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First Year Program

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I would like the help of this community to better the first year program at my summer camp.


I want to first off say that the program is already great, and we are known for the program. I would just like to make it even better.


I wanted to know what your experiences with a camps first year program was like (Scout or Scouter). The good and the bad. Were there any activities that you loved, or are there any camps that your troop goes back to every year just for the first year program?


All help is greatly appreciated.


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About once every four or five years we give the first year program at our camp a try. I've been disappointed every time we do.


The biggest problem I see with the program is staffing. It always ends up being a dumping ground for the youngest, least skilled staff. T-2-1 skills can be taught by the 14-16 y.o. staff, right? Not necessarily and not necessarily well. I've got 14y.o. troop guides at home working for free. Why pay for summer camp? The new guys deserve more.


Second problem is class size. Our camp figures 8 guys is a patrol is standard, right? That may work for a 90 minute troop meeting, but doesn't seem to work for a half-day x 5 camp program. It' very difficult for young staff member to keep a handle on seven other guys while trying to show any sort of individual attention to one guy.


Third, and I think this is the big one, our first year program runs for four hours all morning, 8:30 to 12:30. That's too long. You can't keep the boys' attention that long. The counselors end up breaking up the sessions with games and other activities. The guys aren't at Scout camp to brush up on their dodgeball skills. I'd break the class up. An hour of T-2-1 stuff, then off to a first aid class. Another hour of T-2-1 the down to the waterfront. After lunch maybe sign the guys up for an entry-level handicraft or nature MB. Maybe mix the MB's in the morning schedule. Mix it around and keep it fun.

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I'ld like to add to twocubdad's excellent reply.


Fourth, First Year Program at summer camp is advancement focused. It exposes the scouts to a requirement, they do it once, and are signed off. That type of learning often isn't retained.


Fifth, it shifts responsibility for the new scouts from the troop guides, troop instructors, and patrol leaders to the summer camp staff. A major benefit of the patrol method and boy run is that the boys of the troop have the responsibility to plan and implement a program that develops the skills of the new scouts in the troop. It is good for troop and patrol leaders to have that responsibility and follow through on it. The new scouts learn skills, and the older troop and patrol leaders gain confidence in their abilities. It also promotes bonding between them.


As an alternative to the first year program at summer camp, set the expectation that the troop instructors will set up and run a "troop only" first year program. The scouts (and especially their parents) may balk, because it can take away from the time that they could be working on merit badges for themselves. So you may need to sell the value of serving as a leader over that of collecting merit badges.

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I would like to thank you for the replies so far.


I agree on the point of breaking up the classes, and in fact that is what we do. One group is learning skills for an hour while others are off doing MBs. Each scout gets the chance to earn a handicraft (art, basketry, or photo), FA, and swimming.


I also agree on the age of staff, I plan on trying to have only experienced staff, and that's another thing our camp prides itself on is returning staff. The problem is, I find we need more staff. The past two years we have had 5-6 staff each week. This broke down to anywhere from 10 to 25 scouts per staff member depending on the amount of scouts in the program that week. I would like to put a limit on the number of scouts we can have each week but some of the people in charge don't seem too keen on that idea. You said it was hard keeping up with 7 others, try 24.


I dislike the fact that leaders assume that just because a scout went through the program that means they are now first class. We have records of all the scouts have done over the week and I try (and will try harder this year) to put emphasis on the fact that skills need to be tested by the troop before they are signed off.


I really like how you pointed out the troop guide part. That made me think, I may talk to my PD and see if I can implement a troop guide program, have them come in for an hour and help teach the scouts. The staff can help them learn to better teach and they can have the hands on experience.


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Interesting dilemma you have. Troops come to summer camp and may have the expectation that they give you new scouts, and by the end of the week you will have led them through first class skills. Thats what I thought the first year that I attended summer camp. It took a few years to understand that was unfair to the camp, to the new scout, and to the older boys in the troop.


