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First few outings for new troop?

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In May, I'm going to be SM of a brand new troop. Despite our efforts to recruit older boys, it looks like we'll have about 10-12 1st year scouts (former Webelos). We'll have one 12-year-old and the rest will be 10 or 11. Half these boys came from a Webelos Den that focused on lots of service projects but not much camping. The other half came from a den that focused on advancement, but again: not much camping.


Due to the timing of the start date, I'm not going to be able to get them into Summer Camp before the registration deadline (nor do I think they'd be ready -- it's in June). So, at the request of the CC, I'm putting together a program to get them outdoors, keep them interested, and heading towards 1st class until I can get the boy-led part working.


I plan to use the New Troop 1st month plan as suggested in the SM's handbook, with the exception of not electing a SPL at this time. With a small group like this, I don't want to pull any boys out of their patrol and have them miss out on that experience. I'll probably have an ASM acting as SPL for the first few months anyway until I get the hang of it.


The SM HB plan recommends the first outing be a hike, so I'm thinking about a 10-mile round-trip or something similar (is that too long?).


For the second month, I'm torn between going to a 20 RT hike (as suggested at the end of the thread this was spun off from) or jumping straight into camping.


Speaking of camping, I ran into BSA 101/102 at scoutmaster.org -- does anyone have any thoughts on using that?


Thanks in advance for any advice!



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IMHO - 10 miles is too long for a first hike, especially for that young an age group. You want them to enjoy the experience immensely so they come back for more.. I'll guess that the majority of them will be in sneakers, not well fitting broken-in hiking boots so 10 miles will beat up their feet pretty good.


You've probably already thought this through but a succession of hiking related skill bases ( footwear, foot care, hydration, clothing, etc ) would help to prepare them and build up the excitement.




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1st off congratulations and good luck!


I agree on starting off with a hike. If they are newbies and unconditioned you may want to make it 5 miles. Or you can have a basecamp and a loop hike. However starting off as a backpacking Troop would have some appeal if you could keep it simple and short distances at first.


Try some modest campouts and concentrate on the basic skils at each (hydration, foot care, compass, first aid, cooking) before starting a bigger adventure. Basic Tenderfoot to First Class stuff.


Some of this depends on how much adult support you have.


Get them camping, keep it outdoors!


I assume when you say "New Troop" you mean New "Scout Patrol".

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Congrats on the new troop. In general, it sounds like you have a pretty solid plan for the first few months.


Just a bit of feedback: I would say that a 10 mile hike might be a bit much for a first hike - it sounds like a pretty young group without a strong outdoors background. You don't want their first Boy Scouting experience to be equated with the Bataan Death March :-). I'd say maybe look at something around 5 miles, but split it up a bit. For example, a couple miles walk to a lake, spend a few hours fishing, then hike back. Or even just do a picnic lunch in the middle of the hike. Something to give the kids an opportunity to rest, and also split up the day a bit.


You could also do a bit of an introduction into some other outdoor skills. Not necessarily formal instruction or sign offs or anything - but maybe just bring a compass with you and casually demonstrate how it works. Or point out important plants (like poison ivy) that you might come across.


Definitely get into camping early. Like hiking, you don't want your first camping trip to be too ambitious, but see what you can do to avoid "plop n' drop" car camping. If you set the tone early as a backpacking, low-impact type troop, you won't have to worry about breaking bad habits further down the road.


Also try to ease in to youth leadership early on. Even simple stuff like "Jimmy, can you make sure everyone is packed up and ready to go by 2:00?" Or "Joe and John, can you two take a look at this trail map and find us a good route to hike?" Again, set the tone and expectations for the unit early on, rather than needing to do a "paradigm shift" every couple months.


Good luck, and enjoy the ride!

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Since it is a small group of guys spread them out a bit. Even if car camping march them in a mile or so away from the parking. If I had to do it all over again I would stay away from patrol boxes.


Maybe see if you could "borrow" some older scouts from another Troop to do some instruction sometimes.

