Case study: transition at Pioneer age

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Studies in transition and youth leadership – how Woodcraft Folk Districts support young people to move through the age groups and take on leadership roles as they develop.

As a Pioneer (9 – 12 years old), you’re likely to experience the huge change between the small, familiar environment of primary school and the larger, more demanding environment of secondary school. During this unsettling time, you have the fun, supportive continuity of your Pioneer group to come back to each week. Woodcraft Folk members from around the UK discussed this and other issues of ‘transition’ at February’s Development Conference, and recognised that the experiences and opportunities of each Woodcraft age group are quite different, requiring different sorts of support from group leaders.

A whole range of opportunities are on offer for Venturers who want to get more involved in Woodcraft Folk, including Venturer Camp, attending a District meeting, starting to help out with other age groups and District camps, and standing for Venturer Committee. For Pioneers, especially those who have started secondary school, it can be a difficult middle ground between the thoroughly leader-led Elfins and the increasingly independent Venturers. Pioneers are aware of their community and social issues and want to start looking outwards and taking action.

Members at Development Conference came up with recommendations aimed at Pioneer groups:

  1. Districts should support Pioneer leaders
  2. We should acknowledge the emotional work of transition e.g. through discussions or theatre
  3. Pioneer leaders should not get cross with Pioneers
  4. Pioneer leaders should praise Pioneers when they are good & value the skills of the group

They also created a ladder of the journey from participant to leader, acknowledging that it should happen through stages, not in one sudden leap. Stages include helping spontaneously with a game or activity at the group night, being involved in planning larger activities or a term’s programme, and being supported to lead a specific activity or take on a camp role, which might require some training.

(Download the report from February 2012's Development Conference below.)

Ralph and Tom from Ealing describe their District’s support for young people becoming leaders:

“Our aim is to support young people to develop as leaders, and to take on leadership roles.

When Venturers become DFs, we try to get them coming to help with a group, for example joining the rota for helping with the Woodchip group. We recommend that people are over 18 before helping to run the Venturer group.

There are a few ways we help with the transition from being a participant in a group to leading activities. It’s based around creating a culture of moving on, taking more responsibility, and having an expectation that if you’re going to come to camps, you’re also ideally involved in the District in other ways. We hold a camp once a year or so where all the office holders are DFs, and they work together as a whole group, learning about each others’ roles and supporting each other.

We help DFs to make the transition to leadership roles by treating them like adults – socialising with DFs and existing leaders all together rather than separately. The community and the social scene is really important. Another important aspect of enabling young people to make this transition is the District being supportive, and offering space for them to take on new roles, not just imposing the expectation. Then the District becomes self-sustaining.”

Keith and Joe talk about transition in their respective Districts:

Joe from Derby described a more traditional approach to transition, which includes:

“…Young people moving with their friendship groups at the end of the term in which they turn 13 or 16. The Derby groups all meet in the same venue, which enables the young people to develop links and relationships across the age groups. These links are strengthened by the fact that all sessions overlap, so the Pioneers have an ending session with the Venturers, and the Venturers with the DFs. These links support the transition and stop it feeling like such a big leap from one group to the other. Group leaders also make an effort to follow up non-attendance and to get in touch with DFs once they’ve gone to college.”

Keith from Russell Venturers of Central Barnet takes a different stance on the transition from Pioneers and Venturers:

“Our group supports the transition from age groups by moving groups of young people at the end of the academic year, and linked to school age groups. As such our Venturer group reflects the secondary school age range. We do this because many 12 and 13 year olds think that Pioneers is babyish once they have started at Secondary School. In reality it does vary a little, so we move young people up in friendship groups and only when they are ready, which is dependent on their experience in Woodcraft Folk.

We’ve altered the traditional Woodcraft Folk age ranges so that they reflect the other life changes and transitions children and young people experience outside the Folk.

We find as long as we are clear about expectations and responsibilities, it works.”


Development Conference Feb 2012 report summary.doc363 KB