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Should There Be A Knot for High Adventure?

John Pratt from Crossroads of America Council wrote via the feedback form to suggest that maybe there ought to be a new square knot for Scouts and Scouters that complete High Adventure events like the Philmont Trek. We chatted about it a bit and came up the idea that maybe there should be a knot called the “High Adventure Specialist Award” and then we came up with some proposed requirements.

High Adventure Specialist Award (Knot) Requirements

1. Attend two weeks of resident Boy Scout Camp (keeps local councils happy)

2. Participate in a high adventure program at any camp or at a high adventure base (local council, regional, or national).

3. Participate in a second high adventure program at a recognized BSA High Adventure Base like Philmont.

4. Take a leadership role in preparing a group for a high adventure experience – adult leader or youth leader role.

5. Help promote high adventure programs in your local council.

Of course this is just the musings of two old time Scouters and not anything even remotely close to official. Let me know what you think via the comments section.

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How A Scout Troop Works

For those of you new to Boy Scouting, please understand that it is not an advanced Webelos Program.  Indeed, it is quite different.  Unlike almost every other youth program, Boy Scouting is youth led and youth run.  That’s right, adults do not run a Boy Scout Troop.  Instead they support youth leaders.  Think of it as a learning laboratory where the key method of learning is doing – where youth have the opportunity to learn leadership skills by practicing them.  Youth leaders will make mistakes and adults are there to help bandage the cuts, dust off the youth, help him to his feet, give him a pat on the back for trying, and get him back in the game.  And the foundation of youth leadership is what we call the “Patrol Method”.  That is where the magic begins.

My thanks to Hal Daume for sharing the following 10 minute guide to how a Scout Troop works.  Please read it carefully.  It is jammed full of useful nuggets that can help you have a top-notch Scouting Program with the core foundation of Patrols and youth leadership.

If you want a print version click on the orange plus sign and select print at the top of the article.  You can also download this in the following formats:


How A Scout Troop Works

By Hal Daume

The Boy Scout Troop is a microcosm of democracy-in-action.  Its key leaders are elected by their peers, and then provide direction through the Troop’s essential operating units: Its PATROLS.

 The Patrol Method is not “a way of running a Scout troop; it is the ONLY way of running a Scout Troop.  Without The Patrol Method, there is no Scouting.

– Lord Robert S.S. Baden-Powell of Gilwell

With the Scoutmaster’s guidance, Scouts form themselves into Patrols, plan the Troop’s annual, monthly, and individual meeting programs, and bring these to life. For this to happen, the Troop relies on Scouts serving in key positions of responsibility, make up the PATROL LEADERS COUNCIL (aka “PLC”) – The PLC is the primary operational/program decision-making body of the Troop.


Appointed by the executive officer of the Troop’s Chartered Organization (or designate, the Chartered Organization Representative) with the agreement of the troop Committee Chair, the Scoutmaster is responsible—in this order—for: (1) training and guiding all youth leaders in the operation of their patrols and their troop, and (2) managing, training, and supporting the troop’s Assistant Scoutmasters in their roles.


The Patrol is the fundamental unit of the Boy Scout program; the troop is the “umbrella” under which the Patrols operate.

A Patrol is a grouping of approximately six to never more than eight Scouts who work together. Each Patrol elects its own Patrol Leader, who then chooses his assistant (APL).  Within the larger community of the troop, the Patrol is a Scout’s family circle. The patrol helps its members develop a sense of pride and identity, and encourages increasing level of responsibility.

The object of The Patrol Method is to give responsibility to the Scout.

– Lord Robert S.S. Baden-Powell of Gilwell

Never do for a boy what he can do for himself.

– The Scoutmaster’s Handbook

Besides the Patrol Leader, other positions within the patrol are: Assistant Patrol Leader, Scribe, Quartermaster, Grubmaster, Cheermaster. Depending upon the situation, patrols may have other types of duty positions such as Fireman, Cook, etc. The Patrol Leader leads the selection for these positions.

The Troop’s patrols do everything TOGETHER. They meet together, plan outings together, camp and hike together, learn skills together, come to troop meetings together – The Patrol members are inseparable and each is responsible for and accountable to all others members in his Patrol.


The Troop is run by its key youth leaders. With the guidance of the Scoutmaster, these youth leaders plan the program, conduct troop meetings, and provide leadership among their peers.  In addition to the Patrol Leaders who comprise the Patrol Leaders Council (PLC), the two most senior youth leaders are:

  • The Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) is the Troop’s top youth leader. He leads troop meetings and the Patrol Leaders Council and, in consultation with the Scoutmaster, appoints other youth leaders and assigns specific responsibilities as needed. The Senior Patrol leader is elected by all Scouts in the troop, usually for a six-month term.
  • The Assistant Senior Patrol Leader (ASPL) is selected by the SPL to assist him (the Scoutmaster provides advice regarding this selection, but is not the decision-maker). The ASPL fills in for the SPL in his absence and is also responsible for training and giving direction to the troop’s Quartermaster, Scribe, Order of the Arrow Troop Representative, Troop Historian, Troop Librarian, and Instructors (if any).
  • Troop Guide(s) (if any, and only when providing guidance for the Patrol Leader of a new Scout patrol).


