For my Humanities 310 research project I am observing the influence that scouting has had on youth in Norfolk both now and throughout its history here. My experiential component will involve scouting as well. In late November I linked up with a group of Explorer Scouts in Norwich. I have attended one meeting already (more details below) and will be attending weekly two hour meetings every Friday for the remainder of my time at UEA. In addition to my volunteer work I have added another experiential component. Since one can be a scout until age 25 in the U.K. (versus 18 in the U.S.) I have joined a local scout Network for 18-25 year olds. I have already gone on one kayaking trip with this group prior to winter break (more details below) and plan on attending additional group functions with them this semester as well.
Basic Background of Scouting
The concept of scouting was created in 1907 by Robert Baden Powell, a retired Lieutenant in the British Army. Powell believed that British nationalism was dwindling so he pioneered the idea of creating camps for young men to hone their physical, moral and mental abilities in hopes that training the youth in these values would lead Britain towards a brighter future . In 1908 Powell published Scouting For Boys, the original text that sparked the scouting movement. Powell’s book continues to be one of the most widely read texts of all time. The idea of scouting spread like wildfire and over the next few years many countries began to develop scouting programs of their own. The Boy Scouts of America got their start in 1910. This Summer’s National Scout Jamboree, held in Fort A.P. Hill, VA marks the 100th anniversary of scouting in the U.S. Today there are over 200 countries that have scouting organizations. It remains the largest youth organization in the world.
I had a pretty good idea from the moment I arrived in Norwich that I wanted to get involved with a local scouting group in some way. I began to search for groups back in October. Finally through an organization called “Vinvolved” that was present at the Job and Volunteer fair in the LCR in the fall, I was given the contact information of the Norfolk Chapter Scout Executive, Mike Clemo. After corresponding with Mike I discovered that the Norfolk scout headquarters was located in Norwich, not that far away from Sainsbury’s. I asked Mike if I could stop in one morning to meet with him and take a look at the scouting headquarters and he agreed. During our meeting I asked him about possible volunteer opportunities with local scout troops. After telling him that I would prefer to work with the 14-18 age group he assigned me to a group of Explorer Scouts that meet weekly off of Bowthorpe Road. I got a ride to a meeting in the fall with David, another scout executive that I met with, and really enjoyed the first meeting I attended.
The biggest difference between scouting in the U.S. and scouting in the U.K. is that it is co-educational here. Although this was not something I was used to I actually thought the meeting ran fairly smoothly with both sexes present. During the meeting the scouts were working on their Cooking Badge and had to bake two cakes. They had chosen the week before to make a pineapple upside down cake and a chocolate and orange cake. Both cakes sounded rather exotic to me but I was pleasantly surprised with the results. My first immediate observation as I began helping out was that I could distinguish a similar accent among most of the scouts present. Just like in London when we didn’t get an accurate sense of “Englishness” because we were in a major international city, I felt as though I had not fully grasped what a Norfolk/Norwich accent sounded like since most of the time I find myself interacting with students from all over the country and the world. It was pretty cool to finally discover that a bunch of people actually spoke with a similar accent in one location. Overall I noticed more similarities than differences between U.S. scouts and U.K. scouts during my first meeting. Like with any group natural leaders emerged and some people put in more work then others. Overall the uniforms were pretty comparable but I didn’t get a chance to observe that too closely. I look forward to attending more meetings in the coming weeks, getting to know the scouts better and continuing to learn about the similarities and differences between scouting here and back in the U.S.
2 hours complete
Norfolk Network Kayaking Experience
I mentioned above that I had a chance to go kayaking with the Norfolk Network group in the fall. We went to Swanton Morley , a small village about 15 minutes northwest of Norwich. Here there are a few small streams that eventually turn into the Norwich Broads if you follow them long enough. It was a cold, rainy, early December day and we were encouraged to bundle up as much as possible. Eight of us kayaked for about two hours before the rain started to pick up and things became a little less enjoyable. After carrying our boats back to shore and changing out of our wet clothes we headed off to a local pub where we grabbed some lunch. Out of the eight of us present five of us were new to the Norfolk Network. There was a scout on the trip from Finland and another from Romania. It was fascinating to discuss our varying international scouting experiences. All in all this was a wonderful trip. I met some great people and I hope that there will be more events coming up in the near future.