More on “DofE canoe expedition training…”

More on “DofE canoe expedition training…”

As highlighted in last month’s newsletter, the Coronavirus lockdown hasn’t stopped a group of 16 Explorers from Craigalmond, Braid, Pentland and West Lothian Districts starting the training for their Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) expeditions by canoe…online.  It came about from the chance encounter of a Leader with interests in enhancing the uptake of paddle sport in Scouting and an Assistant Regional Commissioner knowing about an unmet desire amongst Explorers to do their DofE expedition by some other means than hiking.  After discussions with the Explorers’ DESCs over coffees and cake, a plan was agreed.  Its lead, Steve Hankin, picks up with what’s been achieved despite coronavirus and the latest developments to enhance paddle expeditions across the Region…

Having got the go-ahead and the opportunity to work with a ready-made group of Explorers keen to do their Silver or Gold Award expeditions by canoe, the plan involved a mix of shore-based and on-water training & practice, covering all the aspects needed for an expedition by canoe.  A number of elements (e.g. campcraft, first aid, navigation, route planning and risk assessment) were going to be done in conjunction with the hike-based training programmes for the DofE Awards running jointly between the Craigalmond, Braid and Pentland Districts.  It was all coming together nicely.  Then came lockdown.

Not wanting to lose the interest or momentum, and knowing that the DofE Training Frameworks have a substantive amount of knowledge development as well as skills development, we proposed to make good use of the time by delivering the knowledge-based aspects of the training programme through a series of 8 weekly online sessions using a mix of interactive and instructional activities.

Content for each week was developed to suit online meetings, using images & short videos, discussions captured on the Zoom Whiteboard, quiz questions and break-out rooms.  Covering the basics about safety, equipment, parts of the canoe and even what the different paddling strokes look like, is intended to help the paddlers feel a little more prepared for getting on the water once face-to-face Scouting resumes.  A Leader team made up of two DESCs, a DofE Leader and an Explorer Leader ensured online safeguarding and provided invaluable support to the sessions with input from their experiences on and off the water.

Having completed the initial knowledge training, feedback from the Explorers has been positive (“The sessions have been really enjoyable and built a good foundation of our paddling skills” Callum Smith, Cramond ESU) and interest in continuing sessions over the summer has been expressed by the majority taking part. The Explorers have put forward suggestions for further online meetings they want to do, including discussion of expedition food & menu planning, a quiz and a DofE Q&A session to give them some insight into what’s expected in the expedition’s assessment.

Getting the training underway during lockdown is intended to have numerous benefits, some obvious and some that are perhaps more subtle.  The sessions have given the group (from six ESUs) the early opportunity to get to know each other and the Leader team, as well as helping them develop their knowledge of something that’s new to many of them.  Whilst the Explorers all have different paddle sport abilities, they share a common goal of wanting a new challenge in how they do their DofE expeditions.

It’s very much hoped that this new initiative in training, practice and support for paddle expeditions and longer-term skills development, will encourage young people in Scouting to take up the opportunity to pass on their knowledge and skills to those embarking on paddle expeditions in the years ahead.  To support this and establish a base for local DofE paddle expedition training, developments are underway to reactivate the Explorer Scout Unit based at Longcraig Scout Water Activity Centre over the coming months and establish a programme for Explorers to gain skills in paddle- and water-sports activities and leadership that can contribute towards their Top Awards and, in time, as part of the ESYL programme and the long-term sustainability of skills at Longcraig.

If you are interested in any of this, or have Explorers looking to do their expedition by canoe in 2021 and interested in training, get in touch!

Steve Hankin
Assistant Scout Leader

Salmonberry clean-up by Pink Panther and Cramond Explorers

Salmonberry clean-up by Pink Panther and Cramond Explorers

On 19th January, 30 explorer scouts and leaders from Pink Panthers Explorers and Cramond explorers chopped down, pulled up and burned the invasive Salmonberry from Corstorphine hill.

Salmonberry is an incredibly fast-growing invasive plant species which is native to the west coast of America from Alaska all the way to California, meaning it is very versatile and grows easily in very different climates. Salmonberry can become very woody and hard to manage if left to its own devices and sprouts can grow very quickly from the main roots. It may also become difficult for us and animals to walk through if allowed to grow too large. Salmonberry can end up killing the other plants around it as they no longer receive the sunlight they require to grow. It can also prevent plants from growing for the same reasons.  

