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COVID-19 Research Findings

The Data Behind the Return to Scouting

What we have learned from the Scouting community

On June 11, Scouts Canada shared a proposed set of documents that outline the steps necessary to plan for running safe Scout meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our guidelines were deliberately crafted through a careful review of recent provincial and school board recommendations, an evaluation of the latest public polling research, and through consultation with the Scouting community by way of webinars, surveys and focus groups over the last month.

We have released these guiding documents, far in advance of implementation, to help Groups plan for how to run a safe Section meeting for Beaver, Cub, Scout, Venturer and Rover Scouts during COVID-19. While we recognize that provincial and school board guidance may change from now until September, all in-person Scout meetings remain suspended for the summer to ensure the continued safety of our youth, volunteers and staff. Scouts Canada is taking advantage of the usual summer hiatus to plan for the return of in-person, outdoor activities in the fall, and we are committed to reviewing and updating our Standards accordingly to provide the most current and safe experience for our members when in-person activities resume in September.

Over the last week our documents, which outline how to run a safe Scout meeting, received nearly 2,000 comments. This consultation has already helped us to improve our proposed protocols and to ensure that we are doing our part to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 among our youth, Scouters, parents, volunteers and others when we return to Scouting this fall.

Thank you for your contributions. If you have not yet done so, you have until June 25 to share your feedback regarding Scouts Canada’s proposed documents for how to run a safe Scout meeting, using this web form.

Open does not mean “back to normal”

Although the headlines are improving across the country and provincial governments are eager to declare certain activities “open”, all activities such as participating in youth sports, eating at a restaurant and even grocery shopping, look very different from what we were used to before COVID-19 changed life in Canada and around the world. All businesses and organizations are facing the same challenge – how to return to some form of normal activity.

Hockey Canada has released a 41-page PDF for its volunteer coaches to return to hockey safely. Ministries of Education are issuing similar guidelines for a return to schools, which include direction around smaller class sizes, staggered start times and new rules regarding physical distancing, to name a few.

Additionally, SickKids has released a statement with COVID-19 recommendations for schools reopening. Providing guidance for mitigating risks of infection and transmission, these guidelines also emphasize the importance of close interaction through play and socialization as integral to child development. Offering a variety of opportunities for outdoor activity is encouraged if abided by special protocols; such activities will reduce the potential cause of psychological harm that can result from strict physical distancing in a traditionally social environment.

Based on all these recommendations, including the most recent from SickKids and the member feedback already received, Scouts Canada will review and align our guidelines around physical distancing, the size of cohorts and the sharing of equipment. We will continue to act prudently. We will not move first, but will learn from others and act quickly and accordingly. We will take this opportunity to enrich our program and continue to provide outstanding development opportunities for youth in Canada, and we will listen to our Scouters and parents.

What we have heard

From a wide net of inputs, including more than 2,700 responses to our surveys, focus groups and nearly 2,000 comments from our proposed documents consultation with members , the majority of Scouting parents will not even consider a return to in-person Scouting without comprehensive safety measures, which is aligned with what public opinion polls also demonstrate. 

The majority of parents in our focus groups expressed that smaller group sizes within a Scouting Section—be it a Beaver, Cub, Scout, Venturer or Rover Section—was one of the only measures that they felt was necessary. They indicated that the optimal size for a Section moving forward should be ten youth further divided into cohorts or ‘social bubbles’ in order to practise safe Scouting.

This is a common strategy being applied to all areas of post-COVID-19 life. Fortunately, Scouts Canada’s program is designed for small gatherings of youth—each age Section can be further divided into collaborative Lodges (Beavers), Lairs (Cubs), Patrols (Scouts), Expedition Teams (Venturers) and Teams (Rovers). This model further enhances youth leadership and improves developmental attributes. The application of the Scout Method will enable our youth to smoothly transition to, and benefit from, this necessary and demanded change of social gathering sizes.

Despite safety concerns, parents and Scouters are unequivocal in their belief that virtual Scouting is a temporary measure – a supportive hybrid approach— but that ultimately, Scouting is about being outdoors. It is what they find most valuable about the Scouting program.

Additionally, parents have shared that their values have shifted since the pandemic began. They are looking to enroll their child in activities that align with their new priorities of building resilience, instilling a sense of community and developing leadership qualities to prepare them for success in this changed world. Fortunately, these values are aligned with the benefits of the Scouting program, the positive impact of which extends beyond outdoor experiences and adventures.

Additional questions and concerns

We are extremely proud of the resilience our community has demonstrated in adapting to the ‘new normal’ in Scouting. Scouts Canada also recognizes that there are many unknowns and protocols to be mindful of as we return to in-person, outdoor activities. We have heard your concerns.

We have heard that Beaver (Colony) programming is one of the areas that Scouters have expressed the most need for support. Scouts Canada is working to provide materials and tools specific to younger Sections (Beaver Colonies and Cub Packs) to provide materials and templates to help younger Sections enjoy the outdoors regardless of inclement weather.

Several Pack and Colony Scouters have also sought support for modifying their approach to camping so that weekend days can be used for experiential learning—providing necessary food safely, using equipment safely and maintaining hygiene—if weekend-long camping is not an option.

Scouts Canada is developing a comprehensive set of resources that will support Scouters to plan safe, fun and exciting adventures this fall. Some of the resources in development are:

  • Weekly in-person Section meeting planner. We will share a full program, including age-appropriate activities that meet current physical distancing guidelines.
  • Weekly virtual Section meeting planner for Beavers and Cubs. We will share a full program, including age-appropriate activities that will keep youth active and engaged online.
  • A series of webinars will take place in August to guide Scouters through various materials and protocols.
  • Tools, guidance and templates for how to conduct attendance safely, how to plan a drop-off / pick-up that respects the required physical distancing guidelines, and how to manage volunteer screening.

Scouts Canada is committed to providing relevant tools to help our members enjoy the outdoors together safely when schools resume in the fall. We will learn fast from peer youth organizations and we will be ready to adapt to the changing situation. We have heard our community’s concerns and feedback and will provide a measured response. Learning from official health guidance and schools, we will continue to be a trusted partner for youth leadership.

We look forward to maintaining collaboration with our Scouting community. Together, we will provide a safe, quality Scouting program that will enable youth to stay active and engaged during these unprecedented times.