Posts Tagged ‘planning’


brainstormingBoy Scout Troop 68 now has a program plan for the 2013-2014 year. I talked to the scoutmaster at last week’s troop meeting to ask how things went at the year planning conference. If you recall from the last blog article, I was a little concerned over an item or two, namely that he invited the entire troop membership to attend and that he also invited all the parents. Turns out that I did not need to be concerned.

The parent invitation is the one that bothered me the most. If too many parents attended the meeting I was afraid it would become a parent planned program instead of a Boy Scout planned program. I need not have worried about it. Not a single parent, other than the scoutmaster and assistant parent, came to the session.

Unfortunately, not many of the Scouts attended it either. Most of the patrol leader council either could not attend, or decided not to attend. Only three boys showed up. One was the senior patrol leader, who happens to be the scoutmaster’s son during this term, and another was a new Scout who just joined the troop and does not hold an office. Talk about getting involved right from the start. Although not many boys showed up for the session they went ahead and planned the yearly program.

The scoutmaster told me he really did not want to reschedule the meeting since only a small group of Scouts attended. I had to agree with him. The boys and families had known about the session for over a month. If he would have rescheduled he would have had no guarantee that more Boy Scouts would have attended. And it would have pushed the scheduling process back another week or two or three which could have caused us to miss the presentation of the new schedule by the senior patrol leader at this month’s committee meeting. If it would have been rescheduled for later in the month it also could have got in the way of this month’s outing.

I think they did the right thing. If any parents or Scouts want to object about the new program, well, all we have to is ask them where were they on Saturday, August 6th. After all, everyone was invited to come and give their two cents at that time.

brainstormingI became a scoutmaster in 1981. I went to district and council training and learned that the Boy Scouts should do the planning for their troop’s program.Boy Scout Troop 68 began holding a yearly planning conference during the first or second weekend of August. During the last thirty years it has been fun assisting the troop’s junior leaders develop their monthly themes and activities. Some activities became yearly traditions. Others did not go very well and were not repeated.

This year’s planning session, held today, will have at least one thing different then sessions of the past 30 years. I will not be attending. I have to work Saturday morning and I have a wedding to attend in the afternoon. I am not the scoutmaster anymore so it is probably best that I do not attend, to just step back and let the new leaders lead.

Jim, our current scoutmaster, will not be going into the planning session blind though. He and I were the adult leaders for last year’s session so he has a pretty good idea how to conduct one. Most of the Scouts who will be attending have also participated in a planning session, so things should run smoothly.

Jim did make two changes to the planning session this year. The first should not make a difference. He invited all the Boy Scout members of the troop to attend. The reason I do not think it will matter is that we will be lucky if half the 11 current members attend. Hopefully, the junior leaders do attend because this session is part of their job as leaders of the troop.

The second change he made does worry me a little. He invited parents to attend. Now, I realize that not all the parents will show up. They already have events scheduled, I am sure. My concern is that too many parents will attend and mess up the planning process. I am afraid the program could end up being planned by parents and not by the Scouts.

Am I concerned for no real reason? Will the session run smoothly with the parents there? Will any of them even show up? I guess we will know soon.

How does your troop conduct its yearly planning session? Drop a note and share your ideas with us.

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.

In 1986, The Boy Scouts of Melrose Troop 68 went to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico for the first time, but it was a trip that almost did not happen. Here is part 2 of what happened and the problems that needed to be overcome. (Taken from my journal of the adventure.)

Only one major item was left to be dealt with: transportation. Airlines were too expensive. If we took a vehicle, and it broke down, we would miss part of the trek. This problem took us several months to solve. Sam, an assistant scoutmaster, came up with an answer. He would borrow his friend’s camper, bring us to Philmont, take his family on a vacation into Colorado while we were on the trek, and then bring us home again. That sounded great! Our troubles were over, or so we thought.

Actually, they were just beginning.

Summer arrived, and Gerry (dad) decided he would like to go along on the trip. I had mixed feelings about this news. My first reaction was “why?” He earlier said he didn’t have time to go. His wedding anniversary was at that time. All of a sudden he had time to go along. I couldn’t understand it. My second thought was that now I would not be the only adult with the Scouts. I had planned to spend with the boys, just me and them. I felt like he was intruding. But then I starting to think a bit more. I would not be the only adult. That was not such a bad idea. What if something would happen to me on the trail. Another adult could come in quite handy.

Now, our number had risen to a crew of eight. Add Sam, Betty, and Heather Schnell and the camper we had planned to take was no longer able to take all of us and the gear. Gerry offered to drive his car to carry the extra gear. It was shorty after this that we found out that Betty could not get her vacation at that time. That meant no camper. That was strike one. The search began for a rental station wagon, or hopefully a van. The committee members began to search. Car rental outlets were called and all of them wanted more then we could pay.

In late June, Gerry checked with William’s Busing in Freeport. They told him they had a van available for rent at a very reasonable price. A few days later they called Gerry so say that they had sold that one but had another we could use. As it turned out, this second van was not road worthy for the long trip that we planned to take. So here we were, three weeks before we were to leave, and we still did not have a way down there. Strike two! I told myself not to worry about it. The committee would take care of it. Besides, I was getting ready to take eleven Scouts to Wisconsin for summer camp. Nope, I wasn’t going to worry about it.