The Patrol Leaders Council (PLC), not the adult leaders or Troop Committee, is responsible for planning and conducting all troops activities. The PLC is composed of these key decision-makers: SPL and ASPL, and all Patrol Leaders (the Troop Scribe may be requested to attend the PLC to take notes, but he is not a voting member; neither is the Scoutmaster; ASMs do not attend PLC meetings).  At the PLC’s monthly meetings, these key youth leaders plan, organize and assign activity responsibilities for the weekly troop meetings for the coming month.  The PLC also plans the troop’s annual calendar of activities.

The Scoutmaster guides and mentors but does not lead or control PLC meetings and program-planning, and then informs the troop Committee of the PLC’s plans and decisions.  The Troop Committee may offer suggestions to the PLC through the Scoutmaster, but neither the Scoutmaster nor the Committee votes on, approves, vetoes, or otherwise disapproves what the PLC has decided, except in the event of a potential safety or youth protection violation.

Model Patrol Leaders Council Monthly Meeting Agenda

Activity                                                           By

Opening and Call to Order                       Senior Patrol Leader

Roll Call and Reading of the Log               Troop Scribe

Patrol Reports                                        Patrol Leaders

Old Business                                           Senior Patrol Leader

Big Event Planning                                   Senior Patrol Leader

Troop Meeting Planning                           Senior Patrol Leader

New Business                                         Senior Patrol Leader

Scoutmaster’s Minute                             Scoutmaster

Follow-Up & Follow-Through Make It Happen

On conclusion of each PLC meeting, the Troop’s youth leaders should understand the plan for Troop whatever is coming up… meeting, campout, service project, or special event.  They also will understand precisely who is responsible for what, by when, and to whom they’ll report their progress.  If any of the responsibilities fall outside the PLC (for instance, the Troop Committee, etc.) the Scoutmaster takes charge of these.  Ultimately, everyone reports in to the SPL, while the Scoutmaster acts as his backup/guide/mentor.  Regular communication among all Patrol Leaders and their SPL is maintained via phone and/or email/IM/TM, and in-person at troop meetings.  The SPL and the Scoutmaster always confer briefly before Troop meetings and activities to look over the agenda and responsibilities developed and agreed upon by the Patrol Leaders Council and to make sure that everything is ready to go according to plan.


This is the single most important meeting that the PLC will have in the course of the troop’s Scouting Year.  Here, the PLC selects and plans the Troop’s activities for the coming Scouting Year.  This conference is organized and led by the Senior Patrol Leader.  The Scoutmaster backs up but never, ever supplants the SPL.  The annual calendar that the PLC develops takes into account the desires and interests of the Troop’s members plus District, Council, and National Scouting events.  On completion, through the Scoutmaster, the calendar is delivered to the Troop Committee for support (see above).


The Troop Committee supports the Troop program by

  • making sure that high quality adult leadership is identified, recruited and trained;
  • providing, with the troop’s Chartered Organization, an appropriate, adequate, and safe meeting place;
  • advising the Scoutmaster on policies of the BSA and the Chartered Organization, as necessary;
  • taking responsibility for finances, adequate funds, and disbursements in line with a formal budget plan;
  • obtaining and maintaining troop property;
  • assuring that the troop has an outdoor program, including Scout summer camp, and supporting it with adequate leadership (two-deep, minimum), transportation, etc.;
  • maintaining Scout advancement records and serving on rank advancement Boards of Review*;
  • encouraging regular Courts of Honor;
  • supporting the Scoutmaster in working with boys individually and problems that may affect the overall troop program;
  • helping the Troop to carry out the annual Friends of Scouting fund-raising campaign,
  • keeping the adult volunteer positions needed to support the Troop filled. 

For essential utility, the Troop Committee needs to provide the troop with these positions: Chair, Membership, Advancement, Finance, and Outdoor Support.

* Only registered members of the Troop Committee may sit on boards of review for the ranks of Tenderfoot through Life, plus Eagle palms. (Eagle rank boards of review have special, unique membership stipulations.)