I like your out of the box thinking about implementing a troop guide program and incorporating them into the summer camp First Year Program. I'll toss out another idea: what about implementing a First Year Program that supports troops running their own program. Perhaps a staff member goes to troop campsite and aids the troop in setting up their own schedule, using their own troop guides and instructors, to teach the skills that you traditionally do with camp staff.

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I like the idea of having troops run the program, however many troops come just for our program so they still expect the staff lead program. BUT I was thinking of suggesting the addition of a troop run sub-camp. Or a patrol-method sub-camp. One of our camps problems is dining hall space, and this sub-camp could add more boys to the camp without taking away dining hall space. Back to the first year part, I figured each troop could have a staff member that has access to any equipment, and is knowledgeable in skills the troop may need whether it is for Scout or Eagle. This way the troop and staff can help the scouts work on what they need instead of some scouts having to redo things they have already done. The staff, like you said, can help them set up a schedule for the week of not only rank requirements, but other fun activities such as kayaking or rifle during these program areas non-mb time.



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One thing I've seen is putting them into patrols working on the various skills, and then they do a backpacking expereince using those skills Thursday/Friday.


Another thing I've seen is the 1st year camper program broken down by skill level taught at different times, i.e. Tenderfoot might be taught from 9-9:50, Second Class taught from 10-10:50, First Class taught from 11-11:50. That way someone who didn't want to work on First Class could do a MB, and someone whose Second Class, could skip the first two periods.


Now here is one crazy idea that may or may not work. What does your camp do for IOLS for the leaders? One Idea I've passed along is using first year camper staff to teach IOLS. SOOOO why not do IOLS training in the morning, then have those new leaders take the skills they learned and/or already knew, and have them help teach the T-2-1 skills under the guidance of the First Year Camper staff?


EDITED: Purpose of having First Year Camper Staff teach IOLS is for the following reasons.


#1 Forces the staff to really master those skills if not done so already.


#2 Shows the new leaders that yes Scouting does work and that these young men and women (don't forget your female Venturers) are capable of a lot.


#3 gets folks trained, esp. with mandatory training headed our way in the future.


WHy have the new adults help teach?


#1 reinforces the skills learned


#2 provides additional staff to help teachnew scouts. More help the better!(This message has been edited by Eagle92)

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Vinny reminds me of another issue -- matching the boys up with instruction on the requirements they need. Clearly you can't craft an individual program for each Scout, but if they boy is spending too much time on requirements he has already completed, he's going to be bored and cause a problem. I know, it never hurts to review the stuff you've always learned, yadda, yadda, yadda. Kids will tolerate some of that, but not much.


If you have leaders with the expectation that in five days they boys will get through First Class, you need reset those expectations. That's nuts. An SM would be an idiot to go along with completing T-2-1 in a week, even if the camp was promoting that. I do think it reasonable to get through most of one rank in a week, except for the requirements which clearly cannot be completed (like tenderfoot fitness requirements.)


One thing our camp does which I like is to give every first-year Scout one of those little pocket version of the T-2-1 requirements. The counselors use that for sign-offs, leaving it up to the home troop and SM to accept the sign-offs from camp or requiring someone in the troop to double-check the skill and sign the boy's handbook. I tend to accept the he-either-did-it-or-didn't requirements, like the 5-mile hike, but re-test skill requirements, like first aid.

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I have to agree with Twocubdad on the issue of matching the scouts with instruction on the requirements they need. Most boys will have bridged up around the March timeframe and any good troop will have immersed their scouts in the T-2-1 requirements by June/July when they go to summer camp.


At a summer camp that my troop attended last year all of our first year scouts were placed in a patrol together in the FYS Program and the staff patrol guide was given (in advance) a list of the requirements the boys had already completed with assurances that they would work on other requirements in addition to retouching on some of the completed requirements. However at the end of the week the boys were complaining that they had done very little towards requirements they had not completed. Most of our boys were well on there way thru tenderfoot and were hoping to get more of second class and first class requirements. Although we were not expecting the boys to complete T-2-1 we were expecting them to have something to show for the week invested that they did not have when they went.


I think FYS Programs should be flexible enough to cover requirements that the majority of the patrol needs.


