Related to Scout Pioneering are a variety of campcraft challenges that can be incorporated into the troop meeting agenda. A relevant upside is, these activities require putting skills into action that were gained during instructional sessions. Appropriately, these skills come into play in a way that is challenging and fun.
Of course, campcraft encompasses more than just Pioneering, though Pioneering is often central to the rewarding experience inherent in Scouting’s outdoor program. The campcraft challenges in this post also include activities related to general knotting, woods tools, fire building, navigation, and some first aid Scout skills too.
Healthy competition between patrols can have a positive outcome when handled in the right spirit. Naturally, when patrol makeup is homogenous, there’s more of a level playing field. But, when patrols are organized by age, to compensate for the difference in skill levels, certain handicaps might be introduced. In this instance or when individual patrol attendance is disproportionate, dividing the troop into equal crews is also always a practical approach.
Scoring and points are arbitrary—no hard, fast rule. Keeping track of patrol points for these activities (and awarding points for various other criteria) can be adopted and contribute towards patrol spirit. But, the presentation of the activities themselves carry their own rewards translating into involvement, enthusiasm, and fun.
Team Building Opportunity. The challenge referred to as Crossing the Alligator Pit is an activity that requires 100% cooperation and teamwork. The Scout on the A-Frame “walker” is totally reliant on his fellow Scouts to keep him aloft and facilitate his forward progress. The whole time that he’s bringing into play his balance along with his leg, shoulder and arm muscles, it’s the members of his patrol that not only greatly increase the effect of his movements, but also keep him from spilling over.
Crossing the Alligator Pit can initially be tackled using what we can term “group leadership,” where several members of the patrol all contribute their opinions on how to best get the “walker” moving and not falling over. As the successful crew experiences the necessity of coordinating the handling of the guylines with the movements of the Scout on the “walker,” invariably one Scout will need to assume the role of calling the shots and keeping everyone on their toes.
Scout Spirit! This was best exampled during a District Camporee devoted to Junior Leader Training. Scouts from Troop 822 out of Mount Vernon, SC poured themselves into the activity and not only mastered the challenge, but provided spectators with some fun and excitement as well. They approached the task of building their A-Frame with enthusiasm. Finishing in good form, they wasted no time in standing up the structure and holding it in position with their guylines. As soon as their rider climbed on board, it became obvious: it was the top two lines that required the most unfaltering attention to keep the A-Frame vertical. The Scout on the A-Frame was exuberant as he discovered how to swing the walker forward one leg at a time. The patrol then totally got the hang of how to use the bottom guylines to add that real oomph to the “walker” propelling it forward. As they smoothly traversed the fifteen feet of the “alligator pit,” their leader reminded us of a coxswain, rhythmically yelling out, “Pull!” to the crew manning the oars in a boat race. “One, two, THREE!…one two, THREE!…one two, THREE!” On each “THREE!” the rider swung one leg of the “walker” forward, as the Scout manning that leg’s forward guyline simultaneously heaved on his rope, while the others remained alert to help guide and steady the A-Frame. Their “walker” actually walked in rhythm and it was quite a spectacle!
They kept on going!Crossing the Alligator Pit is more challenging than the majority of other interpatrol competitions, demanding a full measure of concentration and cooperation. With a well-lashed A-Frame and a rider who gets the knack of balancing his weight and swinging the legs of the “walker,” a patrol that can keep their structure upright will eventually be able to successfully cover the fifteen foot distance. Fifteen feet is fifteen feet and decently doable, especially on flat terrain. A hundred and fifty feet up a hill is a horse of a different color, and that’s what this patrol from Troop 822 challenged themselves to do. They kept going across the field up a hill towards the dining hall, and they didn’t stop until they reached the top! When they finally stopped, it was already getting dark outside. Their persistence, and teamwork was nothing short of amazing! These Scouts went far, and it makes sense that with all their determination, they’ll continue to go far in whatever direction they set out for themselves.
The real challenge built into this activity comes into play after the lashing is finished. The patrol is simply building a very well-lashed A-frame. As with all pioneering endeavors, teamwork is essential. With this interpatrol challenge, it’s absolutely necessary! Cossing the Alligator Pit affords a superlative team building opportunity. Read about and view one patrol’s very impressive accomplishment!
Materials for each patrol:
two 8-foot x 4-inch spars to serve as A-frame shear legs
one 6-foot x 3-inch spar to serve as a ledger at the base (crossbar)
three 15-foot x 1/4-inch lashing ropes
six 20-foot x 1/4-inch lashing ropes (for guylines)
Method: The “Alligator Pits” are marked on the ground, one for each patrol, 15′ x 15′ square. Patrols line up on one side of their pits. On signal the patrols lash together an A-Frame “walker” using either three square lashings or two square lashings with a shear lashing at the top. At the top they attach two 20-foot lashing ropes, and attach two more ropes at each corner of the crossbar, using roundturns with two half hitches. These are the guylines. The patrol then stands the “walker” upright, and one member climbs on the crossbar. One Scout mans each guyline to help steady and to help propel the Scout on the crossbar as he tries to “walk” the A-Frame across the pit. Only the A-frame “walker” is allowed inside the pit. Note: This activity should only be held indoors if the floor is carpeted. Generally, tile or wood floors will be too slippery and hence minimize the likelihood of success.