GSM Spotlight: 72nd Aspens

Just before sunrise looking up at the facade of a rock at the top of a foothill.

I’m the group scoutmaster for the 72nd Aspens in Arvada, Colorado. Our efforts to start our group in February 2020 were postponed for a year due to the pandemic. We had our first in-person, outdoor meeting in May of 2021. For a variety of reasons, by August we had only three scouts, two of which were my sons. In October we had a few more families join us and we now have 8 registered scouts. Even a small group like ours delivers the skills and experiences that meet Outdoor Service Guides’ vision.

For example, two weeks ago we went on our first group camping trip. Our group consists of one (lonely) timberwolf and seven otters, six of whom are going into kindergarten next year. So while we had planned some activities, our otters were mostly content running around the woods. One found a piece of our group’s pioneering rope and was going around “whipping” trees. Another was a pretending to be a superhero horse with ninja skills. Another was looking for evidence of bigfoot. Despite what may sound like running wild, in 24 hours these scouts grew in a variety of ways.

Three scouts standing around a just lit fire in a fire ring.

Elliott, the otter who played sheriff whipping trees, had finished dinner and it was time to wash dishes. Every scout washes their own mess kit: plate, silverware, cup, and bowl, whatever’s dirty. Elliott, according to his dad, had never washed a dish in his life. He was not happy doing it, but did it. The next morning after breakfast, a leader let him know it was time to do the dishes. Elliott ran up to camp, washed his dishes, exclaimed, “I love washing dishes!” and washed some of the cooking gear before running off to whip more trees. In one day, this 5 year old learned a skill important to camping and had the self-reliance to complete it on his own.

Hazel, our superhero ninja horse otter, found a bridge over a stream and fort built by previous campers behind our campsite. While she wanted a parent’s help the first few times crossing the bridge and climbing up the fort, by the next morning she had the confidence to do it on her own.

Fletcher, our timberwolf, enjoyed playing with the other scouts, but also wanted some responsibilities that were appropriate for his age. Supervised by adult leaders, he gathered the three different types of firewood for our campfire and lit it with flint and steel – something I never learned to do as a Boy Scout. By being responsible enough to handle fire safely, he provided a campfire for the rest of the group.

At this one-night camp out, these guides built self-reliance, confidence, outdoor skills, and interdependence. We meet at least twice per month in the outdoors whatever the weather. Every meeting, activity, outing, or camp out, we see scouts grow in these skills. From the scout who learns how to make friends when he struggles to do the same at preschool to the scout who overcomes their sensory aversions to handle walking through the tall grass in shorts, in just one year these young guides have already grown in our program. It’s exciting to think of what they’ll accomplish in the next year.

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