Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Meeting Kit

Today I’m going to talk about putting together a meeting kit.  This may not be the best name for what I’ve implemented, but I’m going with it.  We’re deep in the territory of my personal opinion here, but I don’t think my experiences are all that uncommon.


A meeting kit is a collection of materials and resources you bring with you to each of your Scout meetings.  The purpose of it is to allow you to have all of the materials handy to conduct the bulk of your meetings.  You may need special equipment for specific meetings, but your meeting kit should cover most of what you need for a standard meeting.  I keep mine in my trunk at all times so that I’m certain I don’t forget something.

Why do you need a meeting kit?

I, personally, have found myself to be a fairly lazy person who doesn’t want to have to constantly think about the same stuff over and over.  As a scout leader I didn’t want to have to spend a lot of time each week prepping for that week’s meeting.  Preparation is important, don’t get me wrong.  I just wanted to limit how much time I spent in preparation and I certainly didn’t want to have to prep the same meeting topic multiple times.  Putting everything together into a kit that I dragged to all of my meetings enabled me to not stress over every single detail of every single meeting.  I only had to stress about the “outlier” meetings.  Those that weren’t directly served by the materials in my kit.  Also, and I can’t stress this enough, plans go awry.  You may walk into a meeting ready to cover a specific topic only to find your plans blown to pieces because none of the scouts that needed those requirements showed up for this meeting.  At that point you can push on and present a topic that everyone present has completed or you can switch gears and present a different topic that meets the needs of those scouts in attendance.  Personally I have always chosen the latter path, so I needed to be prepared to switch gears at a moment’s notice.

What goes into a meeting kit?

First let me talk about the basic containers.  I have found that I go to two types of meetings as a scout leader.  One is for the youth, one is for the leaders.

Leader Meeting Kit Container

I don’t need my full meeting kit when I go to leader meetings like roundtables or committee meetings.  To that end I have a briefcase that has all of my meeting junk.  I use a hard-sided Samsonite briefcase that I’ve had for ages.  I don’t know where I got it or if they still sell them, but it works great for me.  It’s durable, has open area for loose junk and has a reasonable amount of space without being too large and bulky.  You can use whatever book bag, shoulder bag, laptop bag or accessory you desire.  The important thing is that it does the job you need and doesn’t (and this is important, at least to me) make you look like the weird guy/gal walking into the meeting with some bizarre, over-the-top contrivance.

In my briefcase is all of the standard office-type stuff like notebook, pens, calendar, etc that I would need for a leader meeting.  I also have the youth-meeting items that are small, loose, fragile or easily destroyed if carried in the other container.

Youth Meeting Kit Container

For youth meetings I’m much more likely to need larger, bulkier items.  I have found that a large Rubbermaid tub works great for me.  Something that easily fits in my trunk but is large enough to accommodate my stuff is what I needed.  Again, use whatever works for you.  A larger container for holding larger random junk is what I wanted, so that’s what I have.

No, really, what goes into a meeting kit?

Exactly what goes into your meeting kit really depends on what you want to have handy to meet your needs.  I’m going to give you a list of what I use, but modify it as you see fit.  I don’t have my kits in front of me, so I’m going to work from memory.  You should get the general idea.

Briefcase Contents
  • Scout handbook
  • Program calendar – multiple copies
  • Pens – a couple dozen in a pencil bag
  • Notebook
  • Three or four knife sharpeners of various styles
  • Chalk and eraser
  • Small set of dry-erase markers – I don’t know why I still carry them, I never use them
  • Magnetized needle floating on water demo set
  • Training cards – the little cards they give you at the end of a training to prove you’ve taken the training
  • Electrical tape – again, I don’t know why.  I think it got stuck in there for a specific meeting and has lived there ever since
  • Measuring tape – for long jump, high jump measuring
  • Scout song set – approx 25 songs with 10 copies of each song – see the resources section
  • Compass games – two different ones purchased from the Scout shop
  • Scoutmaster’s Minute book – a great little book that I got at the Scout shop that has a ton of Scoutmaster’s Minutes
  • Adult and Youth Scout applications
  • Troop Activity Roster – a handy little book I created for tracking what was covered at each meeting and who attended.
  • Merit badge blue cards (blank)
  • Totin’ Chip cards (blank)
  • Firem’n Chit cards (blank)
  • Compasses – 4 or 5 on lanyards, each with a small flashlight attached.  It’s sometimes dark when we’re doing compass games
  • Scout Badge Visual Aid
  • Patrol Emblems Sheet
  • Firem’n Chit Test
  • Plant and Animal Identification Cards and Answer Key
  • Poisonous Plant Test
  • Safe Swim Defense – A packet for teaching about swimming safety.
  • Safety Afloat – A packet for teaching about boating safety.
  • Contour Lines – A visual aid for teaching about contour lines.
  • Map Symbols – A worksheet for teaching map symbols.
  • Topographic Map – A visual aid for teaching about topographic maps.
  • First Aid Baseball Cards – cards for running First Aid baseball
  • First Aid Steps Cards – A flash card-type presentation of first aid steps
  • Stopwatch – I use an app on my phone, but you need one for athletics stuff
Tub Contents
  • American Flag, flag pole and stand – I always have to provide my own flag for my Scout meetings so I carry a pole and stand that collapse down to a reasonable size
  • Wiffle ball bat and balls
  • Frisbees – two or three
  • Nerf football
  • Bandage kit – for teaching first aid bandages
  • Small orange cones – for the compass games and whatever else I might need them for
  • Samples of kindling and tinder
  • Patrol flag(s)
  • Ropes – long enough to use for knot-tying and lashing practice
  • 1-inch diameter dowel rods – Several 1-foot lengths to use for lashing practice.
  • Paper shopping bags – Several.  Used for a practical compass exercise.
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Monday, February 28, 2011

