1st Jones Lake
Hailing from the east coast, New Brunswick’s 1st Jones Lake Group has been a catalyst for change in the local Scouting community. Growing its youth membership count by over 57% this year, 1st Jones Lake has welcomed 20 new youth into its fold.
“We now have stronger, better adventures that people benefit from,” reflects Group Commissioner, Mary Stephenson, “I’ve worked with smaller Groups and they have their benefits too, but having larger Groups and more support from parents—the key is having an adult Scouter team in place—opens even more opportunities for youth.”
While 1st Jones Lake is only two years old, the history of Scouting in Moncton dates back for over fifty years. Although sponsored Scouting Groups usually take the name of the building or organization that sponsors them, 1st Jones Lake decided to rebrand this traditional approach by aligning their Scouting identity with the community. Their sponsor, Mount Royal United Church, supported the Group’s decision by providing storage space and accommodation for an increased number of meeting nights as their Scouting membership expanded.
Designing the crest and neckers for the Group when it formed, the 1st Jones Lake youth were actively engaged in the branding process. “The youth and leaders had a lot of pride in naming ourselves and creating the designs,” Stephenson shares, “It solidified the new team, and also made us more aware of representing the neighbourhood.”
With an enlivened approach to Scouting, 1st Jones Lake set out to ‘meet’ the Moncton community in a new way. This was achieved through door-to-door interactions to promote local bottle drives, hosting Scouting events, meeting outdoors or in public spaces, and fundraising through Scout Popcorn.
“We wanted to show that Scouting is still active in the area,” Stephenson explains, “I’m always taken aback if someone says, ‘I didn’t know Scouting was a thing’, or ‘I didn’t know girls could be in Scouting’. Being out there and being clear on what the program is about, and who it includes, is helpful.”
An increased visibility in the community, as well as a rejuvenation in Moncton’s young family population, have greatly contributed to 1st Jones Lake’s growth. With a stronger team of Scouters and youth, the Group has enjoyed various outdoor activities. In the fall, a provincial gathering of Scouts and Venturers took part in ‘Star Trek’, a night hike competition in Fundy National Park starting at 7pm and going until 2am. Hiking along a planned route, the youth faced challenges along the way and were scored on how well they completed each activity.
For Cubs, the Bay of Fundy has been a great opportunity to experience the outdoors, learn about marine life and appreciate New Brunswick’s beauty. “The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world, so exploring the coastline is a great opportunity, and it’s right on our doorstep,” Stephenson adds. On a recent trip to the bay, Cubs collected sea creatures from the floor of the bay during low tide and learned about them with a park guide.
Taking the learning experience away from the textbook and out into nature is only one of the perks that 1st Jones Lake has offered to families and their youth in the community. “Being in the Group has helped improve the English of recent Canadian recruits,” Stephenson notes, “and in general we’ve seen confidence that comes from a hands-on approach to learning. The confidence builds with every activity the youth do.”
In addition to building self-esteem in language and learning, Stephenson has also had the pleasure of watching youth gain newfound, practical skills:
“We’ve seen some new Cub and Scout recruits go camping for the first time in the fall—and fall in New Brunswick can be quite cold. They had a positive and fun experience, and felt a sense of accomplishment. Scouting is not a classroom—youth have to get out there and work together as a team, and you can see their level of confidence improving.”
In tandem with youth development and enjoyment of the program, Stephenson reminds that being a Scouter is an equally enriching experience; “Scouters may get involved because they see a need for more adults to run the program, but hopefully they stay because they’re enjoying it themselves.”
Scouting is a learning experience that doesn’t stop at an age cap. “As an adult there are opportunities for learning, going on adventures and meeting friends—it’s very social that way,” Stephenson shares, “The confidence I see in youth, I see in adults too. They learn in the program and in the outdoors.”
While taking advantage of the province’s adventurous opportunities is a large aspect of the 1st Jones Lake approach, being prepared and taking safety measures are an even larger component. As New Brunswick Council’s Deputy Council Commissioner for Safety, Stephenson is also an enthusiastic promoter of safety in the planning stages of Group and Council activities. Reviewing the activity beforehand and evaluating safety risks is one way that 1st Jones Lake prepares youth for each adventure.
“Sometimes we forget that a youth may be anxious about the unknown, so making sure that the youth understand the activity they’re going on and what to expect is important,” Stephenson explains, “Giving them the opportunity to ask questions is legitimate for the youth to bring anxiety down, and help adults work out logistics.”
Allowing youth to take the lead in discussing precautions and safety concerns is extended in all aspects of 1st Jones Lake’s application of the Canadian Path program. By using Program Quality Standards to guide the planning and decision process, the Group focuses on youth engagement.
“It’s about what the youth want to get out of their time in Scouting,” Stephenson insists, “Those seasonal assessments help the youth to stay on track and continually improve their program.”
Furthermore, the Group uses Outdoor Adventure Skills badges to guide their learning along the Canadian Path so that when they engage in an activity, they know which elements of the program they are exercising.
“It’s a good program and it’s worthwhile for youth today to be involved in Scouting,” Stephenson concludes, “Adults have to be there to guide and help with logistics, but it’s really the youth leading.”