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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

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Supported by Royal Navy

Row to the rhythm

Have fun on the water as you paddle to the beat.

Back to Activities

You’ll need

  • Equipment for your chosen boating activity

Before you begin

  • This activity’s designed for when you’re spending time on the water. It works with any water sport where people paddle together in time, including Canoeing, Pulling (fixed seat rowing) and Dragon boating.
  • You’ll need to learn the basic skills of your sport first – this activity works once people have found their feet.
  • Consider your surroundings before you launch into song. Are you disturbing wildlife, people who live on or near the water, or people trying to enjoy restful activities? It’s especially important to think about others early in the morning or late at night – no matter how tuneful your singing is, people won’t appreciate being woken up.

Make big decisions

  1. Before the session on the water, everyone should think about songs that the whole group could sing without instruments (or lyric sheets!).
  1. The people leading the activity should think of some of their own examples, just in case people don’t come prepared. Why not start simple with ‘Row, row, row your boat’ or ‘The pirate song’?

Paddle to the beat

  1. Everyone should spread out so there’s plenty of space either side of their boat, and a long stretch of water in front of them.
  1. The person leading the activity should show everyone how to paddle to the beat.
  1. The people in each boat should chat about songs they’d like to sing. Together, they should choose one to practise, and check everyone’s familiar with the words and tune before they start moving.
  1. Once everyone in the boat’s got the hang of the song, they should start to row as they sing, making sure they’re paddling to the beat.
  2. After a while, each group may decide to change songs – especially if their song’s not working or if someone else has one they’d like to try.


This activity was a chance for everyone to be active. Did people enjoy their time on the water? How did the different songs affect how active they were? Perhaps certain songs had a really fast beat, while others encouraged a more serene paddling style. When else might music make being active more fun?

The activity also needed everyone to be a team player. Was it easy to paddle in sync? Was it easier when there was a song with a steady beat? Some songs may have made it easier, while others might have made it a challenge. How did people work together to find what worked for them? Perhaps they negotiated who’d sit where in the boat, or decided whether someone should take the lead for the singing. The best teams work together to make sure that everyone is happy and comfortable.


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Water games and activities

Be careful when doing activities with, in, or near water. Check surfaces and reduce the risk of slipping where possible. Make sure you have appropriate supervision for this activity.

  • Once everyone’s got the hang of it, you could add an element of competition by challenging groups to race the fastest or sing the loudest.
  • You could encourage groups to try the same song across several boats – for a real challenge, try something where the boats can sing in a round.
  • Some people might find learning lyrics extra-tricky – but lyric sheets don’t really work when you’re trying to paddle too! Choose the songs in advance so people have plenty of time to practise (and read through the lyrics) before they get on the water. If you’re travelling together in your own transport, or if your time on the water’s part of a bigger event like a night away, take the opportunity to practise before the session.
  • If people are feeling shy or anxious, start with some leader-led songs. Dig deep, and find your loudest singing voice to encourage everyone to take part without feeling uncomfortable or self-conscious.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Encourage everyone to get creative and put together a library of singalong tunes that they can paddle to. How will they organise them? Will they come up with some of their own songs for the occasion?

Let people choose their own tunes – they’ll have more fun if they like the music. Reach out for recommendations in advance and keep an open mind – don’t assume what sort of music people want to try!