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"Drawing" New Ideas of the boys for planning

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Just had our troops 2002-2003 planning meeting. Mid-way through it I was thinking, how do we assure a "fun" program and not be heavy handed adults. We gave the boys the past two years calenders and instructions that any was possible. After a 20 minute discussion about climbing Mt Everest was squelched by the scout master, the planning was rather uninspired. (the SPL was the one discussing Everest as much as anyone)


The PLC at a recent training week end said they wanted more "fun" trips, yet they went with the stuff we have done before, even though the adults were encouraging trying new things.


So, how do you push the envelope of what is possible yet practical, while not directing the process?

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Tell them anything goes as long as it is within the BSA guidelines. Also, try by telling them to not pick any activity from last years list until they have exhausted all new ideas.


Ed Mori


Troop 1

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These guys keep comming up with the same "new" ideas, lets play paintball (cant do that as a scout), lets go rent go carts, (cant), lets take a hot air balloon ride (cant) lets rent jet skis (cant), its like they know what they cant do and bring them up just so the adults have to say no. I would like fresh ideas, but how do you get them from youth who have a relatively sheltered experience?

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One possibility would be to hand them a collage of different things they CAN do as an idea starter, or a scrapbook of articles from Scouter.


When I was trying to get young Girl Scouts to do planning, I'd offer five or six choices and allow priority voting (each girl gets 6 votes, she can put up to 3 on any one item.) As they got older, they got used to the concept and did their own brainstorming for choices.


Also, structured brainstorming is much more effective and productive than free-wheeling brainstorming where everyone shouts out their ideas. In structured brainstorming, you give everyone a minute to write on their scratch paper as many ideas as they can think of, without any criticism or thought for practicality. Then the leader goes around the room and asks each in turn for ONE idea from the list, and the scribe writes it on the board. You tell them if they think of something new when it is not their turn they write it on their scratch paper; if someone says something they listed, they just cross it off their paper. The one-at-a time method ensures that your loud scouts do not get more of a say than your quieter boys -one of whom might have had that great idea you were looking for but was too shy to mention it.


During the list-making process NO ONE says "no" at all - write everything up there, including all the stuff you know they can't do or the truly absurd. Do not allow any criticism at this point. Once there are absolutely no new ideas coming up - and the leader has asked all the way around the table, one person at a time - THEN you let the BOYS look up the BSA rules to cross out the ones that they can't do (you might speak up if they miss something). Then have them discuss and eliminate those they really don't want to do, and see what's left. Priority voting is a good way to make the final cut.


This way, you're not even in the discussion at all. You just have to teach two boys how to lead the session - one to talk, one to write on the board or flipchart or whatever you have.


It is important that the list under development be visible to all as it will stimulate ideas. If the same thing gets said twice, put an asterick by it so the boy that said it the second time still feels heard and not foolish.


In my experience, a small group can come up with 10-15 uses for a coat-hanger in free-for-all brainstorming. The SAME group will easily generate 30-40 in structured brainstorming. It really works.


Told you we GS leaders like to sit in the corner and knit.




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I'd let them keep Mt. Everest. NO I"M NOT NUTS. Please, let me explain.


Two big reasons for letting the boys choose the activities is so thet they are doing the activities that interest them most, and so that they learn about making good choices.


I bet alot of the scouts that wanted Mt. Everest don't even know where it is. I'd say OK lets plan. We need somebody to find where it is and research travel costs. Let us know what you find. Next!


Avoid saying No, that's not the SM role in this situation. I know a troop out east where the Patrol Leaders Council said "Let's go to Hawaii." The scoutmaster sat silently and the boys looked his way and paused, waiting for him to no. Instead he said "make a plan." Guess where they went the next year. Aloha!


Rather than saying "no", try saying "what do we we need to know". Maybe you won't climb Everest but you might go some places you never thought you'd get to go. And maybe the scouts will learn something along the way.

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We use almost the same "brainstorming" methods as the first go round in our planning cycle. We add one more layer though, each item is voted on by the group later, so we get a measure of group support.


The JCL and the Scouters then make up a "Blue Sky" list of priorities and activities that we want to accomplish during the year, this acts as mandate for further action.




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I like Sagerscouts ideas (and will use them soon when I bridge a bunch of my girls from Brownies to Juniors!). I also like Bob Whites method of not saying no but rather letting the boys do the research.


I am in a new troop with my son and I am afraid that this troop does not fully employ the patrol method. How can I convince the current committee and SM to try some of these methods? The SM has been in scouts a long time and does not always follow the current BSA way but rather the '20 years ago' way. I do not want to alienate the adults I will be working with but I do want the program to be run the way it should.


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  • 4 months later...

We just had our annual planning last weekend, too. It was the best turnout ever. The boys decided that instead of the usual campout, they'd "rough it" at a resort hotel at Daytona Beach. The beach, the pool, the mini-golf, a home-cooked dinner - what more could you ask? Yes, several mothers went for the first time. Wonder why... ;) The price for everything was $20 per boy or adult.


While I really liked that part, and I thought it was inspired of the boys to think of it, what I most liked was that most of the troop went so more had a say in the planning than ever. More ownership of the program, etc.


My son decided this year to create an "Adventure Book" for the planning session. He looked in local hotels/attractions for flyers & downloaded adventure ideas off the internet, then put it all in a binder. The SPL was so impressed that he borrowed the notebook to peruse the week before planning. Perhaps your boys could do something like this for next year's planning. Like a troop project or something. I know my son was so psyched by the SPL's reaction to it that he plans to maintain the book and improve on it. While he didn't think of Everest, it was an anything goes kind of project.

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