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Our core adult leadership met this weekend to discuss what was needed to be presented at our troop committee meeting. When we do this, we invite the SPL, who represents the PLC. They plan the next two months in detail, and the following 2-4 months in outline form. After he presented this work from the PLC, all of us, including the SPL, started questioning some of the changes that our troop have been going through the last two years.


We all agree that our troop has become less involved in standard, outdoor camping. We opt for adirondacks or cabins far too often. With the exception of a few very good high venture things we do (and do well, I believe), monthly campouts have become activities for the younger guys. Trying to get the older guys to go to teach, encourage, and be an example to the young guys is getting to be impossible. We believe we are seeing a decline in our Scout skills, some of which we attribute to the lack of enthusiasm for the program. The program we have always been so proud of, producing the best (most skilled) scouts in the area, is starting to slip.


The most obvious correlation we can draw is with the active effort we as adults have been making to allow, actually require, the boys to choose and run their own program, which started about three years ago.


Then, our Scoutmaster (the same as now) basically decided what each month's activity would be. He phrased everything so that it was the boys deciding, officially, our program. But he did it, and he bull whipped the boys into getting done what needed done to make the event come off great. I want to be careful and not make our Scoutmaster appear less than he is. He believed for a long time this was the best way to do things. Eventually, on his own and with some help from others, he understood that the program was not really boy led at that point. But whatever we did then, it was sucessful, everyone had fun and understood the value, boys advanced, they learned, they practiced. Outwardly, we were the troop all other troops envied (at least this is my perception).


Once he started turning over control to the boys, things started changing. Things went undone, and the results were greeted by an "oh well" from the boys. Fewer and fewer older scouts came on campouts, unless it was a high venture activity. Usually, this was because the younger guys weren't there. And the activities that got planned were getting more lame. A cabin campout where we watched movies, when the same campout used to be a winter camping skills campout. Skipping a bike campout we used to do in favor of a campout in adirondacks. Avoiding stuff like utensiless cooking. Opting for simple, prepared foods instead of cooking. We never were like this.


Please don't get me wrong. I believe that boy run is best run. But we ARE losing something, and none of us like it. We discussed what might have caused this, and we've rejected the idea that this is a growing pain caused by the transistion. It's getting worse, not better. We think it's mostly a change in the type boy we have. Scouts who have graduated from the troop 2 - 6 years ago would never stand for hot dogs and beans if we had the time to make a "real" meal.


Does anyone have any words of wisdom as to how to counteract this? We have no intention of backing away from boy led. But what the boys want to do isn't nearly as valuable as what adults used to plan, and that is evidenced by boys not attending what THEY planned. I am open to anything, even if it means someone has to be a little rough on me and point out a weakness that I don't see.


Again, as always, thank all of you for being there. What a fantastice resource each of you are.



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First of all, have all the leaders been trained (adult and youth)?


Secondly, the "boy-run" plan put together by the PLC should be presented for approval by the Troop Committee, who should keep the standards high and make sure the youth know what's expected. Yes, troops should be "boy-run", but at this age they also need supervision and guidance. This can be done without "bullwhipping". I agree with having "high adventure" trips for the senior scouts, but they need to realize that the price they pay for this privilege is to also participate with and train the youngsters during the routine campouts and camporees. This gives the younger scouts something to look forward to and strive for.

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Yes, everyone has been trained, although all of the adults, me included, have really only received the bare minimum. there will be a major effort to upgrade our adult training in 2003.


ALL of the youth leaders are trained, and some have served on Council JLT staff. As a matter of fact, JLT is really how we compare our boys's skills with boys from other troops.


At the meeting this weekend, we do exactly what you are describing, although it is a more core group of involved adults, not the full committee (SM, ASM, Advancement). We absolutely try to guide the SPL toward more appropriate events, especially during the annual planning meeting the PLC does in the spring. But we made a decision we would not stop any activity, as long as it met minimum criteria for safety, etc. Our attitude was to allow them to plan boring stuff, see the mistake, help them see it if necesary, and allow them to fix it. However, rather than fix it, anyone older than 2nd year in the troop generally just don't go. We certsainly point out the flaws, and make sure the guys know the results.


It also should be mentioned that often there are very legitimate reasons for some older scouts not going. But as soon as Pete says he isn't going, Joey and Tommy see the chance to skip, too. Once a few of these guys sign off, the couple who might want to go figure, "oh man, I'm gonna be stuck with a bunch of young kids", and they pass, too.


