It’s a great privilege to be a guest of the Scouts while we are at summer camp for the week. Here’s what our average day looks like:
|[6:45] AM||Awakened by the SPL and PL’s. Flag is raised and all Scouts go to polar bear swim as a group.||I used to get up and go to Polar Bear swim years ago (like 15 or so) but I think it’s important for the Scouts to do this on their own.|
|7;15 AM||Scouts return from polar bear swim, get changed and begin cleaning up the campsite.||Some adults are up this early for a shower or out of habit.|
|[7:45] AM||Waiters off to the dining hall, Scouts get together to leave for breakfast.||I am up around [7:30] and all of us adults are off to the dining hall for coffee. I call to the SPL and tell him we’ll see them at breakfast.|
|[8:00] AM||Breakfast||The SPL sits at my table during every meal and I ask him how things are going. I also review what happens next – he’s usually a few steps ahead of me anyway.|
|[8:45] AM||Back to the campsite to finish cleaning up and to gather their things for the morning. They will do lots of things in this hour.||The camp staff inspects our campsite each morning. I never walk around wit the inspector that’s the SPL’s job.|
|[9:45] AM||Off to merit badges or first year program or COPE or mountain biking or whatever.||Traditionally I take the new Scouts to the first year program on Monday. This gives me a chance to observe how they are doing.|
|[12:00]||Return to campsite – Waiters off to the dining hall at [12:15]||I ask the SPL to let me know if anyone is missing right away. He checks in with patrol leaders before each meal.|
|[12:30]||Lunch||I watch the Scouts at meals pretty carefully – are they talking and joking with their friends? Are they eating? If so they’re happy. If not I need to know why.|
|[1:00]||Siesta in the campsite||Casual discussions with SPL and PL’s; just seeing if there are any issues.|
|[2:00]||Off to merit badges or first year program or COPE or mountain biking or whatever.||Mornings and afternoons while the Scouts are out and about we adults may be doing a service project, napping, lounging, visiting. We don’t travel around and look over the Scout’s shoulders.|
|[5:00]||Back to campsite to get ready for retreat and lower the campsite flag||This is one activity when the Scouts and Adults are all expected to attend. I may take the opportunity to say something when we are assembled but usually not.|
|[5:45]||Retreat ceremony||Scouts assemble, adults line up across the field.|
|[6:00]||Dinner||Often I know what the evening program will be before the SPL does so we’ll talk a bit about how he’s going to prepare for it.|
|[7:00]||Back to Campsite – free time||Another opportunity to observe what’s going on.|
|[8:00]||Campwide Activity||Like every other activity at camp the Scouts get themselves together and go wherever they are supposed to go. We observe from a respectful distance.|
|[10:00]||Patrols meet as soon as we return from the evening activity. They discuss the day and complete their Patrol log entry. The PL brings the log to a PLC meeting and reads from it. Issues are resolved, plans discussed and it’s off to bed.||As with any meeting of the PLC we observe but do not contribute unless asked. I get my minute for comment at the close of the meeting (I usually ask other adults for comments at that time)|
The adult mission at summer camp is to keep out of the way and observe. We are watching for:
- Any tendency towards ‘The Lord of the Flies’ syndrome or other seriously anti-social behavior.
- Basic cleanliness and health issues.
- Overall happiness and inclusion of every Scout.
I take advantage of several key opportunities at developing and strengthening youth leadership and patrols:
- Daily patrol logs and PLC meetings strengthen the idea of how patrols relate to the PLC and Troop – how the concerns of Scouts are part of the planning process.
- Observing the SPL and discussing things over each meal (not for the whole meal – give him some breathing room!) helps establish the mentoring relationship.
- Practicing observation from a distance, keeping quiet, and letting many things resolve themselves without stepping in.
- Patrol areas in the campsite, patrol activities and responsibilities; everything works together to give the patrol leader a great deal of practical experience.
- I work hard to strengthen the idea that the Scouts are leading themselves – that they have actual responsibilities that matter, that we will not lead for them.
- It’s an excellent opportunity to establish the role of adults for those who have recently signed on as leaders.
- Take advantage of the opportunity to observe other troops and see how they do things
While at camp I put myself and the other adults of guests and observers. We define our area in the campsite (not the choice, prominent most comfortable area- give that to your SPL) and stay in it. We don’t follow our Scouts around camp and with rare exception don’t lead them around camp. We don’t shadow their choices of merit badge or their progress. We seize every opportunity to let the Scouts do things independently.
If you think of the experience as visiting a drive-through wild animal park you’ll begin to approach the whole thing with the right attitude. At the park you have to stay in the car; sometimes the animals come right up to the car and you can feed them but you have to stay in the car.
There are opportunities to cross the observer’s line into a game or activity once in a while; we don’t want to miss out on all the fun – but crossing into the Scout side of things requires that they invite us to do so.
Camp is a great place; it can be the most important week in a patrol and troop’s year.