Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What Can A Monkey Braid Teach Us? A "Recycled Scoutmaster's Minute"

This is another of the "recycled Scoutmaster Minutes" from my not quite to be Scouting blog. Again, I want to capture them and perhaps give them second life, since the things that motivate kids quite often motivate adults to, though we might not be as willing to admit it ;).

What Can A Monkey Braid Teach Us?

First, a "Monkey Braid" is known by a number of different names, such as monkey chain, single trumpet braid, single bugle braid, chain braid, chain stitch, crochet stitch, etc.. The name you use is dependent on who you talk to and where you apply it. In the Scouting world, it's a way to take a piece of rope and shorten it without actually cutting the rope, yet still use it without a lot of rope just lying around.

The first time you try to visualize or attempt to make a Monkey Braid, you may get frustrated. It's a hard "knot" to first explain, other than to say that you make an overhead loop, form a noose and tuck it through the loop, and then make another loop and tuck it through the previous loop. Keep repeating until you get to the desired length, and then tie off with a final overhand knot. If you need a little more length, just undo the end and pull to get the length you need, then loop it off again (see, I told you it could be confusing).

When we make our first Monkey Braid, we may have just one use for it. My first use was to shorten the headphone cable that I use with my portable MP3 player when I exercise; I was tired of it getting hung up on things, but didn't want to have a big tangle or ball of wire tied up. The braid took care of that. What I discovered after I made my first Monkey Braid was that it could be used in many other areas. I work in an environment that deals with a lot of cables (I'm a Software Tester in my work life). The Monkey Braid is a great way of dealing with strewn cables and getting them to be gathered up without tangling. So I started making Monkey Braids with a number of things (extension cords, network cables, cell phone charger, DS charger, etc.). Because I started to see other areas where this skill was useful, I used it more often. Now making a Monkey Braid is second nature to me, and I use it to do a lot of different things.

In Scouting, we are asked many times to learn certain skills. Some of them seem to be very specific, and we wonder "Why am I learning how to do this? Where is this going to ever be important in my life?" The answer is, in lots of ways and in ways you may never expect. While Scouting focuses on Advancement and earning badges, those badges really are just symbols. The real award is the skills that you learn, practice and master, because those skills will then be something you can call on again and again. Will my life have been radically altered if I didn't learn how to make a Monkey Braid? Probably not, but now that I know how to do it, I can see many places where I can use it and it makes things easier to handle and deal with (especially ropes, cables and extension cords).

The point is, the Scouting skills we work on have a deeper meaning than just learning them for the moment, or learning something so that you can pass a test for a particular badge. Look at what you learn and what you practice, and then see in your life where you can apply those skills. The number of opportunities to use your Scouting skills may surprise you.

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