It's a Wonderful Life!
by Rob Stewart - The Leader - Outdoors - April 1996
No, the title was not my idea. It was first used as the name of a video that Scouts Canada produced several years ago. We created the video to give new Scouters (and perhaps experienced leaders needing a refresher) help when planning outdoor activities.
The planning guide outlines five steps that will make almost any outdoor experience with your colony, pack, troop, company or crew a positive one. You'll find it useful regardless of the age of your group or the type of event you have planned.
This outline gives only a bare bones starting point for your planning. Your team will need to fill in all the dozens of details which go with organizing any event or activity; but don't be discourages by what appears to be a daunting task. It gets easier every time you do it.
Step 1: Purpose of the Activity
- Have you and your fellow leaders defined the purpose of the activity?
- Is it planned around the section program goals?
- Will it be fun?
- Will it provide an opportunity to "learn by doing"?
- Will it test the skill of the youth, if applicable?
- Will it promote fellowship and cohesion in the group?
Step 2: The Site
- Have you identified a site?
- Is the site appropriate for the activity? Is it a safe one?
- Are there any potential hazards (e.g. traffic, fast-moving or deep water)?
- Is the site easily accessible for emergency vehicles?
- See the Fieldbook for Canadian Scouting for more information about site selection.
Step 3: Build the Program
- When you're brainstorming for ideas, don't forget to look in your handbooks, the Leader magazine and talk to other Scouters.
- Consider picking a theme based on the time of year, badge work or skill development. Your program planning leaders can choose from hundreds of interesting themes.
- Make sure youth play an active role when creating the program.
- Plan to teach necessary skills prior to the event (e.g. packing, menu selection).
- Ensure your program will not harm the site property.
- Seek permission if planning to use private land. Don't forget to "book" the campsite, if necessary.
- Consider the maturity level of your group; this will ensure activities are challenging, but not impossible.
- Review the timing of your plan.
- Create an emergency plan. Review the safety issues.
Step 4: Leadership
- Your leadership team must include a minimum of two responsible adults.
- Spread responsibilities around.
- Make sure the number of adults is appropriate for the number of youth.
- Decide who is responsible for checking the safety of activities, etc.
- Identify who will take over if an emergency occurs.
Step 5: Other Considerations
If your outside activity extends beyond an evening meeting night, make sure you consider the points below.
- Have you identified a drop off/pick up point for parents?
- Do you know of any allergies, special food requirements or religious concerns of your participants?
- Are there any participants who receive medications that they need monitored?
- Is your group committee and sponsor/partner aware of your plans?
When planning fun, exciting and challenging outdoor activities, many resources are available to help speed the process. The booklet accompanying the It's A Wonderful Life video lists many books under a variety of headings. These include astronomy, plants, amphibians and reptiles, insects, birds, mammals, environmental education, camping, canoeing and cooking. The Fieldbook for Canadian Scouting is also a comprehensive source for information and ideas.
Many councils across the country offer training courses designed to increase your outdoor skills, knowledge and comfort. Find out about courses in your area. Alberta's 21st Century program is and excellent example of a multi-level course designed to meet the needs of Scouters in all sections. For more information about it, call 403-283-4993.
The outdoors is a wonderful place to deliver our programs. It's the number one reason kids join the Movement. Get them out there.
"Reproduced with permission of the Leader magazine
and the author."
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