Front Line Stuff
Edited by Mark Ray
Retaining Webelos Scouts After They Cross Over
Many troops work hard to recruit graduating Webelos Scouts, only to see them drop out because they don't think they fit in. Scouter W.E.B. is looking for ways to make new Boy Scouts feel at home.
Two things can be done: 1) Have a mixer meeting. Try to find an older Scout that each younger Scout can relate to and make that older Scout a mentor. 2) Discover a talent each new Scout hasit may be photography or plants or cookingand start using that talent on camp-outs or at meetings. There's no better way to be involved than to show off a talent!
We do our crossover ceremony at camp on the Saturday morning of a troop camping trip. The pack does a family camp-out the same weekend, and they watch the ceremony.
Immediately afterward, the new Scouts go with an assistant Scoutmaster and the troop guide. They elect a patrol leader, select a patrol name, and set up their tents to spend the night. They receive Boy Scout handbooks and complete four or five Tenderfoot advancement requirements before going home with the rest of the troop.
On Sunday morning, we talk about how much the new Scouts have done already, what else they need to do for rank advancement, and what they will do in the coming weeks at meetings and outings.
When a new Scout joins a troop, there should be a new-boy patrol with a mature troop guide and an assistant Scoutmaster assigned to the patrol. The assistant Scoutmaster should have individual conferences throughout the year to make sure that the new Scouts are feeling like part of the troop.
If the troop is not large enough to have a separate patrol for new Scouts, it is doubly important that the boy's patrol leader and a designated assistant Scoutmaster oversee the new Scout during the first year.
This year, we began allowing second-year Webelos Scouts to hold their den meetings in our Scout lodge three months before their crossover. As the assistant Scoutmaster for new Scouts, I attend their meetings along with their future troop guide and the senior patrol leader. This ensures that the new Scouts personally know at least three troop members before their first meeting.
Then the Saturday after the Webelos crossover, we have a meeting for the new boys and their parents, with all our patrol leaders and adult leaders present. We make sure every boy gets his Scout badge and learns the basics of camping, uniform, and patrol spirit. He also starts the 30-day fitness requirement for Tenderfoot rank. This serves as a motivational meeting for our new parents, who are instrumental in keeping their sons active.
For the rest of the year, we publicly display our new Scouts' rank advancement for Tenderfoot through First Classwhich has also inspired some of our older, less motivated boys.
Our troop offers a special patrol for new Scouts and a "First Class in First Year" agenda for them. Even though they may not achieve that goal, at least their program is "planned and orderly" as it was when they were in Cub Scouting.
The trick is to have older boys from patrols teach them as much as possible without creating a "Webelos III" experience that relies on too much adult or older Scout leadership.
At their first troop meeting, our new Scouts, who are organized into their own new-Scout patrol, are welcomed as equals in their patrol(s). Each boy's name is announced, and everyone claps and cheers.
The boys are assigned to a troop guide, who, after the opening, takes them to a special meeting. They are introduced to an assistant Scoutmaster, who explains the patrol method and how the troop guide will conduct the first couple of meetings.
At these meetings a new patrol leader is elected, and he becomes a member of the patrol leaders' council along with the troop guide for his patrol. In a short time, the new Scouts have become equal members of the troop, and the interaction is friendly.
A strong commitment to the first-year Scouts and their parents is important to retain them and deliver the Scouting promise. To that end, we assign an assistant Scoutmaster to work with the new Scouts and their parents when they cross over.
The Scouts are all assigned to a new-Scout patrol with an older Scout serving as their troop guide and another as skills instructor. The guide, instructor, and an assistant Scoutmaster work with the Scouts on rank advancement and patrol organization. During this period, we give each Scout a chance to serve as patrol leader so each new Scout can attend at least one monthly patrol leaders' council.
During the new Scouts' first few weeks in the troop, they pick [from a list] of local campsites where we will hold the new Scout camp-out. The troop guide and instructor are in charge of the advancement stations and staffing them with First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle Scouts. If a Scout has not previously completed the Scout rank review, we try to get it done on the outing.
The emphasis on camping and advancement has led 85 to 95 percent of the new Scouts going to summer camp in their first year.
Train your current Scouts to be welcoming when new boys arrive. In our troop we teach the SALT technique: School ("Where do you go to school?"), Activities ("Are you in band, sports, youth group, etc.?"), Leisure ("What do you do in your spare time?"), and Take (Take the new Scout to meet other Scouts).
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