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This topic came up on another thread that I started, and thought it would be interesting to see what other groups do regarding the BSA monthly themes that they put out.


At our annual planning meeting, I provide the "suggested" themes from BSA and allow our boys to pick the themes they want to do. Typically, we do most of the themes that BSA comes out with, just in different months than they have shown. The exception this year is we have added First Aid for a theme in February.


Any other thoughts out there?



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The operating advantage of following the themes is the various Scouting resources which the Council is obliged to furnish under the Charter Agreement:


- Boy's Life

- Scouting

- Roundtable

- Program Helps


... all follow the National Program.


If your PLC under your mentorship veers away from this, then you are locally responsible for finding the program support, rather than having resources placed at hand.


September RT, October Program is Athletics. We happen to have an NFL referee in our district. He's bringing his "show and tell." For our Skill Enhancement, we're bringing in the local cyclery to discuss selecting a bike, a local rider to discuss various bike/camp combinations in a 2 hour drive from our District, and the MB Corner will by Bicycling, to ensure Scouters understand current requirements (since it seems National is doing requirements changes on a 4 year cycle now).


All this is backburnered if a Troop decides to do something else in October.


My experience is a well-designed unit implementation of the program makes things "not lame," rather cool!


One year cooking was the theme. We had three weeks of Patrol Iron Chef competition: One week with backpacking food, one week with Dutch Ovens, and one week with a full patrol kitchen.


The more front-end the SM can do as the program officer in helping seed ideas to the PLC, the better the program will go.


I guess my point is if you choose not to use the resources BSA gives the unit serving Scouter, don't complain that your District and Council are not supporting you!


(Backstory: We just did District Roundtable annual program implementation meeting. We looked at the surveys: Waaayyy too many said "why did you do special cooking in November. Our Troop theme for December was..." SMs were somewhat chagrined when the DC told them his job was to furnish 1 sample program not 58 (yes, we have 58 Troops in our District).(This message has been edited by John-in-KC)

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I am one of those that thinks we need to allow the PLC (at scout level) pick the themes with in certain guidelines. That does not mean that we don't present them with the pre-made themes, and some times they do go with them and alter them or use them as is, other time they go on their own.


There are thousands of places to find ideas, and things to do. Online and off line. Like in our Troop one month the theme was Cycling, one of our adults found out a Olympic cyclist was in our area, we contacted that person who came out did stuff with the Scouts. Another time it was Caving and we found the local "Grotto" (caving) club who had several members come out and teach the scouts about caving and even arrange to take them into two safe caves as part of a campout. Don't get me wrong most of the time the older scouts teach the younger scouts, but their are times when it is better or do to safety and expert is needed.


The big thing is no matter the level they need to be doing something different all the time, have no dead time when they can get into trouble, have lots of chances to learn new things with out knowing and most of all beyond everything else it most be fun.


I am a big believer in KISMIF (keep it simple make it fun) and "Control through activity" meaning you they are always doing something and don't know they are learning something, completing a requirement, and just as importantly don't have time to get into mischief.


Anyway I am babbling on again ... as always just my wacky 2 cents...


Scott Robertson


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Our monthly campouts and weekly troop meetings follow no theme at all.


In our allegedly "boy-led" troop, the PLC (and the guys in general) have no clue what to do about camp-out activities if left to their own. So the adults step-in and take over all program planning (like I said, we're "boy-led" in name only).


The problem is, the boys have never been taught how to plan anything, other than a campout menu. They've never been taught how to plan and run a troop meeting, a PLC meeting, or a campout (other than cooking).


Twice I've asked to be included in the annual program planning meeting, and I've been told it hasn't been scheduled yet. Our troop plans its program on a calendar year basis, rather than a school year, so although we normally do our program plan in August, there's still time to get it done. I think the current SM (he's stepping down in October) wants to get the new PLC elected and let them plan the year (elections are in September).


Assuming I'm not barred from the program planning meeting, I plan to show the boys the monthly themes and the Troop Program Features (which I doubt they've ever seen) and see for myself how much real planning the boys are allowed to do vs. how much the adults take over.


Wish me luck . . .

