Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The ILSC and ”What is Venturing” - By Owen Witesman

Photo credit Teampedia - Tools for Teams
In May at the Venturing Forum we discussed the Introduction to Leadership Skills for Crews (ILSC) course, which, along with the version for Boy Scout and Varsity troops (ILST), is a prerequisite for NYLT (Timberline), the Kodiak Challenge, and NAYLE. Crew 65 recently had a great experience implementing the ILSC course over a two-day business style seminar at a local hotel. The crew hatched the idea for the business seminar last year when we were discussing how to conduct our planning retreat (we ended up going to a cabin instead) but then the ILSC gave us a ready-made purpose for reviving the idea. We learned a lot about the ILSC course, had a lot of fun, learned some lessons about how to conduct ourselves in a business seminar setting, and bonded as a group (video). And we stayed out of the headlines, which is always a bonus.

During the Venturing Forum discussion last week, many of the questions focused on the basic issue of “What is Venturing?” I think this is a natural thing to ask for anyone familiar with the Boy Scout and Varsity programs—is Venturing different somehow? The ILSC is actually a perfect vehicle for explaining not only Venturing, but Scouting in general.

Scouting is a youth leadership program. From the very beginning, the boys should be in charge. If they aren’t conducting the meetings and making the decisions, it isn’t scouts at all. Just look up some Baden-Powell quotes. Yes, this means chaos. Yes, this means burned food and missing sleeping bags, and all sorts of other lessons learned the hard way. But it also means age-appropriate fun and learning that sticks. These aren’t our patrols, teams, and crews. The program belongs to the boys. As they learn and grow, they should gain additional responsibility. When they’re Boys Scouts, they go to scout camp. When they’re Varsity, they do high adventure. When they’re Venturers, they design their own adventures and determine their own goals. Venturers even vote on their own uniform.
The ILSC/ILST, Timberline, Kodiak Challenge, and other leadership training opportunities are not an addition to the scouting program, they are a foundation for the program. For a patrol leader, team captain, or crew president to lead, they need examples and training, just like any scoutmaster, coach, or advisor needs training. These aren’t skills we come born with—they have to be learned.
Scouting is a game with a purpose, and the ILSC is no different. Each of the three training modules is made up of initiative games, opportunities for reflection, and discussion of important concepts (although keep any discussion brief!). Sound familiar? It should, because this is the basic formula for any scout event or training. We play games and do activities and then reflect on lessons learned. Venturing is no different from any other scouting in this regard.
Where Venturing is different is in the content built on the foundation of youth leadership. Boy Scout patrols are handed a complete program of advancement, camps, and program features (Did you know a new version of these is due out any month?—They’re awesome!). Varsity teams are given fields of emphasis and a range of options to choose from. Venturers, on the other hand, choose their own adventures (an adventure is anything new to the youth), a process that starts with an interest survey and can lead to the crew focusing on literally anything that interests them and will lead to personal development. Careers, sports, academics, outdoor activities, ethics, service, life skills, travel, religious study—all that matters is that the groups sets their own direction towards something they believe is worthwhile and their advisors can support. As an example, Crew 65’s program over the last year started with a planning retreat in the fall and has or will include CPR/First Aid certification, SAR K9 training, a visit from an Air Force recruiter and counter-sniper, hunter safety training and a live hunt, rock climbing, hiking, swimming, welding, shooting, LDS temple trips, a visit to the Nickelcade, a science demonstration, a trip to the BYU planetarium, impromptu Slurpee runs, our ILSC seminar, and a Kodiak Challenge. No, everything hasn’t gone just how the young men planned, but a couple of weeks ago we had a significant activity initiated and executed with exactly zero adult involvement other than driving and swiping the credit card, which was a pretty huge accomplishment that never would have happened a year ago.
Trying to convince a 17-year-old young man to focus on earning merit badges instead of his part time job and dating is a hopeless endeavor, which is exactly why Venturing isn’t about merit badges and advancement. Real life is coming on fast for these young men, and the best way for our youth programs to stay relevant for them is to put them in the driver’s seat and focus on their interests.

Some tips for the ILSC:
  1. Keep it active. Sometimes the curriculum has too much discussion for young brains to stay focused.
  2. Get creative with Module 3. The content is great, but it needs more engaging activities.
  3. Break it up. Especially with younger groups, don’t even think about delivering all three modules back-to-back. With Scouts and Varsity, you’d probably want to play the games over several weeks without ever telling them it’s part of a training curriculum. Even with Venturers, doing all three modules over a weekend was pushing it.
  4. Make notes of what games you play. If you do the ILSC each time you have a new crew presidency, you’re likely to have some of the same youth participating, so choose different games.
  5. Use the games when training your adults too.
  6. Give it a try, learn, and keep improving!

Owen Witesman
Hobble Creek District Venturing Forum Associate Advisor - Programs

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