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Older boy challenge

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I had an interesting situation last night at our troop meeting.


My JASM is not going to Jambo and will be in charge of the boys for the next two meetings. His goal is to set up the annual calendar and plan out the next major event after Jambo.


It would seem that the boys want to do a hiking outing with staying in a rather wilderness area with no facilities. They got the idea from the Camping MB requirement.


Well, they haven't thought this out very well. The JASM and I visited about the logistics problems and focused on safety issues, which the adults are expected to address. The rest is up to the boys.


I offered to do some pre-event training to help the boys get ready, but the PL told the JASM that they didn't need any training. (They are brothers!) :)


Well the JASM knows this is going to be a total disaster even before they leave and has come for more advice. It is my "tradition" that those who have their Eagle and are continuing in the troop to get the opportunity to lead as an adult, i.e. stand back and develop the leadership in the other boys.


When one has this type of situation, does one use his oldest scout as a leader or as a trainer of leaders? One can't do both because as soon as the older scout takes over, the younger scout shifts into following mode rather than getting the opportunity to lead.


What pearls of wisdom can be given on this?




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I would pull the pain-in-the-but-SM routine and require at least two shake-down/conditioning weekends (similar physical challenge, not so isolated) before the event. Scouts must attend at least one to qualify. (Or if you think you need more than a couple backpacking trips to be sure of everyone's skills, require as many as you need.)


You might even emphasize an age minimum and at least 1st class rank for every participant.


No compliance? No event.


I would have your JASM line up the dates for the training weekends, and relay the above "minimum" requirments. Then, have the younger scout take responsibility for training during the first weekend.


Since you have a sibling issue that might get in the way, you might want to encourage the JASM to focus on training the quartermaster or some other boy.

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May be a good time to explain the difference between failure and controlled failure. Help the JASM determine those areas which are part of the safety net those which are part of the game.


His job is to make sure the safety net remains in place while the game goes on.

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How far do they want to hike? IMHO managing the length of the hike as well as the terrain to the age & experience of the crew is definitely a safety factor where the adults need to have input. And the gear you will need (or at least want) is different from the typical car camping gear.


We do an annual "intro to backpacking" trek in February just before the new guys cross over. This gives the youngest guys who have been in the troop for 11 months a chance to hike 5 miles into the backcountry, camp, use the backpacking stoves, dig cat holes and then hike out 5 miles the next day. The older boys take a longer 11 miles in and out route but camp at the same campsite. The young guys are prepped & led by scouts who have attended Philmont in the past. The adults tag along at the rear as the ... "mule patrol". We haul some first year scout gear and food if need be to keep their pack at about 30% of their body weight. Some years the young guys need more rest breaks but they can make it. Now this is rolling hill terrain so there are no hard climbs. Maybe your guys want to try ground they are not yet ready for and that is a safety issue. We also hit harder trails like the Appalachian Trail but that is a handpicked 14 year and older crew of guys that we know for a fact can climb those peaks. So as I said, IMHO managing the terrain to the age & experience is definitely a safety factor the adults need to have input on.


Are they planning to hike in too far? Do they need to worry about bear procedures? Do they have the gear they need (car camp tents + sleeping bags can be heavy!) Maybe steer them toward a shorter hike with easy terrain to get them a little experience? Backpacking is a great way to learn responsibility and teamwork. But you do not want to go off with a half baked plan and the wrong gear!


If you have any questions I will try my best to help.


>>What pearls of wisdom can be given on this?

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Yah, I'm sorta perplexed what da safety concerns are. It's summer, all they're talking about is hiking and camping. Being away from a toilet requires a bit of instruction, but it isn't a safety concern. What are da real worries here? The kids are scouts, right?


I'm sorta with Eagledad, eh? Yeh give kids responsibility until they're on the edge of being overwhelmed, because that's what challenge is and what growth comes from. Here, there seems no safety downside to doing so. If they get tired early, they camp short of their goal.



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The hesitancy surprised me also. Our troop just got back from an overnight backpacking trip in the Cohutta Wilderness, 6 miles in 7 miles out....4 Adults and 8 Scouts. The SPL for the trek was a Life Scout who is 13 (almost 14) and the other Scouts range from 10 years old (new crossover) to 13 years old. The Scouts separated into 2 patrols and they had to do their own patrol cooking with the backpacking stove. We made sure each patrol had its own water filter and showed them how to filter water. The one thing that we adults did instead of the Scouts was to tie up the bear bag. The backpacking and camping down to Jacks River went smoothly, except for an oversize bacpack for the 10 year old....we had plenty of food and the Scouts enjoyed swimming at the Falls. The next day we hiked out with 18 river crossings that came about knee high for us adults and thigh high for the Scouts. Three of them took a plunge in the water while crossing. Some of them got exhausted and we had to endur the complaining and crying for the last 2 miles, but they made it and probably learned a good lesson in how much they can endur. Perhaps we pushed them a little too much considering that for most of them (6 of them), this was their first backpacking/camping trip, but other than the usual run of blisters and scrapes, we had no safety issues.

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I don't think this is inappropriately focused on safety issues. The question was how to direct the JASM in his new "quasi-adult" role. If the JASM is concerned that the outing is going to crash and burn, his proper role is to make sure it doesn't literally crash and burn, or do so in such a way as to compromise health and safety.


"Who did you give copies of your trek plan?"

"Did everyone understand your instruction time with the water filter?"

"How do you plan to bear-proof the camp?"

"What resources are near by if you have an emergency?"


All are reasonable questions for the responsible adults on a trip to ask, especially since the PL's attitude is they know everything already.




(This message has been edited by Twocubdad)

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