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Posts posted by MattR

  1. What a great way to give the scouts ownership, Red Feather. Do you set expectations that all upper rank scouts need to give service back to the troop? More than just the 4 or 6 months for the POR. It wouldn't have to be as time consuming. Tie that in with them setting their own goals and everyone helps out. I've been talking to some other people about doing this and working the goal setting in with the calendar planning. I'm just not sure what the pros and cons are.

  2. Cheermeister, game master, hike master, cook instructor, dutch oven instructor, backpacking master, campfire mc instructor, leave no trace instructor, service project lead, webmaster, color guard master. I like these. Thanks.


    Red feather says "All of these PORs were thought of and proposed (in writing to the SPL and SM) by the scout doing the job." I'd like to hear more. How do they come up with ideas? Do they have to set goals for each position? Do the scouts need help defining the position? Can other scouts help them with this? How much mentoring/coaching do they need?


    SR540Beaver, I do ask older scouts if they'd like to be troop guides and they're great with that. In fact that's what started this because I had a scout go from almost dropping out to wanting to become SPL after he was troop guide.


    I've turned several older scouts around by matching them with the right task. Some like leadership, some like to be the best at something, it depends on their personality. While this really helps these scouts, I'd rather the scouts figure this all out on their own. I'd also like most of the 14-17 year olds having some specific responsibility. So this process needs to be part of the culture of the troop. You know, we have a planning session for the calendar that gives us a very specific set of events but we don't have a planning session for responsibility that would give each scouts a specific set of responsibilities. What if after the calendar is made, or every 6 months, the SPL makes a list of all the PORs he needs, and any scout can propose something they want to add to this list? There's a responsibility planning session (the older scouts are encouraged to go), and other than the PLC, the SPL matches scouts to responsibility. Scouts walk away with a list of goals and the SPL knows who's doing what. Everyone has a job, the calendar is set, scouts can than plan their own time, and then the fun can happen.



  3. I'm looking for tasks for older scouts in upper ranks to keep them engaged. My reason is the following: While patrols cook and clean on campouts I constantly repeat "everyone has a job", and it works. While something needs to be done everyone has to help out. There's no arguing, it's easier for PLs to lead, team work develops, the scouts have more fun, it's great. I've also noticed that older scouts, when they have the right responsibility in the troop, also thrive. Scouts that were ready to drop out all of a sudden really get into scouting once they are matched with the right task to do. So I was wondering about taking "everyone has a job" and extend it to the entire troop. Specifically, I'd like to give older scouts in upper ranks an opportunity to own a task to do for the troop. I don't want to make them do it but I want to help them find something they can get into. It could be a cooking instructor, helping younger scouts set goals, organizing a trip, putting together a list of good games, or whatever. It might be a regular position of responsibility or it might not. I don't care as long as the scout sees it as important, he sees that it can be done, and he owns it. This could also be seen as preparation for doing an Eagle project (come up with an idea, create goals and a plan, see it through).


    So what kind of tasks does everyone else have for their older scouts?

  4. Eagle732,


    I doubt that today's kids are not physical enough. Some scouts are obviously stronger than others, but I'm guessing you're reasonable (or else you wouldn't be here asking).


    I don't know if I asked this before but did the scouts that picked the calendar go on the campouts? If less than half of those that picked the calendar went then that suggests they're in a rut. If all of those guys go but the younger scouts don't go, that's another problem.


    I do like SMT224's idea of checking out the tents and patrol boxes before and after the campout. I also like five minutes of thorns, roses, and buds at the next meeting. We sort of do it but I think giving everyone a chance to talk is good. I recently changed the meetings so most are about the campout. Pick songs, pick skits, plan it all out and then have a game.


    So now the challenge is coming up with some aspect of the campout that's new every month. eg, we came up with GPS frizbee golf (the "basket" is a coordinate, if the frizbee is at the coordinate then it's in the basket), so now we need to teach the scouts how to use the different coordinate systems.

