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Our first summer camp... advice please


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This is our newer units first summer camp. (Last year we did virtual).

Who decides patrols and tent mates? I have read that units have either adults or scouts choose for summer camp. Seems like its more the adults choosing for summer camp. What do you do?

Give me your best summer camp advice.

Thanks

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Boy will this get some responses.  Most who reply can write books on just summer camp.  To focus on your questions, you have a few options.  Letting scouts choose would be my first choice, let them decide as it is their program.  You can also rotate tent mates half way if they want.  I would be cautious of any special needs, I had a scout that wet the bed nightly and found out on the first night.  Parents failed to let us know.   It also took me working with the camp staff for laundering help.  

Two other must do's for me:

1.  Any homesick scouts can make for long days and nights.  Speak with parents to decide if nightly calls, at a set time, are needed to keep them in camp.  For those that wish, parent pre-written, daily-mail envelops for a scout handed out each day to the scout works too. Both methods tend to lighten and motivate. 

2.  Scouts will buy every licky-chewy at the camp trading post.  Some run out of cash on day two.  To offset this, my units bought snacks at the big-box stores and we had them in daily sacks for daily issue.  We stressed to spend money on camp items, MB items, and other than $1.50 slim jims.

One more thing:

Keep the adults from being that Cub Den Leader that drives everything and all over the scouts.  Train them, trust them, and let the lead. 

 

   

 

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- We only mandate that they camp by patrols, and select their own buddies.  (Many summer camps do not set up by patrol sites.) If there is an "odd-man out", that Scout may tent with another "odd-man out", if the two-year rule does not prohibit.  There are some Scouts who prefer to tent alone.  If there are conflicts, the Patrol Leader (PL) works it out.  If PL cannot resolve, take it to Senior PL.  When I am the SM or acting SM in camp, I only ask that they tell me how they resolved  any issues, for the sole purpose of making sure that a Scout is not being ostracized or bullied in some way.  Switching mid-week can work to great effect in these cases.

- Adults should be as far away from the Scouts as practical.  Usually in the farthest Patrol Site, and all together.  Make sure the Scouts know where the SM tent is.  I bring chem lights for PL's, SPL, and myself, and we hang them outside our tents each night, so they can find us easily.  Everything looks different in the dark ;)

- Adults (and especially parents) must stay out of Scouts' tents, except for a health and safety reasons, and an inspection by the SPL w/SM for daily campsite inspection competition.  This is the case where we have the most difficulty with new parents who accompany us to camp.  Best advice for them, "If you don't think your Scout can make it through a week of summer camp without you, please seek out another long-term camping experience."  Most of the time, the issue is with the parents, not with the Scout.  That is, the parent cannot make through a week without the Scout ;)

- A pre-camp visit with the SPL is awesome, if you can swing it.  Nothing beats eyes on target on your future campsite to help with planning.  This is, of course, often impractical.

- Finally, here is an uncomfortable topic off of OP...pooping.  After many years of Summer Camp, I have discovered that one of the key contributors to "homesickness" is anxiety about going to the bathroom.  So, we call it "Number Two Tuesday."  Camp starts on Sunday, so if a Scout has not gone #2 by the end of Tuesday, you WILL see problems.  On Tuesday morning before breakfast, I discretely take each Scout (and Adult!!!) aside and ask them if the have gone #2 by now.  I have a roster to help me keep track (we have 41 going to camp this year.)  If they have not, help them figure out why.  If they just haven't felt the need, the number one reason is dehydration.  Even if they say they are well hydrated (have been going #1 frequently, and the color is light) then I still have them drink a lot of water.  If by midday they haven't gone, I give them some coffee (with prior parents' permission.)   If that doesn't work within about an hour, it's an OTC laxative or a trip to the health lodge, depending on your camp's rules on giving OTC meds.   Hydration and/or coffee have always done the trick.  Occasionally, it's an anxiety issue with rustic facilities  (never gone in an outhouse before) or privacy.  So most camps have a clean flush toilet somewhere...have them go there.  You will be astounded by the number of kids who think they can hold it for the whole week.  Seriously...

Edited by InquisitiveScouter
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A lot depends on the maturity of your scouts, but summer camp is the best patrol method experience a troop can get if you take advantage of it. Our troop request two camp sites near each other; one for scouts  and one for adults. We ask adults to not walk around camp with scouts so that they have the experience of finding their way around without adults and practice the discipline of getting to their destinations on time. AND, experience the consequences of failing in both cases.
 

The scouts are required and expected to always have a buddy and tell their Patrol Leader or SPL where they are at. A discussion with theSPL and likely the SM if they break those 2 rules.

Summer camp is a safe place, and one of the few places where youth of this age can experience independence and the self confidence from making decisions without worrying about adults watching over them. Parents tell us all the time that their sons (and now daughters) come back a different person. More mature.

This is also an opportunity for the adults to learn how to step back and let the scouts make their own decisions. Adults typically focus on scouts doing as much advancement as they can, but don’t fall into that mistake. You will not get another opportunity where your scouts can be independent and makes bad decisions they can learn from. Advance is a good tool for them to practice the expectations of getting to their class on time and working the requirements. If they don’t, it’s their problem, not the adults. The adults are more concerned that they understand their bad decisions. And they may not in that moment. They will later as their buddies advance faster.

And be prepared for parents with high expectations for their kids. They are less concerned about developing character from independent decisions than getting as much Eagle advancement as they can. But, their kids have plenty of time for that stuff. Choosing to make make right choices is the priority now.

And finally, make them have fun. Encourage them to pick fun activities. Take some balls, chess boards and other stuff they can grab and play with their buddy when they have 15 minutes to kill before the next activity.
 

