Regional Support – How we managed DofE Expeditions in 2020
59 Explorers from 4 Districts in the Pentlands
Explorers: prepare, pack, distance, decide, walk, talk, comply, cook, reflect, relax - repeat.
Leaders: plan, persuade, cooperate, communicate, purchase, print, organise, supervise - celebrate!
Coronavirus restrictions meant that planned expeditions couldn't take place, but, right at the end of the season, there was a window of opportunity that we seized with both hands - suitably sanitised, of course!
This mammoth operation, involving 59 Explorers, families, leaders and a host of other volunteers, was built on the very successful existing expedition partnership between two of our Districts.
Using the flexibilities provided by 'DofE With A Difference', and following Scouting guidance to navigate the requirements of all the various regulations, the expeditions counted as a Silver Practice and also, for those who needed it, a Bronze Qualifier. For these expeditions, the Explorers attended a Zoom meeting on Friday evening; they were delivered individually to their start point on Saturday morning to hike one of three routes before cooking a meal then returning home for the night (no overnight activities permitted); they followed the same routine on Sunday with a different route.
Equipment was more complicated than usual as we had to avoid sharing where possible - items that were shared had to be cleaned between uses, and we required special items for first aid kits. Supervision was provided by leaders from a wide range of Scouting backgrounds - not just the Explorer section.
Feedback was very positive, including comments by members of the public impressed by what we were doing. Many of the walking groups came from different Units/Districts and they really appreciated meeting up together.
These non-standard expeditions allowed the Explorers to progress with their DofE and Chief Scout's Awards; they gave several leaders the chance to build experience for hillwalking permits; above all, they demonstrated how much we can achieve in Scouting by working together cooperatively beyond our immediate area and section.
How do we plan to manage DofE Expeditions in 2020
There's a huge appetite among Explorers and Networkers to prepare for expeditions this year – despite, or maybe because of, all the uncertainties. We now have over 200 Explorers and Networkers signed up, and we're offering canoeing and cycling expeditions as well as walking.
The good news is that many adults are willing to provide the support required. The secret seems to be to build a team that works cooperatively and to involve people from all Districts from Scouting and beyond.
A key principle is that people can volunteer in whatever way suits them. There are leaders with excellent outdoor skills who are only too happy to support their former Cubs and Scouts, and there are parents and friends ready to help – particularly when we explain that it is not necessary to commit to a full Scouting role.
A crucial area is administration, and we have been fortunate to recruit some extremely competent people.
Training online was piloted very successfully by our newly established Longcraig ESU, which is organising the water-based expeditions, and we are now running Zoom-based training for the Bronzes.
We have told them that we plan on meeting outside as soon as possible, but they understand why we can’t do that at the moment. We're all working towards something positive in the future, and that's important for everyone involved, young people and adults alike.
The background information
South East Explorer Expeditions grew out of cooperation between two Districts, and that is probably a good place to start – a District can do much more than a Unit, and two Districts can provide the numbers of adults needed to ensure that individuals are not overwhelmed.
To support expeditions we need a team of people from different backgrounds to provide:
A central admin system based on OSM to provide communication
Training for Explorers
Expedition teams headed by leaders with appropriate permits
‘Quartermasters’ to deal with kit
DofE leaders to support Explorers at a local level for other sections of the Award
Buy-in from Districts
To cope with the particular problems created by COVID we need to:
Understand the DofE flexibilities and the possibilities they offer
Know the Scouting rules that apply in Scotland
Have Covid Risk Assessments in place – approved and updated
Describe clearly the steps required to keep everyone safe, based on the above, such as using individual boil-in-bag meals, cleaning hands after touching gates etc
Plan flexibly with options in place to cover all Covid scenarios
Be ready to move quickly when relaxed rules are announced
See the SEEE website for more details of what we are doing.
We shall be happy to answer any questions and offer advice based on our experience, so contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This address can also be used by anyone in SE Region wishing to join our team, where they'll be made most welcome.