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Planning the New Scouting Year

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My troop is getting ready for the Annual Program Planning Conference.


We'll review what trips we made this last year, and review trips we had done in the past.


We'll offer up suggestions for new trips, locations, venues, program that is not site specific. The PLC will make the selections, with review of me (SM), and I'll forward it on the the CC/TC for their blessing.


I've been asking each patrol member to make their suggestions to their PL, so they have a voice in the process.


I am the only adult in the room while the PLC is making their choices, as often times they will defer to loud adults who want to go here or there (and don't get, or believe in Boy Led), and not where the scouts want to go.


While the scouts get to pick where they go and what they do, I (SM) get to pick the dates, taking input from the school calendar, church calendar, District events, OA events, etc.


It works for us.

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We pretty much follow Chapter 8 in the Scoutmaster Handbook which lays it out nicely.


An SPL is elected in spring and in fall in our troop. I meet with him and prepare him to lead the program planning conference.

The SPL gives each PL a list of outings done over the past 5 years and a 'Patrol Ideas' sheet like http://boyscouttrail.com/docs/patrolideas.pdf before their program planning conference. At the conference, all ideas from patrols are listed, voted on, and the top 6 are added to the troop schedule, 12 months out. The scouts review the upcoming 12 months also and occasionally make changes.


The SPL and I attend the next troop committee meeting to tell them what the troop will be doing for the next 18 months.


Scout On


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As Cubmaster, I made up our monthly plan of meetings and activities, basing it on previous years with some modifications.


I e-mailed that to the Committee Chair for comment, and she said "looks good to me..."



I've therefore e-mailed it out to Den Leaders for comment, along with suggestions for changes in monthly activities we can make to avoid repeating the outings and monthly activities too much. Their comments will be welcome and may result in changes.


After that, I'll likely e-mail that out to parents before our meeting at the end of July which is aimed at program planning.



This provides a good deal of structure to that planning meeting. If people wish, they can tear it up and start over, but I think that unlikely. Mostly I think it will provide a structure that will allow people to suggest their own ideas and understand where changes are likely to fit into the program.


This Is Cub Scouts of course. We don't mess around with "Boy Leadership" so much, except that the program is designed to serve the boys of course.


Any particular methods Cub Packs use to collect program ideas from boys?

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We just wrapped this up on Saturday.


Our unit is recovering from a breakdown in the PLC. The new PLC is grabbing the throttle and re-directing the Troop.


We advertised a TLT where people should attend to see what the PLC does and to plan the following year. During the TLT training we handed each scout a sheet of paper and asked for 3 things they wanted to see the Troop do - no dream too big. Be vague or specific - whatever.


During the training we copied their ideas onto large sheets of paper. If something received multiple votes we put a number next to it.


Prior to the meeting I printed out a series of 24"X30" monthly calendars. You can get them here for free if interested: http://www.somacon.com/p352.php They were then posted around the room during the planning session. We provided the scouts with a list of activities both inside and outside of the troop that are 'must do's'. Major holidays as well as CO events like scout sunday, camporees, etc. After the PLC agreed to put those on the board we then revealed the 'wish list' items. We discussed each and marked them as 'can do this year', 'could do in a future year with planning', 'long term dream/goal'. It was stressed that even the dreams could be achieved with proper planning.


We then went from item to item and placed them on the calendar. We used the Journey to Excellence to see what we might be missing.


This took the unit from virtually no tent camping in the past 14 months (other than summer camp) to 10 scheduled trips, hiking, canoeing, etc.


Using the Journey to Excellence also helped us to get service on the calendar as well - not as an afterthought.


We also 'themed' the months to match the Troop Meetings to the events of the next month.


Now, with proper mentoring we will see how the scouts do with implementing this program.


I could see the excitement in the boys eyes for the first time in a while as they left the cabin.

