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New Scout programs at Summer Camps

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There has been some debate in the parent thread on new scout programs at different camps. Certainly we have a variety of opinions on what is and what is not good. This may be a good place to ponder these different experiences, expectations and opinions.


At the camp we went to last year, new scouts participated in a program called "Polaris." The group consisted of 60-70 11-12 year old scouts. Each troop was suposed to provide an adult to accompany the scouts. There were 6 staff members, mostly aged 16-19, who appeared, in my opinion to be very organized, engaging and involved with these scouts. They covered T-2-1 requirements in morning and afternoon sessions, frequently breaking the large class into smaller groups. Afternoons were given to First Aid, mornings to most everything else. This was a very in-depth program, but it only left time for one MB class (handicraft). This did not allow scouts to take Swimming or First Aid. The staff claimed that the would work with scouts to finish these badges in special afternoon sessions, but ours did not do this--and I am glad. Clearly they shorted these scouts on these badges, and those who earned them really had not demonstated proficiency in all the required areas (my opinion). But the scouts had fun, and they did learn a fair amount.


The camp which we are attending this year does their first year program, "Mountain Man," in a 2-hour block in the morning, giving scouts ample opportunity to earn other Merit Badges in the morning and afternoon (ours are taking swimming, along with last year's first year scouts who did not have the opportunity to do so). Personally, I feel this strikes a better balance.


I like the idea of a first year program. What we had last year was good, but there was room for improvement. I have not expeienced this year's program, but the camp has a good reputation, so I have higher expectations. Interestingly, they offer almost exclusively handicraft classes in the afternoon, and they break them into longer, one and two day classes. Having taught these classes 25 years ago as a handicraft director, I am reserving judgement on how this will turn out. But it appears to fit with how the camp schedules other fun, troop activites, so it may make sense.


Tell me about your exposure to these programs.

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I also like the idea of a first year program, unfortunately, the one at our council camp has not been executed well in the past. But hope springs eternal.


The biggest problem is staffing. First year program always seems to be last in line when drawing staff. The older, wiser, more experienced staff members all seem to want to staff more challenging areas. A few years ago they had a middle school teacher as the first year program director and he ran a great program, despite still having the bottom=end staffers. The next year was the year we decided to give the program another chance, based largely on the program we saw the year before. Sure enough, the next year the teacher was the new aquatics director and they had some 18-year-old running the program.


One of the things they do very poorly is to working with the boys on the requirements they need to complete. I'm sure out of the 75 or so boys every one has a different set of requirements to be completed, but we had some boy come back with a net of one or two new requirements done. With 8-1 patrols they could fine-tune the skills groups better.


I agree with the rest of you that the troop should be rechecking requirements like first aid , fire and woods tools safety, etc. But I also expect the boys to be able to get credit for the things they were to DO. Example, the second class hike: half a day was devoted to this. But half our guys didn't get credit for it because after three miles their counselor decided they had gone enough and cut the hike short. The first class guys completed only part of the orienteering course.


Even simple stuff, like record keeping, was a disaster -- no credit where it was due, sign-offs on stuff the guys had never attempted....


If the all came back really proficient in the skills they were taught, it would be another thing. But again, the results were spotty at best.


Just not the best use of a week at camp.

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The camp we attend runs the First Class Emphasis program (gotta talk to them about the name) in morning and afternoon 3-hour blocks. They cover each group of topics during one AM session and one PM session during the week. For example, totin' chip maybe held Monday AM and Thursday PM, swimming stuff Tuesday PM, Thursday AM, etc. They don't cover as much as some programs I've seen, Totin' chip, nature, first aid, swimming, rope work, and a 5-mile hike. But, the scouts do have the opportunity to explore and/or work on other merit badges.

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I went through such a program in the early '90s, and later staffed it at the same camp. As a camper, I had a great time, despite having already had most of the T-2-1 requirements already signed off before camp. (I started out gung-ho and gunning for Eagle by 13.) The director was a volunteer, an older gentleman who dressed in a '60s or '70s-era uniform and knew his skills inside and out. He was a great role model. It ran during the mornings, and we were free to take whatever MBs we wanted in the afternoon. I took and completed Swimming and Wilderness Survival.


As a Scoutcraft/commissioner's staffer, I worked with the program a lot. It was very ad-hoc, with a small staff (the director/commissioner, me, and another instructor), so we relied heavily on the NSP ASMs. Needless to say, their own skills and Scouting experiences varied widely, with most having been Webelos den leaders just a few months before.


Now, the program runs a full day, based on the model I wrote up when I was Scoutcraft director. They do Scout skills in the morning and take Swimming and do some Nature requirements together as a group in the afternoon. There's an 18+ staffer as director, but the other staffers are usually young.


As a staffer, I have to say I was pretty amazed by how few of these new Scouts knew even the basics - square knots, salutes and signs, the Oath, flag-folding, etc. It seems to me that being able to ship new Scouts off to a "first-year camper program" has allowed some units to largely abdicate their responsibility to teach the skills themselves. They can just hand the boys off and forget 'em.


