Solutions for Self-Reliance

The Boy Scouts Teach Resilience


“Be Prepared.” That’s the Boy Scout motto and it is backed by over 100 years of tradition in the United States. While many of us may consider the Boy Scouts to be an organization designed for adolescents learning basic life skills, the organization teaches children so much more. In fact, we have forgotten all the things we can learn from the Boy Scout tradition.


Boy Scouts is a lot more than Pinewood Derbies, camping trips, and selling chocolate bars. Many great leaders can attribute at least some of their success to their experience as a Boy Scout.

They are taught skills in leadership, citizenship, fitness and first aid. They also learn valuable skills in hiking, camping, navigation and other survival-related topics.

Permaculture and the Boy Scouts

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons learned in the Boy Scouts that we can apply in our resilient lifestyles is basic permaculture techniques. From the very beginning, Boy Scouts learn about the complex relationship between plants, animals and the environment.

There are quite a few merit badges specifically devoted to gardening and sustainable agriculture. We spend a great deal of time talking about permaculture as it represents one of the most sustainable food production systems available.

As many of us know, permaculture is about more than just symbiotic plant relationships. We must also consider how animals big and small affect our permaculture designs. The Boy Scout Handbook explains how animals are beneficial to the natural ecosystem. From honeybees pollinating plants to how worms impact the decomposition process, Boy Scouts have an intimate understanding of the natural ecosystem and how to preserve it properly.

Tools & Technology

Boy Scouts are also taught about using the tools they have at hand to create meaningful objects. In a wilderness survival course, participants are dropped in a secluded area with only basic tools. The goal is to survive 3 – 4 days by building shelter from available materials and foraging for food as needed.

Doom and gloom prophecies aside for a moment, we can learn how to create useful items from what we have available. For instance, instead of running to the hardware store for a box of nails, lashing can be used to create semi-permanent structures quite easily.


Although the Boy Scouts were founded well before the dawn of handheld GPS units and other technological advances, the organization has embraced these technologies while still teaching age-old traditions.

Our take on resiliency involves leveraging technology whenever possible. However, it goes without saying that this technology could become unavailable at any time. A catastrophic event could devastate the country; leaving our technological advantage in the dust.

The lesson we can take away from this is that although technology is helpful and makes many tasks much easier, we should still remember how to do things the “old-fashioned way” if these conveniences suddenly disappear.

The Boy Scouts also spend a great deal of time learning about the proper use of scouts3natural resources. The program is known as Leave No Trace and is designed to teach participants how to make use of their surroundings without permanently damaging them. Isn’t that very similar to what we try to do in our everyday lives?

Although many of the techniques learned by Scouts deal with immediate survival needs, we can also learn lessons that are easily applied as long-term strategies as well. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that these techniques can help during an emergency, such as when a 12-year-old boy was lost in the Utah wilderness a couple of years ago. His training as a Boy Scout allowed him to create shelter from materials he found in the forest and survive until help arrived.

We did a recent post about a solar food dehydrator. Many Scout troops learn how to create similar dehydrators while learning about food preservation techniques for long-term survival situations.

It’s interesting that the Boy Scout organization parallels our own resiliency strategies in so many ways. Even though the Scout program is designed for adolescents, it’s easy to see how useful some of these techniques can be as we work to create resilient lifestyles.

If you have children, you might consider getting them involved in the Boy Scouts. It is certainly an excellent way to jumpstart your children in the ways of resiliency and self-sufficiency. Even if you don’t have children, take a look at the Boy Scout Handbook sometime. It provides useful information that we can apply to our daily lives and in much more serious situations should they present themselves in the future.

Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scout Association in Britain, sums it up pretty well with this quote:

“A Scout is never taken by surprise; he knows exactly what to do when anything unexpected happens.”

Shouldn’t that be our goal as members of the Resilient Community?


Note…there are plenty more lessons we can learn from Green Berets, the Air Force, and periods throughout history. We’ll continue to explore these specifics in future letters.

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