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Outdoor Skill Instruction, A Great Course!

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  • Rick Seymour
    ... I was Course Chair for our Council s first IOLS course, which took place November 2-4. Modifications that we made, and changes we will make next time
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 9, 2001
      From: Michael Pagelkopf writes:

      > I would like to hear from any trainer that has experience doing
      > [the new] OLS during the winter months. Specfically what
      > modifications did you make.

      I was Course Chair for our Council's first IOLS course, which took place
      November 2-4. Modifications that we made, and changes we will make next
      time include:

      1) CHECK-IN. Next time I will announce check-in as 6:00 PM, rather than
      the "6:00-7:00 PM" example. Not a single participant arrived before 7:10.

      2) CAMPSITE SELECTION: The Instructor separated the Patrols as far as
      possible. This session was done by Patrol in the field as they arrived.
      Set up was done in the rain, but since most of the Patrols had met previous
      to the course, there was not a lot of confusion, although it took from 7:10
      - 9:00 PM. The Instructor also held a brief discussion indoors, following

      3) EXPLAIN THE PATROL METHOD: As Course Chair I took the role of Senior
      Patrol Leader and expanded these opening remarks to a talk about the
      significance of William Hillcourt bringing the Patrol Method to the BSA.
      For this I used Nelson Block's essay on Hillcourt from "Two Lives of a
      Hero" and contrasted it with BSA theory previous to Hillcourt's arrival,


      Before the "modernization" of Scouting in the 1960s, the combination of
      Patrol Method and Outdoor Skills Instruction was once the very heart of
      Wood Badge. The potential emotional impact of this powerful combination on
      adult participants should not be overlooked.

      4) CRACKER BARREL: We added a small PLC Meeting toward the end of the
      cracker barrels, in which I handed out schedules to the Patrol Leaders with
      the session times left blank. We then discussed the next-day's events. We
      decided that the hour allowed for Breakfast was unrealistic. The Patrol
      Leaders moved wake-up to 6:00 AM, since most of them were accustomed to
      waking at this time anyway. Patrol Leaders were also asked at this time to
      produce one skit and one song for the next evening's Campfire.

      5) FLAG CEREMONY: We also moved the Opening Flag Ceremony to Saturday
      morning. There seems to be increased interest in this aspect of Scouting
      now. The participants suggested and organized their own Flag Lowering
      Ceremony Saturday afternoon. This session might be more efficient if you
      have a large number of flags for flag-folding practice.

      6) SATURDAY DINNER AT CAMPSITES: We ditched this completely and scheduled
      an additional Dutch Oven Cooking Instruction Session during this period to
      cover requirements for First Class Cooking by Patrols. Two participants
      from each Patrol were led through the preparation of Dutch Oven Chicken Pot
      Pie, as the rest of the Patrol Members watched. You will need outdoor
      lighting for this. This additional session was VERY POPULAR!

      7) INDIVIDUAL COACHING: This was held indoors, due to weather. Additional
      Knot-Tying coaching was requested by a number of participants, and was very
      popular. Woods Tools would have been too, but darkness and full bellies
      discouraged this from occurring outdoors despite having plenty of lanterns.

      8) CAMPFIRE PROGRAM: We used a half to 3/4 hour of the Coaching period for
      an indoor session on Campfire Program building, with some additional time
      for practice of the skits and songs. We then walked to the Campfire Area
      and practiced the "Fire Site Preparation and Building" skills from the
      morning's session to build a campfire from rain-soaked wood. The raw
      electric energy of this session surprised both participants and staffers
      alike, with some of the seasoned staff remarking that it was perhaps the
      most enthusiastic adult training campfire they had ever witnessed.

      9) INTERFAITH WORSHIP: We moved this to Saturday Evening, between the
      indoor and outdoor Campfire Program sessions. This was conducted by a
      seasoned "Four-Beader," who also served as the remote "Scoutmaster" figure
      for the weekend. Ron Wagner is also the author of the two-volume "Cooking
      With a Dutch Oven" cookbook that we provided to each participant and used
      for our second cooking session. The Scouts' Own service included songs
      like "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America" as well as a skit (or
      "stunt") in which the voice of God keeps interrupting a Scout who is
      attempting to mechanically recite a prayer without really thinking about
      what he is saying. The educational value of "serious" skits or "stunts"
      with a message are probably over-looked these days. I don't have this
      particular dialogue scanned yet, but traditional ember-glow "message"
      material can be found at:


      10) SUNDAY BREAKFAST: Wake-up was at 6:00 AM, and we started the sessions
      at about 8:00 AM, rather than the scheduled 8:30.

      11) PACKING & HIKING TECHNIQUES: We expanded this to a 1 3/4 hour session
      which included an introduction to High Adventure backpacking techniques in
      addition to the Tenderfoot and 2nd Class requirements. This was BY FAR the
      single most popular session as judged by the Course Evaluation forms.

      12) MAP & COMPASS: This was my session, which I expanded to two hours to
      include actual Map & Compass work. I enlarged a USGS map of the camp to a
      8 1/2 X 11" size and pasted an enlarged Magnetic North arrow in the lower
      corner from which the participants drew their own meridians, see:


      Each Patrol then had its own "Orienteering Course" using cabins as
      check-points. Each participant was responsible for one leg of his Patrol's

      13) CLOSING ASSEMBLY: This was held at 12:00. Staff cleaned and packed
      during the morning sessions. We skipped the lunch.

      14) BREAK CAMP: Patrols broke camp AFTER the Closing Assembly. The camp
      was deserted by 1:00 PM. I was the last to leave.

      15) COURSE EVALUATION: We scheduled 15 Minutes for this prior to the
      Closing Assembly.

      a) According to the provided Form, the most "Valued" and "Enjoyed" sessions
      (in order of their popularity), were: 1) Hiking/Gear/Backpacking 2)
      Map/Compass 3) with Dutch Oven Cooking and Knots (yes, knots) tied for

      b) Despite the strictly "Hands On" nature of the course, a number of
      participants suggested even MORE "Hands On" time and "less sitting". We
      had tried to make room for the Saturday Flag Session by cutting the length
      of the Woods Tools session with the intention of encouraging additional
      time during the Saturday evening Coaching session. This didn't happen and
      it was noticed and specifically mentioned by a number of participants as an
      example of more Hands On time needed.

      c) We allowed the registration of one Patrol of participants who did not
      previously complete the three preceding Boy Scouting training sessions. I
      think from this Patrol we had one Course Evaluation form saying that they
      did not receive enough "advance information" about "what to bring, what to
      expect, purpose of course, etc."

      d) Many participants mentioned the lack of "free time" and the need for
      more lengthy bathroom breaks. However, I do not intend to add "free time"
      to the next course.

      16) PERSONAL RECORD: These are the Tenderfoot - First Class "Sign-Off
      Sheets" from the back of the IOLS Course Outline Book. We provided each
      participant with a copy on Friday night, and made sure that they kept them
      current. I collected them with the other feed-back forms. These may seem
      silly to some, but they were a great reminder to the very diverse training
      staff members that the purpose of the course centered on the outdoor skills
      needed for Advancement. I also think that they helped the participants
      focus their questions. I will use them again.

      17) SELF-EVALUATION: We also used this form and asked the participants to
      hand them in with their Course Evaluation Forms. These were far more
      specific than any other feedback in indicating what specific Tenderfoot -
      First Class Skills were not covered as well as others.

      Given the above changes, Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills is a
      surprisingly great addition to BSA training! It was a significantly
      positive experience not only for the participants, but for the Training
      Staff as well!

      Yours in Scouting,

      Rick Seymour

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