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  • Youth involvement in annual program planning

    As you may know, my son has been part of his troop for just a few months. I offered to serve on the committee or in whatever capacity I might be needed. As a result, I recently got notifiation of the "committee leader planning meeting" that will "lay out our calendar of events for the upcoming Scouting year."

    Noting the distribution list of the email, I asked if the PLC was going to be part of the meeting. The reply was:

    Possibly. The August meeting is primarily to set up the core schedule of meetings and events for the year by the committee members. This meeting secures the adult participation required for us to pull of the years events.

    I think having the PLC attend would be fine, but the actual planning and execution of specific events would be conducted at Troop meetings or follow up planning meetings by the boys.

    IMO, how can the troop program be what the boys want if the boys are not part of the annual planning process? I do understand the need for adult leadership required, but if we can't get leaders to support and be at the events the boys themselves want to do, then we have a bigger problem.

    Looking for opinions on this as well as how to respond, if at all, in a positive manner.

  • #2
    If your new to the troop stand back and watch. Best not to stir the pot until your comfortable and they are comfortable with you.

    But they aren't doing it right. Read Chapter 8 of the Scoutmaster Handbook. There is an online version here:

    Eventually, when ready, I would humbly suggest that the Scoutmaster and Committee Chairman take Scoutmaster Specifics training (preferably together.)


    • #3
      I know the Troop I serve is not perfect, but on the right track. A PLC planning weekend sorts thru the Council events, Summer Camp dates and has a list of activities/events/outings contributed by Patrols.

      A skeleton calender is presented with PLC & Troop meetings, OA weekends (Try not have Unit Outings on those weekends), Troop training (adult & Youth), holidays, Spring break (3 different schools). The PLC weeds events down from the pool and slots events by month by majority vote. The outing chair (ASM) and the SPL keep the PLC on task but do not campaign other than to break a tie vote or clarify an event. We stress to the Troop if you wanna help determine the calender you need to serve as PL/SPL/ASPL (at least for the "after camp" portion of the year).

      The PLC usually invites a selection of Scouts from each Patrol to add to the planning group to do 3 things:

      #1 keep older Patrols from dominating event selection, and
      #2 provide experience for potential PLC Scouts.
      #3 spread the votes on events

      The roughed-in schedule is presented to the next Leader Meeting. This gives the leaders notice to commit to events, tentatively. We have several ASM's and adults to cover pretty much all the events 2-3+ deep.

      Main goals:

      secure adequate leadership on events,
      3 Troop meetings per month
      1 PLC per month
      1 Outing Per month
      1+ High Adventure per year (varies)
      Avoid/minimize stacking events on 1 weekend (OA, Training, ETC....)
      Youth generated calendar

      Also creating of a list of events/month for future consideration.

      This is where I think we could improve. We tend to repeat events (mostly because no one likes change)... but like I said the Troop is always getting better.


      • #4
        As bnelon points out, they aren't doing it right. Youth need to come up with the ideas and activities and then the adults get involved for support.

        Now I do know the challenges of scheduling, but it can be done by the youth. We had to deal with 12+ school schedules, and since most things happened the same weekend year after year, the weekends were almost set once we established the pattern.

        Best planning session incorporated a pool party for the PLC once all the work was done.

        One cool idea from Scotland was a troop would have a formal dinner meeting with the old PLC and New PLC to change command and get things planned. Old hands helped the younger hands so to speak, although there was little turnover.


        • #5
          Our PLC has their planning weekend coming up in 2 weeks. Here's how that weekend works for us.

          The 2 Troop Meetings prior to the weekend, the patrols make wish lists for activities, changes, etc. that their PL will bring to the weekend.

          The adults do the cooking so the PLC can focus on planning.
          Friday night:
          Upon arrival we get a few things set up, but within 30 minutes the PLC starts planning
          The first thing they do is determine what our High Adventure trip will be, when it will be held, training and advancement requirements.
          While they do this, at least one adult is online researching the location and we start to determine what we as leaders will need to do and recommendations to the committee.
          We also provide guidance and suggestions. The Scouts usually have a short list of what they want to do, so this simplifies things, but it usually takes a while to come to a consensus.
          This usually goes for a few hours and is all they get done Friday night, however this trip sets the tone for our yearly program, so it's vital that it be the first thing planned out.

          First thing after breakfast is to plan out campouts & other activities. This usually does not take too long as they have favorites and some things like camporees, summer camp, etc are already scheduled.
          Take a short break
          After the break, we go into the first part of training that we conduct. Seeing as many of the youth are in new positions (we run our year Aug 1 to Jul 31 with elections in June)we use this time to conduct leadership training.
          After lunch they go into the Troop meetings. This takes a while as they plan each meeting as far as topic, service Patrol, skill Patrol & game Patrol. Usually the meetings leading up to a campout relate to what we will be doing, so agian it's important for the campouts to be planned before the Troop meetings
          We break this up, as it usually takes several hours, with a training session in between
          After dinner we do one more training session
          Once they are done, we break out the popcorn and put on a movie

          After breakfast they review the program plan to make sure nothing was missed
          Pack up and head home

          The Adult Leaders in attendance are at no time directing what is to be scheduled, but we do stay involved to offer advice, ensure they think through everything and that what they plan to do is safe, feasable and affordable.

          The Committee's responsibility is to review and approve or disapprove the plan, but they should not be the ones making the plan. If they do not approve it, they need to explain why it's not approved and it goes back to the PLC ot make adjustments.

          I find having the SPL present the program to the Committee is a great way for them to learn how to make presentations, talk to adults and the Committee is less likely to argue items with a Scout present, thus a meaningful conversation can usually be had.

          lastly, the PLC meets monthly and part of these meetings is to review the program and adjust it if new opportunities arise or cituations change. The yearly program is not somethign set in stone and can be changed, but this change should come form the Scouts.


