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A good middle school program but lousy HS program

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What a perfectly timed thread! Our troop is about to hit this point and our SM has tasked us ASM's with this challenge.

A brief history: For a while our troop hovered around 20-30 boys without alot of adding boys on a yearly basis. About 3 years ago, the troop started growing rapidly and is still continuing this upward trend with us now having a roster of 100+ boys.The boys in the original 20-30 group have just aged out , now we have the "first wave" of the new boys about to turn 14-15. Some of these boys are starting to get the "been there, done that" syndrome. They still enjoy scouts because they get to spend time together with their core inner circle of friends.

 Instead of pushing the boys into the crew (while we have leaders in title only, there's not much activity from the crew itself)we're putting the boys in a venturing patrol and letting them plan their own activities during troop functions. This way,they are still an active patrol in the troop, but still pursuing their own interests.




Scouting is a place where dreams can come true. Its up to the adults to get out of the boys way. What are your scouts dreams? That is what their goals are.




Eagledad: Thanks for that response, I will be taking that back to our Venturing ASM's and let them roll with that one.


Hopefully we can nip this in the bud, and keep our older boys engaged and encouraged, while at the same time providing a caveat to our younger boys for staying with the program. See, Membership does have it's privileges.

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I hope that the venture patrol idea works for you.


I think that the lure of "high adventure" can work, but it has to be backed up, not only by the physical activities themselves, but also by a difference in how adults treat the older youth who are clamoring for that new adventure.


I watched my son's troop set up a venture patrol to do "high adventure" activities, as a way to engage more older boys. At first, my son was very excited about it and even served as the PL for almost a year. And the venture patrol has done some fun things- scuba, horseback riding, week-long treks in northern MI, etc.


I also watched that patrol lose the interest of the older boys (15-16-17) because it was heavily adult-run, to the point of not being fun. Adults sought boys' input but only in a nominal way - the real choices were made by adults, not youth. In fact, the adult: scout ratio on venture patrol outings has frequently been 1:1 or more, and the adults who go - nice people, mind you - also tend to need to be the ones in control of every decision. Most of the older boys bailed. My son complained that the venture patrol got more "adult attention" (not in a good way, in his view) than the new scout patrol. What's the point in that?


The venture patrol still exists in that troop, and there are still 5-6 scouts involved. But most of those scouts are now 12-13, rather than 15-16-17.


Lesson learned: it isn't just *what* you do, it is also *how* you do it, that will determine whether older boys are likely to stick with the program in any numbers.





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I would agree that most troops run an excellent middle school program and lousy high school program. One of the big reasons for this is because adult-led programs work better for the middle school scouts. Boy-led encourages the boys of the high school level.


So, depending on whether you are boy or adult led determines which program does better in each troop. There are not many troops that can actually transition WITH the boys. Boy-led older boy troops do poorly with attracting new scouts who need to be getting up to speed to "get in on the fun". Adult-led younger boy troops seem to be a wee bit extensions of Webelos with a challenge rather than the foundation of a whole different scouting experience from Cubs. When the boys mature a bit they drop out because it is no longer relevant to be an 8th grader when you're a junior in high school.


So, how do you transition your troop? Run two programs at the same time! and keep them separated for the most part, but it doesn't have to be exclusive in nature like a Venture Patrol or worse yet, and whole different exclusion like starting a Venturing Crew. We often spend so much time on the structure we forget for whom it is intended.


Last Monday, I read a brochure from our council letting us know they had two treks for Philmont in 2012. I told the boys here's an opportunity for them to think about. I then tossed the paper on the table and walked away.

I noticed on the Website on Thursday that two other troops in the council got the spots, but that our boys are signed up for a trek in 2013. I have no idea who did the footwork on that, but it wasn't any adult.


I couldn't pull that off in a group of pre-FC scouts. I would have had to do most of the phone calls and arrangements, or at least walked some of the boys through it as part of training. So, do I treat my boys all the same? Never!


I run two programs within my troop, one for older boys and one for the new guys. It does work and those boys who transition over are quickly assimilated into the older boy program and greater challenges of responsibility, along with greater opportunities.


Oh! What about the older boys teaching the new boys their skills? If one had a Venturing Crew of kids, would you even think about having them come in every week to teach scout skills to the TF? Never going to happen. If one had a Venture Patrol, would they teach the TF's? So, can one have a program for the older boys without having to slap on some artificial label to make it sound appealing to the older boys? Yes you can. Just follow the BSA process of taking in the new guys, training them up and getting them out on their own in independency as quick as they are able to handle it.


