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Executive Corner: There’s camping … and then there’s Scout camping!

It's The Failures & Eventual Successes That Lead To Real Learning

One of the phrases I use is, “there’s camping…and then there’s Scout camping.” Recently I went camping with some friends and we had a wonderful time. The campsite was clean and organized with the tents set up correctly, a clothesline for wet items, and a fire pit with a nice stack of wood ready every day.

It was like that because I did it myself.

Our meals were incredible! Well-cooked and hearty. Clean dishes and a clean camp kitchen before and after every meal. It was like that because I did it myself.

Why is it then that it doesn’t always go this way when camping with Scouts? Well, because we’re camping with Scouts! Everything would likely go better, look better, and taste better if we did it all ourselves, as adults, and did it FOR the Scouts. But we know that’s not the point of Scout camping.

The outdoors is a learning laboratory for our Scouts. Whether it’s learning how to cook a meal, build a fire, be a leader, solve a problem, or properly clean dishes, our Scouts learn by DOING, not when it’s done for them.

Fighting the impulse to step in and “fix it” when things aren’t going perfectly to plan is a difficult thing for most Scouters, but it is one of the most important things we can do. When a Scout is given a task, they often struggle and fail (at first). But encouragement and coaching from peers and adults, instead of doing it ourselves, will lead to that Scout experiencing success.

Those failures and eventual successes are what lead to real learning.

When working with youth leaders, such as new Scout patrol guides, I find myself saying “show (or tell), don’t do.” This bit of direction and encouragement reminds those youth leaders to stop doing things for the new Scouts and instead let the younger Scout learn how to do it for him/herself. I encourage Scouters to consider this, as well. Put the spatula down and step away.

Happy Scouting!

Terry Dutton
Director of Support Services / COO


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