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Onslow

Activity Differentiation

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So older scouts want to get their game on with backpacking and unsupported overnight floats, but there is a strong presence of 10-12 year old scouts.  There is never enough time, or committed adults to enable a satisfactory situation for all.  No backpack trip in two years...Let's have a discussion about Outdoor Program management and fairness.  I seeking examples of good activity management and Outdoor Program management.

Also do you adhere to the age recommendations for backpacking...13 and up? 

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28 minutes ago, Onslow said:

Also do you adhere to the age recommendations for backpacking...13 and up? 

Our troop currently ranges in age from 11 - 15, with about half falling into that 11/12 age group.  Regardless of age, any new scout who is interested in doing one of the backpacking trips must first accompany us on a 5 mile hike (on a weekend backpacking trek 5 is an average day for us).  At the end of the 5 mile hike, they then don a 20lb backpack and do 2 more miles.

Anyone who wants to try this is given that opportunity, to some it is no big deal.  Others decide that maybe this month's 15 mile backpacking trip is not for them, and still others decide to wait until they have had the time to put on a little more size and are more physically capable of doing the trek.  My nephew was 10 1/2 on his first 15 miler, and after spending the day at REI making sure that he had a backpack properly sized (and adjustable for later growth) he had no problem completing the trek.  He has done 3 of those in his first year with the troop, and is raring to go for a 30.  Some scouts are up for the challenge, regardless of age, and some are not, also regardless of age.

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No age limitations. Son #1 and his buddy went on a backpacking trip with me and his buddy's dad the autumn before they crossed over.

In the troop, we simply assign the seasoned scouts a longer route than the younger scouts, and rendezvous in the evening.

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One troop I was in had the following requirements to go on an extended backpacking trip: First Class rank and had to go on one of the weekend backpacking trips (anywhere from 10 to 18 miles depending upon location). Rationale for First Class rank was that at that point all of the basic outdoor skills have been mastered, and they would not be a burden on the entire group. Mandatory prep trip was because A) we wanted folks to have some experience and know what they are getting into, B) test out any new gear they got before the major trip, and C) Make sure everyone was in shape to do the main trip. We had Scouts and adults have equipment issues on prep trips. Unfortunately we had one adult who could not make the prep trip due to work, and he had some major issues on the trail.

Now, anyone who wanted to could go on the weekend prep trips. And it was encouraged. My middle son was a 11 year old Tenderfoot when he did his prep trip. Glad he did. The next year when he planned to go on the AT, that year's prep trip coincided with a 2 day statewide competition he and his team were involved with. If it wasn't a team competition, he would have skipped it.

One thing that helped  motivate the older Scouts, and revitalized interest in Scouting, was we used a Venture Patrol to form the backpacking crew. With the exception of 1 Scout, everyone was 15+ and First Class or higher. The 12 year old in that patrol had been backpacking with his dad since he was 9, and had more miles on his feet than all of the Scouts combined, and many of the adults including me :) But he still had to meet the First Class rank requirement.

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Major email exchange going on in our troop right now about the age restriction (I prefer to call it a recommendation) because we have a new leader in charge of our backpacking program who is concerned about running afoul of the BSA guidelines. In the past we've always left it to the leader to decide if the scout is capable of going on a particular trip, regardless of age. I think that flexibility is going to remain.

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On 4/30/2019 at 7:59 PM, Onslow said:

... unsupported overnight floats ...

If a person is not willing to follow the GTSS, then that person should not be a scout leader and should not supervise scouts.  Period.  As part of becoming a leader, we explicitly sign that we will follow these rules.  It's a promise and an expectation.

Floats ... What is "unsupported" ?    When water is involved, absolutely follow G2SS, Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat.  Anything less puts scouts in danger and puts your troop and yourself at risk.  That means qualified supervision. 

Backpacking ... GTSS Section 3 Camping starts with an age chart that says for "Wilderness and Backcountry" ... "(“Older Scouts BSA” are age 13 and have completed eighth grade or 14 years old and up.)" ... So I'd argue, what is wilderness and backcountry?  Some of our local state parks have hiking trails and hike-in camp spots.  I'm not sure I'd treat those as wilderness or backcountry as most of the spots have cell phone reception and people can hike out within an hour or so.  I'd be tempted to interpret wilderness and backcountry as how far away is help and relief.  

As for the rest, follow the explicit words of G2SS.  If it's truly vague or can be argued, there is flexibility.  

Always consider the scout's physical and mental maturity and the situation.   Even if BSA allows it, that does NOT mean you as a leader need to allow it.  As a leader, you need to always be comfortable with the situation and the scouts involved.   But I'd be extremely reluctant to treat BSA's explicitly written words as a suggestion you can choose not to follow.  

