The Scout Method supports the development of young people in the different age ranges as defined in your NSO’s Educational Proposal. To comply with this, the Scout Method should be adapted to each age section according to the needs and abilities of young people.
Step 7 of the GPS directs the adaptation of the Scout Method to each of the sections.
The Mission of Scouting is to contribute to the education of young people, through a values system based on the Scout Promise and Law, to help build a better world where young people are self-fulfilled as individuals and play a constructive role in society.
This Mission is fulfilled by applying the Scout Method, which makes young people the main protagonists in their own development, so that they may be autonomous, supportive, responsible, and committed people.
The Scout Method is a system of progressive self-education, based on the interaction of equally important components, which act together as a closed system.
The Scout Method is a fundamental aspect of Scouting, and is expressed through the following elements:
1. The Scout Promise and Law:
a personal voluntary commitment to a set of shared values, which is the foundation of everything a Scout does and everything a Scout wants to be. The Promise and Law are central to the Scout Method.
the use of practical actions (real life experiences) and reflection(s) to facilitate ongoing learning and development.
3. Personal progression:
a progressive learning journey focused on motivating and challenging an individual to continually develop, through a wide variety of learning opportunities.
4. Team system:
the use of small teams as a way to participate in collaborative learning, with the aim of developing effective teamwork, interpersonal skills, leadership1 as well as building a sense of responsibility and belonging.
5. Adult support:
adults facilitating and supporting young people to create learning opportunities and through a culture of partnership to turn these opportunities into meaningful experiences.
6. Symbolic framework:
a unifying structure of themes and symbols to facilitate learning and the development of a unique identity as a Scout.
learning opportunities in the outdoors which encourage a better understanding of and a relationship with the wider environment.1
8. Community involvement.
active exploration and commitment to communities and the wider world, fostering greater appreciation and understanding between people.
The implementation of these elements in a balanced, combined way is what makes Scouting unique.
Carefully read through the description of “The Scout Method” as adopted by the 41st World Scout Conference before progressing.
The Scout Method is intended to stimulate the development of young people, through all age ranges of Scouting.
The 2019 edition of The Essential Characteristics of Scouting explains:
“That self-education is also progressive. The Scout Method, while retaining the same basic elements, adapts them to the different stages of young people’s development from childhood to the end of adolescence and early adulthood. It takes into account the characteristics of each age group to stimulate the discovery and development of new capacities and interests and to open doors to further stages, taking into account each individual’s own pace.”
This means that the Scout Method should be adapted to each of the age ranges, according to the needs and interests of young people. This adaptation is another layer in the design process that must be done during the development of your NSO’s Youth Programme.
In each age section, from the youngest to the oldest, the same methodological elements are present: Scout Law and Promise, learning-by-doing, team system, symbolic framework, etc.; however they take a form adapted to the characteristics, aspirations, and capacities of young people. All the elements are adjusted according to the characteristics of each age range, such as the capacity for autonomy, degree of demand for responsibility, need for emotional security, methods of expression, capacity for cooperation within the group, etc.
Consequently, the role of the adults in the group will also vary according to the age range in question. One can describe the changes taking place from the younger to the older age sections in the following way.
Widening the frameworks
At first limited to the immediate family and environment, the living and playing environments widen. The same evolution takes place in Scouting.
Activities and camps are organised in a vast field of action and offer the opportunity for increasingly varied contact and discovery. At the younger age level, activities are short and take place in the immediate environment. At the older age levels, international gatherings and service or solidarity activities enable young people to become aware of the intercultural dimension, and that the world is theirs to explore.
From the concrete to the abstract
As the child grows, their thinking moves from the very concrete towards the more abstract. The young child takes statements, including metaphorical language, very literally, and they understand the world through the immediate and concrete. In adolescence, they begin to think rationally, systematically, and hypothetically – their level of abstraction reaches a new level, where they can discuss ethics and philosophy.
As an example, the Scout Law is understood through very concrete actions for the youngest, while young adolescents discover living values: loyalty, trustworthiness, etc., through the Law. Through their projects, young adults gain direct experience of the meaning of universal values such as democracy, the right to be different, tolerance, etc.
From the imaginary to the reality
A small child’s imagination is fired by the magic of legends. Towards the end of childhood, young people also easily identify with imaginary role models whose qualities and success they want to emulate through play and activities.
In adolescence, the characters with whom a teenager identifies almost exclusively come from real life: champions, contemporary stars, and scientists, etc. Young people no longer emulate their role models through play, but are more inclined to imitate the attitudes they perceive their role models to have.
From the small group to society
The activities and life of the group form part of an increasingly vast network of relationships, in which young people themselves take on greater responsibility. Gradually, activities put young people in direct contact with real social life, and allow them to experience true adult roles through social service or community development projects.
From perception to prediction
The small child is perception-bound, meaning that they assess the world and act on their immediate surroundings. Their actions tend to precede thinking, and they have difficulty making causal connections, assessing the consequences of their actions, etc.
For young people this has changed. Their perception of their surroundings includes a strong element of prediction. They become able to predict the consequences of their actions, and therefore tend to think before they act.
The adaptation of the elements of the Scout Method to the age sections depends both on how the age sections are set up, and on the cultural context of both your country and your NSO.
It is therefore not possible to give universal recommendations as to how the Scout Method should be adapted to the age sections. Instead the following is intended to aid the considerations in your NSO. The supporting tool/annex Scout Method and Stages of Development gives examples of such adaptations in a tabularised form.
The Scout Promise and Law
The Scout Promise and Scout Law need to be formulated in terms that are understandable for young people to which they are addressed. In other words, they need to be adapted to the culture and age of the young people for whom they are intended.
The Scout Promise and Law are not sacred tests that have been revealed once and for all, to be framed, hung on a wall, and forgotten about. They are tools that should be adapted and fine-tuned to do what is expected of them.
It is, therefore, recommended to have a different text for every country, and even for each age section, to ensure that the goals of the Movement are expressed in an appropriate and comprehensible manner. Baden-Powell also used this approach when he, in The Wolf Cub’s Handbook, proposed a Law of the Wolf Cub Pack and a Wolf Cub’s Promise using simpler language and fewer points than the Scout Law given in Scouting for Boys.
For young children, learning is primarily through physical activity. Games and playing are important learning opportunities as they give young people the opportunity to contribute and collaborate. As the Scouts grow older, their articulation of ideas and thoughts also becomes part of the “doing” as a learning activity. Scouts take action to facilitate change towards a particular purpose, and the process is simultaneously an opportunity for learning and for their development and that of others.
The complexity of the educational action carried out by the Scouts themselves increases as they mature. This is reflected in the figure (ref figure of engagement vs. complexity in “Learning Opportunities”).
Reflection is an important aspect of learning by doing. As the Scouts’ capacity for abstraction increases, their ability for abstract reflection and meta-reflection will increase, too. The youngest will be very concrete, answering a question like “what activity did you like the most today”, moving through questions such as “why did you like it” and “what did you learn from it” to a question such as “how did you learn from it”.
One of the characteristics presented in the model of leadership in Scouting is the process of learning by doing, as “Scouts take action to facilitate change towards the purpose, but the process is simultaneously an opportunity for learning and development of others.”2
As a part of the Scout Method, personal progression is informed by the thoughts and results from areas of personal growth (step 2 ) and by the section educational competencies developed (step 5), to be a progressive learning journey that motivates and challenges young people through a wide variety of learning opportunities (step 8).
