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Path to First Class

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I am the Scoutcraft Director this summer for council's local BSA Summer Camp and I have been told that one of the things I will do this summer is to create and run a "Path to First Class" program. That's great, I'm happy to do so. I did find: http://www.scouter.com/Forums/viewThread.asp?threadID=50111 which was a nice thread. I'm wondering if any of the rest of you have any advice that you'd like to give.


My plan is to mix some instruction in with "mandatory" merit badges. For instance Pioneering fulfills the 4a and half of the 4b Tenderfoot requirements as well as 7a/b and 8a First Class requirements. Totin' Chip completes Second Class 3c, etc. Basically, they'll have an hour or so of "class" in the morning, then the rest of the day they're like every other Scout, with certain extra things, like having to run the flag ceremony one day (to complete Second Class 4 and Tenderfoot 6), etc.


I know passing boys off for those ranks is the responsibility of the Scoutmaster -- how would you handle things like Second Class 8b (do the beginning pre-Swimmer test and First Class 9b (complete the real Swimmer test)? Is this like earning the Scoutmaster's key, you do requirement A for the Scoutmaser's Training Award, and then do BC to fulfill requirement "ABC"?(This message has been edited by BartHumphries)

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My experience is that the brand new boys will be "signed up" for the trail to first class program. They'll probably also take swimming and maybe they'll get to do a handicraft or nature merit badge like say leatherworking and geology or forestry kind of things. the guys who need the trail to first class are often discouraged from taking the harder merit badges like pioneering, because they just don't have the age/scout skills/interest.


New guys need to do kind of easy merit badges that will give them that virtually instant recognition and encouragement that this scout stuff is not that hard.


so usually the T 2 1st is a separate thing, and doesn't require any other merit badges to accomplish. so don't tie it to pioneering, swimming, or any other badge. thing of T 2 1st as being the intro to things like swimming and knots. they do it as an intro. Then if they enjoy say knots and lashings, they'll then go seak out the pioneering badge.


I also think most of the boys will be lined up first day at camp for a swim test, and if they pass that, they get the swimming part signed off in their books fairly easily, so you don't even have to include the swim requirements in your trail to first class instructional time.


I think of totin chit, fireman chit, knots, flags up down and fold, hiking safety, you could do the hike and orienting a map and such. you could easily fill each day with the things the boys need. realize most boys will come in with some of the stuff signed off and they'll want to only do the few things they need help with so your plan may need to be easily changed on the fly as to the boy's needs and interests.


as for signing books. I prefer to see a list of items signed off by you but not in their book. then depending on the troop's interests and requirements, they can sign off those items, or test the scout on each thing before signing up.


I'd like to see a T 2 1st class instruct the items and let the troop test and sign books.


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In the past few years, I've been to two different camps, and will be at a third one this year. Each one of them had a first year program, and all three seem to be different. However, we've not had Scouts enrolled in any one of them, so I can't give you a firsthand review of the results.


But -- there are a few things that spring to mind based on what you've written. One is that the program we are seeing this year has an all morning program, and first year Scouts are taken to one merit badge "class period" for a merit badge of their choosing. The camp suggests certain merit badges appropriate for first year campers. You can see this program (online) for yourself if you look up Daniel Webster Council's Hidden Valley Scout Camp. The program is described in their leader's guide.


One of the other camps we attended -- first thing after breakfast is an instructional swim period. Scouts who didn't swim, didn't swim well, or perhaps didn't get through the swimmer's test were encouraged to attend. The "first year" program started after the instructional swim period was over. Also -- I think it was scheduled for Friday morning -- the first year Scouts were taken to the waterfront for instruction on the water safety and rescue portions of rank requirements. That same afternoon, a first year camper 5-mile hike was scheduled, after map and compass instruction.


Another camp we attended is doing something different with their first year program this year. At that camp (Camp Bell, a patrol-oriented camp, also part of Daniel Webster Council) does program by patrol. So if you have a patrol of first-year Scouts, they would (in past years) do rank advancement stuff on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tuesday and Thursday, they would schedule some other patrol activity (perhaps one of the other fun activities the camp provides -- last year, a young patrol I saw scheduled horseback riding on one day, and a raft-building activity and an outpost camping experience on the other day).


