Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
LeCastor

What is the Purpose of Summer Camp?

Recommended Posts

I have fond memories of summer camp in Georgia and Tennessee. There was canoeing, camping in big canvas wall tents, hiking, etc. I also earned my first merit badges at summer camp, Environmental Science and First Aid. While I felt very proud of my accomplishment, I now wonder if merit badges are the true purpose of summer camp. If not, what is it all about?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was a kid there was no MB program offered at summer camp. Just a lot of fun stuff that we couldn't do at home. Swimming, canoeing, hiking, woodcraft, cooking in camp, etc.

 

Stosh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DuctTape! I was just going to quote you from the advancement thread concerning merit badges and their linkage with rank advancement:

 

"...prohibit scouts from being MB "counselors" at summer camp, to name a few."

 

So I'll ask a secondary question. If summer camp weren't about merit badges what would be the purpose of the staff?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How to improve Scout Summer Camp

 

Purpose: to encourage the ideals of Scouting and provide opportunities for the Scout to learn and exhibit those ideals.

 

Technique:

1) Eliminate the dining hall. All Scouts live and work in Patrols, "under canvas". Patrols build their own campsite (except tent platforms and tents), setting up their own Dining flies and Dining/Cooking areas. Because of the need to reuse and not totally destroy the campsite, the camp would provide the poles and ropes and such, and would provide "guides" to help the Troop/Patrols lash up and set up their camp gear. Cooking done over camp stoves , lighting is by battery or moon. Permanent "Patrol Boxes" provided. Water tap, privy provided. (?ice chests? Real refrigerator?) Food and such drawn on the Quartermaster daily. Tools signed out and signed in by the SPL. SMs required to sit and smile.

2) All "ScoutSkill" activities are done under /in the woods, a hike away from the Patrol sites. Merit Badges are limited to those not ordinarily available to the local Scout: All watercraft, Pioneering, Axework (actually chop down a tree?), Nature, Birding (before dawn? Most birders go out before dawn to hear the calls...), Astronomy, Geology , etc. Bugling can be offered with the camp bugler.... Field trips are built into the camp schedule, to historic sites, quarries, lumber camps, white water river trips, etc. as available. Craft MBs are offered at the Craft Hall. Drama, Communication etc. can be accommodated by including them in the CampFire area. So-called "academic" Merit Badges are not offered.

3) All needs around the Troop/Patrol sites are the responsibility of the Troop/Patrol. Duty/work rosters are posted on the Bulletin Board in camp. Patrol camps are visited and rated by Camp Staff daily and SPLs and PLs are counseled by the Camp Guide (each Pcamp has an assigned Guide). All work is shared equally by the boys. Adults take their turn, as appropriate.

4) All electronics are put away for the week, with the sole exception of the SMs cell phone, and web access in the Camp HQ Hall.

5) Morse code/semaphore is taught and allowed and encouraged across the Camp Lake and between campsites. Speed contest?

6) Awards are given for good inspection scores. Awards include but are not limited to: Ribbons for the Patrol Flag, watermelons for the Patrol, Patches, ice cream chits for the Camp Store, extra time on the Archery /BB/22 ranges, extra time on the beach, a guided/catered canoe trip around the lake to "The Island".

7) Reveille is at 6am. Lights out (OUT. except for Astronomy MB class...) at 10pm.

8) Camp is populated and settled Sunday afternoon. First meal scheduled at 5pm. Last meal is Friday Dinner. Camp inspection and check out begins at 8am Saturday (no breakfast, only a take with you bagels/cheese snack), camp is clear by noon.

9) No visiting parents thruout the week, only by Camp Director permission.

 

Howzat?

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SSScout, THAT IS THE POST OF THE YEAR! Give the man a prize. Not only does it make sense, I agree with every point, and it is how we try to run our Summer Camp. Thanks for a great post!

 

Dale

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SSScout.... You must be close to my age, you described the standard camp of 50+ years ago. ;)

 

 

Stosh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DuctTape! I was just going to quote you from the advancement thread concerning merit badges and their linkage with rank advancement:

 

"...prohibit scouts from being MB "counselors" at summer camp, to name a few."

 

So I'll ask a secondary question. If summer camp weren't about merit badges what would be the purpose of the staff?

 

 

Scouts as staff should serve to help the Camp Quartermaster, help at the waterfront, help at the archery range, etc... They should be helping, but not act in the capacity of merit badge counselors. Sure, many camps say that is all they do, but in reality it is these scouts who are teaching and assessing the merit badge requirements. The adult MB counselor has abdicated his/her responsibility to the scout staff (with perhaps the exception of lifesaving and rifle/shotgun).

 

Even if MBs did not exist, there are plenty of jobs to be done around camp to keep these operations running. Stocking of supplies, trash pickup, canoe inventory, bicycle repairs, the jobs are endless.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I attended camp as a scout numerous times, later as staff for a couple of seasons and as adult I accompanied the troop to 5 different scout camps over 6 years. The purpose of camp varies depending on the scout and his needs.