As part of the Scouting experience, it is important that the Scouts perceive that they are progressing and are motivated to do so. The symbolic framework of the section ensures the approach is age appropriate.
Progression can be achieved at all ages by ensuring that young people regularly find themselves outside their comfort zone, in their zone of proximal development — i.e. doing activities that they can only do with guidance, whether from more experienced members of the team or from adults. In the younger age sections the leaders will need to know their young people very well to guide them through this process of learning, and self-assessment.
When adapting the team system to the age sections, the evolution of the autonomy of the teams is one of the most important aspects to consider. Questions to discuss in connection to this is the complexity of tasks on which the team can work with full autonomy, and the time frame for which the team can be independently responsible.
There are different models for discussing the evolution of team autonomy. Traditionally, the question has been addressed by looking at the degree of autonomy and responsibility as growing throughout, while other models focus on the changes to the nature of their autonomy and responsibility.
This latter model would take as its starting point the ways in which young people display autonomy and responsibility, what types of decisions they prefer to take themselves, and how the dynamics of leadership evolves.
The model of leadership presented in 21st Century Leadership in Scouting describes leadership as a fully collaborative process. This means that leadership is a characteristic of the team rather than of the individuals comprising the team.
Another question to consider is the democratic organisation of the section unit. What structures and democratic processes need to be in place to ensure not only a high degree of adherence to the decisions of the section unit, but also agreement and a sense of ownership to the decision by the Scouts in the section unit.
The basic organisational structure of the small team also provides a learning environment that facilitates the development of a young person’s personal and group capacity through pooling and building on their individual skills, talents, and experiences. In this way young people learn from each other and learn together through the roles they undertake as part of the team.
In considering team leadership, Scouting defines the leadership process as involving more than one person. This does not mean that these “others” in the team are passive followers, subjected to the views and direction of any individual “leader”. Rather, interplay constantly exists between any single individual and the others, with actors taking turns to influence the dynamic of the group. Given that a common vision exists, these influences will all work to collectively move the group towards a shared purpose.3 While this is true in all age sections, the level of responsibility brings us back to the very first question on the evolution of autonomy of the teams in the age sections.
Scouting offers the potential for a learning community of young people and adults, working together in a partnership of enthusiasm and experience.4
The details of the role of the adult will depend on many factors, including the models of autonomy and leadership that are employed for each section in the team system.
A stimulating adult presence is essential to applying the Scout Method. The partnership between young people and adults is one of mutual trust, respect for each other, and the purpose of Scouting. The nature of the partnership changes through the age sections. In each age section, the adult will be a facilitator, a supporter, and a mentor to young people, emphasising the youth-led nature of Scouting. In the background, the adult also takes care to ensure the Youth Programme has educational content, that young people are safe from harm, and that the unit’s good governance is maintained. It is important that the adults have a good understanding of the age group in order to be able to identify the minimum level, and the type of support needed for young people to achieve the goal or solve the problem they have been set.
This understanding also enables the adult to ensure that young people assume the primary leadership and responsibility for important learning decisions (e.g. choosing learning opportunities, monitoring and assessing progress).
The use of age-section-specific elements of the symbolic framework creates a sense of belonging with the section, while the symbolic framework of the local group, district, NSO, and the international Scout Movement are meant to facilitate an enduring sense of belonging within the Scout Movement.
Traditionally, the narrative, or imaginative, part of the symbolic framework has been an important aspect of the section-specific symbolic framework, especially in the younger sections. Such a narrative framework can provide role models for Scouts in the form of characters that belong to the narrative world of the framework. For this to work, it is important that this narrative frame is fully consistent with the values of Scouting such as they are expressed nationally and internationally today.
In the older age sections, it is equally important to find a hero, a topic, or an approach that will inspire and enthuse young people.
As an educational tool, your NSO should consider having an overall framework for the Personal Progressive scheme, which is then tied in to your different age sections in an appropriate way.
The Youth Programme uses and connects to the natural world in many ways.
Nature is the setting for adventure and discovery from early, brief excursions into nature to expeditions. It starts as a playground that the imagination turns into scenes of adventure to become the target of expeditions of real-world adventures (nature as both a setting and a self-chosen obstacle to be defeated).
Nature is also a source of wonder. Through observation, it offers a route towards knowledge of nature and a connection with the spiritual world.
Nature is the focus of activities developing and expressing the obligation towards the natural world and our globe. This ranges from emerging ecological awareness through preservation activities, to large-scale projects advancing and advocating the integrity of the natural world, for example as expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals on climate action, life on land, and life below water.
The use of nature in each age section should include all these aspects in a way that is appropriate for the maturity and experience of the Scouts in the age section.
Community involvement is the newest addition to the description of the Scout Method.
The basis for community involvement is the idea that Scouting does not exist in isolation, but is always a part of the society that surrounds it, and therefore needs to interact with the surrounding world. This element therefore includes the many ways in which Scouting at the local level interacts with the surroundings, both inside and outside the Scouting family.
The implementation of community involvement progresses through the age sections in terms of the community that the Scouts can relate to, starting with the immediate communities of family, school class, and section unit widening throughout the programme to eventually encompass the entire community of humans.
An important aspect of this is also the gradual discovery and exploration of the community of Scouting. Meeting Scouts from other places and imagining what it is like to be a Scout in another country (or even just another part of the country).
Another perspective in the adaptation of community involvement to the age sections is the nature of the interactions. From simple good-turn types of interactions to complex service projects and intercultural experiences.
The third aspect is that of diversity and recognising and valuing a diversity of ideas, of peoples, and of cultures. From some simple explorations with the younger age sections, to delving deep into their own society to discover the richness within the older section.
This annex presents various descriptions of the adaptation of the Scout Method to the age sections and broad stages of development.
|Scout Method||Childhood||Adolescence||Young Adulthood|
|The Scout Promise and Law||
In childhood, young people think and conceive of values in terms of very concrete rules of behaviour such as “picking up your trash and taking it with you”.
The Scout Law should be expressed as a short text using a vocabulary making it easily understood by the children.
The Promise is the personal commitment to a social agreement in the unit.
In adolescence, young people gain the capacity to understand and discuss values as abstractions.
The Law is a code of behaviour that transmits universal values, and includes the basic rules for their interactions within Scouting.
The Scout Promise is a lifelong personal commitment.
Young adults integrate the values of Scouting with their personal code.
The Scout Law is an accepted formulaic expression of a part of the young adult’s personal value set.
The Scout Promise confirms their commitment to the values of Scouting.
|Learning by Doing||
In childhood, learning by doing means learning by being physically active. Young people learn better when their kinaesthetic sense is engaged. Learning by doing takes its outset in the developmental stage and needs of young people.
Reflections are facilitated by open questions that are based in the concrete and which do not presume a “correct” answer. For example, “What can you tell me about our camp/meeting/hike/trip today?”
With greater ability for abstraction, a wider range of actions become available, including discussing or articulating their thoughts, ideas, and values.
Reflections are facilitated by open questions that invite young people to progress to metacognitive reflections. For example, “What do you think about our camp/meeting/hike/trip today?”
Educational actions are largely related with the conception, planning, management, and evaluation of projects, with the learning based on the practical actions of completing the projects fade in importance and focus.
Young people have adopted a practice and culture of shared reflections.
|Personal Progression||The focus of the personal progression is on concrete actions and concrete skills. Reflections will often focus on “what did I/we do” with an occasional discussion of “what have I learned”.||
With increasing capacity for the abstract, executive functions can be discussed as part of the personal progression.