  5. I think all of you are going to be pleasantly surprised in 2010 as the BSA rolls out some changes. They are going on offense with their message. They feel that their message was being written by everyone besides the BSA. I think Arrow Corps 5 was a way to focus attention on all the conservation work scouts do. I had a chance to ask people at national whether putting the outing back in scouting matched their goals and they said absolutely. As for Scoutreach, that's being replaced with something intended to bring all sorts of people that don't understand the scouting culture into scouts. My understanding is that scoutreach failed because it didn't bring Hispanics all the way in to a regular troop. For example, Scoutreach districts never had OA. There is also agreement that different troops have different issues. I talked to a few excellent scoutmasters and whereas I'm competing with band camp and soccer they're competing with meth labs and gangs. Flexibility and being nimble is a new push at national, but they are rock solid on keeping the core values of scouting.


    I'm optimistic, but it's going to take time.

  6. Here's something I noticed in my troop. The PLC came up with a calendar that they liked but few of them actually showed up at the campouts they picked. I think we were getting in a rut so we scrapped the calendar and started over. We're trying to work with the scouts on creating a better calendar. On our Spring camporee we told everyone to bring camo for capture the flag and also required every patrol to use a dutch oven for dinner. They said it was one of the better campouts they've had. The thing is they never would have come up with this on their own. We're trying to show them how to come up with more fun and to challenge themselves. They would not have voted for a dutch oven campout but I forced it and then had a meeting with a bunch of dutch oven recipes they could pick from. I've taken over the calendar for three months, after which I hope the scouts will be more willing to find and try different things.


    Your calendar looks great to me, but I've never done those things before. I'd ask yourself if you're doing the same things over and over.


    A completely different but related issue I've noticed is that motivating older scouts is not easy. Having fun is not enough. Adults want notoriety, challenge, power, success, etc, and older scouts are starting to need the same things. I've talked to a lot of Scoutmasters and many of them create a lot of PORs that are specific to each scout's desires. The standard troop has roughly 10% of the scouts in a position of responsibility and some troops have 40%. I think this is a way to let scouts excel at something so I'm going to move in that direction.

  7. Eagle732,


    You say only 25% of your scouts are going on the bike hike. Have you done bike hikes before? (We haven't and it sounds like fun.) If it's not a new idea, is this to a new place or have you already been there before? I really would like the answers to these questions.


    Since I first started this thread I've added a new requirement for every campout. It has to be memorable. New place, new skill, or new theme. One campout was to the Air Force Academy (canceled because of bad weather, so we'll keep it for next time). At Spring Camporee we told them to bring camo and they played capture the flag (in the fog) and we also required the use of a dutch oven for dinner. We gave them a list of a dozen dutch oven recipes to try from to make it easier. We got half the troop to show up and considering it was end of school, prom, etc this is the best showing we've had in a while. It was a success. When I say "we" I mean myself, another adult, the SPL, and the ASPLs.


    It seems like coming up with unique ideas is a skill that needs to be developed. Right now the adults are doing most of it and I want to move it towards the scouts, but it's going to take time.

  8. Hi Kudu,


    Interesting comments. With the PLs picking the SPL it sounds like a parliamentary system as opposed to a democracy. I guess it has its pros and cons. However, I would really like a book with 400 pages of ideas for having fun. That should be reprinted.


    We used to have something more along the lines of what you're talking about. The patrol leaders picked weeks to plan and they were responsible for those weeks. From what I can tell that's the way it's described. The problem was that the PLs spent so much time organizing meetings they didn't have time to do anything else. Troop meetings were great but patrols were just collections of scouts. There was no cohesion. The PL had no time for his patrol. As often as we told them to delegate some of the planning it didn't work.


    The problem as I see it is there aren't enough scouts taking on responsibility. Something like 10% of the troop was responsible for organizing events and it needs to be somewhere around 25%. I'm not talking about helping. Most of the scouts help. I'm talking about organizing something. They, like the adults, are time poor so I'm trying to get more scouts to help. We also ask every family to help in some way, too, but that's another story.


