Why troop meeting pioneering activities? Because a race or challenge revolving around pioneering skills is involving and fun, and requires cooperation and teamwork. Choosing a successful activity is a sure-fire proposition—there are a host of pioneering-related Scout meeting challenges that are tried and true and ready to do. Just make sure the Scouts are ready to put the skills into action before implementing the activity.
What are pioneering skills? They’re definitely more than just knowing the ropes.
What makes it fun? One thing about pioneering—it’s primarily a twofold process. First something’s built, then something’s used (enjoyed). So, when pioneering skills are a central focus of the interpatrol event, the element of fun ultimately enters the picture as the challenge’s culmination! For example, Everyone on the Tripod is a wonderful interpatrol competition. If the challenge was for each patrol merely to race and build a tripod, the activity would be a dud. It’s that final act where everyone gets to climb on board resulting in the inevitable smiling and cheers of success that make it fun! Simple concept, right? By the same token, the real fun is not building an H-Frame Trestle to make a chariot, it’s racing it; it’s not joining Scout Staves together to make a long fishing pole, it’s catching the rat trap; it’s not constructing a Scout Stave Launcher, it’s seeing how far and accurately it can launch projectiles.
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 square lashing is the basic type of lashing for most pioneering projects. The more a Scout ties them, the more they become like second nature. That means, when the tying of an efficient and tight square lashing is “no sweat,” building a pioneering structure will be easier and more successful. This, of course, makes the experience more fun.
So, to assure the Scouts are ready and able to tackle projects that are challenging, fun, and rewarding, they need to feel confident and happy they can easily tie tight square lashings.
This challenge is very simple, but, it’s fun, and requires each patrol to tie eight tight square lashings. It’s great for new Scouts and a useful team-building activity and practice session “disguised” as a fun, fast-paced interpatrol competition.
Materials for Each Patrol:
two 8-foot x 4-inch spars
four 3-foot x 2-inch ladder rungs
eight 15-foot x 1/4-inch lashing ropes
Method: with the above materials, each patrol will lash together a ladder with four rungs, spacing the rungs FROM THE BOTTOM ABOUT ONE FOOT APART, using eight square lashings. When sturdy, the whole patrol will stand the ladder up and take turns climbing to the top.
As stated by John Sweet in Scout Pioneering, “The chariot race originated at Gilwell in the early days of Leader Training and for many years was used on every Scout Wood Badge Course as a classic demonstration of B.P.’s method in action:
the Patrol as the unit of activity
the immediate application of newly acquired skills (Square Lashing, Diagonal Lashing)
the construction of a basic unit in mainline pioneering (the trestle)
light-hearted competition between Patrols”
The classic chariot race has been run in a variety of ways. This one uses an H-Frame Trestle, which is the basic component of many pioneering projects. For that matter, in pioneering circles when we refer to a trestle, we mean the H-Frame, so there should be no confusion. As stated, there are a variety of ways to run a chariot race. One thing to note: depending on how the chariot is transported, it can be hard on turf, so think twice before dragging it on a nice lawn! That’s the very reason why one way to run it is to have the rider hold on as the trestle is literally picked up and carried by at least four patrol members. Many times, when the chariot is dragged, the “charioteer” simply stands on the ledger and holds onto the transom, as patrol members grab onto any part of the trestle they can reach. But, to imitate an actual chariot to the fullest extent, the rider should grab a hold of a rope serving as the “reins” while two other Scouts act as “wheels” keeping the chariot upright, as patrol members pull the chariot like horses using two hauling lines tied to the transom at each leg.
From: Scout Pioneering – Patrols in Action, by John Sweet
This interpatrol activity can be presented indoors or outdoors. If indoors, and the trestle is dragged, care should be taken to avoid scuffing the floor of the church fellowship hall or damaging the carpet. The following is furnished for each patrol:
Materials (Heavier Version)
two 8-foot x 2 to 3-inch diameter spars for the legs
four 6-foot x 2 to 3-inch diameter spars for the ledger, transom, and cross braces (The ledgers can be 4 to 6 feet in length.
nine 15-foot lashing ropes
one 10-foot lashing rope for the reins
two 15-foot lashing ropes for the hauling lines
Materials (Light Version)
six Scout Staves
nine lashing ropes (6 feet will do for the 8 square lashings and a 10-footer for the diagonal lashing)
one 10-foot lashing rope for the reins
two 15-foot lashing ropes for the hauling lines
Note 1: When using Scout Staves (Light Version), it will be necessary to angle the legs inward from the ledger to the transom. When the angle between the legs and the ledger is less than 90º, the lashings are much less likely to slip down over the smooth surface of the Scout Stave. That will mean, the distance between the legs where the transom is to be lashed will need to be less than the distance between the legs where the ledger is to be lashed.
