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Archive for the ‘Retention’ Category

When older scouts Eagle, it can leave a hole in the Troop. With a gap between older scouts and younger ones, with mixed ages in between, the troop faces some leadership challanges. Lucky for us we have two new Eagle’s who have decided to become ASM’s.
As with life, sometimes we all get in a rut, stagnate, or however you want to discribe it. The Scoutmasters have decided to do a little reorganizing, but not re-inventing the wheel. We have come up with a plan to make the meetings more interesting, fun, and challenging for the boys. We are still boy run, but with more involvement between Scoutmasters and Scouts.
Getting the Scouts back on track with patrol method, Scout Skills, patrol competitions, troop projects, and more. It’s time to get out of our rut and back to Scouting. We have realized that we have to change things up from time to time to keep every ones interest, scouts and adults alike.
To start with the patrols have gotten uneven, so we have reorganized from five patrols to three, and will let the scouts rename their patrols to form unitity, with new patrol yells and flags.
Tomorrow night we will have a PLC with the newly elected and discuss the changes. We also have plans for parents to get them more involved in the Troop meetings.
All the Scoutmasters and our Committee Chair are excited about making our Troop strong and full of scout spirit again.

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Bridging Over

Last night at Spring Creek Park, very chilly by the way, at the big fire ring with a large bonfire we watched the Arrow of Light ceremony for about 6 packs and 50+ Webelos. The AOL teams did a great job. Afterwords the Webelos bridged over to their new troops. We welcomed Brandon and Timothy into 483 as they bridged over. Both boys are eager to get started on their trail to eagle.

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One of the toughest jobs for the leaders of a boy scout troop is keeping it together over the summer.  Left to the boys, they would sit around and play video games.  So why not give them what they want?  Talk to your charter organization about an overnighter.  If it is videogaming that gives your scouts a thrill, bring in the tvs, gaming systems, and have an adult grub master.  You can use this as an opportunity to have dutch oven cooking instruction for dinner and breakfast.

Another option is having a JLT day to get your scouts up to speed on leadership training.  Lastly, the merit badge counselors can come up for a Saturday to work with the scouts on finishing up all those partial merit badges.

Regardless of what extras you throw in to keep the summer interesting, be sure to include the fun!

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One day, many years ago, a parent asked what Cub Scouts was like.  I thought for a few moments and proceeded to try to tell the inquisitive parent all the different things we were doing at our den meetings, pack meetings, and campouts.  Despite my enthusiasm, I wasn’t being clear in what their child could learn in scouting.  But then, it struck me.   I wasn’t selling a car or trying to make a business presentation.  I was making it much more difficult than it needed to be.  I stopped talking, paused, and it came to me.  Very simply, I continued, “Let me try this again.  Cub Scouts is Life Enhanced.  Our kids go with us to the grocery store all the time.  Cub Scouts teaches them to become engaged in the experience and to participate instead of watching.”

At that time, I, as a parent and leader, hadn’t experienced Boy Scouts or Venturing yet.  I had no idea just how far those two words would carry through my sons’, and other boys’, scouting career.  Fast forward 5 or 6 years when I sat on the first and only Eagle Board of Review I had the Honor to participate in before moving from the troop’s committee to become an assistant scout master.  I had assisted with the advancement of many boys before this night, but it was different; this wasn’t just any rank, it was Eagle.  Everyone in the room was brimming with emotion, and I can only speak for myself when I say I truly had goosebumps through the majority of it.

During the review, I told the young man how proud I was of him, and that I had a question.  I asked him what he was doing when Hurricane Rita was bearing down on the Gulf Coast, severely threatening the Houston area.  He looked a little puzzled before answering that he was helping his family get ready.  I then asked what his non-scout friends were doing.  He shrugged, and answered that he guessed they were hanging out, playing video games, etc while their parents packed or prepared to weather the storm.   Reflecting on the philosophy that some watch life go by, others react to life, and others see opportunity to participate and make life better, I asked him where he felt, as a scout, he fit in.  He smiled broadly and replied that he definitely was a participant and went on to talk a bit about other ways scouting had enhanced his life.

His reaction was so strong that I’ve since asked it of a few other scouts who have mentioned that they weren’t sure if they wanted to stay the course.  The reaction on all three was an instant sense of pride as the boy told me how they stepped up to do what was needed to protect their family and home.  None of the three I’ve talked to since that day at the Eagle Board of Review chose to leave scouts.  Granted, I think in the future I’ll update the question to include hurricane Ike instead of Rita, but the message is the same.

Scouting, at all levels, is Life Enhanced.  Embrace it, live it, and engage in your own experiences.

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Too often we see scouts lose interest in the BSA.  In working with our troop, the adult leaders watched meetings to isolate areas that could be improved.  Identifying the 2nd year scouts who haven’t reached 1st Class, and the 15+ year old group who haven’t moved from Star to Life as the two highest areas of retention issues, we developed a theory.  Simply put, if they lack direction, they become bored.  Pretty simple right?  Both of these groups voice the same complaints that ‘nothing happens at scouts’, ‘I can’t get anything done’, then finally, ‘I don’t want to go’.   These are complaints that can be addressed.

The problem for the younger group is that because, for whatever reason, they didn’t make it to 1st Class when the rest of the first year scouts did, they find themselves left behind.  The new first year scouts are getting continual guidance and the ones who made it to first class are now working on loftier, less checklist oriented, skills to achieve Star.  The problem(s) for the older group is that often, Merit Badges are only readily available at long term camps and / or they don’t know who to go to within the troop to find a counselor.  Well, and of course, gasoline and perfume. Obviously, these aren’t problems that are new to scouting or that have only been seen in our troop, district, or counsel.

I’ve developed a plan to try and help.  If it works like I hope it will, I’ll take it to the district level where I am the lead for Retention.  The ‘in a nutshell’ version is:  The Star and Life rank scouts become more engaged with the younger scouts by checking the board regularly to see who is behind.  They take those scouts, look over their books, and make sure they get the experiences necessary for advancement.  Next, they coordinate with me to be sure they have the adult leadership available to ensure they have counselors on hand for Merit Badge advancements for themselves.  I took each of the older scouts aside and discussed it with them a few months ago and they were very receptive.

Some nights we see it work really well, other nights we don’t.  Slowly though, it’s been gaining momentum and the boys are using it more and more.  It went further tonight than ever.  Examples:  A 1st Class had a Scout off to the side assisting him in memorizing the scout oath and promise, the two things he needs to complete to become Tenderfoot.  In another corner, another 1st Class was working with a Tenderfoot on requirements for 2nd Class.  A Star was helping a young man who has recently rejoined scouting to get him from Tenderfoot up to 2nd Class.  Meanwhile, I, as a former committee member, educated a parent on how to conduct a Board of Review to increase our pool of parents who are the final step in advancing the boys to their next rank.  Normally, what I did would be handled by the committee, but they were conducting their monthly meeting tonight so I helped her out while no one was looking.  🙂

If tonight was an indicator, I’m encouraged.  Many scouts approached the ASMs to sign off in their books after having worked with the higher ranked scouts to finish up lingering requirements.  Congratulations go out as four scouts reached the rank of 2nd Class and three reached the rank of Life.  We also added three parents to the pool available for Boards of Review.  When you add to that a productive committee meeting and our scout master meeting with four potential new scouts and their families, it was a good night!

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