Posts Tagged With: high adventure

The Participation Problem

campfireWe often focus on membership when it comes to the retention and recruiting issue.  This is absolutely a  header in the discussion.  However a better indication of unit health is your participation percentages.  That is how many of your registered Scouts are participating in your activities.  This number can tell you many things about your unit.  First, it reflects your annual plan.  Do the Scouts want to be there and do the things the plan that the Patrol Leaders Council came up with (using Guided Discovery)?  Second, is that plan a plan that compels the Scouts to come and be with their patrol mates.  And third, does that plan conflict with other events.  School, Sports, Council and District events and family plans.  These three areas are the top three that I have seen and discussed with committees to find out why and what the issues are in solving the participation problem.
The Scoutmaster plays a big role in the planning of the Scout year.  Teaching the Patrol Leaders Council how to look at the calendars and get the right program in place to meet the goals of the unit.  Polling the unit to get a feel for what they want to do.  And adding elements of the National Program into the plan, Jamborees, High Adventure Bases, and other National opportunities are all critical in giving the Scouts a reason to want to participate.
Here are a couple of tips that have helped us have a successful annual program and increase that participation percentage.
1.  Start early.  Establish what the range or start and finish of your “Scout year”.  Most units use the School year as their beginning and end.  Have your annual plan published before the beginning of the planned year.  Allow time for budgeting and family planning.  My unit uses October as the start of our Scouting year.  We do this for a few reasons.  First, it falls on a month with a “Non Negotiable” event.  Webelos Woods in our District is always in October.  This event is a fantastic opportunity to recruit for the unit as well as stand up against the rest of the District allowing our program to be showcased.
And second, October is a good month to launch the program year.  Everyone has been in School for a solid month, the holidays are just around the corner and it allows for time in summer to get the plan in place.  Starting in June and July, the Patrol Leaders Council meets with the patrols polling them for prospective activities for the coming year.  This includes location for Summer camp.  Starting early in the summer allows for plenty of time to look at all the calendars that effect the unit and by the end of August a solid plan is in place and the committee can start the budgeting process
2.  Stay away from the same old stuff.  Pretty much camping is camping.  Try new locations or different activities at favorite places.  Ensure that opportunities for National experiences are a part of the plan.  This in large part is the responsibility of the Scoutmaster and the Committee to provide the resources that introduce these opportunities.  In my Troop we look at the time spent in the Troop of the average Scout.  That seems to be about 7 years.  Over the course of those seven years we want the Scout to have the opportunity to get the very most out of his Scouting experience.  Local Council camps, out of Council opportunities, National Jamborees, National Order of the Arrow Conferences, and High Adventure Bases.  So we, along with the Patrol Leaders Council established a matrix that plugs these type of activities into the annual plan.  If a Scout takes advantage the plan, he will have a well rounded and extremely active time in Scouting.  When a Scout joins the unit he and his family can pick those High adventure trips, Jamborees and the like that he will go to well in advance.  This takes the burden away from fund raising plans and family vacations etc.  Families that have more time to plan will facilitate their sons Scouting experience.
Staying away from the same old stuff gives the Scouts of the Troop something to look forward to.  It shows that planning is important and that their experience is important to the life of the Troop.
3.  Possibly the most important, make sure the plan comes from the Scouts of the Troop.  The Patrol Leaders Council owns the plan, it is theirs and the success of the plan with rest with them.  They will  be guided and coached along the way, but in the end, they will be happy or not with their plan.  Now before you jump off the blog now, keep reading… this is a process that will not happen in one year.  We use guided discovery in Scouting.  Mistakes can be made as long as the Scouts learn from them.  The key for the Scoutmaster in this regard is breaking the Patrol Leaders Council from always taking the path of least resistance.   Give them permission to think big and out of the box.  If they want to go to Disneyland for Summer camp.. let them.  We had a troop recently go to Hawaii for summer camp.  Lots of planning and coordination went into it, but it was that kind of out of the box thinking that raised their participation percentage.  But its all about their plan.  As adults in the program we should support it and do what it takes to make it a success.
4.  And the final advice for today, Keep it fun.  Scouts are in School all day, they last thing they want is more School at meetings and on weekend camp outs.  Give them a reason to want to be a participant.  Each outing should be fun and adventurous.  When the Scouts know how much fun they are going to have they want to be there.  Here is the rub,.  Define fun.  Fun for one patrol may not be fun for others.  Find a balance within the Troop.  A great place to start is by establishing Troop Traditions.  Fun, silly, and things that build up the team.  A tradition of fun camp fires on each outing for example is a neat way of bringing together the Troop while having lots of fun.  A mascot can bring the Troop together also.  It gives them something to rally behind.  In our Troop we do and have both of those and we came up with a necklace that tells their Scouting story.  We took our mascot, a Gnome, and had totems made.  Each outing and activities has a bead that represents it.  At each Court of Honor, the Scout is presented with the beads for the activities he has attended.  At first it did not seem like that big of a deal, then the Scouts really took to it.  We make a real big deal about presenting the beads and wearing our totem.  This is a fun way of making the outings important and creating a reason to be a part of it.  We have had a Gnome as our mascot since our first summer camp in 2004.  This quickly became a Troop Tradition.  Now that we are a backpacking Troop we have inflatable Gnomes that the Senior Patrol Leader carries on each outing.  The Scouts love to show off the Gnome.  Allow the Scouts to define fun, but remember Guided Discovery, keep the fundamentals and methods of Scouting at the forefront of the program.  The Scouts may not need to know the exact purpose of the game, just make sure that the game is played fair and fun.
The participation problem is one that can be solved by a great plan, building in adventure, making sure the Scouts own the plan, and keeping it fun.  Traditions, and sticking to the methods of Scouting will assist in building a program that Scouts want to be a part of.  This will go along way in solving the problems with Scouts not participating fully in their Troop.
What are some things that your unit does to solve the Participation problem?  Share them with us.  May be a big help for someone struggling.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why? Because I Believe.

