Firebuilding for OLS/DOE
By James Montigny Cubmaster (Pack 124) and Webelos Outdoor Leader Trainer (DOE)
Having a strong Webelos outdoor program will help your Webelos build confidence, strengthens relationships between boys and offers a field learning environment that help drive home the concepts taught though Outdoorsman, Geologist, Naturalist, Scientist and Forester pins. Moreover, it is a new and exciting way to prepare Webelos for the transition to Boy Scouts and can include joint events between Webelos dens and Troops.
BSA encourages Webelos to hold several camp events each year; in fact Webelos are eligible for the 12 Month Camper award, which Scouts wear proudly as a symbol of their accomplishments. Webelos dens can camp as a den, take advantage of invitations from local Troops or even extend normal Pack overnight events into a 2-night event where Webelos can focus on Webelos skills before the rest of the unit arrives.
The Guide to Safe Scouting outlines camp site selection and recommends that Webelos dens camp only at BSA-approved facilities. Sites used by Webelos should not require backpacking and the environment must be age-appropriate even if the event is managed by a Troop. A rule of thumb is that a den leader should challenge Scouts to grow, but know their den members and understand their limitations.
Webelos dens should use checklists to prepare for camp, this helps Scouts pack appropriate equipment and helps discourage parents from taking over and depriving the Scout of the learning experience. Regardless of the weather forecast, Scouts should pack adequate gear to protect themselves from the elements. This includes sunscreen, rain gear, first aid kits and tents appropriate for the camping environment and time of year. Food should be stored such that it is protected from wildlife, spoilage and contamination. Water should also be provided; if clean running water is not available, 1 gallon of water should be brought into the site per person per day. Primitive camping sites often turn water off over the winter to prevent frozen pipes, always check with the site before arriving with your Webelos.
Webelos should take part in planning and preparing healthy meals, they should also be taught how to clean up after themselves and leave no trace of the event when they depart. Simple, healthy camp recipes are available online and though numerous publications. Scouts should be encouraged to try new things and different methods of preparing their meals. Cooking in foil, on a stick, in dutch ovens and using camp stoves are all interesting ways to prepare meals that quire little clean up.
Beyond activity pins, lesson plans should include campout planning and budgeting, fire safety, outdoor code, basic knots and practical applications, first aid and showmanship. Additional values being taught could include conservation of national resources, good health and spiritual growth. Remember, Webelos is not a camping club, camping is a delivery method used to drive home useful skills and key concepts. Dramatic presentation is a great way to ensure that Scouts remember the lessons they learned. A boy’s natural curiosity will help him develop social skills and become eager to try new things, experiment with the world around him, become self-reliant and develop good citizenship. A good outdoor program should include a healthy balance of nature hikes, fishing, swimming, games, conservation projects, service projects and simple, brief, nondenominational worship services that tie to Scout Law and Values. Remember that shooting sports are only permitted at approved events such as Day Camp or Resident Camp and should not be part of Webelos den camping.
A few guidelines from the Guide to Safe Scouting; Boys do not share tents with adults who are not their guardians, no exceptions. Boys should never be alone and out of sight with an adult who is not their guardian. No drugs, alcohol or tobacco have no place in Webelos camping. At least one adult leader should be DOE/Webelos Outdoor Leader trained.
Remember that they are still young boys. Challenge, encourage and celebrate. They are not Boy Scouts yet, most are still in Elementary School. They will make mistakes, they will need help, and they still need a den leader. They're the big kids in the Pack, give them a chance to share what they've learned but do not rush them into Boy-Scout levels of responsibility. Encourage parents to attend events, but to give the boys space to learn, make mistakes and learn from them.
Additional information related to Webelos Outdoor Program can be found in the Cub Scout Leader Book Chapters 21, 32 and 33, the Webelos Handbook and the Webelos Leader Guide. All of these documents are available in print from your local Council office or in PDF format from Scouting.org.