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Lenore Skenazy, who wrote the book Free Range Kids about just letting kids play more rather than all the structure/school work, helped start a new program called Let Grow,  which is about setting up more play at schools. There's more info at letgrow.org (there's a free chapter in a second edition of her book at https://letgrow.org/free-chapter/ about how to set up a program at schools - K-8) but anyone here could have written it. Kids learning to be social, solve problems, help out younger kids, be self sufficient, gain confidence and, most importantly, have a lot of fun. It also explicitly calls out the challenge of forcing adults to back off. It targets a different age group than scouts but there are a lot of similarities. Kids are in an environment where they're let free to figure it all out. Adults are around for safety only. One other important point is that where they've set this up at schools there tends to be waiting lines for kids to get in.

What struck me about this is that the niche that the BSA supposedly has, the outdoors, is just wasted not only because of adults crowding out the kids abilities to learn how to make decisions, but that the advancement program is a major black hole of  time, creativity and fun.

Maybe it's time for the BSA to eat crow and admit they don't have it all figured out.

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I am really big on no structure on unit campouts.  Especially Pack campouts.  Have set meal times. maybe an organized hike during the day, but let em go play in the woods and do what they dont get to

Lenore Skenazy, who wrote the book Free Range Kids about just letting kids play more rather than all the structure/school work, helped start a new program called Let Grow,  which is about setting up m

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In my experience, advancement is only a "black hole" if advancement is a high priority of the troop. Some troop push advancement more than others. Ours does not. I'd like to think we do a pretty good job at being boy-led. That means we sometimes end up with a 3rd year scout who is still tenderfoot. We had one of those a few years ago, yet he still managed to finish Eagle (it was a heart-attack Eagle, but he did finish!). It has to be up to the scout, and to some extent the parents of course, on how important advancement is for them. Or at the least look for a troop that doesn't push advancement if that isn't likely going to work out well for the scout. 

They all mature at different rates and have different priorities and interests. The program is flexible enough to recognize that, when used properly.

 

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I absolutely agree and this thread consolidates comments share repeatedly on this board.

Example ... I often wonder about the good and bad of the MB program.  I'd almost rather see a program where if you go on the troop canoe trip for 25+ miles (with a bit of coaching and skill dev) the scout gets the Canoeing MB.  It does not mean you need MB workbooks or sit-down class rooms.  The only sit down should be in the canoe with the SM in the next canoe coaching the scouts on what a J stroke is and sneaking in terms for the scout to learn.  ... Same with camping.  If the scout camps with the troop at summer camp and enough other camps, the SM and other leaders should be able to sneak in the skills and get the scout the MB.  The scout should be able to also ask what he needs to do to earn the badge.  BUT, it should also be given when the requirements are complete ... even if the scout doesn't know it.  That way ... the scout can focus on the fun and activity without tracking the ugly details.  

A little of both with the option for either is a nice thing.  

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11 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

I absolutely agree and this thread consolidates comments share repeatedly on this board.

Example ... I often wonder about the good and bad of the MB program.  I'd almost rather see a program where if you go on the troop canoe trip for 25+ miles (with a bit of coaching and skill dev) the scout gets the Canoeing MB.  It does not mean you need MB workbooks or sit-down class rooms.  The only sit down should be in the canoe with the SM in the next canoe coaching the scouts on what a J stroke is and sneaking in terms for the scout to learn.  ... Same with camping.  If the scout camps with the troop at summer camp and enough other camps, the SM and other leaders should be able to sneak in the skills and get the scout the MB.  The scout should be able to also ask what he needs to do to earn the badge.  BUT, it should also be given when the requirements are complete ... even if the scout doesn't know it.  That way ... the scout can focus on the fun and activity without tracking the ugly details.  

A little of both with the option for either is a nice thing.  

Now you have made me suffer my tauma of flunking canoeing a number of times due to never mastering the J-stroke.  But, I did get sympathy from a row boat full of cute girls on Jenks Lake at old Camp Arataba summer of 1959..  They offered to rescue me while I was swamping my canoe in the middle of the lake before eventually paddling back to shore in my zig-zag pattern that doomed me.🙂  Oh well, I get there; just not in a straight line.  That included war canoes on Catalina; though there were others to make up for me.

 

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1 hour ago, sierracharliescouter said:

In my experience, advancement is only a "black hole" if advancement is a high priority of the troop. Some troop push advancement more than others. Ours does not. I'd like to think we do a pretty good job at being boy-led. That means we sometimes end up with a 3rd year scout who is still tenderfoot. We had one of those a few years ago, yet he still managed to finish Eagle (it was a heart-attack Eagle, but he did finish!). It has to be up to the scout, and to some extent the parents of course, on how important advancement is for them. Or at the least look for a troop that doesn't push advancement if that isn't likely going to work out well for the scout. 

They all mature at different rates and have different priorities and interests. The program is flexible enough to recognize that, when used properly.

