We have met the enemy, and it is Netflix, Nintendo and Nickelodeon.
OK, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But the fact remains that as Scout leaders we’re on the front lines of the war against inactive youth.
Our day camps, weekend campouts and camporees have plenty of pulse-pounding action, but what about weekly meetings?
Active Scout meetings are the focus of Part 2 in the three principles of healthy living known as Drink Right, Move More, Snack Smart. The effort is the brainchild of Healthy Kids Out of School (with regional funding provided by the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation), a Boy Scouts of America partner in the push for healthier Scouts.
Healthy Kids Out of School and the BSA are so serious that they’re even offering the SCOUTStrong Healthy Unit patch to any Scout unit who makes a few easy, positive changes. More on that in a bit.
First, let’s look at how — and why — to make your unit meetings more active.
Why you should care
I don’t have to remind you about the childhood obesity crisis in this country. That word “crisis” isn’t overselling it, either: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that in 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
By now you’ve also heard the recommendation that kids get 60 minutes of physical activity a day — an effort (along with Drink Right and Snack Smart) to help turn that crisis around.
Fact is, less than half of school-aged children meet the recommendation. For teens, that number’s even lower: Only about 10 percent of teenagers get the recommended 60 minutes a day.
Kids don’t have to get all 60 minutes at once. That means you’re doing your part by scheduling even a 15-minute physical activity at your weekly meetings.
How to create more active Scout meetings
- Start by checking out the games and activities included in the SCOUTStrong Healthy Unit patch packet. These games and activities can be incorporated into meetings or events as a break between things or as an opening or closing . You can also find more ideas for games and activities on the Healthy Kids Hub under “Find Resources.”
- Remember to get all Scouts participating in the physical activity in the meeting. Make the activity fun, noncompetitive and all-inclusive. Avoid elimination games or games that only involve a few children, and have leaders join in the game or activity to model physical activity.
- Let Scouts release energy through a physical-activity break, and they’ll come back to the meeting ready to focus.
Oh yeah, and there’s a patch
Making your Scout meetings more active can yield more than just healthier Scouts. You can also get a patch.
The SCOUTStrong Healthy Unit Patch, which encourages units to follow the BSA’s SCOUTStrong recommendations to Drink Right, Move More and Snack Smart at meetings, events and excursions is available free to any unit that completes the patch requirements.
One of those requirements, “Include 15 minutes of physical activity at 9 meetings,” ties in perfectly to today’s discussion.
By the way, already 120 units and 1,671 Scouts across 25 states have earned the patch!
Advice from other Scouters
Here’s what three leaders had to say about making Scout meetings more active:
Den leader Dan from Summerville, S.C.: “A secret that made this so positive was that I made every attempt to keep if fun. We started off with calisthenics. None of the kids really wanted to do them until I did them myself!”
Den leader Lynn from Winchendon, Mass.: “I incorporated some team-building activities, as being able to work together is important to having a group of boys that will take the Scouting experience for all it is worth. The physical activity helped the boys shake out some of the silliness, especially after a long day at school.”
Cubmaster Bill from Rockaway, N.Y.: “All of us seem to be in better moods when we leave the meeting. I know the leaders enjoy the time outside during or after the meeting. I know the kids enjoy the extra time to play.”
Show us your moves
How do you schedule active time into weekly unit meetings? How do you make sure Scouts and Venturers don’t just sit around during campouts?
Share your ideas with the Scouting community below.
Photo: 2010 National Jamboree, by Tom Copeland Jr./BSA