Ask Me: Convincing Other Scout Parents to Approve of Outdoor Trips
I am a Scout Leader in Anchorage, Alaska. I have been having a difficult time convincing other leaders and parents to allow their kids to participate in some sort of adventurous outdoor activity besides walking through town or at an established campsite but I haven’t had much success doing so.
I know that trying to give an article or a book to them won’t work because they just won’t read it but I need something else. Do you have any ideas that could help me?
The truth is that when I was a youth in Scouts in Colorado I did way more adventurous stuff than I have since moving to Alaska. It’s really quite pathetic and very sad but I am trying to change that but I need help and I figured you would be a good place to start.
That’s a hard nut to crack, but not impossible. And the problem is obviously the parents, not the kids. So you should try getting to the parents through the kids. I often speak to classrooms and audiences of kids (and adults) who have never done much if anything in the outdoors, and kids seeing pictures of other kids having fun on a really cool outdoor adventure greatly inspires them to bug their parents to let them try that.
Start by showing the boys a video (or a few videos), or some inspirational photos from a website, of kids doing outdoor adventures. At the risk of seeming shamelessly self-promotional, show them the photo gallery and video of my family’s trip sea kayaking for five days in Glacier Bay, and My Top 10 Family Adventures. I’m not sure how old your scouts are, but seeing kids their age or younger doing something this ambitious and amazing could persuade them that they can do it. It might also help persuade their parents.
In addition to the above, contact some outfitters or well-known Alaskan adventurer who’d be willing to visit your troop and give a slide show and talk about what he/she does. Many of those people would talk to a scout group for free, just to inspire kids to become outdoors lovers. (If I lived there, I’d do it in a heartbeat.) Try to get several troops to attend, to increase the audience size and help motivate someone to speak to your group.
Also, when you show them the pictures and videos, be ready with an idea for the first outing you want to suggest to the troop. Start with an easy goal, like a nearby dayhike, snowshoe, float trip on a river, fly-fishing, car-camping at a scenic park that could be a base camp for hiking or fishing–something that would be fun and feasible to do with the group without having to plan weeks in advance or spend a lot of money. Once everyone sees the photos and video you show them, pitch the idea of organizing that troop outing. Maybe find someone to volunteer to help lead your group (possibly you could fill this role): someone who knows the hike, or has a raft, or is a fly-fishing or rock climbing guide and willing to donate an afternoon in the hopes of developing future clients. Make it an activity that could potentially appeal to some parents, too, and that they will perceive as safe and at least somewhat structured.
I’m assuming you’re talking about boys. But whether boys or girls, try to build in a game you can play during the activity: water gun fights from the rafts or in the woods while camping, a prize for whoever catches the most fish, a contest to see who can find the most signs of animals while hiking or camping (tracks, scat, claw marks on trees, etc.), everyone telling a ghost story around the campfire at night while toasting s’mores. My point: Build in kid-type components to the outdoor activity.
Important: bring plenty of food the scouts will like—chocolate, jerky, whatever. Plenty of it. Make sure the kids eat and drink plenty all day.
If you can turn them around the corner to agree to a first outing, and it goes over well, then spring your big proposal: that the troop set a goal (scouts love goals, right?) of taking an outing however often you think you can manage it—once a month, every weekend, whatever. The frequency will depend on the size of the trip. You could propose one big trip every year, building up to more ambitious adventures like backpacking in Denali or paddling in Glacier Bay or Kenai Fjords.
In reality, it would be successful if you got some kids and parents to participate. You might not get the entire troop. But that would be a great start.
Is that helpful? I think you could make this work and really change some kids’ lives and the perspectives of their parents. I’ve seen parents’ eyes open when I give talks to their kids’ classes.
Good luck. Please let me know how it goes, I’d really like to see how well my advice worked for you.
Thank you very much for your response. You have definitely given me some good ideas. Yes your response is very helpful.
[In Ask Me, I share and respond to a reader question. Got a question about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet it to @MichaelALanza. I will answer the ones I can in a post, using only your first name and city, with your permission.]