The Downward Spiral of Spectacular
It was a much anticipated Scout Camping Trip. We were going to see some spectacular canyons out in West Texas. The weather was beautiful, and everything was just right. Though it was a long drive to get there, the Adult Leaders and older Scouts were really pushing for this camping trip because it was one of the most scenic and visually exciting places the Troop had camped.
Fast forward to the trip home. I was a bit disappointed, to say the least. My disappointment was partly due to having to cut the Camp a little short because of weather issues. The biggest disappointment to me, however, was that it didn't turn out to be the experience I had hoped for the Scouts. Instead of being filled with excitement about the breath-taking views around us, the Scouts eschewed hiking in favor of hanging around camp. The highlight of the camp, it seemed, was spending half a day playing sand games in a dry creek bed.
Why? I couldn't figure it out.
Part of the reason I enjoyed hiking so much was because I cultivated a “love of the wilderness”. I talk about this in my post series on the Wilderness in Scouting. Although it seems that this love of the wilderness is being forgotten by far too many Scouts, I don't think this under-appreciation of the outdoors is the only reason some Scout Camps can be just flat-out boring.
You see, the reason the Scout's reaction to this camp had been so confusing to me, is because I was buying into a certain way of thinking about camps that I have since found to be inaccurate. The way of thinking goes like this:
“The most important thing about Scout Camping is where you camp. The more exciting the setting, the funner the camp. The more commonplace the setting, the more boring the camp.”
The more I look around, the more I see this way of thinking influencing Troops' decisions. It seems to be a game to go somewhere bigger and more exciting than the last place. How else can boys stay interested and excited about Scouting?
This way of thinking was my own until I ran into a different way of thinking in my quest to Rediscover Scouting. This discovery slowly came about through reading about Scouting's past and studying Scouting's present.
The more I read and researched, the more I started to come to the conclusion that where you camp is really only a small part of it. The most important factor is what you do on a camping trip and how the camp is conducted.
Don't get me wrong! I'm not saying that Scout's shouldn't try to go to cool places with very exciting and adventurous environments. What I am saying is that the environment doesn't necessarily make or break the camp. If a Troop isn't good at running camping trips, then it won't really matter where you go; it still won't be the camp you hoped it would be. The most important thing about a camping trip is what you do and how you do it.
I am saying that modern Scouting has a lot it needs to rediscover about camping and what it really is.
Is it really that important? What if your Troop really does go camping often? Well, chances are if your Troop goes camping regularly, the Scouts enjoy the camping trips enough to keep wanting to go on new ones. In that case, you might think that your camping program is healthy and doesn't need any changes.
I still think it is important that we go a little deeper to learn about the these principles of Scout camping. Scouting is always a continual work-in-progress. I believe that by examining the principles of Scout Camping and putting them into practice, we can ensure that camping is never looked upon as a boring activity.
This is the introductory post in a series I will be writing here on ScoutingRediscovered about the principles of Camping. Contrary to what some people might think, this activity is timeless and will never get dated. It can be forgotten, though, and I hope that by keeping the spirit and principles alive, we can prevent that from happening.
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