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About Bearclaw

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  • Birthday 08/01/1969

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  1. LHScoutmaster, In my opinion, what you are doing right now is THE most difficult and challenging part of a Boy Scout Program. My pet peeve with BSA material is that it describes what an ideal boy-led troop is. However, they do not tell you how to get there from here. A fully functioning boy-led troop has a tremendous asset: the older scouts teach/show the newer scouts how it’s done. Likewise, the experienced adult leaders teach/show the new parents assuming leadership roles. There is a structure to the unit's program that is learned by living it. For the most part, the passing of this information is rather seamless and almost without notice. In part, for this reason, the two most important things to do: 1. Get the leading scouts to take NYLT. At NYLT, the scouts will live the way a real boy-led troop is supposed to, while getting a few classroom lessons in leadership. All the boys in my troop that went enjoyed NYLT – it was a lot of fun. A few of the oldest boys went also – I could see that the older scouts finally started to understand what we are trying to do with the troop. The NYLT program does a very good job at having it seem like the youth are running practically everything. 2. Get as many Assistant Scoutmasters as possible to take Scoutmaster Training and then Woodbadge Training. As with the boys in NYLT, these adult will live the patrol method and have some “Aha!†moments as to why the patrol method, when implemented correctly, works. Taking the training is VERY different then just reading the training material! As far as building a boy-led troop, I am a Scoutmaster in a similar situation as you. I wish I recognized the value of NYLT earlier. The Scoutmaster before me thought it was a waste of money. He found the syllabus online and planned to teach the leadership lesson plans to the oldest scouts. That made sense to me then – because then I didn’t recognize what was really going on at NYLT! Other suggestions: 3. Strengthening the patrol method is paramount! Focus efforts on anything and everything that improves this, such as patrols designing Patrol Flags, selecting menus for a campout, assigning a duty roster, locating patrol campsites far away from one another (including adults) and inter-patrol competitions. 4. Avoid same-age patrols – some on this website say it is ok to have same-aged patrols. On the surface, it seems like it is what everyone wants. But once you have younger and older (less and more experienced) scouts in the same patrol, all sorts of great new dynamics arise. In my opinion, this gives more/better opportunities for leadership experience, stronger mentor/mentoree relationships, confidence in one’s leadership abilities and exercises the patrol method better than same-age patrols. 5. Boy-led troops are for boy-led troops only! In my troop, when the previous Scoutmaster was around, I suggested that we should transition to a boy-led troop. He said OK. So we did it. Cold Turkey. Disaster. At a campout, the SPL (one of the oldest boys) was told to handle all issues that came up (problems that even an adult leader would have difficulty handling.) There was no structure. Complete chaos. The SPL was told to rely on the PLs – but the PLs were useless since they were just figureheads. The SPL was run ragged. The SPL now knew for sure that this boy-led concept was not what he wanted at all! Complete Disaster. You need to ease into a boy-led troop - it takes time to develop the proper structure of a boy-led troop. By all means, give the scouts as much illusion as possible that they are running the show – but you need to realize that in the beginning it will all fall apart without support from the adults. I agree that boys often learn quickest from failure. But you must make the decision where and when you will let the boys fail. A failure that makes a recruitment campout miserable for the new recruits may be unacceptable to you (it is to me). But on another campout, if a patrol is eating cold food because someone forgot to pack the patrol’s stove – that is another story. Eventually, as your troop becomes more truly boy-led, then indeed the decisions are made by the boys – but you can’t get there overnight. When our troop started having PLCs, the now former Scoutmaster let the PLC members (mostly older scouts) decide that the older scouts should have an exclusive campout to just work on Eagle required merit badges and then another campout where both younger and older boys attend, and the older boys would help the younger with their rank requirements. (This was also being pushed by merit-badge focused parents of the older boys who were pushing their sons to advance). This is where a trained Scoutmaster needs to recognize the situation and step in to simply say “This is not the BSA program.â€Â. So my final suggestion is: 6. When applicable, be ready to firmly tell the youth leaders and parents that “This is not the BSA program.†Every one of these 6 points I wish I knew when I first took over as Scoutmaster. My troop has come a long way from an adult led troop towards a boy led - but we are not there yet.
