'Den Democracy' - Youth Shaped Scouting in action
Every Group integrates Youth Shaped Scouting differently and in a way that works best for them. One of the innovative ways that Pat Campbell, or “Shamrock”, Beaver Scout Leader at 7th South Shields Beavers has done this is through ‘Den Democracy’. Here, Pat tells us more about it.
I’ve been using Youth Shaped Scouting for years. My Beavers have always played a huge role in the running of our Colony. Den Democracy is a forum we have once per term. All Beavers contribute to it and we use the Lodge peer leadership structure to help do this. The Beavers are split into their Lodges and work with their Lodge leader, who facilitates the discussion. Once everyone gets a chance to put their idea forward, everyone gathers into a den and discusses the ideas.
Beavers can have weird and wacky imaginations, but I believe that this can be used as a good source of inspiration. A great way to start is to have cut outs of badges that have not yet been done as a starting point.
'Shamrock, I want to sleep in a museum!' was a suggestion put forward by Ben, in one of the Den Democracy sessions. The thought of this filled all the Beavers with glee and excitement. Katie in particular said she wanted to 'see some dinosaurs'. Having learnt that this was a popular idea, the leaders got together and organised a “Night at the Museum” themed sleepover at the Newcastle Centre for Life. On the day, the Beavers got to learn about dinosaurs, magnets and sound, as well as the solar system – by going to the planetarium.
The cost of hiring out the Centre for Life in Newcastle ended up being prohibitive for just our Colony to do. Undeterred, I contacted several Beaver Colonies in Newcastle and they too joined us. We were going to have one big Beaver sleepover. I think I was more excited than them!
In another Den Democracy session, James claimed he wanted to “sleep in a castle and be king”. The leaders got together to think of ways they could make this a reality. Eventually, they organised a camp at the Newcastle’s Castle Keep that dates all the way back to 1172. At the castle, the Beavers had the opportunity to watch a medieval re-enactment and practise with foam swords!
Finding out what young people want allows leaders to continue to deliver a programme that’s relevant and exciting. For some leaders, especially ones that have been part of Scouts for a long period of time, it can be difficult to find new and exciting programme ideas and avoid repeating the same things. For me as a leader, it can make programme planning much easier; it’s amazing how you can turn their ideas into an actual plan.
For the Beaver Colony at 7th South Shields, Den Democracy has been extremely successful. We’re one of the most popular Beaver colonies in the area and I have Beavers on my waiting list sometimes within days of them being born! I’ve been using Den Democracy since 1995, but I have no intention of ditching it!
Pat Campbell, Beaver Scout Leader at 7th South Shields Beaver Colony.
Words: Nadda Osman