Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BoG Candidate's reply on Youth Group Liaison Committee

The elections for the National Speleological Society Board of Governors is coming up. I sent an open letter to all the candidates asking them for their views on the role of the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee and how they would support it if elected to the BoG. You an see in other post the reply from John Hoffelt, Bill Putman, Herman Miller, Jay Clark, and Gary Bush.

Even though I posted this invitation to comment on Cave Chat and emailed each candidate individually, I have not, as of the time of writing this post, heard from;
John LaMar Cole 35457RE
Debra Young 44886RE
Dr. Dean Wiseman 32690RL

I hope this has helped members understand the candidates position on youth groups and caving and will help you in your decision for electing the next Board of Governors of the National Speleological Society.

Monday, April 26, 2010

BoG Candidate Wm. Gary Bush's reply on Youth Group Liaison Committee

The elections for the National Speleological Society Board of Governors is coming up. I sent an open letter to all the candidates asking them for their views on the role of the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee and how they would support it if elected to the BoG. I'm posting their replies in no particular order.

Your question about the Youth Group Liaison Committee’s role has special interest to me. One of your predecessors in the Chair position was my good friend, Jack Hissong. Jack passed away this past January. He had a very strong interest in working with and training youth groups in responsible caving. No doubt, his long association and efforts with the Boy Scouts fed his passion for the topic. Jack started the Youth Group training in the Greater Cincinnati Group and expanded its scope to lead scores of scout and youth group trips every year. Many were combined on matching weekends, so we could accommodate more groups. Jack recognized that the youth groups would be turning out many of our future NSS members. Once he became Chair of the YG Committee he did attempt to disseminate his information. But, I must admit, I don’t know how successful that was.

A real strength of the GCG YG training is a comprehensive and consistent program given to each group before, during, and after their trips. He, or one of us trained by him, would go out to each youth group several weeks in advance of their trips to give a slide presentation and discuss overall equipment and behavioral requirements for safe and fun caving. We’d go back to them just a few days prior to their trip for an equipment check-out and review. We’d have enough trip leaders to ensure adequate coverage for the group’s size. Trips were set for caves equal to the group’s age and experience. After their trip, we’d go back and discuss their reactions and/or any problems they may’ve had during the weekend. The basic elements of Jack’s program are still used by GCG today, some 30 years later.

I’m relating the history of Jack’s efforts because I saw it as a really effective way to meet the needs of both the youth groups and the NSS. The kids who came through these weekends had a good and safe trip and they gained valuable information about caves, caving, and the cave life. Hopefully, those who later served as adult youth leaders passed on what they’d learned.

My vision for your committee would include development of a consistent youth group orientation program curriculum, similar to what Jack developed. It would include discussion topics, related information for the adult leaders, and perhaps a basic slide or Powerpoint presentation for local grottos to start with for their programs. The Vertical Section did this for both Basic and Intermediate Vertical Training programs for grottos. Hopefully, a more consistent message would then be presented across the country to ensure all major topics and talking-points are presented to the young cavers.

With a few email requests to the major grottos I’m sure a wide range of existing programs could be assembled. Your committee could compile the best of the best into a common curriculum to serve as an outline, realizing of course, that regional changes might be required for the differences faced locally. Holding regional workshops would be an additional way to spread a consistent message to grotto leaders who currently don’t have a youth group program.

Once you have a chance to discuss this idea with your committee and settle on a direction for your efforts, I’d provide as much support as I could gather on the Board to help you complete your plans. Discussions with the JSS Chair could also benefit both committees.

I’d be glad to discuss this idea further, if you’d like.

Thanks again for your request,
Gary

Sunday, April 25, 2010

BoG Candidate Jay Clark's reply on Youth Group Liaison Committee

The elections for the National Speleological Society Board of Governors is coming up. I sent an open letter to all the candidates asking them for their views on the role of the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee and how they would support it if elected to the BoG. I'm posting their replies in no particular order.

