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Introducing the Guide to Advancement

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SMT: you asked, "what's the hurry?"


I never have been a SM or even a CM. I won't have a kid in boy scouts till next year. However, I think that the purpose of that little line in the advancement guide is not so much about advancement as it is about motivation. I can't really speak for all boys, but mine get motivated to do well when..they do well! I know it sounds confusing, but what I mean is that if they are advancing at a steady pace (and at least in my area, with the troops we have visited so far, 1st class in the 1st year seems to be the norm and considered a steady pace), they remain motivated to keep advancing.


I have observed in cub scouts that when a boy gets recognitions early on in the form of belt loops, pins, patches, etc, they remain motivated to stay in the program and earn more. Now, it could be the chicken or the egg. Maybe they earn more stuff because they stay or maybe they stay because they earn more stuff.


Making 1st class in the 1st year and a rank a year after that doesn't seem "pushy" to me. That means that they will make star and possibly life by the end of 8th grade or 14 years old. Then they have all of high school to work on eagle and palms. We all know that when the boys get to high school, scouting looses some if its charm due to the 'fumes. So why not grab when we can? Why not motivate them with advancing at a steady pace? Why not give them the extra time in high school to finish eagle because "you are so close"?


If they are only star in 9th grade..they see the road as too steep and maybe they give up?


And I know what you are gonna say: "eagle is supposed to be hard", "it's not about rank, but about learning and growing". Well you are right. But my goal as a parent is to get my kid as ready as I possibly can for college and life. Isn't that why we are ALL here?

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Momof2cubs.. It is not that it is to be hard, but that it is not cub scouts anymore.. It will take you a year to come out of cub scout mode, and only if you don't choose a troop that is running a Webs III program..


Unfortunately Parents like the advancement and the kids like the bling in Cubs.. Parents can talk the cub scout aged kid into doing what the parents want..


A Webs III Boy Scout program will also be about the Advancement and the bling, and be adult run in order to direct the advancement.. It will interest the boy until about 13, then the boy matures enough to figure out what he likes and does not like and will start to rebel adult leadership in order to assert his own self-control over his life.. Put him into a troop that is adult run to control advancement, and you will loose them around age 13 because it is not a fun program..


If the troop is truely run by the boys then advancement opportunities will be there, while they are camping or biking or hiking but the program will not center on advancement because the older boys who are in charge of the program will be looking of Adventure and Excitement, not advancement..


If you have a troop that is all about Advancement and is pushing FCFY, then guarenteed it is not a boy run troop.. Help your son choose a troop that will challenge him now, and he can grow into.. Not a troop that is fine for him at age 10 or 11 and that he will grow out of.

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momof2cubs -


I understand what you are saying, and it makes sense from an adult perspective. But my observations on well over 120 camping trips with lot's and lots of Scouts is this: for the boys it's like putting the cart before the horse.


These guys love to camp. To do so, they need to learn campcraft skills, outdoors skills and Scout skills. They learn these skills because they want to get a fire going, because they want to eat, because they need shelter, because they want to use an axe, and because they want to get to the top of the mountain. And the younger Scouts learn from the older Scouts.


Of course they advance, but they learn the skills and use them over and over first. We come back from a camping trip and there's always all kinds of things to sign off on, as they were focused on doing the activity - not doing something that some adult told them to do so they could advance. And then next month, they'll go out and do it again.


To me it makes a big difference, and I firmly believe it makes a difference to the Scouts as well. I've seen Troops that are so focused on advancement that they miss the forest for the trees. And that's what I don't like. We came across one Troop with a bunch of young Scouts, all of whom had fairly high ranks, but they could barely put up their tents, couldn't tie knots to save their lives, and were inept at fire building. It was clear that they did the rank advancement elements... once. And then rarely did it again, if ever.


And to be honest, there really is no hurry: Tenderfoot - age 11, 2nd Class - age 12, 1st Class - age 13, Star - age 14, Life - age 15, Eagle - age 16-17. The older Scouts are ready for Eagle and are able to do it on their own because they are mature enough to understand the process and goal. It works!


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Boys need to take responsibllity for their advancement and this needs to be communicated early on. Our job as leaders is to do what we can to minimize the impediments outside the boy's control. We can have camping trips but if he has too many soccer games to participate, he may not make first class in a year. If he (or his parents) choose not to attend summer camp, he misses a great opportunity for advancement. In our unit, for the boys who want it, Star at the end of year 2 is not unusual. Some boys don't reach First Class in 2 years either, but most times that is an issue of the boy not choosing to participate at a resonably high level in the unit. He needs to engage himself in meetings and other unit activities, not just show up. Unlike public schools today, I don't see us changing our program to target the level of the bottom third at the expense of the boys who take on the responsiblity and leadership to advance and grow.

