Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Timm

Adult Supervision on Outings

Recommended Posts

An ongoing argument I am having deals with adult supervision of patrols on overnight outings. One position argues that, on outings, the adults camp seperately up to half a mile from the patrols and interact with the patrols on an as required basis (i.e. approve activities which may include a short hike). Interaction should be kept to an absolute minimum to allow the patrols to succeed and fail, and learn from that failure.

 

The other position is that the adults are there to watch the scouts, superverise their activities, at all times, to make sure nothing inappropriate is occuring. i.e. Bullying, playing with fire, unsafe activities etc. To create a safe and productive environment for the scouts to work on their scouting skills and avoid the screwing around and getting into trouble that occurs as a result of idle time.

 

It seems to me there is a fine line between coddling the scouts and creating a 'lord fo the flies' environment but quite frankly, I don't know where it should be drawn. My own boys have been hit, intentionally, with rocks, threatend with a knife, and, at times, bullied by older scouts. And my own thought at the time was 'where were the adults when this behavior was going on?'

 

What is the role of the adults on an overnight outing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A half mile away? Lord of the Flies, indeed! I think what you've presented are the extremes, but perhaps that's what you're faced with.

 

The policy of our troop has always been that the adults will camp separately, but still within view of the patrol sites. Simplisticly, and not meant to be flip but perhaps it will come across as such, we approach the situation with the 'eyes in the back of our heads that Mom always had when we were kids' ideal. We do not hover over the Scouts, nor do we leave them totally to their own devices. We're not in their face, and we're not on the other side of the mountain. We're within hearing distance, and within view. But we can't be seen around their campfire, thus the Scouts pretty much know they're on their own, but there are eyes in the dark, around corners, in the back of our heads as we attend to our own campfire, and we know all that they do...the impression, at least, has some value. There are problems from time to time, but senior boy leadership either deals with it and resolves the problem, or presents the need for assistance to the SM. If the SM is not available, then the appropriate ASM will be. Untrained volunteer adults and parents who might be in attendance know their place...and that's out of things unless health, safety, or imminent danger are the call.

 

Your reference to bullying, rocks thrown, and knives being inappropriately use to threaten are definitely beyond the scope of boy leadership resolution capabilities, and must be the territory of the SM. The example set by the SM in not attending immediately to these types of situations should be of deep concern to all adults in the troop, if that was the case. If, rather, the case was no immediate attention because of the distant location of adult leadership, that should speak volumes to those of you who have concerns.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Timm,

Understand that there is a difference between troop and patrol activities. Scoutmaster is a troop position of responsibility, nut a patrol is a youth lead, youth member unit.

 

The Boy Scout handbook, The Scoutmaster handbook, and the Guide to Safe Scouting, all allow for a patrol to hike and camp on it's own. Only one patrol though. Once more than one patrol gathers it is a troo[ event, and troop events require two deep leadership.

 

In the scout handbooks you will see that there are certain guidelines that a ptrol must follow in order to do this. A scoutmaster has as an option to having no adults go with to having adults in near proximity. How near is determeined by the SM based on the skills of the scouts, the activity they are involved in and the requirements of the activity area.

 

The role of adults on troop overnighters is no different than their role at troop meetings, observe, evaluate, support. make sure the scouts are safe and healthy and that the program is being delivered.

 

It would be a good idea to read the appropriate chapters in the scouting handbooks first, then come back with any specific questions.

 

Hope this helps,

Bob White(This message has been edited by Bob White)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bob, can you explain the rational behind allowing patrols to camp with no supervision while requiring it for mutiple-patrol (i.e. troop) campouts? What's the difference?

 

Question for all: how many of you have troops who camp as a patrol without supervision? Among the troops in our area, I'm not aware of any where the patrols camp without the troop, much less unsupervised.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sure Twocubdad,

 

Patrol activity without adult leadrship has been an important and practical element of the Patrol Method since it's development in early 1900 by Baden-Powell.

 

Remember when you a boy and played in the neighborhood with your friends? Well so did B-P. His plan for scouting was to build a better boy. One that not only knew how to play but knew how to work and how to care for others. He developed an educational program that would increase a boys skills in a variety of areas. The boy would make better decisions, work and play harder.

 

Now think about it, if as an untrained boy you could run around and play with your friends without two adults overseeing your every move, then why as a boy with advanced skills and maturity should you need them? I remember in the summers when parents were a lot of kids would ride their bikes about 5-miles or more to the public pool and spend the day there. Should my friends and I who were trained in bike safety, first aid, swimming and working together need to have two parents along when the other boys who were not anywhere as trained and prepared as we were not required to have adult chaperones. What is the point of training boys if you do not train them well enough to trust them?

