BSA defines Pioneering as “the knowledge of ropes, knots, and splices along with the ability to build rustic structures by lashing together poles and spars—is among the oldest of Scouting’s skills. Practicing rope use and completing projects with lashings also allow Scouts to connect with past generations, ancestors who used many of these skills as they sailed the open seas and lived in America’s forests and prairies.”With all the new and exciting merit badges like, Animation; Signs, Signals, and Codes; Digital Technology; Programming and Game Design; etc., what Scout leader in his right mind would be considering Pioneering for a month’s worth of program? The answer is simple, Scouts think it is fun; they like it. For you as a leader, pioneering puts many of Scouting’s methods to good use In 1962, I had just turned 12 and went on my first summer camp at the new East Fork of the Bear Camp (now Camp Hinckley). There I enjoyed my first dutch-oven meal and learned some serious fire building skills, right along with my first rifle and archery shoot, woodcarving and I made a basket. I hiked into an outpost that felt like I was the first explorer to ever visit the place. I was connected to the romance of outdoor life and I felt like an old time pioneer, but it was the pioneering yard that held my attention nearly every day of the week.
I’ll tell you, that week, that pioneering yard worked magic on me. I gazed at the tower and monkey bridge and wanted to build those things. But first I had a lot to learn and do. Knots, end-whipping, lashings, splices, rope making, coiling, designing and finally making a tower.
My goodness, I was a happy Scout when that tower went up and I could climb to the top.
From that experience, I know that Scouts love pioneering activities, but even better, I know they will be using it while camping. Each time a patrol builds a camp gadget, the spirit of that patrol grows; they develop a stronger sense of teamwork.
In accordance with their level of skill, patrols can stay intact while doing these kinds of project. But, pitting one patrol against another in a competition not only builds the patrol, it can also be lots of fun. If patrols are organized by age, dividing the troop into equally-skilled Scout teams might make a competition more fair, but i won’t do much for the patrol.
Also, individual Scouts find new levels of accomplishment and self-confidence after building a pioneering project. And all this while having great fun!
However, as Adolph E. Peschke, a BSA author, explains:
Whatever the project, the same applied principles of physics, geometry, and math are used to build pioneering projects and structures. But, keep in mind that all the information [in the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet] is eventually used for a practical, hands-on application—that is, to build something.
Pioneering is a good foundation for many Scouting activities. You must learn, and then use, such disciplines as planning ahead and teamwork. You can also put to use the basic skills learned in rank advancement, such as knot tying,
But most of all, pioneering provides a practical way to experience the joy of accomplishment when you’ve built something that is needed for yourself or others; it can be something that makes living in camp easier and more comfortable. Pioneering can be both fun and challenging when you use your skill and knowledge to choose the right materials (ropes and spars) and build a usable structure.
By now we hope you are excited to use pioneering in your program, so now you are asking where and how do I learn more. I know two excellent resources besides the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet. The first is Program Features for Troops, Teams and Crews, vol. 1 offered at local Scout Shops and at ScoutStuff.org.
The second is Larry Green’s scoutpioneering.com. Listen and watch as he describes how pioneering provides “outdoor fun that’s involving and challenging. This kind of fun is timeless! To build a good pioneering project requires rope, wood, good sense, and skill, and when completed, there’s a happy feeling of accomplishment and success.”