Program Planning

My assistant and I put together our plan for the year over this last weekend. The process went incredibly smooth and I thought I'd share it with others; and also write it down before I forget.

  1. Start by creating a line item for each of your weekly meetings. You should have 52 lines. Just put the dates for now. The contents will come later.

  2. Block off holidays/spouse's birthday/anniversaries. Very important not to schedule something on your wife's birthday! Trust me... I know...

  3. Check the council and district calendars for special activities you wish to attend. Mark the dates.

  4. Insert line items for any campouts/Saturday activities. You should have a non-meeting activity of some sort every month. The only one I don't do is December just because it gets crazy to schedule something around that time.

  5. Block the two meetings prior to any campout for campout prep. This is how I use the two meetings.

    • Campout Prep (F4a, F4c, F4d)

    • Purchase food for campout (F4b)

    Yes, we go as a group to purchase food. I turn it into a learning experience and I verify that it's done properly.

  6. Slot in any special meetings that need to happen prior to a specific activity. For example, if you're going to go rock-climbing maybe you want to spend the preceeding meeting discussing safety procedures, commands, knots, etc.

  7. Determine your normal meeting rotation. This may take you some practice/experience to figure out, but document it once you have it. Here is mine, just for reference (or if you want to use it):

    • Scout Rank requirements (J4, J5, J6, J7, J8, T7)

    • Patrol officers election; Patrol flag creation; Fitness Test (T8, T10a)

    • Tenderfoot knots (T4a, T4b, T4c)

    • Hiking safety; Buddy system; Poisonous plants (T5, T9, T11)

    • Tenderfoot first aid (T12a, T12b)

    • Flag ceremonies; Flag etiquette; Fitness test (T6, T10b, S4)

    • Animal identification; Safe swim defense (S6, S8a)

    • Totin' Chip (S3c, S3d)

    • Basic orienteering; Map symbols (S1a)

    • Second Class first aid (S7a, S7b, S7c)

    • Fireman Chit; Leave No Trace (S2, S3e, S3f)

    • Personal safety and protection; Internet use and cyberbullies (S9b, F11)

    • Swimming Activity (S8b, S8c, F9b, F9c) - a Saturday activity

    • Direction finding; Compass course (F1, F2)

    • Plant identification; Safety afloat (F6, F9a)

    • First Class first aid (F8b, F8c, F8d)

    • Lashings (F7a, F7b, F8a)

    • Constitutional rights and obligations (F5)

  8. Start slotting in your standard meeting rotation into the open meeting slots.

  9. If you have a nice open block (frequently at the end of the year) put in something fun or different. For example, this time we had a four meeting block open at the end of the year. My assistant is going to come up with a list of appropriate merit badges he can teach and let the Scouts pick which one they want to do.

  10. Check the Ward and Stake calendars to make certain you aren't conflicting with a Ward or Stake event you or your Scouts are supposed to attend.

  11. Verify all special activity dates with your spouse to make certain you haven't double-booked with some family activity. Rework the calendar if you have. Family comes first.

