Eagle Project Provides Outdoor Classroom for Ropes Course
One of the most important and meaningful projects undertaken in the Boy Scouts of America organization is the Eagle Project. It is a requirement for becoming an Eagle Scout, which is the highest honor and rank a Boy Scout can achieve. This undertaking involves designing and executing a large project that benefits the community or is for a non-profit organization. Manchester resident and soon-to-be junior at Manchester High School, Jack Larson, recently completed his own Eagle Project as a member of local Boy Scout Troop 27. Jack is currently ranked as a Life Scout, just below an Eagle Scout ranking. Taking on a project such as this involves a great amount of time, effort, commitment, and the use of skills developed throughout years of being a Boy Scout.
The process of completing an Eagle Project starts with developing an idea to address a community need. In the case of Jack Larson, he was inspired to create an outdoor classroom for the Manchester Ropes Challenge Course. The outdoor course is often used for camps, organizations, and other clients during the summer. The program is designed to help build physical skills as well as strengthen teamwork, communication, and trust-building.
After developing his concept for an outdoor classroom at the course, Jack reached out to Rob Topliff, Parks and Recreation Facilities Manager, and Heather Wlochowski, Community Services Coordinator for Youth Service Bureau, to discuss the concept and get approval. Jack then proceeded to tackle the next step in the process: creating a proposal for the Boy Scout Council in his local Boy Scout District. In this case, the proposal had to go through the Connecticut Rivers Council, BSA. Once the proposal was approved, Jack created his building and design plan. This involved learning all the necessary building skills and fundraising for the project in advance. In addition to implementing building skills, Jack also had to demonstrate strong leadership skills by organizing a group of 20-30 people to work on the project, including those from his Boy Scout Troop and other volunteers. The execution of the project itself required leadership, building, and organizational skills developed throughout his experience as a Boy Scout.
The creation of the outdoor classroom involved the construction of a rain canopy system to shield people from rain, wood-crafted benches for people to sit on, and a bulletin board for presentations by course facilitators. Jack expects the benches to last long, as they were built from a white oak tree, which has a durable type of wood. The tree was taken from his uncle’s backyard and milled into pieces used to construct the benches. When designing the outdoor classroom, Jack kept flexibility and the fluctuating weather of New England in mind. The tarp functioning as a rain canopy could be easily taken down when the classroom is not in use, which is during the off-season in winter.
In addition to facing the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased restrictions, Jack also faced the challenge of cleaning up after tropical storm Isaias, which left a great amount of debris and fallen branches throughout the ropes course. Fortunately, with the help of his Boy Scout Troop and volunteers, they were able to clear the area before setting up the classroom structure.
One of the greatest lessons Jack learned from this experience is that “not everything is going to go according to plan.” If he could give a piece advice to fellow Boy Scouts working toward completing an Eagle Project one day, he says that “you have to be able to adapt quickly, especially on project day when you’re working with a lot of people.” Thanks to Jack’s fast adapting and strong leadership skills, the construction of the outdoor classroom was completed successfully and will be a long-lasting spot for facilitators and ropes course participants to learn. Jack gives thanks to all those who helped him along the way and made this project possible, including Heather Wlochowski, Chris Silver, Rob Topliff, Kevin Brophy (who maintains the ropes course), Eagle Scout Advisor John Murray, Boy Scout Troop 27, and his Uncle Wayne among others.