Scouting and Guiding in Iceland
The scouting idea was brought to Iceland in 1911 by a young man, Ingvar Ólafsson. He had been introduced to the scouting idea in Denmark, where he lived for a while. He brought together a few boys and they became a scouting patrol, the first Icelandic scouts from the grass root, without any assistance from adults. In 1912 the first Boy Scout district became a reality and was named Skátafélag Íslands (Iceland Scout Association) and was later changed into Reykjavik Scouts Association. They worked as one troop and in 1913 another district, Skátafélagið Væringjar, was founded within the YMCA. In 1922 the first Girl Guide district was founded within the YWCA.
Boy scouts in Iceland became members of WOSM in 1924 and the Icelandic Boy Scout (National) Association was founded in 1925. The girls became members of WAGGGS in 1928, and the Icelandic Girl Scout (National) Association was founded in 1939. In 1944 Icelandic Scouts and Guides became the first SAGNO in the world, when these two associations joined in The Icelandic Boy and Girl Scout Association, in Icelandic: Bandalag íslenskra skáta or BÍS.
The scouting movement spread fast across Iceland and all communities have had an active scouting district at one time or another.
Icelandic scouts soon travelled abroad to Jamborees, although they missed the first one in Olympya Hall in London. They participated in Denmark in 1924, Arrow Park England with a large group in 1928, and another large group went to Hungary to participate in the World Jamboree in 1933 and yet again in 1937.
BÍS is a member of both WOSM and WAGGGS and had a representative in the European Committee WAGGGS from 2007-2010.
The Headquarters of Scouting in Iceland
The headquarters are situated in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. At the headquarters professionals work on a daily basis; a secretary, a secretary general, a financial officer, an international officer, a training and adult resource officer and short term staff members working on the Scout program and direct support. At the headquarters there is a scout shop, where uniforms and accessories may be purchased. In December artificial Christmas trees are sold and they are gaining more popularity in Iceland every year.
There is a well-equipped meeting facility and rooms for big gatherings, which are used for various purposes such as the Annual General Meeting (Skátaþing). The facilities are also rented out for events.
BÍS also runs a recycling business, collecting bins for soda tins and bottles situated throughout the city. These bins are brought to the facilities at the headquarters where they are packed by members of staff for a recycling plant.
All six-year-olds in Iceland get a glow-in-the-dark band from the Scouts when they start school. They also get a magazine which informs them about precautions to take in the traffic on their way to school and so on. The scouting idea is also introduced to them.
The Inner Structure of BIS
The Chief Scout
There have been nine Chief Scouts in Iceland. The current Chief Scout is Mr. Bragi Björnsson.
Reykjavík is divided into six districts, and for the rest of Iceland each town is considered a scouting district, though not all towns have scouting activities. The reason why some rural towns don’t have any scouting is usually due to a very small population.
Each district is independent of each other, and organises activities and community work in their own area. In Reykjavík many districts come together for the first day of summer (around St. Georges Day) to attend a mass in Reykjavík’s cathedral.
Each district it made up of one or more troops, and each troop is made up of 1-5 patrols of 5-8 members. In the larger districts some of the troops of the same age form a unit with 2-4 troops.
The Reykjavík districts make the Reykjavík Scouting Union, and in the north of Iceland the districts make the Northland Scouting Union.
There is approximately the same number of boys and girls participating in scouting in Iceland at any point in time, and there are at any time about 3500 scouts at the age of 9 to 22, and many more leaders and supportive former scouts.
In the past few years BÍS has been reorganising the program, as well as looking into many other aspects of the structure and organisation of the districts and the age division. The main changes are the changes in the age division. In the old structure the age division was as following:
7-8 years old: Ljósálfar
9-10 years old: Ylfingar (cubs/brownies)
11-15 years old: Skátar (boy scouts, girl scouts/guides)
16-18 years old: Dróttskátar (venturers/explorer scouts)
18-22 years old: Róverskátar (rover scouts)
SCOUTING FOR EVERYONE
The new division by age groups - scarves and badges:
DRAGON-SCOUTS 7-9 years old.- Life is an adventure.
