Tracing the origins of the Scout movement

Scouts from all over the world attend the 21st World Scout Jamboree for the opening ceremonies.

What is the Scout movement?

The Scout movement supports the younger generation in their spiritual, mental and physical development so that they can be constructive and productive in society. The movement primarily focuses on outdoor activities and survival skills using the Scout Method which is informal training focused on outdoor activities including hiking, camping and sports. Scouts have a uniform that hides all the differences in social norms in a country and promotes equality. The Scout movement has two main coordinating bodies; World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) and World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

Origin and history of the scout movement

The Scouting movement began on its own, although its development and organization is credited to Biden Powell who had an interest in the outdoors and the author of Scouting for Boys in 1908. Biden Powell was assigned to the area of Matabeleland to Zimbabwe in 1896 as Chief of Staff. Powell had the opportunity to work with Fredrick Russell Burnham who was a Scoutmaster for the British Army in Africa. Powell was good at carpentry, which proved a big help for Burnham. The two men expanded the carpentry training program to young men in Matobo Hills. It was then that Powell began wearing his signature campaign hat and acquired the kudu horn which he then used every morning to wake the first scout on Brownsea Island.

During the Second Boar War in South Africa, Powell was confined to a small town of Mafeking by the Boar army. Powell occupied the Mafeking Cadet Corps during the war helping defend the city between 1899 and 1900, inspiring Biden-Powell to form the Scout movement. Powell became a national hero for his struggle to hold the Mafeking, further promoting the sale of the instruction manuals he wrote in 1899. Biden Powell’s 1908 book Scouting for Boys highlighted the activities and the programs in which young people should participate. The reaction to the book with phenomenal leading to the training scout patrol in the UK. The first Scouts Gathering was held in 1909 at Crystal Palace which was attended by over 11,000 Scouts. In 1910 Powell formed the Boys Scout Association in the UK and later formed the Girls Guide. The program initially targeted boys between the ages of 11 and 18. Agnes Powell became the first president of the Girls Guide when it was founded in 1910. By late 1910, it was apparent that Biden Powell could not single-handedly manage all of the Boy Scout groups that needed his help. Scoutmaster training then took place in 1910 and 1911.

The spread of the scout movement

The Scouting movement spread around the world from the UK. The first Scout association outside the British Empire was in Chile in May 1909. Currently, there is at least one Scout organization in almost every country in the world. WOSM was established in 1922 to coordinate the activities of Scouts worldwide, while WAGGGS was established in 1928 to coordinate the national operations of Girl Guides. WOSM has 122 member countries while WAGGGS has 144 members. In 2010, there were over 30 million Scouts from 216 countries and territories, with Indonesia having the highest number of Scouts (17 million)

Derrick A. Anderson