The weekly Troop meeting is the glue that holds a Boy Scout Troop together. These meetings, planned and run by the troop’s youth leaders, can be full of excitement, learning-by-doing, and satisfaction. Meeting time devoted to learning new skills and organizing future campouts, service projects, and other activities help keep interest levels and enthusiasm high. They serve many purposes:

  • Motivating Scouts. From Scouts’ points of view, troop meetings are chances for them to get together with their Patrol friends for fun and adventure. For the Scoutmaster, meetings offer opportunities for Scouts to learn, advance, learn new leadership skills, and improve themselves.
  • Strengthening Patrols. Patrols have opportunities at troop meetings to meet together, to learn as a team, and to share what they know. Whether they serve as the honor guard for the meeting’s opening ceremony, or as presenters of a Scouting skill, or as the organizers of the weekly inter-patrol game or activity, every patrol can contribute to every troop meeting.
  • Learning & Practicing Scouting Skills. A portion of every Troop meeting is focused on the demonstration and practice of skills that will enhance Scouts’ ability to hike and camp, and to meet advancement requirements.
  • Exercising Leadership. Every week, the Troop’s youth leaders take charge of planning, carrying out, and then assessing the success of their troop meetings. Leadership can be learned only by experience, and troop meetings are the venue for this to happen.
  • Promoting Scout spirit. Troop meetings offer ideal settings for Patrols to take part in contests and competitions that test their expertise and their abilities to cooperate with one another.  And meetings always end with the Scoutmaster’s Minute.


The committee uses Troop meetings to further its own purposes and goals, including conducting boards of review for Scouts who have completed rank requirements for advancement, and reaching out to new Troop parents, getting to know them, and inviting them to attend committee meetings – This is essential to maintaining the vitality of the Troop.


In Troop meetings, the Scoutmaster can observe the youth leaders in action so that, in separate conferences with them, they can be coached on how to improve and refine their leadership skills. Troop meetings are also a time and place for conferencing with Scouts who are advancing, and those who aren’t. Finally, each week the Scoutmaster has the opportunity to “teach a new lesson” in Scout Spirit via the Scoutmaster’s Minute.

Planning a Troop Meeting

Responsibility for the conduct and content of a Troop meeting falls to the Scouts themselves. Troop meetings are planned well in advance by the Senior Patrol Leader and the PLC.

Each Troop meeting will have been planned the previous month at the meeting of the PLC. The Senior Patrol Leader will have assigned Patrols and individuals to take care of portions of a meeting, giving as many Scouts as possible the chance to contribute. The seven-part Troop meeting plan provides the framework for efficient, well-run troop meetings.

The Seven Parts of a troop Meeting

     1        Pre-opening

     2        Opening

     3        Skills Instruction

     4        Patrol Meetings

     5        Inter-patrol Activity

     6        Closing–Scoutmaster’s Minute

     7        After the Meeting

Using the Troop Meeting Plan

The seven-part plan for Troop meetings is an important guide, but use it flexibly. While the seven parts of the meeting are to be followed, the times noted in the plan are suggestions only and can vary to fit various situations. For example, the Troop may be getting ready for a camp-out. The usual amount of time set aside for Patrol meetings might be expanded to allow Scouts time to complete their patrol camping preparations. Or, a troop nearing the date of a District Camporee may devote extra time to skills instruction so that everyone will be ready for activities involving the theme of the camporee, and the inter-patrol activity can include an extended competition that also focuses on the key skills.

When the minutes allotted to one part of the Troop meeting plan increase, consider shortening other portions of the plan. Every Troop meeting should be interesting and useful, and begin and end on time.


As Scouts begin to arrive for a Troop meeting, a Patrol Leader or an older Scout assigned by the SPL gets them involved in a pre-opening game or project designed so that additional Scouts can join in as they show up. The pre-opening is often well-suited for the outdoors. Those in charge of the pre-opening activity should be ready to start about 15 minutes before the scheduled beginning of the meeting. Varying activities from week to week will keep the pre-opening fresh.

Scouts whose Patrol has been assigned to serve that week as the service Patrol should use the pre-opening time to prepare for the troop meeting. The meeting room may need to be rearranged, chairs set up, flags displayed, and other preparations completed before the meeting can begin.


Call the meeting to order on time, the SPL instructs his PLs to line up their patrols in formation. Then, the Patrol responsible for the opening ceremony may conduct a flag ceremony and then lead the Troop members in the Scout Oath and Law, Motto, patrol attendance (with Patrol yells!), etc.


