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Keeping Older Scouts Interested in Troop Meetings

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Can you give any advice/experience regarding what a troop can do to keep older Scouts (high school age) interested in the troop meetings? We've put them into a Venture patrol, which they seem to like.

 

We're finding that they are tiring of always teaching younger Scouts the Tenderfoot to First Class skills. I think they want to learn too.

 

Should we focus on teaching them more advanced skills? If so, any suggestions on skills we might teach?

 

Should we offer them some of the more unusual/fun merit badges to broaden their experience? Its my understanding that its considered "bad form" to offer merit badges during troop meetings.

 

Any advice you have is welcome!! Thanks.

 

BTW, I'm an ASM and Advancement Coordinator, and the SM & I have been discussing this issue and trying to brainstorm.

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Skills are important, but boring without any proper practical application. The meetings should be geared toward planning or preparing for an outing or adventure every month - selecting menus, mapping hiking routes, practicing survival-shelter construction.

 

You may find that the Venture Patrol wants to go off on its own, away from the "little kids," or that it can do some independent activities at troop campouts. The activities they choose will guide the skills they learn.

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Last year we finally got to where we had the horses to offer two programs during the troop meetings. The program for the new Scout patrol was generally run by the Troop Guides. We've found that unless your Troop Guides really enjoy working with the younger guys, that they were burning out a bit, too. This year we're stepping up the plan with the Troop Instructors to help with the NSP programs.

 

The instruction time for the older guys tends to have a heavier adult involvement. For instance, we had the grandfather of one of the guys in the troop teach Oceanography. The guys is a retired college biology professor and used to teach at Woods Hole, so it was very, very interesting. I taught a three week series on using UTM map coordinates and GPS units. I really though I had over shot the mark on the UTM stuff, but I gave thems some practical map activities to work through and they nailed it.

 

Of almost 50 boys in the troop, I only have three 16 or 17 and they are pretty low maintenance. Two have been SPL recently. That and Eagle projects have kept them busy. But we really have gotten to the point of having a large group of high school junior and seniors to worry about.

 

We do have a provision in the troop for a Venture/Leadership patrol, but I'm insisting that it be totally Scout-driven. So far, not takers.

 

I also think you have to look outside the troop to engage older Scouts though OA, Philmont, NOAC and Jamboree. I started to get some of the "I'm bored/My son is bored" stuff about a year ago, which was when we put together the plan for the Venture/Leadership patrol. To a large degree, we put it back on the boys and their parents. If they wanted to step the program up a notch, they were going to have to put the effort into it. This ain't Tiger Cubs and it ain't a guide service. They want to to the high-end activities, the Scouts and their parents need to step to the plate.

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after one or two treks at Philmont, you might suggest they consider Trail Crew or Rayado.

are they interested in field biology? tell them about the Hornaday medal. a patrol week out west at Boulder Outdoor Survival School may interest them.

It's hard. They are about 16, and the rest of the troop is about 12. this is too wide an age spread for one troop fits all

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Are they planning their activities?

 

Our older Scouts planned trips to pro sports games (for the entire Troop). They looked a t calendars, costs, trnsportation, lodging, etc and put together trips for the whole trip to do.

We held a monthly camp-out - Star and above only - at a site just for them. They did pioneering projects, dutch oven cooking, wilderness survival, direction finding/navigation, etc. Then THEY went back to the troop to incorporate it into the patrols or next Troop campout.

We appointed "Special Outings" functions to our senior Scouts, whitewater rafting once, trip to Grand Canyon another, horsemanship at a nearby ranch, another, etc. The outings were from the PLC but we had the senior Scouts go out and get details and plan. They briefed the SPL and SM. This was difficult at first but with guidance and froms to make sure everything was covered, before lon they were very successful and felt like they owned the program - SUCCESS!

Three of our Scouts went to NOAC, two went to National Jambo, one worked staff at Summer Camp,we moved Summer Camp out of Council to one that offered a range of activities for the younger and older Scouts, etc.

It can be difficult. What do your older Scouts WANT to do? Maybe there's an interest in auto mechanics or rappeling or aviation or...

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Doesn't sound very boy led to me.

 

How are the Patrols organized? Same age? Same Pack? Same school?