Reflections increasingly focus on learning achieved with metacognitive reflections (e.g. “how did I learn”) and reflections on competency development occasionally being discussed.
Personal progression is largely self-directed with a focus on competencies, both the educational competencies of Scouting and vocational competencies.
Metacognitive reflections and meta-relational reflections (e.g. “how did the others contribute to my learning”) become the norm.
The team is the organising unit, but many activities are carried out for all teams in the unit.
The autonomy of the team depends heavily on the complexity of the task, but the team is occasionally given full autonomy for some very short and simple activities.
Teams (patrols) acquire greater autonomy, have a life of their own and are federated in a Scout unit to do activities together.
The team leader is more clearly responsible for facilitating the leadership process in the team.
Teams are very autonomous and flexible and usually reorganised for each project.
The unit of young adults is a democratic youth organisation run by the same young people.
Empowerment: The adult is attentive and appreciative of the young people’s wishes, even when not expressed in the usual format for formalised democratic decision-making. Due to the spontaneity of perception-bound children, the adult is willing to let go of control in order to adapt the programme to the young people.
The adult involves the young people in the process of realising their ideas and wishes; on one hand letting them experience that the starting point for what they do in Scouting is their own dreams and ideas, and on the other hand teaching them that they need to also make an effort to realise their own wishes.
The adult is active in helping the young people express the values of Scouting in their own words.
Empowerment: The adult ensures that the decision-making processes have sufficient variation to enable all the young people to be part of making decisions when and where they want to be.
The adult gives full responsibility to the teams to allow the teams to act autonomously within scope of the transferred responsibility.
Scaffolding: The adult focuses on maintaining attention and fading support (and eventual transfer), so that the young people perform the tasks independently.
Empowerment: The adult is careful to leave decision-making to the young people, including the decision on when adult support is needed.
Scaffolding: The adult steps back from the normal life of the unit to be available in the background as a resource that can be consulted at need.
The shared symbolic framework of the Scout Movement and the NSO as well as any symbolic framework of the specific section is adapted for the specific age group and culture.
A narrative/imagination framework can be beneficially used as part of the section symbolic framework.
The shared symbolic framework of the Scout Movement and the NSO as well as any symbolic framework of the specific section is adapted for the specific age group and culture.
Depending on the culture, a narrative framework may be appropriate.
The shared symbolic framework of the Scout Movement and the NSO as well as any symbolic framework of the specific section is adapted for the specific age group and culture.
Depending on your culture, a narrative framework may not be appropriate for young adults. A different kind of framework built on, for example challenges, service, adventures, or role models .
Nature is a place of play and fun, and being in nature also enhances our capacity for attention, focus, and concentration.
Discovering natural elements, facilitating a sense of wonder, and learning the value of the natural environment.
Participating in nature protection (e.g. collecting garbage in nature)
Nature is a privileged place to live adventures, to try and overcome obstacles. It provides a unique learning space.
Experiencing projects directed at sustainable development and environmental protection.
Nature is a preferred space for physical challenges, personal reflections, and active learning.
Nature offers real-life challenges and can be unforgiving when mistakes are made.
Exploring the concept of sustainable development through community projects.
Discovery of the nearby community.
Specific service actions.
Experiencing success that depends on diversity.
Imagining the global community of Scouting.
Intercultural experiences across limited differences (e.g. no language barrier).
The concept of community is broadened to the zonal, national, and international levels.
The link with the community is a means by which young people can discover themselves.
Recognition of and interaction with the global community. Participating in intercultural experiences.
Community projects in teams. Involvement in the community allows young people to apply skills.
Think global, act local.
Community action beyond the Scout Movement. Opportunities for active citizenship
Linking with external agents (Governments, NGOs, churches, etc.).
Creating own intercultural and intergenerational and intergenerational experiences.
As defined in step 7 of the GPS, the Scout Method is the non-formal educational system used to facilitate learning opportunities for young people and contribute to Scouting’s purpose of active citizenship and education for life. The Scout Promise and Law one of the eight elements of the Scout Method. As defined in the WOSM constitution, it is a requirement of NSOs to have a Scout Promise and Law adapted from the original Scout Promise and Law written by Baden Powell in 1908.
By definition, the Scout Promise and Law is
“a personal voluntary commitment to a set of shared values, which is the foundation of everything a Scout does and a Scout wants to be. The Promise and Law are central to the Scout Method,”5
As a shared set of values, the Scout Promise and Law universally unite young people in Scouting and provide a practical way for young people to apply values in everyday life.
The Scout Promise and Law assist young people on their journey through the Youth Programme by a range of different means. This can be by using the Scout Promise and Law to plan, do, and review a Youth Programme learning opportunity, ensuring that the learning opportunity is aligned to the values of Scouting; providing the link between the Scout Promise and Law and the educational competencies of values and attitudes; setting shared behavioural expectations and responsibilities for young people with their peers and their teams; and also ensuring that adult leaders support and uphold the use of values across the NSO.
Step 7 of the GPS directs the adaptation of the elements of the Scout Method to each of the sections. This means that the Scout Method should be adapted to each of the age ranges, according to the needs and interests of young people.
The adaptation of the elements of the Scout Method to the age sections is dependent both on how the age sections are set up, and on the cultural context of both country and association. This also applies in the implementation or review of the NSOs values model – The Scout Promise & Law.
Shared values expressed as the Scout Promise and Law
Scouting draws from its founder’s desire to improve society and the lives of all its members, a goal he believed could only be achieved by improving individuals in society.
Within Scouting, the “improvement of the individual,” i.e., the educational process, is achieved through a system of progressive self-education, embodied within the Scout Method. Two of the fundamental components of the Scout Method is the Scout Promise and Law. These are a voluntary personal commitment (the Scout Promise) to do one’s best to adhere to an ethical code of behaviour (the Scout Law).
The Scout Promise and Law summarise, in simple terms, these universal values that recognise the equal and unique value of all human beings and of their inner life, and the goal for them to live in harmony with each other and with nature. These values constitute the essential ethical framework within which Scouting functions, and without which the Movement would no longer be Scouting. Consequently, one of the essential characteristics of Scouting is that, since its inception, it has been based on a value system, an interrelated set of ethical rules.
The Scout Promise is a personal commitment that also serves to unify the members of the Movement. By making the Scout Promise, the young person makes a conscious and voluntary decision to accept the Scout Law and to assume the responsibility of that decision through personal effort (“doing one’s best”). The fact of making the Promise in front of peers not only makes the personal commitment public, it also symbolises a social commitment to the others in the group. Making the Promise is thus the first symbol in the process of self-education. What is even more significant is that across the globe, other young people are making the same promise, which is a powerful reminder to a young person of the unity and reach of Scouting.
The Scout Law is a code of living – for each individual Scout and for the members of the unit collectively – based on Scouting’s principles. Through the practical experience of a code of living applied to daily life, the Scout Law provides a concrete (i.e., not abstract) and practical way for young people to understand the universal values which Scouting proposes as a basis for life. It is a resonating statement that helps us along the journey of planning, doing, and reviewing the adventures within the Youth Programme. With the Scout Law, we can ensure our plans fit within the ideals of Scouting and then reflect whether the spirit of Scouting was present along the way.
