Troop-Run Summer Camp
Reflections on 20+ years of our Troop running
its own weeklong summer camp
I wanted to share some experiences regarding the weeklong summer camp program my troop has put on for the past 20 summers (this is independent from any council camp). We typically take between 50 and 75 people to a state owned group campsite on a lake in the upper Midwest.
The last few years we have run a program for about 45 scouts and 20 leaders (only about a dozen can make the whole week, the others will typically come for the beginning or end due to work comittments). We break the group down into 4-6 patrols consisting of 8-12 people (patrol size typically shrinks after the first weekend as dads return to work). A patrol will consist of a minimum of 2 adult leaders, 2 junior leaders (high school aged), a patrol leader, an assistant patrol leader and 4-6 scouts.
Each patrol is responsible for cooking breakfast and dinner on a wooden stove with wood they gather themselves (we all pray the day before it doesn't rain on the Saturday we head to camp!). The boys sleep at the patrol site in 2 man Voyager tents while JL's and adults sleep in a seperate area (this helps provide an opportunity for the patrol leader to further develop leadership skills). Every patrol has a dining fly, 2 picnic tables, and a patrol box with cast iron and aluminum cookware.
We run a structured program for a scout's first 4 years at camp. Each day has three class periods during which scouting skills are taught. A scout will typically earn three merit badges each year at camp. Camp is a great opportunity to provide the boys with a chance for rank advancement. The programs we offer are:
First years: Skills (Knife/Axe/Orienteering), Introduction to Boating, Swimming
Second Years: Cooking, Camping, Canoeing
Third Years: Sailing, Lifesaving, Environmental Science
For fourth year and beyond we offer the following: Wilderness survival, Pioneering, Motorboating, Waterskiing, and Personal Fitness (typically everyone takes Wilderness survival and Enviro Science in year 4)
4th year and older scouts will typically be a student in one or two of the classes, and assist in the instruction of 1 or 2 of the other classes depending on their area of interest and the scheduling of individual classes. Most classes are taught by one adult leader with assistance from one or two JL's, although the Intro to Boating class with have 3-4 adults to help the physically smaller scouts have an enjoyable time with canoes and rowboats.
A typical day at camp is as follows:
6 AM: Comissary staff rouses and begins assembling each patrol food basket.
7:45 AM: Wakeup call for the boys.
8 AM: Food basket pickup.
10:30 AM: General assembly (some breakfasts, like pancakes, take longer to cook due to the unique experience of wood stove cooking and we also like to leave the boys a little time to build camp improvements and keep their tents in good order).
11 AM: First skill period.
12 PM: Second skill period
1 PM: Lunch
2 PM: Third skill period
3 PM: Group activity (in the course of a week it will typically consist of capture the flag, treasure hunt, pioneering olympics, waterfront olympics, and a mile run)
4:00 PM: Afternoon free period
5:00 PM: Dinner
After dinner until 9:00 PM is another free period.
9:15 PM: Campfire and snack
10:00 PM: Scouts return to their tents and patrol leaders, JL's and adults hold a brief leaders meeting.
11:00 PM: Lights out for scouts. JL's typically hang out around the campfire for a bit together with the adults who aren't into playing cards =)
During free periods we have a supervised waterfront available with a half dozen canoes, 3 row boats, 2-3 sail boats, and a kayak. The lake we are on is about 3/4 of a mile in diameter and because of this and its location rarely sees any powered craft other than fishing boats, so its essentially a private lake and isolated. Two carpeted rafts are anchored about 100 feet off shore. There is also a marked swimming area with bouys. Each new scout is tested their first day at camp to determine their swimming proficiency. The best swimmers may use the rafts, lesser swimmers must stay in the bouyed area (roughly 3.5 feet deep), and scouts who are poor swimmers are limited to the bathing area only.
Waterfront supervision will consist of a lifeguard in a rowboat out at the rafts and 2 adults on shore with a JL. We employ the buddy system and conduct routine counts. An air horn is used to signal the boats on the lake approximately 15 minutes before the waterfront will close. The mile swim is offered in the evening (the lake is usually calmest at this point) and will require an adult to row a boat with a scout acting as spotter with a lifesaving pole to provide assistance if required.
In addition to the waterfront, there is also a staffed campcraft tent with leather, bead, and basketmaking supplies. Space Exploration merit badge is run during free periods and scouts will build and launch their own model rocket. Several times during the week off-lake fishing trips will take place to provide the boys an opportunity to fish other lakes.
We have a few special days that keep things from becoming routine. Wednesday there is a bike trip for any patrol leader aged boys or older, and a canoe trip for everyone who does not attend the bike trip. Extra canoe's are rented and delivered to whatever local river appears the most navigable that year. After the canoe or bike trip we take the boys to see an amatuer waterski show in town. After the ski show is pizza for the high school aged scouts and leaders while the younger boys go back to camp and run their own campfire program.
Also, one night a week is banquet, where the comissary staff puts on an amazing meal consisting of a choice of two meats, soups, salads, and potato with a sheet cake for dessert.
Nightly campfires are usually planned by the older boys. Each night a different patrol presents a skit to ensure all the boys have an opportunity to participate. The results of the daily inspections are read and provide some good entertainment (we find out how creative the inspectors are at coming up with new words for "sludge" or "goo"). The older boys usually deliver a nightly news program to recount some of the more humorous incidents that day (made funnier by the fact that everyone has already heard of what happened so it can be embellished quite nicely) and some cleverly placed public service announcements (a nice way of encouraging the boys to bathe and brush their teeth and keep their gear from touching the side of their tents). In good years we will have one or more guitar players to make the songs sound better (this is a lifesaver when everyone has forgotten a particular part of the song). On occassion we will have a banjo or bugle. Campfire ends with a Scoutmasters minute and taps.
I hope everyone enjoyed hearing about the camp program we put on and hopefully this might give someone else some ideas for their own outings or inspire them to try something similar. If this topic seems to be of interest to people I will also post about the 2 week long high adventure trip our troop takes every year with the high school aged scouts.
I also want to offer a heartfelt thanks to all the leaders at my troop and all troops who give of their time to make scouting such a memorable experience. I'm just about to turn 30 and I love telling co-workers who ask where I'm vacating that I'm going to Summer Camp. I'm having just as much fun at camp now as I did as a boy. Some of the guys in my Eagle scout class still make the trip up to camp. In fact, we routinely see a half dozen young men between age 18 and 30 who still come to camp each year.
Congratulations to anyone who read this whole thing! =)
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Last modified: October 15, 2016.