1st Year Summer Camp




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In 2004 we attended summer camp at the Sabattis Scout Reservation in the Adirondacks. Overall, every aspect of the program was excellent.

We were a small Troop with only two Patrols making it to camp. The Dragon Patrol had all been recruited in late May, and only three of them could afford to get to camp on such short notice. The eight Ravens were a blend of young inner-city Scouts and cynical older Scouts who mostly hate camping except for summer camp and the two winter sledding campouts.

Everyone was mad at me for requesting a separate campsite and Patrol supplies for the three Dragons. Both the adults (who should know better) and the Ravens wanted me to add their younger Ravens and perpetual "Tenderfeet" to the Dragon Patrol to "even it out." But the Dragons all live near to each other and hang out during the day (and play wide games at night), so I felt that it was a perfect Patrol that shouldn't be messed with, even though the Patrol Leader offered to take the young Ravens in.

The three Dragons cooked for themselves, the four Scouters, and the SPL so the numbers at mealtimes were even. The adults hauled the water and did most of the dishes for the Dragons in exchange for meals.

I suggested that the three Dragons take Swimming, Canoeing (a double-period offering), and Cooking Merit Badges (Sabattis has Patrol-site cooking), and they all decided to add Pioneering and Rifle. Obviously I don't agree with those who suggest that Scouts need to have "fun" at their first summer camp and not take a bunch of Merit Badges. If Scouts love camping, then outdoor Merit Badges ARE "fun"!

The Assistant Scoutmaster in charge of the older boy program had required the Ravens to take a minimum of only three Merit Badges. I made sure that they attended the first day of class, but did not enforce attendance after that.

The three Dragons pushed for ad hoc rank advancement during the evenings and afternoons, finishing Tenderfoot and most of 2nd & 1st Class about two months after joining. My guess is that they will finish the remaining requirements (except for the First Class "ten activities") in the remaining month of summer and first month of school. The Patrol Leader has also begun bringing the rest of his large Patrol up to speed. I have given him permission to sign off on "Scout rank" (minus the SM Conference) and to instruct any of the Tenderfoot - First Class requirements that he feels comfortable in presenting (they hang out all day). This will be a trial period where we co-sign on Advancement until I am satisfied that he is being consistent beyond what I normally expect from a 12-year-old.

The new Ravens were all non-swimmers, so I enrolled them and a couple of our perpetual Tenderfoot Scouts in a beginning swimmer course (another excellent Sabattis program not offered at most summer camps). Most of them took Reptiles, Wood carving, and Rifle Merit Badges, and the first-year "Trailblazers" program in the afternoon. Trailblazers takes three 60-minute "periods" and is offered in either the morning or afternoon.

My Scouts were NOT impressed with Trailblazers. They came back from their first day complaining that they had only learned the Scout Oath & Law and "a couple knots," during the three hours, and that they had to play "stupid games like 'Duck, Duck, Goose' " between each requirement.

They asked to be excused from the next day's class because they did not want to "get all muddy." This didn't make sense because despite the rain, the ground in the Trailblazer area didn't seem overly muddy to me. I suggested that they wouldn't want to miss out on a whole day of activities because each session was the equivalent of three Merit Badge classes. But sure enough what did I meet on the trail next day, but a long line of exuberant 10 and 11 year-olds covered so perfectly from head to toe in brown mud that it gave them an eerie look of blue eyed pigmies! This mud had a remarkable clinging consistency and lent to the scene the appearance of some odd anthropological film of a native ritual from South America. Following these bouncing, shrieking, laughing, hyperactive Scouts were my three dignified urban Ravens, solemn in comparison and immaculately clean. Apparently rolling in the mud did not appeal to inner-city Scouts :-/

It turned out that the entire second day had been allotted to this exercise, with the class getting out an hour early to take showers. In the next morning's Scouter briefing I asked why half-way through the week my Scouts had only learned the Oath & Law and "Duck, Duck, Goose." The Camp Director boasted the "proven success" of the Trailblazers program, saying that Scouting was about having "fun." He also echoed the instructor's conviction that each requirement had to be alternated with a "fun game" to keep the Scouts from getting bored. Also, added one of the seasoned Scoutmasters (who had attended Sabattis since the 1960s), rolling in the mud was a good "team-building" exercise.

In fact, the Camp Director continued, they had to find mud along one of the trails that day because the "Challenge Valley Course" had been closed due to rain, so the usual obstacle course day would now be rescheduled to the following day. I asked if this meant that an additional complete 3 periods would be devoted to "fun" and "team building," but he sensed that I wasn't "on board" with all the self-congratulatory merriment and didn't answer.

If my new Scouts had been the usual AOL "Crossovers" from our "feeder" Pack with their consistently ambivalent interest in camping, I would have probably left them in Trailblazers. But the new Ravens were glad to be pulled out after what were to them two tedious days. We ran our own "first year" program for the remainder of the week, minus the mud and "Duck, Duck, Goose." The Ravens are not as curious and motivated as the Dragons, but they love camping and were glad to be finally working on Advancement. The only downside was that despite a week of swimming instruction, only one of them was able to pass the "Red Swimmer" test, and I suspect that the others will not advance beyond Tenderfoot for years despite the fact that we rent a pool every-other month during the school year.

One of the big attractions to Sabattis for my Scouts was the promise of seeing a bear, and the Sabattis Adirondack bears did not disappoint. While advancement fun ended at bedtime, the bears taught the Patrol Method at night. But that is another story....







Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Climbing the Mountain ] Woodcraft Badges ] 1st Class, 1927-1940 ] Woodcraft Coups&Degrees ] Advancement Ceremonies ] Tracking Sheets ] Webelos Transition ] Traditional Scouting ] Bushman's Cord ] Senior Scouts ] Do Program! ] Traditional Award Badges ] [ 1st Year Summer Camp ] TF-FC Requirements in 1911 ] Journey Requirements ]

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Traditional Scouting ] Patrol Method ] Adults ] Advancement ] Ideals ] Leadership ] Uniforms ] Outdoor Skills ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.