 

For that reason the scouting movement has always had as its goal to develop the scouts to the point where they can act and succeed independently. We do that through the Patrol activities.

 

Remember that this is not a blank check to go anywhere anytime and do anything the patrol wants. This is not the ultimate reward, this is one step in developing independence and maturity. B-P said that if you want total results you need to give them total responsibility and trust. Remember to that this is not done all at once. The program suggests that you go in steps based on the skills and abilities of the patrol.

 

I get a kick from those leaders who say "But my scouts couldn't possible be trusted to go out alone" or "we've never had a patrol with enough skills to do patrol activities". To discover both the problem and the solution to these dilemas the Scoutmaster needs only to gaze into the nearest mirror. Preparing boys for this independence is what being scoutmaster is about.

If a scout can't..it's because a Scoutmaster didn't.

 

As far as the difference between patrol and troop outings and adult leadership, you need to understand the difference in leading a group, and cooperative leadership among leaders. It takes a much higher degree of leadership skill understanding to lead a large group through a chain of command than a small group with a single leader. Scouting has determined that when multiple youth leadership is present boys need adult leadership available to help guide them through the higher level leadership skills. In addition we know that large groups of boys require more logistical support, and the locations capable of handliing larger groups require in their rules to have adult presence as well.

 

I hope this answered your question. It's a good topic and one I enjoy discussing.

 

Bob White

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure I see where the need for cooperation between the two patrol leaders makes for a significant difference. If two or three patrols are sent out with instructions to stay within earshot of each other, but to run their program within their patrol, I don't really see that point.

 

But as you may suspect, my greater concern is with the idea of unsupervised camping in general. It strikes me as an anachronism from another era of Scouting.

 

When I was a kid, my neighborhood buddies used to camp just as you described. We were fortunate to live on the edge of a small town. Our neighborhood dead-ended into a large tract of undeveloped land that literally went on for miles. My group of friends could have easily been a patrol as we were all members of the same Scout troop and with one or two exceptions, all Eagles. We, and our families, had known each other since preschool. But there were a few significant differences. The most notable that we were all probably 16 or 17 before we were allowed to go camping alone.

 

Along the lines of your step-by-step approach and only allowing the boys to do what their skills permit, I can see this as an option for a high adventure patrol of boys 14 or so and First Class, where the boys are of an age, rank, and skill level where they can handle the responsibility.

 

A year from now, I can't imagine allowing my son to camp with his patrol unsupervised. And I'm about 1,000 times more likely to allow it than his mother. Part of it is geography. There isn't a good, safe camping area the boys could reach without driving. But more significantly is the issue of trust. I would not trust my son's safety to a group of 14- and 15-year-olds. There's just too much room for mischief.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"I would not trust my son's safety to a group of 14- and 15-year-olds. There's just too much room for mischief."

 

The difference, Twocubdad, between feeling as you do and not feeling that way is a trained scoutmaster doing their job.

 

If you wouldn't trust the safety of another person to a 15-year-old scout, then an adult has not done their job. After all that's what the entire program is here to do.

 

Bob white

(This message has been edited by Bob White)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Timm,

 

Much too late to edit my post, and attempting to steer discussion back to your OP, I must clarify my response to your query (in reference to the point made about troop vs. patrol outings)...we've never had patrol outings, so if your question stems from that POV, I can't offer anything. All activities our troop involves itself with are troop activities...at least 2 a month, so the offering in the plan set out at the beginning of the year are such that patrols don't have to try things on their own. That's their decision...or should I say 'was their decision' some 20 years ago or more, and subsequent generations in the troop have opted to keep to that plan. It works, so why change it?

 

Thus, when speaking about adult involvement on outings (your original question) I speak from the position of 'troop' outings, not 'patrol' outings. Most often, with so many offerings in the plan, we rarely have 'all' of the patrols on any one outing, but we never have 'only one'. This type of planning requires a lot of work on the part of both the PLC and the adult leadership and the committee, but it seems to be worth it as the number of offerings attend to the varied schedule the Scouts have in their personal lives (they have a life?). Same with the adult leadership. Not all adult leaders attend each and every trip. But there's always adults along for the trip...be it near or far.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

>>The other position is that the adults are there to watch the scouts, superverise their activities, at all times, to make sure nothing inappropriate is occuring.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This topic is close to my heart, as I have been trying to get a couple of our PLs to try some form of this.