One idea we thought would work is to get the guys to plan patrol only campouts. This has helped for the young patrols, who still are interested in learning and experiencing the basics in camping. But the older guys end up planning sleep overs, or trips to the car show. Not that these are bad, but we hope for more "Scouting" type activities: Campouts, hikes, stuff like that.


We believe we are guiding the boys. We don't think we are forcing them. Can I read into your reply we should be more forceful? By the way, the bullwhipping happened years ago. I couldn't tell for sure if you understood that.





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In my experience, the success of a "boy run" troop is a direct result of the motivation and talent of elected boy leadership, if you have a boy-run troop. I've seen it ebb and flow, depending on who is in these critical positions. Sometimes it's effective, sometimes not. My role as SM then shifts back and forth on a continuum between directing, coaching, delegating, etc., depending on the synergy of the PLC and the issue at hand. It's episodic, too...I may be delegating one minute, directing the next. I believe in "controlled failure" only to a very limited point. And, that point is where the delivery of the program may be affected. A talented, motivated PLC is a blessing; the opposite turns the SM job into a full-time one.


Your Scouts, most of whom should be, demographically, younger boys, elect their leaders; have they elected sub-par leaders?


I'm not sure I agree that the Troop Committee should, or even can, "approve" the PLC's monthly program, or determine standards. I see the SM as the "traffic cop" in this area, and that role is best applied at the monthly PLC meeting, at which program decisions are made. Afterward, the SM should present the committee with requirements to carry out the program, such as permits, transportation, equipment, and so on.



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We have had the same problem.


My older Scouts were sub par as KS puts it. I have done a few things to fix it.


I ran some good camps to show them what is possible. And I have trained the leaders better.


I talked on the same theme night after night - set goals, challenge yourselves, divide the challenge into do-able bits and take it one step at a time. Some are starting to get enthusiastic and determined.


The Troop opted for a 24 walk round and round an oval as a fundraiser for the Cancer Council. The local football team was going for a world record number of laps. They were very professional and I asked the coach via a team member who I knew slightly to speak to the troop about leadership and motivation. Same night I pointed out to the four oldest how they were letting themselves down and how they were percieved by others (parents and younger Scouts). That was the last night I saw one of the four.


The two oldest have left the Troop being too old. Leaves me with one of 2002's leadership team - and he is getting some drive about himself.


I have praised the core group and have left the fringe behind if they didn't show up. Now the fringe are starting to get envious. When some are being priased for being tough, committed and earning adult (self and parents) respect the others don't like being left out. However the ages are fairly close. Wouldn't work otherwise to priase the youngest as I think the oldest would take it as a implied "you lot are sub par". Then again if the shoe fits...


Natural cycles have probably had as a big an impact as my efforts. There are great leadership teams and not so great. I can see a great team coming on now that the not so great are gone.


And yes I have driven one boy out of the Troop. He left - couldn't stand the criticism anymore. I did this after advice from this forum that he was effecting my service to the Troop and dragging the others down.


Our system is different to yours. Our Troops have 11-14 year olds only. Youth-led is there but the framework is normally adult driven. If your Troop is young maybe that could help. Our Venturers 15-18 are totally youth led.


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A collection of ramblings and musings, hopefully most on topic:


A winter cabin campout where you watched movies? Hopefully at least "Follow Me Boys" was shown to remind attendees they were at a scouting function. I can almost see showing movies, like "Castaway" every 5 minutes or so you can stop the movie and ask what survival skills Tom Hanks used and what he could have done better (hint, use the Mag lite lens to start the fire, use the life raft to collect drinking water and as a waterproof roof, etc)


When the PLC plans the program, is it with a theme and is the theme related to scouting? You can be boy led, but adults still give a sense of direction. Establish parameters for meals, require the food groups are all represented at least once a day, twice? Start giving a ribbon, a dangle, something for the patrol flag each outing for the patrol that has the best meals.


How are advancements going? It would appear not much is happening in that area. Why not ask the PLC what advancement topics members of their patrol need? Then ask them how these topics could be best met. You should get an advancement skills week-end out of that.


Have the PLC describe the type of adventures they would like to have, and see if you can make a few happen. There will be the references to climbing Mt Everest, but you could substitute indoor rock climbing.


Another tactic is to suggest the PLC "poll" the boys in the troop, have each patrol leader ask each boy in his patrol what he wants to do. You should get many good "new" ideas, and may uncover a heretofore unknown resource, a dad who takes his son caving, flyfishing, outdoor climbing, etc.


