Pioneering Curriculum

POSITIONING!—————————— PULLING! ————————————POSING! (Pioneering Rules!)

PREMISE: There are only positive reasons to include Pioneering as an integral part of the Scouting program, and when presented properly, there are only positive outcomes.

STEP BY STEP: That said, let’s remember the idiom, you’ve got to learn to walk before you can run. Here’s how John Thurman puts it: ”There is only one activity in my experience where it pays to start at the top, and that is swimming. It is true that Pioneering has often been directly or unexpectedly linked with swimming, but if any Patrol, Troop, or Scouter tries to start pioneering before establishing a sound background of basic Scout training in regard to knotting and lashing, then pioneering will become unpopular and will go down in the history of the Patrol or Troop as a failure.” (Pioneering Projects)



ACTIVITY-BASED: Now, with all good intentions to provide our Scouts with a fun-filled pioneering program that is successful and rewarding, let’s remember this: “It is all very well to learn to make knots, bends, and hitches, and to lash things together. Up to a point this is an interesting activity, but inevitably it begins to pall unless the Scout is given a chance to do something effective, interesting and to some degree adventurous with his knowledge.” (Pioneering for the Patrol)

An Activity-Based Approach to Instruction
An Activity-Based Approach to Instruction!
A Hitching Race!
A Hitching Race!

A creative curriculum, serving as an effective framework for a successful pioneering program, can be implemented and modified as necessary.

  • Each skill is introduced as needed, relating to a specific pioneering goal.
  • Activities are presented in conjunction with each new skill.
  • Combined skills contribute to possessing the pioneering wherewithal needed to complete more involved troop meeting activities.
  • Pioneering-based troop meeting challenges ultimately pave the the way towards larger outdoor activities—the successful building of real pioneering structures e.g. learning Square Lashing and Tripod Lashing, leading up to an Indoor Ladder Race and an Everyone on the Tripod activity, leading up to building a Double Tripod Chippewa Kitchen.

THE CURRICULUM (developmental stage)

Pioneering Stumbling Blocks


14 thoughts on “Pioneering Curriculum”

  1. Larry,

    Hi from Bucks Country, PA. Enjoy reading your site,, so thanks for your efforts to support that work!

    I’m an Assistant Scoutmaster from Troop 230, an Eagle Scout (’66), and frankly a perplexed Pioneer Skill troop advisor. Here’s my question –

    Two Spar Sheer Lashing

    I learned to do Two Spar Sheer Lashings using a Wrap that went completely aroundthe two spars. I believe that’s consistent with Figure 120 from your web page here:

    It’s also consistent with every other site I looked at. The use of a “Figure of Eight” Lashing was reserved for three spars, and used in making things like tripods.

    Our boys were taught at camp to use the “Figure of Eight” Lashing on two spars. They also point out to me that the Pioneering Merit Badge pamphlet (2008 edition), pages 62 & 66 appear to show using the Figure of Eight configuration for two spars.

    What gives? Was there a change, and is there some technical reason why I should no longer teach the “old” way and adopt the “Figure of Eight” method for two spars?

    Frankly, I tried it on a Monkey Bridge Trestle last weekend, and found it to be clearly inferior to the “traditional” way.

    Thank you for your kind patience in reading through this. I just want to make sure I’m teaching the boys the right thing, especially since the change to me seems like a real mistake.

    Yours in Scouting,
    Tom Lorandeau
    Assistant Scoutmaster
    Yardley, PA

    1. Hi Tom,

      Thanks for contacting me.

      For my euphemistically polite sentiments regarding the current Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet, click here.

      I’ve long been disheartened that the current version is replete with misleading and out and out incorrect information! I also find it infuriating. Mainly because some of this stuff is being passed on to Scouts from those who don’t know better and are just referring to the pamphlet. It prompted me to approach the Chairman of the Merit Badge Maintenance Task Force and bring it to his attention. He apologized and agrees that it’s unfortunate and that sadly the next printing is pretty much a reprinting of the current version. This all WILL be rectified in the hopefully not to distant future. I promise!

      Those who actually DO pioneering (instead of, for the most part, just write about it) NEVER make a shear lashing with a figure eight configuration. It’s awkward, Especially when it comes to taking the frapping turns between the spars, which are already so separated. Surely not that I know of. For a good A-frame, use the shear lashing with 8-10 plain turns as illustrated. Three square lashings also work great, tying the top one first, which puts a neat amount of strain on the lashing to make it good and tight. A diagonal lashing at the top works well too.

      1. Larry,

        Many thanks for the response. Feel free to use my note. Your response will help give me the credibility to work with the older boys in suggesting they do it the “old” way. Their response to date has been that it’s me that’s stuck in the “old” way and out of date!


      2. For further clarification, the figure of eight approach to tying a Two Pole Shear Lashing is espoused by Gerald Findley in his superlative book Rope Works. Mr. Findley refers to this form of Shear Lashing as Shear Lashing with Racking Turns and states it’s stronger than one with plain turns. Maybe I’ve been too hasty in my judgement to dismiss its use in A-Frame constructions, but as of this writing, for simple Scout Pioneering usages, I still much prefer the way we’ve always been tying it: plain turns, no weaving the wraps in and out. Seems a whole lot more practical, easier, faster, and STILL appears to yield a better result.

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