What would you say to a group of 16-17 year old boys who said they wanted to go to summer camp, but not sign up for any MB's, camp by themselves, hang out all day and 3/4th of the night around a campfire, do some fishing, spend too much time at the climbing wall and shooting range, and maybe go off for a day or so on a canoe trip by themselves? Most SM's would toss out the idea with a NO right away. Some SM's would want to talk about it in order to talk the boys out of it, but very few would say, "I like that idea. Sounds like fun, keep me in the loop." But if a group of 12-13 year old boys asked the same thing, they're going to get a flat out NO from me without a bit of hesitation.


No two boys can be treated the same in the troop. The troop's program needs to be flexible to meet the needs of all the scouts, not just those that are easiest to deal with.



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I fall into the adventure category in this argument. However, I personally feel that Venture Crew is the OPPOSITE of what Scouts needs. Why should a Scout have to wait three years before he can have adventures?


My troop has been growing in the last three years after almost dying a horrible death due to being adult-led (adults planned and did everything, more adults than kids on trips, hovering over the Scouts at all times). Why? Because the troop pitches adventure to lure kids in, then they get adventure, right off the bat. Summer trip to camp where you sit in classrooms and earn badges? I think not. Last summer, the kids planned a trip 500 miles away to Maine where they did an awesome 15 mile hike, went night kayaking until two in the morning, built and slept in shelters, went fishing, and mountain biked a fifteen mile trail where four of them ended up pretty scratched up from their bikes going out from under them (complete with proud after-pictures of their scrapes, as bandaged up by the Scouts themselves). Its important to note that the Scouts planned these adventures (all of the Scouts, not just the PLC), the PLC made arrangements for them and carried them out, and then the kids pushed each other to do them. Every kid, from the 17 year olds to the Scout on his second trip ever managed to get through all these activities (they were allowed to stay back with the adults who couldn't handle the activities, they just didn't).


20 1/2 mile bike ride last April? Nailed, including by the 12 year old whose bike skidded out at mile two, who had to be patched up with about eight guaze pads, and who refused to get picked up. 15 mile canoe trip? Nailed, with adults in canoes only with other adults, and team 11-year-old (they insisted they wanted to be together) spending twenty minutes unwedging themselves from a tree. After each of these crazy trips, the kids go to school, brag about what they did, and another one or two new guys show up to Scouts to see what the fuss is about. Meanwhile, many troops in our district are just barely hanging on. We were there not too long ago, from Roundtable I know that many of their problems are the same ones that we had.


Best of all is that the older Scouts, who were a fairly sorry looking lot three years ago, are now confidently planning treks of their own... a 50 mile backpacking trip for December and a 75 mile bike ride for next September. For the most part, they bought into the responsibility of taking care of their patrols and taking care of planning and executing trips.


I don't think the world has changed, or that youth have changed, nearly as much as popular culture claims it has. Outdoors and adventure still have the ability to draw people in. No matter how advanced video games become, kids are still drawn to play with fire for hours on end. No matter how many practices a week are held for the local intermural soccer game, the kids are going to cut out to go shoot guns. No matter how jaded a kid may be, white water rafting still sounds like an awesome time.


Paraphrasing what Badin-Powell said, draw the boys in with camping, the outdoors, and adventure, then you can hit them with the rest of the program.

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I agree with LisaBob's observations, but the opposite can happen even in an adult-run program.


In our Troop the adults who go on High Adventure trips all were old-school Boy Scouts. So "Back Country Fishing Trips" is where the older Scouts get to plan the trips and camp their Patrols a football field apart.


Here in the rural south, the camping season is reversed. The only time we tent in the summer is when we travel way up north to Georgia (so near the arctic pole).


This summer we started holding monthly SCUBA dives, which we hope to continue during the winter months. The dives are open to all certified diver Scouts regardless of age (our youngest diver, who skipped a grade, is still ten years old). The divers 13 and older all have Advanced, Junior Advanced Open Water, or Rescue Diver Certification, so they avoid the inexperienced Scouts by diving deeper on Troop Dives, and organizing Night Drift Dives.


Since I started placing a heavy emphasis on SCUBA on our Troop Web Site, we have been registering a couple of 13-14 year-olds every month. Their fathers are often certified divers who haven't dived recently but want to get back into it.


High Adventure activities often bring in such adults who would not camp on regular Webelos III campouts.


Yours at 300 feet,




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Paraphrasing what Baden-Powell said, draw the boys in with camping, the outdoors, and adventure, then you can hit them with the rest of the program.


Stuff like "Scouting is a Game with a Purpose" are Fake Baden-Powell quotes that Wood Badge uses to justify its 45 year war on Scoutcraft.


There is no "rest of the program" in Baden-Powell's Scouting. It's all camping, outdoor adventure, and public service skills (such as first aid) but on an older teen level as the Scout progresses.