The setting for the Dragon-scouts is the urban area, daily life in cities and towns.They learn about their closest environment, dangers in everyday life and the correct reactions.The focus is on the adventure, being helpful and cheerful as well as respectful of nature.
Dragon-scouts wear a yellow scarf with the Dragon-scout badge on the back. When starting with a Dragon-scout troop the scout receives a badge with a bronze stripe, later with a silver stripe and at last a gold stripe.
FALCON-SCOUTS 10-12 years old.- The unexplored.
The setting for the Falcon-scouts is the lowland and the camp.The yearning for adventure is vented further as new areas are explored.The focus of the tasks is on the outdoors and togetherness, group work, co-operation and physical activity.
Falcon-scouts wear a red scarf with the Falcon-scout badge on the back. When starting with a Falcon-scout troop the scout receives a badge with a bronze stripe, later with a silver stripe and at last a gold stripe.
COURT-SCOUTS 13-15 years old.- Being together.
The setting for the Court-scouts is the heath and the first steps are taken towards mountaineering. Independence increases and the tasks become more challenging.There are hikes, treasure hunts, cooking outside, and initial mountaineering – in a peer group that marks the path together.
Court-scouts wear a green scarf with the Court-scout badge on the back.When starting with a Court-scout troop the scout receives a badge with a bronze stripe, later with a silver stripe and at last a gold stripe.
RANGER-SCOUTS 16-18 years old.- Go all the way.
The setting for the Ranger-scouts are the mountains all year round.The ultimate goal is set on the Presidential Badge. Ranger-scouts enjoy life with friends in a diverse nature.The tasks are varied; outdoor challenges, international work and systematic leadership training.
Ranger-scouts wear a blue scarf with the Ranger-scout badge on the back. When starting with a Ranger-scout troop the scout receives a badge which he wears while he is an active member of the troop.
ROVER-SCOUTS 19-22 years old.- The journey.
The setting for the Rover-scouts is the world.Rover-scouts have the whole world to conquer.Their journey depends on where their own interest lies. Rover-scouts choose their own path to follow; become a scout leader, work with a rescue team, do volunteering work in Africa or something else.The leadership training within the scout-movement is seen in the scouts’ ability to take initiative, be independent and show genuine friendship.
Rover-scouts wear a dark gray scarf with the Rover-scout badge on the back.When starting with a Rover-scout troop the scout receives a badge which he wears while he is an active member of the troop.
OTHER SCOUTS – OLD SCOUTS
Scouts who are not active in the general scout-program or are older than the Rover-scout age, wear a purple scarf with a woven BÍS badge.
THE FESTIVE SCARF OF THE ICELANDIC SCOUTS
A clear blue scarf with a stripe in the red and white colours of the Icelandic flag, and a woven BÍS badge.The scarf is to be worn on special occasions such as at an honour guard, when hoisting flags, at special meetings and celebrations etc.It is also to be worn when Icelandic scouts travel to other countries. It may not be worn with other scarves.
The uniform is composed of quite a few garments, since the weather in Iceland changes all the time. For formal events, or good weather there is a light blue shirt and a scarf. As mentioned above, with the new programme every age group has a scarf in a different colour, and for formal gatherings and traveling abroad there is a special scarf. There is a tradition in Iceland, that those who have finished the wood badge carry the Gilwell scarf and the wood badge pearls at all times. However, this might change with the new scarves, since some leaders may choose to wear the colour of the age group they lead.
There is also a dark blue t-shirt with the BÍS logo, as well as a dark blue fleece with the BÍS logo, and a dark blue sweater/jumper with the BÍS logo. Dark blue trousers or a skirt (optional because of the climate) are required to complete the formal outfit.
Accessories such as a scouting hat in dark blue, belts and buckles, buff, and numerous other things available at any point in time.
According to the new system the troop all meet together. Typically the meeting is set by singing, or a pledge to friendship where candles are lit, or with a secret ceremony known only to the troop members. Then for the younger scouts there are activities with games or singing in between. The older will go and have a patrol meeting which lasts most of the meeting and then meet again at the end of the meeting. The patrol in the age group Fálkaskátar (Falcon scouts) often get assignments from the troop leaders, while the older ones usually control their own activities.