 

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We usually run one backpacking trip a year.  But,  in the past four year my troop has sent crews to Philmont and MOHAB. As a result of that we have a group of older boys who enjoy backpacking and have logged a lot of trail time doing shakedown hikes for both trips.  It is understood that any backpacking trip that the boys schedule for  the troop would be designed to allow the younger scouts to attend.  The older scouts who are backpacker seem to enjoy teaching the younger scouts how to backpack.   If I was in your shoes i would tell the older scouts that if they want to do backpacking without the younger scouts then they need to find the adult leadership to make it happen. 

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One of the best ways to help scouts (and adults) begin to transition to backpacking is to extend the hike in to a frontcountry campsite from the parking lot.

The key is to plan and pack a backpack with gear for all trips as though it was a backpacking trip.

Park, load up backpacks with gear, lock cars/trailers, and hike 50 yards to the campsite. Cars/trailer are locked until the return. No multiple trips. Next campout, hike 100 yards. It can be the same campsite, just park farther away. Keep adding distance between the cars and campsite. 

The scouts will have experience planning and executing a backpacking trip without the miles first. This way the only change is the mileage.

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16 hours ago, fred8033 said:

If a person is not willing to follow the GTSS, then that person should not be a scout leader and should not supervise scouts.  Period.  As part of becoming a leader, we explicitly sign that we will follow these rules.  It's a promise and an expectation.

Floats ... What is "unsupported" ?    When water is involved, absolutely follow G2SS, Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat.  Anything less puts scouts in danger and puts your troop and yourself at risk.  That means qualified supervision. 

 

Unsupported as in camping in spots where during the course of a float trip wherein external support is not feasible, or purposefully avoided.

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3 hours ago, Onslow said:

Unsupported as in camping in spots where during the course of a float trip wherein external support is not feasible, or purposefully avoided.

Cool.  I've loved trips like that.  The key is you still have to provide qualified supervision.

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On 5/30/2019 at 2:30 AM, fred8033 said:

Backpacking ... GTSS Section 3 Camping starts with an age chart that says for "Wilderness and Backcountry" ... "(“Older Scouts BSA” are age 13 and have completed eighth grade or 14 years old and up.)" ... So I'd argue, what is wilderness and backcountry?  Some of our local state parks have hiking trails and hike-in camp spots.  I'm not sure I'd treat those as wilderness or backcountry as most of the spots have cell phone reception and people can hike out within an hour or so.  I'd be tempted to interpret wilderness and backcountry as how far away is help and relief.  

I agree the definition of what is Wilderness and Backcountry  depends on where you are.  Most of our Troop backpacking trips are on the Appalachian Trail in Maryland, or Pa.  A road crossing is never very far way and most of the time we have cell service.  That is very much different than  being in the Bob Marshall Wilderness where we checked in with MOHAB basecamp  each night with a Garmin In Reach and carried a sat. phone and knew we would have to get some elevation to make it work. 

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Adding to the confusion, there is this document/chart, which is different from the one posted in the online version of the Guide to Safe Scouting:

Age-Appropriate Guidelines for Scouting Activities (revised 1/2019)

I don't know why they are different, but it seems like the GTSS is referring to high adventure backpacking (longer mileage over multiple days/nights), not "regular" troop backpacking that could be done with lower mileage and maybe just 1-2 nights over a weekend.

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Well ... In my view ... You have a get-out-of-jail-free-card when BSA can't document it's own rules.  If one says ok and the other says no, use the one that says ok. 

It's up to BSA to get their own rules consistent.  

Personally, I question why BSA still publishes the golden-color age-appropriate.  It should be in GTSS period.  One source.  Contradictions are often created by having two sources.

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On 5/31/2019 at 7:59 AM, Petey091 said:

I'd be tempted to interpret wilderness and back country as how far away is help and relief.  

From the WRFA section on scouting.org:

Wilderness first aid, or “WFA”, is a generic term that commonly refers to any training course that focuses on prevention, assessment, and treatment for an ill or injured person in a remote environment where definitive care by a physician and/or rapid transport is not readily available. This is defined as being an hour or more away from advanced care.  WFA courses are intended for anyone planning a remote high adventure, from lay responders to medical professionals.  

As a WRFA instructor, this definition is part of the opening segment of the 16 hour course.

When my unit is backpacking or kayaking we are rarely more than an hour away from advanced care, but still have 3 WRFA certified leaders with us at all times.

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2 hours ago, Thunderbird said:

Adding to the confusion, there is this document/chart, which is different from the one posted in the online version of the Guide to Safe Scouting:

Age-Appropriate Guidelines for Scouting Activities (revised 1/2019)

I don't know why they are different, but it seems like the GTSS is referring to high adventure backpacking (longer mileage over multiple days/nights), not "regular" troop backpacking that could be done with lower mileage and maybe just 1-2 nights over a weekend.

I'm going with the gold doc.  This is clearly a change from 2017.  I suppose the GSS will catch up soon.

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