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We do what has been mentioned above. But I try to spend a lot of time getting them to talk about why they're in scouts and what they want out of it. We compare that to what happened last year and that gives the scouts new directions. One of the things that came out last year was that they prefer doing instead of sitting. So this summer we've only met at our usual meeting place about 1 in 4 weeks. We went swimming, did several conservation projects, biking, anything to get outside. Some of the parents hate it because we don't have time to do bureaucracy, but I'm ok with that ;)


Campouts are more challenging. Sometimes a campout is great because of something the scouts made on the spot (eg, frozen lake + slash pile = great big fire) but usually there needs to be something organized. They're in charge of picking events but it's whatever they can think of in 15 minutes. Even if we give them 2 weeks they'll only spend 15 minutes at home making a list. So we tend to do the same things over and over unless some adult throws in a good idea for them to think about. I'd like to make this a much longer process that involves creativity, teamwork, and problem solving. I'm not quite sure how to organize this.


One of the things I'm realizing is that scouts need much more time to plan and prepare for events than they take. Since everyone is time poor this creates a real challenge.

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  • 4 months later...

I wanted to revive this thread and ask a slightly different question.


How much of your calendar of events is set before it gets to the boys?


My view is that we are starting with a blank slate, and working with the PLC and other POR holders they choose their activities for the upcoming year. I have received some resistance to this from within the troop with some leaders believing there are "must do" campouts that shouldn't really be an option.


At a training seminar I attended at a University of Scouting that was the message also. The presenter essentially scheduled 10 of the 12 months, based on district/council schedules and "what they always do" and his scouts had maybe one or two trips they could really decide on. When I challeneged this as counter to being "boy led" I found I was very much in the minority.


For instance, we always put district camporees as a possibility, but I believe it's up to the boys whether to choose that or another trip for that month (usually April).



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The Scoutmaster Handbook goes over the planning process and role of the scoutmaster, SPL, and others in detail. The scoutmaster does have a large role in presenting all ideas, options, and council/district activities to the scouts. But at that point they are just that, ideas and options. The scoutmaster should stick to any priorities they've laid out though (ie 10 days camping a year and an outdoor activity a month). If there is a specific event the scoutmaster feels the troop should support they should explain why and let the scouts decide. The scouts help choose activities, locations, dates, etc along with themes for each month to fill in the calendar.


Here are the 5 steps to annual troop program planning:

1. The scoutmaster writes down priorities they see for the troop.

2. Get patrol input on the general plan and options.

3. Hold the Troop Planning Conference.

4. Consult with troop committee and chartered organization.

5. Announce the final plan to patrols, parents, committee members, etc.



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Very little of our crew schedule is more than 3 months in advance. If we get a reservation for an HA base, that's locked 18 months ahead. Area and council VOA activities are scheduled a year in advance, but attendance depends on school commitments -- which vary from year to year. Everything else needs a narrower window because the schedules of the college-bound kids is pretty volatile.

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What we do: planning session starts with "why are you in scouts? what do you want?" I mostly know what they will say but I want them to hear it themselves. Friends, fun, skills, adventure, Eagle. Anyway, I then have them set goals that match what they like. How many fun easy campouts, how many challenging campouts. That sort of thing. This is where I will nudge them to challenge themselves, otherwise they might pick a lazy calendar. When it comes to picking campouts we assign patrol leaders to each month and the patrol leader makes all the decisions along with his patrol for the month. This is new for us but so far I have much more enthusiastic patrol leaders. We didn't go to Spring Camporee last year because it fell on the weekend of the prom for most of our older scouts. We did our own campout a week later. This was all the scouts' doing and it worked great.


This isn't to say I don't have any input. I encourage one campout, because it's a real challenge, but if they came up with a similar challenge I'd be happy with it. If they said they want to do a lock in every month and do no camping I'd say no. I have standards but I want to keep it at a high level.


I am constantly pushing my scouts to take ownership of the troop. That means leading, and organizing, and communicating, but mostly it means showing up, doing, and making decisions. Once they get there, I can't imagine telling them what campouts to do. When they get stuck for ideas and ask, though, I have plenty ready.


that's what works for me.

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