July 20, 2010 > Scouting activities, year-round
Scouting activities, year-round
By Simon Wong
Photos By Simon Wong
When most people think of "summer camp" for scouts the image that springs to mind is a week away from home, under canvas, engaged in canoeing, trekking, rock climbing, learning to identify flora and fauna and other similar activities with evenings spent around a camp fire, i.e. a jamboree, but Boy Scouts of America (BSA) summer camps come in many different forms.
BSA has camping programs for Grades 1 - 12. At Cub level (Grades 1 - 5), there are day camps from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, with different activities from craft to science. Participants need not register for the entire week. Overnight, weekend camps are also available for Grades 2 and 3. First Graders camp in the spring.
"All staff members are volunteers - parents, older boy scouts with leadership skills and community members who have a hobby or interest they can share. Some parents simply volunteer to walk the kids between activity stations. On average, there is one adult for every two kids. Without their involvement, these camps wouldn't be possible. We're most fortunate," explained Joe Barton, Mission Peak District Executive.
"The fee to attend covers the cost of camp tee-shirts, craft supplies, archery equipment and so on and is reinvested in the program. Given the volunteer staff, there are no administrative overheads. Kids bring their own bagged lunch. We need to keep the costs low, so start at 9 a.m. just after breakfast and everyone is home in time for dinner," added Barton.
Troop and neighborhood scouting activities often incur an expense. Apart from that, all other activities are optional. The BSA San Francisco Bay Area Council has a scholarship program called Campership which assists any boy who wishes to attend camp but cannot afford to do so. Scouting is for everyone and financial hardship should not be an obstacle to participation.
The Mission Peak District summer Day Camp ended on Friday, July 16 with a camp fire ceremony at Birch Grove Park, Newark. Throughout the week, stations manned by parents and boy scouts provided 135 Cubs with opportunities to earn achievement pins and belt loops (the Cub-equivalent of a merit badge). Games such as dodge ball, sponge "volleyball," learning activities such as nature and bug identification, educational talks, fire craft, paper craft, cross-bow practice using a clothes peg to unleash the energy in a rubber band to shoot a makeshift bolt consisting of a plastic straw with a bead as the head and archery were some of the many pastimes available.
Thanks to the generosity of the City of Newark, and especially to Newark Councilman Al Nagy, the day camp at Birch Grove Park, which has an enclosed and secure softball field, is the only one in the Bay Area that features archery.
Although the economy has impacted attendance at camps, overall scouting membership has increased in the Tri-City area by 10 percent. The Mission Peak District summer Day Camp can accommodate up to 200 participants.
The aim of these camps is to enable advancement in a fun way and to allow children to be active, outdoors and learn to follow a healthy lifestyle. The children look up to and aspire to be like the older scouts. One of the core values of the BSA camp program is youth leadership.
Parents who volunteer may also bring their younger children. There is a Chipmunk Program, or Tot Lot, where Cubs' younger siblings may play and engage in their own activities under supervision.
"District Camp directors and I work as a team to devise a five-year plan of themes for our annual camps," said Cub Scout Day Camp Chair Kathy Mabie. "This year's theme was 'Adventure.' Next year's will be 'Space.' Astronomers, NASA scientists, anyone with a telescope and expertise are welcome to volunteer at lunchtime so our kids learn."
"We'll have a debrief at the end of this year's camp, evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, solicit parents' input and see how we can improve before resuming the planning process and marketing the camps," Mabie added.
BSA runs camps year-round. There will be a Water Slide Day at Aqua Adventure, Fremont, on July 21. Enrolment opens in February/March for summer day camps. Registration for fall camps begins in August/September; dragon boat races and Cub Scout games in Central Park, Fremont, are scheduled for September 11. "Camping Connection," an overnight, weekend camp near Livermore, is for new scouts who join in September/October.
For more information about Boy Scouts of America in the Bay Area or to register for camps, visit www.sfbac.org or call (510) 577-9000.