8th Worcester Scout Troop
Laser Quest - 18th December
For the final night of the term we took the Troop to Laser Quest. This is a popular one with the Scouts, and a decent way to end the term.
Fires and Forums - 11th December
For our penultimate night of the term we decided to make use of some of the work that we had put in earlier in the term. Thus, the components for a fire were hidden around the field, with each Patrol being given bearings to follow to get between each item that they would require.
This had varied results: one of the Patrol Leaders worked out the correct bearing to follow, pointed in the correct direction, and then handed the compass off to one of the other Scouts and set off in the wrong direction. This demonstrates that we still have some work to do.
Eventually everything was gathered together and the Scouts began working on a fire. We made a single fire for ease of working, and because of the second part of the evening. Whilst sat around the fire, we put forward the question: what should we do next term.
We had a variety of answers, some of them suggesting common themes (survival skills and related activities appear to be on the cards), while others appeared to be one-off thoughts (more cooking was mentioned, and one of the Scouts suggested mounting a coup). Our Spring planning meeting will bring these ideas together.
Ready Steady Cook - 4th December
Having done plenty of cooking on fires it was decided that we needed some practise at cooking on stoves again. In order to resolve this, the Scouts went into their Patrols and were provided with a stove, gas, tote boxes, and an array of different types of food on a central table. Each Patrol then had to decide what type of food they wanted to produce based on the ingredients available.
The Panthers decided to grab the mince and bacon, mixing this with some peppers and chopped tomatoes to produce spaghetti Bolognese.
The Cobras went for the chicken, some pasta, and various types of veg that were on offer to produce a spicy chicken dish with pasta and grilled cheese.
Both meals worked out well, with the washing up being finished in time for a quick game at the end of the evening.
Active Evening - 27th November
With most of the regular leaders missing, we had to draft in additional help this week. We thus had two leaders and a young leader along who wouldn't have normally been there.
We opened with a quick game, followed by a news quiz run by one of the Scouts; for this the Scouts went into pairs, each pair having a copy of a local newspaper within which they had to find either the page number associated with a headline, or a headline associated with a quick description of the article. Overall it went well, with several of the Scouts having ideas for how to quickly find answers, one of which involved separating out the sheets of the newspaper and laying them all out so that they could see them all at once.
From there we moved onto the next challenge: building a tower from newpaper and tape to support an egg. The catch was that they were aiming for height, stability, and budget: all items had an associated cost in MegaBucks (one of the Scouts did suggest shillings and fartherings instead) when they were purchased from the store and so the aim was to keep the cost down as far as possible. Initial thoughts that came up about this included stealing newpaper from the news quiz as free building materials, the possibility of buying up all of the newspaper in one go so that the other two patrols wouldn't be able to use any (you'd lose for budget, but since you were the only ones to build anything you'd have to win by default), and supporting the egg at the bottom of the tower rather than the top.
Construction went along different lines: one patrol attempted to build a flag-pole arrangement with a single tall section supported by legs at the bottom; one attempted a traditional tripod with string holding the legs in place; the third went for producing a full tetrahedron with supports along the base rather than partway up. The third patrol also tried having one of the Scouts hold the tower off the floor to increase its height; this failed because it no longer counted as free standing, and because all building materials had to have an associated price and we're not allowed to put a price on a Scout's life.
Ultimately the first patrol won for height (stability was an issue if anyone stood too close), the third patrol won for stability (when dropped from a height the tower refused to break), however the third patrol had to lose for budget after one of the Scouts tried hoarding the scissors (priced 200MB per minute) for about quarter of an hour.
For several weeks following half term we had a look at the Troop's website, getting the Scouts to give feedback on the appearance, what they wanted to see on it, and what they wanted to change. We ended up with a reasonable list of things that needed to be updated, including the layout of the front page and the content of some other pages.
We will be looking to review the website again in terms to come, keeping it up to date with what the Scouts want on it.
Rather than running a regular weekend camp as we normally would at this time of the year, we this year decided to run a slightly different event. This spanned four days, from the Saturday going into half term through to the Tuesday in half term. All of the activities were things that we have done before, though never together in this manner.
We started with a hike on the Malvern Hills, building on some of the navigation and map reading work that we have been doing over the term. We followed one of our traditional routes for this hike, meeting at Foregate Street station and catching the train over to Colwall. From there we set off with the Scouts navigating, heading for the Herefordshire Beacon.
To start with our route was quite easy, going through fields and slowly uphill. Eventually we reached our furthest point South and turned to head up the hill to the beacon. Despite a weather forecast for rain all day we did quite well until shortly after the beacon where the rain began to come across.
We have to describe it as "across" because as we were heading North up one of the hills there appeared to be a wall of grey slowly moving south and swallowing up the landscape as it came. When it reached us we couldn't actually work out if we were inside the cloud or underneath it. A bit wet, but definitely an interesting experience.
