troop-program-features

Make your life easier with next-gen troop program features

The new design for the Science program feature (above) and the old design.

The new design for the Science program feature (above) and the old design.

Update, June 3: As several people have pointed out, these aren’t just for troops. Teams, crews, ships, and posts can find great use out of them.


In Scouting, one size doesn’t fit all.

So suggesting a month-by-month troop planning calendar on a national level, as in the past, just doesn’t work.

For example, take the Fishing program feature. A troop in Texas could make that work in March, but a troop in Wisconsin would find that timing a little less, well, comfortable.

Enter the next generation of troop program plans, sure to make your life easier. I have a preview of two from the upcoming generation that I’ve been authorized to share with you.

There will be 48 in all, delivered in three volumes of 16 each over the course of 2013 and early 2014.

But the best part is that the new program helps are flexible, and troops can customize their own year from the 48 months of activity ideas. Selection is key as youth leaders plan the upcoming year.

There’s also customization within the program features themselves. You don’t expect every skier to go down the same run, so why expect a 13-year-old First Class Scout to complete the same troop programming as a 17-year-old Eagle Scout?

That’s why meeting plans, like ski runs, come in three flavors: green, blue, and black. Skills marked with green circles are essential, those with blue squares are challenging, and the ones with black diamonds are the most advanced.

Another change is the way the program features are divided by volume. Nobody creates a troop calendar alphabetically, but past program features volumes were organized that way. This time they’re mixed up, deliberately combining outdoors, careers, and hobbies to make each volume more diverse.

Vol. 1 comes out this fall, Vol. 2 is out by the end of 2013 or beginning of 2014, and Vol. 3 is released in first or second quarter 2014. The hope is that each of the 48 program plans will be made available individually and digitally so units can purchase and download only those they want to use. Stay tuned for more details about distribution once I learn more.

Curious what one of these program features will look like? Well, gone are the black-and-white pages with illustrations that were charming but not always informative. The new versions are broken into chunks with information that’s clearly presented and easy to use right away.

It’s perfect for the Scouter who doesn’t have time to sift through pages and pages of information and just wants a clear, proven, effective plan for meetings and activities.

Take a look at the First Aid program feature, and the Science program feature (links open PDFs in a new window) to see what I mean.

And big thanks to Scouting pros Don Shepard and Diane Leicht for this exciting preview.

What are the program areas?

Here’s the tentative list of 48 subject areas:

  1. Camping
  2. Backpacking
  3. Pioneering
  4. Hiking
  5. Cooking
  6. Winter Camping
  7. Outdoor Ethics
  8. Nature and Environment
  9. Wildlife Management
  10. Rifle
  11. Archery
  12. Shotgun
  13. Climbing/Rappelling
  14. Fishing
  15. Cave Exploring
  16. Swimming
  17. Wilderness Survival
  18. Canoeing
  19. Kayaking
  20. Scuba
  21. COPE
  22. Geocaching
  23. Orienteering
  24. Bowling
  25. Cycling
  26. Fitness/Nutrition
  27. Basketball
  28. Skiing/Snowboarding
  29. Soccer
  30. Emergency Preparedness
  31. First Aid
  32. Special Needs Awareness
  33. Citizenship
  34. Safety
  35. Mentoring
  36. Financial Management
  37. Communications
  38. Project Planning
  39. Engineering
  40. Science
  41. Technology
  42. Mathematics
  43. Games
  44. Music
  45. Drama
  46. Spectator Sports
  47. Living History
  48. Ethics

What do you think?

How do you like the new designs? Do you use the existing program features? How will you use these new plans? Leave some thoughts below.

71 thoughts on “Make your life easier with next-gen troop program features

  1. These look great. I wish they were available now. But Bowling and Spectator Sports? Not sure how those fit with scouting. We have patrols go bowling once in awhile just for fun.

    • Let’s wait and see how the program team incorporates those two activities into Scouting advancement and values. But the best part is that your Scouts can select the 12 they want (with your guidance, of course).

