What Is Project COPE?
Since its founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has offered its
members an outdoor program stressing personal fitness. Project COPE is an
acronym for Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience.
It comprises a series of outdoor challenges, beginning with basic group
initiative games and progressing to more complicated low-course and high-course
activities. Some of these events involve a group effort, whereas others test
individual skills and agility. Participants climb, swing, balance, jump, and
rappel as well as think through solutions to a variety of challenges. Most
participants find that they can do much more than they initially thought
Project COPE is an exciting outdoor activity that can attract and keep
older boys in Scouting. It is designed to meet the needs of today's youth
who are seeking greater challenges to their physical and mental abilities.
The underlying goals of a Project COPE course are consistent with the
methods of Scouting. Group activities are ideal for emphasizing the patrol
method and developing leadership. Individual activities help promote
History and Background
The 1979 Dalajamb International Encampment in Sweden provided a number
of challenging events of great interest to Scouts from the United States.
Foremost among them was the pioneering course constructed by a group of
veteran Swedish Scouts. This course was laid out in a heavily wooded area
and utilized terrain elevations as part of the design. Bridges were built
across ravines of varying widths and depths. Zip lines hung for traversing
the ravines, and novel constructions were used for climbing.
The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America was interested in programs,
equal to the successful overseas and jamboree activities, that could be promoted
on a nationwide basis. Project COPE was identified as having that potential
because it offered older Scouts the kind of challenging and exciting program
that encouraged them to return to summer camp and increased their tenure. An
unexpected dividend was the use of Project COPE by youth and adults outside
of Scouting. These groups found it an excellent tool for developing both team
effort and individual achievement.
A Project COPE course provides an opportunity for each participant to achieve
success as an individual and as a member of a patrol or team. The activities are
not designed to be competitive or to be races against time. The objectives include
building teams; solving problems; making decisions; and developing trust,
communication, leadership, and self-esteem as team members cooperate to
achieve goals upon which they have agreed. The course is designed to foster
personal growth in a shorter length of time than anything most people have
Before implementing a course, the council should determine what it seeks
to accomplish. Seven major goals are commonly associated with Project COPE
- Leadership development
- Problem solving
- Decision making
The council should decide which activities to incorporate into its program
on the basis of the desired objectives. The council should incorporate all
seven objectives, giving particular emphasis to one or two. Whatever the
goals, the experience should be finely tuned to accomplish them.
National promotion of Project COPE enables the Boy Scouts of America to
establish standards designed to meet Scouting's needs and concerns for safety
within a strong network. Each COPE facility is inspected at least twice
annuallyonce by a regional inspection team and once by a council
inspection team. The safety of Scouts, leaders, and staff is imperative.
Mere concern about safety is not sufficient. This concern must be
demonstrated by a director and staff members who are knowledgeable and
personally skilled in the respective course activities, who are effective
teachers, and who are constantly alert to safety procedures and participant
needs. Prospective staff members must be carefully screened. A qualified
staff must be assembled with enough members to ensure that continuation
of the program does not depend on one or two people. Standards for Project
COPE are stringent so that the experience will be both safe and successful.
Project COPE directors are certified through weeklong training at a National
Camping School or at Philmont Scout Ranch during the annual Boy Scouting
conferences. A currently certified Project COPE director must be on site
whenever the COPE course is being operated. Each COPE course must be
inspected annually using the national standards for Project COPE.