During lockdown we did something that on the face of things would seem to defy all logic – we opened a new Explorer unit! The aim was to bring young people from the villages of Kingsley, Newton, Alvanley, Helsby, Norley and Hatchmere together using virtual meetings on Zoom and long term offer young people an alternative location and weeknight to engage in the Explorer Programme!

It’s fair to say, we had no idea whether or not this would work and while plenty of young people joined Scouting during lockdown as far as we knew no one had tried opening an entirely new unit or section before. To add to the challenge, many of the young people joining us were coming from either different Scout Troops or schools. However the popularity of Explorer Scouting has ballooned in the last couple of years and we knew that in order to be able to keep up with demand we had to give it ago. After all being an Explorer is all about making the most of what you have, wherever and whoever you are.

It was also important to the team to be able to offer young people in this age group (who’ve lost such much during the pandemic), opportunities to socialise with their peers, develop, grow and practice skills that will give them an edge in adult life. So after a few planning meetings and a weeks publicising the new unit, off we went!

Virtual Meetings

Despite having never met face to face before and our previous worries, the unit clicked right away and met online for 8 weeks of continuous virtual meetings through out the summer holidays. The two favourite sessions were the evening we navigated DESC, Andy Pearson around a local park live on zoom and the live cooking session making a quick and easy expedition meal.

  • Week 1 – Intro to Explorer Scouting, getting to know each other with ice breakers
  • Week 2 – Scout values, getting to know each other and future programme ideas
  • Week 3 – Expedition planning – Maps symbols and contours
  • Week 4 – Expedition planning – Route Card, Compass skills and navigating
  • Week 5 – Intro to the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and Queen Scout award
  • Week 6 – Expedition planning – Cook along challenge
  • Week 7 – Unit Forum
  • Week 8 – Mini pioneering and a briefing ready to return to face to face activities

Meeting face to face

After the success of meeting virtually and investing the time in getting to know one another, the unit have gone from strength to strength, carrying on their pioneering spirit and three weeks ago were our first Explorer Unit to return to face to face activities. The unit have held three meetings now upping the ante each time and even gained three new members! Seeing the smiles on the young people’s (and leaders) faces being outdoors again has been incredibly rewarding and much needed in these difficult and somewhat challenging times.

Week 1 – Investitures, Fire Lighting and Backwoods Cooking

During the unit’s very first face to face meeting, after an slightly awkward first five minutes when everyone worked out what social distancing was like in practice, it was amazing how quickly everyone just gelled! As decided by the young people early on in the formation of the unit, they wanted a special investiture at their first face to face meeting and at their future meeting place, QCW. After everyone was formally welcomed to the unit, we got on with doing what Scouts love best – burning things and sitting around a campfire! In fact they had the honour of christening the new campfire circle and even made a variety tasty treats!

Week 2 – Giant table football, Rhythm Master and Night Watchers

At the second meeting every was feeling a bit more active, comfortable with social distancing and with each other so we played some socially distanced games.

Rhythm Master – This is a bit like wink murder but you have to guess who is setting the rhythm. The game made social distancing easy as everyone had to stand in a circle. It was really great way of encouraging everyone to come out of their shell.

Giant Human Table football – This was probably the Explorers favourite game judging by the amount of laughs they had. There was no escaping social distancing with this one as everyone was attached to a stake in the ground tied to a climbing harness. To prevent cross contamination everyone sanitised their hands and goalies weren’t allowed to use their hands to make a save. We bought a light up LED football and watched on with some hilarity while some of the players forget they were still tethered to the ground! It was a close match ending in a tie break with a deciding goal going to the the hi-viz team.

Night Watchers – This game was already really easy to socially distance as again the group could arrange themselves in a circle. The aim of the game was to retrieve a bottle filled with pebbles from the centre of the circle without being detected by a player wearing a blind fold. Between rounds we sanitised the rattle. It was quite impressive to learn we had a few ninjas in the unit who managed to go undetected!

Week 3 – Night Hike

For week three, the Explorers were keen to leave the confines of Queen Charlotte’s Wood and put into practice some the navigator skills we’d practiced on Zoom. The aim was to navigate from Kingsley back to QCW. Along the way, we talked about adapting the country code post COVID-19 and what kind of things we’d need to consider while out in the countryside to keep everyone safe. Impressively we made it to QCW with minutes to spare before pick up.

And so we continue with our face to face programme and in two weeks time we will be able to reveal the final name for unit. We launched under the code name, “Deceangi” – a Celtic tribe local to West Cheshire. The Explorers however decided they would like to be called something else, although they aren’t quite sure what yet!

We hope what we’ve achieved both online and face to face will inspire others whether their returning to face to face Scouting or not to continue delivering activities for young people to take part in.

Interested in Joining Explorers?

Explorers are a go-getting group of young people aged 14 to 18. Together, they make up the fourth section of the Scouts.

Week in and week out, they gather in groups called Units to try new things, make new friends and conquer the small task of changing the world. Being an Explorer is all about discovering the world on your own terms and making the most of what you have, wherever and whoever you are.

Alongside your new friends, you’ll master the skills that will make you feel stronger and happier in the long run, and try things you’d never get the chance to do at home or at school. Whether you’re hiking to faraway lands or building a robot in the local Scout HQ, you’ll have the freedom to choose what you’d like to do, and work together with adults to make it happen.

Explorers seek out the answers to the big questions, and to the smaller questions that don’t seem to matter but really should. Most importantly, they say yes more often than they say no – whether they’re signing up for their first major hike across Europe, or writing their first line of code, or accepting the last of the toasted marshmallows.

Sound like fun? That’s because it is. All that’s missing is you.

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