Body Text: In a downtown building, several young boys place arrows carefully into bows, line up their targets and take aim. These aren't trained professionals on a mission, but rather Boy Scouts at one of their weekly activities. It has been over 55 years since the Chinese government asked the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts movement to leave Shanghai at the start of World War II, and 10 years since they were granted permission to return in February 1997. On Feb. 10, to celebrate their 10 years back in China and, coincidentally, the 100-year Worldwide Boy Scout Anniversary, scouts from troops across Shanghai will converge for a celebratory dinner.

Scouting began in the early 1900s to expose children to knowledge that they don't usually learn in an academic environment. It is practiced in many countries by both boys and girls.

Shanghai has a number of scout groups in Puxi and Pudong that meet during the school year. The troops welcome foreign passport holders between the ages of 11 and 17 years old who have either earned their Arrow of Light (Cub Scouting award) or have completed the fifth grade. Typical meets involve badge skills or sports such as, as we saw during our visit, archery. Registration with the American Scout Association costs US$12, plus ¥400 for a year-long membership. "No special abilities or skills are needed to join, just a willingness to get involved and to take responsibility for yourself," says Scout Leader for Puxi-based Scout Troop 12, David Poppell. Scouts often embark on trips to nearby provinces such as camping at Ningbo's Radar Mountain (Zhejiang), bike rides around Dianshan Lake and mountain hikes up Huangzhou Red Mountain (Zhejiang). New subjects are learned with each adventure, such as Environmental Science, Wilderness Survival, Lifesaving and Emergency Preparedness.

As the scouts fire their arrows at the Wednesday meet up, it's clear from their smiles that Scouting is also about fun. "Camping is the best bit," says 11-year-old Jacob Zollinger, a sentiment echoed by 10-year-old Australian Samuel Dunn. "I joined Scouts because my friends are here," adds 13-year-old Andrew Qiu, "we camp together and learn techniques useful for later on."

Unfortunately, the movement is not currently open to Chinese Nationals, though, in the past, Chinese students have unofficially attended Scout meets with the support of their parents.

David Poppell attributes

Scouting's popularity in Shanghai to the fact that "boys are able to learn and do things that they might not normally be exposed to." Cub Master for the Pudong Cub Scout Pack 969, David Plekenpol, adds that it is a "large volunteer organization constantly changing and improving." In Shanghai, expat families come and go all the time, so leaders change frequently, bringing fresh ideas and different traditions with them. Poppell recounts the tale of one American leader who always performed an unusual salute at the end of meets. That leader has since left Shanghai, but the salute was adopted as the organization's own.

Poppell estimates that 80 percent of Shanghai's leaders are former Scouts who believe in the valuable skills learned. Other leaders are new to Scouting. Poppell, never a Scout himself, says he got involved in the movement because his son asked him to. Indeed, the Scouting system offers networking opportunities for dads too. "I've made friends with both the older and younger guys," says Poppell. As the big day approaches and Scouts in Shanghai prepare for their 10-year anniversary, let's hope they hit a bulls-eye.

Box:

Shanghai Scouting Numbers

1914 – the year the British "Cathedral School" obtained a Warrant from the Boy Scouts Association in London and became the first Group of Shanghai Baden-Powell Scouts.

1997 – the year Shanghai started its first Scout troop in Puxi. Now there are two Boy Scout troops and two Cub Scout troops.

5 – the number of countries where Scouting, does not exist or is not allowed. These are: Andorra, Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Lao People's Democratic Republic and Myanmar.

155 – the number of countries with internationally recognized National Scout Organizations. China has some unofficial groups but they have yet to be approved.

2004 – the year the all-China jamboree, with troops from Hong Kong and Beijing in attendance, took place for the first time in 60 years.

969 – The Pudong Scout Master Troop that boasts over 150 members.

Over 100 – Number of members of Shanghai Girl Scouts.

4th Place – Placement on the all-time best sellers list of the book Scouting for Boys, which all Boys and Cub Scouts refer to, just behind the Bible, the Koran and Mao-Tse-Tung's Little Red Book.

More than 28 million – the number of Scouts, youth and adults, boys and girls in 216 countries and territories around the world.

Details:

For more information on Scouting, visit www.shanghaiscouts.org or contact: Scout Master Troop 969 - Lionel Champanhet at ichampanhet@hotmail.com Scout Master Troop 12 - Dave D. Poppell at dpoppell@usa.net Cub Master Pack 88 - Sean Stelzer at snjstelzer@yahoo.com Cub Master Pack 969 - Dave Plekenpol at dplekenpol@yahoo.com. Girl Scouts and Juniors - Marie Nesheim at marielenesheim@aol.com Brownies/Daisies - Joan Stelzer at snjstelzer@yahoo.com