By: Mike Walton (blackeagle)
Posted On: 2020-07-16
Spark image provided by Arrowman and Scouter William Pettigrew
(a "wide game" is one in which participants are randomly given some item, a card, puzzle piece, or placard for instance, and are directed to go around and collect all of the other parts or pieces (or collect the entire set of cards). Once all pieces or cards are collected, the participants return together to a central point to receive a prize. The real prize, however, is the new friendships that emerge in the process of finding, collecting, and working together to solve the "puzzle" or "creating the word or phrase.")
The first time I participated in a "Wide Game," it was during the 1973 National Scout Jamboree. I was there as part of a group of Scout/Explorer broadcasters and journalists along with a couple of other members of the Explorer Post I was a member of. That year, there were TWO National Scout Jamborees -- an East one in Pennsylvania and a West one in Idaho.
We were given an 8x10 cardstock card with a block letter on it. We were to take our letter and go around the entire Jamboree site, finding people with other letters to make the word "TOGETHER." Once we found the seven other people (eight Scouts make a patrol; there are eight letters in the word "Together") we were to report to the BSA's Jamboree headquarters whereby each of us would get a segment (an additional emblem) to add to our Jamboree patch, as shown below:
(73 National Jamboree emblem with Wide Game segment below)
Since then, I have been blessed with participating as a staff member in every National Jamboree up until 2017. I have not been selected to participate in that event, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Technology has evolved at a rather fast pace. Previous Jamborees including the poster cards, later smaller cards like those used to collect images and stats of sports personalities, and even later than that, small tokens which are placed on a board.
This week's posting was planned to originate from the Centennial anniversary site of the BSA's Order of the Arrow, or "OA." Every few years, selected membership of the OA to meet together for fun, fellowship, food, and patch trading and sharing. Oh yeah, the national officers and other leaders are pronounced there also; and awards are presented to Arrowmen who have shown to be great leaders and examples of the ideals behind this national honorary.
I was unable to attend. There were some work conflicts, but there was also the matter of being able to afford the event even for a couple of days financially. So I am viewing the proceedings via YouTube(TM), sharing thoughts and memories through the OA's official website and unofficial forums on Facebook(TM), and wishing I was there among the more than 15,000 youth and adults assembled at Michigan State University in Lansing.
Then, I saw this -- the image at the top of this posting. NOAC -- the National Order of the Arrow Conference -- is no Jamboree. Nobody is camping out -- everyone is residing in hotel or dormitory rooms on the campus; the entire campus is being used by the BSA this week -- but they are performing a really COOL "wide game." A Scouter who could not be there, Debbie Hite, copied William Pettigrew's (a Scouter from California who is there in Michigan)description of the "Spark tool":
"The Spark idea might be one of the coolest things about NOAC. The attendees get to play in a fun game - you place your USB "hand" against another person's, they both glow, and you accumulate points. Points = awards. You also "check-in" to different events or activities at a "Spark board." Each day you upload your USB hand to your Spark account. What always cracked me up though, is when two groups of Arrowmen approach each other and break out into the Finding Nemo seagulls "Mine!" call - except the boys say "Spark?" instead of "Mine!" This is such a great idea - what a fun way to interact with people, plus you can trade the rectangular holder with others if you want. (The regions were randomized, so if you didn't get yours, you could swap for it.) Fantastic."
Here's the "non-techie" description of this item. When each Arrowman arrived at NOAC, he or she is given one of those "Sparks" illustrated above and a link to where the "points," once your device (phone or tablet) is registered and you are confirmed as an official participant, are displayed and collected. The Spark tool is simply a bar code reader. Just like when you swipe your can of peas or corn across the reader, when two participants shake hands (or just touch each other's reader), the "spark" is recorded and both participants get a "point." You can download the "points" to your device by a simple common USB cord which connects from the "box" part of the "Spark" to your personal device. You collect a number of "points," and they are good for NOAC Centennial merchandise and BSA Supply Group items.
Because Americans are a competitive lot, there is also a "Leaderboard" which Justin Sherman posted a screenshot of his yesterday to a Facebook forum as an example:
(Officially, Wayne Brock (the BSA's Chief Scout Executive) and Tico Perez (the BSA's National Commissioner) are not "playing the game," but they have been "Sparking" with Arrowmen during the week I have been told...because they are friendly that way...*smiling*)
Shawn Peters, another Scouter on one of the Facebook(TM) groups, added the following information: "There are some people who are worth 50-100. From what I understand, the centurion award recipients are 50, whereas national officers are 100."
(The Centurion Award is something unique to this NOAC which is celebrating its 100th year of service to the Boy Scouts of America. Each of the BSA's lodges nominated individuals who have given time and energy toward keeping the OA active and engaged in their localities. Those individuals are being recognized as a group as well as individually during the Conference and back in their home Lodges as well.)
A far cry from cardstock with printed lettering, "trading cards," and small pieces of cloth indeed. Who said that the BSA doesn't "keep up with the times?"
(Thanks to Debbie Hite, Shawn Peters, Justin Sherman, and William Pettigrew for their assistance with this post!)