          • #6
            So how is the best boy led way to get ideas INTO The PLC's brains to add new things to the calendar?
            Cause our troop is stuck in doing the same old, same old and the attendance is dropping, then the number of scouts is dropping and well everyone is bored. btdt too many times, nothing exciting here.

            At what point does an adult add ideas to their lists?
            at what point does an ASM, or committee member or just a parent add ideas cause the SM seems perfectly happy to just let things go along, as the boy led leads them into the dust?

            Personally I can come up with a lot of ideas, and ways to appeal those ideas to younger, middle and older scouts with a little tweaking--tweaking that the boys themselves can do easily.

            SM is so afraid of losing boy led that he seems afraid of stepping in and giving guidance. blind leading blind is where we are in many ways. some older boys have ideas, I've seen that, but they are outvoted by the younger boys.

            oh and patrol outings and meetings are not the answer either--since those are nil unless someone tells patrols they HAVE to have a meeting. so I know of 1 Patrol meeting by one patrol in the last 6 months.

            oops I turned this into a rant.
            but any advice on the best way to phrase to the SM that he needs to wake up, smell the roses?

            I'll probably suggest that he take the new SPL and ASPL's out for ice cream and put down his foot on a few things and feed some good ideas to them. and if he doesn't have any good ideas--this is where he can get them.


            • #7
              We try to keep it simple.
              Adults set the dates. Camping trips are traditionally the last weekend of the month unless a holiday interferes.
              Boys choose the activities they want to do and which month to do them.


              • #8
                The system I had started out with the patrols planning out their calendar for the year. Got it all down on paper and then the PL's sat down and reconciled into one troop calendar. If a patrol wasn't interested in coming up with it's own activites it had to settle for what the other patrols wanted. If a patrol did extensive planning, they usually got what they wanted for the year.

                This did not mean that all the patrols had to agree on one single troop calendar. If the older boys wanted to go to high adventure and the rest just wanted to go to summer camp, Then two trips were planned. There was general consensus on camporees, etc. and those were done as a troop, Other things were done as patrols.

                The NSP did a lot of requesting of older boys' time for instruction, etc. but that duty fell to the Instructor POR so it didn't really interfere with the activities of another patrol.

                This really solved the problem of older boys wanting more excitment other than the 20th trip to the same summer camp.

                This system grew out of a bad summer camp experience and the boys taking the reins and getting a different camp lined up the following year.

                It ended up about 2/3rds of the activity I would consider all patrol activities, i.e. troop activities, and 1/3rd individual patrol activities where they went their separate ways and did their own thing.



                • #9
                  Brew, my advice would be to sit back for a few months and proceed with caution. Yes the ideal is to have the boys layout many of the events. However if you are dealing with a very young troop, a troop rebuilding, or a troop trying to expand the boys scouting experience in may not be practical to leave it all up to the scouts at this point.

                  In a few years, it should be a different story. However, at a minimum the boys wishes for 3 or 4 campouts. The other outdoor events may need to be selected by adults and geared toward advancement/boy leadership development etc.

                  A brand new group of boys may not be able to see that far ahead. This should be a temporary situation.


                  • #10
                    Note that boy scheduling can be rough. Miscommunicated dates unrealized schedules, unavailable adults are par for the course. The grass isn't greener. Two many years of frustrated schedules, and parents do ask for adults to take charge.

                    Then they realize the boys aren't having enough input and responsibility, and they cycle back.


                    • #11
                      Thanks to bnelon44 and CricketEagle for answering the question I had posed.

                      This is not a new troop--it is a well established troop that likes its annual calendar of regular events. But, what I immediately noticed was, "Where are all the older boys?" I suspect some of them are bored with the same-old, same-old. However, I also think it's sage advice to not turn myself into a PITA so early in the game. Also since it is my son's first year in the program it will all be new to him.


                      • #12

                        That's what Patrol Meetings are for. Get together with the SPL and see if he will agree with telling the Patrol Leaders that each patrol is to come up with 5 new ideas for activities for the year and to have that as an assignment for them to accomplish during the patrol break outs during the troop meeting (or as something to figure out prior to the troop meeting)


                        • #13
                          Our method is pretty simple. This past Tuesday, we handed out a sheet to all Scouts that listed both the types of trips we have done in the past (canoeing, rock climbinb, caving, backpacking, etc...) and the locations (AT, Cumberland Island, Tumbling Rock, etc...). Below each of those two lists are blank lines for write-ins. The Scouts fill them and turn them in to the PLs. Scouts are encouraged to come up with new ideas and list all of them. The PLs look over their patrol responses and present that information at the PLC Annual Planning Conference this comnig Sunday afternoon. The SPL and PLC members bring any calendars that are important to them - school, athletic, band, - and they try to mesh it all together. They use a couple of big dry erase boards and throw everything up on them, sit back and look for problems, and work out the final details. It usually takes around 2 1/2 - 3 hours. Usually I am the only adult in the room, sometimes there may be one ASM join me. If we see a real problem, we ask if we can make a suggestion. The boys are in charge and it is up to them to produce a complete calendar. I have some parents, mostly mom's, who would like to get in there and rule the roost, but that doesn't happen. If you want to have older boys active in your Troop, they have to be given real ownership of the Troop. The PLC Annual Planning Conference is one of the best ways to show them that it is their Troop.


                          • #14
                            Well, maybe what you can do is make a gentle suggestion during the adult planning conference to nudge things in a more boy-led direction.

                            Eagle732 said:


                            • #15
                              I received the meeting agenda and one of the new items is to discuss increased involvement of boys in the process. So, it appears we are making steps. Hard to turn a battleship that has gained momentum. We'll see.