      • You’re right – I’ll wait and see. Just seeing bowling on the list made me remember we used to have a bowling outing each year as a troop – but somewhere along the line it was dropped from our annual calendar.

    • Bowling is something many Troops, Teams, and Crews do. These planning guides are not necessarily focused on advancement, but rather a guide for the type of things units do anyway.

      Spectator sports will cover topics like the rules of sport they are seeing, fundraising, moving in crowds, and what to do if something goes wrong (i.e. fire, tornado, bombing). A unit can choose to do all four weekly plans in the module, or only a couple.

      The plans are flexible to do anything you want, and yet simple enough to follow like a recipe. Like many things in scouting, it is a tool. Some units may want to use the fund raising meeting plan anytime they need to raise money.

  2. Bryan;

    Was there any thought of removing the venturing aspect ( I noticed a reference to the Ranger award on the First Aid booklet), or delaying the release of these until after the new venturing advancement system is further along?

    David

  3. I’d also say that “Science” is too broad. We had a patrol this year have a troop meeting on “Physics”. And the year before, a different patrol had a troop meeting on “Chemistry”. We had a month on “cinematography” several years ago which turned out to be a big success (though the scoutmaster was skeptical that it would work) It would be great if these were online as PDF’s and you could just add new ideas to the list as time goes by rather than publishing them on paper and having to buy them at the scout shop.

  4. I like the look of these! I’m with you in hoping they will be available electronically – we don’t need more paper gathering dust. Our youth (and many of our leaders) all work electronically and they will be much more likely to be used in our troop if they are in that format.

  5. I know this is early, but will they be available for download like the current Program Guides. I think this is headed in the right direction.

  6. These seem more user friendly. Any thoughts on updating the Cub Scout program? I know these would be easier for my Den Leaders.

  7. I think these are great. I remember using the old program helps as a Scout and we would move months around to match the events in our Council/District Calendar. This will give PLC a better and easier way to plan troop meetings.

  8. They look good – much more modern appearance. I’m not sure it’s substantively that much different – kind of like the merit badge pamphlets where the promary change was just color images. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – the existing program features are really pretty good. The science topic looks a little “school-y” to me, but it looks like the majority are pretty similar to the existing areas, so it doesn’t bother me.
    I would also prefer an online version rather than print. I would even suggest they be online with comments on each topic for people to add ideas. The process could be much more responsive to modification when advancement changes. Rather than wait for a new release in 20 years or so, have it be a little more dynamic. To me it seems like going through a traditional printing process for this type of material is a bit archaic.

      • At least within a unit the last page is really helpful in being able to add links and local info that would help with the specific topic. I love that is has little written on it with so much white space for additions.

        • So as scoutmaster why would you need this????

          It is the SPL and PLC’s job of programing????

          My spl has our troops copy of it……..

  9. Love these! The games and additional learning aides are always what we seem to be missing when we’re [usually last minute] planning the meetings. I think these will also be VERY helpful in getting the older boy leaders to really lead meetings and I like the EDGE notes. Can’t wait to see more of these!

  10. These look to b very helpful. Just curious – are there plans for something similar for Cub Scouts?

    • Over the years, we’ve had lots of kids participate in the high school drama & theater program. We’ve had fun troop meetings that involve putting on original plays (skits) or just improvising after being given a set of props. There’s not a lot of scout skill development, but there can be a lot of fun and teamwork.

      But I still can’t figure out spectator sports. Sounds like having a troop meeting centered around video games.

      We had a meeting on medieval warfare last year. That was pretty cool.

  11. I’ll wait to see the end result, but there should be pictures/drawings. You know what they say about the worth of pictures. Try to build a house without blueprints, or show the way to a distant destination with out a map.

    A thought on response to various monthly themes to update, give additional thoughts on implementation, etc. That would require BSA to be conversant with up-to-date IT, something they have had trouble with in the past.

  12. I’m a technical writer (I write instructions, plans, etc. for a living), and these are fantastic. I printed out the old b/w version, and the new one, and showed them to my colleagues. Very nice redesign that is interesting, informative, and usable. I immediately forwarded this article to our PLC and encouraged them to look at them and start planning.