 

Eagledad made a great point, but it was buried in the middle of a paragraph, so it might not have stood out. He said, in effect, that the unsupervised outing should be something the SM feels is within (I think WELL within) the Patrol's ability. For a brand new New Scout Patrol, this might be limited to doing Putt Putt. For a group of 13 year olds, I think it is very reasonable to think they could do a day hike and cook their own meals without adult supervision. I believe my son's Patrol, made up of 5 14 year old Star and Life Scouts, and 4 13 year old 1st class Scouts except one who is still Tenderfoot, could do an exemplary job on a one night campout by themselves. Something like arriving early Saturday afternoon, making camp, doing a nature hike, cooking diner, having a campfire, then waking up Sunday morning, making breakfast, doing KP, then striking camp. Now that I think about it, I don't just believe they could, I KNOW they could!

 

I agree that getting parents to allow their sons to attend such an event is difficult. It's hard for us to see our children becoming independent. Years ago, that was the number one responsiblity parents identified as their job: Growing independent children. Today, their response is protecting children from harm (I read this in a Cleveland Plain Dealer column @ 4 months ago. I apoligize that I can't identify the source specifically). Certainly, these two things are not opposites, and may not even be mutually exclusive. But I think there is enough of an attitudinal shift in our society that what parents would have encouraged years ago ("Go, fend for yourself for a few days, learn what it's like!") is now feared ("My child out on his own? Oh no! How could I allow that and call myself a good parent?") And, with apoligies to all of the moms on this forum, I think it is accurate to make the generalization that moms are more likely to be extra protective. So even if dad goes along with the idea, mom still has to be sold, and that's a tough sell.

 

I think that the concept of an unsupervised Patrol outing, tailored to the abilities of the members of the Patrol, is a great idea. I am hoping to get them going in my Troop.

 

Mark

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"What would it take to ease your fears?"

 

My first concern is who they are camping with. As a parent, I am very careful which friends I'll let my boys have sleepovers with. My older son has one friend who he is no longer to overnight with due to what I feel was a lack of supervision on some previous overnighters. In a Scouting environment, I am very comfortable with our troop leaders and would have no hesitation to trust my son's safety with them. I don't have that same comfort with all the Scouts in the troop. If fact, there are a couple boys in the troop who make uncomfortable due to some of their past behaviors.

 

My second concern is environmental. Are the boys in a safe location? Are they protected from outsiders? How far away is help. The easy answer is to camp at a Scout camp. It's a safe enviroment and the ranger is just up the hill. But what's the difference with that and having the Scoutmaster camping just over the ridge?

 

I don't disagree with either of you that with proper training and skills, Scouts can pull this off. But there is also a component of maturity and judgement. Certainly Scouts have the training to make better judgements. But part of it is experience. Both your points that this isn't something that happens overnight and should be based on the ability of the patrol. But that needs to apply to individual boys, not just the patrol as a whole. I would be very concerned about sending a group of 11- and 12-year-olds out without supervision.

 

Ultimately I don't see that the benefits of unsupervised camping balance the potential risks. It seems to be a fairly minor and under-used element of the program (which is why I asked how many units use it.) Bob asks, "What is the point of training boys if you do not train them well enough to trust them?" We train the boys to use a knife safely. But we also teach them first aid. We train them to handle themselves in the woods, but we also provide responsible adult leadership. It isn't a question of trust, it's a question of taking unnecessary risks.

 

Edited part -- Mark slipped his post in ahead of mind, but I think his analysis of the types of independent outings patrols can undertake is a good one, in general terms. I'll agree it is a matter of patrols working up to unsupervised campouts over a matter of years not months.

(This message has been edited by Twocubdad)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the reasons I enjoy participating in these forums is that it stretches my knowledge. I learned something today.

 

While reading this, the professional in me was wondering if the BSA does indeed allow youth-only campouts and such for patrols.

 

Truly not knowing the answer, I went searching.

 

Patrol activities are mentioned in the Patrol Leader Handbook and Junior Leader handbook. The best answer I found comes from page 22 of the current Scoutmaster Handbook:

 

"PATROL ACTIVITIES

 

Most patrol activities take place within the framework of the troop. However, patrols may also set out on day hikes, service projects, and overnighters independant of the troop and free of adult leadership as long as they follow two rules:

 

The Scoutmaster approves the patrol activity.

 

The patrol activity does not interfere with any troop function.