This portion of the meeting is devoted to the mastery of knowledge that Scouts need to participate fully in an upcoming activity, or upon skills they must learn to complete advancement requirements. The skills to be taught at each meeting will have been determined in advance by the Patrol leaders’ council. Often the skills will relate directly to the month’s program plan for troop activities. Instruction should be hands-on learning rather than lecturing. Those who may be effective in teaching skills are the troop guide, instructors, youth assistant Scoutmasters, assistant Scoutmasters, and members of the troop committee. Older Scouts and members of the Venture Patrol also can be effective instructors, though at most meetings they will be involved in their own activities. Whenever possible, troop skills instruction should be divided into three levels:

1.   Basic Scouting skills instruction for the new Scouts        

2.   Advanced instruction for the experienced Scouts

3.   Expert instruction for the Venture Patrol

Each instructional area should be separated from the others so that distractions are minimized.


At the end of the skills instruction, the SPL asks the PLs to take their patrols to their areas for their patrol meetings. Matters to be dealt with during this time include taking attendance, (sometimes) collecting dues, planning the Patrol’s involvement in upcoming troop activities, selecting menus for hikes and campouts, assigning patrol members to specific tasks, and working out any other details for the smooth operation of the patrol. The SPL circulates amongst the patrol meetings, ready to serve as a resource if a PL asks for assistance. Once the patrols have completed their work, the SPL has the PLs bring their patrols back together, and they move on to the next part of the troop meeting.


The SPL (or someone he appoints) leads this opportunity for the patrols and their members to interact with one another in a competitive or a cooperative effort. The activity might be a game that will test the skills the Scouts are learning for an upcoming activity—pitching tents or tying knots, for example. The BSA books, Troop Program Resources have a wealth of games to foster friendly teamwork and competition. The BSA manual, Project COPE (No. 34371), also contains many appropriate games and challenges.


The closing of a meeting is the Scoutmaster’s opportunity to step forward—this is actually the only time he appears before the entire troop in a regular troop meeting! The SPL asks his PLs to sit their patrols quietly, then he turns the meeting over to the Scoutmaster for (brief!) reminders and announcements about upcoming events, and support of the patrols for their achievements and progress. 

The highlight of the closing will be the “Scoutmaster’s Minute”—a brief message built on one of Scouting’s values. As the concluding thought of a troop meeting, the Scoutmaster’s Minute is a message each Scout can carry home.


Here, the PLCs’ stays a few moments after the closing to discuss with their SPL and Scoutmaster the quality of the just-concluded meeting. The SPL offers praise for portions of the meeting that went well, and talks about ways that future troop meetings can be improved. The Scoutmaster offers commentary only when called upon by the SPL.

Here are some questions to ask about the meeting:

  • Was the meeting fun?    
  • What should we not do again?
  • Did we accomplish a purpose?  
  • Did we do something new and different?
  • Did we have all the resources necessary to accomplish tasks? 
  • What worked well that we should do again?

Finally, the PLC reviews the Troop Meeting Plan for the next meeting and makes sure that everyone who will have a role is aware of the assignment and is prepared to do a good job. While the PLC is reviewing the meeting, the Service Patrol is putting away Troop gear and returning the meeting room to order.

Youth Leader Tips for Running a Good Troop Meeting

  • Prior to the meeting, review the Troop meeting plan with the Scoutmaster. 
  • Keep the meeting moving. if the proceedings of one part of the meeting seem to have run out of energy, move on to the next.
  • Start the meeting on time.       
  • Take charge of the meeting. Scouts will follow your lead.                
  • Stay focused on the program feature of the month.
  • When you are ready to move from one part of the meeting to the next, use the Scout sign to gain the attention of all troop members. 
  • Praise Patrols when they have done something well.
  • Set a good example by wearing your BSA uniform to Troop meetings.
  • When Patrol members are watching, be supportive and positive in your comments to Patrol leaders,  if you feel the need for constructive criticism, speak with Patrol leaders in private.             
  • End every meeting on time.
  • Review each meeting to see what can be improved in the future.
  • Don’t wear out favorite pre-opening or inter-patrol games and activities.  Try new challenges.

