Finding our way into scouting this fall is challenging. The pandemic means that many groups aren’t able to return to “normal” with meetings and activities.  What are some reasonable ideas?  The 17th Black Bears has decided to do a 3 pronged approach. Those 3 prongs are on-line meetings, home projects and monthly in person, socially distant activities.  Each one is optional, so scouts and families can choose what is in their own comfort zone.

Let’s look closer at those.

Scouting At Home

Monthly challenges for scouts to do at home between meetings can keep scouting alive for them, without the stress of meetings. These challenges can be things like doing a litter clean up with your family, or geocaching. Both of which are suggested in the new Scout at Home badge from BPSA for this year.  Scouts can also be mailed or have dropped off to them kits for completing a craft or project with their family.  Building  a bird house or making a paracord bracelet can be done with help at home. Just make sure parents know what they need to have on hand to complete the craft or project.

Zoom Calls

Each age level is going to have some monthly zoom call check ins. This will be a great time for younger scouts to show off those projects they made at home, or to share a photo of them picking up litter.  Younger scouts may be very happy to just say “Hi” and do some version of Show and Tell. However, here on the blog there are lots of ideas for zoom meetings with older scouts. Pathfinders and Timberwolves may want more regular meetings, so meeting biweekly, or even weekly may work out for them.

In Person

BlackBears on the water circa 2014

How, when and why to meet in person this year should be based on CDC and local guidance, with respect to for the risk tolerance of your leaders.  Always ask your group leaders first to make sure you have 2 deep leadership available, before inviting your scouts to a meeting. Each of us have unique health concerns that influence what we feel is best for ourselves and our families right now.

It may be a good year to do some hikes and kayaking. As both of those should allow for scouts to stay spread out. Your group might also want to try a field day with designated spaces for families and scouts to work in, so that they stay spread out. Tarps, ropes or even hoola-hoops may help scouts remember to stay in their own zone while working on scout craft.  Having older scouts stay in their own “circle of blood” while using knives may also be an easy way to stay spread out. This might also be the perfect year to work on semaphore as a way to play together but stay spread out.

In BPSA, we’ve always encouraged groups to meet outside, and that goal appears to also reduce the risks associated with spending time indoors with a group. In the south, some scout groups are waiting until later in the fall to start in person meetings, just so the weather can break. It is stifling to wear masks when the temperature outside is in the 90’s.  But as the weather changes, wearing masks outside should become more comfortable.  Just be sure to bring along hand sanitizer and encourage scouts to also wash hands often.   Wearing masks is best if you know your scouts can’t stay at least 6 feet apart. Guidelines on which masks are best are evolving, so watch for that information and share it with your group before meeting.

It is also worth thinking through how many scouts you will take out at a time, as keeping group size small is a good way to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19. The 17th has decided to do activities by age level, instead of the whole group together this year. Having just otters at an event, allows them to keep the group much smaller, than having all 3 age levels present. Breaking pathfinders into patrols for their activities and hikes can also keep down the number of people doing an activity. Just be sure you still have 2 deep leadership.

This year, scouting won’t look like it usually does, but we will figure it out.

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