If Scout campouts are the pizza toppings — cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms or whatever else you’re craving — then consider meetings the crispy crust and savory sauce.
Scout meetings hold everything together and provide a solid foundation to deliver the other ingredients of a successful Scouting experience.
Right now you’re probably wondering two things:
- Was the author hungry when writing the opening to this blog post? (Yes.)
- Can my unit still safely meet right now, during the pandemic? (It depends.)
We’ve heard from a number of unit leaders looking for an alternative meeting place for one or more of the following reasons:
- Local or state COVID-19 regulations make it impossible to meet at your regular location.
- Your chartered organization facility has chosen to remain closed or is otherwise unavailable right now.
- You and your Scouts are experiencing “Zoom fatigue” and desperately want to find a way to safely meet in person.
If you fall into any of these categories, here’s a simple, five-step plan just for you. By following these guidelines, you’ll be back to holding in-person Scout meetings in 30 minutes or less … guaranteed.
Bad pizza metaphors aside, we know it’s been a difficult year, and we can’t thank you enough for all you’re doing to continue the Scouting adventure from home. As Scouts, we know that the best way to get through difficult moments is to do so together. Let’s get going!
5-step plan for finding an alternative meeting place
Step 1: Check the Restart Scouting Checklist
You wouldn’t leave for Philmont, the Summit, Sea Base or Northern Tier without consulting a packing list. So don’t restart Scouting without consulting the Restart Scouting Checklist.
The checklist consists of “minimum guiding protocols that adult leaders/volunteers must consider while working with local and state health departments, local councils, chartered organizations and Scouting families on when and how to resume meetings, service projects, camping and all other official Scouting activities.”
The protocols cover what to do “before you gather” and “as you gather” to make sure you’re as safe as possible.
If you’re cleared to meet based on the guidelines in the checklist, proceed to Step 2.
Step 2: Talk to your chartered organization and/or local council
Chances are you’ve already been in contact with your chartered organization about alternative meeting locations. If not, now’s the time to get in touch.
They might have ideas like:
- The parking lot of your chartered organization
- A local park
- A council camp facility
- Other outdoor public locations like plazas, gardens, or state or national parks
Have your chartered organization sign off on your temporary alternative location.
Still out of ideas? Contact the helpful professionals at your local council for further advice.
Step 3: Conduct a safety check/walkthrough of your new meeting spot
Hopefully your unit committee members have been using the Meeting Place Inspection Checklist for years.
If not, now’s a great time to start. The checklist guides committee members through a comprehensive look at the meeting space, considering things like exits, fire protection and the existence of hand-washing facilities.
While the checklist was designed to be used with indoor spaces, it can easily apply to an inspection of your temporary alternative meeting location outdoors.
Step 4: Notify everyone about your new meeting location/time
A new location is news worth sharing with everyone in your unit, including Scouts/Venturers, parents, volunteers, unit committee members and your district executive.
If the new spot necessitates a change in meeting times (sunset isn’t getting any earlier!), share that information, too. Speaking of, we’ve heard from many units that have shifted their meetings to the weekend because there simply aren’t as many daylight hours available during the week. (When I was a Scout, Troop 1776 met on Sunday afternoons, and that worked really well!)
Whenever informing your pack, troop, ship or crew about something as important as meeting location and time, I find it best to use multiple methods. Consider the top three ways you communicate with families (email, text and Facebook, perhaps?) and use all three.
Step 5: Meet and adjust as necessary
At last, it’s time to meet!
As you (and your youth leaders) prepare for each meeting, remain mindful of what some consider the unofficial 13th point of the Scout Law: A Scout is flexible.
You might need to postpone a meeting at the last minute because of weather, a potential COVID outbreak in your community, or any other health or safety concern.
In fact, units might consider scheduling two dates for each meeting: a primary and an alternative. Families can keep both time slots on their calendars, so you’ll get better attendance when Mother Nature shows up unexpectedly.
And speaking of flexibility, consider scheduling meetings in blocks with staggered arrival and departure times. That’ll make it easier to manage social distancing and put concerned families at ease, since they might take comfort knowing that you are planning with social distancing in mind.
You’re doing great! Remember that Scouting during a pandemic is a new experience for everyone else out there, too. It’s OK if you don’t have all the answers right now.
In fact, there’s a good reminder there.
Scouting, perhaps more than any other youth-serving organization out there, prepares young people to be resilient. It teaches grit. It teaches them to find an alternative route around life’s most ominous obstacles.
By following the steps above to resume in-person meetings at an alternative location, you’ll further demonstrate the hardiness of Scouting and restore a sense of normalcy for your Scouts — and for you.
Now who wants pizza?