Scouts have a very varied and diverse program and no two troops are exactly the same. Here at 1st Pinelands we have a program which is orientated towards the outdoors, so we try to go on as many camps and hikes as we can. Many South African troops are also orientated towards the outdoors, a result of our great outdoors and weather whereas many troops in other countries are less orientated towards the outdoors.
We meet every Friday evening from 7pm to 10pm during term time. The weekly meetings usually follow a reasonably set order although the actual content can vary widely. We usually start off with flag-break, followed by a game. After that there is usually some sort of training and an activity. Often these are indistinguishable so that if you don’t know something you learn it by doing. Sitting in a corner and getting dry instructions from a senior scout is not usually something that happens. Even in the circumstances where training is more formal, it is nearly always followed by an activity to give the training practical application.
For example, we all learn to tie knots and lashings. So you might be taught to tie a square lashing and a sheer lashing for about 15 minutes. Then the scouter will instruct the Patrol Leaders that their patrols have 45 minutes to make the tallest structure that they can. You would need to tie square and sheer lashings to do this. Whichever patrol has the highest structure after 45 minutes will win.
Once the activity is over and we have tidied up it will usually be time for flag-down and that will be it until the next activity….
We regularly play wide games (games played over a wide area) and there is usually a patrol evening once a term where the patrol will decide what they want to do (it can be anything from going to a film to making pizza to going bowling to going indoor rock climbing). Occasionally we might also do a night hike or a large pioneering project which takes the whole evening.
Between the regular evening meetings are the other activities. We try to organise at least one hike a term and many hikes are overnight hikes or longer. Scouts have access to a hut on Table Mountain so it is easy to have overnight hikes on the mountain. Patrols are required to arrange their own hikes as well so there is the fun of activities without adults…. We also try to organise camps and there is usually an annual camp, lasting about 5 days, at the end of the year. .
Then there are competitions. While we do not believe that scouts is all about competition there are 3 or 4 competitions that we try to enter. The most fun competition is Kon-Tiki which involves building a raft and a team of 6 scouts stay on that raft overnight at Zandvlei. Other competitions are the Rayner Trophy which is a hiking competition for senior scouts and the Upton Shield which is a hiking competition for junior scouts. For both competitions, teams of 4 scouts hike a route, completing certain tasks along the way. There is also the Gordons Shield which is held at Hawequas, the scout adventure center near Wellington. This is a standing camp competition where making a campsite and completing certain tasks take place over a weekend.
For senior scouts a highlight of their scouting career is the National Senior Scout Adventure which is held every two years in the Cedarberg. Teams of 8 scouts hike from base to base doing activities such as scuba diving, pioneering, archery, commando courses and electronics. The Adventure is world famous and scouts from around the world come to Cape Town to be on it. We also have one or two multi-night hikes every year exclusively for senior scouts.
There is also the international jamboree which is held every 4 years in a different country. More than 40 000 scouts from around the world gather in one place and meet each other, try out each others food, show their national dress and swap stories and badges.
This is just some of what scouts do. We cannot explain the wide diversity and range of scouting in a few words. There is only one thing to do. Come and see for yourself!