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

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