Also, we always ask the camp staff to set up a troop activity exclusively for our troop. Can be anything, swimming, shooting sport, COPE course, we’ve done many. Anything to get your troop to have fun together. We also try to do an after camp activity on the way home like rafting, Six Flags, local Waterpark. What ever is close to your area that is a break from the exhaustion of camp. Trust me, the stories are much better from scouts exhausted from an amusement park day. 

Well, that’s off the top of my head. Have fun, have fun and have fun. Many troop leaders complain their older scouts were bored with the same ol, same ol of summer camp. But our Older scouts typically have attended at least 5 summer camps because they are fun.

Barry

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Ah... Pooping and parents. Two things we haven't given much thought to yet 😉. I appreciate the insight on both topics Luckily we do have fairly nice bathrooms where we are going and latrines too. 

I never would have thought to switch tent mates mid week. But that was suggested more than once. Interesting. I can definitely see a benefit to it.

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2 hours ago, Eagledad said:

A lot depends on the maturity of your scouts, but summer camp is the best patrol method experience a troop can get if you take advantage of it.

We ask adults to not walk around camp with scouts so that they have the experience of finding their way around without adults and practice the discipline of getting to their destinations on time. AND, experience the consequences of failing in both cases.
 

The scouts are required and expected to always have a buddy and tell their Patrol Leader or SPL where they are at. A discussion with the SPL and likely the SM if they break those 2 rules.

This is also an opportunity for the adults to learn how to step back.

And finally, make them have fun. Encourage them to pick fun activities. Take some balls, chess boards and other stuff they can grab and play with their buddy when they have 15 minutes to kill before the next activity.

Barry

A lot to unpack here. Thank you.

Maturity... That is one of our biggest challenges. Our oldest scout is only 14. Most are 11/12. We are lacking older scouts. It's not easy.

Your two rules are great. And yes our adults do need to learn to step back.

So this year in camp everyone has to travel together due to Covid restrictions.  All the scouts and leaders have to move from one program area to the next as a group.  Unfortunately, some of the responsibility that falls on the scouts will be lost this year. But at least we can camp

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5 hours ago, karunamom3 said:

This is our newer units first summer camp. (Last year we did virtual).

Who decides patrols and tent mates? I have read that units have either adults or scouts choose for summer camp. Seems like its more the adults choosing for summer camp. What do you do?

Give me your best summer camp advice.

Thanks

Good questions.  If your whole troop is attending maybe let the patrols be the patrols.  We typically build on the existing patrols and get an even number in each patrol.  Then there is a duty roster for the day / week and each patrol has assigned responsibilities that vary by day.  Flags, waiter duty at the dining hall, site trash haul out, latrine cleanup, filling the water and gatorade.  PL's lead that.

On the tent mates we let the Scouts select who they will tent with.  Honestly about 95% or our Scouts sleep in hammocks, so the tent is more of a warehouse.

Look over the forms from the camp.  Work with your SPL or Camp SPL on activities the troop can do together as part of the program.  DO NOT OVER SCHEDULE.  Sometimes Scouts hanging out playing card games is the best thing.  Most camps have free or open activity time, let them select.

Also we have them days for the troop so out Scouts have similar things they wear.  Favorite sports teams day, Superhero day, Camouflage day, College Booster Day, Merica Monday etc etc

Above all, HAVE FUN

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1 hour ago, karunamom3 said:

A lot to unpack here. Thank you.

Maturity... That is one of our biggest challenges. Our oldest scout is only 14. Most are 11/12. We are lacking older scouts. It's not easy.

Your two rules are great. And yes our adults do need to learn to step back.

So this year in camp everyone has to travel together due to Covid restrictions.  All the scouts and leaders have to move from one program area to the next as a group.  Unfortunately, some of the responsibility that falls on the scouts will be lost this year. But at least we can camp

Yes, it is a lot to unpack. The thing to understand is that there is an opportunity here for your scouts to practice making adults decisions. I understand there will be challenges, but it's the heart of intent for the adults that is the challenge. The adults can come up with a lot of reasons to not let scouts make independent decisions, but where there is a will, there is a way. The adults need to have the will.

The other suggestion to take to heart is have fun. Adults struggle with fun at summer camp because  they are used to being methodical and responsible.  Adults look at fun as a reward to hard work during our adult lives. But, the scouting program uses fun to draw the scouts into the work of making hard decisions. The saying goes, "scouting is a game with a purpose." I think you will understand more when you get in the middle of it all.

One last thing; come mid week, everyone (EVERYONE) will be cranking as a result of physically long days with limited sleep, so be ready for it. Coach the adults to not get cranking at each other and especially the scouts. In fact, set an example of not being cranky. By Friday, everyone will be back into their normal selves.

Barry 

 

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With coaching, we have our SPL and PLC do this.

I’m still trying to figure out who decided to put my tent adjacent the snoring SM!

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I am very strongly in the let the scouts decide.  Not even the SPL deciding for others.  The scouts should be able to choose their tent mates as much as possible.  It's the scout's experience, let them own their experience.  

As for patrols ... keep your patrols.  Kids can trade and move around ... but patrols are patrols.  even if just two kids.  That's who they are.  You want to promote patrols as part of the scout's identity.  Ad-hoc patrols subverts the patrol idea. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, fred8033 said:

The scouts should be able to choose their tent mates as much as possible.  It's the scout's experience, let them own their experience.  

As long as your tent mate is in your patrol, for sure. That was one of the best things about troop camping growing up. 

The SPL decides where the different patrols setup. 

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