Our troop struggles with the concept of boy led as well. Our troop, through a Woodbadge ticket item, (not mine) is trying to develop a "mentoring program" Each office, such as Senior Patrol Leader, Quartermasters, has an adult assigned to them. These Mentors have a checklist they share with the boy. Before outings, the Mentor contacts the boy to remind him of what needs to be done, NOTE, not do it for the boy, remind him it needs to be done.


How much assistance does an older boy get from adults when he teaches? Do adults back him up to assure he is getting the respect and attention he deserves? Is his class size to big? Has he been taught how to teach? When its over, do the adults recognize his efforts? Was he given adequate preparation time?


At the end of every outing, have the Senior Patrol Leader (or acting Senior Patrol Leader)lead a reflection on the activity, (right after policing the area and before we break for the vehicles) what was fun, what worked well, what could be improved, have the scribe (or acting scribe) take notes and bring them to the next PLC meeting. When planning the next activity go over those reflections, what worked well, what didnt work well. If you start with your next activity, in very short order the boys themselves will have produced quite a list to provide guidance in planning activities.


Hope this helps, or at least sparks an idea or two


(This message has been edited by OldGreyEagle)

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Every point made so far has been valid, and I appreciate them. Some, if not most, we already incorporate, like the adult advisor (OGE called the position mentor, which we also use, but that is normally an older scout who is asked to verify that a younger one that will be presenting a skill to the troop has everything right), the advancement weekend (we just did one. Actually, I was proud that all but one older boy showed up to teach or test the young guys. I was dissapointed that only 3 of the 18 boys under 1st class came to the event), and the event evaluation (we do ours on the lower half of the permission slip. Each boy, his PL, and a committe comprised of the SPL, the SM, and the ASM assigned to the boy's patrol all rate the boy on how well he did on the campout. Young guys are rated on basic skills, and cooperation. Older guys are rated on leadership). We don't however, do any rating of the event itself. I can see that as a good idea. If the guys feel that an event was lame, and officially rated it as such, maybe we could bring it up at the annual planning meeting if it were considered again. Not every lame event should be cancelled, some just need reworked. But if there was a record of how everyone felt right after the event...


I agree that leadership ability in our boys is cyclical. We are in a long down cycle right now. And I am concerned about the near future. We've got one guy in the right stage of his career that will make a great SPL, I believe, and another right behind him that has potential. But other than that, there isn't anyone who really is going to provide either of these two guys with a lot of support on a PLC.


Just to clarify our demagraphics, we have 7 guys at 17 years old, 15 guys between 13 and 16, and 19 guys under 13. We have 5 boys that are Eagle, I think it's 12 that are Star or Life, something like 7 1st Class, and the rest under 1st Class. I think we have a well rounded group, although four of our best will be 18 in the next few months. But we're not that young. Are they electing sub - par leaders? Yes, I think so, generally. This goes back to something I mentioned in another thread. Our troop seems to elect their leaders (SPL, ASPL, PL, and APL are elected, others are appointed in conference between the elected SPL and the SM) based on who's due to be elected. Things follow a pretty set plan, even though it's very unofficial: The best (or most popular) 13 - 14 your old seems to be elected PL in each patrol, and the 2nd place finisher is APL. After this tour of duty, the APL usually is elected the PL. The best of the old PLs is usually assigned troop Quartermaster. The rest of the old PLs get other troop leadership assignemnts, usually troop guides or den chiefs. After QM, the troop usually elects this guy ASPL, then SPL. I have complained often to the youth leadership how "preordained" our election process seems to be, but we have done nothing to derail it, because it is what the boys want to do. But because everyone seems to think this is the way to do it, we have two problems. It's not always the best guy that gets elected, and boys who were sucessful in a position feel they must step aside to let the next guy get his shot.


We as adult leaders all agree that it is not the adults part to approve the activities decided on by the PLC. If we did, this problem wouldn't exist. We would just make the guys do what we think they should, which is our old way of doing things. Rather, we use this group (the itermediate group of SM, ASMs, Advancement) to review their plans, and encourage a higher quality program. I'll give you an example. Our PLC decided they wanted to skip council Klondike this year, as it has deteriorated in quality over the last several years (it's very interesting to us that they recognize someone else's program as substandard, but don't see it in their own). At the core adult leader meeting, we agreed that they could skip this, but had to come up with another winter outdoor activity. We suggested a standard winter tent campout, or a hike with a 1 night outpost (we've tried unsucessfully for a few years to get these guys to consider a snow shoe hike). The SPL contacted the PLC via phone over the weekend, and decided they wanted to do a cabin campout. THIS is what caused my frustration enough to come to this forum seeking advise.