Across the Scouting journey, a young person’s understanding of the Scout Promise and Law will evolve and come to mean more to them. This learning journey is a central part of spiritual and emotional development experienced through Scouting. The Scout Promise and Law are considered as one element because they are closely linked. The Promise and Law emphasise the key principles of Scouting, which are “Duty to God, Duty to others and Duty to self”. Thus, together, they serve as a reminder of a young people’s responsibility to their God, self, and to others.6
The Scout Promise and Law as a means of learning
Through the Scout Promise and Law, the Scout Method starts by asking a young person who wants to belong to the Movement to adhere to a code of behaviour based on the principles of Scouting.
The aim of the Scout Law is to put the educational goals of the Movement for Scouting directly to young people so that it remains a system of self-education in which young people are responsible for their own development. The aim of the Scout Promise is for them to make a personal commitment to do their best to achieve those goals.
This requires the Scout Promise and Law to be formulated in understandable terms, in other words, adapted to the culture and age of the young people for whom they are intended.
The Scout Promise and Law are not sacred texts that have been revealed once and for all, to be framed, hung on a wall and forgotten about. They are tools that should be adapted and fine-tuned to do what is expected of them.
It is, therefore, permissible and even recommended to have a different text for every country, and even for each age section, to ensure that the goals of the Movement are expressed in an appropriate and comprehensible manner. Baden-Powell also used this approach when he, in The Wolf Cub’s Handbook, proposed a Law of the Wolf Cub Pack and a Wolf Cub’s Promise using simpler language and fewer points than the Scout Law given in Scouting for Boys.
Fundamental principles of the Scout Promise and Law
For the Movement as a whole, the values are expressed in the principles of the Movement. The principles are the fundamental beliefs which represent an ideal, a vision of society, and a code of conduct for all its members. The principles of Scouting, or the values it stands for, are summarised in three categories:
- Relationship to the spiritual life
- Relationship to others, to the world, and to Nature
- Relationship to oneself
also expressed in the Constitution as “Duty to God; duty to others; and duty to self”.7
Relationship to the spiritual life – a person’s relationship with the spiritual values of life, the fundamental belief in a force above mankind.
Relationship to others, to the world, and to Nature – a person’s relationship with, and responsibility within, society in the broadest sense of the term: their family, local community, country and the world at large, as well as respect for others and for the natural world.
Relationship to oneself – a person’s responsibility to develop their potential, to the best of their ability.
The Original Scout Promise and Law as defined in the WOSM constitution
All members of the Scout Movement are required to adhere to a Scout Promise and Law reflecting, in language appropriate to the culture and civilization of each NSO and approved by WOSM, the principles of Duty to God, Duty to others, and Duty to self, and inspired by the Promise and Law originally conceived by the Founder of the Scout Movement in the following terms:
The Scout Law 8
- A Scout’s honour is to be trusted.
- A Scout is loyal.
- A Scout’s duty is to be useful and to help others.
- A Scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout.
- A Scout is courteous.
- A Scout is a friend to animals.
- A Scout obeys orders of his parents, Patrol Leader or Scoutmaster without question.
- A Scout smiles and whistles under all difficulties.
- A Scout is thrifty.
- A Scout is clean in thought, word, and deed.
The Scout Promise9
On my honour I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God and the King (or to God and my Country), to help other people at all times, and to obey the Scout Law.
The Law-Promise duo: a motor for development
In Scouting, the Scout Law is an invitation to live according to the fundamental values of uprightness and loyalty (“to be trustworthy”, “to be loyal”); respect for, and solidarity towards, others (“to be a friend to all”, to help others”); protection of life and nature (“to protect plants and animals”); a positive attitude to life’s ups and downs (“to smile under all difficulties”); respect for work and to strive to do one’s best (“respect the work of others”, “to do nothing by half”); a sense of one’s own dignity (“to be clean in thought, word and deed”).
The Law: an invitation to grow. The Promise: a free and voluntary response
The Scout Law does not forbid anything. It is an invitation to develop oneself, to become more humane. It is a reference for one’s life. Even though the Scout Law is positive, it is not a matter of imposing it on young people. On the contrary, it should be proposed to young people and they should be helped to discover it through group life. The Scout Promise thus becomes the free and voluntary response of the individual who, in a sense, declares to the group: “I have discovered the values that you wish to live by and, with your help, I agree to try and live in accordance with them as well.”
The Promise is thus the starting point of the young person’s personal progress. It is because they want to live according to the Scout Law that they will set personal development objectives to reach through Scouting activities and everyday life. It is through the Scout Promise that the young person truly becomes an actor in charge of their own development.
The Scout Promise and Law in group life
The Scout Law must not be an abstract reference document stuck on the wall in a dusty frame. It has to be given substance in the group’s experiences through the unanimously adopted rules governing group life. Life in the unit inevitably involves issues, discoveries, and problems. After each major activity, take time to note and discuss the important points and events that have affected group life. First in team councils, then in the Unit assembly. What has been observed? Perhaps some have not fulfilled their roles correctly; others cheated at a game; or a team was unable to agree on an activity.
There will also be positive experiences: a team persevered with their mission despite the difficulties; another team exemplified the meaning of sharing and friendship, etc. What does this mean in terms of the Scout Law? How can we live better together? If the adult leaders know how to facilitate discussions without imposing their own point of view, the young people will themselves propose rules concerning group life. These can be discussed, modified if necessary, and adopted. For example: “Here, everyone has the right to express themselves and to be listened to”; “No one can use force to impose their views”; “We share with everyone”; “Assembly decisions must be respected”; etc. Thus, rules inspired by the Scout Law will arise out of the experience of group life evaluated at the unit assembly. In turn, these rules will shape group life and help everyone to discover the values underlying the Scout law through concrete experiences. Thus, the desire to commit to living according to these values by making the Scout Promise will come naturally to new members. For others, it is an opportunity to better understand the Scout Law and their own commitment.
The Scout Promise and Law take substance through evaluating group life and agreeing on common rules.
Considerations for the Scout Promise and Law
Scouting has a long history of shared value models expressed through the Scout Promise and Law. As a Movement, the values of Scouting have adapted and changed over time. Baden-Powell himself adapted and changed the text of what we now reference as the original Scout Promise and Law many times while he lived. Therefore, we can acknowledge that the Scout Promise and Law is not a sacred text of the Scouting Movement, but expressed as shared values. They have been adapted many times to maintain their relevance to the values model in society while also staying true to the fundamental principles of the Scouting Movement.
If your NSO is reviewing or re-expressing its shared values model, research what shared values are and how they are applied in the context of non-formal education and youth development. All individuals have their own beliefs and values systems, and these may also be shared by that of a family or wider community. In Scouting, values shift to that of shared values that embrace collectively shared cultural and societal norms placing young people at the centre of the Scouting Movement.
It is recommended that your NSO develops its own contemporary shared values model by adapting the text of the original Scout Promise and Law within the context of your country and adapted to each age section, so that the shared values model can be applied by young people in an age-appropriate way. All re-expressions of the Scout Promise and Law must be approved by the WOSM Constitutions Committee.
Through this we need to understand the different dynamics and complexities of shared values models and how they can be applied to different cultural and development contexts. This process ensures that the shared values models and NSO developments are contemporary and relevant to young people within your NSO.
Shared values link to the purpose of Scouting
“The Mission of Scouting is to contribute to the education of young people, through a value system based on the Scout Promise and Law, to help build a better world where people are self-fulfilled as individuals and play a constructive role in society.”
Shared values provide a strong link to the purpose of the Scouting Movement. Through shared values, the Scouting Movement creates a sense of global unity where young people learn and strive towards building a better world.
