From an experimental camp for 20 boys on Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour, Dorset in 1907, the Scout Movement now has an estimated 31 million Members in over 216 countries. And the number is still growing.
What has made Scouting the world’s largest voluntary Movement for boys and girls? Why has it acted like a magnet, generation after generation, to children of all classes, races, languages and religions?
The answers lie in Scouting’s appeal to a young person’s normal desires, for fun and adventure and the way in which it provides for them through attractive and interesting activity programmes. It gives youthful energy a natural outlet and harnesses it to good purpose. It provides opportunities for developing in young people the qualities that make good citizens—honour, self-discipline, dependability, respect for others and self reliance. Scouting aims to prepare boys, girls, young men and women to take a constructive place in society and does so, not by preaching at them but by making the whole thing into a great game in which it is fun to take part. That, more than anything else, is the secret of its appeal.
However, in any game, there have to be rules. The rules of the Game of Scouting are embodied in the Scout Promise and the Scout Law.
Scouting recognises that a boy or girl can follow an ideal and they have the opportunity of doing so of their own free will when, on becoming a Scout, they make this Promise:
“On my honour, I promise that I will do my best. To do my duty to God and to the Queen, To help other people and to keep the Scout Law”.
The Scout Law is a simple statement of a code of conduct, which is the basis of good citizenship.
1. A Scout is to be trusted.
2. A Scout is loyal.
3. A Scout is friendly and considerate.
4. A Scout belongs to the world-wide family of Scouts.
5. A Scout has courage in all difficulties
6. A Scout makes good use of time and is careful of possessions and property.
7. A Scout has self-respect and respect for others.
This law is not a series of “Thou shalt nots” but a definition in positive terms, of what makes for civilised behaviour. When they become a Scout, a boy or girl promises to do their best to live to these standards and the whole system of Scout training is designed to help them to do so!
An important part of the Scout method is the Patrol System. Boys and girls in a Troop are divided into small units—Patrols—of six to eight members under a Patrol Leader chosen from amongst them. A Patrol Leader is given considerable responsibility for training members of their Patrol. They also have a share in running the Troop through a Patrol Leaders’ Council, where the Troop’s progress is discussed and activities planned. The Patrol System develops leadership and initiative, trustworthiness in members towards each other and loyalty in the Patrol towards its Leaders.
The System applies throughout the Movement. In the Scout Section (10.5 –14 yrs) it’s the ‘Patrol’, for Cub Scouts (8 -10.5 yrs) the ‘Six’, for Beavers (6-8 yrs) the colony and in the Explorer Scouts (14-18) it’s the Unit itself.
Boys and girls learn by doing and Scouting offers activities to capture the imagination of any child and make it a virtual certainty that all will find something in which to participate, develop skill and gain in self-assurance.
As far as possible, these activities take place outdoors as in camping, pioneering, hiking and nature study. In recent years, more ambitious pursuits such as canoeing, sailing, gliding, parascending, caving, mountaineering and skiing have attracted increasing numbers.
Then there are activities for those with skills in their hands—anything from model making to amateur radio and car mechanics. For those interested in the arts, there is the chance to make music or take part in stage shows.
Lastly, there is the matter of service to others. Scouts of all ages are encouraged to help the old, the infirm, the deprived and others in need.
They may initiate or join others in community service such as in life saving or first aid.
Put it all together and it makes up the game of Scouting in which boys and girls come to appreciate the value of co-operation and companionship. Develop initiative and learn to look after themselves as responsible individuals.