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Thanks for the speedy replies.


In retrospect, 5 miles is probably a better plan. We're an "urban troop" -- located about a miles from Turner Field in downtown Atlanta, so just about any hiking is going to be a car ride (maybe nearby Stone Mountain might be a good initial hike).


And when I say "new troop" -- I really mean "new troop", not new patrol. I'll probably treat them like a NSP, but there are no senior scouts to help out, and my scouting career is waaaay in my rear-view mirror (but at least I had one, right?)


All kidding aside, although the boys haven't spent much time outdoors, I have been working with one of the groups on the patrol method -- I have the denner do as much as possible, so they do expect a little more latitude/control than most cubs.

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Congrats on the new troop!


The loop around Stone Mountain is 5.5 miles, a good easy hike.


Don't forget Kennesaw Mountain as well, although, it'll be a bit tougher, parts of the trail are pretty steep. In August/September timeframe, the National Park Service does a living history day that coresponds with the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, a great day if spent hiking the area and seeing the reenactors.


If you want some Urban/Suburban/Rural hiking, check out pathfoundation.org


You may have seen the signs around town and there are some great easy trails, especially since many are paved trails.


Don't forget to checkout georgiatrails.com


You could always try to go out to Bert Adams for the weekend, get a campsite on the Jamieson side. You could drop off the troop at the enterance and have the hike in. That would be a mile or so. If you can get a campsite kind of far out then you will be kind of isolated, work on T-1 scout skills and even take a few hikes through the property. There are lots of little spots around camp that are fun to find.


Also, try googling Camp 175, it's property leased by a Decatur Troop that is availble to anyone who wants to make a reservation. Sort of primative with a hand pump for water, but it's nice out on the lake.

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Make sure they have campouts planned every month. Have them plan what they want to do during the campouts - hanging out is okay. Don't YOU be setting up hikes or anything else. If you are camping someplace that has hikes (State Park, etc.), make sure your boy leaders know about it, but don't push anything.

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Congratas! I was part of starting a new troop last year, and we had pretty much the same age range (a few more boys, we started with 22). We've grown almost 60% in not quite a year (started with 22, now have 35) and I'm pretty sure it's because of the emphasis on camping. We have 3 guys who have made every night, and they're closing in on 30 nights camping their first year. About a dozen other guys are in the 20+ night range. We're at 4 patrols, and all of the PLs are really starting to get it.


I think getting them camping will be more important for retention than hiking. Long-term, you want them hiking and backpacking, but (especially if they haven't done any camping as Cub Scouts) getting them sleeping in a tent and sitting around a campfire, even if it's just dump camping at first, will help hook them.


Depending on what sort of gear they have, a short hike to the campsite would be great. But I wouldn't recommend more than a couple hundred yards if most of them will have duffle bags and heavyweight tents to start with. And I wouldn't suggest sending them out to get backpacking gear right away, better to have some meetings where they can learn about gear and acquire stuff over time.


If you do start with a hike, maybe make lunch a big deal. Find a spot to stop half-way and spend some time playing games before heading back to the cars. They're not just out for a walk, they're out for an adventure!


If there's any way to get them to summer camp, I'd really suggest trying to swing it. Our guys really bonded as a group at summer camp (we went in July after starting the Troop in April). An entire week together in the outdoors did wonders for them. Depending on the camp facilities, they don't need to be experts or anything. BSA summer camp is pretty forgiving of novices. (novice scouts and SMs too...). If your local camp is only in June and already filled up, maybe there's one in a neighboring council in August you could go to?


Good luck with whatever you do!

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I also think 10 miles is too much. 5 is good. Also check out these sites










And may I recommend the 3rd ed. Scoutmaster handbook, volumes 1&2. It is written by William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt who saved Scoutingin the USA after the 1970s.

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Local hikes are still an option. Historical sites are always worth walking to. But there might be an interesting business that might want to host the boys. County seats and other places of governance are good at this age, especially of the boys get a chance to meet the mayor!

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