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This is a noble sentiment however there is NO requirement for first class that reads "make sure you know enough so the Scoutmaster thinks you can take cae of yourself in the outdoors." Your reading much more into the rank than is there. You are adding requirements that are not there. For all ranks, you do what is in the requiements and you earn the rank. Period. Anything extra, is just that, extra to advancement.


Everyone must remember that advancement is just one of eight methods of delivering the promise and we can't cram more into them than are written. If you want your Scouts to do more, great, but do it outside advancement and don't hold up a Scout's advancing with preconceived notions of what a 1st Class Scout is or an Eagle Scout is.(This message has been edited by bnelon44)

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You have confused me. When a scout has met all the requirements for first class as written, hasn't he developed the basic skills needed to take care of himself in the woods? I agree with you that there is no requirement to actually do so (take care of yourself in the woods).


If the skills that are learned on the trail to first class aren't the skill set for taking care of onesself in the woods, what other skills are needed?

They have learned how to set up a camp.

How to navigate with a compass and map.

How to plan a menu, purchase food, store it properly, and cook it.

They know first aid with sufficient skill to be able to splint broken bones and twisted ankles, take care of animal bites, ...

etc. etc. etc.


What am I missing?

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What am I missing?


Your missing the Scoutmaster who doesn't think the Scout deserves the rank for some personal view of what "take care of yourself in the woods" means to the Scoutmaster. Also you may or may not be assuming the Scout retains that knowledge by the time he makes it to the BOR. Neither are required for advancement.

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Why would you assume that a scoutmaster has that view any more than you would assume that a scoutmaster has a view of do a requirement once with some guidance and prompting and the scout has learned it and the requirement signed off?

Both are strawmen.


(This message has been edited by venividi)

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I agree with Base. A Scout who is First Class should have mastered the basic camping skills, and be able to handle himself comfortably in the woods.


Let's look at the outdoor based requirements for the ranks.




1) Present yourself to your leader, properly dressed, before going on an overnight camping trip. Show the camping gear you will use. Show the right way to pack and carry it.


2)Spend at least one night on a patrol or troop campout. Sleep in a tent you have helped pitch.


3)On the campout, assist in preparing and cooking one of your patrol's meals. Tell why it is important for each patrol member to share in meal preparation and cleanup, and explain the importance of eating together.


4a) Demonstrate how to whip and fuse the ends of a rope.

b) Demonstrate that you know how to tie the following knots and tell what their uses are: two half hitches and the taut-line hitch.


9) Explain the importance of the buddy system as it relates to your personal safety on outings....


11) Identify local poisonous plants; tell how to treat for exposure to them.


12a) Demonstrate how to care for someone who is choking.

b) Show first aid for the following:

Simple cuts and scrapes

Blisters on the hand and foot

Minor (thermal/heat) burns or scalds (superficial, or first degree)

Bites and stings of insects and ticks

Venomous snakebite


Frostbite and sunburn



Second Class


1a) Demonstrate how a compass works and how to orient a map. Explain what map symbols mean.

b) Using a compass and a map together, take a 5-mile hike (or 10 miles by bike) approved by your adult leader and your parent or guardian.*


2) Discuss the principles of "Leave No Trace"


3a) Since joining, have participated in five separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), two of which included camping overnight.

b) On one of these campouts, select your patrol site and sleep in a tent that you pitched. Explain what factors you should consider when choosing a patrol site and where to pitch a tent.

c) Demonstrate proper care, sharpening, and use of the knife, saw, and ax, and describe when they should be used.

d) Use the tools listed in requirement 3c to prepare tinder, kindling, and fuel for a cooking fire.

e)Discuss when it is appropriate to use a cooking fire and a lightweight stove. Discuss the safety procedures for using both..

f) In an approved place and at an approved time, demonstrate how to build a fire and set up a lightweight stove. Note: Lighting the fire is not required.

g0 On one campout, plan and cook one hot breakfast or lunch, selecting foods from the food pyramid. Explain the importance of good nutrition. Tell how to transport, store, and prepare the foods you selected.


6) Identify or show evidence of at least ten kinds of wild animals (birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, mollusks) found in your community.


7a) Show what to do for "hurry" cases of stopped breathing, serious bleeding, and ingested poisoning.

b) Prepare a personal first aid kit to take with you on a hike.

c) Demonstrate first aid for the following:

Object in the eye

Bite of a suspected rabid animal

Puncture wounds from a splinter, nail, and fishhook

Serious burns (partial thickness, or second degree)

Heat exhaustion


Heatstroke, dehydration, hypothermia, and hyperventilation


And First Class.

