Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Methods of Scouting at Summer Camp

Scouting’s purpose – what we refer to as “The Aims of Scouting” – is to develop citizenship (shared descision-making, teamwork , service to others), character (Scout Oath and Scout Law, a sense of responsibility, self-confidence, self-respect), fitness (physical and mental; Being Prepared) and Leadership in the young men and women we serve. Summer camp serves many purposes, but these aims should be at the heart of everything we do.

The Boy Scouts of America uses eight methods to achieve its aims. This combination of methods is what gives Scouting its unique character and sets it apart from other youth organizations. All of the methods are important – if we don’t use all eight, we’re not delivering the Scouting program to its full potential. Here are some thoughts about applying the Eight Methods at summer camp:

Patrols – Patrols are one of the most distinctive features of Scouting, and they are at the heart of our teaching of citizenship – the patrol is a miniature community where young people learn to lead and to follow; to cooperate, share, reach consensus, work out differences, compromise, make sacrifices for the good of the group, stand up for what they believe in. And that community is at its fullest operation when it revolves around outings, as the patrol works together to plan a menu, agree on a duty roster, make tenting arrangements, and then govern themselves for a day or two with minimum adult involvement. Too often at camp – especially when merit badges are the primary focus – the patrol method is neglected in favor of an “every man for himself” approach.

Things you can do as a leader to promote the patrol method during summer camp:
    • Insist that your scouts tent with their patrol.
    • Table space in the dining hall is often at a premium, but do the best you can to have your scouts sit as a group, preferably by patrol.
    • Schedule time for troop activities every day. If this means your scouts take one less merit badge, there is nothing wrong with that. Time spent with the troop and patrol taking a hike, building a pioneering project, swimming, or just hanging out at the campsite playing cards, is not wasted time – it’s time devoted to building the troop community, which in the long run will pay off in scouts who feel more vested in scouting, have more enthusiasm for the program, and stay in scouting longer. Involve your scouts in deciding what those activities will be – but remember most of them have limited experience, and they are looking to you for guidance and direction.
    • Have your scouts make and display patrol flags; bring a troop flag to raise at morning colors; and encourage your scouts to wear your distinctive troop t-shirt as much as possible.
    • Take advantage of activities like the Tribe of Matilija, Campwide Games, and FireQuest to build troop and patrol spirit.
    • Other possibilities for troop and patrol activities include GPS, Low COPE (an excellent teambuilding activity), hikes, and mountain biking, as well as more structured open-program features like climbing, shooting, and swimming. Ask our staff for additional suggestions.
Advancement – Advancement in Scouting is not an end in itself – it is a tool we use for several purposes: To help motivate, guide and measure the scout’s progress in learning outdoor skills as well as life skills; to create opportunities for older youth to provide leadership and instruction to younger scouts; to provide a focus for our activities; and perhaps most importantly to create opportunities for young men and women to gain self-respect and self-discipline by setting and reaching achievable goals. Advancement at summer camp, merit badges included, should be viewed with these goals firmly in mind.

Do not let summer camp become a competition to see who can earn the most merit badges. Some of the most successful troops set a maximum of three merit badges for scouts who are First Class or higher; two for Second Class scouts, one for Tenderfoot or Scout rank. Every year, we see boys who are stressed out and mentally exhausted by the end of the week because they’re trying to finish five or six merit badges. We want them to go home feeling good about themselves because they’ve made some advancement progress – but also with positive memories of the fun they had at camp. That’s what will make them want to come back next year.

Guide your Scouts toward merit badges that they’re ready for. If a kid hasn’t passed the BSA swimmer test with flying colors, they shouldn’t be in Swimming Merit Badge. If they don’t have a firm grasp of knots and lashings up to First Class rank, don’t send them to Pioneering Merit Badge. And so on. Letting scouts take merit badges before they have built necessary foundation skills makes it much harder for the counselor to cover all the material in the merit badge requirements during the limited time available, because he has to first teach remedial skills. And you’re just setting your scouts up for failure if you let them jump in over their heads.

Don’t neglect Trail to First Class. We feel Three Falls has one of the best Trail to First Class programs around, but don’t rely on our word that your scouts completed a requirement. Test them yourself at the end of each day to see what they have learned (another good use of troop time). Better, put your older scouts to work instructing and testing younger scouts on their advancement skills.

