Educators seeking to incorporate collaborative learning projects in curriculum would do well to learn from the Dogwood and Laurel Boy Scouts of America Districts Klondike Derby Saturday at the Raven Knob Scout Reservation. An example of a team problem solving approach was Troop 545 thawing its frozen Krispy Creme Donuts out on top of the breakfast sausage.
Dogwood District Boy Scout Chairman Donnie Diamont said this year participation in the event was at an all-time high with a total of 18 troops involved. He said about 250 people were involved in the derby with 170 scouts forming the teams for competition. He added 11 of the troops were from the Dogwood District and seven from Yadkin and Alleghany counties.
“I’m amazed with the turnout this year with the weather and all,” said Diamont. “The first troop up was from Sparta. They told me they had 10 inches of snow and used a tractor to get to their scout hut to get their stuff so they could be here.”
He said events included the traditional First Aid, knot tying and cooking variety straight from the scouts standard skills to a new, teamwork building event called “Ninja Isotope.” This event required teams to use a bucket suspended between ropes to move isotopes (rocks) from one area to another.
“We have fun as well as the events that reinforce basic skills,” added Diamont, who said about 32 scouts in his troop participated in the derby. “The sleds are not optional. They are used to carry outdoor survival items which they are also graded on.”
He said numbers in his troop have remained constant and other troops have reported increases.
“I think the fact they (scouts) get to be with each other on a equal level without the toys (cell phones or video games) is important,” continued Diamont when asked what benefits scouting has for teenagers. “It amazes me how much they get along especially in these small cabins. This is the first year I’ve got to really mix up older and younger kids. I don’t assign them to groups. They hang with whoever they get along with. You find out when you see how the older scouts help younger scouts who your leaders are.”
He said another important part of scouting is it allows children to succeed.
“You don’t have to be a great athlete to be a scout,” said Diamont. “I have seen the confidence and satisfaction they have as they progress towards Eagle Scout. I’ve seen some of the worst athletes in the world turn out to be great scouts.”
Diamont explained the group slept out Friday night in Adirondack sheds, which are three-sided buildings with bunks. Friday’s temperatures were the topic of many conversations at the sleds Saturday morning. Many scouts were only to grateful to share their late night, low temperature survival suggestions.
“My shoes were so cold this morning, my feet have been frozen for a half hour. Make sure you have it (the tarp that covers the third side of an Adirondack shed) weighed down with rocks or something heavy,” said Brock Jessup Troop of 545 of Pilot Mountain, who holds the rank of Life Scout. “If you don’t the wind will blow the tarp off and let all the cold air in.”
Fellow troop member Luke Cartwright, who has earned the rank of Star Scout, said his favorite part of scouting is camping out and spending time in the outdoors.
Both scouts said Klondike derbies helped them learn the basic skills and scouting knowledge.
“Stuff you do when you are a tenderfoot you actually get to use,” added Jessup. The patrol was proud of how well they did in the cooking competition earlier. This event has a limit of 15 minutes. The patrol chose hash browned potatoes as their offering and finished within the 15 minute time limit. They agreed “it was pretty good,” and said they “put lots of butter and pepper on them.”
White Plains Troop 553 Scout Leaders Jennifer Hiatt and Vicky Allen felt just getting back into the woods was very important for scouts.
“They learn leadership and seeing them enjoy learning about nature and survival skills is wonderful,” said Hiatt. She explained the troop was at the camp when a tornado touched down, pushing over trees. “It was a disaster and they were fine. Just getting away from the television and the video games makes a big difference.”
Allen agreed and suggested more adults do the same. She also offered her own tips about cold weather survival, saying campers should never underestimate the value of a reliable kerosene heater and a sleeping bag.
Troop 644 (State Road) Scoutmaster Toby Groce feels the problem solving challenges of scouting are another important benefit.
“From the very beginning, problem solving and learning basic skills has been a part of the Klondike derby,” said Groce. “They have to know the basics of knots for instance, but they have to understand enough to know what to do if things don’t go as planned. There you are in the middle of the woods and you better do something. You can’t just go to Burger King.”
Groce said many of the scout’s bush-craft and outdoor skills are life skills which apply in career paths such as the military, law enforcement and many outdoor occupations so it’s not just all about fellowship and camaraderie.
Scoutmasters going about the tasks to prepare lunch could be seen in the reservation’s campground areas. Dutch ovens containing a variety of items such as cornbread patiently swayed above beds of coals as pots of stew boiled. Diamont and several other leaders joked as potatoes were being peeled. They were discussing the finale of the derby, skits and songs that would be performed around a large fire in the Order of the Arrow Arena.
Diamont explained in addition to an overall winner for the derby, ribbons would be awarded for first, second and third places in each challenge category. A prize for best sled also is given.
“Over the last few years, the points you can earn for the best skit or song have made the difference,” said Diamont. “It’s fun. I’ve been recruited by some other scoutmasters for their skits so I know it’s going to be embarrassing.”
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.