Through the shared values of Scouting we also recognise a commitment to sustainable development. Scouting’s action-oriented, self-educational approach is uniquely positioned to help young people develop into active citizens and contribute to sustainable development.
Shared values accept and include diversity
The Scout Promise and Law are reflected in language appropriate to the culture and civilization of the country in which your NSO operates. To create the sense of unity and link to the purpose of Scouting, your NSO should adapt the shared values model to include and acknowledge the diversity of the cultural contexts of the country. This is an important step in not only the positive development of young people and to ensure that they feel safe and included, but also the unity expressed in the shared values model of the Scout Movement.
In some NSOs, the Scout Promise and Law may have more than one model so that the shared values include the different religions of your country. This also may be different if your NSO is based around a formal religion. If needed, the Scout Promise and Law may also be translated into multiple different languages so that it can include the many different cultural diversities of your country.
Much has changed in the world since Baden-Powell drew up the terms of the original Scout Promise and Law over 110 years ago. This is true both of societal factors, including adherence to a religious faith, and education. Scouting, as a non-formal educational Movement for young people, must ensure that it continues to evolve, reflecting the needs and aspirations of young people in all societies today, if it is to remain relevant – yet always remaining true to the fundamental values on which it is based.10
Adapted to the developmental age sections
The Scout Promise and Law should be expressed in a way that is comprehensible and appropriate to each developmental age section. In this way you can ensure that young people across the developmental age sections can understand and apply the values expressed in the Scout Promise and Law regularly not just through active participation in the Youth Programme, but as part of daily life.
In many NSOs different values models expressed in the Scout Promise and Law have been developed that adapt to the developmental age sections, so as young people transition through the sections they progressively develop an understanding of the values model and how they can apply the values in everyday life. It is also true that young people may interpret the Scout Promise and Law in different ways as they grow and develop. For example, the older age section may create a code of conduct using the Scout Promise and Law that becomes localised and appropriated to their personalised values as they depart the Movement.
It is important to understand what is comprehensible to developmental groups and how an age-appropriate values model creates an understanding of the shared values of Scouting and provides a sense of unity and a strong link back to the purpose of the Scouting Movement.
In the research and design of a contemporary shared values model expressed in the Scout Promise and Law, the NSO should also consider how well young people and adults know, understand, and apply the shared values of Scouting. This factor is not only important for the adaptation to the developmental age sections but also how well the shared values are applied in practice across the Scouting Movement. Understanding this factor can influence how your NSO might choose to re-express the Scout Promise and Law so it is more widely understood and applied by all your members.
Detailed further in this annex are examples of the Scout Promise and Law from different NSOs.
Strengths-based approach to shared values
The use of a strengths-based approach to the development of young people is a widely practiced concept globally and, in the context of shared values, can instil a holistic approach to the way young people understand and apply the Scout Promise and Law, but also how they learn through the learning opportunities of your Youth Programme. A strengths-based approach through shared values not only recognises the strengths of a young person, but also that there are strengths in every decision that a young person makes.
When the Scout Promise and Law take a strengths-based approach to the shared values expressed, this will reflect in more positive behavioural outcomes for young people in the application of the Scout Promise and Law. Upholding values encourages personal responsibility and a culture based on positive reinforcement and empowerment of individuals.
Following a strengths-based approach to the shared values model expressed in the Scout Promise and Law can lead to better engagement and learning outcomes from young people in your Youth Programme. Shared values that focus on strengths and connections in this context can lead to less disruptive behaviour from those participating in the Youth Programme.
In the review and re-expression of the Scout Promise and Law, your NSO should consider if the shared values model recognises and enables young people to follow a strengths-based approach and positive behavioural methods to learning and applying the shared values in the Youth Programme but also in daily life. These principles themselves are important in the design of your Youth Programme and so it is important that your NSO recognises how this approach should be applied to the Scout Promise and Law (as presented in step 8 of the GPS).
Shared values and Adults in Scouting
The shared values expressed in the Scout Promise and Law can have a strong link to Adults in Scouting and the organisational culture of your NSO. In the context of Adults in Scouting, having shared values means adults share common attitudes and principles with other adult leaders they are working with. This can help build a feeling of camaraderie and a shared interest in success and delivering on the purpose of Scouting and the development of young people. It can also reflect how an adult leader’s personal values align with the shared values of the Scouting Movement.
The Scout Promise and Law can therefore not only be seen as a values model for young people in their self-education and participation in the Youth Programme, but as a method of managing behaviour and expectations and engaging adults in facilitating the delivery of the Youth Programme and in the Scouting Movement. Many adults in the Scout Movement may be used to shared values models from education institutions, businesses, or their personal and family values.
It is therefore important that adults, as much as young people, commit to and uphold the shared values of the Scouting Movement across all dimensions in the delivery of the purpose of Scouting. This includes areas such as Safe from Harm and the way that adults interact with young people and other adults while demonstrating a commitment to the shared values of Scouting.
Considerations can also be made within the context of the Adults in Scouting lifecycle where the Scout Promise and Law can influence some of the processes involved. For example, a new adult leader may be attracted to and selected for a role in Scouting as the shared values of Scouting align with their personal values. They therefore feel included and accepted as part of the Scouting Movement. The shared values of Scouting may also be used in Decisions for the Future whereas part of the decision-making process, a reflection on the Scout Promise and Law may be made in that the adult leader is consistently demonstrating and role modelling the shared values of Scouting. This is where again the shared values can manage the behavioural expectations in a youth-centred approach to Scouting. In short, shared values can underpin much of what we do in Scouting.
Introducing Community Involvement in the Scout Method
In 2017, the World Scout Conference adopted a new official expression of the Scout Method, which introduced a new element: Community Involvement.
The Community Involvement proposal was the final result of the review process. In the first draft that was circulated for comment, the Scout Method review unit proposed the addition of three elements that would be a regular part of the Youth Programme, but not a part of every activity, as was the case for the seven traditional elements presented in the 1998 Scouting: An Educational System. Those three elements were Service, Diversity Awareness, and Local-International Communities.
As feedback clearly indicated that this model was too complex, the solution became Community Involvement, which would incorporate all three and more.
While all the elements of the Scout Method can be expressed in a variety of ways (Nature can, for instance, be expressed by outdoor activities, by projects aimed at improving the environment, or by other means), Community Involvement should be seen as a set of educational tools, the aspects of Community Involvement, from which only a subset is implemented in any individual learning opportunity.
In The Scout Method11, we find the following description
“While all the elements of the Scout Method, working as part of a system, are constantly in play in the Scout experience as it is lived within the local unit, not all of these elements will be apparent in the forefront at any particular moment; some will be playing only a background role. However, over a period of time – for example, over the course of several meetings or a Scout camp – all elements of the Scout Method will have been used actively.”
For Community Involvement, particularly, this means that only parts of this element will be in play for any given learning opportunity, but it is also important that all of the major aspects are regularly used actively – for example, over the course of a season or even a Scout year.
The element of Community Involvement in the Scout Method is therefore not directed at one particular kind of activity (e.g. community service projects), nor is it about only one fundamental principle (Duty to others), but like any other element of the Scout Method, it needs to be a part of all learning opportunities. Sometimes, as with community service projects, it will be at the front, but at other times the relation to the wider community will be less obvious, just as we may not discuss the Scout Promise and Law at every meeting, but they are with us at all times. In this way, Community Involvement is a part of developing the values and attitudes associated with all three fundamental principles, and is thus an integrated aspect of achieving all the educational competencies.
