Aidan McBride says some of his best memories of Boy Scouts involve burnt pancakes and flooded tents during campouts.
“It’s a great time,” he said, without a hint of sarcasm.
Such great times are on hold, along with all kinds of other gatherings, due to the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Mike DeWine in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
But the order hasn’t kept Clintonville-based Troop 474 from getting together.
McBride, 17, and fellow Scout Ethan Shrimplin, 14, set up a virtual space for the troop to continue to meet while staying at home via the Discord app. The Scouts set up meetings for the entire troop, along with Girl Scout Troop 74 – which like Troop 474, typically meets at Overbrook Presbyterian Church – and small-group meetings for groups of Scouts to work on projects and presentations.
“It’s not perfect, but it has worked for keeping us connected, which was the main purpose,” Shrimplin said.
The program allows for both voice and text chats as well as screen-sharing, meaning individual Scouts or small groups can continue to offer presentations on various topics and learning objectives, McBride said.
“Each month, we have a new theme that different learning objectives are based around,” said Scout Nathan Mark, 16. “Most of that work is done in small groups, and we can use this platform to share those presentations, so it’s pretty useful in that regard.”
Scoutmaster David Donohoe praised the Scouts for their adaptability and knowledge in the face of unexpected changes, noting it’s indicative in some ways of the times that young people have been able to problem-solve using technology.
“This has all been completely Scout-led,” he said. “We obviously never expected to have to do this, but it speaks to what these Scouts are able to do and the leadership they’re showing in keeping us together, even though we’re apart.”
McBride said the virtual meetings are structured along the lines of in-person meetings, with only minor alterations. He said there was a learning curve at first as Scouts and adults unfamiliar with Discord got comfortable with the platform.
“We’ve had some issues with concentration, but maybe that’s not that different from most meetings,” Shrimplin joked.
While acknowledging that the group has learned some things that might be able to remain in use once stay-at-home orders are lifted, most of the Scouts said there is too much to Scouting that meeting virtually can’t replace.
“Outdoor skills and experiences are, to me, the most rewarding part,” McBride said.
“Most Scouting happens outside of meetings – building friendships and sharing experiences,” Mark said.
“Technology is not going away, but there has to be a balance.” McBride said. “There’s still a world out there and we need to be in it.”