I see education and conservation as 2 of our main goals. Education starts at a young age and never ends. Proper education teaches conservation. Many youth groups have misconceptions about caves and the critters therein- that may have seen the descent and think there are creatures who reside there. I am in favor of starting cave education and conservation at a young age. I am the preserve manager for Tumbling Rock cave for the SCCi and we seen a great deal of traffic from young groups. I and the other manager work with each group to teach them about the cave and cave life. I am also in favor of trying to recruit new members from the ranks of weekend cavers who are not affiliated with any organized group. I am against openly advertising and trying to solicit members off the street to join a caving group. My feeling is that there are an infinite number of potential cavers or “spelunkers” and only a finite number of caves, so confine our efforts to those who will enjoy and respect our resources. Education at a young age can perhaps prevent vandalism, accidents or other problems. I would see your group working with scouts and outdoor groups at schools or church groups to encourage trips to caves where they could get the experience without causing any overuse problems. Unfortunately access is becoming a problem because of the WNS problems and again education plays a big role here. I have been on the Board before and I don’t recall any issues with the Youth Group coming up then. I am a lawyer and specialize in defending people who get sued. I do risk management for non-profit groups. I am reluctant to have the NSS assume any risk that it should not for a lot of reasons and would not be in favor of the NSS sponsoring trips for youth groups without analyzing the recreational use statutes of the State where the trip was to take place. I have and will continue to give advice to such groups on potential legal issues. I am in favor of representatives of your group giving educational talks to various groups and going on trips—not leading as such. I hope this answers your inquiry. Jay Clark

Friday, April 23, 2010

BoG Candidate Herman Miller's reply on Youth Group Liaison Committee

The elections for the National Speleological Society Board of Governors is coming up. I sent an open letter to all the candidates asking them for their views on the role of the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee and how they would support it if elected to the BoG. I'm posting their replies in no particular order.

I feel that educating and involving our youth is paramount to our goals in the NSS and even having a Youth Group Liaison Committee (YGLC) should hint at such. I believe the YGLC should offer direction and advisement to the local grottoes whom ultimately either involve local youth or don't. At a national level I feel the YGLC could offer a voice to other organizations whose primary purpose is in getting our youth outside and away from the . If elected I would like to offer further support to both the YGLC and the JSS as I have already stated I feel our youth is our key to future success of the NSS and of our goals.
Herman Miller NSS# 55273SU BOG Candidate 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

BoG Candidate Bill Putman's reply on Youth Group Liaison Committee

The elections for the National Speleological Society Board of Governors is coming up. I sent an open letter to all the candidates asking them for their views on the role of the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee and how they would support it if elected to the BoG. I'm posting their replies in no particular order.

I believe the YGLC is a critical component of the NSS outreach efforts. I began my caving career as a Boy Scout, and we had no input or guidance form the NSS. We managed, but we could have been safer, better equipped, and more conservation=oriented if we had had some guidance. The YGLC has waxed and waned in effectiveness over the years. Overall, however, we have come a long, long way. Bill Steele knows all about that, since he has been an executive with BSA. Many good volunteers have made this progress possible. There are also many other groups that need our guidance - schools, churches, and summer camps, for example, often feature caving trips in the summer months.

It is a fact, however, that the leaders of youth organizations change over time, requiring near-constant communication and reinforcement of the contacts between the NSS and the youth organizations regarding safe caving practices. Youth group caving liaison activities are an essential component of promoting safe and responsible caving, and educating the public about the value and special nature of caves.

We are in the midst of a very difficult financial situation, but one things we must support and perhaps even expand is our outreach efforts, not just for youth organizations but to all non-NSScavers. While other areas may have to suffer decreased support and activity, I do not want to see the key areas of outreach and education scaled back. I would rather see them expanded, because I believe in the long term they will benefit not just caves and caving, but the NSS as well, by increasing our member base.
Bill Putnam, NSS 21117 RL/FE

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

BoG Candidate John Hoffelt's reply on Youth Group Liaison Committee

The elections for the National Speleological Society Board of Governors is coming up. I sent an open letter to all the candidates asking them for their views on the role of the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee and how they would support it if elected to the BoG. I'm posting their replies in no particular order.

I do thank you for your contact and concern for support to youth groups. As for all organizations, the future of the NSS lies with the youth and upcoming generations; otherwise, we stagnate, grow old, and wither away. It is critical that we support parents and group leaders that are interested in showing youth proper and safe cave techniques and appropriate conservation ethics. Literally, the efforts we expend and invest today are the dividends and future we reap tomorrow. These dividends, if invested wisely in our youth, will reap benefits far beyond yours and my tenure in the organization.

The NSS should continue to provide information and local contacts to youth groups interested in learning about caves and in experiencing the great wonders of going underground. Our primary focus should be to facilitate and assist those groups to find appropriate and qualified cave leaders and mentors. Clearly, we should integrate information sources and efforts between the Youth Groups Committee and other committees in the Education Division. I would certainly be interested in learning what efforts or changes you recommend for the Youth Group Liaison Committee.

Again, thank you for your interest in this matter, and please contact me if you wish to discuss the issue further.

