Archive for the ‘Program’ Category

One of the things that makes the Boy Scout program different from many youth programs is that the boys plan their own program. The junior leadership of a troop meets once a year to plan themes, activities, and dates for the next twelve months. They meet once a month to fill in the activity details and plan the meetings. The Boy Scouts of Melrose Troop 68 have done this for the last thirty years. The troop leadership usually meets in August, but scheduling conflicts came up this year and the planning session was moved back to October. Once the Scouts have planned their agenda it is presented to the troop committee for final approval.

Here is the Melrose Boy Scout Troop 68 schedule for the 2011-2012 program year:

The theme for October was water safety and citizenship. The Scouts worked on various requirements for their First Class Rank. The activity for the month was the district fall camporee which was held at Camp Stearns, near Fairhaven, Minnesota.

First aid will be the meeting theme for November. The troop is planning to brings in guests to teach the Scouts some first aid skills. The month’s activity will be the LPMRB, a troop tradition. This outing includes spending the day having fun while rollerskating, going out for pizza, going to a movie, and finishing with late night bowling.

The Scouts chose a new theme for December: movie watching. They are going to be learning about how movies are made and how some of the special effects are done. The activity will be the annual Christmas party which will include a gift exchange. The last court of honor for the year will be held on Monday, the 19th.

January’s theme is winter first aid and safety, which may come in handy when the Scouts go snow tubing for their activity. The district is also planning a merit badge midway to be held this month.

During the troop meetings in February the boys will be learning about firearm and archery safety. February is also the month in which we will be celebrating the 101st anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. The troop will be spending a weekend at Camp Stearns, having fun playing broomball, disc golf, and sledding on the camp’s great sledding hill.

The theme for March is Family Life, which is an Eagle required merit badge. The troop’s first court of honor of the year will be held, recognizing the Boy Scouts for achievements earned. A trip to the Waterpark of America is planned, with a side stop to the Mall of America.

The troop will hold its own version of the olympics during the April troop meetings. The Scenic district will hold a merit badge clinic this month. The troop will hold its spring fundraiser before Easter. April’s activity will be the overnighter with loads of activities, movies, and snacks.

Historical places will be the theme for May. A weekend trip to Camp Watchamagumee is planned. This has always been one of the troop’s favorite activities. Order of the Arrow members will meet for a weekend conclave at Parker Scout Reservation near Brainerd.

Hiking is June’s theme. Hiking is also a suggested merit badge for Boy Scouts to earn on their way to becoming an Eagle Scout. A weekend camping trip at Kings Lake is the outing. The summer court of honor will be held at the end of the month.

The main camping event of the year will be held in July when the Boy Scouts spend a week at Many Point Scout Camp, which is located northwest of Park Rapids. In addition to earning various merit badges the Scouts will have the chance to swim, canoe, try a sauna, climb a tower, go sailboating, experience life as a lumberjack, learn about nature, and much more.

August is the last month of the program year. Canoeing is the theme with a weekend canoe trip as the highlight. This will also be the month the patrol leader council meets to plan for the next program year.

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    This week will be a busy week for this scoutmaster in central Minnesota. It begins with this year’s first court of honor which takes place tonight at the city hall meeting rooms. There are not many awards to present, but we do have two new Boy Scouts to recognize and one Scout will receive his Tenderfoot Rank. Our district executive will give the annual Friends of Scouting presentation.

    The patrol leader council will meet Tuesday night to plan for the next month’s meetings and activities. We had elections in March so we will also have to work a little training into the meeting.

    Cubmaster Chris and I may record a Leaders Campfire podcast this Wednesday. I really need to make another Around the Scouting Campfire show to post on Thursday. I was able to write a script for it last week but have not got together with Buttons yet to record it.

    The court of honor for this troop’s nineteenth Eagle Scout will be held Saturday afternoon. The plans are complete. The guest speakers have been contacted. The guests have been invited. I have finished the slideshow of Dakota’s Scouting years but I still have to burn it to a dvd. I also need to write a short speech.

    This is just a list of the Scouting related items on the agenda. I need to find time to get work done around the house, and eat the Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies that have arrived.

