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ScouterPaul

How do we keep the cool in Scouting

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I had a conversation this morning with a young boy who recently dropped out of scouts. Since then I've been thinking about the following question. How do we keep the "cool" in Scouts?

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Well first we must define terms.

If "cool" means accepted by his peer group, I don't think we have much control over that.

If "cool" means fun then it's a matter of finding out what the boys want to do and learn. This feed back should come from your PLC. You said the boy dropped out. How much involvement did he have in the PLC? How involved was he in his patrol and the troop. What I'm asking is did he give scouting a chance?

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From the teenagers I've talked with "cool" seems to come from two things, independence and self esteem.

 

I see that as being the biggest selling point for the patrol method. Carried out to it's full measure of "never do anything for a boy that a boy can do for himself" the patrol method offers boys independence within a arena of safety and considtent recognition.

 

It's interesting that a few years back (I don't recall the exact year) the BSA did a national survey of boys who left scouting the first year and of the scoutmasters of their unit. The question they were asked was "why" did they leave scouting.

 

The number one reason the scoutleaders gave was peer pressure, followed by lack of parental support and schedule conflicts with other activities. Program quality was not mentioned.

 

The boys however told a different story. The number one reason given by the boys was "boring meetings" followed by boring campouts, then leaders don't like me. Peer pressure was far down the list.

 

I think 'cool' to a boy is feeling in control and making his own decisions, living a life of adventure, and being recognized as an individual, all are encompassed in the Patrol Method.

 

Just my thoughts,

Bob

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"Cool" for and 11 or 12 year old, is completely different then for a 13 or 14 year old, or a 15, 16, 17 year old. I think LongHaul's two definitions of "cool" cover's most of it. Being accepted by your peers is very important for this age range. Fun activities can be anything from a "fishing" theme camp out, to any number of high adventure activities. Scouting provides the opportunity for the Scouts to choose and plan these activities (with guidance from adult leaders who are trained in the parameters of BSA acceptability). These activities are usually not available to the Scout, without Scouting. That's what makes Scouting so unique. Older Scouts like to be leaders. Younger Scouts like to be accepted, and part of a winning team (an active, challenging, and organized Patrol). If the Patrol method is used successfully, there are almost no limits. "Cool" is being able to answer the question from a non Scout friend, as to what he did over the weekend, and know that it really was something "cool."

 

Anderson

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I'm going to have a chat with my son about this topic and I'll get back to you guys with his answer... He is usually concerned about what is "cool" and what is not so I'll get his input. I do know for a fact that he thought the National Jamboree was the ultimate in "cool" scouting. I think the variety of activities and people and the unity of spirit was what gave him that impression. I'll let you know what he thinks.

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My son is not yet 11 and does NOT have a good sense of what is "cool". And as someone else said, "cool" depends on your age.

 

This makes me think of the few things I have heard from boys in the troop over the last few weeks. The Aviation merit badge was a big hit with the boys. Space Exploration is a merit badge everyone wants to take. Learning things that other people don't know about. Like Bob said -- being in control.

 

I'm no expert on Scoutmaster Conferences and Board of Reviews, but wouldn't this be a great question to ask during those times? I sat in on a Board of Review last week and found the young man's opinions very interesting and though out. Do the adults listen to what the boys say to about how to make the troop better? This young man said everyone should be careful not to cuss in front of the new boys and not yell at them (some of the older kids were cussing and promptly told to stop).

 

Also, I've noticed that boys give different answers depending on the time of day and day of the week -- no joke. If we are at scouts, my son is excited about it. If we are at baseball practice, that's his thing. If it's a nice day and the kid down the street is riding his bike, then my son is in love with bike riding. At this moment it is Saturday morning cartoon.

 

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Sctmom,

This is definately a topic for Scoutmaster conferences and Boards of Review. The Scoutmaster conference prepares the boy to Stand for Review. It preparation for the day when the boy stands before an employer and lets that person know why he should be hired and what a mistake it would be for the company not to hire him. It is also the time for the Scoutmaster to get the boys take on how the Scoutmaster is doing. It's my chance as a Scoutmaster to Stand for review by this scout. "What are we doing that you like most?" "What do we do that you don't like?" "What do you want to do that we aren't doing?" "What would you like to see changed?". The Board of Review askes questions of the boy to see if he is ready to advance but also to find out if I'm doing my job. It's their chance to check on my program from the boys perspective. Good programs benifit from input given from different angles. It's been a long time long time since I've viewed Scouting from an 11 year olds perspective, I need a reality check at times.

