Letter to a Scoutmaster

on January 18, 2007 in Program

I recently received an email from a troop Scout leader asking for help in a few areas in which they are having some difficulties in their troop. Two of the questions were about troop meetings and having a boy planned program. As I wrote my reply, it occurred to me that this might be a good blog entry for other leaders, especially newer adult leaders. So here it is, the letter I wrote in reply to this Scout leaders questions.

Okay, first of all, I am no expert, but I do have quite a few years of experience (over 25 years as scoutmaster.) I can tell you what works or not in our troop, but that may not be the case in yours. That being said….

Melrose is a community of 3300 people. Troop membership has varied over the years. We peaked at 41 boys a decade ago but membership has been in a decline since then. We are currently down to ten boys, nine active. Part of this is due to the Cub Pack having a rough 5-6 years, barely surviving at times. Of course, most of the boys graduated from the Cub Pack. During the last 5 years I think only 3-4have graduated from Cubbing.

I blame parents for a good portion of this because it appears that many parents do not want to get involved in Scouting anymore. I think many parents are blind to what Scouting can offer their sons. Of course, and I hate to say it, there are many lazy parents also. But I also think some of them do not understand what Scouting is all about.

Our troop meets year round. Many of our boys have been involved in sports over the years. I encourage them to attend the meetings as often as they can. It works pretty well until the parents pull them from Scouting to concentrate on sports instead of Scouting. (I could right a whole column on how I feel about high school sports. Maybe a subject for a future blog entry.)

The troop meets the first three Mondays each month except July (summer camp month) and December (only two troop meetings), from 6:30 to 8:00. Once in awhile we make take a month off, but that does not happen too often. There are too many activities the boys want to do during the year. We begin the meeting with an opening ceremony involving something Scouting and something patriotic. Then we have skill development taught by older Scouts,adult leaders, or special guests, depending on the subject. This is followed by 15 minutes of game time or patrol competition, which is the highlight of the meeting for the boys. After patrol meeting time we end with announcements and a quick closing ceremony.

Just try to keep meetings fun. We try to keep the skill development portion of the meeting hands-on if possible so the boys are actually doing something, instead of just sitting there. Boys like to do something, not sit around like in school. You just need to be sure to bring enough “props” for everyone to work with.

The patrol leader council plans the meetings during their once a month meeting held on the last Monday of the month. They plan the opening, closings, games, and the skill development sessions. They decide who does what and if guests need to be brought in.The PLC also plans the details for the outing each month, and the agenda for courts of honor. Of course, there is always a bit of training involved after each election, but the boys ARE capable of doing the planning, so LET THEM. Just be there to help them out when they run into problems.

Also, the boys are more willing to participate if they planned the program instead of being adult planned. Once a year the troop has a weekend “yearly planning session” in which the boys brainstorm and plan a program schedule for the next twelve months. In is interesting to watch the boys in action, but can be a bit frustrating at times. It would be quicker for the adults to do it, yes, but then it would be the adult’s program and not the boy’s program. It is important for the boys to plan their own program. The adult’s job (troop leaders and committee) is to help the boys carry out that program.

You can see some of my troop’s yearly programs at http://melrosetroop68.org/yearlyprogram.html Okay, this email has gotten long enough. I will write back about more later.

YIS

Steve B
Scoutmaster, Troop 68

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