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      Every once in awhile it becomes a busy week of Scout stuff in this scoutmaster’s schedule. This happens to be one of those weeks. Take a look…

      Monday, the 14th – The troop meeting. Most of the members of the Mel-TV board of directors stopped by for a photo with the Boy Scouts. They donated a thousand dollars to the troop. Time to replace some equipment this spring.

      Tuesday, the 15th – the troop committee meeting. In addition to the usual stuff, we had a board of review for a Tenderfoot Scout. The chairman of the Cub Scout Pack committee attended so we could plan for a Scout recruitment night in April.

      Wednesday, the 16th – preparation. Prepared and printed posters for next month’s Belgian waffle supper fundraiser. Printed, cut, and bundled the presales tickets for the supper. Met with one of the Boy Scouts to discuss and plan the food list for this weekend’s outing.

      Thursday, the 17th – packing. Time to prepare the troop gear and pack the personal gear for this weekend’s outing.

      Friday, the 18th through Sunday, the 20th – the troop’s winter outing. This one may not be much of a winter outing. Temperatures have been in the 40’s this week. The sledding hill may be brown instead of white.

      Monday, the 21st – the troop meeting. We will be using the meeting to have the boys go around town for the presales kick-off for next month’s fundraiser. Hopefully, sales will go well.

      Tuesday, the 22nd – The Blue and Gold Banquet. The Boy Scouts will be assisting with the opening and closing ceremonies. They will also be doing a short skit. I will be showing a slideshow I prepared featuring the Cub Scouts during their meetings and Pinewood Derby. I will also give the Friends of Scouting talk during the meeting.

      Wednesday, the 23 – rest and relaxation. Unless Chris decides we should do a Leaders Campfire episode.

      How is your week of Scouting this week?

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        Several years ago, the patrol leader council included a winter troop activity in their yearly program plan that became know as the overnighter. It was an all night outing that would begin at 6:00 Saturday evening and end at 7:00 Sunday morning. They talked me into holding it at my house. I guess they liked my ping pong table, dart board, Legos, board games, and dvd collection. It kept reoccurring on new yearly program plans.

        I did not mind, too much. The boys enjoyed the games and the social aspect of the outing. The parents seemed to like the idea that it was not at their house. After all, who would want a dozen or so teenage boys staying up all night playing games and watching movies in their house?

        The boys were usually well behaved. They are Boy Scouts, you know. That is probably why I kept hosting the outing. That and the fact that when it was time to go home, I was already home.

        I have noticed that my body does not approve of the all night activity. The boys are up all night, which means I am awake all night until the Scouts go home Sunday morning. I have a hard time sleeping during daylight hours so it usually takes a few days for me to recover from the loss of sleep.

        Troop membership has been dropping in Melrose for the pass few years. Only three Scouts (and one dad) of the eight members attended the overnighter this last weekend. Due to small turnout we were not able to have the usual tournaments and competitions. Don’t get me wrong though. The three boys still seemed to have a good time, but it bothered me that five did not attend. I know one Scout had a family function to attend, but the other four did not give a reason for missing the outing. I have a feeling that they do not think the outing is worth their time anymore.

        I have also come to the conclusion that I have no desire to host any more of these activities. Or attend them. If the patrol leader council wishes to include another overnighter on next year’s program they will have to find somewhere else to hold it, and another adult to take my place. It is time for the younger parents to take over chaperoning this event. This body has no desire to participate in another one. But I would attend one until midnight or so.

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          One goal of the program of the Boy Scouts of America is to provide leadership training to the youth of a troop. This occurs through troop meetings, patrol leader council meetings, weekend sessions, conferences, and the National Youth Leadership course.

          Troop 68 holds elections every six months for the offices of patrol leader and senior patrol leader, in March and September. These leaders than appoint the other troop and patrol leadership. Ideally, I like to hold an afternoon training session after an election. This has not worked out for the last year because of scheduling conflicts.

          The troop’s theme for this month’s program was scheduled to be “Laughs For Lunch”. We had planned to practice songs and skits for a community campfire style program. (See post about Laughs For Lunch HERE.) Unfortunately, due to a small troop roster and some high school sport conflicts, we had to drop the Laughs For Lunch theme. The patrol leader council decided to use this month’s meetings for leadership training. We would break down the afternoon training session into three parts for our January meetings.