The meeting usually ends with a song of brotherhood and friendship (Bræðralagssöngurinn), or with a secret ceremony. A meeting usually lasts about 60-90 minutes, and is held once a week. It is not uncommon to meet more often when there is something on the agenda such as a National Jamboree etc.
A meeting could look like this:
Start: Light three candles and sing a secret ceremonial song
Game with a lot of action
Game/song with action (troop)
Quiet game/song, information for the next meeting
End: Everybody crosses his arms to take hold of the hands of the people standing next to him on both sides and everyone sings a secret ceremonial song.
Slysavarnafélagið Landsbjörg – Scout Rescue Teams – www.landsbjorg.is
Slysavarnarfélagið Landsbjörg is an organisation of the rescue teams in Iceland. They are members of BÍS, and many Rekkaskátar and Róverskátar participate in their training programme and many become members of the rescue teams.
The scout rescue teams were founded in 1937 and celebrated their 70th anniversary in 2007. They are made up of volunteers that respond to emergencies at all times, day and night all year round. The teams are especially trained in mountain rescues, avalanche rescues, rescues on sea, looking for lost backpackers and all emergencies in bad weather.
Their greatest fund raising is selling fireworks in the week before the New Year when Icelanders go crazy, shooting fireworks all over the country. The rescue teams also raise money by selling Christmas trees, among other things.
The scout rescue teams also take on the security service during soccer games and other sports events as well as open air concerts and all scouting jamborees and large camps in Iceland. They also participated in the World Jamboree in 2007 with great success.
Typical Icelandic Recipes
Meat soup (very old Icelandic tradition)
750 g lamb meat on the bone, cut into small pieces by your butcher (hand size)
1 ½ litre water, add more if needed
1-2 tsp salt
3-4 tbsp rice (any rice will do), oats or barley
500g-1kg carrots, potatoes and turnips
Optional: onion, green cabbage, white cabbage, parsley, meat stock, pepper
- Clean the meat, put it into a large pot with the water. Heat. Remove the froth that forms when the water starts to cook, salt and add the rice.
- Clean the vegetables and cut into bite size cubes.
- Cook the meat and rice for an hour, add the veggies and cook the last 20-30 minutes. If you like, add parsley, and cabbage in the last 5 minutes.
- Serve. You can fish the meat out before serving and serve it on the side.
1 ¼ tsp harts horn (ammonium carbonate salt)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cardamoms (powder)
200 ml milk (whole or skimmed)
1) Work all the dry parts through a sieve, work the margarine into the dry mix and then add the egg and the milk. The dough is intended to run a little bit. Divide the dough into two parts.
2) Flatten the dough about ½ cm thick, and cut it into 4 cm wide strips, and then make diamonds out of the strips. Cut the diamonds in the middle and twist, and put on a plate, do not put them on top of each other.
3) Warm vegetable oil or any frying oil available in an open pot. Only half fill the pot and have a heat resistant platter to put the pot on in case of the oil overheating. Test the heat of the oil by putting one doughnut in. The doughnut is supposed to turn immediately when it gets in contact with the oil.
4) Fry suitable numbers of doughnuts and turn them when brown, fish them up and let them cool on paper that absorbs the excess oil. Cool or eat while warm. Keep them in an airtight container in a dry cool place.
200g rye flour
200g whole wheat
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
450-500 ml warm milk
- Mix the dry ingredients
- Mix the dry mix with the milk
- Cut the dough into small, equal parts and work them into round, flat cakes about 5mm thick, make holes in them with a fork and bake on a hot pan
Tastes really good warm with butter.
Hot dogs, optional
Yeast, eggs and milk can also be added
Mix everything according to your own measurements, take care when adding the salt, and work the dough until thick and non-sticky. Make long rolls out of the dough, put the hot-dog on a stick and wrap the dough around it, bake over fire. Or wrap the dough around the stick and bake over fire. When done, put butter or jam into the hole.