For instance, one optional equivalent to an "Eagle Project" is to lead a 200 mile horseback trip through wild country without adult supervision. Compare that to our program where any cupcake can get an Eagle Scout Badge without ever walking into the woods with a pack on his back. Organizing such Expeditions is what B-P called "leadership," not the crap we learn in Wood Badge:




The boring schoolwork badges like classroom citizenship (everything that Baden-Powell said was the opposite of Scouting), were introduced by the YMCA. Forcing teen Scouts do the kind of things that boys hate, have always hated, and will continue to hate until the end of time was the reason that the YMCA approached Boyce about establishing a monopoly on Scouting in the United States.


That's why the program is "lousy," training is run by adults who love schoolwork and office management.


Yours at 300 feet,



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Just thought you guys might want to hear the perspective of a 17 year old.


I got involved in the Sea Scouts because I was looking to make some new friends, and I figured that people in the Sea Scouts would be interested in sailing. That happened, but most of the people in my first ship were new to scouting and had never really been on boats, they just thought it would be cool, and one of their friends, or their parents, dragged them to a meeting. I ended up teaching them about sailing and discovered that I am pretty good at that, and I like it. It is great to be able to pass on your knowledge to someone else. What is even better is when that person learns enough that they can actually compete on the same playing field as me.


As for the adventure stuff, except for the diving everything I have done in the Sea Scouts has been pretty tame compared to some of the things I have done. However, I would not be able to get out on the water as much as I do if I wasn't a Sea Scout, and I wouldn't be able to dive if I wasn't a Sea Scout just because it is cheaper and more fun to dive with the ship. It is really not fun to dive with your parents. Especially when you are in much better shape, and have a lot more energy than them.


Something like Seabase does not interest me at all, but that is probably partly because I have close to 10,000 nautical miles under my belt, and I am not a huge fan of eating fish.


My idea of a fun adventure is taking a laser out in 30-40 knots, or surfing 10 foot waves in under the Golden Gate bridge on a 40,000 pound sailboat. Let me tell you, there is a lot of puking involved in the second one.


I was at a COH yesterday and was surprised by the ages of the scout that were there. There was a Troop/ship there, along with my ship and a couple adults from other ships. The oldest scout I saw (other than my ship) was maybe 15. Everyone else looked to be no older than 12, and none of them really seemed to care what was going on. My ship (the 4 of us there are seniors) stood there quietly watching and applauding, but all the scouts from the troop/ship were chatting with each other and not even paying attention to whose name was called. The 15 year old kept shushing them, and reminding whoever had there name called to go up and get their award.


I think that even for most of the younger kids the awards don't really matter to much. They are just there to have fun with their friends. A couple of them looked very self important and impatient until their name was called, but the rest couldn't care less.


That went a lot longer than I expected, and I seem to have forgotten my point. I'll remember it later.



I remember now, we don't get involved in scouting because of the stuff we are doing, we get involved in scouting because of the people we are going to be doing it with.(This message has been edited by sailingpj)

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Oh, as to why scouts often leave around high school age, how many of you would like to do the same things month in and month out for seven or eight years. That is not to say that going to the same place often is bad, but if you do the same thing every time, or almost every time, they you are probably going to get bored.


Also, we may like teaching the younger scouts, but that does not mean that we want to be around them all the time. We like to do stuff on our own sometimes. On summer cruise 2009, me and the other two boatswains took an hour a day to talk on our own. Yeah, we liked everyone there, but it was nice to have a little bit of time everyday when we weren't being besieged by people asking questions or complaining.

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I agree that most older boys don't want to hang out with the 11 year olds. That is ok, they don't have to. The leaership structure of a Troop can be set up so that boys are really only dealing with Scouts a few years their junior. For instance, a patrol of 8 members might be made up of boys from 11 to 14 (imagine 2 boys at each age of 11, 12, 13 and 14). The older boys in the Troop hold the Troop leadership position - SPL, ASPL, Troop Guide, Instructor, etc. These Troop leaders mainly deal with the Patrol Leaders, who are probably the 14 year olds. In our Troop, we are working towards two groups for the older boys - the Green Bar Patrol and the Venture Patrol. The Green Bar Patrol is for boys who have served at least one year (2 terms) as Patrol Leader and have been to NYLT. The Venture Patrol will be for boys 15 and older who haven't met the requirements for Green Bar Patrol. Green Bar will hopefully end up being like a hands-on Board of Directors - it is their Troop to oversee. They will train and mentor the Patrol Leaders, teach them how to plan and organize in the PLC meetings. The Venture Patrol will be able to plan more challenging trips for themselves, or come up with more challenging versions of the monthly outing. They will get to hang out with boys their age and work on things that are appealing to them - ultra-light backpacking, SCUBA, orienteering races, etc. Green Bar would participate in these, as well. We are still a work in progress, so I can't speak of our successes yet, only our plans.