          The first of these meetings was held last night. Six of the eight troop members attended, four of who had never taken part in a youth training program. We watched the first portion of the video which covered styles of leadership training, sharing leadership, communications, and knowing the skills of your team members. The game activities helped to demonstrate these leadership points.

          The meeting went well. The boys seemed to enjoy the session and even picked up a few leadership points. I hope next week goes just as well.

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            If you have been involved with Scouting for any length of time you have probably heard someone say, “It only takes an hour a week.” What a joke that is! Just a bit of a misleading line there, huh? Let us take a look at a typical month of Scouting during this scoutmaster’s life.

            We have three troop meetings a month. At ninety minutes per meeting, plus drive time, plus waiting for parents to pick their boys after the meeting, I can estimate two hours per meeting. Monthly total here is 6 hours.

            One committee meeting per month, average of 1.5 hours. One patrol leader council meeting per month, average two hours. One district roundtable meeting each month with drive time to council office, average of three hours. Total of monthly meetings is 6.5 hours each month.

            One weekend camping trip per month. The Scouts arrive at 6:00 Friday evening. Parents pick up the last boy at 11:00 Sunday morning. Total hours of camping trip is 41 hours. (Yes, I counted the sleeping hours. I am still in charge of the Scouts, am I not?)

            Now, let’s add this up. It comes to 53.5 hours during the month. (Keep in mind that this does not include any prep time, fund raising, training, or special activity time yet.) Divide this figure by four weeks per month. Gosh! That comes to an average of 13.75 hours per week.

            An hour a week? Not even close! But this demonstration does show that those of us who are scoutmasters can be quite dedicated to the program and the boys. The amazing thing is that I sometimes feel that I am spending more “quality time” with the boys then some of their parents do. What does this say about our society?

            Scouting can be a great organization for boys and their parents. It gives them a chance to do some things together. Come on parents! Get involved with that Cub Pack or Boy Scout Troop. Become a committee member, a pack leader, or an assistant scoutmaster.

            After all, it only takes an hour a week.

            (This article was originally posted on August 22, 2007.)

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              In the last article I printed a copy of the letter I sent to parents in 1986 when I was a scoutmaster having problems with the troop and ready to resign from the position. Part of that letter was a questionnaire that I asked the parents to fill out and send back to me. I really did not expect many questionnaires to be returned, but I received a pleasant surprise. (Keep in mind, this was long before everyone had access to the internet and email. We sent letters to each other by the US Postal Service!)

              Here is a copy of that questionnaire:



              NAME: ____________________________________________

              Do you know the Scout Oath and Law? If not, would you be willing to learn them?

              Do you think that the principles set forth in the Oath and Law are good goals to strive for?

              Would you be willing to work with your son(s) on developing a proper and positive attitude about Scouting?

              Do you know the requirements of the award(s) which your son(s) are currently working on?

              Do you know what a merit badge counselor is? What is it? What subjects do you feel you could be a councilor for?

              What kind of discipline actions should a scoutmaster be allowed to take?

              What is your opinion of Scouts wearing the Scout uniform?

              Are you willing to make sure that your son participates in Scout activities?

              Would you be willing to spend two hours, or more, a month toward helping out and developing a better troop?

              How important do you think it is for parents to attend a court of honor?

              How do you think your son feels about Scouting in general? How do you feel about Scouting in general? What do you think about Scouting in Melrose?

              How many hours a week do you think a scoutmaster should spend working on Scouting?

              Please write any additional comments below.

              You may not believe this, but I still have the questionnaires that were returned to me. I have them in a file in my Scouting cabinet. Nineteen people replied, which represented most of the troop when you count how many families had brothers involved. It gave me a pretty good idea about how the parents felt on the topics. For example, only 5 parents checked knowing the Scout Oath and Law, but nearly everyone replied that they would be willing to learn them.

              How would your troop’s current parents answer these questions?

              (And this irritates me. I cannot get the picture of the hats to rotate properly.)

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                If you have been a leader in the Scouting program for a few years, or any sort of program for that matter, you have probably reached a point when you have said to yourself, “Why am I doing this? Am I the only one who cares? Why do I put up with these problems and these people?” It has happened to me several times during the 30 years I have been a leader of a Boy Scout troop.

