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Is BSA Sustainable?

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3 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

 

At the Boy Scout level, it's a tad different - but the same principles apply.  Since Boy Scouts is boy led, keeping them together from 11-18 provides a way for boys to grow their leadership skills.  It does though increase the liklihood of boredom in the older boys.  It also sets up some interesting age challenges - 11 years old generally don't hang out with 17 year olds.  So that becomes the challenge we all discuss so often.  How do you provide the leadership and mentoring structure within the troop, but yet also have a program that is challenging and appeals to 15-18 year olds.
 

My experience is a little different. First, 11 year olds will hang out with 17 year olds when they are together in the same activities and program. As for the boredom of older scouts, the key to ALL scouts staying satisfied in the program is challenging them mentally and physically everyday. Boys of this age get bored when their experience doesn't provoke some intellectual and physical stimulation. 

And I'm curious why you don't see leadership and mentoring as the challenge for the scouts. I once poled our 14 and older scouts  (45 of them at the time) to find out how many enjoyed the high adventure part of our program.  14 of the 45 said they enjoyed the high adventure. So, something other than the high adventure kept them coming back.

The key for adults keeping the program challenging is to insure that the scouts are continually making decisions that effects them at the moment. Mix things up a little. Change routines. Challenge them for new activities. Make them think and act. Give them a chance to make bad decisions and learn how to recover. 

I know we talk about younger scouts and older scouts, but I really believe thinking of the program in those terms sets the wrong ideas in the adults. Instead think of the program as challenges for EACH scout. Not all scouts are leaders, but they all should be practicing moral and ethical decision making. 

Truth is the Patrol Method isn't about servant leadership, it's about a servant lifestyle. Leadership is just one aspect of that lifestyle.  We had a scout go to the emergency room because he broke his toe while running through camp. I asked the scouts why he was breaking the rules of no shoes and running if they told him to stop. Well, none of the dozen or so scouts near him said anything. I held those scouts accountable for their bad decisions for not serving that scout by stopping him. Everyone is responsible for each other in a servant lifestyle. 

Every scouts should be expected to make decisions and held accountable for those decisions no matter how small the consequence. The example I use when I taught that principle at SM Specific is the uniform. The Scout Handbook clearly, or did then, states what the scout should wear to a troop meeting. If the scout isn't wearing the correct uniform, then why? Whatever the reason, the scout made a wrong choice. If the scout shows up to the meeting a few minutes late without good reason, he made a wrong choice. If the scout isn't helping the patrol when he is needed, he is making a wrong choice. These are little things, but can start to become habits is not challenged. 

The hard part for the adults in the troop is that it is also a safe place to learn from bad decisions. Instead of forcing a scout to change (hide) his behavior by making him feel bad about himself, the challenge is helping the scout see the advantage of making right choices. Adults can't force a boy to change, only the boy can do that. Adults can shape a program to where the scout, during his scouting experiences, can see himself as he is at the moment and can be in the future. I use the uniform as an example of making right and wrong choices. Many would assume by that statement that our troop would look like a perfectly uniformed troop. Quite the opposite. When scouts are given the freedom to make bad choices, there are many scouts who go through periods of struggle in their choices. Strangely I found that the uniform to be one of the most challenging methods for both adults and scouts when making ehtical decisions. Ironically the challenge for adults is opposite of the scouts. I have found that the best patrol method troops are typically not the most uniform looking troops even though the uniform is expected. 

I'm rambling, sorry.

Barry

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18 hours ago, Jameson76 said:

National wanted short term gain with adding 1st grader in Tigers and now K with Lions.  Burned out will become more commonplace.  And maybe burned out is not the right term but definitely institutional fatigue with the program.  Too much of the same thing, too many constituencies, etc.  Basically a youth joining now will have 6 Pinewood derbies, maybe 50+ pack meetings, and God knows how many Go and Sees at the local whatever.

