Homepage Forums Scouts BSA Trail to First Class

  • This topic has 16 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated 1 year ago by guru.
Viewing 13 reply threads
  • Author
    • #79882
      Gary Spisak

      I am thinking of helping out with my Troops Trail to First Class program. I would like some suggestions on how I can get it back on Tack and what I could so to help the Scouts get to First Class in the First year. Our program has been in limbo recently and we have quite a few scouts that are not to that rank yet and have been in over a year. Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.

    • #79924

      Most importantly, Abandon all notion of first class first year It is a failed, morally bankrupt, strategy that should have never been promoted. Only a fraction of boys will be able to advance three ranks in a year, mastering every skill. Both my sons and I took years to become first class scouts, meanwhile most of those FCFY boys did no better in terms of rates of advancement through upper ranks.

      What we scouters need to do is identify convenient places to camp locally and fun training programs (first aid meets, orienteering clubs, etc…) and service opportunities. Provide a nice menu of opportunities for your PLC at their annual planning meeting. Then, be sure that PLs are clear on signing off on rank requirements.

      Throughout the year coach PLs in tracking who of their boys needs what for their next rank, and encourage them to plan a weekend’s activities accordingly.

      Then, focus on the few boys who haven’t advanced in the past year. Find out if there is something that they really need help overcoming (e.g., a fear of swimming), or if they simply aren’t engaging the program enough. If it’s the former, find them a skilled trainer; if the latter, talk to the parents.

      • #114117
        Eric Emry

        Thank you. When I was scout it took me almost two years to get to First Class, and I felt like I was a failure. Some of the things that might have complicated that is I was diagnosed with autism as an adult, and the troop was failing. (not enough outings I think.)
        I agree pushing the boys to get ranks at a certain pace is a disgraceful practice. This program is about making boys into men and needs to be done at there pace.
        As a scout master I find this frustrating, but I still think it has to done at their pace.

    • #80196
      Elder Wand

      Scouters should not be involved selecting convenient places for programs, nor should a scouter offer opportunities especially at PLC and annual planning sessions. Boy led means boy led. It is up to the patrol leaders and the SPL to ensure that the program is is theirs to own. Stepping out of the way is the only way. Will failures increase? Of course. But scouts learn through failing much better than the successes that the adults guide them through.

    • #80699
      Just an observer

      Have to disagree with elder’s post. Boy led does not mean boy led into a corner. I see nothing wrong with providing scouts with multiple opportunities to choose from, or totally disregard if they desire. As an adult you have a wealth of information that teenagers in leadership roles have not acquired yet. Helping them to see opportunities is helpful, especially if they have no other exposure to what is available.

    • #80977
      Steve Savoie

      We need always remember the journey is more important than the destination. The journey to get to first class should be memorable, not just speedy. I know scouts who have sped through the ranks and they have very few memories of the trip. They also tend to do something once and move on which does not help them learn their scout skills and make that knowledge permanent. Scouts should move through the ranks at a steady pace that is right for them, not a artificial deadline set by well-meaning adults.

    • #81307

      Our program is more like 18 months and very few scouts get there in that timeframe. The key is to make sure you provide opportunities to actually fulfill advancment requirements. For example to do parts of a boat for First Class its good to have a paddle outing available, need paractical uses for knots? buy dining flys and make them retie tautline and bowline every campout. 5 mile hike – you’ll need that too. Make sure the troop has access to a GPS and teach an older scout Instructor how it works and how to teach other scouts.

      Its ok to let the PLC know that they should plan opportunities for specific requirements. The PLC should make the plans and run the meeting and campouts but they should also take input and advice into consideration.

    • #82234
      John Gaunt

      Gary: There is a lot of good advice above. I discredit “First Class in the First Year” as follows:

      1. It puts to much emphasis on advancement, which is only one of the eight methods of Scouting.
      2. 99% (in my opinion) of Scouts who make First Class in 1 year have been driven there like cattle, when it should be the Scout learning how to drive his own advancement at his own pace – all kids are different. It is up to the Troop (eg, boy/adult leaders) to provide opportunities; it is up to the Scout to take advantage of them.
      3. I really do not believe that it is possible for a Scout to learn and experience the confidence from truly learning and applying skills if he rips through everything just to get to First Class. He’s going to miss out on a lot of rewarding experiences while he’s “jonesing” for sign-offs.

    • #90533
      Fred VonFirstenberg

      Forget any notion of first class in the first year. It is, at best, counterproductive.

    • #176479

      I made first class in 8 months while joining the troop on April. It isn’t that hard if you are willing to try.

    • #194841
      John Strong

      Some Scouts join later in their teen years, and some come from an active outdoor family. If the family has instilled proper the outdoor ethics and skills, then a Scout should be able easily demonstrate the skills that they already possess and rapidly advance while they participate in the required outings.

    • #196105

      Variety of opinions here, and I disagree with many of them. Let me lay a few points out to explain why I think the way I do.

      1. ENROLLMENT – The BSA loses the most boys in the 1st year after a Cub bridges into Boy Scouts. Much of that is due to “culture shock” from going from highly organized adult-led cub scouts to the “organized chaos” of a youth-run BSA troop. There needs to be SOME structure and organizations akin to what they’re accustomed to in order to help them transition to the Boy Scout way of life.

