Scoutmaster Musings - Expertise, Sense, and Knowledge

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Scoutmaster Musings

Expertise, Sense, and Knowledge
They tell me BSA doesn't stand for "Baby Sitters of America" but, much like a trusted babysitter, adult volunteers do take on the responsibility of keeping youth safe. Their parents expect us to have expertise, sense, and knowledge enough to return the same number of scouts we started with, in pretty much the same condition. I feel that is a reasonable expectation, don't you?

So, how do we know how to keep our scouts safe?
boy scout expertise Expertise comes from experience. You need to actually do stuff in order to be an expert at it. How do you know if a scout is using a knife, stove, rope, or other gear safely unless you are experienced with using it? You don't! You have to actually use the gear yourself first. You can't evaluate the fit and security of hiking boots, backpacks, climbing ropes, life jackets, ... by just reading about it. You can't hike 50 miles, ski a black diamond, or do a one-arm handstand without the experience of building skills to an expert level. We need to continually expand our skills and abilities in order to offer an exciting, safe program for scouts.

boy scout common sense Sense develops from experience also. Normally, a more mature person makes more careful decisions - this is termed 'common sense'. Boys the age of scouts often don't think things through before making a decision, taking a step, or a flying leap. As adult volunteers, we need to keep a wide-lens view of our activities and step through all the things that might go wrong in our mind before actually trying them for real.

I try to ask myself, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" If it's not a serious injury, I get ready to help if needed and see how it plays out. In my sense of safety, climbing trees, crossing streams, swinging from ropes, playing with sticks, throwing small rocks can be done safely. I know all those things could result in serious injury, but so can standing up in a bathtub or walking down your stairs. It is a remote chance. Other activities, such as climbing on the roof, swimming in rapids, and walking the yellow line down the middle of the highway have a higher chance of injury so I would use my sense and say, "Nope!"

boy scout knowledge Knowledge can be obtained many different ways. Experiencing actual situations provides knowledge, but that's not the best way to know how to splint a sprained joint or tie a climber into a harness. We can all increase our knowledge through Training so we know what to do even though we have no experience. I know how to do CPR even though I've never done it on anyone. I was trained on climbing knots before I actually used them. I know 'theoretically' about many things that could happen but have not happened yet and most likely never will.

Maintaining a sense of safety while expanding a base of knowledge from training into expertise through practice is a great way to prepare to keep the youth you take out on adventures safe from harm. From their point of view, it's all still dangerous and exciting. From your point of view, it's all under control. And, from the parents' point of view, you are adequately prepared to fufill their expectations.

Scout On
Challenge your Scouts

Posted: 23:33 01-28-2011 561
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