Scouting Out Geography at Centennial Jamboree

BoyScoutJamboree (28).jpgThe virtues enshrined in the Boy Scout Law–trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent–date back more than a century to founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell’s original manual, Scouting for Boys.

Fine attributes, to be sure, but they beg one important question: Where’s the geo??? To scout about, after all, a boy scout needs to know how to read or make a map, what’s where, and how to get there.

So National Geographic Education pitched its tents, two big ones … 
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… at the National Centennial Boy Scout Jamboree near Fredericksburg, Virginia a few weeks ago and invited the assembled teens to view the world through our lens. More than 20,000 stopped by and did just that.

In case you aren’t a boy or a scout or otherwise couldn’t make it, here are a few highlights of what we shared:


BoyScoutJamboree (12).jpg Well, some of what we eat does, but most of us rarely see our food get grown or raised. Often, we don’t even know where it comes from. We gave scouts photos of familiar fruits, veggies, nuts, and meats and asked them to find the countries that export them most on a giant map of the world.


Animals may share the Earth with us, but their worldview’s entirely different. That’s why National Geographic’s remote imaging team developed Crittercam…

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… a suite of high-tech, industrial-strength cameras that strap or stick to animals, then pop off for retrieval and a bona fide creature’s-eye look at the landscape. Here, intrepid intern Matt sports Crittercam’s ever-popular “KidCam.”

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Many American scouts could locate the Grand Canyon in Arizona or
Constitution Hall in Pennsylvania (even without the help of Nicholas
Cage). But every country, not just the U.S., has its natural and
cultural treasures. Where would you go to find the Taj Mahal, Machu
Picchu, or the Serengeti? We sent scouts on assignment to find out with
a stack of photos, their lat-long coordinates, and an extra-large map
of the world.


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The abundance of resources and comparative wealth in much of the U.S.
can make it difficult to relate to the plights of impoverished people
elsewhere, or to understand the value of something many of us take for
granted: Water. We stacked buckets enough to hold the hundred gallons
consumed by the average American each day (according to U.S. EPA
estimates) next to a single five-gallon bucket, enough to hold the
daily water consumed by many entire African families.

Five gallons weighs more than 40 pounds, and people–typically girls and
women–must often walk miles to fetch and retrieve a family’s water
every day. Despite our best efforts to find a taker, no scouts accepted
our invitation to lap the Jamboree grounds with the full bucket to
better approximate the experience.


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  Once upon a time, cartographers made maps and the rest of us viewed
them. Now with Geographic Information Systems and digital cartography,
all of us can customize the maps we use. We asked scouts to draw their
home states from memory, then to find them online in a digital atlas
and customize them with the landmarks that matter most to them.


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 It’s never been easier to document and share stories about the places
we travel with photos. And it’s possible for nearly any scout to take
great photos with the tools at hand, from inexpensive point-and-shoots
to cell phones. We led a crash course in taking better photos with
no-frills cameras.


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With troops of teens from across the country gathered for the Jamboree,
it didn’t take long to pepper a map of the United States with pins
representing the boys’ hometowns.


National Geographic’s storytelling lounge welcomed scouts who wanted to
learn more about the world in the pages of our magazines…

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… or just to crash in the shade for a few minutes out of the 100-plus
degree heat. (Shhhh, don’t wake him! The rest of the troop’s back at
camp short-sheeting his cot.)

One thought on “Scouting Out Geography at Centennial Jamboree

  1. Way to go Nat Geo! Wow, what interesting activities — and information. Wish I was a Boy Scout!. Great Blog.

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