Big challenge is Cubs and Scouts while within the same organization is really different.  Cubs are more social promotion, lockstep advancement, parents at the ready.  Scouts are the youth driving it, they make decisions, and it is less a "season" (Bear / Wolf / Webelos) it is more a long-term program they grow through

Yup, I can't imagine an additional year as a Cub Scout leader.  

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3 hours ago, Eagledad said:

Role modeling from the older scouts is the foundation of the highest performing patrol method programs. To take that away pretty much kills the boy run aspect of the program because the adults become the role models by default. And that is not the same.

I agree. I just don't call it modeling, I call it magic. It doesn't happen all the time but when it does it is the best that scouts has to offer. Learning duty to others before duty to self can't be any more clear than older scouts helping younger scouts and having fun while doing it. Sure, the older scouts also want their own fun but if that's all they do then it's no different than adults that don't volunteer, that don't learn how to have fun while volunteering, that are only interested in their own fun.

I really respect what UK Scouts has done, their numbers are going up. But I think keeping the 11-18 range together provides a great set of problems/opportunities that have a huge benefit. I can see splitting the cub ages, or pulling out the webelos years and doing something different. @qwazse's idea of overlapping ages is also worth thinking about given the range of maturity levels. But all the 18 year old scouts I talked to about their first impressions of scouting was that they looked up to the older scouts. They had never seen older kids that were kind and respectful to them. They rarely talked about the adults.

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1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

My experience is a little different. First, 11 year olds will hang out with 17 year olds when they are together in the same activities and program. 

Kids are going to generally gravitate towards spending time with those people who they feel at ease and comfortable with.  17 year olds live in a very different world than 11 year olds.  High schoolers live in a different world than middle schoolers.  Sure, they can and do spend time together - but it's different than "hanging out" with friends.

1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

As for the boredom of older scouts, the key to ALL scouts staying satisfied in the program is challenging them mentally and physically everyday. Boys of this age get bored when their experience doesn't provoke some intellectual and physical stimulation. 

And I'm curious why you don't see leadership and mentoring as the challenge for the scouts. I once poled our 14 and older scouts  (45 of them at the time) to find out how many enjoyed the high adventure part of our program.  14 of the 45 said they enjoyed the high adventure. So, something other than the high adventure kept them coming back.

The key for adults keeping the program challenging is to insure that the scouts are continually making decisions that effects them at the moment. Mix things up a little. Change routines. Challenge them for new activities. Make them think and act. Give them a chance to make bad decisions and learn how to recover. 

I think this is the easy to say/hard to do part of Scouting.  Once a 15 year old has been camping 30 times, then what?  Once a 15 year old has been through the core camping skills 3 times, then what?  It seems that in my troop, older Scout activities become a mix of leading the troop, some high adventure trips, and the push to Eagle.  

When we talk about Boy Scouting, particularly for older Scouts, it often becomes a discussion of leadership.  It's as if Boy Scouts becomes a civics laboratory.  I'm sure that there are many boys who thrive on that,  but I expect many do not.  I was looking at the UK Scouts website.  In their program descriptions they have:

Explorer Scouts (14–18)

Explorers are encouraged to lead themselves in deciding the programme and direction of the Unit, with support and guidance from leaders. The section also includes the Young Leaders’ Scheme, where young people are able to take on a leadership role in one of the younger sections.

There is wider scope for activities like offshore sailing, campaigning, performing, parascending, mountaineering and expeditions.

 

This feels about right to me.  If an older scout wants to be a leader of younger scouts - that's great.   But we should be careful not to assume that's the path for all scouts.  So, I'd disagree with your statement: "And I'm curious why you don't see leadership and mentoring as the challenge for the scouts."  But, reword slightly and I'd agree with "And I'm curious why you don't see leadership and mentoring as the challenge for some scouts."

It feels a lot to me like we know how to run a 10.5-13 year old Scout program.  Camping, cooking, outdoor skills, etc.  When the boys get older - some like it so much they stay.  Others like to lead such things and so they stick around.  But, I think lots of troops struggle with what to do for the 14-17 year olds.

