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Calion

"Serious" campfire skits/songs?

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When I was a teen, a traveling Christian acting troupe (can't for the life of me remember their name) came to my church. They performed various skits (all written by the same guy, whose name I also don't remember), all of which had some sort of message or teaching point. I thought they were great, and even went to an acting clinic they put on.

When I became a Scout leader, I was rather taken aback by what happened at Campfires. Everything (or nearly everything) was just silly! There was no attempt to teach Scouting values (except perhaps in opening/closing ceremonies); it was all for laughs. This struck me as very strange and out of place.

Of course, humor, silliness and fun for its own sake has its place! A Campfire that was only seriousness and solemnity would be boring.

But my question is this: Do you think that at least some Campfire skits and songs should focus on teaching Scouting mores and values (while also being fun and even funny)? And are you aware of any such things?

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23 minutes ago, Calion said:

Do you think that at least some Campfire skits and songs should focus on teaching Scouting mores and values

Yes

24 minutes ago, Calion said:

And are you aware of any such things?

Scout vespers. ("Softly fall the light of day . . .")

And I know a bunch of Girl Scout songs of that ilk that my daughter tells me we cannot sing in Scouts BSA.  ("On my honor",  "Girl Scouts Together", "Green Beret" . . .)

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Any chance, was the group Saltworks Theatre? A friend founded it and since moved on to more trivial activities on and off Broadway. He still tries to line up time to perform for school groups.

As for scouting, we need to remember that most of our activities (getting food on he table, navigating, service projects, bedding down in a strange environment, swimming, boating -- all the while forestalling death) on a weekend campout are quite serious. So that they successfully build community, we demand a lot from our scouts in terms of courtesy and cheerfulness. Work hard, play hard, sleep well, and in the midst of that the SM gives a minute designed to provoke thought, and maybe the chaplain and chaplains aide hold a scout's own service.

That's the basic formula.

So if a PL/SPL comes with a skit or song that adds inspiration to the campfire we welcome it. It might give the SM a break! But we don't require it.

 

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Our troop takes (took) pride in running good campfires. The scouts learned and will tell you that pulling off a funny is A LOT after, as qwazse points out, a long physical day. If, someone has the skills to pull off serious at a campfire, they are certainly very welcome. But, it's rare.

I will say that guitar will make a serious song go a long way. My patrol leader as a youth played the banjo and entertained with serious songs. But, he knew the important difference between serious and boring on a campout. He was started with a fun story about his county cousins. The one I remember was talking about out houses in Oklahoma. The general rule was put the outhouse 100 feet away from the house. Typically, that was 100 feet to close in summer and 100 feet to far in the winter. He was as inspiring as a PL as he was an entertainer. 

The best campfire seriousness I ever experienced was at adult training where the MC got up to tell a quick story of how scouting changes lives. He told the story very well, but the bag pipe way up the hill drew the tiers.

Barry 

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48 minutes ago, Treflienne said:

Scout vespers. ("Softly fall the light of day . . .")

Yes, of course, that one. Like I said, the opening and closing ceremonies are often exactly right. At his first Summer Camp, my son spent 45 minutes watching the Camp staff sing Vespers (or…well, I'm not sure what song it was, but they were all in a huddle, swaying and singing together, for a long time) after everyone else had left the Campfire. I stayed behind, out of sight, to watch and make sure he made it back to camp OK, as no one but I noticed that he had left himself behind. He was entranced. It was kind of magical.

48 minutes ago, Treflienne said:

And I know a bunch of Girl Scout songs of that ilk that my daughter tells me we cannot sing in Scouts BSA.  ("On my honor",  "Girl Scouts Together", "Green Beret" . . .)

There's a Boy Scout version of "On My Honor," at any rate. Thanks, that's just exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

Edited by Calion

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Calion, your point is well taken.   What might be sought is a good story teller.  A Scout Aesop, or Chief Longinthetooth (as he was known back when). Or even Mr. Scouter.

Many the time, we heard a story recited from a Native American background, or the Campfire Ash Tradition, told from a history/ecology/memory perspective.  Ernest Thompson Seton recorded many "stories with a moral" that are written long, but can be shortened by a talented story teller.  Anansi the trickster of west Africa makes a good moral lesson story.  Look to your library for these.  

A Scouter walking before a campfire, telling a story well, pointing and challenging the Scouts, can be the cap to a otherwise "just another funny campfire".   Robert Service wrote poem/stories for just this purpose. 

 

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48 minutes ago, qwazse said:

Any chance, was the group Saltworks Theatre? A friend founded it and since moved on to more trivial activities on and off Broadway. He still tries to line up time to perform for school groups.

No, but it was similar. This troupe did short skits, not long performances like it looks like Saltworks focuses on.

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39 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

The scouts learned and will tell you that pulling off a funny is A LOT after, as qwazse points out, a long physical day. If, someone has the skills to pull off serious at a campfire, they are certainly very welcome. But, it's rare.

I think I should have worded this differently. I didn't really mean "serious"; I meant "values-instructing." A skit with a moral can certainly be amusing, entertaining, or even outright funny.

My real point is that I think that there should be a resource where skits-with-morals can be found (and to ask if anyone was aware of the existence of such a thing), and, moreover, that Campfire culture be changed so that skits and songs are normally presumed to have something to do with Scouting values, with the "pointless and silly" variety that currently makes up essentially 100% of Campfire skits and songs (again, excepting Vespers and other opening/closing activities) being in the minority.

I mean, my Troop has one single song that they sing at almost every meeting—the Announcements song. It's cute, and funny, but serves no other purpose than to be cute and funny (and forms part of our Troop traditions, which is important in itself). Just seems like kind of a waste.

Edited by Calion
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There are hidden morals in some of the skits - Most of the good ones make you think, trick your mind at first then change to a different reality

What about flag retirement that seems pretty seriousand not always done at the end of the program.

I have heard  civil war ghost stories

 

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54 minutes ago, TMSM said:

There are hidden morals in some of the skits - Most of the good ones make you think, trick your mind at first then change to a different reality

What about flag retirement that seems pretty seriousand not always done at the end of the program.

I have heard  civil war ghost stories

 

That is a good point. I found that my best scoutmaster minutes for scout age boys were less than two minutes long and laced with humor. 

Barry

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I don't know how much the scouts want. It's called a scoutmaster minute for a reason. A really good story teller might be able to stretch that to five minutes. So, if you have a great story with a moral then ask the scouts for a slot in the program.

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16 hours ago, MattR said:

I don't know how much the scouts want. It's called a scoutmaster minute for a reason. A really good story teller might be able to stretch that to five minutes. So, if you have a great story with a moral then ask the scouts for a slot in the program.

I find older scouts want to sit with the adults after the campfire and sort out life.

I also find that older scouts naturally begin to fold inspirational messages into their campfire closing.

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17 hours ago, MattR said:

I don't know how much the scouts want. It's called a scoutmaster minute for a reason. A really good story teller might be able to stretch that to five minutes. So, if you have a great story with a moral then ask the scouts for a slot in the program.

I even taught in SM basic that every scoutmaster is different and would have to find their own formula for reaching scouts when the scouts weren't asking to be reached. I then followed with a story of one scout who told me that one SM minute I told some years ago changed the kind of person he was going to be. Wow, I'm not sure my ego needed that, but he helped me realize how important the effort should be for every single SM minute even if only one scout was changed in all those years.

Two minutes, five minutes, whatever it takes.

Barry

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