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How to run a troop meeting need help from Experienced Boy-Led Troops

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  • How to run a troop meeting need help from Experienced Boy-Led Troops


  • #2
    I am a few years removed from volunteering at the troop level but here is what I remember:

    1) If you haven't done troop leadership training yet, make sure you have one soon! The Scouts in my troop loved TLT because it was a day of leadership training, pizza, and (relevant) games. The allure of the "Trained" strip didn't hurt either.

    2) If you have Scouts who enjoy teaching, make sure they have the opportunity to be instructors-- Instructor is a leadership position and it allows Scouts to focus on presenting the skills that interest them.

    3) Definitely pursue the Venture Patrol option: Some of the older Scouts in my troop formed one and had an absolute blast with the "high adventure" options they found in our area.

    4) Inter-patrol competitions are a great way to keep Scouts engaged. My troop had cook-offs, mousetrap car races (every patrol was given a kit with the same materials), and other wacky activities that kept the Scouts engaged. The best way to run them? Have a different patrol run the competition/game every week!

    5) Write a survey for the Scouts and ask what they want to do during the coming year. Refer to it during the annual troop planning meeting (or help the Scouts run their first troop planning meeting).

    I hope these help!

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    • #3
      To a casual observer, I don't know that our troop meetings are significantly different from yours. The big difference is the boys are planning and executing whatever is going on. As far as the content of troop meetings, we don't do merit badge classes either, but we very frequently use merit badge "topics" for troop meetings. The programs are based on the merit badges but don't specifically cover the requirements. If a Scout is interested in earning the badge, paying attention and taking notes will get him a long way down the road of earning the badge. But each Scout still has to pull a blue card, meet with the counselor and complete the specifics of the requirement. You know -- show a little initiative and put forth some effort. We will frequently do merit badge topics as a troop but then have NO ONE actually earn the MB. At first, that's a hard pill for the adults to swallow, but the adults have to realize that not every activity has to result in a badge. If the boys had fun and learned something, it was worthwhile.

      One thing which makes this successful is understanding that the program can be boy led, but still involve an adult standing up making the presentation. Last year we did engineering as a month-long topic. The boys planned it but invited different adults -- all of whom were already affiliated with the troop -- to talk about their particular branch of engineering. Face it, having a 14-year-old stand there and try to talk about engineering would have been bloody boring. The youth leadership came in the planning and organization. The patrol competitions which accompanied this included the patrols using what the learned to build a popsicle stick bridges and seeing which bridges held the most weight. Yeah, that's also a Webelos activity pin, but in we had the boys do 100% of the design and construction themselves.

      Keeping the older boys engaged is going to be tough. If they have been taught to passively sit back and be entertained and collect MBs for doing so, they're probably going to be unhappy with the new system. Leading the troop is difficult and frustrating. If the boys haven't been brought along in the troop looking up to older guys in leadership positions, they may very likely only see the down side of being a leader. And you may lose a few. Sometimes that is the price of change. You have to see the value of change and stick to your vision regardless of the losses.

      If you are looking for a check list of syllabus for making the change, I don't think you are going to find on. You have to keep the pressure on and everytime the boys relax, you push them a little further toward boy led. Your job is to clearly communicate what the end result looks like and keep that vision in front of the scouts and adults. You will get there eventually.

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      • #4
        troop planning meeting boys pick out places to camp and troop activity for that campout.

        PLC meets each month and plans out meetings until meeting after next PLC... they take in what the campout is and if training is needed then some of the meetings leading up to that campout will focus on that.

        as an example our next campout is ice fishing (weather permitting - not often that you wish for cold weather) so our next meeting is all about ice fishing. We have the owner of the pond coming to talk about bait - best bait to use when ice fishing but also what bait he will allow in his pond because he won't allow live minnows in his pond. The SPL and our 18 year old ASM will talk about dressing for the weather. And they will practice ice rescues.

        since cooking is going to becoming eagle required and because our boys tend to always eat the same things over and over again usually every couple of months someone will teach a new recipe - some times it's stove, sometimes dutch oven, and sometimes backpacking. Sometimes it is an adult leading, sometimes it is an older scout, but we break into patrols and each patrol makes their own as it is taught and then at end of meeting they get to eat.

        And while we do NOT have merit badge classes - if a boy is needing to get with MBC they can do so before meeting as we have 30 mins before meeting starts, and they can meet during meeting off to the back of the room. Also if we are working on say first aid in the troop meeting nothing says a boy working on first aid merit badge can learn there at meeting and then speak to MBC and demonstrate their skill.

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        • #5
          Eliminating merit badge classes in troop meetings was the first thing I did as Scoutmaster. But we do have adult scouters offer to do merit badge counciling outside of a meeting or on camping trips. Amazingly, not many badges are earned, as many boys do not follow through and do the work. I council wilderness survival, and yearly the boys choose to have a Wilderness survival campout where we do all the activity and skills described in the MB book. But I have the boys schedule a time to do the requirements where they discuss this and that. Only a few take the initiative and prepare to do this by reading the appropriate sections in the book and get ready to discuss it.

          When I get a newly elected SPL and PL's, I tell them to watch what I do very carefully and get ready to take over next time. So I will do the first meeting in front of the troop with the SPL standing right by me. But the next meeting he has to do it. After that, I can ask what his plan is, but he has to come up with it. At PLC meetings, I will chair the first one, and the SPL will do the next meeting. After that, I mainly talk to him, and he takes over the presiding of the meeting. I tried to just throw them into the frey, but they did not know what to do. They need to see it done once or twice to get the feel of it.

