Friday, March 13, 2009

Scouts & Snakes

How do you increase your Troop Meeting attendance from 10 scouts and two leaders to nearly 60 people, including a visiting Troop, and a visiting Pack in just one meeting? Invite this guy!!

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I'll warn you now - I cover multiple topics in this entry:
1) Troop Meetings/Program Features
2) How Merit Badges should be earned
3) A Scoutmaster's Job
4) A Boy Led Troop

This month our program feature is the Reptile & Amphibian Study Merit Badge* so I arranged for a guest from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to come discuss the Timber Rattlesnake population in our area - which frankly you wouldn't expect SE Minnesota to have Rattlesnakes, but right in our area we do because of the rocky bluffs. The population has been in decline due to bounty hunting and fire prevention which led to growth of trees on the bluffs which diminishes the habitat of these snakes.

The DNR guest also brought a Milk Snake, a Fox Snake, and a Bull Snake which she passed around the audience during her presentation. As you might imagine many of the scouts LOVED this and thrilled to be playing with the snakes for the evening.

While the "harmless" snakes were making their way around the audience, she took out the Timber Rattlesnake and had him on the floor. Timber Rattlesnakes are very docile to begin with, but clearly this one has been handled in programs like this for a few years and never once coiled, rattled, or really even moved much outside of the area she put it down.

This was a great meeting, and we were thrilled to have people from the community, and other scouts from the surrounding area come to join us. We also had several scouting aged kids that came with parents as a result of our advertising campaign to the schools and community events calendars etc. Even if we get one additional young man interested in scouting as a result of this event, then it is all worth it.

Our SPL struggles a bit keeping control of the troop, he's pretty soft spoken and frankly would rather join in their rambunctious activities than get the work done, but we're making progress. Our Flag Ceremonies are coming along, and are a marked improvement from a few months ago.

Considering our scouts only have one year of real scouting under their belt, they're making good progress and learning. It underscores the importance of starting Scouts out as Cub Scouts and helping instill in them the Scouting values, culture, and behaviors/decorum from the time they're young. Starting out at age 13-16 is a tough adjustment. I'll have to write about our atypical troop experience in another entry sometime.

We'll definitely need to organize more of these types of events, and broaden our reach. I wish I could find the quote, but Baden Powell said something like "The Scoutmaster doesn't have to be good at the scouting skills, but he'll be a good role model and will be connected to the community and will bring people to the troop to help teach these skills" - that's a very rough paraphrase, or at least the message of reassurance I took away from the quote when I read it.

As Scoutmaster I don't have to be an expert at these skills, or know everything, or be able to teach everything. I just have to figure out what interests the boys have, and bring the experts to them. I'm recommitted to stepping up my efforts to do just that.

Yours in Scouting,

Latter-day Scout

*FYI I believe in earning Merit Badges the way the Merit Badge books say they should be done, with the boys taking the initiative to work on the requirements etc. We don't do the requirements at troop meetings. We just cover program features that teach skills from the Merit Badge, or introduce them to the topic. It's on the scout's shoulders to study, prepare, complete the Merit Badge.

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