I have heard others apoligize for beng long winded, but I don't think anyone is worse than am I, so I'll stop here. I guess to sum up my feelings on this, in theory I agree and stand behind boy led 1000% In practice, I've seen it work, and believe it can, but it's not now, and I want to do something about it. There have been a couple of good ideas presented, and I will be discussing these with our SM and SPL. But please feel free to continue. We need the help!




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Koreascouter is right. A boy run program in scouting means the scouts learn by their actions. That means the adults allow the scouts to plan run the program to learn by the results of the program. But what many units don't understand is that adults are their the scouts guide in their struggles. I know it's hard to know when to step in and when to let the scouts go, but failure upon failure develops habits of failures. If scouts arnt going on camps, then the SM brings his experience and wisdom in the PLC meeting and ask why. The program is based of Aims and Methods. The adults are responsible for the Aims, the scouts are responsible for the methods. If the scouts are failing at the methods or they arent learning from them, then the adults are failing in achieving the AIMS. You pointed out the bad cooking at a campout, I've learned that cooking is a good sign of how the program is working. A patrol should have a weekend of bad cooking to learn from, the scouts messed up, they didn't achieve the clean or health part of the law. They need to be coached to understand their struggle, then stand back to see how the change. If the adult didn't do that, if they don't point out the bad side of unhealthy cooking habits, then they failed the scouts, failed the their program by not promoting the Aims part of the program and they failed the parents by not developing character at an opportune moment.


A lot of times the adults just aren't sure what their goals are, so they fall back on what they do know, that camping, scout skills, and advancement. But, that is the scout's responsibility. The adults have to learn how to coach, motivate and teach scouts to achieve those goals. The first question I usually ask of all my scouts and SPLs, "what was the goal? "What was the result? "Why? Help the scouts understand where they are going, help them with the tools, but let them do the pioneering, the work, the planning and the fun. Then encourage a program where they come to you when they don't reach their goals. Inspire them to come up with ideas and try again. But don't let them get away with failure without them at least understanding they failed. Get them to seek success with their actions. Failure is OK, if we use it as a step to grow.


Here's what we adults should practice, don't worry about there goals except as a tool to measure their struggle. We adults should worry about what growth they get in character, fitness and citizenship. Example, I don't care what they eat on a campout, I do care that they live within the scout law and scout oath. I want my scouts to learn the value of nutrition (fitness), the "discipline" of preparing the right foods and cleaning up afterwards in the right manner (character), and everyone working together, helping to cook, eat and cleanup (citizenship). I also know that they may have to eat badly before they understand why they should eat well. Let's look at your cabin issue. What value does camping in tents have over camping cabins when it comes to fitness, citizenship and character? Well I can tell you I like scouts to set up tents in the dark and rain because the confidence gained from knowing you can set up a tent successfully in adversity is enormous. The skills learned will be felt on a backpacking trip or a wilderness-canoeing trip when the scouts are stuck in bad whether. Confidence is your best ally when it comes to growth and trying something challenging like rappelling.


Let you scouts know your goals. They don't really care about the Aims because they are boring. But if they know that you have goals of character building and you can justify the activities in your program to develop character, then they are receptive to why you ask questions to their performance or lack of. They will even try to start thinking like you as to why they do the things they do. We had agreement in my troop, if I couldnt justify anything we did to character, citizenship and fitness, then they didn't have to do it. It forced me to focus on those goals and the whys, and allowed them to understand their huge area they could plan under. Have them focus on gaols and performance. Dont be afraid to be the Master Scout. The person who knows the value of reaching high and achieving your goals. Once the adults change their expectations to the Aims, then you can start coaching and guiding toward those goals, and encourage the scouts to plan a fun program. You will be amazed at the rewards of your program.


Good luck




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It is my intention to gather a number of adults and boys together at our next meeting to discuss whatever it is I get here for suggestions. I can't wait to discuss yours! We are all familiar with the Goals and the Aims of Scouting, but it isn't anything we actively talk about, or plan around. Seems like a quick immersion for all of us (especially me!!!) is in order.


If I can be so bold, please consider that you have done your Good Turn for the day, as have everyone else who is lending a hand. Thank you!




Man, this might be my shortest post!

