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hot_foot_eagle

BSA adventure risk paralysis?

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I had a bit of an epiphany the other day when my oldest son came home from his church youth group with an invitation to go whitewater rafting. He's very excited about the opportunity to try it out. Since he's only 12, he has to wait another two years for that type of adventure at scout camp.

 

He also had a great time at church camp this summer. Among other activities, he had a chance to do some rock climbing and the high ropes course (COPE). He'll have to wait another two years to do that at scout camp, too.

 

Do you see the trend?

 

The BSA has become so paralyzed by risk management that we're being out-scouted by non-scouting organizations. We need to be challenging our boys and giving them adventure at an early age and we seem to be failing by design.

 

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Is it a question of risk avoidance or a question of physical maturity (upper body strength) and age-appropriate activities?

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After visiting both camps, my younger son chose 4-H day camp over Cub Scout day camp, because at 4-H he could flatwater kayak as he does with us. He did not have to be a member of 4-H to attend their camp. He also did a low-rope course while there, he fell and cut his leg, bandaged it, and he was back at it.

 

Both my sons do laser and nerf tag as well as go-cart racing, though outside of scouting. They also shoot at a local sportsmen club under a JOAD (archery) and NRA (rifle) programs, again outside of scouting. They also sail (underage for scout sailing). Yes, there are girls participating in these activities, no problem.

 

Unfortunately it seems in the BSA these days, the "adventure" has to wait until they are 14. My older boy waited as he did these adventures outside of scouting - one was a teen trek with AMC. My younger boy wants to keep doing his adventures and so no Cub Scouts for him, maybe 4-H. I tell my disappointed wife that a young Davy Crockett would have been bored in Scouting too.

 

My $0.02

(This message has been edited by RememberSchiff)

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The key phrase in hot_foot_eagle's post is "at scout camp."

 

There actually aren't that many age restrictions in Scouting. You do have to be at least 14 to complete SCUBA BSA or BSA Lifeguard. But I find no age restrictions in G2SS on whitewater, climbing or COPE activities. (Did I look in the wrong place? Please let me know.)

 

A parent may judge their son to be sufficiently skilled and mature enough to undertake such activities. That's fine; I certainly agree that there are plenty of younger Scouts willing & able to do just that. And there's nothing stopping your son from doing those activities on his own or with another group, and sharing them with his friends in Scouting, whetting their appetites for when they turn 14.

 

But in that 10.5-14 age range, there are tremendous degrees of difference in physical and mental maturity. There has to be some sort of an objective cutoff - and it appears to be set by each council camp, depending on its staff and equipment.

 

Would you like your son, experienced as he might be, doing whitewater with an 11-year-old who can't even do a proper J-stroke in a canoe? That endangers themselves or others. Or would you like the instructor to spend the entire week focusing on teaching the basics to a group of 12-year-old Scouts who have never set foot in a kayak before, effectively ignoring the advanced skills your son desires?

 

Other non-Scouting programs have chosen to not have a cutoff. I personally think that's dangerous, unless they have huge staffs to keep a close eye on every camper.

 

(On the other hand, I'd think that an 11-year-old Scout who's already been climbing for four years and can demonstrate his skills and back it up with letters from trainers, teachers or climbing club members just might be able to get a waiver from the camp director. Have you asked?)

 

How about we look at it this way: What can a young Scout do?

 

He can swim, row, canoe, kayak, sail, boardsail, snorkel, hike, backpack, bike, cook, tie, build, survive, fire a rifle, shoot an arrow, track animals, identify plants, carve, tool, weave, chop, saw and blaze a trail. And that's just for starters.

 

With all this on offer, if Scout camp is the only place your son is getting adventure, you might want to look to a new troop.

 

 

Addendum for RememberSchiff: Cub Scouts can do kayaking, canoeing, rowing and rafting, as long as they're on flatwater ponds or controlled lake areas free of powerboats and sailboats, under the aegis of council or district events. A day camp program (usually volunteer-run and -supplied) probably doesn't offer that, but I'd check with your local council resident camp.(This message has been edited by shortridge)

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what I've seen is some summer camps put age restrictions to "keep the kids coming back" they are afraid the kids will cet boared if they do to much to quick. In our troop 11 tear olds can white water (rafts) or rock climb (top rope) we try not to limit any of the boys

 

just my 2 cents

tony s

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Shortridge:

For age limit on COPE look at the table of age appropriateness in the Appendix. There is a note in the younger Boy Scout column that says (in typical BSA vague) "A few Low-Course and High-Course Activities". At our council's COPE courses that is interpreted as High elements are for 14 and over but low elements are open to all Boy Scouts.