  2. Basementdweller, It sounds like you are pointing me toward my gut feel - that tenting should only be by patrols. Regarding your questions: We've been doing menu selection and cooking per patrol for over a year now - this is working well. We have only recently had the patrols create flags and yells. Patrol competitions are still having a tough time getting going - but we are progressing. Getting the older boys motivated is the hardest part. Regarding the unpopular scout - my guess is he is just a socially awkward fella (also like this in school I hear).
  3. Here is some background: I am Scoutmaster of a troop - we are in the midst of transitioning from adult led to boy led – about half way there. The majority of my knowledge is BSA training, what I’ve read on this forum, and what we’ve tried (successes and failures). I’ve been convinced that one of our next important steps in the transition to a more boy-led troop is to transition away from age-based patrols to age-diverse patrols. Age diverse-patrols have many many advantages – most notably, it gives a natural teaching hierarchy for which the older boys become responsible and the older boys have the tendency to become the Patrol Leaders. Also, weaker-skilled older boys have a boost in confidence on taking on a Patrol Leader role if most of the kids in the patrol are younger and less skilled than he. And younger scouts naturally tend to listen to and follow instructions from older scouts better than they do to same-age scouts. The one disadvantage with age-diverse patrols is that scouts somewhat feel separated from their same-age friends. Up to now, they’ve always been, for the most part, in the same patrol during campouts. Now, many of their friends are in other patrols. We’ve had a policy that within patrols, scouts choose tent-mates from those in the same patrol. I want the patrols to really form a team – and that means cooking, eating, teaching and sleeping together. Ideally, I want there to be at least 100 ft minimum separation between patrol campsites (and also from the adult patrol campsite). I’ve noticed some scouts still tenting with their old buddies in other patrols – even though, come morning, the scouts are back to performing their duties with their new patrol. 1) How much harm is there to the patrol-method if I continue to allow them to do this? 2) How do other troops handle this? 3) Am I having this issue just because we recently switched from age-based to age-diverse patrols? Other details: Our tents hold 2 scouts comfortably – often they will squeeze in a third. I have declared that only Life and above scouts can tent alone. I also have a policy that older scouts do not tent with younger scouts (3 grade separation at the most – 5th and 8th graders can share a tent, but not 5th and 9th graders). And if you think I am a control-freak – let me know, I can handle it. By the way (I learned by growing pains) – never allow a senior scout to decide who tents with whom. The scouts themselves can usually sort it out best. The only time an adult needs to step in to assign tent-mates has been when an unpopular scout is left without a tent-mate. (This is always painful – any advice you have on this would be appreciated as well.)
  4. Thanks for the additional ideas. I know that motivating the older boys is difficult – but I have not given up hope yet. Their bad attitudes show up most when the meeting is dull. I will double my efforts to give them more control over the meeting but also give them additional ideas to draw upon. Inspired from many of your suggestions, I plan to, at the next PLC, provide the youth leaders the following ideas for Troop Meetings: 1) Use troop meetings from Troop Program Features or create your own using it as a guide 2) Patrols take turns selecting and running patrol competitions. This patrol would be responsible for providing training during the Skills Instruction. During Patrol Meetings, patrols can practice or strategize. During the Patrol Competition, the organizing patrol runs the event. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX - WE DO NOT HAVE TO MEET AT OUR REGULAR LOCATION FOR THIS MEETING. 3) Competitions between patrols - run by the SPL: Cook-offs, mousetrap car races, popsicle stick bridges, etc 4) Special topic presentation. These could be out-of-the-ordinary outdoor skills (ice fishing, backpacking, backpacking cooking, wilderness survival, etc) or Merit Badge topics. Presenters could be: youth who have achieved badge, merit badge counselor, adult leader or other guest speaker. (Youth leaders must make all arrangements.) I've been compliing an extensive list of patrol competions from the Internet (many from this site). I hope some ideas may kick start them into thinking more (I’ve always been surprised how creative they COULD be when properly inspired). Of course, PLEASE provide additional suggestions if you can think of some.