Demonstrate how to find directions during the day and at night without using a compass.

Using a map and compass, complete an orienteering course that covers at least one mile and requires measuring the height and/or width of designated items (tree, tower, canyon, ditch, etc.)

Since joining, have participated in ten separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), three of which included camping overnight. Demonstrate the principles of Leave No Trace on these outings.


Help plan a patrol menu for one campout that includes at least one breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner and that requires cooking at least two of the meals. Tell how the menu includes the foods from the food pyramid and meets nutritional needs.

Using the menu planned in requirement 4a, make a list showing the cost and food amounts needed to feed three or more boys and secure the ingredients.

Tell which pans, utensils, and other gear will be needed to cook and serve these meals.

Explain the procedures to follow in the safe handling and storage of fresh meats, dairy products, eggs, vegetables, and other perishable food products. Tell how to properly dispose of camp garbage, cans, plastic containers, and other rubbish.

On one campout, serve as your patrol's cook. Supervise your assistant(s) in using a stove or building a cooking fire. Prepare the breakfast, lunch, and dinner planned in requirement 4a. Lead your patrol in saying grace at the meals and supervise cleanup.


Visit and discuss with a selected individual approved by your leader (elected official, judge, attorney, civil servant, principal, teacher) your constitutional rights and obligations as a U.S. citizen.

Identify or show evidence of at least ten kinds of native plants found in your community.


Discuss when you should and should not use lashings. Then demonstrate tying the timber hitch and clove hitch and their use in square, shear, and diagonal lashings by joining two or more poles or staves together.

Use lashing to make a useful camp gadget.


Demonstrate tying the bowline knot and describe several ways it can be used.

Demonstrate bandages for a sprained ankle. and for injuries on the head, the upper arm, and the collarbone.

Show how to transport by yourself, and with one other person, a person:

from a smoke-filled room

with a sprained ankle, for at least 25 yards.

Tell the five most common signals of a heart attack. Explain the steps (procedures) in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).


Tell what precautions must be taken for a safe trip afloat.



Sounds to me that if a Scout can do all that, he can take care of himself.




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The advancement method doesn't stand alone, but is integrated with the other methods (and other elements) as part of the overall BSA program. To think the woodscraft requirements of the T21 ranks don't relate to the Outdoors method is silly.


That a First Class Scout has the skills to handle himself in the outdoors is a rather reasonable, real-world integration of the advancement and outdoors program. While you may not find that statement as policy anywhere, you will find evidence of it in lots of places -- like the requirement that Scouts attending national high adventure bases, or jamboree be First Class. As an ASM for jamboree last year, we absolutely expected that the Scouts in our jamboree troop had mastered the basics. Our training and shakedowns were geared toward teaching the exceptional parts of jamboree camping, not the basics.


Of course that expectation is based on the First Class requirements. We're not expecting Bear Grylls or Jerimiah Johnson, just a First Class Scout.



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I agree 110% with the folks saying First Class should imply outdoor skills competency. In a well-run program, a Scout who earns First Class ought to not only be able to take care of himself on an outdoor trip, but be able to contribute to the well-being of his Patrol, including looking out for and teaching the new guys.


Some guys can do that in a year, but I think it's a little rushed for many, especially when they're starting at 10 1/2. In particular, they won't get it if they're signed off the first time they do something sort of, kind of, like a rough approxiation of the requirement, instead of when the demonstrate they really have learned the skill. I watched a SM running a Trail To First Class session at a MB weekend sign off a bunch of our Scouts on the Tenderfoot First Aid requirements after lecturing them (poorly, I would add) on the topics, without even asking them to demonstrate any of the techniques or skills. That's just sad. Caused a slight amount of grief in our Troop too when we wanted to go over those skills again with the Scouts. Most understood, but one guy got a little upset because he thought he was being denied credit when "it was signed off." Good kid too, but he's been brought up* to expect low bars for everything and it'll serve him ill in his life if he never learns otherwise.


I like to tell them that the patch on their shirt won't tie the knot for them, so focus on the skills and let the advancement come naturally.


Anyway, the Scouts get excited about getting parts signed off. Each time they get one of the reqs signed off they know they're a step closer, so "Advancement" is more or less continuous for us. No need to rush it. Let them have the experience of setting and pursuing their own goals. Most of them get plenty of forced marches through lesson plans in school as it is.


* edit to clarify: I'm not singling out this Scouts parents, I think it's just part of the "self-esteem" culture we've foisted on our kids. There's a lot of focus on the recognition rather than on the accomplishment.


(This message has been edited by JMHawkins)

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