 

A patrol activity without adult supervision should be allowed only when it has been thoroughly planned and the Scoutmaster is satisfied that the activity is well within the patrol members' levels of training and responsibility. If the Scoutmaster has any doubts, he should encourage the patrol to reconsider its plans, or should assign adults to accompany the patrol during the activity in question."

 

I noticed that there is a worksheet in the Patrol Leader Handbook to guide the patrol in satisfying the Scoutmaster.

 

DS

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm enjoying this too, because I'm learning some things. My picture of how this all works is evolving as we discuss it.

 

I like Mark's approach that the boys grow into the patrol outings over a few years. And what DS quoting about the SM's approval makes me feel better. I can envision a SM saying something like the following: "Guys I think you've planned a great outing, but I'm concerned that you're biting off a little more than the whole patrol can handle. Half your patrol is 11- and 12-year-olds and I don't think they're ready for an unsupervised trip. And while you've shown great initiative planning this trip, I'm not sure you're really ready to be responsible for all these young guys. I'll approvethe trip, but I'm going to make two suggestions: one, I'd like to move the trip from the state park to the Scout reservation. That way I don't have to worry about any outsiders causing you problems. And secondly, I want you to take one ASM and one other adult with you. They can stay in the staff cabins, completely out of your hair. I want you to set two times during the day to check in with them, but other that that you're on your own."

 

Sounds to me like a good compromise. As a parent, that would allay my fears. But it also gives the boys a lot of freedom and lattitude.

 

Now Bob, if your metric is that "you've trained them but don't trust them" you may see that as a failure. But you have to ask yourself where are you in the training process? Is it a failure that a third-year medical student isn't allowed to perform surgery? Many of the hypothetical we use when debating leadership issues contemplate that the boy-leaders are at the end of training curve, or at least that the troop has a full pipeline of boys moving through the continuum. In reality -- or at least in the troops I visit -- it's more likely that they have bulges and voids in the junior leadership that have to be leveled.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Twocubdad,

Opportunities for independence are not rewards handed out for learning but are application opportunities that are directly linked to the skill level of the scout. There are many such opportunities sprinkled throughout the program. Unfortunately many scouts never get these opportunities because they never recieve the skill instruction that makes them possible.

 

At no time did I advocate sending a Patrol of new scouts off on their own for a campout. By why couldn't they do an activity on scale with their abilities such as a cleanup project at a local park?

 

These small opportunities to practice the skills and values of scouting on their own as a patrol have huge growth experiences as a result.

 

As I wrote previously and Dsteele shared some of, there are guidelines and sugestions about how and what to do in the various troop handbooks, that are largely unknown because the books were never read. The answers of how to make scouting work are covered far more thoroughly in the handbooks of scouting than in this or any other forum.

 

Bob White(This message has been edited by Bob White)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Understood, Bob. And in fairness to you, when your last message hit I was getting ready to edit my last post to credit you with having noted this earlier.

 

I guess my general level of consternation in all this is from a perception I have of strongly boy-led units that the new Scouts become cannon fodder for the older boys to practice their leadership skills. It's all well and good that a patrol leader is learning and growing as a leader. But where's the safety net if he has a bad weekend or gets in a situation he can't handle?

 

One of the troops my 10-year-old is visiting is like this. I don't know of any real harm that has come to the younger boys, but I do see that they have an unusually high drop rate among younger boys. While the older boys are learning from their mistakes, the younger ones just see a miserable weekend or unproductive meeting and become frustrated. In my personal (and yes, untrained) opinion, the adults allow the junior leaders a bit too much rope.

 

As a pack leader, it is very discouraging to see good, enthuiastic Webelos cross over and drop within a few months. My perception (which may or may not be accuate or fair) is that the boys are intimidated by a troop program dominated by 15- and 16-year-old Life Scouts who make up probably two-thirds of the troop. The SM confided to me that with 20+ Life Scouts, it is going to be a real burden for the troop to work that many Eagles and Eagle projects over the next year or two. As a parent, I have to wonder where that leaves this year's graduating class of Webelos.

 

Least you think I'm biased against boy-led troops, I'll add that the other troop my son is visiting is just the opposite. They're run like a big Cub Scout den. No leadership at the patrol level and most tasks are accomplished by the SMs telling (yelling?) the SPL what to do. (I also think they spend way too much time selling stuff, but that's another thread.) Honestly, at this point, my preference would be for the first troop. I think their problems are much more fixable.

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  

×
×
  • Create New...