Scouting: a group of active volunteers teaching young children about life, nature, and society by the means of educational activities. Is this the obvious definition of scouting? For many people it isn’t. This series of 5 blogs will tell you more about what scouting really entails and what benefits being a scout can have on your child. This is the fifth and final blog about international scouting, brought to you by Floor van Zoest, an active scout since the age of seven and a scout leader since the age of 17. (Previous blogs: Scouting: a modern hobby? , Does scouting create future leaders?, Scouting for confidence, and Good citizens through scouting?)
Most children are aware that the world is bigger than their own country. Through time, they become familiar with different countries and cultures – via school, TV, holidays, and so on. I believe this is very important in order for them to become conscious and informed world citizens. After all, knowledge is power and we all want our children to become intelligent and empowered adults. Scouting builds on this principle by familiarizing children with the world outside of their home country. As a scout, you are automatically part of the International Scouting Network or World Organization of Scout Movement (WOSM).
How will scouting broaden your child’s frame of reference?
What a child knows, is considered his or her reference frame. At scouting, we aim to broaden this by familiarizing the scouts with other countries and cultures.
Weekly programmes with international elements
Regularly, scouts participate in activities with international elements. This can vary from raising money for a country struck by disaster, talking about other cultures, or playing a foreign game. During my role of adult leader of the girl scouts from 11-14 y/o, we gave our scouts the opportunity to earn a merit badge for internationality. We organized many different activities to trigger their sense of world citizenship. We bought a big world map and let children colour the countries they visited, after they told a story about this experience to the group. They also did interviews with people living abroad through Skype, and over the phone. We always try to find a way of combining learning and playing in activities that the children will appreciate. Luckily, there are many ways to implement internationality in the weekly programmes at scouting.
In my scouting group, it is quite common for scouts of 11 years and older to go abroad for the annual summer camp. Especially Belgium, Germany, and England are popular destinations for Dutch scout groups. For the younger scouts (5-10 y/o), summer camp itself is already a big deal and thus staying in the Netherlands is preferred by most children and parents. However ‘travelling the world’ (or something related to this) is regularly used as a ‘camp theme’. For example, each day of the camp is centred around a specific country and culture through culturally appropriate activities, games, and food.
International Scouting Events
The most famous international scouting event is the World Scout Jamboree, organized by the WOSM and adult leaders from all over the world. This event is for adventurous scouts from 14-17 years old and is held once every four years. The most recent World Jamboree (WJ) was held in Japan in the summer of 2015, and was attended by 33,628 people from 155 countries and territories (SAJ, 2015). Six scouts from my scouting group went and they said it was a mind blowing experience, filled with great encounters, fun, and getting to know many different people and cultures.
There are also some internationally celebrated events such as the International Day of Peace, and World Thinking Day. Next to that, many International Scout Conferences and Youth Forums are organized all over the world each year (WOSM, 2014).
As an adult
There are many possibilities to broaden your frame of reference internationally as an adult scout. Especially if you like to travel. During a trip to the south of Spain last June, I met up with a Spanish scout leader in Malaga who also leads a mixed group of 15-18 y/o’s. We compared our scout groups, the way we handled activities, and the role and attitude of the scouts. It was very interesting to see the differences and similarities in behaviour and rules, yet the key aspects were the same. Everything was done with the same motivation: to learn, have fun, grow, and help each other out wherever you can. He also gave me a tour of Malaga and free accommodation. To top it off, he arranged for me to stay at another scout group the next night in Granada. To me, this really illustrates the kindness of scouts and the benefit of having such a helpful international network of people you have actually never met before.
Will your child become an involved world citizen?
Scouting gives children the opportunity to learn more about other countries and cultures from all over the world, whether it is through activities, summer camps, or conversation. As a scout, your child will learn about different countries and cultures, participate in discussions, go on summer camps abroad, and perhaps even go to the World Scout Jamboree. If you want your child to become an adventurous world citizen – scouting might be a perfect fit. Make sure your child doesn’t miss out on a great childhood at scouting, filled with exciting educational activities. I am still truly grateful my parents signed me up, all those years ago.
I’ll leave you with this quote:
‘Life is like a 6-slice apple pie at a 12-guest dinner banquet. If you just sit back and wait for it to come to you, chances are, you’re going to miss dessert.’ – Donald L. Hicks (Hicks, 2015).
This was the final blog of this series. Don’t forget to like, share, or tweet! Want to check out your local Scouting group in the Netherlands? You can do that here.
Hicks, D. L. (2015). Look Into the Stillness. In D. L. Hicks, Look Into the Stillness (p. 202). Nature’s Path.
SAJ, S. A. (2015). World Scout Jamboree Japan 2015. Retrieved from World Scout Jamboree Japan 2015: http://www.23wsj.jp/about-23wsj.html
WOSM. (2014). www.scout.org. Retrieved from www.scout.org: https://www.scout.org/sites/default/files/library_files/20140425IntlEventsList_0.pdf