Uniform – The uniform is a sign of a scout’s or scouter’s commitment to live life according to the ideals of Scouting – to be a citizen of the Scouting community. While the current “fancy dress” BSA uniform is not necessarily practical for everyday wear in camp, we should expect scouts to wear it (correctly) at flag ceremonies and other formal times. The rest of the time, they should be strongly encouraged to wear a troop t-shirt.

Leadership Opportunities – Few other youth organizations offer young people the chance to take on real leadership opportunities the way Scouting does. Summer camp, more than almost any other troop activity, gives scouts an intensive opportunity to practice their leadership skills. Our programs should be structured to put responsibility in the hands of youth leaders to the greatest extent possible.

    • Involve your youth leaders in planning for camp, and brief them before camp on your expectations.
    • Let them work out for themselves who will do chores like serving as stewards. Make them create a duty roster and stick to it.
    • Be sure your SPL or Acting SPL attends the daily SPL meeting, and work with them to decide what they should do with the information they bring back from that meeting.
    • Hold daily Patrol Leaders Council meetings with your youth leadership to keep them informed and get their feedback on schedules and activities. Give them a forum to air problems and get advice from their peers.
    • If your youth leaders haven’t been through Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops before camp – or even if they have – set aside time in camp for brief, daily leadership lessons.
    • As I said above, put older scouts to work helping younger scouts with Trail to First Class or even assisting them with merit badge work.
    • Find ways to recognize and celebrate scouts who truly provide service to the troop.
Scouting Ideals – Camp gives us a chance to show scouts that the Scout Oath and Law are not just empty words, but a workable code of conduct. We remove them from environments where they are exposed to other codes of conduct, hold them to a different standard, show them examples of individuals who live according to that standard, and give them an opportunity to replace less desirable behaviors with better ones, based on higher ideals. Many of them, maybe most, will go back to their usual ways when they get home, but some will go home as changed individuals, and few will be completely untouched by the ideals to which we expose them.

Outdoors – The outdoors has always provided the venue in which all the other methods of scouting find their fullest expression. The sad reality is that Americans, even Scouts, are doing less and less camping. Summer camp may be one of their few opportunities to gain firsthand experience with nature and the outdoors, and our program should maximize this opportunity, encouraging them to participate in a variety of outdoor activities. While Three Falls, like most camps, offers several classroom-type merit badges, the truth is that summer camp is not the best place to work on those badges.

Take advantage of the opportunity to take your scouts on a hike, an outpost camping experience, walk the nature trail, and so on. Get them to try as many new outdoor activities as possible – tying some new knots, building a pioneering project, a compass course, stargazing – even if they don’t need it for advancement.

Adult Association – Young people of scouting age are struggling to make the transition from children to adults. By showing them examples of positive adult behavior we can help them make better choices. Staff members in the 18 to 21 year old age bracket have a particularly strong influence both on campers and on younger staff members – the behavior of staff members in this age group will be reflected in the behavior of younger staff and ultimately campers as well. At the same time, camp also provides an excellent opportunity for scouts – especially younger scouts – to become part of their troop community by developing stronger bonds with their adult leaders and older scouts. Adult troop leaders must be actively involved in providing leadership, supervision, and program for their scouts.

If your adults are involved in taking classes, going on hikes, helping with service projects, and other camp activities, it demonstrates to your scouts that those activities are valuable and fun. But be careful to find a balance – remember that the adults’ first responsibility is to the scouts’ welfare.

Personal Growth – All of the other methods combine to help Scouts increase their self-reliance, self-discipline, and self-esteem. These personal traits are keys to making them into healthy, happy, and productive adults.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Help With Camp Reservations

Ventura County Council has adopted Tenteroo as our platform for all activity reservations, including summer camp. It can be a little confusing at first for some folks (especially compared to dealing in-person with the friendly people at the Scout Store); if you feel you need help, check these pages for instructions on using the site:

For help setting up an account:

For help making a reservation for camp (or other event):

We are taking reservations now.

If you have questions about summer camp reservations, or anything else regarding Webelos or Scouts BSA summer camp, don't hesitate to send us an email at

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A great camp at a great price!

