at various law enforcement seminars.

            For very isolated skills - like setting up a rapelling station on a campout - a weekend training program could be appropriate.


            • #21
              I think one of our big problems is the lack of - I won't say trained, instead I'll say unskilled - leaders. AZMike is correct when he said

              "Formal training is a way to short cut the time needed to learn skills, but there is NO SUBSTITUTE for [extensive] experience..."

              He was talking about specifically lead climbing, but the same is true for most skills, outdoor or indoor. How extensive the experience needs to be varies with the particular skill, but ya can't become effective in something unless you practice it.

              The WRFA training was developed by outside groups, and I think it's so popular because it does deliver real learning. There's a cost, it's a 16 hour course, and those 16 hours won't make you an expert, but they do provide a foundation in real skills that few people have. Unless you're unlucky in your instructors, you should come out of a WRFA course with a good grounding in, plus some simulated experience with, primary and secondary assessment, as well as basic concepts about how to manage a medical emergency beyond the easy reach EMTs. Interstingly, WRFA is really part of a continuum of training, with higher level training covering mostly the same topics but in greater depth with more background. That additional training is outside of BSA, but the WRFA training you can get through BSA will serve as an entry point into it.

              That's much different than IOLS, eh? I've said before that I wouldn't trust my son's safety in the woods to someone who's only outdoor experience was IOLS. Like Oak Tree, I can't figure out the purpose of the current course, other than some fig leaf for liability issues. And I don't think many other organizations would look at IOLS as any sort of stepping stone to more advanced outdoor topics.

              I do think the sort of training AZMike and perdidochas are talking about would be extremely valuable, and give more adults the skills and confidence to take scouts on real outdoor adventures.

              The question for me is this - if BSA created more outdoor training, would be be more like WRFA (which is actually one of the newest training courses offered/required), or would it be more like IOLS?

              And beyond any question about training, there's still the issue of experience. No amount of training BSA can offer will make a greenhorn into a skilled outdoorsman, let alone outdoor leader. That person is going to need nights camped, miles hiked, and obstacles overcome, to be skilled. The best we could do with training is give them the confidence to start camping, and a foundation to build their skill on, but even then, it's best if they have an experience person along for a while to mentor and backstop them. And boyond those skills, beyond outdoor ability, there's an entire other critical skillset with relating effectively to the scouts. As hard as it might be to teach someone to lead climb, I think it's even harder to teach the patience and wisdom needed to be good advisors to the youth.

              Which makes me think of - I believe - Stosh, who mentioned how much more fun he was having camping and what not after he stopped doing it as a Scouter. Too many forms, too many rules, too many restrictions, and those piled on top of the stress and aggrivation that is inevitable with a thundering herd of scout-aged boys around. Training neophytes can't compensate for driving experienced woodsmen, and especially experienced woodsmen who are good youth mentors, out of the program.

              I think instead of training, what we probably need is a Scoutmaster Mentor program.


              • #22
                JMHawkins, the SM mentorship proposal is sublime...if you have a moment in the future, I'd value your thoughts on how you think it should look.


                • #23
                  Just a thought,

                  Everytime we talk about training and how to make it better and what should be taught and whether or it should be manditory, there is always a fairly large component of people who complain about the cost and time involved in training and learning how to do several outdoor skills well will take longer than a week end. WHat was it that was said? Experience? Is there a receptive audience to put in the time and effort to gain the skills?


                  • #24
                    OGE, if the training were interesting, challenging, outdoors, and fun, folks would gladly put in the extra time.

                    But the standard BSA training format--indoors, emphasis on bureaucracy, one-way communication, sedentary, profoundly uninteresting--most folks don't want that, be it a weekend, a day, or an hour.

                    That's the rub--many adults scouters in positions of influence love those long weekends in the conference room. I think alot of new scouters are disappointed to discover that there isn't alot of outdoors in these training classes.


                    • #25
                      I have hiked the Ice Age Trail and the Appalachian Trail, I have put in 100+ miles of kayaking and at least 80 days of camping this year. The vast majority of people I meet tend to be 40+ in age. There's a whole generation out there that isn't into the out-of-doors and of course they have no intention of passing along any nonexistent legacies of their past non-interests. Sports is the closest thing to being out-of-doors for most parents, and thus their children are encouraged to follow in their foot-steps. The all-state football quarterback who has never slept in a tent isn't going to encourage his sons to be Scouts. Those parents who have allowed Sesame Street and other electronic media raise their kids will not be interested in getting their computer/cell phone addicted kids out into the wilderness either.

                      Scouting has made a few attempts to go with the flow of society, but they are hawking a product that the vast majority of people don't really want for their kids.

                      If Scouting is out there to develop well adjusted, independent, capable adults, why are so many kids living at home well into their late 20's and early 30's? Kids today really don't have to grow up and not many parents are complaining about it either.



                      • #26

                        I need a few moments to develop my own thoughts on what SM Mentoring might be like. Or maybe it's a SM Apprentice program... not sure.

                        But the problems OGE mentioned - the sheer time commitment needed being beyond what almost anyone would be willing to accept - is a good reason why a pure training-based approach isn't going to work. It's one thing that attracted me to the idea of a mentoring/apprentice program. The volunteer gets to have fun while he's learning.

                        We are sort of doing this right now. We had a family move in from out of the area and one son joined the Troop. He has an older, adult, brother who moved with the family and would like to be involved with the troop, but he doesn't have outdoor experience. So he's signed up as an adult leader and we're teaching him the skills as we go camping and hiking.


                        • #27
                          Thanks JMHawkins, good stuff.


                          • #28
                            Is there a receptive audience to put in the time and effort to gain the skills?

                            OGE, I think there is, but not if it's going to be time spent sitting around being lectured at. If they're out having fun, they might be willing to put in the time. Sort of like, well, the Scouts themselves. Though probably not as noisy or messy.


                            • #29
                              If you picked six or eight core skills, and taught in depth courses for one or two skills each year at camporee, you could reach your target audience.
                              Spreading out the courses would enable you to go into the depth of instruction and practice time you need to understand the whys and how's of the best way to do things.
                              It would take a scouter three or four years to take all the classes, as it should.

                              I'll suggest some core skills:
                              Knife, axe, and saw.
                              Camping, firestarting, and cooking.
                              Hiking, backpacking, land navigation.
                              First aid
                              Canoeing and rowing
                              Pioneering, ropes and knots.

                              What else?(This message has been edited by JoeBob)
                              (This message has been edited by JoeBob)


                              • #30
                                With all the talk about outdoor skills, how many present day adults could go out into the woods with nothing but what they could carry and how long would they survive?

                                I don't think BSA ever would consider that in terms of it's programming, yet BP would have or he would never have used the term scouts to identify the youth to whom he was targeting his program.

                                A military scout would be part of a small group that would operate behind enemy lines independently of the main body of the army. They would need to skills to be totally self-sufficient and organized well enough to complete an operation.

                                How does that fit into 90% of what BSA is promoting for youth today?

                                Modern scouts cannot maneuver behind enemy lines without the general and his aide (many times full staff). Of course an extensive supply line and advanced communication technology have managed to keep the scouts from ever consider going beyond into the unknown to probe the enemy out there.

                                Today's scouts never leave the command post/HQ. Where's the adventure in that?

                                Better yet, ask yourselves what the general knows or doesn't know about what a scout is supposed to do, let alone train him to do it.