Do Program!




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By Rob Hathaway

Don't do advancement, do program! 

The boys do  advancement, as they wish, when they wish.

This relates to some of the mistakes I made in my earliest years as SM.  Why was attendance bad? Why was retention very poor? One reason! Meetings weren't fun! At least that's what the boys said when I asked. 

When we based our troop program on advancement... a large part of  meetings resembled "school". We had lectures... sometimes we even had written  tests. Scouting skills should be picked up one-on-one and hands-on whenever  possible! 

Avoid classroom-like lecture style instruction. Skills instruction can  be accomplished with games, skits, interactive discussions, role-playing,  hands-on demonstrations... and skills instruction doesn't have to directly  relate to a specific advancement sign-off! 

Look at Woods Wisdom, (or the new  edition), to see what I mean! These days, we have a monthly program feature. It may or may not have  any direct relationship to advancement... usually not. There may be several  break-outs during the skills instruction phase of the troop meeting...  each break-out working on a different aspect of that program feature. 

If the  PLC thinks the entire troop would enjoy a particular activity... then no break-outs... whatever is appropriate. An actual example might be in order... this is all fresh from my PLC  last night. 

November's program feature is Backpacking. Our activities will build up  to a one day backpacking trip on Dec 1-2. Since the troop had the same  feature just last June... the PLC hasn't scheduled any multiple tracks, they felt  skill levels are pretty close except for a few Philmont veterans who will be instructional resources, and they felt that the activities planned will  all be fun for everyone. 

On 11/5 the Wolverines will lead a discussion on how to pack and menu  planning.  They will bring a well-packed backpack to take apart and lead a troop  wide brainstorming session on how to plan menus. 

On 11/12 I agreed to make up and run a game of Backpacking and Hiking Jeopardy. This has become a popular activity... different skills each  time. I will go through the requirements for Backpacking and Hiking MB and  make up 25 questions and answers based on them to fill out a 5 X 5 Jeopardy  board.  This takes me about an hour... (and I did threaten to delegate it back  to the SPL if they don't ask someone else to do it next time). Patrols compete  against each other in playing Jeopardy... takes 20 to 25 minutes. (Yes.. the  New Scout patrol might not do as well... but they are free to adjourn to another  room with a troop guide and do something else... that happened in May during  a Safety Afloat and Canoeing Jeopardy Game). 

Note that we aren't working  on either Backpacking MB or Hiking MB... I will announce that I have the  names of councilors available to interested Scouts, however. 

On 11/19 the SPL will make up 4 envelope skits. These are likely  Scenarios... each patrol will draw one... they will have 10 minutes to prepare skits  depicting the scenarios... and hopefully resolving any problems... patrols then  present the skits to the troop... discussion follows each. Scenarios will probably  include "You are halfway up Johnson's Peak. Your Patrol leader stumbles and has  a badly sprained ankle... what do you do?" This is only the second time we've  done this but it is likely to become as much of a staple as Jeopardy. It doesn't  have to be first aid all the time either. 

On 11/26 the skills instruction and game periods will be combined.  Patrol Meetings will be held first, (final preparations), then a patrol trail dinner  cooking contest. Each patrol has $10 to spend, they'll have a backpacking stove  and 40 minutes to prepare a tasty trail dinner... the SPL will act as judge.  (Speaking as an adult... this may flop... too many cooks spoil the soup... we'll  have to see... when I, as SM, have these forebodings of doom... I've learned that they  are only occasionally warranted... so I keep quiet!) Between now and the campout... the troop will have prepared for the  outing, and had lots of fun. No specific advancement will have been accomplished... but  I guarantee you that we'll have a new round of SM conferences and BOR's waiting on  12/4. 

Advancement sign-offs happen... one-on-one... pre-meeting, during Patrol  Meetings, and especially during outings. You will hear Scouters claim that this goes against the 1st-class  emphasis idea... bull-feathers. Scouts have to have fun before they'll get excited about  advancement. 

Evidence from my recent years as SM... understanding that it took awhile  to transition from what we once did... 1st class in roughly 8 or 10 months... we've had 2 who finished first class in under 4 months. I've had one,  and only one, ACTIVE scout who took more than a year... and that was a swimming  problem. We are a troop of 34 boys... but I'd say 25 active. 

Rob Roy Hathaway SM Troop 215
Mansfield, TX 






Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Climbing the Mountain ] Woodcraft Badges ] 1st Class, 1927-1940 ] Woodcraft Coups&Degrees ] Advancement Ceremonies ] Tracking Sheets ] Webelos Transition ] Traditional Scouting ] Bushman's Cord ] Senior Scouts ] [ Do Program! ] Traditional Award Badges ] 1st Year Summer Camp ] TF-FC Requirements in 1911 ] Journey Requirements ]

Parent- Level Topic Links:
Traditional Scouting ] Patrol Method ] Adults ] Advancement ] Ideals ] Leadership ] Uniforms ] Outdoor Skills ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.