Being a Patrol Leader with Justin

As I approach my last few months as a scout, I wish to reflect on what it has been like to lead a group of children ranging in age  from eleven to fourteen. This experience has been one of a kind with me learning new things through the people I have had the privilege of meeting as well as the situations I have been thrown into.

For the past two years I have had the great opportunity to lead the Eagles patrol. During this time there have been a number of changes. As the PL I have dealt with a few changes such as having APLs stepping down, new patrol members joining us as well as having members moved to other patrols. These changes have more just needed to be dealt with rather than changes I have intended to make. My role as a PL has been to lead my patrol through these changes.

Justin as part of the patrol that won Rayner in 2019

The second change in the patrol has been the culture. This change was intended and it has been a great honour as a PL to develop our patrol culture. This culture has been to keep to the main objective of a Patrol System which has entailed delegation, transparency with regards to opinions as well as healthy discussions regarding concerns for the Troop.

“The main object of the Patrol System is to give real responsibility to as many scouts as possible. It leads each scout to see that they have some individual responsibility for the good of their Patrol. It leads each Patrol to see that it has definite responsibility for the good of the Troop. Through the Patrol System the Scouts learn that they have considerable say in what their Troop does.”

Patrol in action

After all these administrative tasks I have had as a PL still the best part is being able to lead my patrol every Thursday through cooking evenings, photo hunts, patrol evenings, first aid emergencies and so much more. All these evenings have had me

having to think about all the different possibilities as well as manage my patrol and assign them tasks based on their abilities that I have had to take my time to learn, which honestly could be estimated at a few hours.

I believe the best way to conclude this article is to make a statement to all current PLs, promising APLs and aspiring juniors. Patrol Leadership is an extremely demanding role without a doubt there will be sleepless nights trying to organise events. There are moments where are trying to sort out your patrol advancement while ensuring it’s a “fun” evening and there are times where you are tired because mistakes were made and it’s on you as the PL to fix them. But all these annoyances are irrelevant when you are able to see one of the scouts in your patrol raise their arms as they complete a requirement that you helped them achieve. That is, in my opinion, the true goal of a Patrol Leader – to raise the next generation of leaders that our society needs.

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Thomas travels to the the Jamboree

Simon, Matthew, Natasha and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 24th World Scout Jamboree in the USA. I would like to share my journey with you.

My journey started 18 months before with applications and interviews and then the anticipation. As Dr. Frank N. Furter said, “I can see you shiver with anticipation”.  With many exchanges between Simon and myself along the lines of “I just realised the Jamboree is in a weeks time!” Next: arrive at the Airport. Going to the airport is really stressful, you go over and over in your head, have I got everything: my documents, the uniforms?  Then it’s hand in the documents, wait, say your last goodbyes and then play follow the leader and get really excited that you are in an airport and are going off to the Jamboree…. JAMBOREE! Onto the plane for the flight to Dubai and then from Dubai to JFK airport.  You think you are going to sleep on the plane…… well, that idea is futile, I had one full half hour sleep in roughly 18 hours of flying. I had the longest time experienced in daylight, spending roughly 20 hours in sunlight. Off plane, through security, collect luggage, wait, on to bus and drive to the campsite.

Arriving in Camp Alpine definitely made us realise that we were in the US as everywhere you turned there was a US flag. With the sun setting as late as nine we all had the opportunity to clean up, relax and sleep. The shakedown camp is where you can meet the members in your patrol and decide on your APL and PL while doing leadership activities.  The day ended with a hamburger and a refreshing swim after a day of 30 degree weather. Six Flags was an adventure with the multiple rides and attractions, and I would say that everyone enjoyed the park. Getting back at 11 was tiring, and I am pretty sure most people slept soundly that night. We toured Manhattan for two days going to and from the multiple museums ending off in Times Square. My favourite museum would have to be the 9/11 museum, it was just so spectacular the way that they set it up, and quite shocking in terms of they displayed – I will definitely return someday.  The subway system was absolutely amazing and the efficiency of traveling between two places and skipping the traffic was something I had never experienced before. One thing that amazed me was how hot it gets within the stations. We ate packed lunches and every night we would meet up in Times Square and then walk to a restaurant and then go back to the camp. On the sixth day of being in camp we went back into Manhattan and took a cruise around the island which was a fitting way to say goodbye to New York. Next we headed to Washington D.C.

Washington and New York were completely different, with Washington looking older and more elegant, while New York is high rise buildings where ever you turn.  We stayed in Hotel Harrington which was a nice place to wind down, clean up and wash clothes properly. We had one day to look around Washington, and we went to two Smithsonians, the National Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum.  We also walked around several monuments and memorials within the National Mall. The next day we toured the US Capitol building and then jumped on a bus headed for the Jamboree!

Arriving at the Jamboree was cold and wet as we arrived at 10 in the evening and it was pouring, and luckily the Americans next to our campsite had pitched all of our tents.  The following day we completed setting up camp and orientated ourselves to the layout, as well as practising for the opening ceremony that we were involved in.  The opening ceremony was a blast with most of the South African contingent on the stage.

