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.


  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?


  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.

  20. Looks somewhat promising but I’m also concerned about length of time for each activity. Ever try to keep a young scout engaged for over 1.5 hours?

    Bryan – I’m confused by the “Main Event” activities at the end of each of these. Shouldn’t the Activity color symbol match the top wording? For example: in First Aid, should page 12 have the Blue Square and page 13 have the Black Diamond?

    • The old “program features” also have a 90 min plan. While our meetings sometimes last this long, we normally only plan for 60 min. Sometimes you have to shorten or eliminate an activity to fit weekly plan into your unit’s meeting length.
      I agree with Dave about the mislabeling of the “challenging” (blue square) and “advanced” (black diamond) main events, simple transposition.

  21. Bryan – I stumbled across this while looking for something else. I thinks its a great idea, but this is the first I have heard about it. What is being done to get this information to the youth leaders that this is available?

    I am our district Roundtable Commissioner. Is there more information that I could provide to scout leaders?

    Timing is going to be a problem. Most troops are in the process of doing their annual planners. Its too late for this year. They might get used next year.

    • Bryan, Can you give us any updates on the revision of the Troop Program Features? The ones currently available on are from 2003.

  22. Looks good. Looks like a updated version to the troop meeting kits of the 90s. Glad to see them make a return. The other ones worked great, I see no reason why the new version will not make a great addition

  23. Hi Bryan – Any news on when the new troop program features wil be available online? We have our annual program planning next week. Thank you. Good Scouting!Dale KrugEagle Class of 1975

    Date: Thu, 30 May 2013 16:43:18 +0000 To:

    • I emailed the supply division yesterday about the release date on the new program features. Below is the prompt response I got:

      Good Morning,
      We have no information on this yet.
      Thank you,
      Customer Service

  24. Just got off the phone with supplies, and have new dates.

    Vol 1 – 616351 – March
    Vol 2 – 616352 – April
    Vol 3 – 616353 – June

    Come on, BSA – we’re waiting on these so our Scouts can use them!! They were really excited by the new samples you showed us last summer, and which we were supposed to have starting last fall.

  25. That just means that they didn’t sell enough of the old ones to depleat their overstock and until such time as they sell the last of them, we will not be able to get our hands on the new releases. Reminiscent of the new Scoutmaster book(s) that is/are overdue by almost a year and the old handbook on sale for $4.98…

  26. Just got off the phone with supplies. AGAIN. And have NEW dates. AGAIN.

    Vol 1 – 616351 – April 5th
    Vol 2 – 616352 – April 5th
    Vol 3 – 616353 – June 30th

    This is very disheartening when you want to deliver a quality program, and have scouts excited about content they were told they’d have access to LAST FALL. The delivery date is a moving target. I’ll believe April 5th when I see it. Right now, I’m expecting none of them to be here before June 30th. If so, it’ll be a pleasant suprise.

    • Thanks for the update. There are a bunch of us waiting on them. I am a Roundtable Commissioner. I made a big deal about the updates last fall. So much for my credibility.

      • I was told by the volunteer head of the committee that drafted the new program features that the first volume would be released at the BSA Annual Meeting at the end of May.

        • May I ask that you pass on the comments from the people here about how disappointed people are at the repeated delays and procrastination? If they’d told us last year that they would be ready in May 2014, we’d have been fine with it.

          Instead, they told us Fall 2013 for the first one. Then it pushed out. Then it pushed out again. And now yet again.

          The misinformation has been inexcusable.

  27. This is absolutely absurd. We teach and reinforce accountability with the scouts all the time. Too bad that the folks at National have obviously forgotten (or more likely simply chosen to ignore) that value.

    These types of actions and attitudes by the National organization are exactly why I have stopped donating at the larger organizational level and instead focused my resources directly at the individual unit level where they can actually have a positive impact. *heavy sigh*

  28. Very disappointing and ridiculous that this important update to such a core program document is dragging on well beyond its advertised release date. I can only hope that the new content is good enough to overcome the inauspicious first impression that this delay is making. National leadership ought to be embarrassed at how badly they missed the release dates.

