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What do Scouts really want to do? Are we listening?

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We never did a free weekend like that while I was SM I guess because it just sounds boring. I know of a few troops that free weekends. The only way I would consider the idea is on our patrol campout months but even then they still had some kind theme. The troop does do one Troop outing a year on a military base where we generally sleep indoors (1 year it was inside a C5A Cargo Airplane), but those weekend is usually structured by the folks on base, so I wouldnt call it a free weekend.


But our troop does two things pretty well that would prevent scouts wanting a free weekend campout. They plan fun campout themes and the scouts schedule a lot of free time on all their campouts. It is not unusual for our scouts to be jumping in the sack before lights out because they are exhausted from the day. We even encourage a lot of free time at summer camp so the scouts aren't stuck in activities they aren't enjoying. We takes lots of balls, bats, frisbees and games so that scouts can find something that interest them.


I think back on one weekend campout where the PLC planned a Hiking, Biking, and Canoeing theme. The Patrols had to move a distance of five miles using bikes, hiking and canoes on a lake. AND, they also planned 15 stops where the scouts had to demonstrate scout skills. A week before the campout, a Pack of 13 Webelos and their parents asked if they could camp with us that month. Turns out that that the patrols and Webelos finished the 5 mile course by 2:00PM, so they had free time until dinner where they just did a lot more biking, hiking and canoeing the rest of the day. All the scouts and adults were so physically and mentally exhausted the next morning that the PLC cancelled the usual Sunday activities to rest. The Webelos and their parents didnt say a word as they were leaving the camp and I was afraid we scared them off. But it turned out they had so much fun that they told other packs about our troop and we got 30 new scouts that year.


Any theme can be fun if the planning is creative enough. Our troop has done several night competition campouts where they do scout skills competitions most of the night. Not all that different from doing it during the day, but doing at night is different and fun. Weve done a couple campouts where the troop hiked onto a simulated accident where the scouts had to treat adults and older scouts with fake injuries. Sure its a great lesson and application of scout skills, but it's also a lot of fun.


I think our guys are having to much fun doing scouting stuff to plan a free weekend.




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A popular extra-normal Scouting event in these parts is the electronics-themed lock-in at the chartering organization's building. Since we have some pretty cold, snowy winters, it has become a tradition in my Troop to have pizza on Friday night, let all the Scouts bring their video games systems to the church and have a big sleepover. Personally, I don't think electronics and Scouting really jive together. However, the boys really love it and want to continue the event; some have indicated they want to do it up to twice per year. (I think I'll have to use my veto on that one...)


We do keep a patrol atmosphere, though, in which they Scouts create a duty roster and cook their own food in the church's kitchen. But, unlike on camping trips, the boys were up and back at their game systems well before day-break. Some of the younger ASMs brought board games and others just read books. Overall, I think they boys got bored after about noon on Saturday because they were cooped up on the building.


We have had some pretty fun non-tent trips, though, at our council's camps. In November we stayed in a one-room schoolhouse, went on day hikes (nature study), built pioneering structures, did some geochaching...And these were all activities the boys suggested! However, in January we went to a cabin and no one wanted to be there. They were crabby and picked on each other and generally through the Scout Oath and Law out the window.


Personally, I'm ready for spring and want to get out hiking and camping ASAP--and I'm not a "fuddy-duddy". When I ask the boys to tell me what they want to do they say, "....[crickets chirping]...uh, I don't know..." So HOW DO WE FIND OUT what they want to do? Asking doesn't work...

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Our Troop has never done a "lazy" weekend.


The PLC understands that every campout must have some programming that is scout related, be it patrol competitions, hikes, orienteering, or some other skills programming. That being said the boys are also adamant about scheduling free time after the the program part of the campout is finished. This usually ends up being after lunch on Saturdays.


We will inevitably catch flak from some of the newer parents to the troop but they usually see the light after a few campouts.


When children's days are increasingly scheduled free time becomes a valuable commodity.To our scouts I think it becomes an escape from they're already hectic days and gives them time to be boys. Try that on a football or baseball team and see where it gets you ;p

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We've never scheduled a completely empty weekend. Even if we are "just camping" we'll generally throw in some type of hike or activity to give the trip some focus. Some of our trips have a fair amount of free time - I do think the guys like hanging out with one another - but it's always in some context. Some trips are more packed.


The troop does plan the schedule and the PLC helps guide the individual trips, so by some definition, we are doing what the boys want. Whether the boys themselves know what they really want, that's an open question.

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I didn't really answer the question either.


Would my Scouts like to have a do-nothing weekend? Particularly one during which we "camp" inside and eat delivered pizza? I'm sure they would. I'm guessing many of them do that three weekends a month. We call that "a weekend at home."


In my previous post, I noted we don't try to over program outings but leave plenty of down time for the boys to hang with their mates and just socialize. At summer camp the adults go to considerable lengths to make sure our guys have the opportunity to do stuff like this. To me, the best part of summer camp is hanging out with your buddy, going up to the trading post for a popsicle, playing cards or checkers, or working on a craft project for a merit badge. But that's after a full day of real Scouting.