DSCN1483This summer our Troop went on a great adventure.  We backpacked in the Olympic National Park.  We.. the whole Troop.  We broke up the Troop into three crews, that way we could maintain Wilderness area policies of no more than 12 heartbeats and good leave no trace principles.  As we began the process of planning for the adventure we were met with resistance.  The first was the issue of our new Scout Patrol.  11 year Scouts, what will they be doing?  Backpacking was the answer.  11-year-old boys can not do a 50 mile backpack trip I was told.  I believe that they can was my reply.
I searched the age appropriate guide lines, the guide to safe Scouting, and other BSA policies and could not find any thing that would suggest that a new Scout patrol could not complete a 50 mile backpack trip.
So we started training.  Three backpacking trips that would increase in length prior to the big trip.  We began tearing apart backpacks and looking at detailed packing lists.  We looked at getting pack weights down to accommodate the little bodies.  Menu planning and setting the course for a “doable” adventure that would accomplish the 50 mile goal and ensure success for every one in the troop.
DSCN1402The plan was to allow the three crews to determine their miles.  The older Scouts wanted to move fast and far, the middle group wanted to stay around the 50 mile mark and the new Scout Patrol decided that 50 miles would be enough.  I believe in them.
We decided on 7 days on the trail.  This would allow us to spread the miles out over more days keeping our daily mileage around the 6 to 8 mile mark.  That would put us in camp daily earlier allowing us to provide some program.  The New Scout Patrol would focus on the trail to First Class while they were in camp, the middle group would focus their time on leadership development, and the older group was in it for adventure.
The plan was set, we used the Philmont meal plan, and got busy mapping our course.  The three training outings went well and prepared us for some of the challenges we would find on the trail.  Map reading, adapting to changing plans, and working as a crew.
As we prepared we made major changes to the way we would prepare meals and how we would rotate leadership within the crews.  We also found which Scouts worked well together and based on their performance on the practice trips we set the crews.  I believed that they could all do it.
Watching the Scouts do the practice trips gave me more and more confidence.   I knew that they could all do it.
Fast forward now with me to the end of the trip.  7 days backpacking in the Olympic National Park.  The First year Scouts did 51 miles and not one Scout failed to complete the adventure.  On the 7th day the Troop met at a large camp ground to spend our last night in the Olympic together.  There were nothing but smiles all around.  I took time that night to talk with the new Scout patrol.  They all shared the same attitude, “Lets do it again”!  The middle crew ended the trip at 52.4 miles and saw some of the most beautiful country in the Northwest.  It was an epic adventure.  The older Scouts ended up backpacking 70 miles and found a great place to base camp where they dropped packs and went on a 20 mile day hike.  They placed themselves close to the group site on the 6th day and got a jump early on day 7.  They hiked so fast that they had time to jump in the cars and head into the nearest town and take showers.  That last night we had an awesome campfire, singing songs and sharing stories of our adventures.
DSCN1375I knew we could do it.
Since we got back I have shared our story with some Scouters.  They think that we stepped way out-of-bounds taking first year scouts on this adventure.  I disagree.
Before the trip I called out those adults that seem to think that it was ok for us when we were kids to have adventures.  Drink from hoses, stay out till the street lights came on etc.  I still believe that the reason our kids today “can’t” do it is simply because we don’t let them.  Well We let them and they proved me absolutely right!  They can do it.  More so though.. they WANT to do it.  We need to believe in them.
For the past three weeks I have completed 9 Scoutmaster conferences, mostly with the new Scout patrol.  They all remain excited about their accomplishment and can not wait for the opportunity to do it again.
I believe in them.  It is that belief that allows me to let them seek and find adventure.  It is that belief that gives our Patrol leaders council the ability to plan the next great adventure.  It is a visible attitude that sets these young men apart.  Sitting on their butt is not an option for them.  They want to get out there and explore their world.
I read about troops sharing their summer camp score about this time each year.  20 Scouts, 99 merit badges etc.
Well, here is our Score for this year. 23 Scouts.  23 merit badges. 31 50 miler awards.  An adventure that they will talk about for the rest of their lives.
I believe that we offered them this thing we call SCOUTING!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Note:  I hiked with the middle group.  These guys impressed me to no end.  The leadership that they developed over the course of the trip was great.  I believe that they will be outstanding leaders for the future of our troop.