Adapting Community Involvement
The following discusses the main aspects of Community Involvement and how these can be adapted to the age sections, including examples of activities that can be used.
The Diversity Awareness aspect emphasises the need for the youth programme to provide learning opportunities where Scouts experience success in diverse and inclusive groups – where success depends on the diversity rather than being despite the diversity.
This involves ensuring that Scouts have chances to act and learn in diverse and inclusive environments. Also ensuring that activities require a set of competencies that cannot be met by any one of the Scouts, and ensuring that there will be activities playing to the strengths of every Scout.
The Youth Programme is set up to enable young people to experience diversity and inclusion, not just within Scouting, but also to experience an even greater diversity through partnerships, community outreach, etc.
- Ensuring diversity in the teams.
- Experiencing how tasks can be accomplished more easily in a team with different strengths.
- Being offered experiences with diversity extending outside that already experienced within Scouting.
- Seeking out experiences with a greater range of diversity.
The service aspect aims to establish a habit of helpfulness and allows young people to experience the happiness of making other people happy. The concept of service has a long tradition in Scouting, having been defined by Baden-Powell, who wrote, “By service I mean the submission of self to the willing rendering of helpfulness to others, without thought of return or reward.”12
Working with others in this way gives Scouts the opportunity to make a positive difference for other people.
This can involve a range of learning opportunities from the daily good deed to dedicated service projects, for example for the Sustainable Development Goals13 or working with the Better World Framework programmes to create improvements for their community.
The service aspect becomes particularly strong when coupled with diversity awareness, so that Scouts partner with others who are unlike themselves and each has to understand the situation, the needs, and the aspirations of those others in order to define a collaboration project.
- Participating and making an effort in service projects. Adults helping to understand the “why” of the project.
- Scouting encourages being helpful in close communities such as family, team, unit, and school class.
- Defining, planning, carrying out, and evaluating service projects with support from adult volunteers (scaffolding).
- Extending the application of helpfulness to others they meet.
- Defining, planning, carrying out, and evaluating service projects with oversight from older adult volunteers.
- Extending the application and concept of helpfulness towards the generalised/abstract “other”. Being proactive in offering assistance in any given situation.
The Local-International Community aspect aims at letting young people experience themselves as being valued parts of their local, national, and international communities, to experience the connections between their communities, and to learn about their rights and their roles as members of these communities.
Community-oriented activities and projects aiming at, for example, peace and human rights education14, developing sustainability competencies15, learning about the rights of the child16, etc. These activities and projects do not necessarily help or benefit others (in the way service projects do), but they develop understanding and awareness while also empowering young people within their communities.
They also create connections to the wider Scouting community – locally, nationally, regionally, and globally. This can be done both as a dedicated activity, but also as a part of other activities, for instance by discussing how Scouts in some other part of the world do the same kind of activity.
In addition, they create connections to local, national, and international communities outside Scouting.
- Meeting and interacting with Scouts from elsewhere in the country, or, as possible, other countries sharing their first language.
- Meeting and interacting with other youth and community service groups and in their community.
- Imagining what Scouting may be like elsewhere (e.g. by searching the Internet for photos of Scouting in another country and having a conversation about similarities and differences to their own experiences).
- Engaging in age-appropriate community-oriented activities.
- Meeting and interacting with Scouts from other countries.
- Exploring through own research and international contacts what Scouting is like elsewhere.
- Engaging in age-appropriate community-oriented activities and projects.
- Seeking out and even creating their own opportunities for international and intercultural experiences both in the global Scouting community and in the community of humankind.
- Engaging in age-appropriate community-oriented projects.
Scouting would not exist around the world without the millions of adults, mostly volunteers who support the Movement in a wide range of functions, all of whom either directly or indirectly are devoted to the development of young people through quality Youth Programme.
Scouting relies on these adults, who facilitate and support young people to create learning opportunities through a culture of partnership, and turn these opportunities into meaningful experiences.17
These experiences have young people at their centre, and the stimulating presence of adults, to support them through dialogue and cooperation in their learning journey. In that journey, adults also grow through the experience and this enriches the adult-young people partnership.
That said, the development of any Youth Programme must be built on the basic principle that
“Scouting is a Movement of young people, supported by adults; it is not a Movement for young people managed by adults only. Thus, Scouting offers the potential for a learning community of young people and adults, working together in a partnership of enthusiasm and experience. This basic principle should be reflected both in the Youth Programme of a National Scout Association and in the management structures of the organization.”18
Youth-adult Partnership and Intergenerational Dialogue
The Mission of Scouting is better achieved when there is a healthy partnership between young people and adults, which ends up being mutually beneficial if each one has the opportunity to share their strong points.19
The collaborative and inclusive Scouting environment enhances intergenerational dialogue, built on positive practices that allow young and older people to exchange experiences from which they learn from each other in a safe environment.
A Scout leader may be the first adult with whom a young person chooses to work. Scouting brings people together for purposeful, mutually beneficial activities which promote greater understanding and respect between generations and contribute to building more cohesive communities.20
Youth Led, Adult Supported
The nature of the partnership between young people and adults in Scouting varies in accordance with the age and capabilities of the young people involved. Wherever possible, young people should be empowered to make decisions and contribute to the leadership process, and be allowed to make mistakes, in a safe environment. In general, adults are there to assist young people to prepare, as well as to support, guide, mentor, and facilitate learning experiences. In essence, the role of the adult in Scouting is to reinforce the youth-led, adult-supported nature of the Youth Programme.21
The developmental stage of young people is a huge determinant for the manner of involvement in the overall unit’s programme, specifically in each phase of the programme cycle as well as the intensity of adult support in their learning experience. For a young Cub Scout or an inexperienced member of the older section, as an example, involvement in developing an activity plan could be challenging and require close support and regular coaching from adults. The aim here is to progressively increase the level of autonomy in the young person and for the adult leader to slowly ease their involvement. Young people should be heavily involved in the unit’s programme cycle regardless of age, and should take a great degree of control of their learning experience.
Regardless of age, young people can be equally involved in decision-making, though not in the same way and with a varying level of autonomy. This, however, does not happen by itself, but requires supportive adults who take responsibility for creating inclusive spaces for youth engagement that are adapted to the specific group. Some issues need consideration:
- Spaces for youth participation – guided by adults
True youth engagement requires that adults take responsibility for creating an inclusive space for participation. Youth participation is adapted, using different forms depending on the concrete situation.
- Adult’s role
Youth engagement is not about leaving young people to fend for themselves, but requires that the adults be engaged and act as partners, speaking with young people, not to them.
- Young people’s perspective and sensemaking
It is important that young people perceive the engagement as meaningful. To help them find meaning and sense, the adults need to understand what occupies them and use this understanding to help them make sense of the learning opportunity as a common third.22
- Ownership and responsibility
Youth engagement and ownership go hand-in-hand with involvement in decision-making. This requires that the adults give ownership and responsibility to young people and that they share control and administration of the learning opportunities with them.
- Mechanisms for engagement
As specific competencies enable young people to influence decisions, access to influence and engagement in decision-making is uneven. To even out influence and engagement, youth engagement needs to be varied to play to different competencies.
- Implicit expectations
Any kind of youth engagement presupposes certain expectations regarding participation. It is important to be aware of these and the responsibilities that are implicit in the context (learning opportunity, organisation, etc.) in order to adapt the expectations to a specific group of young people.
