Our further practice in training in Observation can be obtained both indoors and out of doors, so that there is really no excuse that Scouts - wherever they may be, and under whatever difficulties they may labor - should not be trained to make a good deal more use of their powers of observation than other boys not so fortunately placed.
As far as indoors is concerned we are guided by the Second Class Test of Kim's game - "to remember sixteen out of twenty-four well-assorted small articles after one minute's observation." Frequently we ignore the intention of this test; firstly because it is an alternative to a track; and secondly because it seems so easy. Although it is an alternative to an out-of-door practice, it is well worth doing for its own sake. The ease depends entirely on the standard of accuracy that we set. Do you remember how the original game was played in the shop of Lurgan Sahib in the Simla Bazaar? The Hindu child had beaten Kim hands down in describing the fifteen stones that had been heaped on the tray. Kipling records the subsequent conversation and events:
"'He is thy master,' said Lurgan Sahib, smiling.
"'Huh! He knew the names of the stones,' said Kim, flushing. 'Try again! With common things such as he and I both know."
"They heaped the tray again with odds and ends gathered from the shop, and even the kitchen, and every time the child won, until Kim marveled.
"'Bind my eyes - let me feel once with my fingers, and even then I will leave thee open-eyed behind,' he challenged.
"Kim stamped with vexation when the lad made his boast good.
"'If it were men - or horses,' he said, 'I could do better. This playing with tweezers and knives and scissors is too little."
"'Learn first - teach later,' said Lurgan Sahib. 'Is he thy master?'
"'Truly. But how is it done?'
"'By doing it many times over till it is done perfectly - for it is worth doing."'
There seems hardly any need to say any more on the subject of Kim's Game and its use! Kim was being trained for secret service work. That is the way his training started. I have known the same training used in other years for the same purpose. However, here again we must endeavor to work progressively. It does no good to let a Tenderfoot start his practice for this test with the full number of articles. I am quite aware that frequently no practice is given beforehand at all, but I really cannot legislate for such cases. A dozen odds and ends are quite enough to start with, and a considerable amount of time should be allowed for them to be looked at. It is easier at first for the boy to name and describe each article afterwards instead of writing them down. If the person conducting the game has arranged an alphabetical list beforehand, his check will be greatly facilitated.
I have said "describe": this is important. Each article should be correctly designated and properly described. "A long black-looking thing" is no proper designation or description of a fountain-pen, and yet I have known it accepted as such! In many Troops, especially those with which I have been personally connected, the education of the Scouts is of a low standard. When the articles of Kim's Game are written down, therefore, the Scouter is frequently presented with some intricate problems to solve. Here are a few I have met with: Chlack; Chock; Chork. Skaf; Scaff; Scalf. Kies. Visle with rope; Visile Scouts. Tin for aches. Sir's neck rope. A tick rope tied a knot on it. One brass earthenware cup. A piece of chalk, a piece of leather which is twisted into a circle and a peace of string it is colored.
There are certain hints in regard to Kim's Game which might prove useful. The number of articles should be carefully counted first of all. I have known a boy so worry trying to think of an article that wasn't there that he forgot two of those that were there. The person setting the game had actually set out one article less than he said.
Look at the smaller things first, and the larger articles will be remembered almost automatically. Group similar articles together in your mind Don't hurry too much, keep cool, a minute is a long time if you have to keep quiet for that length of time. "Do it many tunes over until it is done perfectly."
Although you will have worked progressively with Kim's Game and increased the number of articles, and decreased the time as progress was made, always insist on the correctness of the description. There is no necessity to play the game in the same form. Just as the nature of the articles may vary - Kim played it "sometimes with veritable stones, sometimes with piles of swords and daggers, sometimes with photographs of natives" - so may the conditions under which it is played vary. It is not necessary to have all the articles on one flat surface; try a few on the floor and a few on a chair The articles can be placed in a corner of the room where shadows render the observation more difficult. They can be suspended from the ceiling. They can be observed in a looking-glass.
The game can be played with the Patrol as a team, and various complications introduced so as to bring in team work. It is not necessary, for instance, for a list of the articles to be given at once after observation has taken place; another scout activity may intervene, or those taking part compete in an obstacle race, before a list of the articles is required of them.
The game can be sprung on the Troop all of a sudden without any kind of warning, in the midst of a rowdy game.