          I like the idea of venture patrols, but I think they can take the older boys away from the rest of the troop. The patrols need them, but they also need their own venue. Try this. Have a venture patrol that scouts older than 13 can join, and let them have dual membership in this patrol along with membership in a regular patrol. They will camp for two months with their regular patrols, but quarterly, let the venture patrol go on its own outing, It can be age appropriate; a longer backpacking trek, a 3 day conoe trip, a harder climbing trip. That can be their time. They will need it. When my son was in our troop, he said once, "Dad, our troop is now full of these little kids." He needed time with guys his own age. It is a bit more of an administrative challenge to have two outings on the venturing month, but it may solve your problem of bored older scouts.

          Comment


          • #6
            Bearclaw,

            Much depends on your direct mentorship of the SPL and ASPLs. Hopefully they are fairly mature young men, who can handle management of the meeting itself.

            Work directly with them to help them develop their meeting plans, from service patrol set-up to service patrol tear-down.

            This is a good time for a working breakfast at your place, with your lead ASM as your second deep.

            Comment


            • #7
              Read more of your stuff ...

              For keeping the senior boys engaged, have them...

              1) Plan their own independent campout as an ad-hoc patrol (14 and 1st Class). That's the old Venture Patrol idea, but keeps them in their basic patrols for the monthly campout. Let them do something grander than the standard campout weekend (hike a chunk of a major trail, take a boating class, special weekend at the range)...

              2) Make sure all the older youth have PORs ... and have them working to help other Scouts develop skills.

              3) Have the SPL give them specific tasks to do within meetings: Run the game, do the instruction, ad infinitum.

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              • #8
                The only thing to add to the advice above is:

                1. Have a plan. Pick what aspects of troop operations you want boy-led and have an idea what you want that to look like. Get the senior boys to buy in and make sure you get adult leaders to help with keeping the plan in place.

                2. Pick your battles. I tried to go more boy-led but quickly realized I needed to take baby steps. My plan was too aggressive so I developed a staged plan putting those things I wanted boy-let most in the front of the plan and so on.

                3. Be open to suggestions. Even after the plan is in place re-tooling the plan or scraping things that looked good 6 months ago but don't now is always a good idea.

                4. Train in layers. By this I mean train the guys who will perform boy-led roles first. Then make sure you train the next two layers underneath them. Send who you can to NYLT. TLT is good but the materials stink. The old JLT manual is still out there and you can find Powerpoint decks that will walk you through how to teach the course. Do this once a year at least.

                Hope this helps!

                Comment


                • #9
                  It's never too early for the younger boys to begin to learn the EDGE method and to assume responsibility for their own patrols. The PL and APL for our new Scout patrol assumes the responsibility for tracking progress towards rank advancement for the entire patrol. I had a talk with the boys about how to address the issue of reporting on the patrol's performance and let the boys come up with the idea of building a spreadsheet that tracks the advancements. The PL is responsible for querying the others boys for their updates and then he turns them over to one of the leaders for entry in Troopmaster.

                  We're also very fortunate that the older boys in our Troop enjoy teaching the younger boys and look at it as their responsibility to teach Scout skills and signoff their books.

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                  • #10

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                    • #11

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bearclaw
                        Do your plans look like the Troop Program Features examples?
                        That is exactly what we use. Took a while to get the PLC to learn how to use it. They saw it as extra work but when they realized that having a plan, and back up activities in case something fell through, really helped things run smoothly.

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                        • #13

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                          • #14
                            Eagle has it right in that make sure your PLC has gone through TLT (and that each has a PL handbook). A few months after that, send them one or two at a time to the training put on by the district or council.
                            As far as the PLC meetings being unproductive, you may want to provide a generalized meetings template. First 15 minutes any old business, next half hour decide theme for next month (first aid upgrades, pioneering skills, and so on), next 20 minutes covering next months campout, next 20 future camps, etc. If they don't finish each segment in their time limit, you must end it for them the first few times to impart the idea of time discipline.
                            Lengthy canoe trips can be scary to the young as imagination can be very creative. You might start with a one day canoe outing, work up to a weekend canoe trip and go from there.
                            There is always the problem of keeping older Scouts occupied while catering to the younger. This was one reason Explorers was tried. You might ask them what they want to do -- lead community service projects, do the actual grunt work in planning fundraisers, plan their own high adventure outing.
                            Peer learning is generally accepted. This is one reason we attend Camporees. We encourage our Scouts to visit with Scouts from other troops; while socializing they have a chance to ask how things are done in their troops

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                            • #15

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                              • Krampus
                                Krampus commented
                                Editing a comment
                                We had a similar issue. The PLC was running on auto pilot just doing what they guys the took over for always did. Total treadmill.

                                First PLC of the new leaders I told them to through out the rule book and plan the mtgs and events for fun. Did not care if it took 30 mins or 2 hours of time. told them we had budget for a few things and gave them some seed ideas. Next thing I knew they had planned a few archery outings at the local range, night-time orienteering sessions where pizzas were hidden in the woods and the patrols had to navigate a few courses to find their stash, mouse-trap car derbies, movie night (usually something like a History Channel or Discovery Channel educational thing, and several other cool events. Attendance came back and guys got interested again. Maybe some of those things will work for your guys.
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