 

Our troop recently camped at a church camp that operated a (COPE like)Ropes course. There was one high element that consisted of walking on wire rope bridges from a cliff to a platform on a tree. From there it was an awesome zip-line Back down. If it were a COPE course I am sure BSA would have said 14+ but the camp's rule was 11+. When in Rome....

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Hal,

 

When I did COPE in the early '90s, the low course was open to 12-year-olds and the high course 13+. So yes, every council seems to set a different standard. ... especially since "young Boy Scouts" and "older Boy Scouts" doesn't seem to be clearly defined anywhere.

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In 1996, the age limit was 13 for COPE, and that was taught at NCS.

 

As for being risk adverse, I do have mixed emotions. Some families are very outdoor oriented and their kids have a huge advantage in out door skills. One example is a friend of mine whose daughter has been camping since about 8 and backpacking since about 12. she is now a Venturer and is eating it up.

 

But you have other families who are not outdoor oriented and the kids are truly "Tenderfoots" when they join scouting.

 

I think it's about balance

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shortridge

According to the GSS Guidelines, kayaking in flatwater is ok for Webelos but not Cub Scouts so you would be hard pressed to find any Cub Scout camp with kayaks.

 

I don't believe in holding back children who are ready to advance in either academics or sports, doing so creates a bored kid and in this case one who decides not to join or quits Scouting. I agree with hot foot eagle that we are being out-scouted (outdoor adventures) by other groups further the membership of those groups are growing at our expense.

 

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When a Webelos, or an 11 year old scout can pull off a nine mile portage, then I'll be the first in line to ask BSA to end age restrictions. Until then....

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Our troop goes to Ontario Canada each spring for a huge Camporee called Dorchester. Scouts Canada is co-ed and the type of activities they offer would give some of the G2SS experts a coronary. Of the 50 or so events one of the most popular is a zip line across a running river with about a 75' vertical drop. Very cool.

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RememberSchiff:

 

The guidelines chart indeed states that. It is also in direct conflict with the text of the aquatic safety section, which states:

 

For Cub Scouts: Canoeing, kayaking, rowing, and rafting for Cub Scouts (including Webelos Scouts) are to be limited to council/district events on flat water ponds or controlled lake areas free of powerboats and sailboats. Prior to recreational canoeing and kayaking, Cub Scouts are to be instructed in basic handling skills and safety practices.

 

I'm reading the online version.

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To some extent shortridge's observations are correct; scout camps try to restrict adventure so boys will keep coming back. Our older boys did a week-long high adventure trip this summer made it quite clear that they are done with scout camp.

 

On the other hand, I see a non-scouting group that I might expect to spend much of their time learning about life and religion indoors instead doing all sorts of outdoor activities without being overwhelmed by policy. (Look Ma! No Tour Permit!)

 

We sell our children short when we get too concerned about age appropriateness of activities. Think of the responsibilities very young boys had while Americans were still hacking their way through the frontier trying to make a new life. Boys are bigger, healthier, and better educated today than ever. I wouldn't send a canoe full of unfit and inexperienced 11 years old down a whitewater river, but le Voyageur's portage is a great example of what I'm talking about. His portage should be an opportunity for leadership, teamwork, and personal challenge, not a reason to restrict youth from adventure.

 

 

 

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Wasen't it BP who said

"never do anything a boy can do and a boy can do quite a lot"

we need to trust them not hold them back.

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hot-foot,

I think you misread Le Voyageur's post.

 

I haven't had any issue with the age restrictions put in by the BSA. Our boys go whitewater rafting their first year at Summer Camp, just after completing the 5th grade (11 year olds). The older boys (13) get to do a more challenging whitewater trip. Our council basically follows the same age restrictions used by the outfitters.

 

If you think 11 year olds are ready for either a week at Philmont or NT, knock yourself out. You can do similar programs through private outfitters. I think you will find the age restrictions to be very wise, set after many years of experience. In fact, most Scouters I talk to suggest waiting another year above the age restrictions before encouraging the boys to go. Again, this is after years of experience of taking Scouts on these trips.

 

The BSA offers more adventure than any other youth group out there. If you disagree, go pick up a copy of Passport to High Adventure and show me any group that can compare.

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