    When people say “online” – what they are really asking for is for a tablet- or smartphone-compatible version. That is something that would be fairly easy to build as an app with the content. (hey, National… I create content like this for a living… want to hire me? :-).

    An online version could incorporate more images, as well as embedded/linked videos (showing how to play some of the games, for example), or sound bites (identifying bird calls, or bugling examples). It can really enrich the content when you add multimedia.

    This is a great overhaul on the content, and I can’t wait for all of the plans to come out!!!

    • Exactly! I appreciate being able to access the old version (thanks, everyone, for the links), but they don’t even have a linked index, much less hotlinks, embedded content, ability to access on smartphones, Kindle, etc.

      I vote for hiring you! :)

        • Typing the page number isn’t a problem… provided the PDF is set up properly in the first place.

          If the front matter (TOC, intro, etc.) is numbered with roman numbering (e.g. i, iv, xxi, etc.), or if even just the cover page wasn’t counted as page 1 (this is very common), then the index page number and the PDF page number won’t match unless the person creating it manually adjusts the PDF page numbering to match.

          I frequently see PDFs where the numbering doesn’t match by 20 pages or more due to front matter content that is numbered differently.

  13. Seems a bit late – we’ve already begun planning September and October Roundtable presentations based on the old (cyclic) program. I guess Troops must choose from what is available – so in September the first volume may be available – but what do we present at Roundtable ?

  14. These look great. Even though they have been designed to meet the BSA merit system I’m still going to take then to my troop and see if we cn combine them into our merit system

  15. I wish BSA would use the same concept with youth leadership training. Do away with troop level, event-based youth leadership training, and move toward topics that the troop could pick and choose from during the course of a year – based on what specific needs the youth leaders and troop may have at that time. My feeling is that no scout can pick up everything he needs during a single weekend event. He needs periodic learning and practical applications over a long period of time in order to establish successful leadership habits.

  16. LOVE the new program features but that green block (Related Advancement and Awards) on page 1 of Science would be better in columns listing the merit badges as people today tend to SCAN rather than read. The first place I look is that ‘Advancement block’ after looking at the topic heading to see how it can help me in my planning or scouts interest. (I do a District Merit Badge event.)

    First Aid uses a line separation that makes for easier reading that I realize can’t be used on Science but columns could work although you’ll have to play with the ABC order a bit while making the block a tad wider.

  17. Another BIG swing and a miss by the BSA. 75 minutes on the same subject during a Troop meeting for Science over 55 minutes on the same subject for First Aid. This is worse than school including College. What happened to the PATROL meetings and Inter-PATROL activities? It’s now Small Groups, did the PATROL METHOD get abolished at the NAM? Many Patrols only get to meet during Troop Meetings and now their time has been written off… Lord Baden-Powell is rolling over in his grave.

    • Of course Old deaf scouter loves it….she runs the biggest adult lead program ever……..When your grubmaster and menu planner is an adult, you have lost your way.

      So you know it is a train wreck……

      Dave…..nothing stopping the PLc from breaking the program up into smaller bite sized pieces.

  18. Love the new look/layout. It looks promising. As a Venture Leader, I would like to see a Venture version, or at least the Venture updates incorporated into it. And yes, sooner the better! And happy if it is electronic (print as you need it) or full booklet form available at our local Scout Shops. Just get it out there! ;~) I also agree…these need to be in the hands of the Youth Leaders….They would love to pour through & pick & choose from these topics!

    On Bowling—-I will say that our District has a Bowling Tourney every winter. Its a great get together & there is a traveling trophy. The Scouts & Scouters love the afternoon gathering. Some of our Troop have come from our Pack & we have an annual Bowling & Subs night at the end of the year (they also earn their Bowling BL-owner loves giving them a behind the machines tour!) so our Troop Scouts really enjoy the BS event.

    Keep rolling out great resources! I still have empty totes & garage space waiting for more goodies!

  19. Like the new outline. Much more user friendly, well organized and should help teach youth leaders how to organize their meeting and demonstrate good examples of meeting plans.

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