Badge Support | Expedition Challenge Award & Explorer Belt
Learning to navigate the world around them is a great way for young people to gain a sense of independence, helping them to become more resilient, curious and confident. Throughout their Scouting journey, there are many opportunities to do so, starting with a Beaver going on their first nature walk as part of their My Adventure Challenge Award, and carrying right the way through to a young adult organising their own expeditions as part of their top awards in Scout Network.
In this blog, we’re shining a light on how to support Scouts and Explorers through the Expedition Challenge Award and Explorer Belt.
Scouts – Expedition Challenge Award
Did you know that Scouts can plan and take part in either an exploration or expedition for this award? Completing the award doesn’t have to mean a difficult hike through the wilderness. Scouts could wander around an unexplored city, or explore local rivers by kayak, or visit museums that interest them. This award is one of the most flexible in the Scout Programme, and the initial decision making process can be a great opportunity to practice Youth Shaped Scouting.
Scouts can do an expedition, which is a journey with a purpose, or an exploration, which is a purpose with a journey. A full breakdown of the differences between these options can be found in this table. The exploration option provides a great opportunity for a group of Scouts with a shared interest to take this to the next level, or to find out about something completely new. It’s also perfect preparation for the Explorer Belt.
Once your Scouts have chosen their topic of interest, they can start thinking about the kinds of locations they might want to explore. For example, if they’re fascinated by myths and legends, they could plan to go on a history tour or ghost walk. If they’re interested in insects, they could visit a nature reserve. If they love trying new foods, they could organise a tasting tour, gathering ingredients from different corners of the city, and cooking up a feast! For more inspiration, visit this useful ‘getting started’ Expedition Challenge page.
There are lots of activities that can be done as part of your weekly programme to help Scouts develop skills relevant to the Expedition Challenge Award. A treasure hunt can be used to develop map reading and navigation skills. A chip shop survey, or an afternoon spent being a tourist in their local town or city, is a chance to practice route planning.
In the months leading up to a team’s exploration or expedition, plan some opportunities for the team to prepare, to practice and to get a sense of how much supervision they’ll need. If the group need help working together as a team, you could use team building activities from the Taking the Lead resource. Part of the award involves cooking and eating at least one meal, so you could also plan a cookery night into the programme. This is also a great opportunity to make sure your Scouts know how to store and cook food safely.
It’s obviously important to check that the Scouts know how to be safe, and what to do if things go wrong. Make sure they know how to contact one of the leadership team and the relevant emergency services (providing an emergency contact list or card with these details on it is a good idea) and that they set up meeting points in case a member of the group gets lost. Planning an incident hike is a fun and interactive way to help Scouts prepare for all eventualities.
Although the idea of Scouts being unsupervised during their exploration or expedition might be nerve-wracking, it can be a really valuable opportunity for them to develop their independence and confidence. The level of appropriate supervision will depend on the young people themselves, and also on the activities and terrain. The minimum supervision required is a visual check at the start and end of each day, and making sure that an adult is available in the local area.
For more detailed advice on the exploration option of this award, check out this useful webinar.
If your Scouts are looking for a hostel to stay in, don’t forget to take advantage of our partnership with the Youth Hostel Association.
Explorers and Scout Network – Explorer Belt
For this award, Explorers aged 16 and above have an amazing opportunity to join an organised 10-day expedition, supported by an in-country leadership team.
To help your Explorers to come up with some initial ideas, you could look at some case studies of what other groups around the country have done. Members of the Wild Wolf Explorer Unit completed their Explorer Belt by arranging two separate group trips across Germany, with Explorers meeting up at the end of both of their journeys for a celebratory meal. To bring this example to life, you can watch the Explorer's vlog or browse through their digital logbooks.
If Explorers in your section are planning to complete this award, make sure they understand what is involved and register as soon as possible, so that your County Awards Coordinator (or equivalent) can be informed, and support can be directed their way. You’ll need to make sure they have a mentor to support them through the award, which will usually be yourself or a leader running the expedition. The Helping Them Reach Out and Explore resource is available to help you support your Explorers through their award.
Depending on the nature of the expedition and the circumstances of the Explorers, you may need to fundraise to help with costs. Page 10 of Helping Them Reach Out and Explore includes information about external funding and grants which may be helpful. Remind Explorers to account for essential costs, such as transport, food and accommodation, as well as less essential items such souvenirs and entry to any public attractions they might like to visit.
Scout Network members can choose to organise a self-led expedition, and the Reach Out and Explore resource contains loads of information to support them, ranging from how to pick a team, to what kit to bring along. It’s really important that they register their intention to complete the award so that they can get the support they need locally.
If you’re supporting a Scout Network member doing this award, budgeting might be an area they would benefit from support in, and page 10 of Helping Them Reach Out and Explore covers this in detail. To record spending during the trip, participants could carry a notepad and paper to jot down costs, or use a money tracking app (this list of budgeting apps may come in handy).
When planning accommodation, participants could try to link up with Scouting in the host country, as they may be able to offer up their own Scout halls free of charge or cheaply. This is a great opportunity to learn about how Scouting operates around the world. As the award is about developing a real understanding of the country, communicating with locals in their own language is part of this. Participants may want to download relevant language dictionaries and guides ahead of time, and to practice among themselves when they meet up ahead of the trip.