The Explorers spent the day tirelessly working to pull up these plants and large roots. Everyone got stuck in, especially when burning the Salmonberry!

 They managed to clear a huge area of Corstorphine hill saving many of the native plants and wildlife from this invasive plant and encourages the woods to flourish. Halfway through the day there was a delicious BBQ prepared by the ASU which gave everyone the energy for a final push. Our explorers were rewarded for their efforts with a trip up Corstorphine tower. A huge thank you goes to the rangers and Friends of Corstorphine Hill for allowing us access to the tower itself.

 Many of our explorers also used this project as an opportunity to achieve parts of their platinum or diamond chief scout awards. To achieve these top awards the explorers need to complete either bronze or silver DofE and also 2 or 4 activities on top of that from a list. This Salmonberry clear up gave our explorers the opportunity to research and participate in an environmental project that helps to improve their local environment. As a group we plan to make this project an annual event as although the explorers cleared a huge amount of the salmonberry there is still a lot to do before the incredibly invasive species that is salmonberry is almost completely eradicated, or a lot more tightly controlled, from Corstorphine hill. Hopefully as this gains traction even more young people and leaders from Cramond Explorers and Pink Panthers explorers will participate in this worthwhile event next year.

2nd Haddington Explorer Scouts Bushcraft & Survival Weekend

2nd Haddington Explorer Scouts Bushcraft & Survival Weekend

On Friday 4th October the 2nd Haddington Explorers ventured out to the idyllic location of Bolton Muir Woods, where we spent the weekend wild camping.

When everyone arrived, we spread out and found their ideal location to pitch their tents and hang their hammocks.

Task accomplished, we worked in collaboration to peg out a large parachute where we socialised and ate. Fulfilled, we went to bed.

Saturday morning bright and early we all made our way out of bed, where we ate breakfast and went over the itinerary for the day.

The main jobs for the day were building a table, prepping our meals, collecting/chopping firewood and creating a shelter where we would spend our second night.

The shelter took up the majority of our day as we built a structure out of wood and layered bracken over the top to make it more water resistant and add insulation.

After our achievement we dressed the game and prepped the veg for dinner. Once dinner was finished, we spent a cold and wet night in the shelter.

Once we woke up and finished breakfast, we packed our bags but left our tents for later.

Neville Kilkenny came and educated us about the different types of fungi and how to identify them. After we ventured further into the forest we chopped and cook the edible mushrooms we had collected and had them for our lunch. We didn’t have long left until we had to leave so we packed up the remaining of our equipment and left.

Scout Ambassadors Visit Edinburgh

Scout Ambassadors Visit Edinburgh

Scout Ambassadors Phoebe Smith & Dwayne Fields visited Edinburgh on 3 December while on a 1300km journey walking from Dunnet Head to Lizard Point. A group of Explorer Scouts and leaders gathered to hear their story. Their journey takes them from the most northern to the most southern points of mainland Britain over 40 days. Both are raising money and awareness for an expedition to the Antarctic in November 2020 in which they will take a group of disadvantaged young people on an expedition of a lifetime. Two Scouts will also be invited to join the expedition and the selection process will start soon.

Phoebe talked about her upbringing in North Wales. Despite growing up on the edge of Snowdonia National Park, it took a trip to Uluru in Australia to make her realise the value of wild camping and exploring the great outdoors. Phoebe writes books and articles for travel magazines about the joys of wild camping.

Dwayne grew up in Jamaica with his great-grandmother and lived a carefree life spent entirely outdoors as his house had no electricity. At the age of 6 he moved to London to live with his mother and he struggled to fit in. At school he was asked to draw his favourite TV character – but he had never seen TV! Fortunately he was placed at school next to a boy who became his friend and who one night was taken to Cubs by the boy’s mother while she was looking after Dwayne. The Cub leader refused to let Dwayne sit and watch so he joined in and from that point on Scouting changed his life. In a more dramatic twist, Dwayne recalls the moment he was shot at twice by a gang member in a dispute over a bike. It made Dwayne realise that he should spend less time conforming and more time pursuing his dreams. In 2010 Dwayne set himself his first of many challenges, becoming the first black Briton to walk over 400 miles to the magnetic North Pole.