 

For many of the Webelos who crossed over just a couple of months before, this is the first time they have been away from their parents for more than a weekend. The first weekend campout is often the first time many have been away from their parents overnight. To spend an entire week with no communication with their parents is a big deal. Granted Tuesday afternoon/evening is when most of the first year campers get weepy and homesick. Once they overcome their first bout of homesickness, the rest of the week is about enjoying the personal freedom and fun of learning new skills. While it not be one of the stated goals for the boys, I can tell you that once a scout has spent a week away from his parents, he is a different person. He may not be able to articulate what is different, but it shows in his general demeanor.

 

The scouts often form new or deeper friendships. They cant go running to their parents and normal support system. They have to rely on themselves and fellow scouts. That first week of summer camp often turns haphazard patrols mates into strong bonds. Bonds that serve them well the rest of the time with the troop. I always strongly encourage first year scouts to attend. The troop has a scholarship program because we know the scout that does not attend summer camp is unlikely to stay with scouting.

 

Some scouts its about having to eat the food that is available. No amount of whining and complaining gets them a fast food fix. They either go hungry or eat camp food. Often they find that they like the new menu items. The picky eaters are still picky, but they usually broaden their palate. It is a much needed growth experience to face your fear of strange stuff and survive. Even it is only something as simple as uncommon food.

 

This is the often the first time that scouts have some money and no one to tell them how to budget or spend it. Lots of trips to the trading post to buy something, anything just because they can. Some are out of money by Wednesday while others take money home. Nothing like running out of money before the trip to teach a lesson in budgeting. Don't see that listed as a benefit on any camp websites.

 

Camps are large enough that scouts have to walk and navigate their way to the other side of the camp. The buddy system is in effect as much as possible but with scouts all attending different MBs at different times, they often have to get themselves to the class. No adult, no peer, just themselves. Scouts 12 and under are still in middle school and often have never had the freedom/responsibility of getting themselves somewhere on time. Keeping track of time, planning routes through unfamiliar trails and paths, planning side trips to the trading post, walking with your buddy to the fishing hole, etc. Skills that todays youth never practice in the mommy minivan scheduled world of today.

 

The merit badge classes do teach skills. As adults we often desire for the scouts to have a complete mastery of the subject and skill set. If you look at the purpose of merit badges, its to INTRODUCE the topic to the scout. The introduction has enough depth to help the scout better understand the topic and have actually participated. Even though not all staff members are as proficient in the subject matter or teaching as adults would like, the scouts do learn. They do not become experts but that is not the intended goal of the program.

 

Most camps do offer merit badges that would be difficult for a single scout to arrange without help. While your neighbor may have a canoe, they probably don't have the knowledge to teach a mb class. Even if they have the skill, most neighbors are not likely to take a boy out three or four times just to practice. For many scouts, it is the first time they have really taking any formalized swimming lessons. I have seen many boys enter summer camp a non-swimmer and leave a swimmer. A true life skill accomplished.

 

Are many camps MB factories? Sure. That doesn't make it bad. The goal of scouting is for the scout to grow and learn. It is not about becoming the worlds next best outdoors survival demi-god. Camps that don't have dining halls can help scouts to strengthen their cooking skills. Eleven months of the year scouts get to practice cooking on weekend camping trips. A good troop program can easily produce scouts with good cooking skills. Seen it happen for many scouts in the troop I serve. Cooking and serving every meal three times a day for a week teaches more than cooking. I understand. It also teaches time management, planning, cooperation and a host of other skills. I applaud troops and camps that take advantage of that opportunity.

 

Camp gives scouts a chance to see other scouts scouting. Not just in the manner their own troop Scouts, but that scouting has many variations. Seeing other scouts from a broad selection of soci-economic backgrounds shows them that scouting works in many ways. That just because your troop does it a certain way, does not mean that is the only way. It helps scouts look at their own troop with new eyes and may encourage a scout to bring new ideas to a PLC meeting.

 

One summer the troop shared a campsite with another troop. Both troops had a first hand, close up experience in watching how similar and yet different the troops behaved. The adult leadership operated differently but not in opposition to each other. There were tasks the other troop could do better while there were tasks our troop seemed to do better. The general competition of camping together encouraged the boy leadership to step it up a little bit and work a little harder at making their troop do better.

 

I had to learn Morse code or semaphore to earn Second Class as a boy. It is a use it or lose skill set. Haven't needed to use either during the last 40 years. As an adult, it would be fun to be able to know a second language, but not of enough to encourage me to follow through and become proficient. It was offered at a summer camp as part of the 2010 centennial badges.