- Community and inclusiveness
Young people typically engage themselves because of the social aspect, i.e., group life. To engage everyone, it is important to create an inclusive community where the focus is not on the shortcomings of individuals, but on what the community can do to embrace everyone.
Adults as role models and safe keepers
When adults are attracted and motivated to join Scouting there must be an interrelationship between the Mission of Scouting and the beliefs and values of the adult to be recruited.23
Your NSO must ensure that the adults working with young people identify with the fundamentals of Scouting and are able to use the Scout Method fully and effectively, by creating the right circumstances for young people to gain positive learning experiences through their Scout life in a spirit of true partnership.
On that journey, adults also grow through the experience. This enriches the dialogue between adults and young people, allowing a deeper connection and meaningful experiences where adults can be seen as role models for their personal commitment to uphold the values embedded in the Scout Promise and Law, “leading by example”.
Through the practical experience of a code of living applied to daily life, the Scout Law provides a concrete (i.e., not abstract) and practical way for young people to understand the universal values that Scouting proposes as a basis for life.24
On the other hand, the adult leader plays a key role in providing the necessary conditions for Scouting to continue to be an educational and safe learning environment for young people.
Scout leaders, as important role models within the Scout Movement, are supported with expert guidance on prevention and safeguarding.25
A specific method to empower young people
Youth involvement is at the very basis of unit-level Scouting. It is deeply rooted in the Scout Method, and is therefore an essential component of implementing the Youth Programme. The Scout Method provides us with tools that enhance youth involvement and enable young people not only to take an active part in decision-making processes at unit level, but also to take on roles and responsibilities at other levels of the Movement and in the broader community.26
That said, the educational content choices that are taken when you design or review your NSO’s Youth Programme, the adult’s training provided while disseminated the new Youth Programme, and its implementation at the grass root level by the adult leader, all will have a tremendous impact on how the different elements of the Scout Method will be effectively applied to ensure youth empowerment.
Within a unit, the adult’s role and attitudes will have a significant impact in the implementation of the Scout Method, especially in those elements that are more susceptible to promote youth engagement, namely:
- By implementing a team system throughout all age sections, where young people evaluate group life, decide on common rules and live leadership experiences.
- By effectively supporting young people to run the various “institutions” which support youth involvement in decision-making (team council, unit council, unit assembly).
- By ensuring that a variety of decision-making processes are used, playing to the strengths of each young person, so that all unit members are equally involved in decision making.
- By ensuring an environment of learning by doing, “ Ask the boy”, where young people can select, prepare, and evaluate learning opportunities based on their needs and aspirations.
- By supporting young people to select their path of personal progression, to be achieved at their own pace and according to their strengths.
When it comes to encouraging young people’s development, adult leaders should actively facilitate their learning experience in the following ways:
- Supporting them in the development and refinement of their personal progression and subsequently the provision of tangible aid and services that directly assist their development.
- To create a feasible plan and a realistic schedule on how to reach these goals, either for a single activity or over a period of time, say for an entire Scouting year. Adult leaders conduct this informally in a conversation.
- Facilitating and scaffolding the learning experience to help young people develop a deeper awareness and appreciation of themselves, the people around them, and their surroundings. This could be achieved by encouraging and equipping young people with the skills, attitude, and habits of a keen observer with an inquisitive and reflective mind. Adult leaders could utilise learning opportunities such as team-in-council, Team Leaders’ Council and learning opportunities that promote collaboration, exchange of views, and reflection to progressively develop such skills, attitudes, and habits in young people. A safe and supportive learning environment should be created by adult leaders to encourage sharing of thoughts and feelings, be they spoken or written.
Through their articulation, adult leaders should help young people clarify their thoughts and make decisions, be they on self-improvement or better learning opportunities. Adult leaders must be mindful that they should encourage young people to explore, discover, and arrive at their own decisions. Unless in extreme and urgent circumstances where health and safety of the young person is at stake, adult leaders must refrain from imposing their beliefs on young people.
4. Facilitating and scaffolding the learning experience involves building on those decisions made in the previous stage to create a new experience. The new experience here may refer to a similar learning opportunity in the future or another learning opportunity.
When facing the mission to design or review your NSO’s Youth Programme, one of the key documents to guide this process is the World Scout Youth Involvement Policy. Although many NSOs have developed National Youth Involvement Policies since its adoption in 2014, if its main principles are not reflected in the overall Youth Programme review and implemented through the Scout Method at the grass root level, a simple text may not be effective to promote youth engagement.
Advantages of youth participation
Youth involvement is a key element of the mission of Scouting. It has been defined as “involving young people in the decisions that affect their lives”. That should start as soon as possible. As Scout leaders, our duty is to involve young people in the decisions that affect their lives.
Benefits for young people
In meaningful youth participation, young people
- are empowered to be self-directed.
- learn and thrive better.
- make responsible choices about how to use their time.
- participate as group members in making decisions that influence the larger programme.
- are given the opportunity to learn group leadership skills and to assume leadership roles in planning activities and projects.
- have the opportunity to “give back” by contributing to the programme, to other young people, or to the larger community.
- experience a sense of belonging.
Benefits for adults
In meaningful youth participation, adults
- serve as mentors and facilitators for developing the skills of young people.
- share power in real ways with young people, which means by providing them with opportunities for problem solving, decision-making, planning, goal-setting, helping others.
Note about Scaffolding
Scaffolding has been defined as a “process that enables a child or novice to solve a problem, carry out a task or achieve a goal which would be beyond his unassisted efforts”27. provides a temporary structure or support to assist a learner in a task and can be gradually reduced and eventually removed altogether once the learner can carry out the performance on their own.28 To determine the adjustable level of support that meets the learner’s needs at a particular time, the scaffolding process involves an ongoing diagnosis of a learner’s proficiency in the task. 29
Baden-Powell defined Scouting as a “game for boys, under the leadership of boys, in which elder brothers can give their younger brothers a healthy environment and encourage them to healthy activities such as will help them to develop Citizenship.”30 Speaking about the Movement’s educational proposal, he stated: ” The whole scheme was then planned on the principle of being an educative GAME.”31
In the founder’s original idea, we find a close link between games and Scouting. Baden-Powell deduced the Movement’s pedagogical method from the observation of spontaneous social play in young people.
Based on recognising the virtues of the game’s symbolic universe, Baden-Powell presented the idea of the nascent Movement as follows:
“Had we called it what it was, viz. a ‘Society for the Propagation of Moral Attributes’, the boy would not exactly have rushed for it. But to call it SCOUTING and give him the chance of becoming an embryo Scout, was quite another pair of shoes.”32
The Scout Movement invited young people to become explorers, to carry out activities, and to identify themselves with the virtues of those characters whom they imitated in their clothing, symbols, and activities. This was intended to appeal to the youth in adolescence, which was the age group to which the original Scouting proposal was directed.
From its origins, exploring was the scene in which young people, together with their patrols, played at pretending to be explorers. Scouting for Boys proposed to leave the closed and overprotective environment of their houses, to become outdoor explorers, able to face various situations alone and to help others.
This reference environment of exploration is what we call the symbolic framework. It is an environment rich in symbolism in which the game of Scouting develops and, from an educational point of view, is used as a means to transmit the values proposed in our Educational Proposal in an attractive and understandable way.
The age section’s symbolic framework is a reference environment in which the section life takes place, reinforcing a life in common and giving coherence to everything that is done.
It is made up of a symbolic system formed by the section’s name, and identification elements such as the uniform and insignias, symbols, words, ceremonies, songs, stories, and characters.