  12. Print and distribute the final copy to all leaders and parents.

Following this method for planning made our planning session go the smoothest it ever has. We were both stoked at how quickly we were able to knock out a full year's plan. Now it's just time to execute!
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Forgotten Rank - Scout

Today I talk about the rank of Scout. Also called "Joining Requirements", this rank has been so downsized that it's not even listed with the rest of the rank advancements in the Scout Handbook. It's still a real rank, though. It's got a patch and everything. They call it "Joining Requirements" now, but I have yet to have a scout join my troop who has these things finished. They're not that hard to complete, but they can hardly be assumed. Even for Webelos that are bridging.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, the "Joining Requirements" are found on page 17 of the 2010 Scout Handbook. Here is the list of requirements:

  1. Meet the age requirements. Be a boy who is 11 years old, or one who has completed the fifth grade or earned the Arrow of Light Award and is at least 10 years old, but is not yet 18 years old.

  2. Find a Scout troop near your home.

  3. Complete a Boy Scout application and health history signed by your parent or guardian.

  4. Repeat the Pledge of Allegiance.

  5. Demonstrate the Scout sign, salute, and handshake.

  6. Demonstrate tying the square knot (a joining knot).

  7. Understand and agree to live by the Scout Oath or Promise, Law, motto, and slogan, and the Outdoor Code.

  8. Describe the Scout badge.

  9. Complete the Pamphlet Exercises. With your parent or guardian, complete the exercises in the pamphlet "How to Protect Your Children from Child Abuse: A Parent's Guide".

  10. Participate in a Scoutmaster conference.

The main difference that I see between this rank and "regular" ranks is that there isn't a board of review required for Scout. Whether you agree with me or not, let's just continue on the premise that the bulk of these requirements need to be covered/taught at a meeting in some way and move forward.

I teach all of these requirements in one meeting. It's kind of cool to be able to tell a brand-new Scout that he's finished a rank after one meeting. All of these requirements are very well explained in the Scout Handbook, but I'll walk through and give my two bits as an addendum for each. I'm ignoring the first two which are, obviously, handled before coming into the group.

  1. Complete a Boy Scout application and health history signed by your parent or guardian. - Ensure that this has happened. It doesn't involve the Scout, but it's a critical piece of paperwork that MUST happen. Nothing the Scout completes can be counted towards advancement until this is done. I tell the parents to submit it at the Scout office themselves so that no one but them can be blamed if it doesn't happen. Plus I'm a lazy procrastinator who would put it off if it were left up to me.

  2. Repeat the Pledge of Allegiance. - Pretty basic. We do this every meeting. The big thing I do is listen for Scouts saying "I pledge of allegiance" when we do our openings. I get a lot of Scouts doing that for some reason. I had one who insisted his teacher at school taught him that way. I truly hope that he's wrong...

  3. Demonstrate the Scout sign, salute, and handshake. - Most every Scout I get knows how to do these things. I mainly focus on the concept of standing at attention and looking sharp as you do the sign and salute rather than doing them sloppily.

  4. Demonstrate tying the square knot (a joining knot). - The Scout Handbook has a pretty decent illustration of how to tie a square knot. The big thing they don't show is an example of the most common incorrect knot tied when attempting a square knot. It's called a granny knot. Compare that image to a valid square knot and hopefully you can see the difference.

  5. Understand and agree to live by the Scout Oath or Promise, Law, motto, and slogan, and the Outdoor Code. - I go through and talk about the meaning of the various parts of each of these items. In my opinion this also passes off Tenderfoot requirement #7. The Scout Handbook has great explanations for these.

  6. Describe the Scout badge. - I have a diagram of the Scout Badge scanned from an older copy of the Scout Handbook that has all of the pieces numbered. I use the descriptions right out of the book, though.

  7. Complete the Pamphlet Exercises. With your parent or guardian, complete the exercises in the pamphlet "How to Protect Your Children from Child Abuse: A Parent's Guide". - I used to gloss over this one as something handled by the parents. Primarily, because it makes me uncomfortable to talk about the topic with 11 year olds. Given the BSA's increased focus on youth protection lately I've decided to swallow my discomfort and address the issue. I'm not perfect at discussing it, but at least I am discussing it, which is a start.

  8. Participate in a Scoutmaster conference. - I just assume that the entire meeting counts for this and move on.

There you go, easy as pie the first rank on the trail to Eagle is finished.
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Motivating Scout Participation

I have recently been discouraged by the lack of motivation to participate felt by my Scouts. I don't think it's that the Scouts aren't having fun at meetings (some would probably beg to differ depending on the meeting, though) I just feel like there isn't a general excitement and anticipation about going to a Scout meeting. At this age I think a lot of it is the parents not finding Scouting to be a high enough priority, but that's another issue entirely. I am instituting a plan this year that I hope will help encourage a little better participation from my Scouts.

