Inside the next-gen program features for troops, teams and crews

expertlogo1The BSA wrote the book on fun and engaging Boy Scout, Varsity and Venturing programs. Literally.

I mean the three-volume Program Features for Troops, Teams and Crews. It’s your youth leaders’ go-to resource for planning a great program. Your Scouts and Venturers can use these Program Features to plan their main monthly activities or as a way to supplement gaps on their Scouting calendar. The books are all about making a youth leader’s job easier and more fun.

Volume 1 — packed with 16 topics ranging from Camping to Spectator Sports — is available now. Volume 2 is due out in the next couple of months with Volume 3 to follow by the middle of 2015.

So what’s inside these Program Features, how should they be used and where can you buy them?

For those answers I asked the expert. In this case that’s Peter Self, head of the BSA’s Member Experience Innovation team. Here’s what he said.

What are the Program Features for Troops, Teams and Crews?

Program Features for Troops, Teams, and Crews is a three-volume set containing a total of 48 unique topics that a Scouting unit could use as either the core of its activities, or as a way to round out what’s already on the calendar,” Self says.

“The features cover six general categories: Outdoor, Sports, Health & Safety, Citizenship & Personal Development, STEM, and Arts & Hobbies. You can find program ideas for SCUBA, Science, Multimedia, Fitness & Nutrition and more.”

Sounds cool. What are the 48 topics?


Why do we need these? Aren’t the youth supposed to plan the program?

Self says:

Teaching youth leaders how to plan an engaging and fun program that also fulfills the mission of the Boy Scouts of America has always been a challenge. There’s a fine line that adult leaders often straddle in the process. On the one hand it’s tempting to simply take control of the planning process to make sure nothing is missed and that a quality program is delivered. On the other hand we may not give enough support, and youth leaders end up muddling their way through a frustrating process. This is where the new Program Features for Troops, Teams and Crews can be a big help.

The idea of having a “go-to” resource for youth leaders isn’t new. Many of us recall the old Woods Wisdom, which evolved into the Troop Program Features and the Varsity Team Program Features. Each of these publications provided introductions and outlines for unit level program. Even the first Venturing Leader Manual contained a number of tools to help plan activities.

While each of these publications provided great resources, they were aimed at our adult leaders, rather than the youth. And to be quite honest, they needed a facelift. That’s where the new Program Features for Troops, Teams and Crews comes in.

How will these Program Features be affected by the changes coming to Boy Scouting in 2016?

“The development team has worked closely with the other program task forces to make sure that the information in these new books aligns with the changes to Venturing and the upcoming 2016 changes to the Boy Scouting program,” Self says.

How are these different from previous versions?

More flexible: Troops, teams and crews can customize their own year from the 48 months of activity ideas. Selection is key as youth leaders plan the upcoming year.

More customizable: 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.

Better organized: Nobody creates a unit 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.

Better designed: 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 what’s inside that counts, right? What do these look like inside?

For a sample, check out the First Aid program feature. And below, see the first page of the Science program feature.


Where can I buy these Program Features?

Volume 1 (item No. 616351), which includes the first 16 program features, is available at your local Scout shop or at

How do I know I’m using the most current edition?

Good question. Here’s the cover of the new edition:


Where can I learn more?

To find out more about these great new resources, check out the March 2014 ScoutCast.

About Bryan Wendell 3286 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.