With the rain reducing itself to an irritating spray rather than drizzle, we abandoned the intended route and headed along the roads to Malvern. We stopped at Malvern Splash for a session in the pool during the open time, before heading back to Worcester on the train.
For Sunday, having had an extra hour to sleep thanks to the clocks changing, we headed for the hut. The theme for the day was teambuilding and leadership activities, aiming to give the Scouts experience in running a variety of activities and working together as part of them.
The first of these set the teams the challenge of building something down which they could roll one of our skittles balls so that it would knock over skittles placed behind a wall of jenga blocks. Normally when give this challenge the Scouts quickly resort to taking a couple of pioneering poles and attaching them to the back of a bench. In this case the Scouts decided not to use pioneering poles at all, instead going for tables and benches of various designs.
For the next activity the four teams of Scouts were split into two; upstairs the teams had to construct a beacon using broom handles, string and a tea light, while downstairs the teams were presented with a game to play. The game was played on a hexagonal board, with one team commanding wagons that needed to escape with knights protecting them, while the other team commanded knights to try and stop them. Both bases required the teams to consider options and each others opinions as they went along, lest they make mistakes or miss an easy way of completing the challenge.
The final activity before lunch was a challenge to build a copy of a domino castle that was in another room. One Scout from each team was able to go out and look at it and then report back on their findings. The teams found different tactics for this, with one team relying almost entirely on a single Scout going to look rather than having to explain where they had got to to the next person to go. Eventually most of the teams got the idea of simply reporting the order of numbers rather than trying to get their heads around describing the actual dominos that were being used.
Following lunch we moved onto the bigger project for the day: a greasy pole. This is an activity which we have to do occasionally as it provides an easy demonstration of most of the basics of pioneering, including the need for co-ordination and safety when working. It is, however, an activity that takes a while to put together, and so we have to save it for special occasions.
As normal, two tripods needed to be assembled. Starting this off is, unfortunately, the slowest part of the whole process as there are only a limited number of Scouts that can be involved in making a sheer lashing at one time, and most of the rest of the gear required has been gathered by the time the lashing even begins. Once that is completed however, it can require everyone working together getting the poles upright into a tripod (especially given that the size of these poles sometimes endangers the light fittings in the hall). Holding the whole thing upright while the cross pieces are put in place means that everyone in the team needs to be involved, and knots need to be double checked to ensure that they are tight before it can be declared complete.
With construction completed we proceeded to make use of it, starting with the Scouts rotating through using it and then with the leaders joining in once it became clear that one of the Scouts wasn't going to be dislodged without drastic measures being taken.
Eventually of course we had to take the whole thing down, which happened fast enough that there was plenty of time for a round of games, ended with Space Invaders, before everyone left for the night.
We moved to smaller numbers on Monday, with the scene changing to Rhydd Covert camp site, next door to the safari park and half of the Scouts from the weekend otherwise engaged. This worked out okay, with the numbers being mostly better suited for the scale that we wanted to run things at.
The first project was to set up in the activity centre at Rhydd; with so little time there, and October threatening to do whatever it wanted with the weather, we made the most of the facilities available and booked the activity centre rather than aiming for tents. This meant having access to a kitchen and decent toilets, which made things a lot easier along the way. From there we moved onto the first actual activity of the days.
We aimed to produce a set of prototype beacons that could be used for wide games, with the key elements being:
The key here was assembling the components such that the lights inside the box could be changed from one colour to another by means of the switch. This then allows for easy changeovers for scoring, for capturing points, or a variety of other themes that can be used to expand the range of games that we can play which might require such options. Most of the Scouts got this working fairly easily, with a couple of them having experience in soldering which meant that it was easy enough to hand over such jobs while fault finding and assistance went on around them. The prototyping in this case meant that several designs of switch were used in order to see what would be best: ON-ON, ON-OFF-ON, and a couple of rotary switches capable of going between a number of different states. Each of these worked in their own way, though it should be noted that only the switches with a specific OFF state could be disabled without needing to remove the battery.
We had wood collection after lunch, gathering together what we would be needing for a fire to cook on and for the campfire later that evening. Not the most entertaining of activities normally, this was made more interesting when one of the Scouts decided to get buried in the pile of branches and then wasn't able to get out until everyone had come back to make helpful remarks.
Archery was our afternoon activity, and one that normally goes down well; we found here a disadvantage with small numbers for the activities however, with the Scouts having done their fill of it before the session time was up. Given that we were the only group making use of the site however, we did decide that actually the timing didn't matter hugely for some of the activities and we ended once it became clear that we were all satisfied with what we had done.
Dinner came next: cowboy parcels cooked on the embers, with fruit stuffed with chocolate to follow. The Scouts divided themselves up, three of them assisting with the fire while the other two worked on the food. This was cooked and eaten, being pronounced one of the best efforts that we had made, with the potatos actually being properly cooked rather than partly cooked as they normally are.