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, fitness, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, planning, Scouting | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Are you tougher?

Well, by now most, if not all of you have seen or are keenly aware of the Hit TV series “Are you tougher than a Boy Scout“.  As they get through the first season, the subject of future seasons have begun.
It has been refreshing to watch Scouting on the boob tube presented in a positive light, showing high adventure and skills that most of us in Scouting like.  I am also happy to see the caliber of youth that have been selected to be on the first season.  They have really represented Scouting well.
But what of future seasons?  At what point are they going to show your average Scout.. the merit badge hunter, the mud finder, and the velcro scout.. you know, the young man that can’t be to far from the safe reach of mom and dad.  What will future events be on the show?  A trip to the zoo?  Maybe an aggressive game of chess?  How about a fun game of patrol box cleaning?  Sounds fun don’t it?  Sounds like the stuff boys join Scouting for.  Yep, and the nation will get to see all that adventure.. not quite High Adventure, but adventure none the less.    I get the feeling that once the public gets their collective eyes on that they will beat down our doors to get in.
OK.. OK.. sarcasm over.
I have been going back and forth with some Scouters via email and some discussions that go back to comments I made regarding Scouting not being for everyone.  It seems that most do not agree, and that’s ok.  It’s certainly alright to disagree and I encourage it.  What I don’t agree with though is that our program should be “dumbed down” for lack of a better term.  Go back to the beginning and you find adventure in Scouting at every turn.  That is what it’s all about.
Now, I suppose you could argue that adventure is adventure, and that is found in the individual.  Yeah.. you could argue that.  Ability levels can be accommodated, but at the end of the day, if we are not encouraging our Patrol Leaders Council to seek adventure, we are not helping in delivering that promise.
It serves us well to remember the Promise of Scouting that we are supposed to be delivering.
Allow me to refresh your memory:
Scouting promises you the great outdoors.  As a Scout, you can learn how to camp and hike without leaving a trace and how to take care of the land. You’ll study wildlife up close and learn about nature all around you. There are plenty of skills you can master, and you can teach others what you have learned. Everyone helping everyone else-that’s part of scouting, too.
Scouting promises you friendship.  Members of the Troop you join might be boys you already know, and you will meeting many other scouts along the way. Some could be lifelong friends.
Scouting promises you opportunities to work toward the Eagle Scout rank.  You will set positive goals for yourself and follow clear routes to achieve them.
Scouting promises you tools to help you make the most of your family, your community, and your nation.  The good deeds you perform everyday will improve the lives of those around you. You will be prepared to help others in time of need.
Scouting promises you experience and duties that will help you mature into a strong, wise adult.  The Scout Oath and Scout Law can guide you while you are a Scout and throughout your life.  (The Boy Scout Handbook 11th edition)
It is absolutely no surprise to me that the great outdoors is listed first!  That is where adventure is found.  Friendship and the bonds that last forever are forged in shared experiences and trials.  I love the last part there… “a strong, wise adult.”  The Oath and Law are great rules to live by and will last forever in the man.
So there it is.. the Promise of Scouting.. So are you Tougher than a Boy Scout?  Can you assist in living up to the expectations that boys join Scouting for?  Are you up to that challenge.  Imagine if you flipped the channel to watch a high adventure show and there are a handful of Scouts diligently working the fingerprinting merit badge.  Click!  I just turned the channel looking for the home shopping network.. maybe I could buy some adventure there.
I’m looking forward to the next season of the show.. man am I happy to see Scouting on TV and looking cool!
Let me hear it!  I know you have an opinion.
Thanks for reading the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Philmont, Skills, teamwork, Values | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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