  • We try leadership - but it doesn't apply to all.
  • We try high adventure - but then folks say - don't forget the younger guys

This feels like one of those core things we struggle with.

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46 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

Kids are going to generally gravitate towards spending time with those people who they feel at ease and comfortable with.  17 year olds live in a very different world than 11 year olds.  High schoolers live in a different world than middle schoolers.  Sure, they can and do spend time together - but it's different than "hanging out" with friends.

That's true. 

But I have seen younger scouts and older scouts become fast friends because of them sharing a common interest or hobby, particularly if that activity is something that only a few members of the unit might fully appreciate. 

People of very different worlds (ages, backgrounds, intelligence, and maturity) can sometimes find a special niche where they can interact and enjoy each others company as friends and equals.

Scouting encourages boys to develop interests and hobbies, and share them with friends. That's why we have so many different merit badges.

 

Edited by David CO

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15 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

Kids are going to generally gravitate towards spending time with those people who they feel at ease and comfortable with.  17 year olds live in a very different world than 11 year olds.  High schoolers live in a different world than middle schoolers.  Sure, they can and do spend time together - but it's different than "hanging out" with friends.

I was speaking from experience, not idealism. Scouts of the troop age will gravitate towards activities and feel comfortable with the like mind members is the members are sincere in welcome to the group. Forget age and think in terms of experience. Never have I seen this more than where our troop went to play Lazertag. I watch a newly formed patrol of scouts from age 11 to 16 come together within a few minutes because the activity required all them to work as a team or fail. You will also see it in troop activities, but at much slower rate. Ignore age, think in terms of experience.

21 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

I think this is the easy to say/hard to do part of Scouting.  Once a 15 year old has been camping 30 times, then what?  Once a 15 year old has been through the core camping skills 3 times, then what?  It seems that in my troop, older Scout activities become a mix of leading the troop, some high adventure trips, and the push to Eagle.  

I have spoken here many times that the main cause of older scout failure is giving the older scout responsibility in getting the younger scouts to first class (core camping skills). Of course the older scouts will burn out because they are just repeating their first three years. To challenge scouts at the reach maturity, they have to be given responsibilities that challenge them physically and mentally. That means adult responsibilities. The 15 year shouldn't be responsible for getting scouts to first class, they should be responsible for making the program gets them to first class. If that sounds confusing, it basically means they should be doing the adults job.

 

26 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

 

 

Explorer Scouts (14–18)

Explorers are encouraged to lead themselves in deciding the programme and direction of the Unit, with support and guidance from leaders. The section also includes the Young Leaders’ Scheme, where young people are able to take on a leadership role in one of the younger sections.

There is wider scope for activities like offshore sailing, campaigning, performing, parascending, mountaineering and expeditions.

 

This feels about right to me.  If an older scout wants to be a leader of younger scouts - that's great.   But we should be careful not to assume that's the path for all scouts.  So, I'd disagree with your statement: "And I'm curious why you don't see leadership and mentoring as the challenge for the scouts."  But, reword slightly and I'd agree with "And I'm curious why you don't see leadership and mentoring as the challenge for some scouts."

It feels a lot to me like we know how to run a 10.5-13 year old Scout program.  Camping, cooking, outdoor skills, etc.  When the boys get older - some like it so much they stay.  Others like to lead such things and so they stick around.  But, I think lots of troops struggle with what to do for the 14-17 year olds.

  • We try leadership - but it doesn't apply to all.
  • We try high adventure - but then folks say - don't forget the younger guys

This feels like one of those core things we struggle with.

The problem here is that the adults are still driving what the scouts should be, or not be, doing. If the troop is running correctly, it should be running on autopilot with very minimum adult help because the older scouts are running the program.

Troops that struggle with the older scouts generally are not giving all their scouts enough independence to make their own choices. Leadership is different from mentoring. Leadership is an action insuring direction. Mentoring is guidance of growing in maturity.

