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May 072010
 

Since 2004 I’ve been following a little upstart effort to create a new type of scouting group: the Earth Scouts. Along with teaching scouting techniques, the Earth Scouts inculcate Earth-centric values, celebrates diversity, and encourages community activity. Of course, with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts so firmly rooted, it’s a tough challenge to grow this alternative, but now, more than ever, I think this new scouting start-up is essential.

The Boy Scouts now offer a Video Games Badge

Boy Scouts' Video Games Belt Loop

Earlier in the week I learned that the Boy Scouts now offer a badge for video game playing. Yes, you read that right–a badge (okay technically a “belt loop”) for video games.  And while I recognize that the Boy Scouts are trying to evolve with the times and perhaps even reduce the harm of video games by ensuring that children choose age-appropriate games and integrate gaming into a balanced chore/homework schedule, this development unfortunately takes us one step further in normalizing video games into the culture and into sanctioned leisure activities for children. With so many children overweight and suffering from “Nature Deficit Disorder,”  the Boy Scouts should be doing as much as they can to de-normalize video gaming and get children outside and away from video media.

earth-scoutsSo, that’s it, I say. I declare that this starts the official decline of the Boy Scouts and that new pioneers should grow, grow, grow to take their place. Groups like the Earth Scouts and Tom Brown’s Way of the Coyote summer camps hopefully offer a glimpse at the future of nature-focused, youth leadership programs—programs that make children aware of their dependence on the Earth and cultivate related values, or in Tom Brown’s words: “ensur[e] the survival of future generations by guiding youth and community to a pure connection with the Earth.”

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  9 Responses to “Goodbye Boy Scouts, Hello Earth Scouts”

  1. As a Scout leader who has just taken our Scouts out for 6 weekends in a row to mostly wilderness camps, I would say the reason we do it is to get the Scouts away from their computers. Years of Scouting efforts have given us access to wonderful facilities to do take the kids. It doesn’t seem too productive to me to start another group with no resources or background in the community. And you can hardly call it boy scouts any more as our group is half male, half female. And we couldn’t organize our trips nearly as well without access to the computers. No one takes boys away from violent computer games more effectively than the Scouting movement, which gets them out every week and more in nature exercising and building team skills. I’d like to see more environmentalists involved with the existing scouting movement to keep nature at the forefront of what the kids do.

  2. As the new national coordinator for Earth Scouts, I would like to direct those interested in Earth Scouts to our newly launched online community at http://www.earthscouts.ning.com This new site houses the official Earth Scouts blog, as well as curriculum and resource links. This platform connects our members and their groups and encourages everyone to share their ideas,activities,and accomplishments.

  3. I would sympathize with Scout leader Claudia if the American Boy Scouts were not kicking kids out for refusing to subscribe to their particular notion of “belief in OUR God.” Who/what/or whether someone believes is their own damn business. Read Thom Jefferson’s response to Query XVII in “Notes of the State of Virginia” for an American view. Quoting “What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.” Belief arrived at freely can be of great value in a human life. Belief imposed by authority is one of the greatest sources of evil in human affairs.

  4. Wow in less than one week and only three emails the discussion has devolved into an accusatory, intolerant, and anger riddled reply. What’s next a declaration of war between the scouts? Why don’t we let cooler heads engage one another in reasonable and more constructive ways in efforts to either blend the two organizations or allow the separate organizations to coexist in peaceful and mutually beneficial ways. Our world needs us all working together and not picky petty fights against one another.

  5. Have you ever even been in Boy scouts?

  6. Considering video games are a normal part of many boy’s lives it’s not unreasonable for Cub Scouts to encompass it into their belt loop program. It isn’t earned by sitting around playing video games all day. I belt loop certain doesn’t overwhelm all the weeks of hiking and camping scouts experience for many additional belt loops and pins. Boy Scouts offer even more outdoor events than Cub Scouts.

    If someone joins a club with requirements knowing full well he/she doesn’t meet those requirements, then he/she really shouldn’t be surprised if he/she is asked to leave.

  7. @ Louise, How does one recieve an invitation to join eartyh scouts website?

  8. Interesting comments…..I’m childless but I am around other kids all the time. I don’t know one kid that doesn’t play video games. Even those who don’t watch TV watch it or play games when they go over to their friends. Gone are the days kids are outside every moment. Kids aren’t camping every day. You are seriously in denial if you think they won’t play games. Might as well cultivate it responsibly.

    With respect to Earth Scouts… Great the more opportunities we provide for children the merrier but I agree, there’s no reason to criticize the Boy Scouts. Never met a Boy Scout I would not be proud to call my own and they were environmentally responsible and community involved way before anyone else was. You don’t have to join them if you don’t want to. But i can’t see how those who do join wouldn’t benefit greatly from the experience. Wish every kid could join one of these groups.

  9. The boy scouts of america has indeed came out with a game design merit badge. No one has a problem with the welding merit badge which introduces the boys to a career in welding, or the auto maintanence badge.
    Guess what. A game designer starting salary is $75k. If my son wants to persue a career in game design and start out making $75k great. The purpose of scouting isn’t to teach them to camp. the purpose is to prepare them for the future. Camping is a tool we use to teach them and keep them fit.
    How many 40 year olds camp on a monthly basis outside of scouts?

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