Ventura County Council is offering a special reduced price on our second week of Scouts BSA Summer Camp at Three Falls, June 30-July 6, 2019. The price for youth campers, that week only, will be reduced to $365 for Ventura County Council units, $385 for out-of-council units.
Of course, you'll get the same great program, excellent food, and top-notch staff that Three Falls always delivers.
Prices for all other weeks are $405/$425 per youth. All of these prices include a $10 early-bird discount. You must pay camp fees in full by March 31 to get the early bird price.
We expect this week will fill up, so place your deposit soon to hold a spot. You can make a reservation at or call the council office at (805) 482-8938 for more information.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Three Falls -- The Place for Older Scouts

Maybe it's because our Webelos program is one-of-a-kind ... and our Trail to First Class program is so good ... and we offer so many great merit badges ... but people sometimes overlook how much Three Falls has to offer for older scouts.

* The Three Falls Adventure Trek. Okay, so maybe it needs a catchier name. This week-long program for scouts 13 and older starts with two days in camp for climbing on our 57-foot tower; Low COPE and teambuilding; black powder rifle shooting; frontier skills at Fort Lockwood; and field archery. Then the crew takes off for a three day, two night backpacking trip into the Chumash Wilderness. The week finishes with mountain biking on some great trails.

For scouts planning a Philmont Trek or other long term backpacking experience, it's an opportunity to fine-tune their backpacking skills: Our Trek staff is chosen from older staff members with previous Philmont experience, and they teach Philmont-style methods and Leave No Trace principles. Along the way, the crew learns leadership skills drawn from the BSA's Kodiak syllabus, and can earn Camping and Geocaching Merit Badges.

Space is limited, so sign up early!

* Frontier Survivor. Our exclusive hiking award gives scouts the chance to experience some of the best hikes in the Lockwood Valley/Mount Pinos area, while still participating in nearly all of our regular camp program. It involves three morning or evening hikes followed by a night sleeping out under the stars near North Falls. There's a Polar Bear Swim in there too, just to keep things fresh. Frontier Survivor is recommended for experienced hikers 12 and older, though some of the hikes are open to all.

Those who complete all the requirements receive the coveted Frontier Survivor neckerchief and slide.

* Climbing. At 57 feet, our climbing tower is one of the tallest at any scout camp in the county, and we believe it is the tallest at any camp in California. We offer Climbing Merit Badge, of course, but also night climbs that are open to all.

* BSA Lifeguard. Offered every week for older scouts.

* Merit Badges. We offer 35 to 40 merit badges (it varies from year to year). Older scouts will be particularly interested in Eagle-required badges like Swimming, Lifesaving, Environmental Science, Camping, First Aid, Citizenship in the Nation and Citizenship in the World. But don't overlook some fun and challenging options like Cycling (mountain bike option); Welding; and Metalwork. Most of these have minimum age and/or rank requirements.

* Staff. For your 14-and-older scouts, camp staff can be an opportunity to take their scouting experience to the next level. Applications are taken in fall for the following summer.

Three Falls -- The Place for New Scouts!

Three Falls offers one of the best -- we actually think it's the best -- Trail to First Class programs of any camp in California.

Designed and run by veteran troop leaders, outdoors enthusiasts, trainers and educators, our Pathfinders program is engaging, active, and fun for your younger scouts. Not a lot of sitting around here: your scouts will spend their time tying knots, building fires, sharpening knives, taking hikes, swimming, playing games (with a purpose, of course); there's even a cool overnight in the tepees near Fort Lockwood.

To give you the maximum flexibility, Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class skills are all taught separately, at different times. A brand-new Scout can take three periods and work on all three ranks, while a Second Class Scout can take just the First Class section, leaving the rest of the day free for merit badges.

While it's understandably a popular program, we provide enough instructors to maintain a ratio of about one instructor to eight scouts, a perfect size for active outdoor learning.

Let us help get your newest scouts off to a great start with their Scouting adventure!

Three Falls -- The Place for Merit Badges

Merit badges are only one part of Boy Scout summer camp, but for a lot of people, they're an important part.

Some people assume that because Three Falls is a smaller camp, we offer a limited selection of merit badges. Nothing could be further from the truth! In 2018, we offered 36 different merit badges -- that's more than a lot of larger camps -- check for yourself.

