Professionalized Scouting? That’s a LAFF

Canned programs are no substitute for Scouting

By Scouter Liam Morland, September 29, 2004

I received an email from Greater Toronto Council advertising their LAFF weekends. The LAFF program is a series of canned weekend camp programs offered at Woodland Trails Scout Camp north of Toronto. Here’s the email and my response to it.

Hi Liam

Is the 21st Waterloo Group 21st Waterloo Troop looking for a Weekend
Camp this Year with programs like these?


Liam, the LAFF Program was developed in 1995 to offer section leaders
like you, an opportunity to enjoy a weekend camp with pre-arranged
program without all the headaches of a regular camp weekend, food
shopping, equipment, program planning, cooking, etc.

Shopping and cooking of food are one of the best activities for Scouts to be involved in. These help the Scouts develop planning, leadership, and teamwork skills as they decide what food to have, who will buy it, and how to fairly divide up the work.

In their book Scouting in Practice: Ideas for Scout Leaders, the World Scout Bureau writes, "Unfortunately, some Scout leaders try to gain time for 'real activities' by, for example, arranging for outside catering or providing sandwiches! Scouting is a school of life.... [I]t was by walking that we learned to walk" (WOSM 1996:7).

When I was in Cubs, a Six was assigned to prepare and clean up after each meal. One Scouter assisted the Six. We were not some special "gifted Cub pack" and today's kids are no less able then they were in 1984. What has changed is that Scouters are not providing these challenges. That is why we are loosing membership.

LAFF was expanded to ten weekends in the 2004/05 Scouting season. Each
program is unique and can be tailored to your section needs.

The LAFF program exists to assist groups and sections organizing weekend
camps. The 21st Waterloo Group 21st Waterloo Troop will be accommodated
in the Leathem Scouting Centre, a very comfortable spot to spend the

At the closing of the very rainy 1929 World Scout Jamboree in Birkenhead, England, B-P said, "But I don't like you all to feel too happy so I turned on the rain for your benefit. You see, any bloke can be a good Scout on a fine day. But the thing is to make the best of conditions on a bad day. So we tried the rain this morning to see how you would take it. I am glad to say that you are made of the right stuff through and through!" A big part of Scouting is developing self-reliance and learning how to make yourself comfortable in the woods. Spending a weekend in a facility resembling a hotel does not provide an opportunity to learn this.

Your meals will be plentiful, filling, nutritious and child friendly.
The program is organized in advance and includes an emphasis on outdoor
activities and camping skills!

A "canned" program cannot be carefully adapted the needs of a specific troop or pack at a specific time. The Court-of-Honour should be taking the lead in the planning of camps. This is how we ensure that Scouting is a Movement of young people, not just for young people.

All meals, program, crafts supplies, guest speaker fees are included in
the very reasonable price of $80.00 per person.

For a weekend camp, $80 is a ridiculous amount of money. In my troop, we usually charge $20 for a weekend camp. Sometimes we charge as much as $30, but this would be for the bike hike when we have to rent a trailer. I don't know why there would be "guest speaker fees". Scouting is a volunteer Movement. "Guest speakers" should volunteer their time.

Many people are unable to afford such a high price for a weekend camp. Financial assistance is not a solution. It is humiliating to have to ask for it. The solution is to charge a reasonable amount for a camp.

Liam, please click here
& check out the LAFF web site for additional information, this year's
schedule, and booking information.

Space is limited to 39 participants per weekend. Book early!

In August 1936, Baden-Powell wrote,

I fear there is the danger that a kind of synthetic Scouting may creep into our training in place of the natural article described in Scouting for Boys....

By "synthetic Scouting" I mean the Scout system obscured by overclothing the natural form with rules and instructive literature, tending to make what originally was, and should be, an open-air game into a science for the Scouter and a school curriculum for the boy (B-P 1941).

The LAFF weekend program implies that Scouting is a set of fun activities for young people to participate in and that details such as accommodation are merely logistics. In fact, the opposite is closer to true. The most important part of a camp is the patrol living together under its own leadership. The activities that fill the day are important, but secondary to this.

The LAFF weekends are a professionalized, canned programs; not quality Scouting. These are not the solution to membership decline or overworked Scouters. It the role of the Scout association to provide the training and mentoring that Scouters need to become able to fulfil their role. Scouters must be taught how to play the natural game of Scouting. The synthetic variety is no substitute.


Baden-Powell, Robert (B-P)
1941. B.-P.'S Outlook: Some selections from the his contributions to "The Scouter" from 1909-1941.
World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM).
1996. Scouting in Practice: Ideas for Scout Leaders. (PDF) Geneva, Switzerland: World Scout Bureau.