Phoebe and Dwayne described their journey since leaving Dunnet Head on 18 November and the kindness and interesting experiences they have encountered on the way. They are now a third of the way into their journey which ends at Lizard Point on 1 January 2020.

Dwayne was keen to quiz each Explorer on their favourite badges and what they did to achieve them. He also wanted to know what expedition each Explorer is planning. Perhaps hearing about this amazing expedition will persuade those Explorers who attended to go on an amazing expedition of their own in the near future. As Dwayne and Phoebe themselves explained, it’s never too late to pursue your dreams!

Congratulations to Lauderdale Explorer Scout Young Leaders

Congratulations to Lauderdale Explorer Scout Young Leaders

Four Explorer Scout Young Leaders from Lauderdale Scouts recently achieved their Young Leader Belts.

Aksel and Dylan are Explorer Scout Young Leaders for Scouts; Amy and Ellyn are Explorer Scout Young Leaders for Cubs.

To earn their belts, they completed all of their modules. Their missions included a variety of outdoor activities, such as setting up a night hike in Thirlestane Castle grounds in Lauder and organising a litter pick, and indoor activities, such as leading consultations with young people about badge choices/planning and moderating patrol leader forums. 

(Left to right): Dylan, Amy, Ellyn and Aksel.

Round-up of Explorers activities in 2019

Round-up of Explorers activities in 2019

Explorers have been involved in all manner of activities with their Units and Districts, often well beyond the confines of their hall, with the assistance of their excellent and committed leaders.  At a Regional level, interest in international Scouting continues to be high: a full contingent attended WSJ 2019; 27 will be attending ESJ 2020 in Poland; recruitment is under way for Blair Atholl 2020. 

Cooperation across Districts has been encouraged: a Regional Camp in September 2018; a number of joint projects on ESYL training and DofE; assisting with events like Holocaust Memorial Day in the Scottish Parliament (see photo) and the Walk for Autism.  The Explorers themselves always appreciate the chance to meet and share experiences with others and do so with great enthusiasm.

Almost half of our Explorers are ESYLs and this is widely recognised as a key part of Scouting, offering training and skills which help young people develop into responsible adults.  Most ESYLs find the experience extremely rewarding and the younger sections benefit hugely from their presence. The revised training programme is bedding in, and, as so often, the key is to involve many adults to share the tasks.  The Region has supported the introduction of the new Logbook which should now be being used by all ESYLs, and a scheme to ensure that all ESYLs can complete the important First Aid module.  It is also hoped to involve interested Explorers at Bonaly in a role similar to that of ESYL, following a pilot a couple of years ago.

We have a very encouraging number of candidates and have developed an effective model for expedition training and cooperation between Districts.  The key is working together and involving a range of people, rather than leaving one person to try to cover the significant amount of work required. 

Success here is linked to the improved support being given to help leaders acquire the permits required for the delivery of the Expedition section – T1, T2 and Nights Away.  DofE is the ideal way for Explorers to work systematically towards the Chief Scout’s Platinum and Diamond Awards and the prestigious Queen’s Scout Award. Initiatives are under way to encourage and support Explorers and young Adult Leaders to achieve these, particularly as they have until the age of 25 to do so.

And finally, three very different groups of Explorers from five Units in Braid and Craigalmond plus two Explorers from other Regions completed very successful Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expeditions in September 2019.  All the groups enjoyed the experience of getting to know new people and they all worked together extremely well. They appreciated the extended periods of conversation that replaced their phones and, perhaps as a result, one group took to identifying themselves and the leaders by names of characters from Lord of the Rings.  These Explorers did not just go through the motions but showed real commitment, supporting each other through the difficult bits and relishing the rewards – relaxing in the glorious sunshine over a long lunch or staring at the spectacular, starry skies.  By bringing young people and adults from different areas together to achieve this, these expeditions demonstrated the power of Scouting.

John Buchanan
ARC Explorer Scouts