Scouting has added a very real and complex social dimension to my education. While I have spent years in school obtaining an education, I have found the most valuable lessons to be the ones I experienced outside of the classroom. At 6-years-old, I had the fortune of getting involved with the 1st Centre Lake Burnaby Scout Group, and have continued to participate in Scouting alongside my conventional schooling ever since.
Without a doubt, Scouting offers something that you don’t quite fully experience in the mainstream school system. Beyond learning practical outdoor skills, youth learn how to build trust with others by going through challenges together. When you are spending a weekend with your Scouting peers at camp in the most disastrous weather, it fosters trust and companionship. I am a Rover Scout and I take great joy in that some of my closest, most reliable, and adventurous friends are people who I met and bonded with through Scouts.
Scouting, by far, is the most useful education because my Scouters and peers showed me how to develop trusting and meaningful relationships with others, which has shaped the way I have approached my career. I currently study public health, epidemiology, and biostatistics and have a night-time hobby of astronomy research at the Simon Fraser University Trottier Observatory. In Scouting, my Scouters encouraged me to try, fail, evaluate what went wrong and try again. It isn’t a coincidence that this try-fail-learn-repeat cycle is very similar to the scientific process. Inadvertently, the Scouting community taught me that failing is a salient part of learning.
One of my most frustrating learning experiences occurred while at the Trottier Observatory in 2017. I was trying to collect data on the Andromeda Galaxy for our team’s research project but kept running into challenges. First, the dome wasn’t following the telescope’s movement, then the telescope wouldn’t center on the “start” position, and then the camera derotator wasn’t moving. Naturally, all these things needed to work in order to collect the starlight we needed for our project.
I spent hours trying to troubleshoot, working on the phone with my supervisor, Dr. Howard Trottier, to get the observatory up and running. By the time the observatory was operational again, a veil of clouds blanketed the night sky, too thick to observe through, and we could not collect the data we needed.
A few days later I returned to the observatory with a team member to give a guided tour to a group of visitors and we ran into similar issues with the telescope while setting up. Based on the troubleshooting from the previous evening, I was able to move through the challenges and bring the observatory back to operating status. In hindsight, even though troubleshooting the first night was a distressing situation, it was an ultimately useful learning experience that helped me solve similar problems later on. I have come to understand that learning is not always a comfortable experience and that failing is inherently a part of that process.
While I was in high school and university, many of my school peers had what I would consider to be an unhealthy relationship with failing, in that they would avoid new opportunities or different academic avenues in fear of not doing well. This is where Scouting plays a pertinent role in education. By encouraging our youth to try something outside of their established skill set, allowing them to fail, and then helping them to learn from that failure, Scouting youth learn how to navigate the learning process, and they appreciate the value of trying something new.
This try-fail-learn-repeat cycle is how scientists make discoveries and inventors create novelties. The best thing we can do for the upcoming generation is to help normalize this cycle by encouraging them to learn by doing from the very beginning. Fortunately, there are 20,000 volunteer Scouters across Canada who are helping to create safe environments for youth to learn by doing.
The founder of Scouting, Lord Robert Baden Powell, eloquently stated, “A week of camp life is worth six months of theoretical teaching in the meeting room.” Speaking from experience, the skills necessary for academia are not exclusively learned inside classrooms, and I am eternally grateful to the Scouters of 1st Centre Lake Burnaby who helped me learn this early on.