Adult Leader Tips for Effective troop Meetings

  • Troop meetings must have variety, action, and purpose.
    • Variety. Don’t get in the same old rut. Help the senior Patrol leader mix in surprises now and then–a special visitor, for example, a fresh activity, or perhaps a chance for the Troop to make homemade ice cream. Keep a file of resources and ideas that can add spice to meetings.
    • Action. Boys spend much of their day sitting in school. Get them out of their chairs at troop meetings. Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class Scouts should be involved in learning basic Scout skills. Keep in mind that all Scouts, regardless of their age or experience level, should be active participants, not just observers.
    • Purpose. Troop meetings should be built around a purpose; for example, helping Scouts prepare for an upcoming activity or event.
  • Many meetings can and should take place outdoors.
  • The Patrol that was assigned the previous week to be this week’s service Patrol should arrive early enough to prepare the room or outdoor area for the troop meeting. At the end of the meeting it is the service Patrol’s responsibility to put everything away and return the meeting space to its original condition.
  • The SPL is in charge of every Troop meeting. Help him plan ahead, coach him along the way, but stay in the background and let him be the leader.
  • Encourage the SPL to start and end meetings on time–90 minutes is the ideal.
  • You and the youth leaders can use the Scout sign any time the Troop must come to order, especially when shifting from one part of a meeting to another. Keep it effective by using it sparingly.
  • Don’t wear out activities the Scouts enjoy. If the Troop has a favorite game, keep things lively by alternating it with other games now and then rather than relying on the same one every week.
  • During the planning stages of skills instruction, remind instructors that demonstrations are most persuasive when they show rather than simply tell. If a troop instructor is going to explain how to load and carry a backpack, he should bring the gear and the pack to the meeting.
  • Hands-on. experience is an especially effective method of teaching. Coach instructors on the importance of involving Scouts as participants in skills instruction, not simply observers. Plan ahead. Will a Patrol need a plant identification book for nature study? Will each Scout need a length of rope to learn a new knot? Instructors should get in the habit of gathering their materials ahead of time.
  • Coach youth leaders to keep meetings moving at a fast pace. If an activity or project is not working well, suggest that the boy leaders end it and move on to the next item of the meeting plan,
  • Keep the length of the Scoutmaster’s Minute to not much more than just that-a minute. Just as you ask youth leaders to plan well for efficient meetings, give some thought ahead of time to how you’ll manage the meeting’s close.
  • End the meeting on time. Leave the boys wanting more and they will be  eager to return the next week.
  • Unless they’re been invited to take part in a specific part of a meeting, visitors should be observers only. Don’t allow them to disrupt the flow of events.
  • The recognition and encouragement Scouts receive from their Scoutmaster is a crucial part of their development. At every meeting find something positive to praise about each Patrol–well planned presentations, proper uniforming, a good opening ceremony, or even something as simple as arriving on time.
  • Support youth leaders in a positive manner during meetings. If you feel the need to correct or criticize, save your thoughts until after the meeting and then find a productive way of teaching boy leaders how to be more effective.

Annual Program Planning Conference of the PLC

This Annual Program Planning Conference is a 5-step process:

 1.   Doing your homework

 2.   Getting Patrol input

 3.   Holding the planning conference

 4.   Communicating with the Troop Committee

 5.   Announcing the plan to the Troop.

Step 1: Homework (Done jointly by the SPL & Scoutmaster in advance)

  • Evaluate the past year (What to keep, to drop, to do a different way)
  • Review the troop Program Planning video (No. AV-02VOI0)
  • Get District and Council event dates (Camporee, Klondike, etc.)
  • Get National event dates (Scouting for Food, SCOUT WEEK, etc.)
  • Get dates of community events; key school events, activities, and holidays; and the Chartered Organization’s special event dates
  • Check the advancement status of the Scouts, to decide on the types of activities are needed to help each Scout progress
  • Prioritize the activities most important for the troop to continue (e.g., summer camp, Philmont trek, monthly outings, annual sponsor service project, fundraising event(s), Good Turn for the community, earning the National Camping Award, National Quality Unit Award, etc.
  • Draw up a preliminary outline of the annual troop program (keep it as flexible as possible while still fulfilling the accomplishments envisioned for the troop)
  • Review the agenda Program Planning Conference agenda and components

Step 2: Getting Patrol Input

At a monthly PLC meeting, present the list of priorities you and the Scoutmaster have developed and explore the range of options you believe are available to the troop. For example, you might feel that the needs of the troop can be best achieved by adopting any of 36 selected program features available from the BSA publications troop Program Features, Volumes 1, 11, and III, Nos. 33110, 33111, and 33112. 

Paring down those possibilities to a dozen-one for each month-will be easier to do after Patrol leaders have shared the list with Patrol members and gotten their thoughts on the features that most interest them. Remind Patrol leaders to bring their Patrols’ recommendations to the program planning conference.

Step 3: Hold the troop Program Planning Conference

The Troop’s planning conference is an opportunity for members of the PLC to map out the Troop’s activities for the year and for the Troop’s adult leaders to offer guidance and support. In consultation with the Scoutmaster, set a time and a place for the conference and invite the following persons to attend:

       In an active role:

  • Senior Patrol leader
  • Assistant senior Patrol leader
  • All Patrol leaders
  • Troop guide

        In a supportive role:

  • Scoutmaster
  • Assistant Scoutmasters
  • Youth assistant Scoutmasters

The Scribe may be invited to the conference to keep log of the proceedings; but he isn’t a voting member of the conference.

Open the conference with a team-building, activity or an action game that will promote cooperation among the participants.

Showing part two of the video troop Program Planning can set the stage for the conference as it reminds those in attendance of the importance of the work they are about to do.


