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If You Build It … Why Would They Come?

May 3, 2011

Scouts Building Welcome Gate

Spring Challenge – The Event

Every year Scouts and 3rd year cubs from Southern Vancouver Island come together to compete in a series of challenges showcasing their scouting skills. The stated purpose of the camp “is to allow troops to participate in a regional challenge and also to have all Third Year Cubs join the troops to see what they have to look forward to in the fall.”

Dish Washing Station

This event is known as Spring Challenge and is held from Friday night until Sunday afternoon. This was my first year at Spring Challenge and I had the pleasure of attending the event with 8 youth from our cub pack and one other leader.

Events were diverse at Spring Challenge and we had no idea what to expect. Our cubs were fortunate to team with another troop as many of the skills required for the challenges were new to the 3rd year cubs. I believed the building of chairs, gates and catapults out of wood and twine would throw the cubs for a loop. I knew I would be little help as I did not attend scouts as a youth and these skills were new to me as well. You can imagine my delight when many of the cubs attacked the tasks without hesitation.

It was during the building of the dish wash station that I found myself reflecting on the skills the scouts were really working on. To name a few:

  • Team Work – assigning and dividing tasks to get the job done
  • Problem Solving – making a chair or dish station out of wood spars and twine takes some thought
  • Independent Learning – scouts asked how to make lashes but in the end they had to do it themselves
  • Perseverance – while tough for some most stayed on task and completed their objectives
  • Cooperation – time was limited so this was essential for completing the tasks

At one point I found myself asking , “Wouldn’t it be easier to have experienced scout leaders tell the Scouts how to do the tasks properly?”

I saw this in action at one point during the weekend when the “over 40 scouts,” as they came to be called, “helped” to complete the catapult challenge. I must say it was gratifying when our troop won the challenge.

In the end this all speaks to one vital point … The purpose of Spring Challenge was for the scouts to be challenged and not the leaders. It was the development of participation, team work, problem solving, perseverance and many other “soft skills” that was the real challenge for the weekend. Sure it was great that the Scouts build some great things but how could they have developed these real skills if an adult would have told them step by step directions.

Perhaps it is the lashings that failed where the Scouts learned most and even more importantly it was their lashings and not those of an adult leader.

Lights go on as Scouts Gather For Results

So I must ask …

If leaders were to build everything for the Scouts, why would they bother to come for the challenge?

If they are not challenged in new ways how will they learn?

Is it the product or the process which was more important?

… the transfer to an educational context was obvious to me …

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