                The first time I was ready to hang up my scoutmaster hat was in 1986. I was a 25 year old scoutmaster, on the job as the scoutmaster for less then five years. The boys had become an unmanageable group, at least in my opinion. I was so frustrated that I wrote a letter to the parents. Then I called a friend of mine who lived nearly 100 miles away but had one of those new personal computers and a dot matrix printer. I asked him if he could type this letter and print enough copies for me to send to each family of the troop. After he agreed to do it I drove to his place that night. It was early in the morning when I arrived back home and mailed the letters but I didn’t care. I wanted the parents to know how I felt about things. I listed the problems I saw in the troop, and gave some solutions on how we all could solve them. Here is what I wrote in that letter 24 years ago…

                FROM THE DESK OF: Scoutmaster Steve B
                TO: parents of the Scouts of BSA Troop 68
                REGARDING: Problems of our troop.

                Dear Parents,

                The BSA program strives for three aims: 1) building character, 2) fostering citizenship, and 3) developing metal, moral, and physical fitness. Could our troop be failing to do this? I think so.

                The month of April was the worst month, at least in my opinion, in our history as a troop. At the April 15th troop meeting the boys reached an all time high for rowdiness, goofing off, not listening, and not giving a darn. The meeting had to be halted twice to settle things down. It was after this meeting that I almost quit being a scoutmaster. But I didn’t. And I will tell you why.

                First of all, I like the boys and I care about them. I believe that each one has the potential to be a great human being. Second, I believe in the Scouting program. I feel it is the best program in the world that a boy can belong to. Third, I think that you and I both realize that if I quit this troop will more then likely fall apart for lack of a scoutmaster. I do not want that to happen.

                During the week following that meeting I did a lot of thinking about the troop and my involvement with it. Should I stay on as scoutmaster? Is our troop really Scouting? Do the boys really care about Scouting? Do the parents care?

                By the next meeting I found six things wrong with our troop: attitude, advancement, discipline, Scout spirit, uniforms, and participation. Quite a bit, isn’t it? In the following pages you will read my feeling about these six items and my solutions. At the end there is a questionaire. If you as a parent care about your Scout and want Scouting to continue in Melrose, I would like you to fill it out and send it back to me by Monday, May 13th. If you do not send it back, my opinion will be that you do not care about your son being a Scout or Scouting in general. If this is the case, I ask you to keep your son at home. Scouting is a three way partnership between the boy, the scoutmaster, and the parents. If this partnership is not complete, the battle is lost.

                And I am finally sick and tired of battling parents and boys.

                Now, to get down to business. PROBLEMS:

                1) Attitude
                I feel this is the most important problem. If this problem was solved, everything else would probably fall into place.
                Problem – The boys just do not seem to care about Scouting anymore. They want all the fun and games involved with Scouting, but they do not even try to act like Boy Scouts. They will often fight things that deal with Scouting (for example – knots).
                Solution – This one is up to the boys. Either they start trying to be what a Scout should be, or as far as I am concerned, they are out of the troop. I have several boys that would like to be good Scouts and I will not have their time wasted by kids who have an attitude problem. I have tried discussing this with the Scouts. It is now your turn.

                2) Advancement
                This is a way of measuring a boy’s interest in Scouting. But most important, it builds confidence in the boy and recognizes him for his achievements. This is extremely important at his age.
                Problem – Advancement in our troop is almost at a standstill. I knew it had been bad, but I did not realize how bad until May 3rd when I did a report on troop advancement. The report is on the 24 boys who were in the troop for at least three months. Out of these 24 boys there is 1 Life, 1 Star, 4 First Class, 5 Second Class, 7 Tenderfoot, and six Scouts without a rank. Over one half of the troop is Tenderfoot or lower. These thirteen Scouts averaged 9.3 months with no rank advancement. Eight boys have not advanced in rank in over one year. Four of these have not advanced for over a year and a half.
                Solution – The solution comes in two parts. First, and most importantly, you have got to show that you care. Sit down with him and calmly talk about it. Do not yell at him or he will shut you out. Find out how he feels about it. And then, this is very important, volunteer to help him, and then carry through with that promise. It is going to take some of your time, but he is worth it, isn’t he? Secondly, I have tried to push the boys along. It is now time for me to take more drastic action. Any Scout who has not advanced at least one rank during the previous eleven months as of 5/31/85 will not be allowed to attend any troop monthly outings until he does advance. The only exception to this rule will be summer camp.

