a Game with a Purpose"
bringing the values of Scouting through to youth
By a Quiet Campfire
It is getting late. You
are sitting by the fire. The Scouts are in their tents
asleep. At least you think they are. After all, it’s your
first night out. Just one more cup of coffee and you’ll
call it a night. You stare into the fading embers —
memories drifting back to your own days as a Scout.
You look up, and sitting
on the log on the other side of the fire is an elderly
man. He looks familiar. It takes you a minute to realize
who it is. He is dressed in an old fashioned, though
somewhat elegant Scout uniform. Shorts, knee-socks,
short-sleeved shirt (A really old style shirt. They
haven’t worn them for years). He is wearing a Wood Badge
neckerchief, woggle and beads. His face shows years of
experience, but somehow is young. It is his eyes. They
are bright blue and sparkle like a youngsters. They
He looks over at you and
smiles. And then, it slowly dawns on you. As improbable
as it might seem, the man facing you across the fire is
B-P —The "Founder"— The Chief Scout
of the World.
"You know," he
says as he leans forward to stirs the embers with a
blackthorn cane, "I have often wondered if Scouting
would keep up with the youth of the world, long after I
was gone, and with all the changes that progress would
bring. So many things have changed since the early days,
then a second world war, and the pace of technology. Life
seems so much more complicated today. And yet the
problems you have today are so much like the ones I saw
when I returned from my years in South Africa."
His accent was what we
would describe as "very British." His manner
was relaxed and friendly as he continued. "As I
toured the country, England that is, back in the days
before the "First War," I saw the problems of a
lack of direction for our youth. I saw crime and poverty,
declining standards of morality, and an educational
system that did not seem to be able to keep up with the
needs of our society or civilization. This was of great
concern to me and to many others.
"You probably know
how Scouting began — about Brownsea Island, and Scouting
for Boys. I told the story in my Lessons from the
Varsity of Life, written back in 1933. I wrote first
about my retirement from the Army:
was a big wrench to take this last step out of the
Service that I had loved so well, though at the same
time I did not mind taking my foot out of the ladder
(of promotion), for I had no wish to do any further
climbing on it…."
was no small consolation to receive from the
Secretary of State for War the letter which he sent
me, expressing his kindly regret in losing me from
the Army, in which he added: "… But I feel
that the organisation of your Boy Scouts has so
important a bearing on the future that probably the
greatest service you can render to the country is to
devote yourself to it."
so ended my Life Number One."
"As I wrote in Lessons
… about the beginnings of my Life Number Two, I
described some simple rules for developing the framework
"To build a scheme, whether for a speech, a
book, or a movement, you have:
1. To set up its AIM clearly before you.
2. In a movement for boys the next essential is to
make it attractive for them.
3. Then to devise a definite code for their
4. Then to form a suitable organization under
"Our aim was to improve the standard of
our future citizenhood, especially in CHARACTER and
HEALTH. One had to think out the main weak points in
our national character and make some effort to
eradicate thes by substituting equivalent virtues,
where the ordinary school curriculum was not in a
position to supply them. Outdoor activities,
handicrafts, and service to others therefore came to
"That aim of
character and health were expanded by the founders of
Scouting in America to Character, Citizenship and
Fitness. And more than 80 years later these aims
remain the same.
"I have always been
fond of saying that "Scouting is a game with a
today, we can still say, Scouting is about three things:
It’s about fun. It’s about values, and it’s about
learning. Fun is the game, learning is the process, and
values are the purpose."
"The challenge is
much the same today — and still the Scoutmaster is the
key. I described the Scoutmaster’s role many years ago in
my little book Aids to Scoutmastership:"
Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of an older
has simply to be a boy-man, that is:
(1) He must have the boy spirit in him: and must be
able to place himself in the right plane
with his boys as a first step.
(2) He must realise the needs, outlooks and desires
of the different ages of boy life.
(3) He must deal with the individual boy rather than
with the mass.
(4) He then needs to promote a corporate spirit among
his individuals to gain the best results.
As he speaks, the embers
of the fire are burning low. For a moment you stare into
their glow and think about what he has said. It seems
that even with the passage of years, the goals of
Scouting are much the same. You look up from the fire and
he is gone. It is quiet, the boys are all asleep. The
stars twinkle as you head for your tent thinking all the
while of your visitor … or was he just something you
imagined as you watched the fire.
Please Note: The
quotations in black letters are from Baden-Powell’s Lessons
from the Varsity of Life, 1933, and his Aids
to Scoutmastership, 1920. All other B-P
quotations are the product of the author’s
imagination. The material in these pages is the
original work of the author. Some portions appear in
program and training literature of the Boy Scouts of
Ethics in Action
In 1983, the Viking
Council in Minneapolis, Minnesota began work on an
initiative that would come to be known as Ethics in
Action. Working with the Center for Youth Development and
Research at the University of Minnesota, new program
materials were developed for Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting
The approach is
experiential, using the same educational methods B-P used
as he developed the Scouting program. "Learning by
doing" remains at the heart of Scouting, though its
roots are documented in ancient times:
we have to learn to do we learn by the actual doing
of it: people become builders by building, and
instrumentalists by playing instruments. Similarly we
become just by performing just acts, temperate by
performing temperate ones, brave by performing brave
ones …. So it is a matter of no little importance
what sort of habits we form from the earliest age —
it make a vast difference, or rather all the
difference in the world."
An HTML version of
The DELTA Handbook provides the background
of the original Ethics-in-Action program as
developed in Minnesota. It covers theory as well
as practical information and activities. A
variety of initiative games and Scoutcraft skill
contests are also included. This little red book
was the working handbook for the development and
testing of the Boy Scouting elements of Ethics in
Action. Steve Tobin’s "The NetWoods Virtual
Campsite" provides a downloadable version
of the DELTA Handbook. It is a valuable resource
for anyone interested in the reflection process
and other activities that help bring the values
of Scouting through for youth.
Most of the elements of
the original Ethics in Action program are now part of
Scouting. These pages explore the background and the
resources available to leaders in Scouting to help them
bring the values of Scouting through to youth. The
content has been adapted from the DELTA Handbook,
supporting materials developed for Ethics in Action, and
original materials developed by the author. Some of these
appear, in one form or another, in the training
literature of the BSA.
Scouting is a Game with
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Please write to: Lewis P. Orans
Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1996
Last Modified: 1:118 PM 11-24-96