Stan’s EYO Scouting Blog #18: Teaching Knot Tying

Stan Stolpe

Stan Stolpe

One of the important skills for the eleven-year-old (EYO) Scout leader is teaching knot tying. I found knot tying to be one of the most fun activities for EYO Scouts. I believe that to be successful at developing knot tying as part of the EYO program, you as the EYO Scout leader should:

  • Become familiar with Program Features for Troops, Teams, and Crews, Volume I, 2016 printing.
  • Conduct detailed planning with the EYO patrol leader modifying chapter 11, Pioneering, in Program Features for Troops, Teams, and Crews, Volume 1.
  • Become proficient and know the different knot requirements for each rank and where to find them in the Boy Scout Handbook
  • Learn how to teach each knot in a way that is fun and provides a way to remember how to tie the knot.

Program Features for Troops, Teams, and Crews provides the basis for planning a full month of fun for the EYO Scout patrol. Although there is not a specific section on knot tying, the chapter on pioneering can easily be modified to teach knot tying as well as lashings (which are First Class Scout requirements 3a, 3c, and 3d.). I found that pulling out the pioneering section, making copies for the boys, and then letting the patrol leaders discuss how to build a patrol meeting around knot tying builds their leadership skills and provides them hands-on planning opportunities. I use the program features because they provide 12 key items:

1.    A thumbnail description of meeting content 7.    A quick (or not so quick) introduction to the topic for all members
2.    A breakdown of the parts of the meeting with suggested times 8.    Specific instruction for all three skill levels;
3.    A place to note who is in charge of each segment of the meeting 9.    Time for patrols or other small groups to practice skills and prepare for the main event
4.    A record of the actual times for each segment of the meeting 10.  A game that tests what members have learned or just lets them blow off steam
5.    A fun activity for members to do as they are gathering 11.  A time to take care of business at the end of the meeting
6.    A formal opening ceremony to start the meeting 12.  Ideas for the next meeting and the main event


Learning to tie knots takes time and practice. The more you practice knot tying, the better you will become. Today’s Internet resources offer educational websites such as Animated Knots by Grog™ that can show you visually how to tie specific knots.KnotsbyGrogDifferent individuals learn through different means. Some Scout leaders can look at the Boy Scout Handbook and comprehend how to tie a knot. Other Scout leaders are more visual learners and find watching someone tie the knot a better way for them to learn. Knowing where to find the knot in the Boy Scout Handbook teaches the EYO Scout leader to use the handbook as a way of learning and as a ready reference to refresh one’s memory when using the knot later. Remember, as you teach knot tying to use the EDGE method (explain, demonstrate, guide, and enable).redblueknot

There are many different techniques in teaching knot tying to your EYO Scouts. For teaching the square knot, I found having two different colored ropes much easier. It took me a long time to learn the mnemonic, “left over right; right over left.” I had difficulty understanding that the left was not the right after it went over the right and the right was now the left (see what I mean?). With a colored rope (such as red and blue) it is easier to think “blue over red; blue over red.” Another aspect of knot tying is knowing what the knot is used for. For example, for the square knot it is important to know that the knot is a good holding knot, but the knot readily comes undone by pushing in the opposing directions. Learning to know about a knot is just as important as learning to tie the knot.

In preparation for teaching the EYO Scouts knot tying, I usually grab some older Scouts to assist me. To set up, we build a hitching post. In addition, we bring a log for practicing the timber hitch, ropes of various lengths and diameters, and some stakes (used to practice the taunt-line hitch). The hitching post greatly aids in teaching knot tying. The instructor can stand on one side and the EYO Scouts on the other to readily observe the knot tying. If you build one in an L shape, the hitching post can be self-supporting. You can place two instructors on the outside of the L and the EYO Scouts on the inside.

Hitching post for Knot Tying

Hitching post for Knot Tying

I also like to make up fun stories about knots. It assists the boys in learning the knot and adds a dimension that appeals to their sillier side. After the EYO Scouts have learned the clove hitch, I like to show them a variation on the clove hitch that I call the cowboy hitch. I tell the story that cowboys would use a quick release version of the clove hitch when tying up their horses to provide them a quick way of releasing the reins when departing the hitching post. I’d usually pretend I was both the cowboy and the horse—putting one end in my mouth and pulling back like the horse, demonstrating that the knot holds. Then I’d tell the Scouts that the cowboy needed a quick get-away, pulling the other side of the knot releasing the reins. They usually get a giggle or two out of this antic and then practice the cowboy hitch for themselves.

Quick Release Cowboy Hitch

Quick Release Cowboy Hitch

Scouts learn knot tying for each rank from Scout through First Class. They use and learn other knots in pioneering, first aid, fishing, and other merit badges. Knowing how to tie and use knots is important for many reasons. Knots are important in survival as well as having practical applications in woodsmanship. With ropes and lashings, EYO Scouts learn to make many useful camp tools. I have found that when EYO Scouts learn knots, their self-confidence and sense of self-satisfaction is greatly increased. In acquiring self-confidence, happiness increases and Scouts become more relaxed in social settings. We strengthen our youth when we provide them opportunities, through Scouting, to grow emotionally and to gain self-confidence in what they do.


~Stan Stolpe has served in multiple Scouting positions at the unit, district, council, regional, and national levels in the U.S. and overseas. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia, serving in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.

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