The scouting movement was founded by Lord Robert Baden-Powell who had learned scouting skills in the army, and was particularly influenced by his service in the Boer War. His book 'Aids to Scouting' was a bestseller, and he was inspired to rewrite it for a youth audience. 'Scouting for Boys', one of the bestselling books of all time, was published in 1908.
The beginning of the Scout Association is generally given as August of 1907 when Baden-Powell led a group of boys on Brownsea Island, off Poole in Dorset, and trained them in rudimentary scouting techniques. It is hotly debated where the very first troop was formed thereafter, with at least 6 groups active in the first half of 1908. The first rally was held at the Crystal Palace in London in 1909 and attracted 11,000 Scouts.
The so-called Scout Method is an informal educational system which emphasizes outdoor learning and civic responsibility. Through a system of challenges and rewards, Scouts are encouraged to build strong communities and to strive for personal accomplishments in leadership. One of the strengths of the system has turned out to be its flexibility; over the years, new and different sets of goals have been added to the original system in response to changing technologies and cultural diversity, and modern Scouts and Guides can train for the modern world while adhering to the same basic philosophy as their predecessors.
By 1910, Baden-Powell was advised to leave the army to extend his activities of promoting the Scout Movement by no less than King Edward VII himself. Also in 1910 Agnes Baden-Powell, Robert's sister, and Olave Baden-Powell, his wife, launched the Girl Guides. This parallel movement stressed similar attitudes towards leadership, self-sufficiency and community building as the Scouts.
There have been many changes to structure of the Scouts and Guides over the 20th century, but in general troops are divided by region and by age range. The uniforms are heavily influenced by Baden-Powell's experiences in the army in India and Africa. The Wood Badge, may be awarded to adult troop leaders and incorporates beads copied from those worn by the Zulu king Dinizulu. Likewise the uniforms, though varying in different countries and troops, is modelled on the army uniform of cap, shirt, and sash. Individual troops generally have their own banners, nicknames, and slogans in imitation of army troops. Rallies and Jamborees are organised frequently on both the regional and global level to encourage travel, diversity, and exchange of ideas between different troops.
Baden-Powell did not invent the idea of organised youth groups; he was in fact involved in the Boys' Brigade, a Scottish organisation which promoted Christian learning which began in 1883. However his message of empowering youth to become strong leaders by connecting them to the wilderness and teaching them to structure their lives around respect for others certainly struck a chord. Today the Scouts claim more than 28 million members worldwide, and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts 10 million.
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