Scouting's new wave; Expo: The event, stressing the common values of Boy and Girl Scouting, brings 20,000 kids together for fun.


You couldn't have a Scouting expo without a monkey bridge or a rope knot booth, or those Dutch ovens made out of 5-pound coffee cans. But how about a computer in pieces on an exhibition table, a duckpin bowling lane made from particle board or tennis lessons?

Traditional Girl and Boy Scouting activities lined up alongside the new wave of Scouting on the concourse of PSINet Stadium yesterday in Scout Expo 2000, the first joint venture of the Baltimore Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, and the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland.

The program that brought some 20,000 Cubs, Brownies, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts to the ground-level concourse of the downtown stadium was an attempt to "show the community that two groups with different cultures can work together for similar goals," said Erik Nystrom, president of the Baltimore Area Council.

It also gives Scout leaders an "opportunity to say, 'Look how many good kids there are in this country,' " added Lisa Cid, executive director of the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland.

About 250 troops and packs, a radio station, a ski resort and a tennis school set up exhibit booths.

"We want to introduce tennis to as many kids as possible and get rid of that country club image," said Lynn Morrell, USA Tennis coordinator for Baltimore Tennis Patrons, which offers free tennis lessons for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.

The guts of a computer spilled over the table set up by Boy Scout Troop 561 of New Psalmist Baptist Church in the city, evidence of the direction in which troop leaders Nathan Upshur and Brandon Robinson want to point their charges.

"We brought the computer in whole and took it apart, then spent five weeks putting it back together," said Robinson. "It makes them see how the computer works, rather than just play video games."

Charles Michael and John Bullock, 18-year-old Eagle Scouts from Troop 745 in Essex, built a miniature duckpin bowling alley for their exhibit.

"Hands-on activities seem to attract more people, so that's what we wanted to come up with," said Michael.

And duckpin bowling originated in Baltimore, Bullock added.

Better yet, said assistant troop leader Paul M. Blitz, a representative from AMF, which builds bowling alleys, offered to buy the alley from them.

Just inside Gate A, Heather Johnson, a 16-year-old Girl Scout from Severn, was collecting children's books to distribute to low-income families through the Baltimore Reads Book Bank program. She had coordinated the drive as the service project to earn the Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting, and this was the culmination.

"The Girls Scouts needed someone to head up the project and I volunteered," Johnson said as people dropped copies of "Little Girls' Picnic Surprise," a "Color Picture Dictionary" and Roald Dahl's "The Magic Finger" in a tall box beside the table. "I like coordinating things."

Johnson, of Troop 862 at Fort Meade, arrived yesterday with more than 900 books packed in cartons and said she expected to have more than 2,000 by the end of the day.

Toward the Russell Street side of the stadium, where the concourse narrows, Ed Gies was helping 5- and 6-year-olds cross a rope bridge strung between landscaping ties lashed together with twine.

"Keep your hands up," he repeated as girls in pink shorts and boys in Cub Scout blue clambered up a ladder of bamboo rungs. "Now hold onto the ropes. OK, you're ready. Turn around at the end."

Gies is the leader of Cub Scout Pack 143 in Reisterstown, and his wife Angie Gies leads Girl Scout Troop 775 in Reisterstown.

"We wanted to come up with something specific to symbolize the bridge between us and our shared goals and values," he said, referring to the theme of the expo, "Shared values shaping a solid future."

The Girl Scout Promise and the Boy Scout Oath both speak of doing one's best, serving others and a making a commitment to God and country, he said.

The Scouts in Jim Dunne's Troop 216 in Severna Park do their best a little differently. They are disabled. Many have Down syndrome, some have muscular dystrophy and others were injured in accidents.

"We do what the other Scouts do. We go to summer camp, we go camping eight times a year," said Dunne, who had set up a maze through which blindfolded Scouts pushed others in wheelchairs to "raise their awareness" of the problems people with disabilities face.

"What we hope this will teach them is that when you see someone with a disability, you give them some room," he said. "They'll get there."

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