The use of the symbolic framework
- adds concrete elements to the concept of Scouting, making it easier for young people to adopt an identity as a Scout.
- reinforces the sense of belonging to a group of young people, who are united with the same purpose.
- motivates and gives significance to young people’s progress, through the use of symbols (insignias) and ceremonies.
- communicates the values proposed by Scouting in an attractive and relatable way to young people, using age-appropriate language, thus helping them to identify themselves more easily with these values.
- gives a certain unity to the activities that are carried out, through the presence of a common signifier.
- Encourages the imagination and development of sensitivity and creativity in children and young people, motivating them to go beyond the common, transforming the ordinary into extraordinary, the impossible into possible, the imperceptible into something that can be perceived.
Symbols in Scouting Pedagogy
From its origins, Scouting pedagogy frequently used symbols. The fleur-de-lis is perhaps one of the best known. Originating from the ancient maps that used the compass rose to indicate North, it represents, according to Baden-Powell, the good path that every Scout must follow. The slogans, the salute, the uniforms, and insignias are some of the many symbols used in Scouting.
A symbol is an image or figure that has specific characteristics that allow it to represent an idea or concept. In every symbol, there is a signifier and the signified. The signifier is the sensible image of something (e.g. a flag); the signified is the idea or concept of the thing (e.g. the idea of nationality, a country, an organisation).
Boys and girls begin to use symbols when they are able to use the language. This occurs around two years old. It is between 2 and 6 or 7 years old approximately, in which the symbolic game occurs, through which boys and girls are able to combine real and imaginary events, exploring relationships and situations in their daily lives through their imagination.
In the game, fictional situations are recreated. Boys and girls become characters, transforming objects and environments into settings and elements of their game. This way, they overcome fears, gain confidence, and develop their creativity and imagination.
Although imagination is present at all ages, as we grow older it becomes less explicit and oriented to real situations. Thus, we go from imaginary characters to real characters with a social dimension, from fictional stories to stories that actually occurred, allowing for social learning closer related to real life.
Criteria for the Construction of the Sections’ Symbolic Frameworks
When Scouting began to target youth of different age ranges and different nationalities, the need to develop other symbolic frameworks that catered to the needs and interests of different transitional moments, genders, and cultural contexts was evident.
Like the other elements of the Scout Method, the symbolic framework changes between age sections to maintain its relevance according to the maturity level of young people, responding to the specific needs and interests of each age group.To guide the design of the symbolic frameworks of different sections, we have defined some criteria that we hope will serve your NSO as a reference to show the necessary progressivity between the different sections.
1. Think about the section’s symbolic frameworks comprehensively.
When defining the sections’ symbolic frameworks that make up your Educational Proposal, it is recommended to do it in a comprehensive way. Visualise how the symbolic frameworks evolve between sections, keeping a connection to the needs and interests of young people. An evolutionary sequence must be established from fantasy, in the younger sections, to the realities of the adult world, in the older sections; from imaginary characters to real characters; from simpler and easier to read to more rich and abstract symbols.
2. From childhood fantasies to the realities of the adult world
Fantasy is how boys and girls explore and act on reality. It is not a way of evading reality, but a privileged means of knowing it.
Italian author Gianni Rodari explains:
“Fantasy is not in opposition to reality, it is an instrument to know reality, it is an instrument that must be mastered. Imagination serves to make hypotheses and the scientist also needs to make hypotheses, he also needs it in mathematics and demonstrates by the absurd. Fantasy serves to explore reality, for example, to explore language, to explore all possibilities, to see what results when words are opposed to each other.”33
It is not a matter of replacing reality with fiction but making available a model behaviour and a sample society through symbols and images for children, which for them will be more easily understood than ideas and abstract concepts.
It is recommended that the symbolic frameworks in the younger sections be more closely related to fantasy, stories, and fictional characters. But, as we leave childhood and enter adolescence, as thoughts form and evolve, we must leave behind fictional characters and stories, and progressively enter the real world of facts and flesh-and-blood people. Symbolic frameworks need to be related to aspects of reality and youth culture as a way to help young people progressively enter the adult world.
It is necessary to take special care not to propose symbolic frameworks that infantilise the Youth Programme, becoming a Movement in a bubble that distances young people from reality.
3. From imaginary characters to real characters with a social dimension
In the sections’ symbolic frameworks, we use characters (imaginary and real) that serve as positive role models from which personal values, beliefs, and attitudes are built.
In childhood, role models correspond to imaginary characters, in which, through fantastic stories and narratives, models of behaviour and values are presented to boys and girls. In this way, abstract concepts such as solidarity, justice, freedom, or fear are embodied by characters who live stories in which they clearly show these values through their actions.
As a young person advances towards adolescence, with body and thought changes, new dynamics emerge. Imaginary characters are no longer enough in this age range. The hero and heroine are the protagonists of a real event that involves them, a story with indication of triumph. Less and less fantastic and more symbolic, but always idealised.
Well-rounded development in young people, especially during adolescence, requires the positive influence of role models with whom they can identify. In this age range it is customary to use historical figures that are not necessarily too closely related to the context of young people, who embody the values and aspirations of a young person, and from whom the young person will need to adopt their own critical perspective.
As an adolescent transitions towards youth, role models are found in people who are known and current, who have a key role in the youth´s environment and with whom it is shared and learned. The process of values assimilation culminates when the young person assumes themselves as the reference of the values proposed by the Scout Movement. In this way, in the last stage in the Movement, the role models serve only as a reference, but not as examples to be imitated. The symbolic framework in the last unit is the young person and their life project.
The use of stories and characters as elements of the symbolic framework has an educational function: there is nothing more powerful and inspiring than the testimony of others who have been able to embody in their lives the values that we propose as a Movement. It is not that young people copy these models, but that they serve as a reference and an inspiration for their own choice of values.
4. From the need for more symbols to fewer
A symbol is an image or figure that has certain characteristics that allow it to represent an idea or concept. The lesser the development of abstract thought, the greater the need to resort to symbols to concretely represent an idea or concept, values, for example.
Following this logic, it is likely that we need a greater number of symbols in the younger sections and that the quantity should decrease as we move towards the senior sections.
5. Define in some sentences the central ideas that characterize the symbolic framework of each of the age sections.
It is very helpful to express the symbolic framework of each age section in short sentences that allow it to be easily understood by young people and adults. This text should express how the needs and aspirations of young people in that age range are related to the symbolic framework that you have defined for that section.
Later, based on the sentence defined for each section, describe the central ideas that characterise the symbolic framework of each section in greater detail.
6. Identify the essential symbolic elements that will identify the section
In the process of designing the symbolic framework of each age section, your NSO must define which essential symbolic elements will identify it and will relate to the defined symbolic framework. Do not overload your NSO’s Educational Proposal with symbolic elements, so that it becomes cryptic and, in some way, selective.
Choose the symbols taking into account that there is a relationship between the signifier and the signified. If any symbol you choose is misleading, the link between the signifier and the signified may be lost, or it may lead to misconceptions or unwanted interpretations. Remember that the symbolic framework is not an ornament or a decoration of the Educational Proposal, but an element of the Scout Method with an educational purpose.
Some of the elements you should define:
- Name of the section.
- Section identifiers (insignia, flag, colour, etc.).
- Name of the small group system.
- Identifiers for the small groups.
Some other elements that can be inspired by the section’s symbolic framework:
- Name of the stages of the personal progression scheme.
- Name of the section’s governing bodies and the small groups.
- Some traditional activities.