                3) Scout Spirit
                Scout Spirit is defined as following the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, Slogan, and Outdoor Code, and having a positive attitude about things.
                Problem – The boys’ Scout Spirit is at a very low point right now.
                Solution – Other then to keep reminding them about it, I do not really have a solution. All of us, myself and you parents, must try to live up to the Scout Oath and Law, setting the example the boys need.

                4) Discipline
                To put it bluntly, a lack of it.
                Problem – There is not enough of this in our troop. There are two groups of people who are at fault, the adult leaders and the parents. When I say the adult leaders, I am referring to one person, namely myself. This is the main area in which I must improve. I realize that I have been too lenient in disciplining and have let the kids go too far. But I have one problem. How far can I go in disciplining them? After all, they are not my kids.
                Solution – First of all, I must get tougher and do more disciplining. This will be hard for me because I hate doing it, but the attempt must be made. Secondly, our troop is presently at 29 members, which is too much for one man to handle. Therefore, I ask that at least one other parent should be present at all troop functions or they will be cancelled.
                Are you willing to give two hours a month to help your Scout and Scout troop?

                5) Uniforms
                The scoutmaster handbook states, “Just as it identifies the wearer as a Scout, the uniform reminds him that he is a Scout and influences his actions. The Scout uniform is also a leveler. Whatever a boy’s background, when he puts it on he shares equally in the program.”
                Problem – The boys do not like wearing the uniform outside of a meeting. Sometimes the parents side with the boys.
                Solution – The Scout handbook, scoutmaster handbook, Council and National Office state that whenever a Scout is on a Scout Function then he shall wear the uniform. As I told the boys last month, “You don’t have to wear your uniforms, and you don’t have to come to Scout activities either.” If a boy wants to be a Scout in our troop then he will wear the uniform.

                6) Participation
                Problem – First, the boys sometimes feel they do not have to come to meetings or activities unless they fell like coming. Wrong! Part of Scout Spirit is actively participating in meetings, outing, good turns, and service projects. Secondly, it seems that some parents feel this is a baby sitting service. There are a number of parents in this troop who seldom help out. A couple have not helped at all yet. They keep saying they are busy and don’t have the time.
                Solution – Well, you should make the time! They are your kids, not mine. If you can not find the time to help out with the organization your son belongs to, then I can not find the time either. From now on I expect a lot more parent participation at troop meetings, outings, activities, committee meetings, and such. I am not going to try to handle 29 boys by myself. And I do not expect those parents who are already helping a lot to help anymore then their share.

                I will be asking all of you to make commitments to your son and the Scouting program. If this troop is to work properly, we will have to work together. I myself am making a firm commitment toward helping the troop. At the end of April, I dropped out of every other organization I was involved with except two – Boy Scouts and the city council. I did this for a couple of reasons. One, I was getting involved with too many things. I finally realized this and set my priorities.

                Secondly, I strongly believe that our children are our greatest resource. If we don’t take the time to teach them and show them what is right, who will?

                Third, the boys need adult guidance. By getting out of all the other activities, I will have more time to spend with the boys. But remember, your guidance is the most important to them.

                Fourth, when I took the scoutmaster position, I promised the troop committee that I would dedicate myself to the troop. Well, I have been slacking and it is time I got back on the right track.

                I have said a lot in this letter, and I have probably made a few of you angry. But I have been quiet for too long and it is time these things were said. I would like to hear your comments and remarks. Please remember to fill out the questionnaire and mail it back to me.

                Thank you.
                Your scoutmaster,
                Steve B.

                Looking back at this letter today I am amazed by what I actually wrote. I am also amazed to see that things have not changed that much during the last 25 years. We are still having a few of these problems with today’s troop.

                I am curious, what do you think of this letter by the 25 year old scoutmaster in 1986?

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