What it's like restarting Explorers with a new unit
Callum Linger is an Explorer Section Leader at Mersey Weaver Scouts. His Explorer Unit’s only been running for a few months, but they’re already meeting face-to-face. We caught up with Callum to find out how they’re making it work.
When we chatted to Callum, his area was at readiness level Amber meaning that sessions could take place indoors and outdoors with up to 15 young people and 5 leaders per group. Check out the information on getting back together safely to find out what you need to do to restart face-to-face Scouts where you are.
What made you decide to set up a new Explorer Scout Unit during lockdown?
As a District, we noticed that there was a gap in our area – we wanted to make sure that we were catering for everyone and we were nearing capacity in the other Explorer groups as well.
It looks like it’s going really well – how long have you been doing face-to-face meetings?
We’re coming into our fifth week of face-to-face meetings, before that we had eight weeks of online meetings.
What have you been up to, have there been any highlights?
With it being a fairly new group, we’ve tried a lot of wide games. They’re good socially distanced, obviously, but it’s been good for them to participate in games that get you to work as a team so they can really gel as a group together – they’ve done that really well. We also ran an outdoor escape room that we found online, and had a unit Forum around a campfire – overall, it was really well received.
Where have you been getting all your ideas for such a varied programme?
We’ve had quite a bit input from our District Commissioner and District Explorer Scout Commissioner, who set up the group. Most of our ideas we’ve found online: we’ve got ideas from the young people and the Scouts website too.
Are you able to include all of your Explorers without splitting into smaller groups?
Yes, at the minute we can. We’ve got about 11 – considering we’re only in the early stages, the numbers are really good. We’re able to manage it well, we can split down into two teams if we need to and rotate, making sure everything’s cleaned and safe for the next group.
Does it feel anything like a typical Explorers meeting?
I was a Scout leader at the beginning of last year and, to be honest, it doesn’t feel too different. Virtual and online is really good – it helps as a back up, but actually face to face is a lot easier in so many different aspects. The Explorers have had to change their ‘normal’ but they’ve done really well – I think we need to give them credit where credit’s due.
Have you faced any challenges? How did you approach them?
I don’t think so – it’s just making sure that the programme’s tailored and COVID-19 safe through risk assessments (and implementing them) and making sure that you’re on top of cleaning everything, sanitising hands, and reminding them of the social distancing. Once the young people get the gist of it they do really well. It’s just the extra bit of COVID-19 essentials. There haven’t really been any other specific challenges that we’ve come across.
Have you got any top tips for risk assessments?
I think the main thing to remember is that although it can be quite daunting, there are a lot of great examples out there. I think it’s all about working together with the District and the examples that are on the Scout website, putting those together and building the foundations. I wouldn’t let it put you off – at the end of the day, it’s all coming down to the common goal of getting young people back face-to-face.
What impact has returning to face-to-face Scouts had for everyone involved?
For me it’s been really positive. Throughout lockdown I found it quite difficult – it had quite a big impact on my mental health and there were times when I struggled. Luckily, I had quite a close network with my family which really helped. I think getting back face-to-face and seeing the young people enjoying the programme has been really positive for me and it’s really helped.
And I think likewise for the young people. Obviously we’ve opened a group that’s fairly new, so not a lot of them know each other very well – it’s been nice to see them getting to know people that they wouldn’t necessarily have known before.
Providing it stays safe and you remain at the same readiness level, do you think you’ll keep meeting face-to-face as the seasons change?
When we get into the colder months, we may swap the odd session to online but predominantly we’ll try to keep it face to face as much as possible.
We often say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing! We just make sure they’ve got their waterproofs with them and they should be OK. It’s also about looking at making sure that the programme is suitable for the weather conditions and adapting things if we need to. I think most of it is common sense. We were out this week and it rained all evening and the Unit wasn’t really too bothered by it.
What would you say to a leader who wanted to (and could!) go back to face-to-face Scouts but wasn’t quite sure?
Obviously everyone is different and everyone has their different circumstances.
I think what we’ve got to remember is that it’s making the difference to our mental health and the mental health of the young people as well. It’s not as daunting as you may think: it really is quite nice, quite relaxed. You’ve just got to remember keeping your distance and sticking by the guidelines which you’ll have put in your risk assessment anyway.
Scouts have got not only the safety of the young people but our interests in mind as well. If it wasn’t safe we wouldn’t be running outdoors so just embrace it and try to get out as much as you can.