SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The Cub Scouts of Den 324 put their survival skills into action for Survivor Night on October 26th at Kennedy School. The young scouts had to maneuver through a course of problem solving, physical trials and even had to endure a food challenge to eat healthy snack foods.
“The idea behind Survivor Night is to remove the boys from their comfort zone, especially some of the scouts with Special Needs,” said Co-Den Leader of Pack 324 Keith Both. “Our scouts, especially the typical ones, are not even realizing they are learning leadership skills, empathy and are advocating for their peers with Special Needs. And let’s face it, watching a kid eat something they would never eat is a great way for payback for the parent!”
Based on the popular television show, “Survivor,” the concept of Survivor Night was created in 2013 by Co-Den Leader of Pack 324 Michele Both and Cub Scout Parent Volunteer Eileen Carey.
“We like the show ‘Survivor’ so we were trying to think of a different thing we could do with the scouts to keep them busy and still work on fitness requirements,” said Michele Both. “Within the different ranks, a lot of the Cub Scouts have to do requirements to advance so we incorporate Survivor Night in the different requirements they have to do.”
“It takes the skills that they’re teaching you and it puts you to the test,” said 10-year-old Alex Van Herk. “Basically, we’re put through courses and it’s just who applies the skills they learned in Boy Scouts the most. I really like it.”
Survivor Night began with opening ceremonies as the boys held torches and entered the gymnasium. Then the games began as the course was opened for competition.
“The scouts first had to dig through a pool of shredded paper to find two bags and each bag had various cards,” said Keith Both describing the course the scouts embarked upon. “They had to work through the card, each having a letter to put together the saying, ‘We'll Be Loyal Scouts,’ which is what Webelos stands for.”
Several of the scouts in Den 324 are Special Needs students who receive ongoing physical and occupational therapies at school and home. The troop works together to help foster the skills they are mastering in therapy.
“The next area of the course was standing on a piece of wood for a time frame, working through balance challenges and then while holding a dry sponge between their knees, proceed to the next station,” added Keith Both. “For some of our scouts who receive physical therapy, this is another exercise to improve their balancing.”
Not only does the course incorporate physical tasks to accomplish, but it requires teamwork and intellectual skills.
“The next station was a plastic box wrapped in various rope knots,” Keith Both explained. “They had to untie the knots, then remove the puzzle bag and then build the puzzle. For our scouts receiving occupational therapy, this is another exercise using fine motor skills and then the scouts have to work through the puzzle.”
The final station was the most fun for the parents who had come to watch their scouts work through the competition.
“The final station was the food competition,” concluded Keith Both. “While we do not go as crazy as they do on the show ‘Survivor,’ this year we used Mandarin Orange slices, carrots and chick peas. We have some scouts that have food challenges, where their diets consist of just a few foods. Three of our younger scouts, with known food challenges were selected and each was given one of the three foods. These scouts were relentless and each ate their food challenge. One parent said afterwards, ‘that boy does not eat oranges and he ate it!’ This is a huge accomplishment.”
Survivor Night ended with closing ceremonies and the scouts put their torches away until next time.
“The entire experience encourages the boys to work as a team and promotes leadership,” added Michele Both. “It’s good for them and they really love it.”