Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Scouting in the U.K. Part IV: Walking the Tightrope Towards Community

March 5th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Last week I attended another Bowthorpe Explorer Scout Meeting. We spent the entire time working on the troop’s IT Badge.  I was in charge of leading three of the eight scouts present at the meeting through the requirements of the badge.

The first requirement we discussed was how technology can help make jobs easier to do.   Then we moved on to discussing computer viruses and internet safety.  After that came the fun part…

During the second half of the meeting each one of the Scouts had to create a spreadsheet and a powerpoint presentation based on a subject of their choice.  Since it was one scout’s birthday she brought in Celebrations to share with everyone at the meeting.  She was so excited about the candy that she decided to create her powerpoint presentation based on this subject as well.  Needless to say it was not the most scholarly of topics but she understood the point of the exercise which was to learn how to use a computer to convey information within a slideshow type medium. Overall I was very impressed.

After all of the scouts finished up their powerpoint presentations and spreadsheets we headed into the main hall where we played a rope game.  This was a “team building exercise” that I had never seen before.  All of the scouts except for one formed a circle around a large rope.  Then everyone picked up the rope and pulled as tightly as possible until it was taut and elevated about three feet off the ground. After the rope was elevated one scout climbed on top and the goal was for him or her to get all the way around the circle without touching the ground.  We started out with the smallest scout and she made her way around the circle with no issues.  Then things got a bit more difficult.  Before I knew it, it was my turn.  Climbing ropes/balancing in general was never one of my fortes in elementary school and entering the meeting last Friday I was still not very confident in my ability.  Despite my fear however I made it all the way around without touching the ground! I certainly do not plan on entering the circus anytime soon and I have to give the other scouts a LOT of credit for keeping the rope nice and taut but overall I was impressed by my newfound tightrope walking abilities.

No matter how old or experienced you are at something sometimes you need others to help you achieve a goal.  Without the other scouts helping me out I would never have made it around that circle, no matter how perfect or imperfect my balance is.  Scouting is an organization that has always encouraged people to learn how to work together and solve problems collectively.  This is a skill that they will need for the rest of their lives.  This was the first activity with the Explorer Scouts in which I truly felt that everyone worked well together as a group.   This was an incredible feeling.

At the conclusion of last week’s meeting I realized just how comfortable I have become with many of the Explorer Scouts and leaders that I have been working with over the past two months.  At first many of the scouts didn’t seem to know what to think of me but now they do not hesitate for a moment to say “hiya” to me and ask how I am doing.  While in Norwich earlier this week one of the scouts happened to see me and came over and said hello.  This was a very kind gesture and something that I would not have expected to happen even two weeks ago. I feel as though I am part of their community now and that is a wonderful feeling to have as I continue to volunteer with this group.

Hours: 3

Total Hours: 12.5

Tags: Henry

Scouting in the United Kingdom: An Introduction

January 25th, 2010 · 2 Comments

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.

Volunteer Experience

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.

Tags: Henry