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Right on LongHaul!

 

I do the same during PLC meetings and SM conferences. I solicit feedback, positive and especially negative. It is the boy's troop and they need to be able to feel comfortable is asking for change. Most won't feel comfortable giving adults a bad review until you encourage then to do so. After all, where else in their lives can an adult be questioned or constructively critizied? For most kids nowhere.

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I had a talk with my 16 year old son about this topic. This thread sparked the conversation, but I was also looking for some input on a related topic. We have a large troop and it seems that a number of the older scouts all want to go off by themselves and just socialize, I asked my son how do we make scouting interesting to the older guys and if scouting was cool. He said he didnt know if scouting was cool or not, but he liked it. Today was his first meeting of the Councils JLTC staff, this will be his second year as staff. He said he likes the guys who will be on staff, that they all like the same things he does. I asked him if he ever gets teased in school about being a scout, he said not really, when kids find out he is a scout, he says "yeah, I like it,its fun" and the kids accept it. If he backed off and was non comittal he thinks he might get abused.

 

He said the issue is that scouting is a leadership program, and that when a kid gets to be 15-16, either he wants to be a leader in the troop or he dosent. If he wants to be a leader and help the younger kids, then he has a role. If he does not wish to be a leader or have a role of responsibilty, scouts doesnt have much to offer him. He added having older scout actvities of a more extreme nature wouldnt help, because in his view, the kids who dont want to lead at the meetings arent that interested in expending a lot of energy in hiking, climbing, etc. He added that a lot of the older scouts are friends and are from different schools and the only time they see each other is at meetings or outings. He didnt see a solution. That there will always be some scouts that the program passes by. I said it was my job as an adult leader to not let that happen. He said that it was an impossible task.

 

So, as a question, do we try to make scouts cool, or keep it a leadership program and realize attrition happens. That scouting is for all boys, but some boys are not for scouting. Is it possible or even prudent to keep every scout in the program?

 

 

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OGE I'm not really sure about the leadership approach. It certainly is not in our national charter - might be in yours. Regardless I find that some scouts thrive on the leadership side and others on the field skills. Others want socialising and for a few they progress form one to another of these every now and then.

 

It depends on the boy and his progression on the boy - adult line.

 

I agree that we cannot be all things to all boys at Troop level. However at one level up I can see that there could be activities that focus on socialising, skills, adventure, leadership. This would leave us in the Troop to do the best we can in the areas that we can make work. My strenghths are skills and leadership - I really don't have the time or energy to go further. But I recognise that some of my Scouts need other stuff. I really mean NEED and I haven't got it in me to help.

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Socializing IS a skill that scouts need to work on, and is my primary reason for wanting my son involved. However, IMHO older scouts "going off on their own and socializing" isn't exactly what we had in mind for a scout troop. Older scouts going off and socializing and always excluding the younger scouts from their group can contribute to the dropout rate for the young scouts.

 

We're trying to teach the younger kids social skills, and if they only learn to exclude kids that aren't their age, we're not passing on the skills we were hoping for!

 

That said, I don't think it is fair for the older scouts to only be used as teachers for the younger scouts - they need fun and challenge themselves. I know that's why troops put in the high-adventure patrols but as pointed out not all older scouts have a burning desire for high-adventure.

 

IT's a difficult balancing act and I'd love to hear more about how different troops accomplish it.

 

Juliette Gordon Lowe said something along these lines: " A scout meeting should have both fun and accomplishment. IF it can only have one, it should be FUN. That way the girls will come back for the accomplishment."

 

When looking at Bob White's survey findings, I thought of this....

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Boring anything is a program problem.

 

A good Scout program is not boring unless it's just not your bag. Not everyone likes what most Scouts do.

 

Interesting view OGE. My older Scouts all want to do the High Adventure but some are not interested in leadership unless they get a HA trip out of it.

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The cool left scouting about 30 yrs. ago when all the WW II vets kids grew up and it was no longer cool to play army.

OGE's son's comments seem right on the money.

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