I also like the pocket T-2-1 booklets. That gives us a chance to check them on proficiency before signing them off on a skill. That is something that you can do in the free time in the evenings back at the troop camp site. The boys realy like showing what they have learned. And that way they can still possibly get some things signed off before returning from summer camp. Many of our boys hold onto those booklets for the next several camping trips so they have a reminder of what they need to be getting signed off on when they have an opportunity to.(This message has been edited by Speedy's Dad)

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After being disappointed time and time again we now do a First Year Camper (FYC) program ourselves. I usually have one of our young Eagle Scout ASMs run the program. The camp runs a program which we hook up with for special programing like FYC boating, swimming, rifle, etc. where the facility is open for the new campers only. However all the advancement instruction is done by us. We realized that the instruction at camp was not tailored to our guys who had advanced further then most, but instead geared to the group, which is understandable. We also found that the skills were not retained for even a short time, it seemed like a lot of show it once and sign off was going on. I have also noticed that many of the youngest staffers were assigned to FYC program, I think some more mature staffing would help here, but a guess resources are limited.

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We do not participate in the T-2-1 classes at camp. Every time we did, it was a waste of time. Now my boys go to First Aid and Swimming a fun MB just like any other scout at camp. That's the way camp is set up anyway and that's what they do best.


If one wishes to have ideas for how to run a T-2-1 program, here's what I would like to see happen.


TG Program


If (and only if) a troop wants an TG/Instructor staff member to come to their site for T-2-1 training, they can sign up for one. This person comes to the troop site and conducts T-2-1 training by assisting the TG in that process and helps the boys actually work on what they wish to be covering for advancement. This information should be readily available to the TG and passed to the staff member to emphasize and help the TG accomplish with HIS boys. If they are doing first aid, the staff member provides the equipment to the TG so he can do his thing. If some knot tying is on the docket that day, he brings ropes and is the second pair of eyes assisting and supporting the TG be successful.


Does this mean the TG misses out on MB's? Yep, but that's what he signed on for, helping the new scouts with THEIR advancement. Having a staff member who has added resources to help him is vital to the troop's success! The staff member is not there to babysit the new guys so others can run off and have fun, he's there to support what the troop is doing and giving insight into what they might want to do once the week of camp is over.


This way the program is tailored to the needs of the new boys, they aren't bored, and the responsibility for advancement stays where it belongs, with the TG and his Instructors. If the older boys are responsible for the advancement of the new boys, it should stay with them, not taken over by a staff member to babysit the best they can in adverse conditions and thus accomplish nothing.


Yes, it will take extra staff members to pull this off (maybe not if a troop decides it doesn't want to participate). If a staff member comes in for a hour, then goes to another troop for an hour while that TG works with his boys, then return for a second hour to review and do more. That way 1 staff can handle 2 troops, etc.


I guess what it boils down to is the program designed to make the camp look good by providing a T-2-1 program, or is the staff there to provide support to the troops needing help.


Maybe the staff will only touch base with the TG who says,


Monday I need first aid stuff and the staff member drops it off for the TG to do his thing and then returns later to pick it up.


Tuesday we need rope, okay staff drops it off, offers help for an hour tying knots and takes the rope back to storage. Maybe there's a knot game the staff member can suggest to the TG/Instructors.


Wednesday they want to do swimming requirements, okay staff coordinates with waterfront to have personnel there to help the TG with the swimming requirements.


Thursday the staff member provides all the compass stuff and offers up an idea where the TG can do his 5 mile hike with the boys suggesting they do the 10 plants and animals along the way. Staff member provides the materials for the 10 plant/animal game that the camp has set up!


Friday the staff member shows up and helps out for an hour wrapping up loose ends.


Logistically this could be a nightmare, but that's the challenge the camp is going to need to meet if they wish to provide an effective, useful program that supports the work of the troops instead of what works best for the camp.