The intent of he annual troop program planning conference is fourfold:

  • Develop troop goals for the coming year.
  • Select the major events for the coming year.
  • Select the program features for the coming year.
  • Fill out the troop’s calendar for the coming year.

Develop Troop Goals

The Scoutmaster leads a discussion that guides the group in developing a list of the goals they want to see the Troop achieve in the next 12 months. The Scoutmaster may present a list of goals and then encourage the group to expand upon them or adjust the list to better fit the needs of troop members. By majority vote the PLC approves the troop goals.

Select the Major Events

With the Scoutmaster’s assistance, you as senior Patrol Leader review potential major events for the troop-summer camp, Scout shows, etc. These events may be entered on a calendar and photocopied for everyone’s information. Invite Patrol leaders to share input resulting from the Patrols’ discussions of the proposed major events for the troop. Be sure to consider the preparation time required for each event and how that will affect the troop’s calendar. Open the floor for discussion of any or all of the proposed events. Encourage input from every conference participant. Decide by a majority vote whether to include each major event on the Troop’s annual calendar. Enter the elected items on the Troop Planning Worksheet, from Troop Program Features.

Select the Program Features

With the Scoutmaster’s support, the SPL presents the list of potential monthly program features, and opens the floor to discuss each of these. Consider these points:

  • Will the program feature help the Troop meet its goals?
  • What opportunities for advancement does it present?
  • Where would the feature best fit into the annual calendar?

Fill Out the Troop’s Calendar

Using the Troop Planning Work Sheet, develop the troop’s calendar by writing the following items in their appropriate spots:

  • Monthly program features
  • Boards of review
  • Courts of honor
  • Recruitment nights
  • Webelos Scout graduation
  • Any other Troop activities that can be scheduled this far in advance
  • Service project for the chartered organization
  • Lead the group in a review of the Troop Planning Work Sheet. Once the group has approved the final edition of the plan, it will be ready to present to the Troop Committee for its input and approval.
  • Plan the Troop program for the upcoming month, beginning by showing part three of the Troop Program Planning video.
  • Close the Troop’s annual program planning conference by inviting the Scoutmaster to offer a Scoutmaster’s Minute.

Step 4: Consult With the troop Committee and Chartered Organization

The SPL and the Scoutmaster (notice who’s listed first?) present the plan to the Troop committee and the Chartered Organization Representative and ask for their support. If revisions are suggested, the SPL will take the plan back to the PLC for further consideration and PLC final approval.

Step 5: Announce the Plan

Distribute copies of the final plan to troop members, parents and guardians of Scouts, members of the troop committee, and representatives of the chartered organization. Copies of the plan also should be given to the Cub Scout pack leaders, unit commissioners, the district executive, the head and secretary of the chartered organization, and the building custodian.

The Monthly Patrol Leaders’ Council Meeting

The PLC runs the Troop according to the policies of the Boy Scouts of America, utilizing the guidance and counsel of the Scoutmaster. 

The PLC plans the Troop program at the annual program planning conference. It then meets every four weeks to fine-tune the plans for the coming month.

At the conclusion of Troop meetings (and at other times the SPL feels the PLC should consider an issue) the PLC meets informally (a “stand-up meeting”) to review the success of a troop activity and to go over responsibilities for future meetings and events.

The Scoutmaster is present at PLC meetings, in a supportive role to provide information and insight on issues and activities. To the greatest extent possible, it is the members of the PLC who plan and carry out the program of a boy-run, Scout-led troop.

The Scoutmaster serves the troop; it’s not the other way around.

 – Andy McCommish


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Eagle Lightbox Powerpoint

Scouter Marquita Serio has adapted the old Eagle Scout Lightbox Ceremony to work with PowerPoint.

If you are interested, please download the Eagle Scout Lightbox Ceremony Powerpoint Presentation and Eagle Scout Lightbox Ceremony Script.

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Old BSA Scrollwork

In a very early edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, there was a page for a Scout’s history with some beautiful scrollwork.

Original Early BSA Scrollwork

Fellow Scouter, Marquita Serio, unearthed a nice colorized version of this artwork that can be used for making certificates of appreciation.

Colorized BSA Scrollwork

Download the Full-sized Version

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Scoutmaster Minute – OTA


Chances are good that your Scouts spend a fair amount of time using the Internet whether it is texting, tweeting, browsing, or using social media to share and pass on information to friends. Sometimes the information that gets passed on is inaccurate or false.

Only a few days ago there was a surge of tweets on Twitter about a rise in thefts of Tide from stores. Eventually, this ended up being broadcast as the truth by major media outlets. Later when the facts were checked with local law enforcement agencies, the story turned out to be inaccurate. There are some isolated instances of thefts of Tide for resale on the black market, but both retailers and law enforcement denied that there was a dramatic upsurge in theft of the detergent. While probably harmless to most of us, this illustrates how easily inaccurate information can spread and how many people will believe it.