 

Are you camping monthly? Are the Patrols acting independently of the troop?

 

Yes generally it is bad form to offer merit badges during meetings.

 

IMHO One of the most important aspects of the Merit Badge program has absolutely nothing to do with the Merit Badge topic. I discourage Troops from developing their own internal merit badge councilor lists. The scout must call the councilor, hopefully an unknown adult, on his own and arrange an appointment, remember the buddy system please.

 

SM and advancement chairs want to make this easier than it should be.

 

An Eagle scout should encounter somewhere around 100 different adults on his journey and around 20 are merit badge councilors.

 

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perhaps this is being a somdomistic necrophiliac equestrian, but doesnt the BSA reccomend that a scout meeting have three parts with activities for the new Scout Patrol, The experienced scouts and then the Venture Patrol. Would not such a set up take care of the Older scout issue as the meetings are planned with activities in mind for them?

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Let me start by asking the question of why we dont ask the question of adults getting tired of working with younger scouts? What do the adults do different?

 

Then I would like to propose that older scouts are adults, not boys. I will also point out that a 12 year old boy is a really different person from a 14 or 15 year old man.

 

If the adults are treating the 15 year olds with the same aspect of the 12 year olds, there is going to be problems. I think the BSA attempted to attack the problem with Venture Patrols, but that doesnt help at all because the takes the older scouts away from the troop program, it doesnt enhance it. That is not to say the Adventure patrols arent good for the troop, but they shouldnt be done in a way that it segregates the program.

 

A lot of what causes these problem is the adults give the older scouts the task of working with the younger scouts without the responsibility of accountability. They are basically doing what the adults tell them to do. The older scouts arent being allowed to inject their ideas and solutions to the program the same as the adults, and they arent given the expectation of serving the younger scouts so that they are better scouts when they get older. The older scouts are being sent in as baby sitters and that is not boy run.

 

Here is a few things to remember. Younger scouts learn the most and learn the fastest by watching older scouts in action, not by going to classes. Classes to me include New Scout Patrols. Send the older scout away, and the younger scouts growth slows down a lot. And they don't gain the skills to lead younger socuts when they get older.

 

Older scouts by nature are very servant oriented when they are given independent responsibility. I have found that scouts 14 and younger are terrible troop guides. I never had a good one. On the other side, I find that 16 year old and older scouts are great troop guides. Ive never had a bad one. The difference is puberty. Young scout by nature are self serving because that is an instinctive protection mechanism. Let the younger scouts watch and learn from the olders scouts, not the adults. Older scouts need to really run the program so the younger scouts learn by watching.

 

In general, give older scouts a stake in their responsibility for the troop performance and you find a scout who wants to work as an adult. I find that scouts teamed up with an adult can do great thing provided the adult doesnt try to dominate the team. The adults should take the approach as advisor and cheer the scout to lead new ideas. I found that scouts have great ideas and dreams, but they aren't use to adults letting them act out on those ideas and dreams. And yes, we adults are terrible at letting them try because we can't stand failure. But working as a team can change that. Isnt that what we adults do anyways.

 

At one point in our program 40% of our scouts where 14 and older. I once took a poll and found that most of those scouts liked the idea of joining a High Adventure Patrol, but had no interest in the high adventure part of the patrol activities. They just wanted an identity of being something different than the 12 year olds. If you really want to get the older scouts more engaged, they are going to have to be welcomed as adults but the adults. Its not easy, it takes practice and a significant attitude change by everyone. A good start is pulling in the older scouts in with the adults and ask the group for new idea to make the troop more fun for all the scouts. The SM will have to keep interjecting the responsibilities of the program like teaching scouts skills and working with the new scouts. But eventually, the team will try some new ideas. The older scouts and the adults will work together to make the program better for all the scouts.

 

Barry

 

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Don't offer them anything. Ask them what they want to do and then let them do it. I'm sure none of their ideals for activities include teaching knots for the 100th time or going to the local summer camp for the 5th time in a row, etc. etc.

 

Call them on it. If you don't like what's being done in the troop, then make plans to do what you want to do. If they say they want to go to a camp half way across the continent next summer, the standard answer is: "Great, sounds like fun, can I go and when do you plan on leaving?"

