This post was written before the complications of Covid-19 affected our scouting year. I will be posting soon some ideas for scouting during this new challenge. However, the basic ideas for how to lay out a year and start planning a set of core activities may work for some groups. Please be sure to add appropriate safety precautions to any plan.
How to plan a Year of Scouting in 2 hours or less. This list assumes a single monthly weekend event, and focuses on planning those. If you are welcome to go camping every month this might not apply to you. This is one way to plan a variety of meetings very quickly.
I always sit with our entire leadership team for this, so that everyone can suggest ideas. Our leadership team includes both leaders and a team of parents who we call the “Parents committee” which is mostly spouses of leaders and an occasional Rover who isn’t a leader but is willing to help with planning.
I have a rule that if you suggest something, you have to be willing to coordinate it. This has resulted in some amazing activities that leaders throw out and plan for the group. It has also meant that I’m not trying to coordinate something that wasn’t my idea and takes more time and effort than I have. If a leader wants it bad enough they are going to be willing to make it happen. If not, I’m not going to burn out other leaders over a hard to plan event.
1, Look over what badges your scouts are working on this year before sitting down to do this. Make a list of any required field trips, community service projects or other things that will determine events.
In our group, Otters rotate having a Red/Blue Paw year, and a Green/Tan paw year, and scouts making it to a third year of otters focus on finishing the Service Badge and Swimming up. We repeat the Safety Badge every year.
Wolves and Pathfinders may benefit from more field days or camping trips that focus on their badge work.
You may also have things you do every year as troop traditions- list those too.
Determine Your Scouting Year
2. Next: Are you scouting all 12 months? Taking off the summer or winter? Or splitting the difference and skipping July and December?
Write a list of months you will scout and leave room under each for notes.
3. Decide when you will go camping and write that under the right month(s). In my group that usually goes in October and May.
4. Add a spring and fall community service project. Be sure to check if anyone has badge requirements that help you determine what to do. Otters may be learning about animals and doing a clean up at the local wildlife center, or making dog treats to take to the animal shelter would be good choices. Consider when your group would like to do their projects and add those to your calendar. For us, these events usually happen in November and February. This is also a great way to get other leaders and parents invovled in planning so ask them for ideas.
5. Reassess those badges and see what else needs to be on your calendar. I like to put a civics event in for January that time of year is too cold and rainy for camping in my area, so we go to the local Police, Fire or Ambulance station then. You may also want to add a “field day” to your calendar to work on skills that are hard to fit into your weeknight meetings. Field Days are perfect for working on Timberwolf Star requirements, orienteering, or Pathfinder Tenderfoot badges. Consider adding this to September and April.
6. Add some excitement. We kick off every scouting year with a kayaking and canoe even in August. We have a local place we can work with to set up putting different ages in different boats and it is high interest for us, as most of our scouts only go kayaking with us. You may instead want to add rock climbing or a tour of a local cave.
7. For any months left, double check your badge list for ideas. If you have none, go hiking. Hiking is easy, cheap and can be used to work on all kinds of observational skills with the scouts, map reading and trail sign reading. We have at least one hiking event a year.
8. Throw on an end of year Pot Luck and Award ceremony. If scouts finish badges near the end of the year, it is fun to give them out at a special picnic. This is also a great time to recognize non-badge accomplishments with a certificate for the “Best Knotter” or “Friendliest.” Consider giving such awards, or silly ones to your leaders and volunteer adults, too. Remember that saying “Thank you” and giving them a candy bar can go a long way towards making them happy about the hard work they put in!
Your scout year is outlined! As you go through the outline- get different adults or leaders to volunteer to coordinate each event. Or create a list of jobs that will need done and figure out who will do what. Even parents who are super busy can take time to make a single phone call to coordinate a visit to a fire station or to reserve a campsite.
As the GSM you will need to keep that list (or get a troop secretary to do it) and double check a month in advance that everything is good to go for the next month if you aren’t coordinating it yourself. However, it can be a lot less stressful to just follow up with your leaders than to do all the calls and plans yourself. This can also mean that your leaders feel more invested in the group, especially if they are calling to set up things they suggested the group do.
Now just add whatever week night meetings you like. My group meets for 2 one hour meetings each month- but you can meet more or less than that. Those weekly/biweekly or monthly meetings are a good time to work on sit down badge work, play some games and make some crafts. Those meetings help your group to have a group identity, so be sure to let the scouts (especially older ones) have some time to socialize. Chatting while they craft, tie knots, or whatever lets them bond so that relying on each other during camping trips is easier.