A “Boy Planned” Program

on August 8, 2008 in Program

The Yearly Planning Session (YPS) is an activity held by the Patrol Leader Council of Troop 68 the first weekend of each August. During this session the PLC, under the supervision of the scoutmaster, will plan the troop’s program for the next twelve months.

Boy Scout Troop 68 has conducted these sessions in different ways over the last twenty six years. Sometimes they are weekend events held at a resort or cabin. Sometimes they are a simple one day event that ends with a movie or game. However we do the session, we always try to mix in a little fun with the work.

The troop usually begins the session with the Scouts rating the troop on how it has done during the past year by filling out a questionnaire. The form covers about twenty-plus areas and gives us a good look at where improvement is needed and where we have been doing well.

The PLC will take several minutes to review the previous year’s program. What went well? What did not? What were the popular outings? Which ones had low participation, and why? Were any activities canceled? If so, what was the reason? Based on these evaluations the junior leaders will set goals for the next year. These goals will be incorporated into the next year’s program.

By this point the guys usually need a break. If we are conducting a weekend session the break may be followed by some leadership training.

Now it is time to brainstorm ideas for monthly themes and activities. Each junior leader will make a list of ideas he thinks should be part of a great program. The patrol leaders include any ideas from the patrol members. All these ideas are then written onto a white board for the whole PLC to see.

This list of dozens of ideas for activities and monthly themes must now be narrowed down to twelve months of program. This will take two or three rounds of voting. During the first round each Scout will vote for twelve activities and themes. Ideas that receive no votes or only one vote are eliminated from the list. During the second round the boys will only vote for eight ideas. If a third round is needed they will vote for six ideas.

Once this list is narrowed done it is time to place the themes and activities into a monthly schedule. Dates are chosen for meetings, activities, fundraisers, service projects, and other events. This new program is then reviewed one last time and tweaked a little if it needs it. The final step is for the senior patrol leader to present the program to the troop committee at their next meeting for their stamp of approval. The committee then calls for a parents meeting to review the program and find chairpeople for each event.

This is a very brief description of the process in Troop 68. It has worked well for us. How does your troop plan its program year? Do you have any other ideas to share?

Thanks for Sharing!

    2 Responses to “A “Boy Planned” Program”

    1. admin says:

      We usually do the same sort of thing except we haven’t done the reflection part that you described and I think I’m going to recommend that. We usually reflect on an outing by outing basis and then remember those comments when we’re doing our planning.

      What I’ve implemented the last couple of years is making lists of various things: service projects, big outings, camping, etc. The patrol leaders and SPL are supposed to come prepared with lists that they received from their patrols and then we add stuff that we think of on the spot, too. Each boy gets X number of votes (usually 8) and they vote on all the outings to see what is the most popular. We push the boys to adopt at least one of the more popular service projects, but then let them decide on the other stuff based on popularity.

      This year we also introduced something I do with my Girl Scouts. Each member selects his favorite outing that he’s afraid might not get voted on without some sort of strong endorsement and then stands up and makes a speech about why the other guys should vote for it.

      We narrow down our final selections based on votes, but then also discuss practical difficulties like overall expense for the year, what will be required in order to make some events happen, and then let the guys either commit to those things or rethink their selections in which case we move on to the next most popular events.

      Finally we assign Boy Scouts and adult advisors for each outing so that there is a planning team taking charge with the Scoutmaster and SPL being responsible to ensure that the events are on track. This has met with limited success. We’ve already canceled one event this year, but I think that was because we tried to combine two events into one and that made it partially unattractive to many resulting in low commitment to the event.

      Last year, this method seemed to work okay, but we’re coming off a very adult run troop and trying to shift to boy led. We’re still finding our footing on how to train the boys into leading which basically seems to required a lot of handholding and reminding. When we haven’t done that, outings fall through due to lack of planning. It’s hard to get a troop that is used to just attending events to start actually taking responsibility for planning them. We’ve had a few guys really step up, though, and I think that makes it easier for the other boys to see who the leaders are in the troop which helps the correct people get elected into leadership positions.

      Speaking of which, I have to try to get the beach campout outing back on track because that team let the reservation process get away from them and now all the campsites are full. Time to look for a plan B.

      Have fun!

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