    To spread the responsibility I said the PLs are responsible for their patrols and the SPL and ASPLs will ask other, older scouts to help organize troop level events. If you're star or above you're expected to help. The SPL and ASPLs are also responsible for training and mentoring all the other responsibility positions. The PLC still picks the calendar and maybe it should help pick other scouts to help organize troop level events. It may not be elegant and I appreciate your comments and what the PLC is supposed to do, but just like the adults, we can't depend on a small number of people doing most of the work. I was told the BSA needs to adapt to two things, time poor people and changing demographics. That's what I'm seeing.

  9. In my troop Patrol leaders are only responsible for their patrols so troop meetings are organized by the SPL and ASPLs. That would be severe burnout on the part of the SPL if he didn't have help as every meeting is different. There's a main theme/skill/demo as well as a game. They will occasionally ask some of the older scouts in patrols to help with these things and that means keeping them in focus and getting things done. There's also communication and training. My mantra seems to be: "You're the leader and you have a lot of responsibility but you don't have to do all of it. Get people to help. That's leadership." The other one is: Everyone has a job (and this includes adults). So our ASPLs are busy.


  10. What's the best way to use drums at a campfire? It just seems like the kind of music that would fit in. I could see 40 scouts playing drums around a campfire together would really get the blood going. Japanese Taiko, Indian drum circles, or Nalgene bottles and pots. If anyone has experience I'd like to hear about it.

  11. acco40, to keep your water from freezing you can bury it in the snow. Dig a hole down to the ground, put your water bottles in the hole, and bury it in snow. Snow is a good insulator and the ground will generate just a bit of heat. You have to go all the way to the ground. For us, -15 is typical and -25 is miserable. We only end up with a little bit of ice in our jugs. There are many tricks including eating like a horse. We feed our scouts dinner at 4pm and then give them a night time meal (chili or similar) before they go to bed. A nalgene with boiling water stuffed inside a wool sock stuffed inside your bag by your knees will keep you warm all night. To learn much more, the Denver Area Council has a program called Okpik that teaches a lot of winter camping skills including making quinzees (kind of like a snow cave).

  12. Thanks for the ideas. I feel more comfortable about starting over with the calendar. We have a lot of adults with ideas and I think I'll use those to get the scouts thinking. Mafaking also has a point. I don't think the parents understand how important the comraderie is to scouting and it's primarily from the campouts. And I never really thought of this until just now, so thanks.


    Another question: How much of your meetings are spent preparing for a campout? As I said before, the campouts aren't the focus of the meetings. We just figure out menus. We could be doing skits. We could Be Prepared for whatever new activity is going to happen. Our scouts spend so much time organizing other activities besides campouts that the campouts are not important. I think half of our meetings should be getting ready for the campouts; menus, skits, skills.


    Gwd-scouter, I should rephrase my comment about enthusiasm and success. In order to have success there needs to be some failure. Figuring out how to deal with the frozen pancake batter is success, even if it's going hungry. If they came up with a good idea like creating a double boiler and got to eat then that's even better because they solved their problem. In either case they'll remember this because it's a challenge. If nature creates enough challenges and new situations then I don't need to add anymore, but I'm wondering if the scouts need to add challenges like breakfast is to be cooked on a stick.


    Last question: How do you require a certain level of participation? If helping them come up with a better program is the carrot. Do I need a stick? I tell my older scouts that To Help Other People At All Times implies teaching the younger scouts skills. When I first started this I got blow back from everyone, but now the older scouts have decided they actually like it. Is there a similar thing I can do for the camping?

  13. kenk, The scouts do pick the calendar and events. We have a whole campout just for the PLC to pick the calendar. We start a few weeks in advance collecting ideas from the troop. ON the campout we review the old calendar, set goals, generate ideas, vote on them, and fit them into a calendar. It's boy led. The problem is they have no idea what would really get them excited (that we can afford). They don't know what they don't know


  14. I was talking to my troop about how scouting is an adventure and I talked about the great adventures I've had the past 7 years. Making friends backpacking, sailing alongside a whale on a moonless night, sea kayaking, waking up by a fog covered lake, and lots of other great memories. Afterwords, I realized these memories are all from high adventure trips. Our weekend campouts are fun, but not memorable. I ask scouts at the end of each trip what was fun and they rattle off stuff so we're doing something right. But the problem I have is that we now only have about a third of the troop go on campouts. We used to have at least half and typically 3/4. Each scout that doesn't go has a reason why and it varies all over the place; other activities, my friends aren't going, homework, etc.