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I've read this in other threads and maybe it will help here. Let the boys determine the rules and regulations of their troop....with adult supervision. More often than not, they know right from wrong and will be harder on themselves than the adults would if they wrote the rules. Perhaps they need to define rules or a framework of what constitutes their activies. To me, camping is camping. Spending the night in a cabin is a sleepover just like going to a friends house. Just because you sleep in a sleeping bag does not make it camping. Perhaps they need to define guidelines for their activites that could include things like, has to be outdoors, has to be under the stars or in tents, etc.

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Here's the history on the movie campout in the cabin:

About 5 years ago, the junior leaders started complaining that all of the campouts that were planned were jam packed with organized program, mostly designed to make the older boys help the younger guys with advancements. At this time, it was the Scoutmaster making this happen. They wanted to do a campout that was devoid of this kind of effort. Just get there, set up camp, eat great, sit around the campfire, and BS. Frankly, most of the adults (not the SM, but certainly me) thought that this was a great idea, once a year. We had 11 other campouts, plus a few high venture activities, to be doing something with a scout related goal, why not let the guys kick back and have fun just being together in the outdoors. Especially as a reward to the older guys who put so much effort into helping the young guys. To camp the way they viewed camping for adults to be was very appealing to them. With some of the adults help, we convinced the SM to put this on the calender. As far as I am concerned, this was still a good idea. Where I think we went wrong was how it was labeled. The boys started calling it the "lazy man's campout". The second year we did it, we even used that phrase on the calender. The third year, as the troop was morphing to more boy led, it had to be moved to November to accomodate another activity. At that time, we were not prepared to have the newest guys camp outdoors in the winter (we have traditionally spent Jan and Feb teaching winter camping skills, culminating in Klondike), so we arranged to rent a cabin for the young guys, while the older ones and most of the adults slept outside.

The SM convinced the PLC to add an oppurtunity for the young guys to get the orienteering requirements taken care of at this campout. This required the help of a couple of older scouts, leaving the rest with basically an empty cabin during the day, which they used to listen to a radio that was brought (The PLC has allowed the older guys to bring music to campouts and gather in one or two tents after the rest of the troop hits the sack). At the next annual planning meeting, they came up with the idea of changing this to a cabin campout where we watch movies. Star Wars, stuff like that have been the fare. As adults we have protested this evolution, but not stopped it. Again, let's let the boys make their program. Our biggest gripe this year was that ALL of the older guys wanted to watch movies, and we had to practically shame a few of them (it turned out the SPL delegated the task to the least senior "older" boys) to help with the five mile hike.


I guess this is as good an example of the changes that have taken place in the last few years as I can think of. The boys requested we do something different. The SM allowed it to happen, then the boys started using their new found responsiblity to change the intent of the activity. It continued to get farther from the original idea, until now it is of little more value than a sleep over (which by the way, many of our guys do in groups, and I think is great that they do, just not on a campout!). Now, we have to either hope that they see the point we are trying to make that this doesn't measure up to the standards our troop has always had for campouts, which there seems to be little hope of currently, or we force them to change. It think Eagledad's suggestion to review the Goals, Aims, and Methods of Scouting with our boys, particularly the junior leaders, may be a great place to start.


Again, thanks all!



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I would suggest that you have the Scout Handbook handy at the PLC meetings to review, what it says about nutrition, camping and so on. And say in this book you will find the BSA way that cooking/camping should be done.

All of the above has been excellent suggestions, but how will it get the older boys more involved, did I miss something?! They know how to tie knots, light fires, put up a tent, and not all scouts wants to teach new scouts at every campout. Which should be the troop instructors or guide job not the older scouts. If they have been in the troop for 5 years and have attenened half of the campouts that would give them 30 campouts, not incuding high adventures, the campouts are going to become the same thing after a while. Cany you come up with 6 new and different things every year? That would be tied to Scouts?

Something that we are going to try is to have one of the older patrols set up a campout, today the PLC sort of comes up with a plan (needs work). We are going to ask the PLC if a patrol could set up the campout (with a theme) and tie scout skills to the theme. Possibly a contest between patrols. Something new and fun. Not the same old light a fire and burn a string contest.

Hopefully I can get them to use some games from Wood Badge!!?

I am hoping that with some ownership they will come to the campout and have fun.

Hope this helps and I also welcome feedback.


PS: do not take the junk campout away from them! We have one a year which is in a cabin in winter, where the scouts can bring pop, candy, hot dogs, and any electronics they want! The adult leaders hate it, the scouts love it. Maybe you can use this as a carrot to help the other campouts?


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