"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change!" - Charles Darwin

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

What I learned from being a Scout leader

Summer has definitely come! July is time of vacation, but for many of the 40 million Boy and Girl scouts in the world is also time for summer camp, the culminating and final event of the year.

Next Tuesday we’re also leaving for our summer camp: 10 days in the mountains, 200 km far from home. Thus for me as a Scout leader this is basically working time, busy with all needed preparation activities.

I have always found many similarities and common approaches between being an Agile coach and being a Scout leader: I learned a lot from both worlds, lived many resonating values and principles and re-used successfully experiences from working time in my volunteer cause and vice versa.

In particular you know that I’m interested in training and how people learn: I’ve been actually interested in that for more than 20 years, just because educating boy scouts is basically giving them the opportunity to learn and become the best they can be.

Our founder Sir Robert Baden Powell said there is always at least 5% good in any person, so a Scout chief’s goal is to pull that 5% out and make it bear fruit. BTW, “to educate” comes from the Latin “ex ducere”, which literally means “to lead out” what a person already potentially is.

Therefore I understood a lot about how kids and people in general learn out of scout educational model.
Basically it is an experiential model and one of the pillars is represented by the triplet Experience-Symbol-Concept.

  1. Experience
The person is offered a meaningful experience, which is different depending on the context, not just for the sake of the experience, but to let her elaborate it by means of a symbolic language. It is generally a concrete experience lived at level of feelings or physical emotion.

  1. Symbol
The symbol joins the experience with its meaning, i.e. the learning point. It is a concrete object or fact which is used for reminding the emotions lived during the experience and mediating its conceptualization.

  1. Concept
By debriefing and recapping the experience, you get an understanding. And just because you live again the experience through the glasses of the symbol, you are able to make it kind of universal and conceptualize the learning.

Of course this is the path followed by the trainees. A trainer has to go the other way around: she must start from the concept, from the learning she wants her scouts to achieve, in order to build a suitable experience which can exactly lead to the concept she started from.

This method, supported by other concepts like self-development and co-education (basically a concept of collaboration in helping each other grow), proved to be very much effective over more than 100 years, especially in teaching and learning skills like self-organization, leadership, ability to plan, collaboration, imagination, improvisation, dealing with uncertainties and the unknown, which ended up in being so crucial in the 21st century industry.

What’s your opinion about that? Feel free to comment.
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