As we began to collect on our skills in our makeshift Eagle Scout group, I came to the realization that we would need some type of identifier when it came to the accomplishments each of us made. Much like the way the Boy and Eagle Scouts had their own badge system, I needed to come up with one of my own for the group that paid homage, but didn’t necessarily just steal the idea outright. It turned out to be a little more difficult than I thought, as I spent a weekend trying to figure it out. I wanted something that could be carried around with them, so that it immediately made it known how far they had come along.
With the help of my mother, we decided on a bead system. Using a length of rope, we would attach beads to the line, in different colors and numbers that signified how advanced they were in particular skills. From fire making, to cooking, trap laying and more, we had devised an entire system of ranking and visibility so that everyone knew what we were looking at. By this point in time our group had expanded to include even more kids, and I was operating a group of nearly ten in total. We passed along our skills, and made our code of ethics when it came to representing the panda scouts with respect.
Even with a set out system of rules, a hierarchy, and many skills to learn, each of the kids took to it pretty well. No one really argued the system, and I think that each of them simply enjoyed being a part of something. When our first anniversary of the group came up, we decided that it was time to have an evening where we put our skills to the test, and survived an evening on our own. With a full day of being in the woods, setting snares, identifying plants and animals and more, we nestled into our campground for the evening, that campground being my parents back yard, but it was the first time that we had to be our own people, to have an evening without supervision of any sort, well beyond parents peeking behind curtains to make sure we weren’t staying up too late.
We created a bead just for that night, and as we moved into our second year, and gained even more people into our group, there was only the select few of us who still have that bead to this day. Looking back on what we managed to create out of our own determination and resilience is pretty impressive, and as much as it may have started by emulating an idea of people in my mind, it grew to be something even better for us, something that we could call our own, and relish in all that we had learned and managed to accomplish with our own selves to blame, and thank, from the leader, to the newest members in the group.