The Jamboree had many activities that you could go to, being outdoors or indoors, whatever you wanted to do you could do it as long as you had a buddy. My troop went to the Scout’s Own whereby we broke two world records and we were given a scarf. By day five I had nominated myself as the troop’s cook, and apparently I was very good at it. The thing is all the food that you ̈bought ̈ for the day would come pre-cooked and frozen and the meat that you had to stay away from was the bacon as if you were to heat it up for too long the strip would turn black and melt into this mass that would move around your pan and was extremely difficult to clean out.  Another food that we stayed away from were these cookies that had a marshmallow filling: they were made out of a sandwich of three cookies with two layers of filling and weighed in at around 140g with a sugar content of 41g and a calorie count of 240. Stay away!  

The closing ceremony, I think, was the highlight of the whole tour with Pentatonix performing, with Light Ballance coming after and then the cherry on top was a full pyrotechnic display!  Earlier that day we struck down most of our camp site, all that remained was the gazebos and a few tables that needed to be packed away. This was due to the fact that our bus arriving at half past six in the morning.  Many people did not sleep until the bus came to pick us up. The breakfast was pop tarts, and needless to say that was not a good idea. We got onto the bus and left for Washington. We spent half a day in Washington, staying again at Hotel Harrington.  The last night that we were in the USA we went to UNOs to eat pizza or pasta, after which we were given free reign to walk back to the hotel by ourselves. After one wrong turn my group bumped into a Tesla dealership, so we went in and looked around. We woke up at 5:30 the next day to get ready, eat and get to the airport on time. This said, a few people were late.  However we did experience a few delays with the baggage carousel being broken down in the airport, and all in all our flight was delayed by an hour.  

Thankfully we arrived home safe and sound and were welcomed by a huge welcoming party which was amazing.  That concludes my story with many more to tell.

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Rebecca reflects on being PL of Bats

Being the patrol leader of a patrol like Bateleurs is not a stagnant position. It’s a role that throws curveballs and has a lot of different facets. I enjoy the challenges it presents and the people I am able to work with while fulfilling this responsibility!

First comes the Advancement side of being Patrol Leader. This includes providing opportunities to pass off scouts on advancement, and providing scouters with the experience to do so. The spanner in the works is the fact that everyone has different requirements and is on different levels. However, the equal prioritization of and effort into everyone’s advancement is one of the most important aspects of being a patrol leader.

The way Bats has done this in the past is an attempt to incorporate advancement into every activity, be it last year’s survival camp, having a camp totally dedicated to advancement or a hike to pass off casts and prints. Camps are the best place to advance, and scouts usually take a huge leap in advancement after a camp.

Event planning is a big thing – who wants to be in a patrol that doesn’t go out and do anything fun? Any event a Patrol Leader plans will present an administration aspect. The most important part of this is communication with scouts and parents. The best way to do this, I have found, is via email with a

WhatsApp Broadcast group, to send reminders to respond to emails and attend activities. This works especially well for parents and scouts who do not check their emails regularly.

Communicating with the Assistant Patrol Leader is also very important. Training is a huge priority for me, and I try to reflect this with my communications with my APL. We try to meet quarterly to discuss the upcoming terms and share responsibilities such as running activities.

Of course, there is a lot more to any patrol than the day-to-day running and admin – there are also the people. The scouts in Bats are a wacky bunch at the best of times, but are a good, motivated group to take on activities. Leading Bats requires me to keep everyone motivated and ensure everyone’s thoughts are heard. During an evening activity, planning our approach to a challenge is always a group discussion, and I try my best to make sure everyone gets a say in how something could be carried out.

There are the tough times where extra motivation is needed – I think back to the Survival camp last year when I say this. It was raining the ENTIRE time and we were all pretty cold, but keeping things light and making sure everyone has fun and avoids hypothermia always makes for a fun activity.

Managing patrol dynamics is also important. You learn early on what motivates each individual, and which combinations of scouts work together well. Scouts’ individual talents are also things that a Patrol Leader has to note. Telling an artist to build a catapult while getting the pioneer to draw up a dinner invitation will never produce good results, and the scouts will take less enjoyment out of the activity.

In short, I thoroughly enjoy being a Patrol leader, and my Bats patriotism has never been higher! The activities are fun, the emails are endless and the people make it all the more worthwhile.

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Upcoming Scout Events

As we head into the fourth term, the number of events in scouts drops off to accommodate exams. While we continue with our weekly meetings, the number of weekend events is minimal in October and November. The events are available on our Google Calendar which you can access here.

First up is PLTC (Patrol Leader Training Course) which some of scouts will be attending from 21 – 24 September.

This is followed by an overnight hike on the Greyton-Mcgregor Trail on the 28th/ 29th September. This is a lovely hike along the valley between the two villages.

The next weekend, on the 6th October, we have a permit for an afternoon hike in Orangekloof. This hike is limited to a mere 12 people. We will descend via the Jeep Track. Orangekloof is the last substantive Afro-Montane forest on Table Mountain and has remained uncut and unburnt for more than 100 years so a hike through here is a walk through history.

Our annual Group Campfire takes place on the 17th October in the evening and we hope to have families present to enjoy a campfire evening. This event closes off the year until…

The Annual Camp, which takes place at Hawequas. The camp is being run by two of our Springbok Scouts. Annual camp is an important training and advancement opportunity as well as a great time for fun.

And that will wrap up 2019….

2020 is just over the horizon!!

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It is a reflection of our times that there is considerable controversy over the amount of time a teenager spends in front of a screen. Numerous studies show that screen time for younger children should most definitely be limited. Emails, social media, sport on televisions and school work all conspire to place a child in front of a screen rather than in the outdoors, socialising with their friends or engaging in a hobby.

What then is the stance of scouts in relation to screentime? Every so often, I get told that it is an aim of scouts to keep the scouts away from screens. This is not strictly true. It is a consequence of scouts, not an aim of scouts, that keeps scouts away from screens and give them an alternative. The aim of scouts, simply put, is to produce better citizens. We would be derelict in this aim if we adopted an anti-technology stance. After all, our scouts will encounter technology whether we like it or not. Similarly, we would not be achieving the aim of scouts if we adopted a pro-technology stance and replaced “traditional” scouting with scouting with a technological bias.

Technology is merely a tool. We cannot ignore it and pretend it does not exist. We should not adopt it to the exclusion of other activities. But it can help us and by demonstrating a responsible and appropriate use, we can show our scouts what the place of technology is. We can show that technology has a place in our lives and how to use it to make our lives easier. And we can show that technology has its dangers and help our scouts be responsible in the use of technology.

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Scout Group Committee Notes

The last few months have been quiet for the committee as we wait to have enough money to execute the next part of the development plan which is certain repairs to the floor of the hall. The floor represents an irreplaceable asset and over the next 12 months we expect to spend a large portion of our budget on necessary maintenance. This is part of the planned programme to continuously upgrade and maintain the infrastructure.

In June we said goodbye to Tim Smith who returned to the UK for work related reasons. Tim was a calm presence in committee meetings and we wish him and his family well in their return home. In his place, we welcome Pierre Hoffa who has agreed to take up the mantle of Scout Group Leader. Pierre is an ex-1st Observatory scout (and is therefore subject to occasional comments about oldest troops!) and an active member of the Mountain Club of South Africa. Welcome, Pierre, to the committee.

The Scout Group Committee continues to develop a long term plan for the Group to ensure that our facilities and equipment are well maintained and improved and that we spend money effectively.

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We win Gordon Shield 2019

With a strong competing field both teams performed wonderfully in a weekend when Sunday was characterised by heavy downpours of rain. Our first team comprised mostly experienced seniors, for many of whom it was their last Gordon Shield. One senior was unable to attend after a sporting accident the day before and one member went down sick during the competition. Our second team comprised nearly all junior scouts with no leadership experience (none of them, for example, are patrol leaders).

With this in mind we had outstanding results with our first team wining the Gordon Shield for the second consecutive year (for the 9th time in our history) and our second team coming an outstanding 12th. With this win, only 3 troops have won Gordon Shield more times that we have. The only one of these troops still in existence is 1st Pinelands who have won it 11 times.

Gordon Shield 2019

Well done to every member of the teams and thanks to the scouters who put in many hours of work behind the scenes and contributed to the competition as judges. For the second year in succession and for the second year in our history we hold both the Rayner Trophy and Gordon Shield. The trilogy of also holding the Upton Shield eluded us by a mere 2 points!

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Contents – Smoke Signal 2019 Second Edition

Welcome to the second edition of Smoke Signals in 2019. Instead of a list of contents, you can skim this post and click on the articles that interest you. A different way to find content that interests you.

The Scouts started the term with a troop hike up Table Mountain  – have a look at the photos from the hike here. The troop was then involved in two competitions in this quarter and we reflect on our success at the Rayner hiking competition for senior scouts, as well as in the Upton Shield for junior scouts. In preparation, our junior scouts did a demanding hike in the Jonkershoek mountains with spectacular views

The Cubs have been busy this term – with an outing to Sakhikamva, some hiking, the Senior Cub Survivor Camp and a sleep over at the hall under their belts!

Have you ever wondered who your child was spending their time with? You can have a look at the 2019 Scouters Roll for the answer!

Planning ahead, the annual camp has been scheduled and will take place at the Scout Ranch at Hawequas. The updated schedule for third term for scouts is also available so make sure you have the time to enjoy the great activities that are planned.

And as always, we include the Committee notes and reflections from the Troop Scouter.

Smoke Signals does not include every activity that we do. You can also see two of our Springbok Pioneering Projects here and here and our involvement with the City Nature Challenge.


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