We made an effort at a campfire, however a lack of seating and the small number of us made it awkward and after a couple of games it was abandoned.
Breakfast in the morning was cooked by the leaders while the Scouts packed their belongings. We had two activities planned for the morning, and even allowing for flexibility of timing, we wanted to get the most out of them that we could.
The first was indoor caving; we did this on summer camp with a cave built into a bus, and half expected a repeat performance of that. Instead we found that a series of pipes and chambers had been buried into the hillside and that had been equipped with lights and a 'water feature'. The Scouts took a liking to the caves, with even those who had insisted that they didn't like such things having several goes at the larger one. The water feature was declared to be less than they expected (not unsurprisingly since it has to be contained safely in the pipes), but otherwise the entire experience was received well and is something that we will definitely be looking at repeating at Rhydd and other sites.
The next activity was all terrain boards; the last time we did this it was called mountain boarding, but it otherwise seems the same. This was similarly well received by the Scouts, who found that only having four board between five of them was less of an impedament than it would have been with larger groups, and all of whom were able to get a decent go at it. A couple, to whom this was entirely new, took to it very well and the general concensus was that it was something that we need to do again.
Following a cooked lunch we got out the final activity: grass sledges. Unfortunately the relatively low speeds compared to mountain boards, and the rain that arrived a couple of minutes into the session made us call it off in favour of a brief return to the caves, and then back to the centre. Despite the rain the Scouts continued to stay outside, playing games until they had to come in and finish packing. From there we waited until they were picked up and all headed for home.
Back To Basics
In order to cover the basic skills necessary for general Scouting activities, we occasionally run a term where we cram as much as we can in. In this case we aimed to complete two badges and work towards several others under the general headings of First Aid, Pioneering, Navigation and Backwoods.
First Aid aims to cover stage three of the Emergency Aid award:
Pioneering covers some items from the Pioneer badge. The complete badge contains a number of things that our Scouts never use as part of the Troop during our activities (whipping and splicing a rope for instance), and so the focus here was instead on basic knots and structures.
Navigation goes into the details necessary to complete the third stage of the Navigator award:
Backwoods is a general topic, covering anything from lighting fires through to the kit necessary to take on a hike. As such this fitted quite well into the other categories in some cases.
Much of what is covered during these weeks will be put to use to some degree during the half term event.
Scouts 15 Minutes
Over recent terms we have occasionally set some of the older Scouts the challenge of running a brief activity as part of an evening, with anything from a week's notice up to a month in some cases. For the first quarter of this term the PLs had to run activities, while for the second quarter the APLs had the job.
The first activity was apple bobbing, which met with some success and demonstrated that the PLs were able to bring in things from elsewhere and could use things that were available to them and not necessarily to others.
The second activity was based on the idea of moving silently in the dark while someone tried to spot them with a torch. This was a good concept, and with some more thought has a lot of potential.
The final activity from the PLs was a challenge involving going around the hut and finding symbols that had been stuck up and matching them up to letters in order to decode a message. From the PL who was insisting that he had no ideas for what to do, this was probably the best activity in terms of effort and organisation.
The first APL activity required the Scouts to split into pairs and pass a message from one end of the hall to the other using a torch to send Morse code. This was simple to run and fun for the other Scouts.
Reward Event - 24th September
Our reward event for the Scouts who performed best over the Spring and Summer terms (the Spring term being too short to merit an event of its own), was something special this term. We had previously found out about a scuba diving group that is based in Worcester, and who have, on occasions, run sessions for youth groups.
This event was ideal to be run as a reward event for the Scouts, as taking the entire Troop along would have been impossible given the maximum group size of eight (and as it happens they were one instructor short, so only the six Scouts we invited were able to take part), and the minimum age of twelve. On this occasion, the highest scoring Scouts were all at least twelve, and so we were able to get the session booked.
We met up outside the Worcester Swimming Pool, where the group meets. The Scouts had to provide forms and received a safety and instruction briefing before they could begin. From there they went to get changed and headed for the water.
The session began with fitting the Scouts into the equipment; this included goggles, flippers, and a single cylinder air tank. A few of them also picked up some spare weights in order to attain neutral buoyancy and be able to go up and down in a controlled manner.
The Scouts had to move slowly to begin with, getting used to using the respirator (it's important to keep breathing rather than holding your breath) and the ballast pockets in the vest that assisted in going up or down. They then moved on, starting with lengths of the pool before moving on to deeper sections and eventually into the diving pool where they could practise in the greater depth available there.
All of the Scouts agreed that this was an excellent event and that they would want to do it again given the chance. This is somewhat awkward to arrange; since we have to effectively take over the group's regular training session arranging a session for us takes time (we have been investigating this for nearly a year now). This is definitely something that we will look at doing again should the opportunity arise though.