Personally, I would not attend a lock-in where the boys play video games and watch TV. I've got better things to do. Your mama wants a baby sitter for the weekend, she can hire one.


Our troop has a program we use called Boy Scouts. There are particular things we do as part of that program. If those things don't appeal to you, you should consider another program.



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The first campout after I became SM, the PLC proposed an Unplanned campout - no activites planned, other than patrol meals. March campout after webelos cross over. Cabin camp. Having repeatedly hearing "boys decide", we had a campout with no planned activites.


Was a total disaster. Ended up with a lot of disciple problems, because boys became bored and started inventing variations of games that were not scoutlike. Was a learning experience for me - realized that what boys say they want is not necessarily what they do want - in this case I think they preferred to avoid the responsibility of planning a schedule of activities for the weekend. Got smarter too - the next time the PLC proposed a "no planning campout", I said fine - you will be responsible to sign up parents to accompany the trip, because the sM and ASM's would not be attending a campout that did not have scouting activities scheduled. They didn't think that was such a good alternative, and proceeded with planning some scouting activities into the weekend

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my son's troop does this normally once a year and if they do it it's usually right around cross over time. Iowa winters aren't always the best time for a new cross over to have his first campout with the troop.


the boys still cook in their patrols - there's just not always set activities. sometimes they will come up with an activity once they know what the weather is going to be - 1 year they built a kwinzee (sp?)


if our weather is going to be really bad the boys try to camp outside if activities will have some indoor (skiing, tubing, etc where there is a lounge to warm up) or sleep indoors and do activities outdoors.


but the one where it's more of a hanging out is nice after crossover as it gets the new scouts comfortable with a good number of the boys.

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I have never been part of a Troop that has offered anything like this.

In part because I've steered the PLC away from it.

At summer camps we have had times away from camp to visit local attractions and fun places like amusement parks.

Also at summer camp there is as a rule time for Patrols to hang out, and use the free time time as they like from after the evening meal till before the night time activity.

Not every weekend is planned to be active from dawn to dusk. We have had fishing weekends where Scouts fish till they get fed up and then go off and do their own thing sometimes hanging out with me as I don't fish.




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What do they want?

I think it's a little like asking them what do you want to eat?

Some kids will devour almost anything that you put in front of them, some will choose a favorite food, but even then if they get too much of it, will ask for a change.

Some are lazy little toads and will live on a diet of pop-tarts.

Younger Scouts will want to learn how to do the basics, while older Scouts want to take on new adventures and new challenges, but will very often fall back on things that they know that they can do or visit places that they have been.

There very well might be a place for these lazy weekends, but my feeling is that if this was all that was offered it would get old very quick.

Some Scouts may have a interest that might not fall into the program that is normally offered.

I had a Lad who was really into fossils, he organized a Patrol Camp to an area where he knew there were a lot of fossils, the other members of the Patrol while not into fossils were happy to go along and help him find and dig for these.

The Patrol learned a lot about fossils and had a great time camping.

I know very little about fossils and have no real interest in them, but I did my bit to help and support this Scout and the Patrol.

I've had Scouts who were ready to quit Boy Scouts join a Ship and while they knew nothing about Sea Scouting, sailing or the like have found that they really like the Sea Scouting program.



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  • 2 weeks later...

My troop's PLC has requested this and we've worked it into the schedule as a gaming lock in. No first person shooter games, no teen only games. We've done it three years running now, always in the winter.

I use it as an opportunity to work on advancement with the scouts that need it, and the more challenging merit badges like Wilderness Survival. Last time we did an iron chef competition that was fun and well liked.

The scouts want a low intensity event every now and then, and why not. Have you never piddled in the garage and watched football all weekend a time or two?

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To a certain degree, some kind of vision is necessary for every troop.


To hand the reins over to the boys who have no idea where to direct the horse is a rather useless goal.


Once the boys get through to FC, they are ready to start dreaming about all that they might be able to do now that they have the basics down. Now the adventure can begin in earnest. However, if everyone's going to sit around and ask, "Whatcha wanna do?" and the answer comes back, "I dunno, whatcha you wanna do?"


That's not the program that was promised in the BSA pamphlet they got in the first place.


For the adults out there, there is a big difference between setting the agenda for the boys and suggesting the agenda to the boys. "Wanna go skiing?", "How 'bout camp?", "Okay, kayaking or canoeing might be fun." If all the boys want to do is sit around play computer games, listen to their MP3's and talk on the cell phones, then they have joined the wrong program. Find the boys that want to do scouting and have them design a program around their interests.



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> I use it as an opportunity to work on advancement with the scouts that need it,...


Second Class - consider making this an opportunity for the boys to work on advancement with the scouts that need it. It provides the PL's and instructors with the opportunity to step up to their responsibilities, when thy would likely prefer to play games.

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