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Boy Scouts produce outdoor skills, life lessons

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Boy Scouts produce outdoor skills, life lessons





July 08,2005


Ed Wall

Special to the Sun Journal


Times sure have changed. Just a few years back, explorers traipsed across untrammeled and, in some cases, yet-to-be-discovered expanses of the landscape. The "explorers" were young boys and girls, and the "wilderness" they forged their way through consisted of overgrown residential lots, small patches of suburban forest, creeks that meandered through secluded glades and, in some cases, a relative's small farm outside town. The fact that their adventures took place right around the corner from home rather than on the High Plains or in the Adirondacks didn't diminish the value of the experience. In its own way, the sense of accomplishment the youngsters realized when they were able to ford a small stream without getting their feet wet or when they slept out "under the stars" for the first time was just as real as what John Wesley Powell felt as he made his way through the Grand Canyon that first time.


Today a youngster's view of nature is more likely to come from a television screen or a video game. Rather than spending hours building the perfect camp down in the woods or trying to catch crayfish with string and pieces of hotdog, kids are likely to sit from morning to night jiggling a "joystick" - trying to attain a Master score in "Alien Combat III."


There is nothing intrinsically wrong with video games or computer simulations, but there is a very real danger that a lot of youngsters today are missing an opportunity to see nature fact-to-face; to challenge themselves in a real world environment that can't be "deleted" or "re-booted" at their convenience; to develop an understanding of how different forms of life are interrelated and interdependent; to understand why they are responsible for protecting the natural world around them, and making it better for the next generation. Too many kids are watching screen savers rather than sunsets; sitting in their bedrooms smoking dope rather than around a campfire smelling wood smoke; hanging with their "buds" at the local mall rather than hanging from a "zip line" on a climbing course at summer camp.


There is at least one place where outdoor skills are emphasized over mental fantasy, though. It's the Boy Scouts. Since it was brought to this country from England in 1910, hundreds of thousands of youngsters have been in the Scouts and those that participate today will tell you that it's just as relevant now as it's ever been. The lessons that are learned are just as meaningful and the fun is just as exhilarating. Anyone who questions those facts should visit Camp Bonner, a summer Scout camp located on the south side of the Pamlico River between Chocowinity and Aurora.


For six weeks each summer, about 250 youngsters age 10 to 17 and their adult leaders sleep in tents, swim in the pool, canoe on the river, climb on the COPE course, shoot shotguns and rifles, learn how to find their way through the woods with a compass, and take part in a myriad of other outdoor activities. For those who love to compete, there are soccer, horseshoes, softball and even a mini-triathlon. Mixed in on an informal basis are turtle races (with real turtles), flashlight tag, "Slurpees" at the trading post and searching for fossils among the limestone rock that forms the base for the camp's roads.


Perhaps the most important activities at Camp Bonner, and similar facilities maintained by the Boy Scouts, is the challenge that each camper faces within himself. There was the one boy this summer - a first-year camper - for example, who had never shot a real gun before. Under the tutelage of a trained adult leader and with the advice and encouragement of older Scouts, he not only got to the point that he could hit the target with a little single-shot .22, but won an NRA-sanctioned match on the last day. He learned that, if he listens to those with more experience and follows their lead, he can achieve things that he probably didn't think were possible before. He also learned to handle a firearm safely and to respect its capabilities.


The young marksman wasn't alone in reaching a goal. That's a common theme in Scouting and a daily occurrence at places like Camp Bonner. One of his buddies needed to pass a swim test in order to participate in a canoeing class. He didn't make it the first time. With the encouragement of some older Scouts and the assistance of an adult leader he did it, though - at 6:30 in the morning. Learning swimming techniques that may someday save his life was obviously important to the boy. Having the courage to try again and accept help from others may be even more important in the long run.


The number of Boy Scouts (including Cub Scouts, Webelos, Varsity Scouts and Venture Scouts - related branches) has declined slightly in recent years. From 2003 to 2004, for example, enrollment across the country dropped 1.7 percent. Today, approximately 3,145,000 boys are registered with the Scouts in 126,232 units (packs, troops, crews). According to many Scout volunteers and professionals, the decline can probably be attributed to a number of factors including the rise in the number of conflicting activities for youngsters of Scout age; more single-parent families; and a more sedentary, urban-focused lifestyle for many people. Evidence of the importance that parents continue to see in Scouting, however, is the number of adult volunteers (nearly 1.2 million) that registered with the Boy Scouts in 2004.


According to Joe Collins, District Executive for the Neuse Basin District of the East Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts, Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops in this part of North Carolina have experienced a slight drop in numbers along with the rest of the country in recent years. He said recently that the decline does not seem to reflect a downward trend, though, and that most units are strong, both in numbers and leadership. Over 800 youth and 350 adults participate in Scout units in his district (Jones, Pamlico and most of Craven county). Collins pointed out that there is a spot in Scouting for any boy or adult leader who wants to participate and that the annual "round-up" will be held in area elementary schools for both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts at the beginning of the fall term.


Generally, Cub Scouts are for boys age 7 to 10. Boy Scouts are from 10 to 17. Although most start out in Cub Scouts, that is not a requirement for joining a Boy Scout troop. Anyone who is interested in securing additional information about the Scouts at any level can contact Joe Collins at 636-9793 or Larry Cumbo at 637-6537.


Ed Wall can be reached at edwall@cconnect.net.


Some Scout Facts


A recent nation-wide survey indicated Boy Scouts comprised:


* 85% of high school student council presidents

* 89% of senior class presidents

* 64% of Air Force Academy graduates

* 68% of West Point graduates

* 70% of Naval Academy graduates

* 72% of this country's Rhodes Scholars

* 26 of the first 29 NASA astronauts

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  • 5 months later...

We have seen some dead zones as far as recruiting goes in our Council,as well as some Explorer Posts and V.crews dying off.My question is,my friend whom runs a cable tv access channel has been asked to speak at a boy scout troop locally,but he has no time.I am member of both bsa and the cable channel.Have you or other posters(users) on scouter heard of procedures where more troops could get together to show kids video equipment all in one place for a combined learning experience? Like have mini jamboree(or other title per most current training)to have more kids work on maybe Photography and Art merit badges? i got back into scouting as adult volunteer in 2000 as my out of state son was going for Eagle.He recieved his Eagle rank in 2004.Are there ways to stop downward slide of less memberships,while garnering leadership and encouraging more sponsors,such as in Friends of Scouting? I have found many helful messages on socuter just about fund raising.Many coin collecting counselors in my MN area council alone.But I call a few at random,and get no answer.I suggest a couple of fund raising methods off scouter,and it's like no one hears what I have said,about new solutions.I got a idea for mini jamboree from one posting where a troop(or more)made a replica of a radio transmission tower in a mall that scouts could climb.It seems new troops are hard to get going.And some churches in area where my friend has cable channel have no socut troops.

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