Note 2: Since the Scout Stave comprising the ledger will bow and possibly break if the feet of the charioteer are not planted as near as possible to the legs, it is necessary to lash the ledger to the legs at a width that will correspond comfortably with the size of the charioteer.
On signal, each patrol will build a trestle as per the above drawing. As soon as their “chariot” is built and they have selected a “charioteer” (usually their lightest member), two members to hold the trestle upright, and their “horses,” they run a specified course or race to a turn-around-line and back to where they started.
Note: A Mark II Square Lashing can be used to spring the spars together at the X-brace, in lieu of a diagonal lashing.
If the site where you hold your meetings can feature a “permanent” crossbar about 10 feet high, then your Scouts can frequently practice and enjoy this activity whenever the opportunity is presented. Otherwise, erecting the crossbar is itself a mini-pioneering challenge, and if you have the grounds, can be regularly put up by a patrol prior to or during as many meetings as desired.
Also referred to as the Rope-Throw-Log-Lift Game and the Heaving Bar, this is an activity requiring a series of rope-handling and knot-tying skills. Because the skills that are called into play aren’t normally combined in such a sequence, and because there’s an element of fast-paced, fun competition, those Scouts knowing how to tie the featured knots most often get a kick out of giving it a go. The activity can be a competition to complete the task in the fastest time between individual Scouts or played with a team of three Scouts, each assigned a specific task.
Here’s how Adolph Peschke describes this activity in the 1993 edition of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet:
This game is intended to develop the knot tying skills of an individual Scout or of a team of three Scouts. It is important to know that the knots used (clove hitch, timber hitch, sheep shank) are each tied in a typical application for each knot. Additionally, you will develop the skills of coiling and throwing a rope.
To prepare for this challenge, you should practice tying the individual knots and coiling and throwing a rope. The challenge starts for a single Scout with the rope coiled ready to throw. The rope is thrown over the cross spar. If the throw misses the mark, the Scout recoils the rope and throws again. If the throw is good, he uses the end of the rope he is holding to tie a clove hitch on the stake next to where he’s standing.
Next he moves to the end of the rope that was thrown over the cross spar and uses it to tie a timber hitch around a short length of log (about 4 inches in diameter and 4 feet long). Then he ties a half hitch around one end of the log (forming a Killick Hitch).
To complete the challenge, he moves to the part of the rope between the stake and the upright structure, and ties a sheep shank to shorten the rope enough to suspend the log above the ground.
When the challenge is played with a team of three Scouts, the first Scout throws the rope over the cross spar and ties the clove hitch on the stake. the second Scout moves to the log and ties the timber hitch with the additional half hitch. The third Scout ties a sheep shank to shorten the rope and hold the log off the ground. The challenge comes when the game is played while being timed with a stopwatch. As a patrol, the times of the individual Scouts can be added up for a total patrol score.
The following materials will be needed so that three Scouts or three teams of Scouts can play simultaneously:
three 50-foot x 1/4 or 3/8-inch throwing ropes
two 8 to 10-foot x 2 to 3-inch legs
one 10-foot x 2 to 3-inch crossbar
two 15-foot x 1/4-inch lashing ropes
three 4-foot x 4-inch logs
four 20-foot guylines
To set up the upright structure, lash the cross bar to the legs with tight square lashings. About 3/4 of the way up each crossbar, attach two guylines with a roundturn with two half hitches. Stand up the structure where it will be positioned, and hammer the stakes about 12 feet out from the legs at 45° angles. So that good tension can be applied to each leg, you can attach the guylines to the stakes with a simple rope tackle.
On the throwing side, space out three stakes between the legs and hammer them in to the ground about 25 feet from the structure. On the other side space out the three logs.