I know a place where adults voluntarily give up a week of vacation to oversee a bunch of teenage boys.
Some might call these adults crazy. I call them Scouters.
Around this time every year, hundreds of Boy Scout council camps across the U.S. fill up with Scouts having a week to remember — and the adult leaders who make it all possible.
At council camps, the staff sets the itinerary, handles the program, teaches the merit badges, and even prepares the meals.
So what’s a unit leader to do? How does a Scoutmaster or assistant Scoutmaster make the most of his or her week at camp?
Here are some ideas, sent in by Scouters like you on our Facebook page:
How to make the most out of summer camp
- “Summer camp is the best vacation! Take it easy, wander around and see what the Scouts are doing, encourage them. Don’t take your cell phone or laptop. Enjoy the outdoors, make your self available, but stay out of the Scouts way as much as you can.” — T.C. N.
- “Attend to your Scouts! Go to their classes, and make sure they don’t skip class. Follow up on their merit badge paperwork to see if it is completed. It’s not a vacation, it’s an interactive position to build relationships with your scouts. If you want a vacation this is not the place.” — Jill R.
- “Bring lots of bug repellent, keep Band-Aids in your pocket at all times, and don’t expect much sleep before 10 p.m. On the other hand, it’s going to be the greatest experience of your life.” — Michael B.
- “Take pictures of the boys having the time of their lives, and share them with the Scouts and the parents that don’t go. We would love to see pictures of our kids grooming/riding the horses, climbing the tower, etc. Things they don’t do every day.” — Tracy H.
- “Make sure nobody is practicing fire-starting while you’re napping!” — Jenna S.
- “Be prepared to deal with: homesick younger Scouts, lots of questions you can answer with “have you asked your patrol leader or SPL?”, and discipline issues of every kind.” — Win R.
- “If you have a boy-led troop then a Scoutmaster has a week of vacation. SPL and ASPL will take care of stuff, and if they can’t, they know where to find you: ‘Kicked back in camp.'” — Curtis S.
- “Get plenty of rest. Have vacation days available after you week of camp to rest more.” — Bruce D.
- “As for homesickness … hang on to those letters until the ride home. NO calls to home (the last thing you need is Mom ending the letter “I miss you,” and the boo-hooing begins). The kids are kept busy all day long and get worn out by the end of day, and it’s to bed. They’ll have lots of fun and the week will go by quick. Scouting magazine had an article on this a few years ago. It’s a really good article.” — Donald P.
(Bryan says: Here’s the article!)
- “If possible, have the swim test done before you get to camp (at worst a Scout has to do a swim test again, at best, long lines avoided).” — Skot L.
- “Make sure your hiking boots are up to the task. You’ll circumnavigate the camp at least 20 times per day! And be up on all your Trail to First Class stuff ’cause not only will you need to confirm that the boys learned it as you’re signing them off, but you may have to reteach or pitch in and teach.” — Janet J.
- “Always look out for the safety of the Youth first, but CATCH the Spirit of camp, ‘put it on’ and live it!” — Ron M.
- “Bring a hammock, and make sure the Scouts see you climb into it at least twice a day. The rest of the time tell them it is available for rent — two minutes for a handful of litter. You will have the cleanest camp site in the camp.” — Jerry J.
- “Make sure that your SPL (and your adults) know all the activities that are going on in camp. Encourage them to get involved. The more they are involved, the more fun they have and fewer issues of homesickness.” — Brian Z.
- “Get trained and get a comfortable chair.” — Curt N.
- “Take advantage of opportunities to be a camper – archery, mile swim. Do the SM merit badge if the camp has it. Talk to lots of people from other troops.” — Beth K.
- “Don’t forget your coffee cup.” — Renate M.
- “Engage the Camp Commissioner. He is there to help your troop plan their campfire skit, learn a new skill, and design a custom experience.” — Donald M.
- “Have fun, be involved as much as possible with what the camp offers, take a deep breath during frustrating moment, revel in the glory at the end of the week when you see true growth in each and every Scout.” — Karen H.
- “Every leader should bring earplugs and rotate who wears them each night that way someone is getting sleep and if needed the leaders on call can wake the others.” — Nicholas G.
- “Know what ‘homework’ the boys need to work on BEFORE the last day of classes. Those monkey bridge models for Pioneering take some time!” — Robert W.
- “Take a cribbage board and cards. Then, be available but on the sidelines.” — Paul K.
- “Relive your days of youth and have fun. Learn new skills and become a better man because of it.” — Don S.
- “Guide and direct without ‘hovering’ … let the boys fail and deal with consequences. I had a good time by asking the camp leadership where and how could I help… this kept me busy and let the boys see that I had ‘things to do’ as well as they did.” — Lynne T.
- “Keep one eye open!” — Rich L.
What do you think?
Did any of these suggestions resonate with you? What other advice can you offer an adult leader? Leave your thoughts below.
Top photo by Kevin Via, Baltimore Area Council; Secondary photo by Charlie Tapia, Theodore Roosevelt Council
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