I still believe high adventure plays a part in filling that "challenge and adventure" need. It is a time for the older boys to get out on their own for a real challenge.


Regardless of Scouting or any youth program, trying to come up with single activities that will be challenging and age-appropriate for a group of boys from age 11 to 17 is nearly impossible. Boy Scout outings can be split up for the different ages, for instance, taking younger boys on a short hike and older boys on a longer, more difficult hike. With proper planning and imagination, Scouting can certainly hold the interest of boys up to age 18.

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I think it's a fine HS program.

Some SM's are only MS leaders.


Example: On an area event, a 6th grader was feeling homesick as dark set in. Technically, I was their as Crew Advisor not ASM, but you all know about the "many hats" thing. He knew me best, so he approached me with the "I want to call my mom." speach. His 8th grade buddy who recruited him was nowhere to be found. (Like I said -- area event -- lots of chaos.) One of my Crew's chaperons wanted to help but I kept her at a distance. Instead I found the HS age boys in the troop and laid out the problem to them and let them come up with some solutions to help make this lil' guy feel comfortable ...

I'll spare you further details (e.g. aprising SM, talk to Mom on speaker, the boys cooking soup, etc...) but the kid stayed the night and woke the next morning ready to enjoy the rest of the outdoor weekend.


Conclusion: this is one of the best programs to offer a HS boy a lasting sense of importance in his community. But only if you ask the HS boy to help you with the MS problems!

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You know I think pj and Qwasze hit the nail on the head, we give these teens POR's but in to many troops and crews they are really not given any true control or real responsibility for the program itself. In this instance I think Kudu is right, too many adults like to micromanage every aspect of the program instead of giving the control over to the teens.


From what I have witnessed for years in Venturing the crews that go under in the first year or two is because the teens are not given the reins but told by the advisors what to focus on and plan. To answer the critics of Venturing, it is not the program that is at fault but many of the adult leaders, esp. former SM's, who insist on being in full control and running a crew like a troop of tenderfoot scouts. We have Kudu to remind us adults what the original intent of the Boy Scout program truly was, and to give us a unique perspective of how far away we have veered from Powell's original ideas. Teens can never learn true leadership unless they are given the chance to truly lead, this involves the initial planning, organizing each step, and seeing the end result unfold before them.

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When I became crew advisor of our crew 3 years ago, I took the advice of many here and did it hands off. I wanted the youth to take charge of it from the start and sold it so. I told them, I was only there to make sure what they wanted to do fell into the guidelines dictated by BSA. If they didn't do it, it would die. Really hands off. By the BSA book.


Here's the result.


They held one meeting, my planning. Very enthusiastic. Gungho. All I asked is when the next meeting was, they said they would let me know. Never happened. I let it go. So about 6 months later, I did the same thing, let them know we needed a meeting and most showed up. Very enthusiastic. Gungho. Not much accomplished but they had a good time. I asked when the next meeting was, they said they'd let me know. Nothing.

So I thought perhaps some incentive was in order. Our troop was organizing a Philmont trek and I decided to put our crew in the lottery for a slot too. Bang, we both got it.

I know, I overstepped my bounds and became a control freak, but at least we had something to focus on. I called a meeting. They showed up and had a great time, several of them signed up for Philmont, most didn't. I asked them when the next meeting was, they said they'd let me know. Didn't happen. They didn't have enough to fill the trek, so I recruited from the troop to make the minimum. We made it. The Philmont crew now took on a life of its own, separate from the venture crew. They met, planned, prepped. Had a great trek. Although it had members of the venture crew on-board, it wasn't my venture crew, it really was just an overflow from the troop.


My point is I purposely avoided being the ex-SM crew advisor who runs it as a troop, and tried to be the laid back enabler. It didn't work. The crew is dormant. It is a paper unit only. I have no interest in resurrecting it and the youth don't seem to want the opportunity I've enabled them to have. Venturing as advertised by the BSA does not work. At least my attempt at it.

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I'd chalk your crew up under the "success" column.

Let's hope a youth comes up to you and says "I'm ready to make this work." From experience, you can warn him/her of the negative synergism that "we'll get back to you" injects into the group. But you can promise match whatever effort he/she puts into the program with your enthusiasm for scouting.


Meanwhile, you've not wasted your time hearding HS kids who want to be spoon fed.


Case in point: the youth my crew who pushed to organize a Seabase trip are not the same as the ones who actually are going. (Their friends didn't sign up, no money, would rather buy a new guitar, etc ...) So, it seems like I have one crew thats fading and another that's rising from it.


It may wrankle a few committee members, maybe even a DE and UC that always want numbers to go up every year. But I'm a lot happier knowing I have youth who want to be there and who I admire.

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