Many scout troops have learned how to have successful campouts through the School of Hard-knocks.
Some of these lessons can be learned by Cub Packs. In the following quote, Packs should translate “patrol” to “den” and “troop” translated to “pack,” and many of the lessons still hold true.
Bobwhite Blather takes some of these key lessons and reduces them down to some primary concerns:
There are a few things that can improve Scout enthusiasm for, and help increase participation in, a troop’s monthly campouts.
- Patrol-based. A troop is a collection of patrols, and the patrol is the fundamental building block of Scouting. Each patrol camps, cooks and does things on its own. There are troop-wide activities, which can include campfires, competitions between patrols, and an interfaith service, but most of the time should be spent as patrols. Campouts where everyone does the same activities as individuals does nothing to leverage patrol spirit, the heartbeat of a healthy troop.
- Patrol-planned. Scouting is something that the Scouts make happen for themselves, not doing things that others have planned for them. Boys being boys, it’s certainly easier for them to let others (read: the adults) do that planning for them, but character and leadership are developed when boys actually do the things that make a campout happen – find places to go, make phone calls, arrange rides, and own their weekend. We’re here to build leaders, not followers. Scouts need to have some skin in the game, or they’ll become indifferent and just stay home.
- Not the “same old same-old.” The boys will certainly find it easier to just fill in last year’s activities onto this year’s calendar, but once you’ve slept on a submarine, or in a cave, or visited a museum, you’re not going to want to keep going back year after year, or even every other year. The same can be said for high adventure. A troop that only goes to Sea Base or Philmont and never tries either the other BSA high adventure bases or making their own high adventure plans is missing out on new opportunities that keeps Scouts interested and engaged.
- Calendar-aware. When the patrol leaders’ council does its calendar planning, important school and Scouting dates need to be written in first (right along with the Scoutmaster’s wedding anniversary) as weekends to avoid. School dates like final exams, college entrance exams, big sporting events and homecoming are potential conflicts that can hurt participation. Council events, like adult or youth leader training and Order of the Arrow weekends, can pose a dilemma over which to attend, with negative impacts either way.
If your troop is struggling with spotty participation, look deeper to find the cause. Unless Scouts are taking advantage of opportunities to do the things that Scouts do, they’re missing out on everything Scouting has to offer them.