This year, that camp is doing it differently. On Monday, they keep first year Scouts the entire day and then they do some sort of a remote outpost that night (where I suppose they are going through camp setup, cooking, cleaning, etc. scenarios) and I think it lasts into the next day. Then Wednesday through Friday those patrols can schedule other patrol activities. By the way -- the camp does outposts with one staff member and at least one troop adult. They seem to encourage every patrol in camp to sign up for at least one outpost.


With an hour a day, I'm not sure that you can cover a whole lot during the week. Honestly, I'd concentrate on something that is best to handle in the summer camp setting (for example, the waterfront stuff) for the benefit of troops.



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My biggest beef with similar programs at every camp we have attended is they don't really make sure the guys do everything as written in the requirements and seem to be in a race to get as many things signed off as possible. At the end of camp, we have a bunch of very young guys with a lot of advancement in their books, but they still don't really know how to do any of it.


We have asked the camps to not sign any books, just let us know what the boys have done and we'll do our own testing and signoff. This worked sometimes, but last year they signed the books anyway. We will not be sending our guys to the First Class Emphasis program again. Instead they will be working on Swimming, Rowing, Nature, shooting, etc, with time reserved during the day to work on basic skills within the troop.


If it were up to me, I would place the most emphasis within the camp program on helping guys learn some fundamental skills so they are prepared to be more functional within their patrol.

Cooking, sharpening a knife/ax/saw, building fires (first under optimal conditions, then with wet wood), knots and whipping, some basic first aid, some map/compass/hiking. Again, the emphasis isn't on racing through advancement requirements, it's helping the guys develop the basic skills they need to enjoy being in the outdoors.

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One possibility would be to go to Camp School




check for First Year Camper


I think to be a certified camp some percentage of directors have ot be Camp School trained





you are going to be Scoutcraft Director and do the First Year Program? Are you being set up to fail? How long have you been a Scoutcraft director? These two areas Scoutcraft and First Year Program need 2 full time people. I am not sure one person can do it, well do it yes, do it well? I am not so sure


Its not that I doubt your abilities, I dont know you, just that these two areas are quite complicated, I hope you are an organized person and God bless you(This message has been edited by OldGreyEagle)

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Wow! What an excerllent bunch of comments so far!


I think I agree with almost all of 'em....






Unfortunately, this is all too true. If boys set the pace themselves and learn the skills, it usually takes 2-3 years ---even more, to earn First Class.


Just as Eagle Mill Troops have adults parse Eagle requirements so they can be completed at max speed, the same thing tends to be done at summer camp with the Trail to First Class, this time at the suggestion of BSA which encourages achieving First Class in a year.


Compare the testing on a typical "Trail to First Class" program with testing for the swimming requirment. The swimming requirements take a measure of real competence to complete, and it may take a non swimmer months or even years to be able to complete those requirements. But they typically are not "watered down" so a non swimmer can complete them in a week.


Personally I'd favor a Trail to First Class program that focuses on really learning skills. Knot tieing that focussed on learning a couple of knots really well, rather than six knots and all the lashings not really being learned at all.



The problem with this is that you come up against the expectations of ADULTS --- perhaps including yourself! Your Camp Director may expect and even advertize that Scouts will complete the Trail to First Class in a week, Troop leaders may expect that and may not plan much of Trail To First Class instruction in their troop program, expecting summer camp to do 100% of the task for them.


It sets someone like you up with difficult choices to make. I will be interested to hear how you decide to appraoch this issue.






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I have to go along with OGE and Mike F., these time condensed rush through requirements smacks of substandard teaching and learning. This is definitely not a one person job and I can tell you if you try to do it all alone you will fall flat on your face.


Summer camp is supposed to be about having fun, trying new things, and maybe earn a MB or two along the way, it is NOT supposed to be a rank or badge factory. If your camp program is exciting, fun, and well planned you don't need a Trail to 1st Class mill.

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the camp we are going to has a program for T21... but it is done during free periods. They have different things set up on different days so on one day during 1st free time they will have totin-chip and 2nd free time they will have knot tying. Then on the next day they offer 2 other things.


