Blog | Introducing...the four week challenge!

An open ended volunteering commitment can be a scary thing. For parents and other potential volunteers who might not know much about Scouting, agreeing to volunteer in itself can be a huge leap. They’re unsure whether they will enjoy it; they may well feel out of their comfort zone and might be equally worried about letting the leader down.

That’s why the new Four Week Challenge, being piloted in some parts of the UK by the Regional Development Service, is such a proving such an interesting experiment. It is a time specific volunteering commitment for those interested in supporting young people, staggered, as the name suggests, over four weeks.

If they want to continue, then this is a great time to discuss the range of roles available, the training requirements and benefits. Equally, if they want to stop there, then leaders can present a certificate and thank the volunteer in an appropriate way. If they have had a good experience, there is a good chance they will volunteer again in the future.

Resources available

To support the Four Week Challenge, a range of resources is available on the Scout Print Centre, including posters and special certificate. These can all be personalised with local details.


Whilst it's all very well in theory, Chris, a Cub dad, offered to step forward, put the challenge to the test and have a go himself. Here’s what happened! 

Week 1

Jtwe Ukorgscouts Final

'How can a potato help me learn map reading?'

This not unreasonable question is being posed by a Cub Scout at my local Monday night Pack.  I’m helping a table of Cub Scouts draw concentric lines around a potato during week one of my Four Week Volunteering Challenge. We’re learning about contour lines and how they show height on a map.

The Group Scout Leader, Duncan, opened the Pack last year in response to an ever-growing waiting list. Since then he’s been running it himself, with support from two younger volunteers.

With a table full of potatoes, next we move on to learning grid references – with a quiz to find out which parts of a drawing of Scooby Doo are at various coordinates (you can find the activity yourself on Programmes Online). The Cubs are surprisingly good at this and one of them explains the six figure map reference so I can explain it to the others.

I ask the Cubs if they can remember what the lines are called that we drew on the map. ‘Condor lines?’ suggests one.

Some of the Cubs are beginning to grow restless. When some start to colour in their fingernails with the marker pen, it’s clearly time for a game. Two energetic games of Port and Starboard and Red Amber Green – two hoary old Scout favourites that have engaged young people since Scouting began. The children are soon flying across the hall and having a great time. My role is to encourage some of the children who are less keen to join in.

I get chatting to two of the leaders helping out, who have both come up through the Movement.

‘I’ve always been in Scouting,’ says Andrew. ‘I love it and I’ve been helping out since this new pack began last year. None of these children have been in Scouts before and as things were, there was no chance of them getting into Scouting. Then the new pack opened and they suddenly had a chance to join. We had an amazing mass investiture.’ 

But Andrew is hoping to go to university in next year, and while this is great news for him, it puts the hard pressed GSL in an even more precious position.

Soon it’s all over and we can see the shadows of parents standing in the drizzle outside the hall. How many of them might want to take on the Four Week Challenge? 

Week 2

Morse Code Illustration Final

The second week is an opportunity to give the new volunteer something to do – everyone wants to feel useful. 

‘How many of you know what Morse Code is?’ asks the leader.

There are plenty of confused looking faces.

‘Is it something to do with the Titanic?’ wonders one.

‘Yes, in a roundabout way!’

We introduce the Cubs to the Morse alphabet, getting them to write their names in dots and dashes. Then comes the outdoor stuff.

Dividing them up into two teams, each is given a flashlight and a message to send. The first runs as follows:

Akela would like a cup of tea  

The second is:

How many sugars would he like?

Crouching down in the dark on the grass, the teams face each other, around twenty metres apart. For some you can see, it feels incredibly tense and thrilling. While some of the Cubs become a little distracted and asks whether they can play a game, a small team buckles to the task of sending the message.

A certain amount of confusion follows.

‘We’re about to send!’ shouts someone in the dark.  ‘Is anyone ready over there?’

Even if the whole message doesn’t get through, the Cubs at least see the point and when they come in from the cold, they are all beaming from ear to ear. 

Find out how Chris gets on in weeks three and four, and take a look at the Print Centre to download your own resources to take on the Four Week Challenge. 

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