Scout leader Ron Sellers shows Scout Cameron Longman (11) how to make a clove hitch knot. Below left: Nadine Painchaud (5) works on her Beaver Buggy. – Stephen Dafoe Photos
Sturgeon County – Every Wednesday night from September to May, boys and girls of all ages meet at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre and in the basement of the Morinville United Church to participate in a movement that has been around for more than a century. Started by Lord Robert Baden-Powell in 1907 as a means to take local youth camping, Scouting has expanded over the past 107 years, both geographically and in its mission to help youth “develop into capable, confident and well-rounded individuals, better prepared for success in the world.”
Scouting is strong and growing stronger in Morinville and Sturgeon County. 1st Morinville Scouting Movement treasurer, administrator and leader Pierre Blanchette said the local group consists of 65 children between the ages of five and 15 currently enrolled in the movement’s various groupings: Beavers, for ages five to seven; Cubs, for ages eight to 10; Scouts for ages 11 to 14; and Ventures for ages 15 and above.
Movement still relevant today
As a lieutenant general in the British Army, Baden-Powell fought in the Second Boer War and subsequently wrote a book for boys about reconnaissance and scouting. A year prior to the book’s publication, Baden-Powell took a group of local youth camping on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour in the south of England. It was there that he and the youth tested ideas for his book for young readers. Scouting for Boys, published in England in 1908, was based on that outing, coupled with knowledge found in the military leader’s earlier books on actual military scouting.
Today the movement continues to use the scout method, an informal education program emphasizing practical outdoor activities. Blanchette said regardless of the division, camping still forms an integral part of the organization today: Scouts and Venturers take part in outdoor camping, Beavers and Cubs traditionally take part in indoor camping. With respect to the latter group, a parent is required to accompany the child on the trip.
According to those active in the movement, neither the program, camping trips, nor scouting uniforms are out of fashion; the homage to another era is every bit as relevant and important today as when the ideas were created by the organization’s founder. “We honour our founder,” Blanchette said of carrying on Baden-Powell’s tradition. “It was started in the early 1900s with Lord Baden-Powell going camping with a local youth group. That’s how things got started. We honour our past but we move forward into the future.”
Like Blanchette, long-time Scout leader Richard Hughes finds involvement in the movement to be a rewarding experience. Hughes is currently Venturer Advisor for Scouts Canada and has been involved with First Morinville since the fall of 1994.
“Our family had just moved to Morinville from St. Albert where I had been a leader for six years with my two older sons,” Hughes recalled. “To avoid a lot of extra travel we transferred into the Morinville Group. Having my three sons involved in Scouting is the main reason for staying in Scouting. Being able to share my outdoor experiences with the youth of our communities and seeing them grow is very rewarding. Being a trainer for Scouts Canada also has allowed me to share experiences in Scouting with our adult members.”
Hughes said he retired from Scouting more than a year ago but kept up his membership. Last fall when there was a need for someone to take over 1st Morinville’s new Venturer Company he jumped back into regular service with his youngest son, now in his 20s.
Hughes has been involved in the movement for the past 20 years, both as a leader over his own children and now as a leader alongside one of them. Scout leadership is something he recommends to others. “Scouting is more than just working with your son or daughter; it’s about working in our communities, meeting other youth and leaders with similar interest, traveling all over our country and beyond, new adventures, sharing your skills and learning new ones,” Hughes said, adding his wife has been to Europe twice with 1st Morinville’s Rover Section.
More leaders needed
The growth and success of the movement in Morinville is creating a need for more leaders like Blanchette and Hughes. Blanchette said the group is actively seeking leaders for all divisions within 1st Morinville Scouting Movement.
“We’re actually looking for individuals who are committed to Scouting,” he said, adding those interested should have an interest in traditional Scouting activities, including camping and being outdoors as well as traditional indoor activities like crafts and Cub Car rallies. Beyond the normal trappings, Blanchette said potential leaders should enjoy the regular week-to-week meetings where Scouts learn to interact with one another developing their inter-personal skills through games and crafts. “Basically, it’s how to develop friendships,” he said, adding whether its learning to tie knots, whittling with a pocket knife or any of the other badge-earning activities, the emphasis is on mentoring in a fun way.
Though it is typical for leaders to also have children in one of the Scout groups, 1st Morinville is also currently open to leaders who have no children involved in Scouting at all. “We’re really looking to the younger age group, but we are not going to exclude anybody from being a leader,” Blanchette said. “It’s really good for the kids to actually deal with someone in their 20s, in their 30s, but also in their 60s, and people who are retired. The ideal person has to like a whole bunch of things, anywhere from the outdoors to using tools.”
More women needed
Although Scouting in Canada has been co-ed since 1998, one type of leader 1st Morinville finds in shorter supply are female leaders. Blanchette is hoping to increase the number of women involved in the movement locally and have recently been putting the call out for leaders with a special emphasis on women. “We are in a really big need for female leaders because Scouts is for boys and girls,” he said, adding though the local group consists of about 90 per cent boys presently they are seeing girls joining in increasing numbers. “I have a daughter in Scouts and it’s unfortunate that sometimes she can’t go camping unless one of us parents go with her because there are no other female leaders in our group.”
Time commitment and other requirements not intrusive
Whether a male or female Scout leader, would-be applicants can expect to spend roughly 90 minutes per week at the regular meetings. Blanchette said the commitment is typically a little more than the weekly gatherings. “I think for a lot of leaders you are looking at probably two to two-and-a-half hours per week,” he said. “If there are camps and stuff like that [or] involvement in our planning meetings.”
Beyond the time commitment, prospective leaders must submit to a criminal record check and take mandatory online training from Scouts Canada.
Those interested in learning more about becoming a Scout leader can contact Shawna Ethier at 780-939-4750 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They may also contact Pierre Blanchette at 780-939-5133 or by email at email@example.com.