    My question is do campouts need to be more than fun? I want more enthusiasm and enthusiasm comes from success. But success implies a risk of failure. Do our campouts need more challenge? Do the good memories come from apprehension of the unknown leading to success? For a new scout there is apprehension about camping but for a 15 year old it's all old stuff, even if they have fun. The challenge doesn't need to be a hard hike but could just be that the only pot allowed for cooking breakfast will be the lid of a dutch oven. I'd like to spend two or three of the weekly meetings preparing for each campout. It could be learning/teaching skills or getting organized for some event. For our next meeting we have the swat team coming in for a demo. That's great but it has little to do with camping. Once in a while having the swat team come in is a good idea but that's what most of our meetings are, and campouts are, I don't know, almost extra-curricular.



  15. I was a DL and I was burned out. I didn't really have any good ideas of what to do, or a program to follow, or experienced adults to teach me, EDGE style. So when my son got to Boy Scouts I took a 6 month break, but went on all the campouts. Now I'm the SM and the only thing I ask of ex DLs is to come on campouts and participate. In August I'll hit them up for more. It takes about a year to get new parents involved.


    As for helping Webelos we started inviting them to join us, with their parents, to the Fall camporee. They had a great time. This year we're going to add a late summer campout and something fun in October. So they get to do scouting for August, September, and October. Then they just need to figure out November - February. When I told this to a Web 1 leader he thought that was the greatest idea since sliced bread. So, DLs have a tough job and need help.

  16. I don't know of any rules about this and I hope there aren't any coming.


    For my troop, unless we go on a long trip (more than 4 hour drive) I don't allow personal electronics from the time we leave the parking lot. Everyone complains, at first. And then they realize they can play the mp3s in the car if everyone listens to the same thing. Then they start arguing and teasing each other about what songs they like. They end up having a new experience, believe it or not, that is listening to the same thing at the same time and talking about it. Once we're at our destination I don't allow electronics. Nature sounds pretty good. Yes, I'm getting old, but we leave behind the tv and the furnace and the big soft bed and lots of hot running water and all the other nice things for a reason. The scouts that can be cheerful when they only have what they need, as opposed to what they want, tend to be better scouts. When I get back from Klondike I really appreciate a warm house on a cold night.


    To the response that if the event isn't enjoyable enough then it's OK for scouts to "unplug" from their friends, I have a different view. Maybe the scouts need to learn how to make lemonade from lemons. My children would complain horribly when they were younger and I told them to turn off the tv, electronics, or whatever and go find something else to do. Five minutes later they'd come back and say they were bored. Too bad, I'd say. About a half hour later they were getting into something and having a great time. Imagination is a skill and it takes effort, but that's how problems are solved, so it's a worthwhile skill to learn.

  17. I had a scoutmaster meeting (with the ASMs) and we were talking about how the number of scouts going on campouts was dropping and one guy, that does a lot with the council, said this is a problem nation wide. Now, I happen to be violently against electronic toys of any type on campouts and someone said maybe we should think about having a video game campout. I gave him the look of death before I came up with a better idea. Scouts can figure out major, memory-for-life fun if they're put in the right environment. A hill full of snow, a snow skate, and some picnic tables (ski jump), a lake with some blow up rafts (king of the rafts), a hike along a river (water fight), a croquet set in the woods with impatient scouts (full contact croquet, no high sticking). The thing is the scouts don't have enough experience creating these types of situations and so the adults are trying to be creative and think of some. We're going to spend our next meeting coming up with more ideas. But the best fun is spontaneous so you can't really plan it out. It takes the right set of toys in the right environment with minimal goals or pressure to get something done. Then you just let the scouts go and magic occurs. Sometimes they need a hard goal but sometimes they just need time to have fun. Anyway, I'd like to hear more ideas of situations where your troop just had spontaneous fun.