Boys between the age of 10 and 13 learn 90 percent of their behavior by observing their role models. The design of the scouting program for the older scouts to be the role models. That is why skills courses aren't good teachers of behavior. 

This is where the UK program fails as far as I'm concerned. We found that the 14 and older scouts step into leadership with a great deal of confidence because they mimic what they observed up to the age 14. It's how we are wired. They will tend to lead as their previous leader led and serve as their previous role models served. Scouts who like to serve will choose to push that direction while the scouts who would rather specialize in other activities like high adventure will migrate that direction. Not all scouts want to be leaders, and that is fine. But they will know leadership skills because they have been watching it for several years.

One of the big problems I worked with in units that separated their older scouts from the younger scouts was the complaint that the older scouts didn't have much inititive to lead their program. WELL YES, OF COURSE. They didn't have good role models to learn from. 

I use to teach that if the troop is functioning perfectly, it would never need leadership development classes. That is mainly because the older scouts are leading and the younger scouts are learning all the leadership skills by observing the older scouts. So, if the troop is struggling in an area of leadership, fix the older scouts, not the younger. 

The quality of a troop program should be measured by the oldest scout, not the youngest. Fix the older scout and the younger scout problems will go away.

Barry

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7 hours ago, qwazse said:

@Eagle1993, I've been hearing this UK model touted for decades. It's not very intuitive in my community since the Jr./Sr. High school kids share the same building and, where possible, participate in activities and classes together.

I must again, without any prejudice, remind us that we aren't British.

I would agree!

The current UK structure works because it broadly reflects typical peer groups here, particularly the scouts/explorers distinction. What we call secondary school is aged 11-18 and at most schools there is an element of separation between those in years 7, 8 and 9 (11-14) and those in years 10-13 (14-18) and despite being in the same school with the same teachers they are often referred to as the lower and upper school. Typically school sports teams tend to have year group based teams for years 7-9 with those in year 10 upwards competing for places in the over all school teams.

When scouting was going down hill here the age ranges were not reflecting typical peer groups and that was where things went wrong.

If BSA is going to shuffle its age ranges around they need to reflect American peer groups and not British ones.

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1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

I was speaking from experience, not idealism. Scouts of the troop age will gravitate towards activities and feel comfortable with the like mind members is the members are sincere in welcome to the group. Forget age and think in terms of experience. Never have I seen this more than where our troop went to play Lazertag. I watch a newly formed patrol of scouts from age 11 to 16 come together within a few minutes because the activity required all them to work as a team or fail. You will also see it in troop activities, but at much slower rate. Ignore age, think in terms of experience.

I have spoken here many times that the main cause of older scout failure is giving the older scout responsibility in getting the younger scouts to first class (core camping skills). Of course the older scouts will burn out because they are just repeating their first three years. To challenge scouts at the reach maturity, they have to be given responsibilities that challenge them physically and mentally. That means adult responsibilities. The 15 year shouldn't be responsible for getting scouts to first class, they should be responsible for making the program gets them to first class. If that sounds confusing, it basically means they should be doing the adults job.

 

The problem here is that the adults are still driving what the scouts should be, or not be, doing. If the troop is running correctly, it should be running on autopilot with very minimum adult help because the older scouts are running the program.

Troops that struggle with the older scouts generally are not giving all their scouts enough independence to make their own choices. Leadership is different from mentoring. Leadership is an action insuring direction. Mentoring is guidance of growing in maturity.

Boys between the age of 10 and 13 learn 90 percent of their behavior by observing their role models. The design of the scouting program for the older scouts to be the role models. That is why skills courses aren't good teachers of behavior. 

This is where the UK program fails as far as I'm concerned. We found that the 14 and older scouts step into leadership with a great deal of confidence because they mimic what they observed up to the age 14. It's how we are wired. They will tend to lead as their previous leader led and serve as their previous role models served. Scouts who like to serve will choose to push that direction while the scouts who would rather specialize in other activities like high adventure will migrate that direction. Not all scouts want to be leaders, and that is fine. But they will know leadership skills because they have been watching it for several years.