    As a Scoutmaster, I’m just not “feeling the love” from National Council. Like Steve, I also have lost faith in National leadership for a variety of reasons that I’ve observed and am focusing my financial contributions at the individual unit level where I feel they are much more effective and visible in the quality of program delivered to the Scouts in my community.

  29. Just got off the phone. At first I was excited because they told me they have 3000 copies on order. But then I got the actual delivery dates:

    Vol. 1 – July 5th.
    Vol 2 – August 5th
    Vol 3 – August 5th

    Now we are looking at a almost a YEAR from when were initially told these would start to be available. I. AM. COMPLETELY. DISGUSTED.

  30. And the May 21st update…

    Vol 1 – 616351 – July 8th
    Vol 2 – 616352 – August 8th
    Vol 3 – 616353 – August 8th

    Pushed out yet again, although only by a few days. Still unacceptable when the initial date we were told was Q3/4 2013, and we’re looking at Q3 2014 instead. Almost a full year behind.

  31. OK – I know a little something about this. Two things to keep in mind.

    1) While we are all excited to have these modules come out, they are being written by volunteers. Not only do they know a lot about the subject, but are experts on scouting as well. That skill set is hard to find. But even volunteers have busy lives and sometimes don’t make deadlines, (or withdraw at the last minute). This actually happens all the time with other updates like merit badges, but since they are already in the store, you don’t notice the issue.

    2) Regarding timelines of production. You may not be aware, but a lot is happening at the national offices. There has been a major reorganization including a complete transfer of publishing. The team is continuing to produce, but there is just so much to do. New Cub books are in production and there are new Scout and Troop leader books coming out. In addition the new completely revamped Venturing Program has also directly effected this project. The new Venturing awards (that only recently got a name) need to be inserted as appropriate. But then again, isn’t getting everything right and up to date just as important as getting it out fast?

    I know we are waiting outside the oven waiting for the cake to finish baking. It smells delicious, but nobody wants to eat a gooey cake. Remember the scout law and how it relates to having patience. How would you teach that lesson to your kids?

    Sure this taking a long time, but hopefully it will be worth it. And if they are done right, are likely going to be with us for a long time.

    • Sorry Jim, I can’t accept your apologetic explanation on National’s behalf. National’s performance on this effort has been absolutely abysmal. National may have plenty of “excuses” but the fact is they have no legitimate explanation for their atrocious fumbling of this effort other than sheer incompetence on their part. Any other explanation is just PR hog wash.

      • Well Jonathan – I am the chairman of this particular product. This was not an apologetic explanation on National’s behalf…. rather it is a apologetic explanation from me to you. I am volunteer. I have worked with dozens of volunteers to develop this.

        I apologize that we have not been able to get this out sooner. I only hope that the end product will be considered worth the wait. This product has been focus group tested with many youth, but I will be there first to admit that nothing can be all things to all people.

        However, since you are clearly passionate about increasing the delivery of such products, I would like to invite you (and others on this thread that are interested ) to be part of the process. This is scouting after all and the more we help each other the better and sooner we can deliver a great experience to our youth.

        Send me a message with your strength and interests and I will see what I can do include you in the process.

        • Jim, I haven’t spotted a way to send this privately. I am very interested in working on this project or anything similar. After many years as Venturing Advisor, Boy Scout leader, Cub leader, trainer, and WB director, I have to stay home most of the time now due to a long-term illness in the family. I have plenty of energy and interest in Scouting, and a long employment history in teaching, curriculum development, and publishing. I would like to be of service in this way. I’m in Oregon Trail Council.

  32. I received an email this week from Scoutstuff customer service that the new program helps would not be released until sometime in the spring of 2015.

  33. This is unbelievable. This is the program we are talking about. This is what attracts and keeps scouts. This should be the most important thing National is working on.

  34. Won’t matter – the council don’t order the fold out bin items because there is nothing in their budget for Program items.

  35. Delay after delay after delay. It’s obvious National could care less about improving these materials. I find it interesting (and telling) that Trail Life apparently managed to get their entire program up and running in less time than it’s taking National to update these materials. Shame on you National!