We tend to trust what we hear from friends and pass it on. (We see something and act on it almost immediately in many cases.) But do we know whether or not what we are sharing is true? Could it damage or hurt somebody? In most cases we are missing a critical step in good Internet citizenship – thinking before acting on information. We need to give some thought to whether the information is reliable, verifiable, and accurate. And we need to think about the consequences of our actions. That’s the point of the graphic above – think before acting on information.

The Scoutmaster Minute

Not too long ago a Scout that we’ll call Willy was walking home from school with one of his friends. They were talking about Willy going to the Troop’s planned campout that weekend. Willy wasn’t sure he’d get to go because his mom might have to work late and he’d have to watch after his kid brother and told his friend that. Later that friend texted his pals that Willy was afraid of going and making excuses because he was a geeky fair weather camper. Pretty soon just about everyone in school had gotten the word that Willy didn’t have the right stuff or the stomach for a real adventure. Jokes were being made about him and everyone pretty much agreed that Willy was pretty lame, he couldn’t even do Boy Scout stuff. No way was that goofy Willy going to cut it and everyone knew it was a fact.

When the time game to pack the cars and head out, the Scoutmaster asked if everyone planning to go was there. The kids laughed and joked around that yup, all the real Scouts were there. That’s when the Senior Patrol Leader asked what about Willy, I know he wanted to go. There were jokes and chuckles about Willy making excuses – he wouldn’t be coming. That didn’t sound right to the Senior Patrol Leader, so he called Willy and asked what was up. Willy said he was coming, he had been watching over his kid brother, but now that his mom was home he was on his way. Thanks to the Senior Patrol Leader’s checking, the Scoutmaster agreed it wouldn’t hurt to wait up a few minutes for Willy to get there.

Later that weekend the Troop came across a search and rescue effort in the mountain’s woods. A little boy had strayed from a campsite and was lost. The temperatures were dropping and a blizzard was expected that night. The Scouts asked if they could help and joined in the search for the lost child. By the end of the day they were tired and worn out and most were wishing for some hot food and a rest. Well all except for Willy that is. He wanted to keep at it and the rest of ’em were too embarrassed to ask to quit if Willy was still wanting to help. So they kept at it for awhile longer and then to everyone’s relief they heard a whistle signalling the boy had been found. There coming out of the deep woods was Willy and a rescuer with the little fellow in tow. The older rescuer had trusted Willy’s instinct about where the boy might have gone and they had found him. This was a real lucky stroke because that night the snow fell hard and the wind howled in the storm. That little boy might well have frozen to death that night, if he hadn’t been found.

There were a lot of embarrassed looks that night in the mountain cabin around the warm fire with the wind rattling the windows. You see almost all those fellows had known Willy wasn’t coming and didn’t have the right stuff because they had got caught up in passing on what they had heard and didn’t know the real story. Thankfully, they had a really good Senior Patrol Leader that thought about things and checked out the story instead of going on what everyone “knew” about Willy. What a difference it makes to think about what you hear before acting on the information. It is a simple as Observe – Think – and then Act and that’s why Willy was there to find the little lost boy.


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Discontinued Square Knots

Welcome Mike Walton (Settummanque) as a guest editor!

Imprompu photo for a Scouting event. I have learned since then that I need to have someone more professional to do these photos!! This was taken in the summer of 1992.

Okay. Looking at the Scout shirt attached to this note, one can tell that I’ve been around Scouting a long, long time; that I’ve saved a life, protected the outdoors, gave some money to Scouting (actually, someone else gave some money to Scouting in my name). Earned the highest youth awards in each program — Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting and Exploring.  Did some other things as an Exploring volunteer.  Did some other things as a Boy Scouting volunteer. Church things, community things, international things.

Well, the BSA wants to consoldate some of the more than 40 or so square knot emblems — those little things on the left side of my shirt which resemble military ribbons — they are the Scouting version of ribbons — and I’m okay with this. Not all together cool, because under the plan I will technically be unable to wear one of those things for saving the life of a kid when I was a kid. Oh well… the BSA says that the things I and others have earned or received will continue to be valid for the life of the wearer/receipient.  Just that those “coming up” won’t be able to earn/wear/display those awards — because they will be “discontinued.”