      2. TRANSITION – WEBELOS is NOT the “transition” the BSA thinks it is. WEBELOS is supposed to be the “transition” part of the program where boys start behaving more and more like Boy Scouts, but 10 year olds simply aren’t mature enough to “get it” so most den leaders run both years of WEBELOS like any other den in Cub Scouting. More “Transition” is needed. An adult-led “1st Class in 1st Year” program offers that, so long as it’s not ALL “adult led”.

      3. SAFETY – all ranks up to and including 1st Class are about SAFETY. The sooner a scout learns how to be a SAFE Scout, the sooner he can embrace the more adventurous parts of Scouting.

      4. SPARK ADVANCEMENT – An object in motion tends to stay in motion, an object at rest tends to stay at rest. A boy who starts earning rank advancement builds his pride and sense of achievement, and wants to keep it going.

      So… we have a 1st Class in the 1st year program. It’s led by an ASM with youth “Troop Guides” to assist with lessons. Some boys earn rank, others don’t. But it works “as designed” to keep the boys enrolled, helps them transition to the youth-led model, and keeps them working towards rank advancement.

    • #196373

      First, it can be done based on the drive of the scout and the cooperation of the troop. Discouraging scouts from trying does more harm than good.

      Second, that pace can not be handled by everyone and those that can’t make it in a year should understand it is not a traumatic failure. If we all ran a four-minute mile, there wouldn’t be anything special about it.

      Third, steer clear of letting the slowest wagon set the pace of the train. You will have parents who feel their scouts are being outpaced by other scouts with more ambition and/or less distractions. This is a good thing, as merit should be celebrated rather than mediocrity.

      Lastly, what works for one troop won’t always work for another. Getting 75 new scouts qualified in all tasks to advance to first class is much more challenging than getting 5 new scouts qualified.

    • #198926
      Steve C

      Nobody answered the original question.

      • #201313

        I replied with a four step answer to how Gary “could get on track” regarding advancing scouts to 1st class.

        • abandon 1st class 1st year
        • find convenient, local locations for boys to camp and serve frequently
        • coach the youth leaders
        • focus on scouts who haven’t advanced in the past year.
          </nl>Others have filled in details on how to make the most of those steps.
          From my experience, that first step is vital to success. Getting all crossovers from scout to 1st class in one year is nigh impossible. Sometimes when you can’t achieve a goal, it’s because you’re incompetent. But just as often, it is because the goal is inappropriate.
          Eliminate that goal, and yield more 1st class scouts (for real, not just scouts with an oval).
      • #202082

        HOW to do it? Your “lesson plan” should flow like a river so it all makes logical sense to the boys. Explain to the boys that EACH WEEK, you and youth leaders (troop guides & instructors) are there as part of the “First Class in First Year” program to GUIDE them on a journey. Each week, that journey takes them closer to being a “regular patrol”. It’s an ongoing conversation… with fun activities!

        First, discuss the PURPOSE of Scouting… to prepare for all that will be coming their way. Speak to how WE (Scouters) hope to inspire them to want to learn more and do new things. Remind them (constantly) that THEIR ideas become reality in “boy led” units and while you are there to guide them (briefly), EVER expectation is that THE BOYS will lead themselves for the next 7 years.

        Second, speak on the rich history of Scouting and WELCOME them to be full members in the Program (enter Scout rank requirements)

        Third, emphasize SAFETY, that Scouts are not only prepared to handle problems when they arise, but know how to AVOID problems in the first place. How to HIKE safely, how to CHOOSE safe camp sites, how to AVOID drainage areas by looking at the landscape, how to ID and avoid poison ivy. (enter Tenderfoot requirements 1-5)

        Fourth, emphasize HEALTH in mind, body, and spirit. Revisit Patriotism (flag handling), then hold a “health night” (TF requirement 6)

        As you see…. each week/month you take them a little farther along – ALL THE WHILE you are “selling” them on the PROGRAM of what it means to “be a Boy Scout”. Always inspiring, always focusing on individual achievement and personal growth. Always pushing them more and more to “boy led” and as often as possible YOU ARE OUT OF THE WAY. Let older scouts teach, let older scouts demonstrate, let older scouts set the example….

        DONE RIGHT… Scouters blend into the background and keep a watchful eye from afar. A Scoutmaster (or ASM) has 1 job – to put himself out of a job! The goal is “boy led”.

    • #200704

      Steve C points out that we haven’t answered the question, and I admit most of us just addressed whether the mere idea had merit. However, it’s hard to answer the question without knowing how it got off track. The simple answer is get the scouts and leaders active. Organize the necessary hikes, campouts, fitness courses, EDGE and cooking opportunities. Put one or more leader in charge of each activity. Summer camps are great opportunities, especially those with dedicated programs to help scouts move along. Camp Rainey Mountain has an excellent TNT program, for example. Those who choose sports or other activities over scouting will fall behind, but don’t penalize the scouts who prioritize advancement by holding them back.

Viewing 13 reply threads
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.