I wish I had.

While I was gone to camp, Gerry, the troop’s outdoor committee member, who had been doing a lot of checking around to find transportation, had gone to a national guard’s camp for two weeks. While the two of us were gone his wife and my committee chairman had a bit of an argument on the phone while talking about the transportation problem. It seems that both of them said something to the other that should not have been said.

The first thing I heard about Philmont when I got back from camp was that we were going to New Mexico by train. The second thing was that there had been some serious bear attacks at Philmont. Then I was told about the argument. I called the troop chairman, Mike. I also talked to Gerry when he returned. Things didn’t sound very good. Each was angry at the other. This was the first time two committee members had had such an argument. Luckily, Mike had called Gerry and the two of them mended things pretty well. Things still did not feel right though. I could still detect a bit of friction between them.

Two things had changed in the game plans due to that fateful call. Gerry (dad) would no longer be going on the trip. He did not want to attend any longer. I got the feeling after speaking to him that he felt caught in the middle and wouldn’t feel comfortable with Jeff, Mike’s son, who would also be going on the trip. It took a few days, but Gerry (dad) and I finally convinced Gerry (son) to go along and not leave this opportunity pass him by.

We may have kept Gerry, but we still lost one Scout from the roster. I received a call during my first day back at work after summer camp. It was Dave, Chris; father. He asked me to stop by his house on my way home. No reason was given over the phone to cause me any alarm.

Dave and Chris met me by the garage when I arrived. Dave informed me that Chris would not be attending the trek and could no longer hold the office of senior patrol leader. In fact, Chris would probably be dropping from the Scout troop. He then let Chris tell me why. All he said was, “I got caught shoplifting.”

I didn’t know what to say. I agreed with Dave that Chris should step down as senior patrol leader. I was undecided as to whether we should kick him out the the troop or not. I would have to think about it. As for Chris going along to Philmont? I felt that was something the family would have to decide. Besides, at that moment I agreed with Chris’ father.

Our group was done to six, five Scouts and myself. (Keep in mind that this was before the BSA had instituted the two deep leadership policy that they now have.) Our transportation was arranged. Our fees were paid. It looked like we were ready to go. We had one meeting to check over the gear and one to discover what it would be like to climb up hills with full packs.

All we had left to do was wait. We could handle that.

Philmont Group 1986In 1986, The Boy Scouts of Melrose Troop 68 went to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico for the first time, but it was a trip that almost did not happen. Here is part 1 of what happened and the problems that needed to be overcome. (Taken from my journal of the adventure.)

Why Philmont? Why now? These were two important questions. Both were considered when the Melrose Troop 68 committee and I began to plan for a high adventure trek for the Scouts of our troop.

It was the spring of 1985 when we become serious about giving the Scouts the opportunity to go to one of the high adventure bases. Several boys had been in the troop for a number of years. The regular program was becoming a bit stale for them. We needed something exciting for them to look forward to. Something for just the older Scouts.

I had been to Philmont Scout Ranch in June, 1994, for a one week scoutmaster training course. While I was there I was captured by the spell of the place. I knew that someday I would have to go back to participate in a trek through the mountain wilderness with the Scouts of my troop.

When the opportunity came for a high adventure trip I strongly suggested Philmont. It was challenging. It was rugged. It was Scouting. And it was reasonably priced. A thirteen day, twelve night stay, would cost each boy only one hundred seventy five dollars. If we had at least five boys attend an adult leader would be able to go along free of charge.

We agreed to commit ourselves to this project. We chose the month of August for three reasons. August was supposed to be the drying of the three months that Philmont was open. It would not interfere with our summer camp plans. And last, I wanted to go in August. But before we could make a definite commitment there were two things that needed to be taken care of. The first was to see if I could get the time off from work. We all knew, though no one really said it, that if I didn’t go neither would the kids. There would be a very slim chance of any of the fathers being able or willing to take the boys on a journey of this magnitude.

I asked my boss about it. It took several days to get a firm answer. There were several things he had to consider. August happened to be the busy season at the lumberyard at which I worked. Would they be able to manage for a couple of weeks without their draftsman and estimator?

Another consideration for me was from looking at the two week period from another angle. I would be gone to Hawaii for the first few days of the year to attend my brother’s wedding. In July I would be gone for a week as I took the Scouts to Wisconsin for summer camp. This, of course, does not include all the weekend camp outs during the course of the year. Within a one year period I would be gone for four weeks. I only received one week of paid vacation during the year.

It was my turn to think about it. Did I want to take all this time off work, time during which I would not be receiving a paycheck? It did not take me long to answer that question. As soon as I received permission from my boss, the committee received my commitment.

It was time to work on the second problem. Did we have enough scouts who wanted to go to Philmont? No, change that. How many Scouts were qualified and wanted to attend?

What were the qualifications? Philmont requires that any Scout who participates in a trek must be thirteen years old by January first of the year the trek is to be made. The committee and I added one more requirement. A Scout must be at least First Class Rank to participate. These two requirements eliminated about two thirds of the troop membership. How many of the remaining Scouts would want to go?

