Imagine being there in the early 1930s when James E. West, E. Urner Goodman and other BSA founders were planning the first National Jamboree.

That first national Scouting event — originally scheduled for 1935 but delayed to 1937 because of the polio outbreak — ignited a tradition that has taken this quadrennial celebration from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to a state park in Idaho, a military base in Virginia and, since 2013, a state-of-the-art adventure playground in West Virginia.

Add up all that life-changing fun, and you’ll see that National Jamborees have positively impacted the lives of a combined 800,000 youth participants. To think that it all started with a bunch of Scouts, volunteers and professionals who weren’t afraid to dream big.

Ninety years later, it’s time for a sequel. That means you won’t need a time machine to understand what it’s like to shape the future of an event that’s woven into the very fabric of the Boy Scouts of America.

Next summer, you’ll have the opportunity to chart a course for future jamborees yourself.

At the Telescopium Experience, a four-night event in July 2021 at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, you’ll join other passionate Scouts and volunteers as you craft a new vision for future National Jamborees.

Past experience at National Jamborees (either as a participant or staffer) is helpful but not required. The primary qualification is that you’re interested in sharing your ideas for making the next National Jamboree the best event in BSA history.

“Individuals that care and can articulate the importance of delivering a great experience — while maximizing available resources and processes for our youth participants — would make great Telescopium participants,” says Dan Busby, National Jamboree director.

As of this writing, Scouters from 35 different states have already registered to attend. Will you join them?

Members of the BSA leadership team at the 1937 National Jamboree included E. Urner Goodman, program director (third from left); Walter Head, BSA president (center); and James E. West, Chief Scout Executive (third from right). (Public domain photo via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Studying jamborees from a distance

Telescopium will be held July 13–17, 2021 — the same month the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia had hoped to host the 2021 National Jamboree.

But in July 2020, the BSA made the difficult but necessary decision to postpone its signature event to a later date. Pandemic precautions played a role, of course, but so did the Summit’s desire to help bolster attendance at council camps next summer after most of those camps were forced to cancel programs in 2020.

Rather than wait for the pandemic to pass, the Summit concocted a way to turn this jamboree pause into something that will benefit future participants.

They call it Telescopium, using the latinized version of the Greek word for telescope. That stargazing tool, as any Astronomy merit badge counselor knows, is designed to study objects from a distance to better understand them.

Similarly, The Telescopium Experience challenges jamboree advocates to study the National Jamboree and suggest ways to improve it.

“The goal is to apply the best suggestions and thoughts immediately,” Busby says.

A final report of the input collected from the event, as well as plans for incorporating that feedback into future jamborees, will be shared publicly after Telescopium.

Why attend the Telescopium Experience?

Here are three big reasons:

  1. You’re interested in National Jamborees, either as a past participant/staffer or as someone who wants to serve on staff at a future event. And just as important, you’re interested in shaping the direction of National Jamborees for the generations that follow.
  2. You’re interested in spending three days and four nights at the Summit, the BSA’s high-adventure base in wonderful West Virginia. In addition to participating in interactive discussions, you’ll take part in onsite and offsite adventures. The schedule isn’t “one size fits all.” You’ll be able to customize each day to meet your interests.
  3. You’re interested in meeting Scouts and volunteers from across the country — each one as committed to the future of Scouting as you.

The Telescopium Experience: The essentials

When: July 13-17, 2021 (check in on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 13, and check out mid-morning on Saturday, July 17)
Where: The Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia

  • Registered Scouts age 16 and up (and accompanied by a parent/guardian)
  • Registered adult volunteers
  • Note: Prior experience at National Jamborees (as a participant, staff member or day visitor) is helpful but not required
    COVID safety: While everyone hopes the pandemic will have subsided by July 2021, the Summit will Be Prepared either way. The Summit successfully ran programs during summer 2020 and will apply those precautions and comply with local and state regulations to be as safe as possible.
    Lodging and fees: Participants have three options at the Summit during Telescopium:
  • Cot and tent (you’ll borrow the cot and get to keep the tent): $726/person
  • Bunkhouse with roommate: $825/person
  • “Summit luxury” (single-occupancy or couples housing at the new Yamagata Lodge): $1,500/person

Fees include everything you’ll need for three days and four nights at the BSA’s newest high-adventure base, including tent/cot, food, conference materials, activities and entertainment, ground transportation onsite, insurance and more.

Register and learn more: Register here and read the FAQs here.

Telescopium: What’s being discussed?

Continuous improvement is an important element of the Scouting journey. Whether in Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA, Venturing or Sea Scouts, every step builds on the one before.

That means that, even with 19 National Jamborees already completed, the BSA knows that there’s always room to do things better.

At the Telescopium Experience, everything about National Jamborees is on the table for discussion — from the size of the jamboree to site layout and beyond.

Some of the areas that will be discussed include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Size
  • Guests
  • Recognition
  • Site layout
  • Equipment distribution
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Expenses
  • Marketing
  • Registration
  • Media
  • Exhibitors
  • Sponsors
  • Medical care
  • Complementary programming

Beyond the sessions

While Telescopium’s primary goal is to improve future jamborees, it’s impossible to visit the Summit and not participate in something that will make all your Instagram followers jealous.

Participants will be able to choose from activities like zip lining, rafting, site tours, shooting sports, shopping in the area and more.

It’s all designed to help you make lasting memories — not just for yourself but for all the Scouts that will follow the trail you blaze.

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