Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge

When I ran the Scoutcraft area at Camp Whitsett a few years ago, one of my favorite merit badges was Wilderness Survival. It's one of the most popular merit badges at Camp Three Falls as well, and rightly so. Wilderness survival teaches the boys some important skills to take care of themselves if they should find themselves in an emergency situation in the outdoors -- and it's a heck of a lot of fun.

Should first year Scouts take this one? I have mixed feelings On one hand, it's good for them to learn, early in their Scouting careers, what to do if they get lost -- this is stuff that really could keep someone alive in that situation -- and none of the skills involved are beyond the abilities of an 11-year-old. On the other hand, the merit badge does assume some prior knowledge, like basic knots, firebuilding, and possession of a Totin' Chip. Also, it requires the Scout to spend a night in a shelter he has built, which is usually done in an undeveloped area outside the main camp. The boys are closely supervised by staff members and are quite safe, but I have seen some less-experienced campers who were so freaked out about spending the night away from their troop with no tent, that they couldn't make it through the night. That's not good for their confidence and self-esteem, which for me outweighs the value of earning a merit badge.

You'll need to evaluate whether your younger boys are ready for this -- maybe discuss it with them and their parents before letting them sign up for this badge. It might also help if they sleep out under the stars one night on a campout before going to summer camp, so they are at least a little bit used to spending the night without those nylon walls protecting them from the darkness.

Another requirement is to make a survival kit, and this really ought to be done at home before camp. I've even done it as a troop meeting activity in spring. Click this link for a document with my thoughts on what to include in a survival kit.

No comments:

Post a Comment