Extreme Adventure: Extremely Easy

All fun and no learning is not Scouting

By Scouter Liam Morland, February 26, 2000

In the past couple of years, Scouts Canada has started offering two new programs, ScoutsAbout (ages 5-10) and Extreme Adventure (ages 14-17). The new programs are intended to help "Scouts Canada reposition itself and expand its products" (Scouts Canada 1999:17). The programs are intended to "increase membership and involvement in Scouting". They are not "intended to compete with existing core Scouting programs, which will continue."

Two Extreme Adventure programs were recently advertised in Atironta Region's Trailblazer (Winter 2002): a SCUBA-thon and a skiing weekend (Lennox 2002:1). The SCUBA-thon is an all-night event. Participants will receive SCUBA instruction from professional divers who have volunteered their time. Outside the pool, door prizes and games have been organized for participants.

The skiing weekend is an all-inclusive package. Participants get a bus ride to Chicopee Ski Club, a lift ticket, rental, food, a dance, and other activities. Participants will stay overnight at North Waterloo District Scouthouse. The cost for both of these events is $50.

I believe that there will be a good number of teens who would really enjoy both of these activities. Certainly these are the sorts of activities that Venturer Companies often organize for themselves. But there is a difference. If a Venturer Company wanted to have a ski weekend, for example, they would have to figure out how to get to the hill and where to stay, how to arrange rentals, what they are going to eat, and many other organizational tasks. As a result, they would learn about working together to organize something. Participants in these Extreme Adventure activities will learn none of this. A fully organized event had been handed to them on a silver platter.

Sure, participants will learn a little about SCUBA and skiing. But that is not Scouting's Mission. When adults look back on their time in Scouting, they will mention the fun they had. But more importantly, they will mention what they learned about leadership, teamwork, and the taking the initiative to make something happen. These are the things that Scouting seeks to teach. Skiing can be a tool to help teach these things, but it is not itself the goal. Extreme Adventure undermines this entire process by offering the enjoyable part of the activity without demanding that one do any work for it.

An Alternative

The Extreme Adventure program was started in response to Scouts Canada's ongoing membership decline. These theory is that we need more recruitment and that Extreme Adventure would be an effective way of introducing teens to what Scouts Canada offers. However, the problem is not a lack of recruitment but a lack of membership retention. Many Scouts Canada members leave Scouting after only a short time. This would not happen if they were truly satisfied with the program.

The low level of membership retention is the result of many things, but chief among them is that fact that Scout program are often of poor quality. Something must be done to improve the quality of our programs so that more young people choose to stay and bring in their friends. What can we do? Focus for a moment on the Venturer age range, which is the same as the Extreme Adventure age range. One thing is clear: a Scout program for teens must include lots of challenge and adventure. Some of these adventures, such as a ski weekend, may be best organized in large groups. But this does not mean that we need to get a paid staff member to organize it for us.

Venturer Square Tables are well placed to organize large activities like ski weekend. VSTs consist of Venturers from several companies who meet together to plan joint activities and pursue other projects of mutual benefit. Running a VST, which normally includes an elected executive and bylaws, is a great learning experience for young people. And at the end of the day, they can also go skiing.

Scouts Canada's membership problems must be addressed by focusing on Scouting's strengths. Anyone can offer a cheap ski weekend or SCUBA night. Scouting is appealing because young people like to take responsibility for themselves. We must focus our energies on improving the implementation of Scouting programs. Programs like Extreme Adventure consume precious Scouts Canada resources, while doing nothing to move us towards our Mission.


Lennox, Tabitha.
2002. "X-TREME Teens Offered Two X-TREMELY Awesome Events" in Trailblazer, Winter 2002. Scouts Canada, Atironta Region.
Scouts Canada.
1999. Scouts Canada Business Plan: 2000 & Beyond.