One of the big problems I worked with in units that separated their older scouts from the younger scouts was the complaint that the older scouts didn't have much inititive to lead their program. WELL YES, OF COURSE. They didn't have good role models to learn from. 

I use to teach that if the troop is functioning perfectly, it would never need leadership development classes. That is mainly because the older scouts are leading and the younger scouts are learning all the leadership skills by observing the older scouts. So, if the troop is struggling in an area of leadership, fix the older scouts, not the younger. 

The quality of a troop program should be measured by the oldest scout, not the youngest. Fix the older scout and the younger scout problems will go away.

Barry

I'd agree with much of what you write here.  But, what if we're asking the wrong question.  What if it's not how to make it work - but whether we should be making it work.

Yes - 11 year olds & 16 year olds will play laser tag together.  But, is that really what your average 16 year old wants?  You can challenge a 15 year old to develop the program to get an 11 year old to first class - but again, is that what your typical 15 year old wants?

Is it that the American program is failing because it is trying to make the Scouting into a leadership lab?

What if the BSA did draw a line at 14 and split the program? 

  • The older boys were forced to go to the older boy program. The younger boys were forced to go to the younger boy program. 
  • We could still do the whole boy led thing for the 11-14 group. 

The older boys are really just focused on leading themselves and developing their own program.  High adventure, high challenge, lots of autonomy. 

The older boys who really like the leadership work could go and be the senior leaders/troop guides in the 11-14 program.  Like den chiefs, but for the 11-14 program.

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13 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

I

Is it that the American program is failing because it is trying to make the Scouting into a leadership lab?

What if the BSA did draw a line at 14 and split the program? 

  • The older boys were forced to go to the older boy program. The younger boys were forced to go to the younger boy program. 
  • We could still do the whole boy led thing for the 11-14 group. 

 

Who is teaching the younger scouts? Who is teaching the older scouts?

My Child psychologist professor friend (also a SM) taught me that the human instinct is to learn our behaviors by observing others until puberty. After reaching puberty, instinct is to serve the pack. In other words use what they learned to serve. Any scouter who has worked with scouts after a new SM takes over will acknowledge that the older scouts don't change. They are who they are and many times Scoutmasters have to split the program to get the older scouts out of the way.

I found that while younger scouts will led if put in that position, they don't learn much from it. They don't really like it. They might learn a few basic managing skills taught to them, but not really much in the way of behavior. On the same line, older scouts are resistant to learning if they have now desire because it's not in their instinct. 

You seem to be resistant to the idea that a troop of scouts from 11 to 17 can't work. It has been working for over 100 years. Why would it not work now? As I said before, if the older scouts are given the responsibilities of adults, they will enjoy the challenges. Part of those adult responsibilities is taking reponsibility of the younger scouts. But, it's not sudden. It has to be developed into the program.

 

Barry

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I'm sure an 11-17 year old troop can work.  So too can a 11-14 and a 15-17 troop.  It's not a question of what can work. 

This is a topic about the sustainability of the BSA's program. 

  • For years we've seen declining membership numbers. 
  • We hear numerous stories about boys becoming less active once high school starts.  We've got another topic now on re-engaging older scouts. 
  • This forum has seen countless topics on how troops are mis-applying the program.  You get the sense that the true "boy led" troop is a pretty rare thing
  • We see story after story about how Venture crews struggle and often just don't work.

When we talk about older boys, we hear that we need to focus on keeping them engaged.  The how usually seems to be some combination of high adventure & leading the troop.  Troops seem to struggle with how to do this and make it work.

The answer to much of this seems to be to double down on the "boy led" program.  If only we need one more training, one more nugget of knowledge from one of the Scouting founders.  But for so many it seems elusive.

The UK and Canada have gone to a split older scout program.  I've got no idea about other countries.  In the UK at least, membership appears to be growing.