Five boys were both able and willing to go on the trip. They were Scott, Jeff, Robert, Chris and Gerry. Chris was not yet a First Class Scout but we gave him until February, 1986, to earn it.

Things were starting to look good. We sent in our reservation and were approved for arrival on August 4, 1986.

The fall of 1985 saw the collapse of our neighboring troop in Freeport. We extended an invitation to those Scouts to join our troop, but only two Scouts took us up on the offer. One of these boys, Brian, joined the list of Scouts going to Philmont.

Nothing much happened during the winter, but as spring approached the wheels began to spin once again. Every Scout had now earned his First Class Rank. The first half of the fee had been sent to Philmont. We had received the information packet for the 1986 season.

It was time to choose an itinerary of programs that we wished to partake in while we would be on our trek. The choice of itineraries began with fifty mile hikes and ended with a 109 mile hike.I held a meeting with the Scouts and they chose some of the things they wanted to do. These choices included panning for gold, blacksmithing, burro packing, a trip to the cantina, a chuck wagon dinner, rock climbing, and something called the Dean’s Challenge. They then had to decide on how rugged and long of a hike they wanted to partake in while there. They almost immediately turned down all the hikes between the 50-60 mile range.”Those would be too easy,” they said. A hike of over eighty miles would leave us little time for programs and resting. They decided that a 65-70 mile hike should be about right.

Itinerary #15 was their first choice. It was a 66 mile hike that included everything they wanted plus a side hike of the Tooth of Time and Mount Baldy. Their second choice was itinerary #17 which would was pretty much the same as #15 except that the camps would be different ones. We mailed our card with with our five chosen itineraries. A short time later I received a post card from New Mexico stating that we had been given our second choice, #17.

(To be continued…)

The PLC Meeting.

The patrol leader council held their monthly meeting today to review April and plan for May’s meetings and activities. Although they did get sidetracked a few times, they were able to plan next month’s meetings and service project.

There was one thing that came up that I was disappointed to hear. The program, menu, and duty roster for this weekend’s camping trip had not been planned yet, and more Scouts decided they would like to attend the outing, even though they should have been registered two weeks ago.

It looks like we may have to postpone the camping trip one week to get everything planned out at next Monday’s troop meeting. Luckily, it is a local campout held on some nearby private land.

The Patrol Leader Council (PLC) is one of the key elements of youth leadership within a Boy Scout troop. The senior patrol leader, assistant senior patrol leader, and patrol leaders use this monthly meeting to plan troop meetings, courts of honor, and the monthly outing. This is one way they practice the leadership skills of communication, planning, and compromising.

Our troop’s PLC meets the fourth Monday of the month, from 6:30 to 8:00 in the evening. They have an agenda which starts with a roll call and agenda approval. Old business is followed by new business which then moves into planning. The planning portion of the meeting, during which plans are made for troop meetings and activities, is usually when things get bogged down. The boys do not seem to enjoy planning things. Of course, as an adult leader, this is when I have to bite my tongue and stay quiet. I could plan the troop meetings in ten minutes instead of the 45 minutes it takes the boys. But if I did that, the boys would not be planning THEIR program. I do not want this to become the scoutmaster’s program.

There are a few guidelines I have put into place though. Troop meeting openings must contain something patriotic and something Scouting. An opening may only be used once per month. The boys must come up with three separate patriotic and three different Scout openings. The same “once per month” also applied to the game and meeting closing. This gives us a fair amount of variety and keeps us from doing the “same ol’ thing” each meeting.

I also encourage the youth leadership to only use one opening, closing, and game from the previous month. This allows us to have five or six different things in each area over a two month period. It makes it a bit more difficult for the PLC, but it works out well in the long term.

The youth leadership takes even longer to plan a troop outing. I encourage them to brainstorm a list of possible activities, then pick the ones they like the best, and finally post them into an agenda. Sometimes this goes smoothly, but other times it is like working with first graders.

Do we always get the work done during the ninety minute patrol leader council meeting? No, not always. If the boys would stay on track they could easily accomplish their goals. They have a tendency to stray from the agenda. Sometimes a look from the scoutmaster to the senior patrol leader is enough to get things back on track. (Sometimes it is the scoutmaster who got them off track in the first place.)

Even though the patrol leader council meeting can appear to be an inefficient way to get things planned, it is a great way to develop youth leadership skills and keep Boy Scouting a program for the boys, planned by the boys. I should know. I have been participating in them for nearly thirty years.

The post I wrote a week ago about how our troop plans its yearly program seems to have created a little buzz with some of you. I have received a few comments and emails asking about the form we use to rate our troop. So, being the swell guy that I am, I created a pdf file to share with those of you who are interested in seeing this. Keep in mind that this is a troop form, not something that was created by the national office. It has come in handy to give the Scouts a guide to looking back and seeing how the program and troop is doing. I have even used it with the parents a few times.

The form can be found here:
http://melrosetroop68.org/forms/TroopRanking.pdf

I would be interested in hearing what you think of it. You can leave me a comment through this blog or email me at webmaster@melrosetroop68.org.