Scouting is steeped in tradition. From the beginning Robert Baden-Powell designed a program to teach young people self-confidence, encourage them to make decisions and empower them to take charge of their lives. The outdoors was the environment where he found learning these traits could be accomplished in a spirit of fun. Camping, hiking, outdoor cooking and many other activities are still the hallmark of today’s Scouts around the world.
More than the environment is universal in Scouting. The Scout symbol we use in the United States (the flour-de-leis with the American eagle) is similar to the symbol of Scouts around the world. The specific shape of the flour-de-leis varies and the eagle is replaced by a shamrock or a maple leaf or another emblem that represents the specific nationality of the program, but the Scout symbol in many countries is similar. Another area of similarity is the Scout Oath and Law. I visited several national sites and was surprised to find that for many nationalities the Oath and Law are very similar to ours in the US.
It is important to understand the Scouting and the similarities between Scouts of many nations. It is also important to develop some troop traditions. These traditions are items or events that are unique to your troop or that set your troop apart from other troops. Some troops give an eagle statue to each Scout who earns his Eagle Scout rank. Some will present the Eagles Scout with an eagle neckerchief or slide. In addition to Eagle recognition some troops have other specialties. As the Scoutmaster in our troop I made a Turk’s head slide for all the Scouts who earned the Star rank. This symbolized the transition in the Scouting program where they went from learning about the Scout program to helping to teach others about Scouting.
We have taken the tradition to one more level. Last week the Scoutmaster asked me to teach the senior Scouts how to make the neckerchief slide. So in the near future the Star Scouts will receive a Turk’s head slide but it will now be created by one of the boys in the troop. Another example of teaching a skill and then having the Scouts pass that knowledge on to others.
Something as simple as a neckerchief slide does not seem like a very big deal- and it is not. But Scouts who have lost their slide have been persistent in getting another. Star Scouts coming in from another troop have made getting one of the troop slides an essential part of the transitions. When the Scouts go to different events the troop slide separates them from other troops. It is very impressive.
While it is important to maintain Scouting traditions, it is also important to develop traditions that are unique to your unit.
On an unrelated note- this weekend was the Vernal Equinox. It is one of only two days each year that the sun rises in the east. If you want to read more about this, I have included a link at the bottom of the page.