Two people from the BSA’s Supply Group tell me that while the plan was to remove anywhere from 12 to 15 of the square knot insignia, that the current plan is to remove eight initially, with another four to be removed in 2014 or 2015:

This year (2012), the five former Cub Scout “Training” Awards — the Cubmaster, Cub Scout Den Leader (Training) Award, the WEBELOS Den Leader (Training) Award, the Tiger Cub Den Leader (Training) Award, and the Pack Trainer (Training) Award — will all be CONVERTED to other training recognitions, to make thing consistant across all programs.  The Cubmaster (Training) Award will be discontinued and new holders will earn the Scouter’s Key Award and wear a small Cub Scout program device on the ribbon of the medal as well as on the square knot insignia (as it was prior to 1987, when the new Cub Scout awards was first introduced).  The three Den Leader awards will be rolled up into the Scouter’s Training Award recognition, with program devices to be worn on the medal’s ribbon and on the square knot insignia signifying the program in which the award was earned within.

The Pack Trainer (Training) Award will be discontinued and a new Trainer’s Award will be developed for all programs, with Cub Scouters wearing the small Cub Scout program device to signify that they met the requirements as a Pack Trainer.

Additionally, the two remaining Exploring Awards will be discontinued — the Spurgeon Award and the “Universal Exploring Award” square knot will be no longer available in 2014. The red/white/blue and silver square knot insignia represented some six former Exploring awards (the first two versions of the Silver Award; the Ranger, Ace, Exploring Achievement Awards; and the the Growth Opportunity in Leadership Development (GOLD) Award) as well as holders of a local Council or national Young American Award.

Several of the awards formerly presented to segments of the Scouting community will be rolled up in 2014 and a new Scouting Community Awards square knot emblem will be created to replace the:  George Meany Award, the Young Service Award, the Pena Award and the Asian Scouting Service Award.

The Philmont Training Center Award square knot and device will be discontinued in 2013 along with the Doctorate of Commissioner Science and the Commissioner Award of Excellence (which, as you stated, was just introduced last fall).  The Commissioner Award of Merit will be rolled up into the Scouters’ Award of Merit and a small Commissioner emblem is to be attached to the square knot signifying the attainment of the award.

(I am pettioning the BSA to reinstate the Doctorate of Commissioner Science Award as a special shoulder insignia — perhaps fully embrordered with the shiny Mylar thread since we’re going back to the 70s with this stuff…)

The Speakers Bank and Alumni Connections Awards have become local Council-based awards and their square knots will continue to be available until exhausted (like, perhaps, in the next few months).

The Sea Badge cloth emblem also is going away and the BSA is not allowing the Sea Scouting community an exception — the metal Sea Badge will continue to be the highest training recognition in that program; it just will no longer have a  “knot emblem” — official or otherwise. (not a big loss there, because the official “knot emblem” really sucked and the unofficial ones never could get the size right to match the other square knot insignia.

And…I have been told that the Heroism Award is being discontinued, so that square knot insignia will go away as well as the medal.

First version of Pack Trainer Award square knot. Didn’t fly because the blue knot was similiar to other knot emblems.

Holders of all of the previous awards — and their square knot insignia — will continue to be able to wear them on the official uniforms; however, your best bet is to make friends with someone who has several of those knot thingys so that you can have replacements as the uniforms go onward.

And just so I can keep the rumor going; part of the reasoning for the reduction in the number of square knot insignia pieces is so the BSA can start re-manufacturing the knot insignia with the green backgrounds to match the Venturing field uniforms as much as they do the current “Universal” field uniforms.

Why to do away with these?  Two big reasons: low demand (not enough people were actually earning the awards) and a need to stem the tide on “we need a square knot for the X award because otherwise it wouldn’t get any traction”.  In both cases, one sees that this is NOT the case (exhibit “A”, the Alumni Award.  Less than 200 people earned the thing since its introduction two years ago) (exhibit “B”, the PTC Trainers Award. Less than 75 people have earned the award since it’s introduction three years ago) (exhibit “C”, the Spurgeon Award is no longer awarded to BSA members and only four Learning for Life/Exploring leaders received the award whom are also eligible to wear the knot as BSA volunteers).

There’s a rumor that it’s mainly because there’s a bunch of Scouters out there who have, like, fourty billion of these knot thingys on their shirts and the BSA is jealous that with the number of things on the shirt, the more “power” one has.  Stupid. Even with the reduction and consolidations listed above, there’s still going to be something like 15 or so square knot items in which a 40-year BSA volunteer will be able to wear.  Most BSA volunteers are going to continue to wear many of the discontinued ones way into the ’30s.  The impact of these awards will mainly be limited to Cub Scouters who will not be able to wear two rows of training awards and instead two square knot emblems with Cub Scouting program devices on them.

This is all I know…the official announcement about many of these awards has already been made — check out SCOUTING and Training Times, the BSA’s online training e-zine for more details.  Other discontinutions will be announced during the BSA’s Annual meeting in Florida this spring.

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