But, here in the US, the 11-17 Boy Scout program seem sacrosanct.  Why?

So, in the context of this topic on the future of the BSA, I wonder if the 11-17 year old troop is that important.  Would the scouts be better served letting troops for 11-14 be a bit more adult led?  Let the 11-14 year olds focus on building good patrols and the leaders on being good patrol leaders.

Would we be better served letting the 15-17 year olds focus more on what they enjoy rather than trying to program to the younger scouts?  Let them organize their own troop and focus on peer leadership than wrangling a bunch of 11 & 12 year olds.

Edited by ParkMan
typo on key word :)

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An important question not being asked about the UK scout/explorer division is how many older scouts are there compared to younger scouts. If the program was fantastic you'd expect roughly a 1/1 ratio. You can find those numbers ( http://scouts.org.uk/media/879334/Annual-Report-2016-17_WEB.pdf) and the beaver, cub, and scout divisions all have about the same numbers. The explorer numbers are just above 1/3 the number of scouts so there's a big drop from scouts to explorers. My guess is that's similar to the BSA numbers. I'm not picking on UK Scouts (they do some things much better than we do) I'm just saying splitting scouts in two is not a magic solution. If it were then venturing in the BSA would be much stronger than it is. Venturing is almost exactly what UK explorers are. Coed, 14-21 instead of 14-18. Do what the scouts want. It's collapsing. What scouts want might not be what they need.

My troop's ratio is closer to 2/3 older to younger scouts but I'm sure my troop has more older scouts than most in my district. From what I've seen of other troops we do a better job of working scouts into critical positions. Granted, I'll be the first to admit their leadership has a ways to go but they have fun together. Some of them just want to do high adventure but more of them truly enjoy working with younger scouts.  I'd certainly believe there are troops with as many older scouts as younger scouts and those are the ones with better scout ownership of the troop.

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I definitely like the split in Cub scouts.  There is a big difference between the K5-2 and 3-5 grades.  Perhaps keeping Boy Scouts 11-17 makes sense if BSA puts more effort in making Venturing sustainable.  That gives some older scouts an outlet while perhaps keeping them engaged as leaders in the Scout program.  

When I’ve talked with a few (small sample size) crew leaders, all told me their crews start up with a group of friends, typically with girls, then fizzle our at that group ages out.  The issue is that there is no natural continuous feeder program for Venturing.  One thought is the BSA4G will kill Venturing (as girls can simply join Girl Troops).  There is the other option that Venturing crews could be reinvigorated and can be the pure coed program of older scouts from Boy and Girl Troops. Who knows.  

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5 hours ago, MattR said:

An important question not being asked about the UK scout/explorer division is how many older scouts are there compared to younger scouts. If the program was fantastic you'd expect roughly a 1/1 ratio. You can find those numbers ( http://scouts.org.uk/media/879334/Annual-Report-2016-17_WEB.pdf) and the beaver, cub, and scout divisions all have about the same numbers. The explorer numbers are just above 1/3 the number of scouts so there's a big drop from scouts to explorers. My guess is that's similar to the BSA numbers. I'm not picking on UK Scouts (they do some things much better than we do) I'm just saying splitting scouts in two is not a magic solution. If it were then venturing in the BSA would be much stronger than it is. Venturing is almost exactly what UK explorers are. Coed, 14-21 instead of 14-18. Do what the scouts want. It's collapsing. What scouts want might not be what they need.

My troop's ratio is closer to 2/3 older to younger scouts but I'm sure my troop has more older scouts than most in my district. From what I've seen of other troops we do a better job of working scouts into critical positions. Granted, I'll be the first to admit their leadership has a ways to go but they have fun together. Some of them just want to do high adventure but more of them truly enjoy working with younger scouts.  I'd certainly believe there are troops with as many older scouts as younger scouts and those are the ones with better scout ownership of the troop.

There's no easy answer to the drop off.

Stay on rates are improving but they are still a long way from where we'd like them to be. A few thoughts though.

