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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