I can't take full credit for my new plan. It's nothing new and I got turned on to it by reading a post on the LDS-Scouts Yahoo! group. The general idea of the program is to award beads for a variety of participation-related items. Here is the list I've come up with so far:

  • Red - attending a meeting

  • Yellow - attending an activity (non-meeting, non-campout)

  • Green - attending a campout

  • Purple - exceptional participation at a meeting, activity or campout

  • White - exceptional display of Scout spirit, service, etc.

The purple and white beads are awarded on a discretionary basis. I decided that we should award at least one purple bead every meeting determined by a quick leader discussion. If more than one is deserved more are awarded, but at least one should be awarded. I made certain to stipulate to the Scouts that the participation bead was earned by paying attention, answering questions and not having to be "reeled in" every few minutes.

I needed some way for the Scouts to display the beads on their uniform and my wife suggested a piece of string or leather thong that could be worn on the shoulder next to the epaulette. With the size beads I got, a 10-inch loop of leather string can hold about 35 beads.

The last piece of the plan is awards for earning a certain number of beads. I kept it simple and said that for every 20 beads earned the Scout would get a $5 gift certificate to McDonald's. If the Scout earned 75 beads he would get a pocketknife. Based on the level of participation needed for 75 beads, I only expect a few scouts to get the pocketknife. I also figured that I should be able to find a knife for around $10-$15.

This will be my first time running a plan like this and I may see a few surprises, but my hope is that this will get the Scouts' interest flowing and motivate them to want to come to meetings and participate. I guess I'll see how it goes.
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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Theme Oriented Meeting Plan

Here is the secondof my two meeting plans. The point of both is to provide my lesson plan for meetings. While preparing this plan for posting I realized that some of meetings outlined may be a little jam-packed. I run an hour-and-a-half meeting and a couple of these may push that time a little based on how I normally present the topics. If you follow this plan you may have to be a little strict on staying on topic to get through all of the items. As always, though, this is just my opinion based on how I do things. Mix it up and do it your own way.

This particular meeting plan is designed to collect similar activities into one block of meetings. For example, first-aid requirements are spread throughout all three ranks. This plan collects all of those requirements into one block of meetings. The benefit of following this type of plan is that you are covering the same type of thing for multiple meetings in a row. This could help your Scouts' retention capability. The downside of this type of plan is that requirements from all of the ranks are being worked on simultaneously. The net effect of this is that your Scouts won't receive rank advancements until they are completely done with one cycle of your program. And they will most likely receive all three rank advancements in one court of honor. This isn't necessarily bad, it just means that the Scouts won't really see their progress as they move through your program.

I should probably note that I no longer follow this plan (even though I developed it.) I used it for several years and it worked fine, but I found that parents were complaining about their son not receiving any awards every Court of Honor. I now follow my "Rank-Oriented Meeting Plan" and that gives more incremental recognition.

11 Year Old Scout Theme-Oriented Plan

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Rank Oriented Meeting Plan

Here is the first of my two meeting plans. The point of both is to provide my lesson plan for meetings. The combination of activities for a meeting seem to work well for my teaching style and I typically don't run over my hour-and-a-half meeting length.

This particular meeting plan is designed to take the Scouts through the rank requirements in chronological order. This means that, for the most part, all of the requirements for one rank are completed prior to addressing any requirements for the next rank. I think the only time I deviate from that is where the swimming requirements are concerned. There are swimming requirements in both Second and First Class and I didn't want to schedule two swimming activities only a few weeks apart.

11 Year Old Scout Rank-Oriented Plan

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Friday, April 3, 2009

11-Year Olds and the Patrol Method

I must say, I'm a fan of the patrol method. I believe strongly that a patrol should eat together, work together and play together. I believe in allowing youth to plan and conduct activities. I believe in sending youth leaders to training to make them better leaders. I also believe that patrols in an 11-year old program are too junior to operate in any sort of self-governed manner. They are still 11-year olds, after all.

That having been said, I still believe that 11-year olds should go through the exercise of creating their patrol. I have my 11-year olds re-form their patrol every six months. This is for one very practical reason: the timing of my program. It takes me about six months to run through all of the requirements from brand-new Scout to completion of First Class; excluding campouts. So, I basically run my program on a six month rotation. I always have one of my first couple meetings in the rotation be patrol formation. I know that the requirements are just that the Scouts "know [the] patrol name, give the patrol yell, and describe [the] patrol flag" but I feel that they know these things best if they've had a part in creating them. Plus it gives the Scouts a chance to switch out an unpopular patrol name/flag/yell and gives different Scouts leadership opportunities.

So, we go through the exercise of creating a patrol and electing leaders, but I don't truly expect an 11-year old patrol leader to do a lot of leading. And, I don't even try to have him involved in the planning. I'm typically pleased if the patrol leader acts like slightly less of a maniac than the rest of the Scouts.

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