I like this set up because some boys already have completed some of the things completed depending on when they crossed over and what they did on campouts or at meetings. So the boys only go when they need to go and when it's something they already did they can do something else. Also some boys that are going for their 2nd year still have a couple of things they are working on and can go with the new scounts. I know for us a lot of our 2nd year scouts still are working on their lashings - they just rush too much and don't get it tied tight and correctly to stay strong.


We also recommend that the new scouts able to do swimming take swimming - but that other badges to take we try to recommend things that interest them and ones that can be completed at camp so they can come back and get merit badges right away - the quicker they see award in what they are doing the more likely they are to continue to return. We also recommend that they try a few different free time activities - while they may not be in rifle MB they can go up and do shooting during free time etc...

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As a Scoutmaster, I can say that I have had different results each year out troop has been to camp. Some years the boys learn more from these programs, and some years they don't. I have learned to use "Trail to First Class" type classes as a resource to teach the boys, but I test them in the evenings on the skills, and usually sign them off on later camping trips when I see the boys demonstrate the skills on our own campouts.


As a camp staffer, I would ask that you concentrate on skills that require specialty knowledge or the outdoor setting that we do not have usually. For instance, I am very un-knowledgeable about plants, trees and shrubs. If you can teach the boys to identify plants and trees in such a way that I can test them later, you would be doing me a favor. Or, since we are hardly ever in a setting where I can do a swimming class, much less a first class swim test, if you do this, it would be a great service.


I can teach a knot during a scout meeting, but boys don't remember them because they don't have to use them. So, teach them their knots by making them put up a tarp that requires the use of a two half hitches and taught line hitch. As a boy, having to use army pup tents, if my taught line hitch was not correct, I would be sleeping under a collapsed tent. Make the knot practical.


Just a few things to think about.


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Thanks for taking on this responsibility. The following comes from the heart of a guy who's finally convinced his troop to do all the training for T2FC in site. I will try to be brief ...


The goal is to swim upstream. To foist all of the sign-off responsibility onto the PL's (and, only as a last resort, the SM's.)


Consider opening scoutcraft up to "patrol challenges". A different one each day. They could be service projects related to scoutcraft skills. They could be relays for patrols present (e.g. fastest through a knot tying challenge).


Offer a totem (simple stuff, like a "wood carving kit" that's just a sawed off round of log) to each first-year for time ...

1. They bring their PL to scoutcraft,

2. The show up with their patrol flag,

3. At scout craft their PL helps them with a skill they have trouble with. If the PL is a star scout, give him an "EDGE certified" token for his Life requirement.

4. They copy the design of their patrol flag on their "wood carving kit."

5. If he finds out his PL can't remember/never learned a skill and brings him to scoutcraft and teaches it to him (thus earning the Tenderfoot EDGE requierment, which the PL can sign off on right there).


Offer specific training for SM (you've already heard how some of us need it) award the youth for bringing their adult leaders in for "refreshers."


Most importantly, explain that you will NOT REPORT A SINGLE SKILL TAUGHT, if the boy can't come back to camp and demonstrate the skill or participate in an activity with his SM SPL or PL observing with their own eyes, it will not get signed off.


For confused adults, explain that you are trying to help them build a teaching environment that will outlast the week at camp.


You get the idea. Of course, your ability to implement is a function of how many staff you have and how much of a leash your camp director gives you.


For the swimming stuff, coordinate with the aquatic's director. Instruct the boy (or PL) that checking buddy tags should count as proof.

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Just a quick note -- out of the three camps that I've mentioned, all three of them claim to only do instruction, not actually do testing and sign-offs. They specifically mention that it is up to the troop to make sure the skill has been learned before signing it off. One camp does provide a sheet that checks off which skills were covered during the week (and they have accurate enough records to know if a Scout has skipped a session or not) but they don't sign handbooks!



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Our camp provided the hated checklists as well. If my SPL and PL's are not supposed to use them to sign off on things, why give me one more piece of paper? Just give li'll Johnny a woggle kit (rope and instructions for the turk's head knot). Let him figure out what he needs to get signed-off in his book.


I would rather have camp staff focus on skills training and instilling pride in patrols. That's why I favor "patrol challenges" over "instructional sessions". They accomplish the same thing, but one sounds a lot less like school.

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