Eleven-year-old (EYO) Scouts in the Primary annually do three nights of camping because three nights are sufficient to fulfill the purposes of the Primary. In my EYO patrol, we do one overnight campout in the spring, one in the summer, and one in the fall. As I work with the EYO Scout patrol to develop our annual plan in August, I encouraged the boys to plan our September monthly feature to be cooking and our October monthly feature to be camping. Camping is fun, but having great meals in the outdoors makes a memorable experience. A month-long feature involving cooking in September sets the stage for great memories of food over the campfire.
Our first meeting of each month is our planning meeting. We start the planning meeting with planning our outing for the month; then we plan the meetings that prepare the EYO Scout with the skills required for that month’s program features. The features are aligned to the advancement skills of the ranks of Scout through 1st Class. The EYO patrol leader is given a Troop Outdoor Program Plan form and the forms for three Troop Meeting Plans (copies are found in the Troop Program Features, Volume I, Volume II, or Volume III (or on Scouting.org). Several copies of the features for the month are made available for the EYO Scouts to use.
The patrol leader leads the planning. During this time of the year, we meet outside in the church parking lot. I usually bring two folding tables, and we have lanterns that the Scouts light when it begins to get dark. Learning to light a propane lantern is a great outdoor skill. It is a little tricky to light your match and then turn the knob and wait for the “puff” when the gas ignites. In addition, many of my new Scouts have never struck a match. I usually give the patrol leader a small box of wooden matches and have them use the EDGE method to teach how to strike wooden matches. These planning sessions go very slow because the new EYO Scouts have very little experience in planning and sometimes need some adult encouragement to complete all of the elements on the two forms.
For cooking, the skills-development focus of the patrol meetings is on sanitation, stove safety, and menu planning. That easily covers three patrol meetings. The outdoor adventure will be a feast where the EYO Scouts get to demonstrate their skills. I use chapter 10 of the Boy Scout Handbook (15th Edition) extensively when doing skill development on cooking. I have the boys open the book and read portions of the book. By reviewing the Boy Scout Handbook, the EYO Scout learns the content and how to use it to review and prepare for outings. For the skill development on sanitation, I bring tables with washing tubs labeled for the three pot method and a proper filter with a sieve. I have a cutting board in my demonstration to discuss cross contamination during food preparation. Finally, I have several coolers to talk about sanitizing coolers and separation of meats, vegetables, eggs, and drinks.
I bring a variety of stoves and lanterns for the boys to light. I show them the difficulty in seeing the flame in the daylight and in the early evening. We also discuss that the propane flame is difficult to adjust. For example, when cooking on an open flame, to adjust the temperature, I teach them that they must be prepared to move the pan on and off the flame. Finally, I show them a charcoal chimney used to light charcoal for Dutch ovens.
The menu planning is fun. For our last feast, the EYO Scouts wanted clam chowder. None of them had ever eaten clam chowder, but saw it in the Boy Scout Handbook and wanted to try it. We also did steamed green beans with almonds and onions. We topped off our feast with pineapple upside down cake baked in a Dutch oven. Yum! One Scout exclaimed, “My mom does this for each meal. Wow, she does a lot of work.” The magic of experiential learning!
Chapter 9 of the Boy Scout Handbook has plenty of information in it for teaching camping. During the first patrol meeting of October, during skill development, I review this chapter with the EYO Scouts. Overall, for the patrol meetings skill development, I focus on the Scouts learning about the right personal equipment, selecting the correct patrol equipment, outdoor ethics, and planning considerations—including weather. The next summer most of the EYO Scouts will be going to a BSA long term summer camp, so we emphasize front country style of camping.
Since October’s outing will be overnight, it goes well with the previous month’s cooking skills in that it allows the EYO Scouts to plan their meals and visit the grocery store to price their ingredients. On the Wednesday prior to the campout, the skill development section is a pack check. I have the Scouts take turns pulling things from their back pack and explaining why they need that item. We then check it against the list in chapter 9 of the Boy Scout Handbook and the anticipated weather conditions.
Cooking skills truly prepare our youth for serving full-time missions and being helpful fathers in the home. Learning to cook delicious, well-prepared meals makes the outdoors so much more enjoyable. Camping is what truly excites most Scouts. Keep the zing in your outing programs by practicing cooking in the outdoors and camping under the stars with a great meal in your belly.
Stan Stolpe has served in multiple Scouting positions at the unit, district, council, regional, and national levels in the U.S. and overseas. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia, serving in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake where he is an EYO Scout leader. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.