In the latest edition of The Scouting Bridge, the Young Men General Presidency theme was on letting the youth lead. In this blog I want to focus on approaches the eleven-year-old (EYO) Scout leader can use to teach and train EYO Scouts to lead. The EYO Scout patrol leader’s success as a boy leader is all in how you, as the EYO Scout leader, prepare the boy to lead. Leadership is vital to the boys personal preparation for future assignments and responsibilities and is one of the eight methods of Scouting (Troop Leader Guidebook, vol. I, 2015 printing, pp. 10-11) used to achieve the three aims of Scouting.
The EYO Scout leader’s number one job is to prepare THEM to lead, and leading is a learned skill. As an EYO Scout leader, you will need a leadership development plan to teach and train the EYO Scouts and prepare them to execute the Primary and Scouting program activities. The goal is to teach boys how, on their own, to conduct planning meetings, to plan and execute monthly patrol outings, to plan and execute patrol meetings, to give a report/briefing, and to conduct reflection/evaluation. This training is one of the most important responsibilities of the EYO Scout leader and a key to successful Scouting in the Church.
The problem the EYO Scout leader faces is that the young EYO Scout has little, if any, leadership experience. You will be starting from scratch teaching and training leadership if your EYO Scouts do not currently run the EYO Scout patrol meetings and monthly outings. The key component to good execution and boy leadership is their preparation. This means you will need to teach them how to plan and execute the patrol meetings and outings.
My approach begins with the process of developing the annual calendar. I use the EDGE method (Troop Leader Guidebook, vol. I, pp. 38-39). I explain to them what an annual plan is and its purpose, and show them a 12-month calendar on a flip chart with 12 individual blocks. Each block is labeled with a month, starting in September. I demonstrate to them how to plan September and October by selecting a theme from the Troop Program Features, Volume I, Volume II, or Volume III (or on Scouting.org). limit the EYO Scouts selection to those features that correspond to the areas of focus for the ranks of Scout through First Class: Camping, Outdoor Ethics, Cooking, Tools, Hiking, Navigation, Fitness, Citizenship, Nature, Aquatics, First Aid, Emergency Preparedness, and Personal Safety Awareness. In the month block we put the date of the patrol meetings, select a date for the patrol outing, and add any other calendaring item such as a pack meeting for a Webelos cross-over ceremony. After demonstrating September and October, I guide them through November and December. I then step out of the way and have them do January and February and report back to me when done. I have the EYO Scouts explain their January and February plans, ensuring that they have taken into account the seasonal weather considerations as well as the appropriateness of the location for the outing. I enable them and then turn it back to the EYO Scouts to finish the last six months (March through August), giving them guidance for an annual planning conference in August.
The first meeting of every month I have the EYO Scouts conduct a planning conference. In this conference I teach/train the EYO Scout patrol leader and assistant patrol leader, using EDGE, how to plan the patrol outing and the supporting patrol meetings using the Troop Program Features. The goal of this planning conference is to complete a Troop Outdoor Program Plan and then to complete the Troop Meeting Plans for each patrol meeting. For example, if the EYO Scout patrol feature for September was cooking, and the patrol outing selected by the EYO Scouts was a patrol feast, I would pull from volume I of the Troop Program Features the section on Cooking (Troop Program Features, Vol. I, pp. 95–104). The first part of the conference would be to detail the plan for the patrol feast by filling out the planning form: Troop Outdoor Program Plan (page 103). I would then demonstrate how to complete Troop Meeting Plans (adapted for the EYO patrol) for two patrol meetings: one focused on cooking sanitation and the other focused on the proper use and care of camp stoves, light weight stoves, cooking fires, and lanterns.
Now that the EYO Scout patrol leader and assistant patrol leader have a detailed outline, I walk them through their patrol meeting–allowing them to practice, visualize, and ask questions. They are now prepared to conduct their patrol meeting, but we are not done.
After the meeting comes the next, very important step: reflection and evaluation. This is where the growth occurs. Do not neglect this step. During the meetings/outing I have been an observer, taking notes on what the Scouts are doing well and where they need improvement. My job now is to have them stop and discuss their experience. Ask each Scout what he liked about the outing/meetings. Build them up by having them talk about how well they did and praise them for their accomplishment. Then ask them what they could have done better. Frame in their mind the lessons by a focus on how to improve. This is where you shine as a leader. It is not about what did not go correctly, but what needs to be done better. How can we improve? Keep it positive. Projecting a vision of the future provides the positive impact that makes Scouting an experience that the EYO Scout WANTS to return to.
After one or two monthly cycles, the patrol leader and assistant patrol leader can do the planning and execution of the Troop Outdoor Program Plan and the weekly Troop Meeting Plans and I pull back to an observation mode. I follow up with the patrol leader by telephone the night before the patrol meeting or outdoor adventure to review the plan. The EYO Scouts are now the youth leaders planning and executing their meetings.
Your EYO Scouts become good leaders because you take the time to prepare them. They are successful at leading meetings and outings because guided planning is part of your EYO Scout program. They know what to do because they planned and practiced creating a vision that gives them confidence. The Troop Program Features are amazing and detailed guides in helping the EYO Scout leaders develop a plan that is easily executed and are an essential tool in making your EYO Scout patrol successful in developing Scout leadership and more importantly a young boy who can lead.
Stan Stolpe has served in multiple Scouting positions at the unit, district, council, regional, and national levels in the U.S. and overseas. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia, serving in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake where he is an EYO Scout leader. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.