Simply put, Comprehensive Programming is an approach that takes advantage of as many opportunities as possible to be entertained, inspired, and pleased, and all within the context of the same event.
Not too long ago, a fifth grade Webelos den was given permission to meet on some privately owned land that afforded a variety of neat ways to learn and have fun. Up a hill in the central area there was a covered pavilion with picnic tables and a nice fire pit for building a den-sized cooking fire. Below, there was an extensive grassy area for playing games or just running around. On the edge of this field was a forest with a dried out stream bed forming a rough, narrow path to the Intracoastal Waterway. The distance between the field and the shore of the Waterway translated into a good, little hike through the forest—not overly challenging, but not too easy, either.
It was arranged for the den to hold a springtime, outdoor den meeting on this land. They usually met from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., but on this occasion they planned to extend their meeting to 6:30. The den meeting would be a special outing. There’d even be roasting hot dogs and heating up some beans.
After they arrived, everybody assembled under the pavilion, and their den leader revealed what was in store. As each of the following activities unfolded, one by one, they’d combine together into a rewarding outdoor adventure. Here’s how the outing went:
First was a hike. Single file, the Webelos made their way through the forest along the rugged trail to the Waterway. When they reached the end, they dug up some smooth, grey clay from deposits that were prevalent along the shore. As they dug, they put what they excavated in some plastic garbage bags. When they had a good amount, it was time for a return hike back to the pavilion.
Once back at camp, the bags containing their treasure were placed on a picnic table, and each den member went about gathering some fire wood. A good-sized fire was lit, and while the wood burnt down to mounds of hot coals, everyone got a portion of clay. In order to illustrate what each Webelos would be modeling, their den leader fashioned a sample pinch pot. With eager smiles, each set out shaping their own small pot. After ten minutes or so, they placed their pots along the edges of the pit near the fire, which by this time had burnt down considerably and was already yielding a sizable heap of hardwood coals. After another five minutes, each little pot was carefully placed into the hot coals to really start baking. Eventually, they were all nestled deep inside the fire pit and buried in the glowing coals.
While their pots continued to bake, the Webelos went down the hill into the field and played tag. A den leader stayed under the pavilion and monitored the fire. A half an hour passed and the den returned. Each Webelos carried with him a suitable hot dog stick they had acquired from nearby bushes.
A new layer of kindling was placed over the coals. The pots remained hidden beneath, completely out of sight. Cans of beans were opened. With the tops still attached and bent up to serve as a holder, the beans were positioned around the fire to get hot. Throughout all this, the Webelos were busy whittling the tips of their sticks so each could serve as a skewer to stick through a hotdog from end to end. Soon the fire started to flame and the den proceeded to surround the pit with their hotdogs. The den leader stirred the beans, the hotdogs roasted over the flames, and the invisible pots continued to bake. Soon everyone was sitting around the table, eating hotdogs and beans, chatting and telling jokes.
The time was nearly 6:00 p.m. The fire had almost completely died down. Everyone deposited used paper plates, cups, and plastic spoons into a trash bag. The moment had arrived to uncover the pots. Attention turned to the fire pit as their den leader, using a pair of tongs, began to fish around the ashes. Each time the tongs touched something hard, a little, ashen pot was gently lifted out and placed on the table, accompanied by voices in hushed tones commenting, “that one’s mine.” Indeed they all were recognizable, each with its own distinct shape and character—eight small prizes cooling in a row on the picnic table.
The Webelos took turns sprinkling water over the ashes in the pit and stirring them until the fire was cold out. The pavilion was policed to assure nothing was left behind, and belongings were all gathered up including the precious, fire-hardened pots. The den made their way to the cars to return to their normal meeting place where parents would be waiting. A series of experiences all woven together into an attractive tapestry of discovery and fun—it was a good den meeting.
This is Comprehensive Programming. Scouting is filled with numerous opportunities to present an array of memorable experiences that expose Scouts to new circumstances and broaden their horizons. There is a wealth of Scouting destinations that provide a wide scope of program possibilities, already built into the opportunities they offer. But, in between summer camps, themed campgrounds, and high adventure bases, any expenditure of time and energy spent to assure that the week to week program rocks, is well worth the extra effort.
Ain’t Scouting grand!
The content of this post has not been taken from any official BSA publications.