We have the usual summer camp badges -- you can see a list here -- but also some you might not expect:

Citizenship in the Nation -- limited to older scouts
Citizenship in the World -- limited to older scouts
Cycling -- Mountain bikes. This one is limited to older scouts because it's tough -- ride 52 miles in 5 days, on back roads and trails in the Los Padres National Forest.
Metalwork -- Blacksmithing at Fort Lockwood!Pottery -- we have three potters wheels (just added a third) and a kiln
Space Exploration -- Build and launch honest-to-goodness model rockets.
Welding -- Taught by master welder Jack Compton!

We could go on, but you get the idea -- there is really something for everyone, even the old scouts who have already earned most of the typical summer camp badges. And we change the list a little each year, so there's always something new.

And, because we are a smaller camp, class sizes are conducive to scouts actually learning something -- which unfortunately isn't always the case at larger camps. Most of our classes are limited to 8 or 12 scouts at a time.

If merit badges matter to your scouts, take a look at Three Falls!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Join Our Staff for 2019

Become part of the best camp staff in southern California -- the Three Falls Thunder! 

More than just a great first job, working at camp is an opportunity to put to use everything you've learned as a scout -- the skills, teamwork, leadership and service to others. Plus, you'll have a great time and make lifelong friends.

The 2019 staff will serve at camp for six weeks, from mid-June until late July, plus several training sessions in Camarillo in the spring. You must be at least 14 years old to work at camp as a CIT, 15 or older to be a paid staff member. Some positions require adults. Age requirements for various jobs are listed on the application form.

Applications are due by December 15, but why wait? Send your application now and we'll contact you later in the year when we're ready to start interviews. Get the application here.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Summer Camp Dates for 2019

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For your long-range planning convenience, here are the dates for Boy Scout and Webelos Summer Camp at Three Falls NEXT year -- 2019.

Boy Scouts
Session 1: June 23-June 29
Session 2: June 30-July 6
Session 3: July 7-July 13
Session 4: July 14-July 20

Session 1: July 21-July 24
Session 2: July 24-July 27

Get your reservation in early to ensure your choice of dates. Starting this year, Ventura County Council event registrations can be made online at

We look forward to seeing you at camp next year!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Trading Post Preorder

Units attending Webelos Resident camp or Boy Scout Summer Camp at Three Falls can preorder some of our most popular trading post items using this form. Please use ONE FORM PER UNIT. You do not need to pre-pay; we will have your selections waiting for you when you arrive at camp and you will pay then using cash or credit card. We will have additional stock of these items in the trading post, but we can't guarantee availability if you don't preorder.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

New Firearms Permission Slip Requirement

IMPORTANT: In order to comply with California state law, we must have a specific firearms permission slip for all youth participating in BB guns, .22 rifle shooting, shotgun shooting, or black powder rifle shooting, including Rifle and Shotgun merit badges, at Webelos Resident Camp or Boy Scout Summer Camp. Without a permission slip, scouts will not be allowed to participate in these activities. You can get the permission slip here… It will also be sent by e-mail to the unit leaders on our contact list for summer camp.

If you are taking advantage of Express Check-In, we recommend including these permission slips with your other paperwork. Otherwise, you will need to bring them with you when you come to camp.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Cyber Chip at Summer Camp

In addition to being required for both Cub Scout and Boy Scout rank advancement, BSA's Cyber Chip is now required as a prerequisite for some STEM merit badges. Scout who plan to earn Photography Merit Badge at Three Falls need to have a Cyber Chip card, for example.
Our STEM department will be offering a Cyber Chip class as an option for both Webelos and Boy Scouts.

For Webelos: Like most activities at Webelos Resident Camp, this is a group activity. You Den Leader can request the class for your group in advance (before you come to camp) and we'll schedule you to attend.

For Boy Scouts: The class will be offered during free time one afternoon during the week. Scouts can sign up individually at camp. For boys who are in 6th grade and up, one requirement is to write and sign an agreement with your parents setting rules for use of digital technology. To help with this, we've provided a sample agreement. You do not need to use this exact form; it is offered as an example. But to complete Cyber Chip at camp, each scout does need to bring a copy of a signed agreement with him to show to his counselor.

Here's a link to the sample agreement: