Friday, September 9, 2011

Varsity Huddle - IOLS and Wood Badge

Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills and
Wood Badge for the 21st Century
Varsity Huddle – March 3, 2011

                                                                           Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills

This course is intended for every adult leader in every Boy Scout Troop. It is designed to provide a working knowledge of the basic outdoor skills necessary to succeed as a Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster. Outdoor skills are critical to the success of the Scouting program, and Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills will provide leaders with the basic outdoor skills information needed to start a program right.
Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills is the required outdoor training for all Scoutmasters, Assistant Scoutmasters, Venturing Crew Advisors and Varsity Team Coaches. The skills taught are based on the outdoor skills found in The Boy Scout Handbook. The course is also ideal for Venturing leaders because it focuses on skills that build confidence and competence in leaders conducting outdoor camping experiences.

Wood Badge of the 21st Century
Soon after founding the Scout movement, Robert Baden-Powell saw the need for leader training. Early Scoutmaster training camps were held in London in 1910, and in Yorkshire in 1911. Baden-Powell wanted his training to be as practical as possible, and that meant holding it in the outdoors in campsites. World War I delayed the development of leader training, so the first formal Wood Badge course was not offered until 1919. Gilwell Park, just outside of London, was purchased specifically to provide a venue for the course and was opened for use on 2 June 1919. Francis Gidney, the first Camp Chief at Gilwell Park, conducted the first Wood Badge course there from 8 September to 19 September 1919. It was produced by Percy Everett, the Commissioner of Training, and Baden-Powell himself gave lectures. The course was attended by 18 participants, and other lecturers. After this first course, Wood Badge training continued at Gilwell Park, and it became the home of leadership training in the Scout movement.

The main goals of a Wood Badge course are to:
  • Recognize the contemporary leadership concepts utilized in the corporate world and leading government organizations that are relevant to Scouting's values.
  • Apply the skills one learns from participating as a member of a successful working team.
  • View Scouting globally, as a family of interrelated, values-based programs that provide age-appropriate activities for youth.
  • Revitalize the leader's commitment by sharing in an inspirational experience that helps provide Scouting with the leadership it needs to accomplish its mission.
Generally, a Wood Badge course consists of classroom work, a series of self-study modules, outdoor training, and the Wood Badge "ticket" or "project". Classroom and outdoor training are often combined and taught together, and occur over one or more weeks or weekends. As part of completing this portion of the course, participants must write their tickets.

The exact curriculum varies from country to country, but the training generally includes both theoretical and experiential learning. All course participants are introduced to 1st Gilwell Scout group or Gilwell Scout Troop 1, and assigned to one of the traditional Wood Badge "critter" patrols. Instructors deliver training designed to strengthen the patrols. One-on-one work with an assigned troop guide helps each participant to reflect on what he has learned, so that he can better prepare an individualized "ticket". This part of the training program gives the adult Scouter the opportunity to assume the role of a Scout joining the original "model" troop, to learn firsthand how a troop ideally operates. The locale of all initial training is referred to as Gilwell Field, no matter its geographical location. 


The phrase 'working your ticket' comes from a story attributed to Baden-Powell: Upon completion of a British soldier's service in India, he had to pay the cost of his ticket home. The most affordable way for a soldier to return was to engineer a progression of assignments that were successively closer to home.
Part of the transformative power of the Wood Badge experience is the effective use of metaphor and tradition to reach both heart and mind. In most Scout associations, "working your ticket" is the culmination of Wood Badge training. Participants apply themselves and their new knowledge and skills to the completion of items designed to strengthen the individual's leadership and the home unit's organizational resilience in a project or "ticket". The ticket consists of specific goals that must be accomplished within a specified time, often 18 months due to the large amount of work involved. Effective tickets require much planning and are approved by the Wood Badge course staff before the course phase ends. Upon completion of the ticket, a participant is said to have earned his way back to Gilwell.

On completion

After completion of the Wood Badge course, participants are awarded the insignia in a Wood Badge bead ceremony. They receive automatic membership in 1st Gilwell Park Scout Group (called Gilwell Troop 1 in America and other countries). These leaders are henceforth called Wood Badgers or Gilwellians. It is estimated that worldwide over 100,000 Scouters have completed their Wood Badge training.  The 1st Gilwell Scout Group meets annually during the first weekend in September at Gilwell Park for the Gilwell Reunion. 


Scout leaders who complete the Wood Badge program are recognized with insignia consisting of the Wood Badge beads, 1st Gilwell Group neckerchief and woggle.


The beads were first presented at the initial leadership course in September 1919 at Gilwell Park. The woggle is a two-strand version of a Turk's head knot, which has no beginning and no end, and symbolizes the commitment of a Wood Badger to Scouting.

The origins of Wood Badge can be traced back to 1888, when Baden-Powell was on a military campaign in Zululand (now part of South Africa). He pursued Dinizulu, a Zulu king, for some time, but never managed to catch up with him. Dinizulu had a 12-foot (4 m)-long necklace with more than a thousand acacia beads.[13] Baden-Powell is said to have found the necklace when he came to Dinizulu's deserted mountain stronghold. Such necklaces were known as iziQu in Zulu and were presented to brave warrior leaders.

Much later, Baden-Powell searched for a distinctive award for the participants in the first Gilwell course. He constructed the first award using two beads from Dinizulu's necklace, and threaded them onto a leather thong given to him by an elderly South African in Mafikeng, calling it the Wood Badge.
While no official knot exists for tying the two ends of the thong together, the decorative diamond knot has become the most common. When produced, the thong is joined by a simple overhand knot and various region specific traditions have arisen around tying the diamond knot, including: having a fellow course member tie it; having a mentor or course leader tie it; and having the recipient tie it after completing some additional activity that shows they have mastered the skills taught to them during training.


Wood Badge in the United States of America


Wood Badge was introduced to America by Baden-Powell and the first course was held in 1936 at the Mortimer L. Schiff Scout Reservation, the Boy Scouts of America national training center until 1979.  Despite this early first course, Wood Badge was not formally adopted in the United States until 1948 under the guidance of Bill Hillcourt who became national Deputy Camp Chief of the United States. Today the national training center of the Boy Scouts of America is the Philmont Training Center, which hosts a few camps each year. Nearly all Wood Badge courses are held throughout the country at local council camps under the auspices of each BSA region.

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