    • The final finished samples of Volume 1 arrived today at the national office from the printers. The process of deliver from the printers to the warehouse and then to your local scout shop is now in motion.

      I hope that by being very transparent on the process, I can help relieve some of the criticism on the delays. Quite honestly we are doing the best we can. I hope you can patience with us. We are after all simply striving to make scouting better. Hopefully having a great product will be worth it.

  36. How about an electronic version (pdf), so we don’t have to wait for a printed copy? yes that the way to go !!!! let get with it !!!

  37. Glad to see these are in the works. We have relied on the older versions of the Troop Program Features for a number of years, and I have gifted each new SPL with a binder of these, explaining that just about everything they need to plan meetings based on a specific Scouting topic is in the binder. The newly designed “next gen” will be well worth the wait.

  38. I will be teaching Adult Leader Training in my district in a couple weeks, and the syllabus includes info on these documents. What can I tell people about their predicted availability? Do we have new product numbers, so I can at least ask my local Scout Shop (aka BSA Outfitters) to order them?

  39. Hah, I just purchased the 2012 printing. I asked at the scout shop if there were any planned revisions coming out before I plunked down my $25. Now, I see a revision is in the works. The new version looks great. Too bad I just bought the old one. Do the local scout shops know about this new version?

  40. Also…. Update on Volumes 2 & 3.

    Volume 2 is full production with some final edits being made on Soccer, Mentoring, and Archery. We are targeting a January release date.

    Volume 3: Preliminary drafts have been submitted and we will focus on production after the completion of Volume 2. We are hoping for a March release.

    As a volunteer on this project I have learned that there are many steps involved in the process that are happening at the same time.

    The New Venturing Books also just came out and there are other projects ( Cub and Scout) there are also in the works. It is a very busy time for publications at BSA.

    Once again thank you for your patience as we collectively try to make scouting better.

      • Yes, but many of the newer books are available for purchase in the Kindle store, why not these? A free PDF is good, but a purchased iBook is better than a print version, in my opinion, as I can take it with me wherever I’m at.

  41. Brian, I see that Volume 1 is available in the scout store. When will the other 2 volumes be available and why are they not online at Online still has the old info.

  42. I just got Volume 1 yesterday, Program Features for Troops, Teams, and Crews. FANTASTIC!!! HUGE THANK YOU to all those who’ve volunteered and/or participated in development on this. It’s a giant step forward. I love the layout, the explanations. This will help anyone to lead and adapt the program to suit their needs, and best of all, it will help the boys become the leaders they should be in the programs.
    I would also like to see pdf available, but I could also scan them myself. Just know that you are appreciated. Keep up the great work!

  43. I just got my copy. I have not had time to read it yet, but I am excited at the changes being made. The “program” is really the heart of scouting. It is why boys join and stay in scouting. If the program is not there, the scouts drop. If implemented correctly, this is a big step forward for recruitment.

    I also would like to see an electronic copy in PDF. Troops are going to scan them in anyway as a matter of necessity.

    Thank you to all who had a hand in creating this update.

  44. Updates on Volume 2 and 3? Earlier it was mentioned January and March as release dates for Volume 2 and 3. It is March and I don’t see either one of them at the Scout Shop.

  45. Volume one has been out for several months now. When will be updated. It still links to the old version.

  46. Unfortunately, November’s Boy’s Life Theme is “Financial Management” and that’s supposed to be in Volume 3. With it being already October 1, 2015 and Volume 2 not even out yet, I can see that I’ll have to tell my SPL that they (the Green Bars) may want to reconsider November’s theme for the Troop they chose to match the magazine during the Troop’s calendar planning. It’s Really hard to plan for a new program when the program guide is not available…

  47. I was at our local scout shop recently and found volume II for sale. This is great. Now we need some sort of a press release and promotion of this new release. A posting on Bryan on Scouting would be great. Boys join and continue in scouting because of the program. This is important stuff.

  48. 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

    Well, Here we are April 2016 and volume 3 is still not available.

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