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Scouting survives

Even in high-tech age, youths learn to 'Be prepared'

Even in high-tech age, youths learn to 'Be prepared'

August 06, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

TRI-STATE - These are a few of their favorite things: Cell phones and cookies, iPods and pop-up tents, video games and wilderness badges.

Seeing teenagers - and children even younger - talking or sending text messages on cell phones, fiddling with mp3 music players and playing video games are common sights.

Girl Scouting and Boy Scouting might almost seem pass, given the associated images of camping, surviving in the wilderness and sleeping in wooden cabins at camp. But it's not antiquated and is just as relevant, if not more so, today as in the past, local Scouting officials say.

Anastasia Broadus, 13, of Hagerstown, admitted that when she first joined Girl Scouts six years ago she wasn't too keen on "the outdoorsy stuff."

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Now, though, she said she likes sleeping in a tent - even without her digital music player and computer.

"I don't take any of those things when I go" on Scouting activities, she said.

Daved Paddack, 12, joined the Boy Scouts when he was a first-grader, in part because of his father, who works for the organization.

"He said it was a great experience," said Daved, of Hagerstown.

He said he's into sports and also has a computer, PlayStation game system, a portable Game Boy and an iPod digital music player.

Although he enjoys using and playing with the latest technologies, he's also always excited to go on Boy Scout trips, said his mother, DeeDee Paddack.

Daved said his favorite Boy Scout activities are rifle shooting, archery and swimming. He goes to camp once a week in the summer, where he works on merit badges.

"I really want to become an Eagle Scout," Daved said, believing it will help him have more choices getting into colleges and with his career path.

"It just teaches you a lot about life and stuff," he said.

Cooking and how to survive in the woods are a few of those life skills Daved said he has learned.

"The cutest thing," his mother said, is that Daved learned how to make barbecue chicken.

Values, ethics and ... fun



When Boy Scout representatives visit schools, camping is still the No. 1 reason boys express interest in the organization, said Don Shepard, Scout executive for the Mason-Dixon Council of Boy Scouts of America.

The Hagerstown-based council serves boys in Washington County and Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania.

"In a time when more and more of our societal changes are heading in a technological direction, there are still a great number of kids interested in the outdoors," Shepard said.

The local council grows 1 percent to 2 percent a year, evidence boys are still interested in the traditional programming offered by Boy Scouts.

It's a misconception, Shepard said, to believe that today's video game systems, computers and large TVs will cause children to want to stay inside all the time.

Crafts



Those gadgets keep children busy, but when introduced to other experiences, they become involved and interested.

If given a choice, most children will choose to do something they've never done before. White-water canoeing, spelunking or going on a long mountain bike ride are activities most boys wouldn't be able to do without Boy Scouts, Shepard said.

"Our goal is to instill in them values and ethics while having fun," Shepard said. "I'm a firm believer that it takes parents to birth a child and it takes the community to raise them."

The Scouts' motto, "Be prepared," refers not only to being prepared for wilderness survival situations but being prepared for moral and ethical decision-making as well.

"It's being prepared for life," Shepard said.

The types of merit badges available to Scouts reflect the old-and-new mentality.

Boy Scouts can acquire as many as 120 merit badges in areas including canoeing and computers, geology and graphic arts, engineering and entrepreneurship, nature and nuclear science.

"As kids have evolved with computers and technology we have continued to come out with additional merit badges," Shepard said.

The number of boys who seek merit badges in new categories such as graphic arts and nuclear science is small, but many work to obtain merit badges in computers because the work can be done in school.

Mostly boys seek badges in more traditional programs, Shepard said.

In the summer and other times, Boy Scouts can spend time at Camp Sinoquipe, a 500-plus-acre camp in Fulton County, Pa. There they can complete the hours needed for outdoor-related merit badges as well as take part in activities designed to be fun. Leadership skills also are honed.

Camping is a popular activity for local troops, either in the form of backpacking, camping in a cabin or "troop trailer camping" - in which supplies are hauled in a trailer and unloaded at a campsite.

"We like to consider the outdoors our classroom," Shepard said.

Typically, Scout masters prohibit cell phones, Game Boys, music players and other gadgets from trips into the outdoors.

Shepard, 37, registered to be a Cub Scout when he was 7 years old. He advanced through the ranks and eventually obtained the highest possible rank, Eagle Scout.

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