If this is a truly - SUPPORT THE TG run program, adults who really understand boy-led could volunteer as CampMasters to go to other troops and provide this service if they were provided the materials to get to the different troops. I wouldn't mind using my camp time by going to a different troop with equipment for their TG to use with his boys and be available to answer any questions they might need and help the boys tie knots, referee knots games, etc. But NOT do it for the TG.


Troop XX in Beaver Camp will be working on compass, pick up the compass box from the staff office marked Troop XX and get it to their camp by 8:00 am. Hey, I can do that! They might need you to hang around they have 20 new scouts. Not a problem! Oh, by the way, keep the box because Troop YY needs it the next day get it to them by 8:00 am, but they only have 5 new scouts and you need to hang out if the TG asks you to. I can do that, too!


To me this is what CampMasters should be all about, SUPPORT staff, not instructors!


Maybe your T-2-1 Staff member will do nothing more than coordinate this process and step in when there's a lack of CampMasters for the week. The T-2-1 Staff member would do most of his work in setting up the process before camp starts and then keeping an eye on it to keep it running smoothly during the week.


Your mileage may vary,



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the First Year Program where the Troop I serve frequents teaches the skills and tells the youth to go back to the Troop and demonstrate what they have been taught to get signed off. We typically lag one day behind the program. If they teach knots on Monday, we "test/pass knots" on Wednesday,


The staff makes it clear its up to the Troops to sign the requirments accroding to their own troop tradition. It works in the form of feedback as we also see how good the instruction is when testing

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As I said, we tried the first year program last year and didn't like. Usually, we do what Stosh's troop does and have the new scouts take First Aid, Swimming and a few other MBs. Problem is our camp has become such a MB mill I had guys who had not yet made Tenderfoot coming home with 6-8 MBs. Mainly to combat that trend, we tried the first year program last year and were disappointed.


Where we are heading is somewhat of a hybrid program. Our intention is to offer our new scouts one- or two-hour T-2-1 sessions back in the campsite. We would break this up with sending them off to Swimming MB and a few other intro-level MBs.


While I do want to recruit our Scouts to help with the classes, I don't know about requiring TGs to stay with their charges the whole time. If we make that a part of the TG job description, I suspect interest in becoming a TG will drop considerably. The troop is growing to the point that we have a larger corps or older scouts attending summer camp. Last year we had a couple of our older guys who volunteered to spend an hour or two working with the new scout program. (Unfortunately, when they reported to NSP area, they were treated if they were trying to steal the staff's jobs. By Wednesday they just quit going.) This summer I'm hoping to get older Scouts to volunteer again, even if they aren't the patrols' actual Troop Guides. Just as with the new scouts, I'm hoping the ability to teach for an hour or so then head off to their own MB classes will be appealing to the older guys.


The big obstacle to this will be scheduling. The way our camp schedules its merit badges is for the boys to submit their selections, then the computer figures out the schedule. If we leave open times for them to be back in the campsite, the computer will schedule them throughout the day. That's not going to work. I've got a meeting with the camp director next month to try and negotiate this. He's a good guy and I know he will work it out if we can.

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My experience is exactly like Twocubdad's. The program has been pretty awful. It's slow. It's long. It's not fun. There are too many kids and some very unenthusiastic instructors. Yuck. We've taken to doing exactly as he describes - doing our own advancement and letting the kids do more fun merit badges like swimming.

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Just my opinion:


- Summer camp staffers shouldn't be signing off on T-2-1 requirements. They should be running a program aimed at teaching certain topics, and then provide a list of those topics to the troop and patrol leadership at the end of the week. The troop and patrol are then responsible for checking and signing off.


- I worked with an understaffed, overwhelmed FYC program for several years. We had between 2-3 staffers for 40-50 kids each week - just way too much. The solution was to enlist ASMs - usually ex-Webelos den leaders who'd just come up - as instructors and assistants. It was a stopgap solution - I wouldn't encourage it as a permament plan, but it worked in a pinch.


- The age and experience levels of instructors is indeed an issue. When I went through an FYC program at my first year of summer camp, the instructors were these grizzled old guys who'd BTDT and had the scars to show it - they were great.

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