Aged 14 means moving from year 9 to year 10 at school where they start studying for GCSE exams. The pressure on them in terms of school work ramps up significantly and only gets worse as they get closer to exams at 16 and then A level exams at 18. Many teenagers have to let something go in terms of extra curricular activities, for some that means scouts/explorers.

Image - the image of scouting has improved signifcantly in recent years but it's still a long way from where we'd like it to be. I don't know how we deal with that.

Structure - explorers is typically run at district level which means moving from a scout group a scout may have been at from age 6 and is all they have ever known to a different location with different adult leaders with scouts coming from different troops. It's unsettling.

Snowball effect - the drop off means there are fewer explorer units than scout troops so typically they have to travel further when they move up which makes it less convenient which results in further drop offs. There is an increasingly argument to moving explorers back to group level.

Ian may have other comments as Explorers are more his thing than mine!

Although in better news I have two Young Leaders with me who previously quit main stream explorers and decided to come back as YLs.

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1 hour ago, Cambridgeskip said:

Ian may have other comments as Explorers are more his thing than mine!

Well, yes, okay then, all that cambridge skip says is true. There's also in some troops a drop out towards the end of scouts, this can be for many reasons, peer/life pressure from outside scouting, having nothing to look forward to (as they don't want to join Explorers or it's not close or whatever), or don't enjoy being a PL. There was the same drop-off, in my experience, in the old UK age ranges when scouts went up to 15.5 not 14.

Of course, in the UK, you split into scouts and explorers, and that means it's 13 year olds leading 10 year olds, not 17 year olds leading 11 year olds. In explorers, while you can run as "patrols", and some units do, most do not, and just split into teams as and when needed, there isn't so much of the hierarchy, but more of a collaboration. Very different to the US as I understand it. 

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15 hours ago, ParkMan said:

I'm sure an 11-17 year old troop can work.  So too can a 11-14 and a 15-17 troop.  It's not a question of what can work. 

This is a topic about the sustainability of the BSA's program. 

  • For years we've seen declining membership numbers. 
  • We hear numerous stories about boys becoming less active once high school starts.  We've got another topic now on re-engaging older scouts. 
  • This forum has seen countless topics on how troops are mis-applying the program.  You get the sense that the true "boy led" troop is a pretty rare thing
  • We see story after story about how Venture crews struggle and often just don't work.

When we talk about older boys, we hear that we need to focus on keeping them engaged.  The how usually seems to be some combination of high adventure & leading the troop.  Troops seem to struggle with how to do this and make it work.

The answer to much of this seems to be to double down on the "boy led" program.  If only we need one more training, one more nugget of knowledge from one of the Scouting founders.  But for so many it seems elusive.

The UK and Canada have gone to a split older scout program.  I've got no idea about other countries.  In the UK at least, membership appears to be growing.

But, here in the US, the 11-17 Boy Scout program seem sacrosanct.  Why?

So, in the context of this topic on the future of the BSA, I wonder if the 11-17 year old troop is that important.  Would the scouts be better served letting troops for 11-14 be a bit more adult led?  Let the 11-14 year olds focus on building good patrols and the leaders on being good patrol leaders.

Would we be better served letting the 15-17 year olds focus more on what they enjoy rather than trying to program to the younger scouts?  Let them organize their own troop and focus on peer leadership than wrangling a bunch of 11 & 12 year olds.

I tend to agree, although I'd go a bit further even.  We're also constantly complaining about 14-year old Eagles and the like.  I'd move Star, Life and Eagle, plus merit badges into the older program exclusively.  The middle-school program could focus on 1st class skills.  Summer camp for the 11-13-year old youth could actually be patrol-orienteed (today our patrol is going to the waterfront and shooting sports, tomorrow...) rather than running off individually to merit badge classes.    The youth that want Eagle would stay in the older program and could pursue the path, those that just wanted adventure would be able to pursue that as well.  Camps could run separate weeks for the older youth that focused on MBs and/or Adventure activities.

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