To understand how Scouts and science overlap, let’s look closely at the skills youth develop while learning through Scouting.
Scouting is based on a patrol system, meaning youth as young as 7 years old are introduced to working with others to accomplish goals, like winning a game. Right from the start, youth learn about teamwork skills and how to collaborate with others. Collaboration is also at the core of science. To advance our knowledge about the world, scientists often collaborate, share data and resources, and rely on shared information to develop their studies. By learning to collaborate from a young age, Scouting youth are already familiarized with a fundamental value of science.
During camps and adventures, Scouts are more often than not faced with challenges. A common task is to pitch the tent in an area where it won’t flood during a rainstorm. Scouting youth are encouraged to approach these questions with critical thinking and to learn by doing. Think about what would happen if you set your tent up on a slope or in a dip; both of these situations would lead to an uncomfortable sleep. Having been a Scout for 15 years, I can attest that once you’ve slept in a puddle, you think critically about where you pitch your tent next time. Through Scouting, youth learn from their mistakes, and it’s this kind of learning that stimulates critical thinking. Much like scientists, Scouts practice critical thinking during their tasks and projects.
While in the great outdoors with only the supplies in your pack, you learn to be creative with the resources at hand. The Scout motto is, “Be Prepared”, and while Scouts do learn how to pack appropriately for adventures, it’s not possible to pack supplies for every situation. In this way, “Be Prepared” does not mean pack for all situations, rather it means to be prepared to come up with creative solutions to challenges.
In short, by facing obstacles, Scouts practice their innovative intuition to come up with creative solutions. This past summer, I volunteered at a national scout jamboree in northern Norway above the Arctic Circle. During the pre-camp construction, we were tasked with building an impressive portal entrance to the campground, which was meant to support a boat. We had ropes, dozens of 2-meter long wooden spars, and a team of avid scouts. Within a few days, we had an impressive entrance consisting of two 5-meter tall towers supporting either end of the securely tied vessel at the top. There were many bumps along the way and a lot of blisters, but our innovative solutions ultimately brought us closer to our goal.
Working with limited resources and boundless creativity, youth develop a strong sense of innovation throughout their years of Scouting. While working through complications in a laboratory is not the same as solving outdoor challenges, both scientists and Scouts use that same sense of innovation and creativity to overcome obstacles.
Not all Scouts wear lab coats, but the skills youth develop in the Scouting program prepare them to succeed in the sciences and beyond. By means of adventure and challenge, Scouts practice their collaboration skills, critical thinking, creativity, and, of course, innovative intuition! While learning through Scouting doesn’t happen in a classroom, the skills youth develop through Scouting help them within all contexts of learning.