Recently I attended Cub Scout Leader Outdoor Experience training. This was a 24 hour course starting Friday evening. If you are a leader whose Council officers this kind of training, I would highly recommend it.
We were split up into 4 dens of 8-10 people and did everything as dens. We setup our 10'X10' canvas wall tents, made a den flag, cooked and ate together, and attended breakout sessions together. We cooked breakfast in dutch ovens and made foil packs for lunch.
Some breakout sessions were directly related to Webelos badges: readyman (first aid), naturalist (bugs, snakes, birds nests, etc.), forester (trees and leaves), outdoorsman (camping gear), and geologist (rocks and fossils), There were also breakout sessions on setting up camp (tents, sleeping bags, weather), wood tools (knives, bow saws, and hatchets), camp cooking, fire starting.
In the larger goup we were given information on topics such as games for cub scouts, doing religious services at camp-outs, how to conduct an effective campfire ceremony, and specific information on this summer's Webelos camps.
We also had an evening campfire ceremony. The staff did a great job with this. It was very entertaining with jokes, skits, songs, and a short inspirational talk at the end. The inspirational talk was based on NOTES FOR KEYNOTE ADDRESS FOR JSCOPE 2000 By General Charles C. Krulak, which was about the Roman military roots of the word "integrity".
Finally, one of the last things we did was go on a hike that also doubled as a tour of the facilities. They also had us do a sort of scavenger hunt where we we supposed to take note of something small, something large, something beautiful, something mysterious, something magical, something from the past, something that represents the future, etc. When we got back there was a little inspirational talk where one of the trainers talked about how an apple can be viewed as being all of these things and sliced the apple in half showing the star. He talked about how boys see nature through the eyes of their scout leaders and how the boys are our future.
On the whole, the training was quite good. The only problem we had was with the way the cooking was done. The staff had brought in a big portable fire pit into which they dumped charcoal. There was no way to control air flow, and the fire got so hot that it was difficult to get close enough to stir the pot without getting burnt. In fact, I did burn the hair off part of one arm and ruined a jacket while trying to stir bacon in the bottom of our den's dutch oven. (This had nothing to do with any inherent danger with using dutch ovens.) Later when we cooked with foil packs we had the same problem. The fire got so hot that some of the aluminum foil was melting and the food inside most of the foil packs was not cooked evenly. Any part touching the foil was burnt while other parts were a bit under done.
Actually, I didn't mind so much. I learned some valuable lessons from this. I think part of the problem was that they just used too much charcoal. If you can't control air flow, you can still control the amount of fuel. (After the experience at breakfast, I think I would have done something different at lunch.) Also, I decided that in some ways pressurized fuel can be safer than cooking over wood or charcoal. With a propane stove, you can easily adjust the size of the flame.
There were some other things that I thought were kind of funny. For example, while on a hike, one of the trainers was telling us that when we are on a trail, if we come to a puddle we should walk through it instead of walking around it (which would then be creating a new trail). This was due to the "leave no trace" philosophy. However, shortly after that we were herded off the trail to be shown various trees and plants, and in the process people were trampling wild flowers. Also, they encouraged us to take rocks, fossils, and arrowheads that we found to start our own collections. I always thought that was against the leave no trace philosophy.
Another thing that I thought was funny was the way they taught us to start fires. In the old days, scouts would learn to start fires without even using a match. These trainers emphasized much easier methods. Some of the fire starters they showed us included: dryer lint, cardboard coated with candle wax, store bought fire starters, and store bought fake logs chopped up into smaller pieces and wrapped in newspaper. Another attendee mentioned making firestarts by mixing sawdust and candle wax in a dixie cup. All these are interesting ideas, but they seem like cheating to me.
Anyway, this experience really was fun and very informative. Some of the sessions (especially first aid) seemed far too short, but they were throwing a lot of information at us. Also, it was fun just getting together with the other leaders and meeting new people.
The author, Greg Bonney, is the owner of Bonney Information and E-Commerce and founder of Scoutcamping.com (http://www.scoutcamping.com).
Copyright ? 2005 Bonney Information and E-Commerce.