Outdoor Ethics Guide Advisor Handbook

Congratulations for stepping up to be the outdoor ethics guide advisor. This is a critical advisor position for the unit. It will challenge you to think about your outdoor experiences in new and positive ways. Your growth may, in some ways, be greater than the youth you are advising. 

Our outdoor activities reflect Scouting’s mission of making ethical choices. Scouting values the outdoors and the experience of the outdoors and strives to develop stewardship of the outdoors. As Scouts, we strive to care for and share the outdoors. We believe it is right when our actions support the health of the land and enhance visitor experiences and wrong when they do not. Planning and preparing ahead to follow the principles of Leave No Trace on outings supports Scouting’s values. As the advisor, you are in a unique position to demonstrate this and help other adults realize it.

Functions of the Advisor

A strong outdoor ethics presence in Scouting was intentionally embedded into our outdoor experiences because we needed it. Your role is to help the outdoor ethics guide answer questions on how Scouts actually practice the Outdoor Code. The following are the main areas in which you will be guiding and engaging your outdoor ethics guide: 

    • Removing barriers and opening doors


    • Planning


  • Execution



—Teachable moments

—Authority of the resource


  • Evaluation


What You Will Need

    • Knowledge on the outdoor ethics topic. You will need some outdoor ethics training, even if you are a naturalist, scientist, biologist, or land manager. Start with the online awareness courses for Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly!. Then take the BSA Leave No Trace 101 course. For a better understanding, attend the 16-hour weekend Leave No Trace Trainer course. For a more in-depth experience, attend the five-day Leave No Trace Master Educator course. (See http://outdoorethicsbsa. org/training.) As the outdoor ethics advisor, these courses will give you the tools you will need to be successful with your Scouts.



    • A working knowledge of the BSA’s Teaching EDGE method.


    • A good understanding of outdoor ethics guide responsibilities


  • Finally, you will need a positive attitude and a strong commitment to the Scout’s success. This is the fun part for you because it creates a constructive culture for the unit. Whether you are a serious plodder or an outgoing person, the Scouts will catch your commitment to outdoor ethics.

Explanation of Your Functions

Not all Scouting leaders have fully embraced the Leave No Trace or Tread Lightly! principles. For the outdoor ethics guide to be successful, adult leaders must realize the need to update outdoor practices and support methods to reduce impacts. Scouts are not always known as quiet, careful campers who respect the outdoors. We are known for our large groups with loud, messy, careless, and sometimes destructive behaviors. Even if Scouts were not the ones involved, because so many of us use public lands, others relate negative incidents to Scouting. In some places, land managers do not welcome Scouting groups because of this poor reputation and adverse behaviors toward nature and other visitors. You may need to meet with the troop or crew leadership team and help them understand that this is part of why practicing outdoor ethics is important. 

As the outdoor ethics guide advisor, you may have the opportunity to open doors for the outdoor ethics guide. He or she may need to contact Leave No Trace trainers or Master Educators for ideas and activities. They may want to work with a Cub Scout pack and need to know whom to contact and how. Your role includes opening doors like this to help the outdoor ethics guide be successful.


You will need to facilitate a planning session with your new outdoor ethics guide to create clarity with him or her on the scope and expectations of the role. Use the Outdoor Ethics Guide Goals and Evaluation form for this. Have the guide commit to parts of the role that fit with his or her abilities. Let the guide take the lead, but realize that your guidance and advice can make the quality of his or her term good or bad at the very onset. 


—Coaching: Execution starts with coaching. Help your guide develop a plan to meet their goals. How is outdoor ethics going to be presented to the unit and at what events? At unit meeting or outings or both? How will they mesh? What will the presentations be? Games, scenarios, or challenges are the most experiential and beneficial to Scouts. Lecturing tends to turn off Scouts. Games are easy to facilitate and already prepared. You may want to be familiar with the games in Teaching Leave No Trace found at https://www.scouting.org www.scouting.org/boyscouts/teachingleavenotrace.aspx. Challenges are games that are timed or competitions between patrols or crews. There are plenty of examples at http://outdoorethics-bsa.org/resources/, as well as the games you actually play and facilitate in your Leave No Trace Trainer course.

—Scenarios: Scenarios or dilemmas test a Scout’s or patrol’s response to a certain type of behavior they witnessed or experienced and how best to handle that behavior in the future. Again, http://outdoorethics-bsa.org/resources/ has many examples that can be used as scenarios that will benefit the Scouts by getting them to think about impacts and how to recognize them. This will help them engage in lower-impact activities outdoors and apply outdoor ethics in a positive way.

—Teachable moments: Participating in games, dilemmas, and scenarios presents an opportunity for a teachable moment. Developing a culture of recognizing when a high-impact event happens in the field is important. Your role as advisor is to help steer your outdoor ethics guide to notice these events and conduct an evaluation or reflection of what actually just happened. This is a very exciting moment.

—Authority of the resource: The concept of the authority of the resource is very basic to the motivation involved in living the principles of Leave No Trace, Tread Lightly!, and conservation (the land ethic). This concept recognizes that the land itself has value and can be the reason (authority) for taking steps to protect it. It takes some deliberation to think and recognize the resource and what authority it actually has. This is a tool to help guide the Scout to a solid ethical decision that becomes a habit and life skill. (See http://lnt.org/sites/default/files/ART_Wallace_Original.pdf.)

—Conservation: Conservation is the element of the outdoor ethics guide’s role that really seals the deal. The outdoor ethics guide exposes Scouts to the Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly! principles and the land ethic in the form of games, actual events, or scenarios. The troop or crew experiences their practice of these principles and reflects on their outcomes. It is this very process of activity and reflection in light of the principles involved that gives the unit or individual a connection to the land. Working on a conservation project allows Scouts to act on this connection and practice the Outdoor Code. You will need to guide your Scout in this phase to understand what a conservation project consists of. If possible, obtain a copy of the Conservation Handbook from your local Scout shop. You may also want to be a resource to Scouts working on Star requirements and help them consult the land manager or owner. Provide input on the techniques and plans needed to complete a conservation project or on finding appropriate resources.


The last step is to have the outdoor ethics guide complete a self-evaluation. Use the Outdoor Ethics Guide Goals and Evaluation form for this. Review the document and discuss findings. Sign and date the form and give to the Scoutmaster or designated person. 

We wish you success in executing your role as outdoor ethics guide advisor. Your ability to get an agreed-upon evaluation timeline with your outdoor ethics guide, the level of support from your adult leaders, and the quality relationships, fun adventures, and additional training you get from your council outdoor ethics staff will set you up for success with your Scout. Remember to contact your council outdoor ethics advocate if you have any concerns or questions. (See http://outdoorethics-bsa.org/contacts/.)


You can download the Outdoor Ethics Guide Handbook, here.