John Hoffelt
NSS 20058F

Monday, April 12, 2010

The North East Region 6 Venturing Quest 2010 Caving Demonstration

It actually turned out to be a pleasant day. A little chilly, especially in the morning, but the sun stayed out and warmed up a little in the afternoon.S7305312

This year it was at Horseshoe Scout Reservation which is part of Chester County Council, BSA. Back in the old days when I was a Scoutmaster, this is where our Troop went to summer camp. This weekend it was transformed to accommodate over 400 Venturers and their leaders. The theme for the weekend was “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. There were a lot of activities for these high school aged people to do from a climbing wall, zip line, Velcro walk, rang shooting, cooking and a mess of other things to my little old caving demo. Of course I loaded up the squeeze box along with the “cave in a box”, my laptop, and brochures from the National Speleological Society and Bats Conservancy International.

As usual the squeeze box became a hit and the competition for the smallest squeeze was in full swing. Not to bore you with all the details here, just look at the pictures and the video. You’ll see how much fun we all had.
It was really good to see and catch up with some old friends and it was good meet new friends I made that day.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Vertical Caving Skills

OK, so you’ve done a few wild caves. Belly crawled in the mud, squeezed through the keyholes, chimneyed horizontal cracks. What’s next?
Vertical Caving adds a whole new dimension to the sport. You’ve seen those drops. Twenty or 30 feet or more. There are no handholds to climb in and out. But if you could climb a rope, that would work. You’re going to leave your rock climbing skills behind and join in a new group of “pit bouncers”.
Vertical Caving is where you rappel down a on a rope and climb back on a rope. There’s special equipment and skills needed to do this safely and efficiently. While there are some BSA Climbing Instructors and Climbing Directors that are vertical cavers and they can teach you these skills, generally it is better to find and join a Grotto (local chapter of the National Speleological Society) that has a strong vertical training and practice program. They will teach you what you need to know and will give you opportunities to practice and hone these skills above ground so when your looking into the abyss of your first in cave drop you really do know what your doing.
You will have to purchase some new gear. But don’t do that right away. Talk to the folks who will be teaching you. Heed their recommendations. Lean how to make your own harness from webbing. Learn the basics of ascending with prussic knots.
You know not all caves are the same. The same goes for drops. There are different types of vertical caving gear that are more ideal for some drops than others. All vertical cavers have their favorite setup and it may not be the same as the next caver. But luckily most cavers will explain why they chose what they did and most will let you try they have set up so you can get a good sampling of what you would like to purchase first. But again, listen to the advice of these experienced cavers. Find out what they would prefer for the specific drop they will be taking you to first.
Once you do your first in cave drop you be hooked in a whole new aspect caving and enter in whole new worlds you’ve never been in before, nor would be able to get there without these vertical caving skills.

Suggested links:
To find a local Grotto, go the National Speleological Society’s web page and click on “FIND A LOCAL CAVING CLUB” www.caves.org.

A forum to read and asks question about vertical caving go to the “On Rope” forum at http://www.forums.caves.org/viewforum.php?f=5&sid=53b1fdd4ec8eb1c8bd2000101e2f61e5.

BSA Climbing Instructor Course

Anyone who is 18 y/o or older and getting involved with BSA Troops and Crews caving should consider taking the BSA Climbing and Rappelling Instructor Course. I know what you’re thinking; climbing and caving are two different activities. And I’ll add that they are similar and I’d like to explain my thoughts on this.
Those of you who have done wild cave trips understand that there is a fare bit of crawling and squeezing into cracks and holes. There is also a fair amount of scrambling over breakdown, climbing over boulders, and chimining through cracks. In climbing terms this may resemble “bouldering”. Bouldering occurs where you need to spot someone who is not climbing more than shoulder high. There is no need for a belay while doing this. Sometimes you’ll be faced with having to belay someone who is climbing higher than you can safely spot them. When belaying you must to be anchored so you don’t get pulled off balance and fall yourself.
The BSA Climbing Instructors Course teaches you the basics and theory behind safe anchoring of a belayer, climber, and rappeler. It also teaches how to quickly asses when a belay is and is not necessary. Even though you may not have a caving activity that requires a Climbing Instructor to be present, the Climbing Instructor Course will give you the tools and skills to tell the difference between when you do and do not need a Climbing Instructor.
As a BSA Unit any time a rope or webbing is used for a climbing aid you must have someone with current “Climb On Safely” training present. Anytime more than one Unit or your friend from another Troop or Crew comes along with your Troop or Crew you will need to have a BSA Climbing Instructor.

Taking the BSA Climbing Instructor is not all that hard either. Most Councils offer this course sometime during the year. If not, check a neighboring Council for courses. It’s generally a two weekend course. You walk away with a lot of material and a better understanding on what you will need to do to be safe while on rope. This is not a “how to rock climb” course, but a “how to safely climb and rappel” course. And like most BSA courses it’s a lot of fun, you get to meet some great people and gain some incredible recourses.