 

While we often speak about how scouting is for the boys, there is something there for adults or we would not stick with it. Camps give me a chance to help not just the scouts in my troop but other troops as well. I often hangout at the handicraft center and act as a "teachers aid" for the handicraft classes. While sitting at a picnic table whittling, scouts often wander up and ask how to whittle. The next day they meet me at the table with a knife and whittling blank from the trading post. The find me later in the week to show off what they carved with great pride. They may not have been officially enrolled in woodcarving class, but they found a way to learn the skill anyway.

 

Many camps are merit badge factories. The scouts will list the badges earned during the week because that is how they are expected to respond. What they seldom tell you about is how much they grew and didn't know it. Ask their parents if they got back the same child they sent to camp. Everyone of them will tell you, their son noticeably "grew up" while at camp. Not just the first year, but every year they go to camp.

 

My son attended half a dozen different week long scout summer camps. All very similar but all different. He also attended Philmont, Northern Tier and Florida SeaBase. After each camp, I got back a better son. I got back a more mature young man. Ask him now about what he remembers and its not the merit badges, it was the fun and adventures with his buddies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My old troop had two summer camps. The first one was the 'official' council camp (which doesn't exist anymore). It was a combination of MB opportunity and chance to learn all sorts of other skills. From the other thread on the gun theft you'll know that while I didn't learn about guns there, I did learn marksmanship there and have enjoyed it ever since. I spent every moment I could spare at the range working on my NRA advancement. I did earn a few merit badges but only the ones that I COULD NOT DO on my own outside of summer camp. Those consisted of basketry, leatherwork, etc. All of the other MBs that I earned (camping, nature stuff, citizenship, electricity, etc.) I earned with different MB counselors from the district list.

The second summer camp which was ALL about fun and skills, was tenting as patrols for a week in the NC mountains. Those were the best of all. I hope there are still some troops out there somewhere that are still having experiences that good. It doesn't have to be high adventure and it doesn't have to be expensive. But it does take determination and planning.

But now...

"The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads."

 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Personally, I think the biggest summer camp challenge is for boys to learn how to live together. It's one thing ( and a difficult enough challenge) to live together as a patrol for a weekend outing. It's a good deal more of a challenge to live together for a week.

 

Things that can be ignored for a weekend often must come to a head and be resolved in a week long camp.

 

Personally, I find merit badges to often be so poorly done that they would be better eliminated, or at least greatly reduced in number to those that could be presented competently.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4) All electronics are put away for the week' date=' with the sole exception of the SMs cell phone, and web access in the Camp HQ Hall.[/quote']

 

Rules like this are impractical and unfair to the scouts. This is the 21 century, not 1955 any more.

 

Do you realize that most people don't own a watch? Why? Because their cell phone (or iPod) is their clock. How many kids own a watch? Almost none (not to mention almost all watches today are electronic anyway). Want those scouts to be on time for things at camp? Don't take away their only time piece. So no electronics means no watches or clocks.

 

How about cameras? Most young people have no idea how to use a film camera let alone have access to one, they use digital. For a lot of families, the only cameras they own are on their cell phones. So no electronics means no photos of camp.

 

More and more people experience written works (such as books, magazines, news papers, maps, etc.) electronically. While I much prefer to read a good novel in the form of a book (curling up with my iPad just isn't the same), I do read lots of technical stuff electronically. But I have friends and acquaintances that haven't read a physical book or magazine in years. I have one coworker who's kids are not allowed to buy or own physical media (books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, etc), unless it's required by school - his wife doesn't like the clutter. Their kids all have Kindles, iPods, etc. So no electronics means no nature guides, star charts, cook books or history guides.

 

So no electronics at camp really means no watches, cameras, books, alarm clocks, maps, compasses, etc for many in not most scouts. All of which are things I had with me when I was at camp.

 

Can cell phones, cameras, etc. be misused? Of course. But so can non-electronic items.

 

Electronics are not going to go away just because us curmudgeons wish that they would. GPS, ebooks, digital cameras, etc. are all here to stay. Learn to work with them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

BP was once asked , "Be prepared for what?" and he reportedly replied, "why , for any old thing."

 

When the cell battery dies, when it gets lost overboard, when the GPS satellites are out of range or you are too close to the umpteen gigawatt power line, when you HAVE TO listen to that new download, when the course teacher is SO booorrriinng...., yeah , there are lots of reasons to "leave the electronics behind" and learn to use a paper map and compass, listen to the bugle between classes, learn to TALK to others, get used to learning from folks that don't necessarily know how to teach (but have stuff good to know), find out that the music of the woods might be superior to the fugawees, . More to come, I gotta go show the inlaws visiting the neat ar exhibit at the Strathmore.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, these are great posts! I enjoy seening us talk about how to make Scouting better for the Scouts. Personally, I don't like the emphasis on merit badges at summer camp. I would much prefer what SSScout suggests. (Rick, I hear you about the iPhone as multi-tool but I still brought the analogue versions with me :))

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×