On the last day of JamÓige 2016, the energy and enthusiasm of the hundreds of Cub Scouts was unleashed on the biggest backwoods base Scouting Ireland has ever hosted. In their Sixes, the Cubs got a chance work on fire lighting, food, and shelters. I got in contact with Mick McGrath, the Backwoods Adventure Skills team lead, to find out about the bases and how Backwoods can be used in the Cub Scout Programme.
The activities were shaped around these 3 fundamentals of backwoods. “For JamÓige I took elements from these to deliver to the Cubs so that they could take it away with them and pass onto others.” said Mick, “I wanted the Cubs to be capable of constructing a shelter, light a fire and filter water.” For the fire they got the Cub Scouts to make charred cloth and then to use this to light a fire. They placed it in a bundle of hay, striking it with a flint striker and carefully blowing on it until it ignited. The Cubs also made a water filters from plastic bottles and used natural elements, such as sand, gravel, moss, grass, to filter the water.
It is vital for all sections to have programme that helps the youth members develop their outdoor skills. Mick believes that “By passing on our knowledge to the Cubs at a young age we afford them the opportunity and time to become more skillful and educated in this Adventure Skill”, while simultaneously evoking “an appreciation in them for nature, the outdoors and our country side.” The skill set manifested in the backwoods adventure skills also has significance in the real world outside scouting. Mick explains activities like the Backwoods Adventure help children to “develop an ability to overcome obstacles, to adapt to changing environments, to have a positive approach and to think on your feet.” “The best approach to teaching Backwoods skills to children is to make it adventurous. All kids want to be Bear Grylls or Ray Mears” he added, the backwoods bases are ” pitched at their skill level, in a safe environment and to ensure that they come away from every event with a win – that way they will have an appetite for more.”
The event staff often get as much joy and satisfaction out of organising these activities as the Cub Scouts taking part in them. Mick says that his “favourite moments of running the Backwoods at JamÓige was when we took over 330 Sixers into the woods on the Sat night to teach them the bases”. All the Cubs then congregated on Monday morning to take part in the bases, with the Sixers assisting in the running of the activities. “On top of this, to stand at the top of the fields and see 2,428 Cubs all taking part in the biggest single backwoods event in the history of Scouting Ireland was certainly a sight to behold” elaborated Mick, “A lot of credit has to go to the Sixers and the staff who delivered the bases.”
That was pretty much the low down on backwoods at JamÓige 2016 and the importance and significance the backwoods skills hold in the development of these young members of Scouting Ireland in general. I’d like to thank Mick McGrath for his help with this piece.