  5. Eagledad, you offer great wisdom. I see your point that a program not fully under the boys’ control can be a primary reason for the low interest of older scouts. I am working on having the scouts take over even more of the program. Unfortunately the current youth leadership, made up mostly of the oldest boys, is a bit unenthusiastic (bordering on having bad attitudes). Giving them the reins doesn’t mean they will take the reins. I don’t want to give up on them yet (although the next generation of youth seem pretty darn sharp). I’d like to be able to propose at the next PLC some fresh ideas for a better troop meeting for the older scouts. But remember, these scouts don’t want high adventure. They aren’t very motivated either. I’m hoping that I can get some ideas to offer them at the next PLC to help get them out of their malaise. I’m hoping I could even turn these guys around before the next election.
  6. Thanks for the suggestions and ideas. Some of these are general ideas that I’ve heard before (and some we’ve tried to varying degrees of success). But the detailed suggestions you all provided are very helpful – some of these I will suggest for the boys to try. The problem with assigning everyone a POR is that not every one of these scouts needs a POR all the time – leaving some idle during troop meetings. And Den Chiefs, QM and History POR scouts don’t usually have a lot to do for their duties during troop meetings. I guess what I think would help me most is if you could provide me an overview of four troop meeting plans – especially for the First Class and higher scouts but not Venture patrols. (I’m pretty certain we have a good program for the younger scouts.) Do your plans look like the Troop Program Features examples?
  7. I am SM for a troop that is about half way through the transition from adult led to boy led. (We are about a year into the transition.) I feel I understand how a boy-led troop is supposed to be run according to BSA (I read a lot and have taken training). Unfortunately, nowhere does BSA tell you how to transition from adult-led to boy-led. You can’t just proclaim that, starting at the next troop meeting, we are going to go by the book. Existing boy-led troops have a huge asset that they may not recognize they have. They have a natural way to teach incoming youth (and adult leaders) how a boy-led troop runs – a self-sustaining process. I am still having trouble getting this going. What we’ve done so far: 1) PLCs are regularly happening (although not very productive, adults help out too much because the boys don’t really know what to do). 2) Patrols camp as patrols – they cook and clean as a patrol. Adults form their own patrol. Some parents were appalled when they first found out that the boys were camping in separate groups away from the adult group – but they are ok with this now. (Parents have really been understanding of my efforts – for the most part). 3) Troop meetings are no longer classroom merit badge sessions – this is probably the biggest change for the parents to accept 4) We are transitioning from troop-wide games toward interpatrol activities/competitions. We have about 30 active boys, evenly spread out from 6th graders to 9th graders. No active scouts in 10th grade or higher. The current 8th and 9th graders like campouts, but have no interest in higher adventure activities (backpacking, lengthy canoe trips, etc). Several scouts are in the troop just because their parents make them attend. I’ve seen troops that have a Super-Scout or two that they can build their program around – I don’t have any of these scouts. One of my biggest problems is that I don’t know what to do to keep the older boys (First Class, Star and Life scouts) engaged at troop meetings. I squash the idea of merit badge classes. Sometimes the behavior at meetings deteriorates because the older boys don't have anything worthwhile to do. I spoke with some area scoutmasters at roundtable, and, of the ones I consider most boy-led – it seems that all they do is have the patrols take turns doing presentations to each other. In one troop they have an active Venture Patrol - which helps with troop morale. At times, my older scouts do help the new scouts at meetings, but they don’t like doing this every meeting because they see nothing in it for them. The older boys keep bringing up merit badge classes. I realize that I need to continue to strengthen the patrol method in my troop and help the boys completely take-over in planning the meeting. But, at times, it feel like the blind leading the blind. I need some ideas to help me guide the scouts into making the troop meetings more interesting and worthwhile for the older scouts. What do you do in your typical troop meetings? (We've tried to use Troop Program Features but have not been successful so far.)
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