Visiting a Scout Troop
Bill Smith, the Roundtable Guy
To earn the Arrow of Light, a Webelos Scout must visit a Boy Scout troop meeting and outdoor activity with his den.
He will be making an important decision in his life: the choice: whether or not to join Boy Scouts and, if so, which troop. As he matures, he will be faced with may other important decisions, and this is a good place to start developing his decision-making skills. Judgment is an attribute of mental fitness - part of the aims of the Boy Scouts of America.
Cubmasters, Webelos leaders and parents should be prepared to help him and coach him. Get a list of nearby troops and Scoutmasters from your Commissioner or District Executive. If any families have special needs like a particular religious affiliation, there may be troops nearby that fit those needs.
Call the Scoutmaster and arrange times for your den to visit both a troop meeting and an outdoor activity. Many Webelos Scouts visit more than one troop. There is no requirement that a boy must join a particular troop. It is his choice so try to give him a reasonable selection to choose from.
Prepare both the boys and their parents for what they will see. Invite troop leaders and older Boy Scouts to visit your den or pack meeting to talk about Boy Scout activities. By now the Webelos Scouts are quite familiar with the Scout Oath, Law and Motto and should be able to relate them to what they hear and see.
After the visits to the troop meetings, hold a reflection session with the boys about what they saw, what the did and how they felt. There is a good write-up on reflection in Chapter 11 of the How-To Book. Use it for both den meetings and your individual discussions in the Arrow of Light requirements.
The Boy Scout Motto is Be Prepared, so your Webelos and their parents should prepare themselves to make those important visits to neighboring troops.
Boys probably want to look for:
- A Scout is Friendly | Will he have friends in the troop? Being alone isn't fun. On the other hand, if the Scouts | especially the older ones | are genuinely friendly, it can be a great experience for him.
- Participation | A Scout is courteous. He should be invited | even urged | to be part of the program and part of the team. Sitting on the sidelines and just watching is not good.
- Safe Haven | A Scout is Kind. He should feel welcome and safe. Intimidation or hazing is a definite turn-off. Never push a boy into a troop where he feels unwelcome, unwanted or prey.
- Order | Webelos are often more comfortable in a structured environment. The activities should seem to be planned and under control.
- Fun and Adventure. Scouting is a game with a purpose. Camping rules! It should not look or feel like school.
Parents and leaders should probably be aware of:
- Safety | Are the Leaders trained? How many have attended Youth Protection training? How large and how involved is the troop committee?
- Boy Leadership. Activities should be led by boys. Adults should observe from the sidelines. At any meeting, several boys should take on leadership roles. Do not be alarmed if a boy has trouble trying to lead | it's a learned skill. How do the adults handle this? Is this what you want for your boys as they grow to take on leadership roles?
- Adult Guidance | How do the adults work with boys. Ask them about priorities, Junior Leader Training, and program planning. Look for indications that the Scout Law, Oath and Motto get more than occasional lip service.
- Cost | You should know, up front, how much this will cost you in dollars and time.
One of the most obvious differences you might notice when visiting a troop is that, in Boy Scouts, boys are totally in charge: they are out front leading all the activities while the adult leaders are off to the side apparently doing very little. At least, that is the way it should be and that is the way most really successful troops operate.
Now leadership is a learned skill. Pushing a boy out in front of a troop and telling him to lead is sort of akin to pushing a non swimmer into the deep end of a pool and ordering him to swim.
Probably won't work in either case.
Acquiring a skill usually takes some demonstrations of how to do it, then practice, practice, practice. Troop meetings are the arenas where the Patrol Leaders and Senior Patrol Leaders practice this craft. Just as in learning other skills like swimming, playing the violin or hitting curve balls, these practice sessions are rarely without flaws. Most good troop meetings run on the very edge of chaos. This doesn't mean that the practice sessions are not successful. There must be ample opportunity for boys with different levels of experience and skill levels to get in there and try leading. The adult leaders' job is to observe and coach each Scout to improve.
Remember our aim is not to have perfectly run troop meetings but to provide an environment where boys grow into responsible, effective men.
Other Things to Look For in a Troop:
- The Patrol Method | where patrols work independently under their own leadership. You should easily identify patrols.
- Program for the meeting|is it planned, are the SPL and the PL's following the program? The meeting should progress in some orderly manner with different Scouts having responsibilities.
- Uniforms|especially on the older boys (they set the example.) Is there pride in their appearance and their conduct?
- Boys' attitude towards Scouting, each other, visitors. Is the Scout Law in use there? Just repeating the Law at the opening is not enough | it should be evident in their actions.
- Boy | Adult relationship. Boys should lead, adults should observe, coach and support.
- Other parents participating in the program. Is there an active Troop Committee and Merit Badge Counselors?
- Advancement: Look for rank advancement. Are there Boards of Review and signs of mentoring?
- Is there an active outdoor program? Check for an activity schedule. Is some part of the meeting devoted to preparation for an out door activity?
Questions to Ask:
- What are the Troop's Long Range plan?
- Summer camp plans?
- Fund raising program?
- Troops Junior Leaders trained? (Council JLT and/or troop JLT?)
- Troops Adult Leaders trained? (Boy Scout Leader Basic and/or Wood Badge?)
- New boy patrol or spread new boys among patrols?
- Joining fees?
- Minimum equipment to join?
- Any camping equipment for loan?
- Published by-laws?
- Opportunities for parents to participate?
- Tips On Finding A Boy Scout Troop , Troop 135 Franklin, TN has a great program and offers good advice for Webelos. Check their photos.
- Troop 33 DeKalb, IL An outstanding troop that specializes in adventure and service to others. SM Cliff Golden is one of the saner voices on the Scouts_L forum.
- Picking A Boy Scout Troop an Atlanta Commissioner website with some good thoughts on picking a troop.
Some links to thoughts about the Patrol Method:
http://www.wtsmith.com/rt to finds more ideas on everything Cub Scouting.
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