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fgoodwin, yeah I have heard of such problems many times ... it sounds like you are trying to head in the right direction... remind the SM or who ever controls the annual planner that Scouting is not a secret organization and all meetings most be open to parents, etc...


2nd, don't only introduce them to program feature, but other resources out there too some Scouting some not...


3rd, my dad (our scoutmaster) has put together a packet of sorts the PLC uses which has some of the data pre worked out like when holidays are, district and council events, school things, etc... so that they can be worked around. Also as part of this packet is a list of "approved" themes that they can pick from, usually around 30... some have a * next to them and they are required to include at least say 4 of those base skill themes that are needed every year. The PLC get to pick when the themes happen in the year. Then at the monthly PLC meetings they plan out the details. After the annual planner the SPL reports to the committee with their plan and seeks approval. Of course this often takes a rewrite on the PLC's part because they want to go some where to far away or go back pack Death Valley in July.... but they learn from ... things like hey lets go paint ball shooting or fly an aircraft for aviation month the SM will stop because of safety / BSA policy issues ...


4th and very important make sure your PLC and for that matter adult leaders get trained. The Troop Level Youth Leader Training is a good place to start. The NYLT course is also awesome (I have been on staff for 2 NYLT's).


The big thing is you have to step back and let them fall a few times, until they see you will not be doing it for them or stepping in to "save" them they will not do it themselves. Yes, obviously you will need many "emergency backup plans" but you need to be careful you don't offer them to fast or readily, just enough to keep things moving forward and the transformation process as invisible to the younger scouts as possible.


Anyways I have stuck my big wacky nose out again, and hope it was at least some what useful...


Scott Robertson


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One thing that John brought up was the resources that the council/district is supposed to provide. Our RTs have nothing to do with the theme for the month. We talk about general program issues but not anything about specific themes. I find it interesting that John's RT does talk about themes.


Like fgoodwin, our troop never had any theme based meetings or campouts until I became SM. Last year was our first attempt at annual planning with the themes and that was an improvement, although we didn't always follow the themes. This year was a drastic improvement. The PLC felt much more comfortable with what they were doing and they were really into the themes that were picked out. Since we put the schedule out for the year, I have had several adults AND scouts say they are looking forward to the year.



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Following is a direct quote from the Boy Scout Roundtable Guide, BSA Publication 18-942B:


"The mission of the Boy Scout roundtable is to provide quality resources, knowledge, and skills to unit leaders to enable and motivate them to deliver an outstanding program to their Scout troops. Roundtables focus on program highlights for upcoming months, not on the current month.


"As you develop a vision for your district roundtables, keep it focused on generating fun, excitement, and practical Scouting skills. Learning by doing and watching, not just listening, is essential. Scouters want to be active participants. When these ingredients are present, roundtable attendance will grow."


If your Roundtable is not delivering the promise, you as SM together with your COR should be making lively comments to the DE, DC, SE, and Council Commissioner. Program support is part of the contract (license/charter) Scouting makes with your Chartered Partner


In fact, here is what BSA, through the Council, contracts to provide the Chartered Partner (BSA 18-182P):

The council agrees to


Respect the aims and objectives of the organization and offer the resources of Scouting to help in meeting those objectives.


Provide year-round training, service, and program resources to the organization and its unit(s).


Provide training and support for the chartered organization representative as the primary communication link between the organization and the BSA.


Provide techniques and methods for selecting quality unit leaders and then share in the approval process of those leaders. (The Scout executive or designee must approve all leader applications.)


Provide primary general liability insurance to cover the chartered organization, its board, officers, chartered organization representative, employees and volunteers currently registered with Boy Scouts of America. Coverage is provided with respect to claims arising out of an official Scouting activity with the exception that the coverage is excess over any insurance which may be available to the volunteer for loss arising from the ownership, maintenance, or

use of a motor vehicle or watercraft. This insurance is only available while the vehicle or watercraft is in the actual use of a Scouting unit and being used for a Scouting purpose.


The insurance provided unregistered Scouting volunteers through the BSA general liability insurance program is excess over any other

insurance the volunteer might have to his or her benefit, usually a homeowners, personal liability, or auto liability policy.


Provide camping facilities, a service center, and a full-time professional staff to assist the organization in every way possible.