 

We promise them opportunity but do we ever deliver?

 

Stosh

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I think the BSA attempted to attack the problem with Venture Patrols, but that doesnt help at all because the takes the older scouts away from the troop program, it doesnt enhance it. That is not to say the Adventure patrols arent good for the troop, but they shouldnt be done in a way that it segregates the program.

 

Barry,

 

Respectfully disagree. We had about a full year of the total integration/everyone together program with the older Scouts teaching Scoutcraft just about each meeting. It resulted in about 1/2 of the 15yo+ guys leaving for a Venture Crew or Scouting altogether.

 

Scouts are there for the adventure and experience. Too many boys in this age group felt that just teaching skills = babysitting. Sorry to be blunt buts thats what was conveyed by the older boys when our troop had a melt down. It sure opened our eyes.

 

As a result we took a tack akin to what OGE mentioned. The format of the meeting is broken into different segments to appeal to different age groups and skill levels. This keeps everyone engaged and common interests satisfied. Older guys still teach buts its on a volunteer basis and usually involves a point of pride. As a result our retention rate has gone up significantly, the Troop looks and feels more Boy led and there is less stress on the Scoutmaster Corps.

 

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Why do the 16-17 year olds have to teach the 11 year olds? Why can't this be done with the 11-14 year olds? Aren't the 11/14's the ones needing the POR's and should be training? The older boys should not be taking opportunity from the middle group leaving them with no leadership skills.

 

Venture patrol is an excellent opportunity to keep older boys 16/17. Used improperly it will serve no purpose at all.

 

"You can have a VP if you teach the younger boys". Yeah right, that works. I'd of gone along with that one.

 

"You need to be Life scout, have specific merit badges, sing, have scout pants, be a former SPL, OA vigil, and own your own canoe to be in the VP." Another good one!

 

"You can have a VP, but Mr. B_____ must be your advisor and all decisions made must be approved by him." Now who's doing the babysitting?

 

It totally surprises me how transparent adults can be to the boys thinking they are pulling one over on them. These older boys aren't stupid, quit trying to con them.

 

Older boys will stick around if they feel they are a valid and integral part of the troop. They need the respect and freedom due their age, and they don't need to be hovered over by adult leadership like they were a bunch of tenderfeet. If they have been trained up properly, they should be able to have a patrol that is 99.9% independent from the troop that comes back as needed to do specialty projects and programs. If an older scout from the VP wants to mentor a younger scout because that's important to him, then he does it. If they want to go off and pick out their own summer camp in Alaska, great. As soon as we jerk their chains and reel in their leashes, they will be gone in a heartbeat and I don't blame them one bit.

 

Stosh

 

 

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>>If an older scout from the VP wants to mentor a younger scout because that's important to him, then he does it. If they want to go off and pick out their own summer camp in Alaska, great. As soon as we jerk their chains and reel in their leashes, they will be gone in a heartbeat and I don't blame them one bit. Stosh << YEP.

 

 

I'm in a committee battle about this very thing right now. The adult position is "they are part of the troop and need to camp with the troop." Which ignores that we seldom get older guys to go on campouts (or to summer camp) currently. The older boy position is "we hate skills oriented campouts because they are boring". Since they currently avoid skills based campouts because they don't want to teach TF,2,1 skills all day they only attend high adventure campouts like canoe trips. I have suggested star & above campouts at the request of the boys but the committee is reluctant to "split the troop". We are already "split" in reality but I guess they don't want to see it.

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From my experiences as an older Scout/ young Scouter

 

1) you've got to instill the importance of teaching those skills to the younger guys. Also you need to spread the teachign responibility around, having the same scouts do it over and over does bore them.

 

2) You've got to get them to come up with their own program. They know what they want to do.

 

3) As with ANY patrol, the venture patrol can do patrol activities without adult supervision.

 

4) get these guys into PORs that pu thtem on the PLC. I know the new HB states that Instructors, QM, et al are not partof the PLC. BUT 1) they are troop leaders 2)gives them more input into what to do, thus buy in, and 3)doesn't give them an excuse that the program is borig as THEY are part of the programing process.

 

5) Look for ways to have the VP do their own thing on troop outings.

 

 

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