  18. A gate keeper implies failure and I suppose it depends on what you mean by failure. We built a trebuchet for the local cub camp that uses a 200 lb counter weight and can throw a cabbage 350 feet. On our first attempt the arm, for lack of a better word, exploded. It wasn't failure, it was an opportunity to improve. The new arm is a much better design and is rock solid. That's how I treat a scoutmaster conference. If a scout doesn't know his stuff then we talk about what he needs to work on and we schedule another scoutmaster conference. All but one time the scout that "failed" the first conference passed with flying colors on the second. On the other time it took one more conference. If the scouts knew that I would never fail them then most of them would never learn the material, or live up to the ideals of scouting, or do anything I ask of them. Since they also know they eventually pass, I don't lose them.


    On the other hand I can see where the BSA is worried about scoutmasters that don't act in a scout-like manner and so they go to the lowest common denominator and say if you've had the boxes signed off then you're good to go. The Star scout thread that this thread came from is an example of where this comes from. Based on what I read, this scoutmaster isn't thinking about developing a scout. It's a really screwy troop.


    I think the basic issue is more about training of adults than scouts. There's an adult in my troop, that actually started the troop, and I learn more from him than anyone else. My job, as scoutmaster, is keeper of the flame. It's part understanding what scout spirit is and part understanding how to motivate adolescents to learn this. I'm no expert and I'm constantly wondering if I was too easy or too hard, too serious or too laid back. I'll be honest, scoutmaster specific training does not cover this. So where do scoutmasters learn this from? Mainly the people that came before them. It's also partly from talking to other adults.


    So, to answer your question, I think it depends on the adults involved. The scoutmaster, the committee, and the program that trains the scouts. My goal is to create a fun program so by the time the scout comes to the scoutmaster conference I don't have to even bother testing him because he knows everything.

  19. To make a long story short, I put the hammer down. The scout was angry, his parents were angry, half the district was angry. I found another adult to play good cop to my bad cop. Well, the adult mediated between myself and the rest of the world. The scout worked at camp. He came back. He smiled. He had fun. He became Eagle. He finally had his COH. He sent me a thank you letter. He said he learned something and he appreciated what I did for him. Maybe I'll be Scoutmaster for another year.

  20. It only took 18 months but I finished our Eagle recognition. It's a 5' long walnut pole 3" in diameter with a silver eagle on top, a silver nickel molding of an Eagle award set into the wood, leather work around the award (so the award looks like an oval plate you see on walking sticks), and the names of each scout on oval name plates below. There's room for 75 names. I wish I could put a jpg here. It looks real nice.

  21. Yes, making him successful at something is key so he can see it himself. Making it something that other scouts would appreciate would also be good. Positive peer preassure would be fantastic. Thanks for the ideas.


    But how do you get through a really thick shell? If you ask a scout to do something and he doesn't see a need for it, he won't do it. So, this is like bringing a horse to water but it won't drink. I've talked to him several times, sometimes on camping trips, with no luck. If I tell him a scout is cheerful, even when things are tough, I get a smart alec response about putting on a fake smile just for me.


    Anyway, a few days ago I seemed to have gotten through to him by putting the hammer down and saying there won't be a Scoutmaster Conference until we find a way to solve this problem. He went through several stages of grief the next day(denial, anger, depression) and hopefully is starting in on acceptance. There's an ASM that's taking on the job of good cop. We're setting up a specific set of goals for him to achieve and it's going to be very clear what everyone has to do. This is the same thing I did with the other scouts. At this point I have his attention, I think he'll be fine, and he'll do a good job. But getting to this has been brutal on everyone. He's somewhat fragile right now and I don't like putting kids in this position because there's a risk of things getting worse and not better.


    How have other people dealt with this kind of problem without the threat of holding up Eagle?

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