Such a program, even if well-run from a skills perspective, also doesn't necessarily support the patrol method. We always tried to keep NSPs together if they came together, but we often had to add boys or split them up depending on overall enrollment.

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I seen good ones and Ive seen bad ones. The one Im most familiar with, at the camp my son staffed (I did too for one summer). It started out slow, it was staffed by my son and a few others. I got great reviews about my son, he was in his second summer, with only SIT the year before, all of 15. It did bloom as Pathfinders program the next year, Two Scouters in their fifties took over the program, (one now is the camps director for the council). They established a round robin type of training with a Scouter from each of the Troop sending Scouts. It was a half day program. The carrot at the end of the week was the scouts put together their scout skills and leadership in a patrol to build a ballista (a catapult) that launched water balloons. The targets were the Scouts' Scoutmaster and SPL. One year it was held a little ways away from the Scout craft area, I think there were a few candy bar prizes for hitting staffers there offered by the Pathfinders staffers. Now it is held a Fort Apache style fort, called Fort Boeing (guess who donated the money for it).

The one thing the program staff reiterated that they were teaching skills only and the unit was to recheck and pass off the scout, for only unit leaders are the ones to sign the books.

BTW my son was on staff for 10 summers and the last two as Program Director.


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our summer camp offered this - I don't recall it being listed this year, but then I wasn't looking for it either.


my son's SM made all the new scouts do it their first year - my son and the 2 other boys that came out of my den were sooooo bored and hated it. They told me that while they did get many of the T-2-1 requirements done, it was all stuff that I had also taught them back in Webelos and all they needed to do was to "show their stuff" to a leader and could've done that back at camp during free time.


so, I guess this would depend on the boys and what they already had down as skills

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Blue Ridge Council, South Carolina runs a new scout program called Pathfinders at our camp - Camp Old Indian. I figure it's like many new scout programs in that it does some things very well, others not so much.


The guys are put into patrols, usually with scouts from the same troop kept together. They come up with a name and a cheer which one can hear all over camp as the patrols move from one activity to another. If patrols are kept together from their home troop, they use the name and cheer they already have. The counselors cover the requirements from Tenderfoot through First Class. Games are added to emphasize what they learn. The stretcher races and 2-man carry are especially fun to watch. Program Director always asks for SMs or ASMs to help out if they can. This year we have three new ASMs that want to help, two mainly because their sons have autism and need a little more guidance.


The program runs all day. In the evenings the scouts can work on merit badges offered during twilight sessions or they can just use the free time to do whatever they want. Some do the merit badges, some choose to swim, some want to try out the shooting range, some just play around in the meadow.


The program literature makes it clear that while the scouts will learn a lot of things for the requirements, they will not be signed off on them. That is up to their home troop to ask the scouts to demonstrate the skills they've learned and sign off. During the evenings after the twilight activities are closed and they guys have a couple of hours before lights out, we ask if any of the pathfinders have something to show us. Almost always they do and if they can show proficiency in the skill, we sign their handbooks.


In our troop, we view the pathfinder program, as well as summer camp in general, not so much with an eye on advancement, but as a chance for a scout to have fun, spend time with his fellow scouts, try something new, and...did I mention have fun?


In that, the pathfinder program is a wonderful first year experience for our scouts. Our new Scout patrols are kept together, work together, play together. They form stronger friendships. Yes, sometimes they complain that a particular session was boring and I'll admit over the years we've had some less than stellar counselors. But, usually the counselors selected are older and are picked because they really enjoy working with new scouts. The Pathfinder Program Director is fantastic and has been director now for three years. As some have stated here that the new scout programs seem to get the least desirable counselors, that is not the case with our program - at least not from my viewpoint.


What it comes down to I guess is a new scout program will be judged based a lot on the expectations of the Troop. Do you want your new scout program to just be an advancement opportunity or are you looking for a fun and memorable experience for the new guys?

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I have in the past been the leading voice of "don't take that new scout course"


Our camps program director has instituted a new New Scout Program. He assures me that it is different and will produce better results than any NSP ever attempted in this area.

He personally guaranteed that any motivated Scout put in his care for a week at camp would come back having had fun and having LEARNED the T-2-1 skills.


We shall see.

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I have been to summer camp with our Troop twice and have seen mixed results so far.


Two years ago the program was very thorough and the boys came back from camp and had actually learned from being in the program. It was ran by caollege aged staff as most of the program areas were. Great camp over all. (I was a first year dad and was overwhelmed by the experience so very short opinion)


Last year's program at a different camp was not so hot. I served as SM and had a real eye-opening experience. It was staffed by high school aged kids that spent the week screwing around and not doing a good job of teaching. The attitude at the camp overall was very 'free spirited' and the camp director could have cared less. There were actually two staffers who were injured due to horseplay and both wound up with broken bones. Their OA callout was a full blown hands on tap-out complete with face paint and bare a** loin cloths. We had a couple of moms who were embarassed to say the least. The boys ENJOYED the ceremony as did I but it goes back to following the rules. I heard they have a different camp director so things may change.


We are going to a 3rd camp this year so we will see.


I think a big part of it is staffing and the overall attitude at camp. My 2.....

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