Five Scouts aged 11-15 have just returned from a three-day adventure undertaken almost entirely independently of adults thanks to game-changing new technology. Equipped with extensive hiking knowledge and a GPS tracking and communication device, several Scouts from 5th Footscray Scout Troop spent last weekend hiking 32km across the Brisbane Ranges free of adults, with Scout Leaders monitoring the hike remotely. A tiny SPOT tracker – small enough to fit in the palm of your hand – allowed adult Scout Leaders to track the progress of the group in real-time, while the Scouts had the ability to contact the Leaders and even emergency services despite limited mobile phone reception in the Ranges.
“Using a SPOT tracker means we were able to let the Scouts have their own adventure whilst assuring their safety,” said Scout Leader Jonas Anderson. “Knowing we were just a button-push away gave these young adults the confidence to tackle the adventure, but also allows us to better support them and expands our ability to manage emergency situations thanks to the ability to contact emergency services from anywhere in the world.”
“We knew we could handle the little stuff,” said Robbie, 14, “so when we didn’t know which turn to take, or whether we were on the right track, we asked each other for help.” When asked if it ever felt dangerous, he replied “No. Our Leaders would help us out in a second if we didn’t feel comfortable with something.”
Anderson says that the use of equipment such as the SPOT tracker is always done alongside extensive training, and that nothing replaces basic knowledge. “We still have to know how to read a map and use a compass, and how to look after each other,” said Naomi, 11. Working away from adults encourages Scouts to exercise leadership skills and problem-solve, encouraging independence and self-confidence. “We need to let our Scouts try new things and even fail sometimes, but at the same time, getting seriously hurt is never acceptable,” said Anderson. With this in mind, Leaders were never far away in a four-wheel drive and camped near the Scouts each night. “It’s a balancing act, but one which can be richly rewarding for young adults.”
Scouts and Leaders weren’t the only winners, with parents praising the use of new equipment. “Being able to see where they are online and know that we’d get notified instantly if they needed help is a big reassurance,” said mum Margie. “I’m confident my son is being kept safe but also getting to try things he couldn’t do at home.”
5th Footscray Scouts are already getting ready for their next adventure. Boys and girls aged 10-14 who are keen to try Scouting can find out more by contacting Scout Leader Jonas Anderson on 0415 652 553.