Scouts need some structure and direction but they also need the opportunity (plenty of it) for the alchemy of friendship and loyalty to do its work. This is something that Scouters can’t control or manage; trying to make a plant grow is futile and frustrating.
If we create the conditions conducive to growth we’ll see it happen.
What are the conditions? Self-determination, challenge, time and autonomy. We create these conditions is guiding our youth leadership towards building them into their planning, steeping back, and watching them make it happen.
Ryan Jordan touches on this vital aspect of Scouting connecting it with high adventure:
Teenagers are social creatures. Why not let them enjoy each other on top of a 10,000 foot ridge instead of a bunk bed in a cabin down in the valley? When they earn and work and suffer together, they just might be more likely to stick together.
As a Scoutmaster, I’ve heard this one a lot: “I just want to be with my friends.”
Usually it’s in the form of an excuse not to go on an outing, because maybe the outing activity just isn’t their thing.
That’s why as a Scout leader you have to aggressively develop a sense of loyalty and brotherly love amongst your kids.
Loyalty and love – both of which require self-sacrifice – are key ingredients to true friendships. Kids are learning about loyalty and love – they may not have a strong sense of what either really means.
This is why I think high adventure activities in remote wilderness are an essential ingredient to a successful Scouting program.
Wait – what does loyalty and love have to do with wilderness trekking?
You see, when you drop kids into a wilderness, they are put in an environment without temptations for selfish ambition. In wild places, self-serving interests not only result in a failure in group dynamics, but a failure in self-gratification. Remember, Scouting is about cultivating the Patrol Method, which requires cooperation, and if that cooperation is missing, a lad will get mightily uncomfortable mighty quickly on a long trip in a wild place.
But when they have a sense of love for each other, they see a need to serve each other, and they understand what self sacrifice means. Loyalty is a logical outcome – loyalty results from love in action. Some might say that loyalty leads to love in action. Maybe it’s a chicken-and-egg argument. It may not matter, because neither loyalty nor love should be earned, but given freely.
The result of unconditional distribution of loyalty, service, and love? The building blocks for friendship, perhaps.
Then, the next time an opportunity for high adventure comes along, you just might hear “I wouldn’t miss it for the world – my friends will be there.”
So just what is this ‘high adventure’? It does not have to be expensive, distant, complicated or in the remote wilderness.
High adventure is a state of mind, not a place.
Every camping trip, every meeting can have at least some of the aspects of high adventure – the challenge, excitement, engagement and fun that builds friendship. If you are fortunate enough to have remote mountain wilderness and trails in reasonable driving distance, more power to you – go! If you live in the middle of a city or suburb, get in the high adventure state of mind – guide your Scouts towards the adventure of challenge, initiative and achievement and allow them the time and conditions to do it on their own terms.
Start talking, today, about an actual ‘high-adventure’ trip/. High adventure need not be a plane flight and hundreds of dollars away, it can be a few hours drive, or even less. Take four or five days and go backpacking, canoeing, kayaking or cycling – the place isn’t as important as the state of mind, planning and preparing is half the fun!