This change of conditions is an important factor, for in actual life you are not warned beforehand as a rule that something which requires observation is going to appear or to happen. It just appears or happens! If you have acquired a habit of observation you will have recorded it; if not, you will be so startled that you will remember nothing. So let there be an element of surprise in your practice from time to time.
A fleeting observation of one single article is a good change from Kim's Game proper. In this case what is required of the victim is as correct and full a description as possible of the article in question. Consider, for instance, all the details that can be recorded after a look at an envelope that has come through the post, especially one from across the seas.
The details of a room can be remembered, or not as the case may be. As a variation, the positions of articles can be changed after a first look, and the change commented on after a second look.
Photographs depicting changes in the furnishing of a room can be prepared for purposes of comparison, while the use of "What is wrong?" or "What is missing?" pictures, as published from time to time in The Scout, should not be ignored.
Two other elements may be introduced into the training of the sense of sight - color and distance. Even indoors training can be given in more distant recognition by holding up articles at the opposite end of the room. Color can be utilized in two ways: - First, to make an article insignificant by the fact that it is surrounded by other articles of more brilliant coloring, and second, to secure the recognition and remembrance of assorted colors, as, for instance, different pieces of colored wool.
You will find several other games for training observation by sight in Scouting for Boys and Scouting Games.
The sense of hearing can again be benefited by numerous games which can be played indoors, individually or by Patrols. "Noises out" is perhaps the best known and the most useful. All that is required in this game is for someone who is concealed behind a screen, or behind a door, to make a series of noises, either by dropping articles on the floor, or by moving articles about, or by using his mouth to make various sounds.
Then there is the game of "Hunt the watch," when everyone, blindfolded, has to search for a watch the ticking of which can be heard if they keep quiet. This game teaches some of the rudiments of stalking, and brings home the importance of keeping quiet and of moving quietly.
This game leads to a sense of direction by ear which can be practiced by various other means. For example, the Patrol can sit in a wide circle with one of their number, blindfolded, in the centre. He has to identify both the nature and direction of any sound made by the other members of the Patrol. The P.-L. should be required to indicate whose turn it is to make the sound, as otherwise there will be confusion.
Again the element of surprise should be brought into the training. A big noise outside the door in the middle of an ordinary Troop meeting merely calls forth a quiet "Now jot down all of you what made that noise," from the Scoutmaster.
There is one other consideration in connection with the development of the sense of hearing, and that is the influence of dancing and music. I am not able to develop the theme properly, but through these two arts a sense of rhythm and a sense of tone can be developed, which will be useful in ordinary life. For instance, each Scout should be able to distinguish a very high note, on a violin, say, from a very low one, and be able to say whether one note was lower or higher than another. It seems very elementary, but the number of people who are tone deaf is fairly large.
Smell can be trained only by practice in smelling! A certain amount of practice at "Scout's Nose" (Scouting for Boys, p. 136) will be necessary. In the middle of the evening some paper can be burnt unnoticed in a cupboard to see if anyone present will notice it. If they don't, don't let on about it; try again another night.
Taste is somewhat dependent on sight and smell, but need not call for so much care or practice. Yet there are some walks of life that depend upon a keen sense of taste, and not all these walks are through vineyards either. Touch needs a good deal of training. Blindfold obstacle races indoors are amusing and useful. Let two blindfolded Scouts loose in a room to find each other, and let the others watch in complete silence, and those looking on will learn a lot about feeling their way in the dark.
The identification of various objects by touch alone should be frequently practiced. The Hindu child had had considerable practice at this before Kim came to upset the even tenor of his ways. The articles need not necessarily be small. It is possible to identify a person by passing the ringers lightly over his face. The blind can do this very readily, just as they learn to identify a person by the sound of his voice, or even the sound of his footsteps. In time, after much practice, it will be found that it is possible to sense obstacles in the way before they are even touched.
First of all the Scouts should be trained to find their way about in the dark in a known room, and then to find their way about in a room that is strange to them, possibly only strange because the furniture has been moved.
I have dealt somewhat inadequately with this question of Observation Indoors, but I have tried to suggest that there are possibilities of variety even indoors which will keep the Scouts interested in the subject, and, at the same time, help them immensely in their observation out- of-doors.
The question of the Observation of the Individual is being dealt with in a separate chapter, but, as will be seen, it affords great scope and opportunities for indoor work also.
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Last modified: October 15, 2016.