Monday, August 16, 2010

Hiking Skills for Cubs: Day Camp Day 1

Well, day camp is over. I would have loved to have had the time and energy to write these posts last week as each day ended, but who'd of thought teaching 100 kids all day in swealtering temperatures and humidity would be so exhausting? Plus I was up til midnight most nights working on last minute preparations and ideas. So, instead I'm going to make a post for each day, recalling the activities we did and how well the boys recieved them. It was an incredible experience and I learned a lot from it too, not just the boys!

Cub Camp Day 1:

I was pretty much given free rein on what to cover and do at my station, which was mystifyingly named "Cub Skills." At first I really struggled with ideas, becuase it seemed that tying knots and first aid were the only real skills I could think of, and those might end up quite boring for most of the kids. Luckily I asked a lot of questions and found some good ideas, and eventually decided to focus on hiking and Leave No Trace. They were things I know well and also would be simple and cost effective.

So on day one I had to cover some pretty dull material with the boys to start off the Hiking belt loop requirement. I had done this belt loop with some of the boys in our Pack already, so I wanted to make it a little different this time. Two of the three requirements are to learn the rules and guidelines of hiking and to learn what to bring and how to be properly prepared for a hike. Me standing in front of them and telling them those items would be a sure way to loose their interest FAST.

For the rules and guidelines, I asked THEM what they thought. I made sure to plant some ideas when they seemed to draw a blank. I also had a poster with the Leave No Trace front country guidelines, and I had them explain to me WHY we follow them. Still a little dry, but necessary and I could think of no other fast way to get that part over with.

The preparedness portion of the belt loop was more fun. I over packed two backpacks with items that they may or may not want to take on a hike. I had the group split into two teams around each pack. On my mark, they had to empty the packs and decide as a group what they would take with them on a theoretical hike. The tricky part was, they were all supposed to unnimously agree, which I hoped would reinforce one of the Scouting core values that the camp was focusing on that day: co operation. There were obvious things, like a bottle of water and a first aid kit, and less obvious things, like a bandana and a flashlight (we used a day hike example). I was happy that most groups picked the not-so-obvious things out, and very few groups took the filler-junk that I had placed in the packs. Even though it wasn't really a race or a true competition, they still seemed to enjoy the fun of the 'game.' After they were finished, I took items out of the packs one by one and we talked about why they were chosen.

The last part of the session was an activity aimed at reinforcing why we stay on the trail and practice Leave No Trace. I spread several large hul-hoops on the ground and had two boys per hoop. They were instructed to look closely and write down everything they could find within that hoop. I actually recall doing this activity when I was at camp as a Girl Scout many years ago, but it was not a Leave No Trace activity at the time. After they'd written down every little thing (they were given magnifying glasses to help look), we made a list of everything that was found in the hoops. An average of about 20 things came up on the group list. I then asked the boys how many steps across they thought the hoop was. One? Two? So all these things on this list are things you'd step on if you went one or two steps off the trail. There was everything from rocks and dead leaves to ants and moths and mushrooms. I think it really helped the boys realize that even on a seemly un-special patch of ground, important things still exist that must be protected. I encouraged them all to try and "be like Bigfoot" and leave no trace of their hiking.

I knew that day one would be the least interesting day to them, and I had hoped it wouldn't set the tone for the rest of the week as "Cub Skills is a BORING station." Luckily, all the groups seemed to at least be interested in what I had to teach them, if not super enthusiastic at least attentive. It was a good start and I was happy to have gotten through the 'boring' stuff in the least painful manner possible. The fun only got better the rest of the week!

Did you know you could fill four days with hiking activities, with only one of them being an actual hike? I could have even done more! Stay tuned for details on day two!

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