Yep, agree. I would say the majority of our Eagles don't get serious about it until at least 15. They are having too much fun. We have a lot of 17 year old ECOHs.

Barry

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Going to play Devil's Advocate, so bear with me. I do like some program on camp outs. I want it stuff that the Scouts wants to do. BUT I want it also flexible enough that we can leave it out, or change it around as needed. Also want some down time where the Scouts can goof off, play guitar, etc.

Reason why I say that is we had a lock in with no plans except dinner, SMCs so I can get to know my Scouts better, and prepare for our 100th anniversary. It was a mess with the Scouts themselves complaining about lack of organization. 

As for having fun, if it is not fun, no one will stay around, especially after earning Eagle. I've seen too many folks get Eagle and leave over the years because they are in it because of their parents. The ones having fun tend to stick around until they age out. 

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This is pretty much how we run our program.  No advancement focused outings (though we do things on outings that shockingly can be used), and time for unstructured activities.

At summer camp we have them do the MB classed in the morning, after lunch, go have fun.  Every summer we have to talk some parents down off the ledge that summer camp fun is measured by completed merit badges.  That's not how this works (or shoudn't)

Typically some activity in the morning, like hike a gorge, kayak, wide game, etc.  Afternoon are options to continue, nap., go beat on stuff with sticks.

Non structured play is almost a lost art these days

16 minutes ago, Eagle94-A1 said:

Reason why I say that is we had a lock in with no plans except dinner,

For our lock-in, kids bring TV's, games, etc and they have at it all night.  We only have (as scheduled items) dinner, second dinner, dodgeball, dodgeball again and that's about it.  The rest is open fun.  They play video game until we kick them out at 8:00 am

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39 minutes ago, Jameson76 said:

This is pretty much how we run our program.  No advancement focused outings (though we do things on outings that shockingly can be used), and time for unstructured activities.

At summer camp we have them do the MB classed in the morning, after lunch, go have fun.  Every summer we have to talk some parents down off the ledge that summer camp fun is measured by completed merit badges.  That's not how this works (or shoudn't)

Typically some activity in the morning, like hike a gorge, kayak, wide game, etc.  Afternoon are options to continue, nap., go beat on stuff with sticks.

Non structured play is almost a lost art these days

 

Us to, but we found the 15 an older scouts are getting serious about Eagle and go more for the MBs. Not that they don't have fun, we plan a lot of troop activities within the summer camp program like our own campfire and shooting sports or something. And we usually do something fun on the way home like river rafting, Six Flags or something between camp and home. 90% of our 15 and older scouts keep going to summer camp. 

Barry

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Coincidentally I was driving my son and his friend home from school today. My son left scouts this year; his friend stayed and is about to Eagle. His older brother made Eagle last year and is now out. My son liked to camp, hike, hang with friends, and do outdoors stuff. He was not at all interested in meetings and merit badges. His friend is the same, but his family has made both him and his brother stay in. They, like most of the parents in the unit, are focused on Eagle to put on college applications, which is why they both need to be done with it by sophomore year. He's not having fun and can't wait to be done.  I think the Eagle Scout rank has been both a blessing and a curse for scouts. 

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10 minutes ago, InquisitiveScouter said:

Concur...I encourage them to shoot for the National Outdoor Awards.  https://www.scouting.org/programs/scouts-bsa/advancement-and-awards/noa/

Eagle Scout has become too academic...all training, little to no experience.

We can't get kids (or parents) to devote any time to anything that isn't directly related to Eagle. The only way would be to make this the Eagle Scout advancement path instead. Which I would wholeheartedly support. 

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5 hours ago, yknot said:

  I think the Eagle Scout rank has been both a blessing and a curse for scouts. 

Very true.  The Eagle Scout rank should be the OUTCOME of a quality Scouting program at the unit level, not the GOAL of the program.  Many of our Scouts are 16 /17 and realize, wow, going to camp and outing lo these many years, and doing some of the troop offered MB classes (scheduled before the regular meeting), I've pretty much completed this Eagle thing.  Just need a few merit badges and the project. 

Now, if you could get a 17 year old to not procrastinate on the final items to wrap it up.....

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9 hours ago, yknot said:

We can't get kids (or parents) to devote any time to anything that isn't directly related to Eagle. The only way would be to make this the Eagle Scout advancement path instead. Which I would wholeheartedly support. 

While I agree with the sentiment, using this as the path will ultimately just water it down to checkboxes too. 

IMO the number one problem is one&done requirements coupled with working on specific rank reqs simultaneously. This encourages lack of growth. Instead of the step-wise nature of requirements growing in complexity and skill, scouts do something once and "get it signed off in 3 different ranks". Yes, Scouters are not following the GTA, they are using the training as the requirement, and not testing. Advancement and the requirements are a process, not a single step and should encourage growth not stagnation.

 

#gettingoffmysoapbox

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