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John-in-KC wrote after quoting from National Regs:


"If your Roundtable is not delivering the promise, you as SM together with your COR should be making lively comments to the DE, DC, SE, and Council Commissioner. Program support is part of the contract (license/charter) Scouting makes with your Chartered Partner."


John, I guess then I'm a failure as a Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner. We have never followed the suggested national themes for upcoming months, except by coincidence. Up here in the Maine Wilderness, most units use Troop Program Resources (formerly Woods Wisdom), which is an expanded version of the themes printed every month in Scouting Magazine. The Troops choose their own themes for their unit during the Troop's Annual Planning meeting and use TPR to make it work. We have roughly 40 troops and it would be rare to find more then 2 using the same theme in a given month.


In our May (last of the 'year') Roundtable, we hold a "Troop Annual Planning Meeting" where the Scoutmasters/ASM's/COR's/other leaders present act as the patrol leaders. They throw-out themes/ideas they or others in their unit want to learn about in the coming year. They then determine which month we'll concentrate on which theme. It has worked quite well for us for the past 10 or so years (I've served as BS-RTC for the paste six of those). By allowing the leaders who attend roundtable to choose their program, we're setting the example they are to follow in their own units. We've had the full support of our district's key three (DE, Chair and Commissh) in how we're running it. If I didn't have their support, I wouldn't still be in this position.


We're a large, rural district and average 75% unit representation (roughly 35 leaders) every month at our roundtables. We must be doing something right that's bringing people back every month (some of whom drive 2 hours one-way on rough back roads and dodge moose on the way to attend!), despite not following what National says we're suppose to be doing. (shrug)


I guess I'll have to announce next May that we've been doing things wrong, they can't choose what they want to learn in the coming year, and then I'll need to resign my position since they will riot on me. :) (chuckle)

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In spite of Council thinking I'm an FOS presenter,


The first and foremost job I have as a District level Scouter is to serve the front-line unit leaders. In my case, I'm an RT staffer reporting to an RT Commish. In my district, she is considered an ADC by the DE, the DC, and the District Chairman, as are the Venturing and Cub Scout RT Commissioners.


Our charter, as told us by those who approve our apps year to year, is "prepare leaders by providing program resources. Follow the National plan. It's the contract between Scouting and the Chartered Partners."


If your Key 3, and the units you serve, consider you to be meeting the promise, then keep doing what you're doing by all means. Whatever works isn't a bad philosophy.


OTOH, pargolf44067 said: One thing that John brought up was the resources that the council/district is supposed to provide. Our RTs have nothing to do with the theme for the month. We talk about general program issues but not anything about specific themes.


To me, his District RT is not delivering the promise to the unit and the Chartered Partner as the contract defines it. Hence, I believe he has a right to ask for the resources he's supposed to be given.


YIS :)

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My troop uses the BSA's themes, but not in sync with the BSA and not strictly by month either. The PLC picks a theme for a campout or outing for that month and then plans the meetings leading up to it to prepare. The theme is dependent on when the campout/outing is and not by what month it is.


If there is a campout planned for the middle of the month with a cooking theme, the three or four meetings leading up to it have that same theme and the boys plan skills instruction, patrol meetings and activities in preparation for that campout. This really helps the boys better plan out the weekly meetings and keeps them focused on the task at hand.


What my troop does falls in line with the BSA's Troop Program Features, which show ideas for four weeks of themed meetings leading up to an outing of the same theme. But my outings are not always at the end of the month, so I have to break away from a monthly theme. Perhaps the BSA's intent is for us to apply it's monthly theme to the outing and not the meetings?

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I think we should focus the theme to the outing.


I also think we should backward plan from the outing date. To be able to do X on the Y of April, we have to complete:


A by G of March


B by H of April


C by J of April


It's a great time and process tool that I've noticed a fair number of Eagle Candidates have not encountered before...


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The backward planning is also a great finance plan. Instead of making payments to a credit card - make payments to a savings account and go buy it with cash. You save finance charges - make smaller payments - earn interest while you are building up enough to buy the item and have the opportunity to look for and negotiate a deal.


All things I wish I had started doing earlier...and of course it's only backward planning in todays credit crazy culture.

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