Our local Scout troop (for which my husband is the Scoutmaster) is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so we see the boys at least twice a week: once at the weekly troop meeting and once in the Sunday school class I teach for 12-13 year old youth. Being both their Sunday School teacher and merit badge counselor gives me a unique opportunity to help these Scouts see how the things they learn on Sunday apply to the things they learn in Scouting and vice versa. As I go through a sample program feature, I will show how I might help the Scouts make these kinds of connections as I implement the program. You can make similar connections to whatever influences and activities most impact your Scouts. The best part of the new Program Features is that they are designed to be easily adapted to different youth in different circumstances.
I chose the First Aid program feature for a couple reasons. First, I’ve been a lifeguard and water safety instructor for years and teaching and doing first aid has been a large part of my life. Second, it ties in nicely with February’s Come, Follow Me theme, which is the Plan of Salvation. You can see the complete First Aid program feature here.
Parts of the Program Feature
Each program feature begins with a brief overview of what the topic is and why it is so important for the Scouts. The First Aid introduction explains that as important as it is to know how to treat injuries and act in an emergency, it is equally important to develop the leadership skills and emotional stability necessary in a time of crisis. I would probably set this theme up the Sunday before as I’m teaching about why it is important to study and understand the Plan of Salvation. I would explain to the youth that the better they understand the Plan of Salvation, the better able they will be to maintain perspective and deal with trials in times of crisis.
Then, when the troop meets on Wednesday, I would remind them of the lesson about preparation and knowledge as I introduce first aid. That way they will already be connecting the two in their minds before they do anything else. This is also helpful for the youth because it is the same setup as the Come, Follow Me lesson, which starts with a “Make Connections” section. Gospel lessons become more meaningful as they are connected to the other things the youth are seeing and experiencing. If practical Scouting skills are connected to gospel truths, they both become more real for these Scouts.
Objectives and Related Advancements and Awards
Each program feature will give you the objectives, or what your Scouts ought to accomplish. Notice this is separate from the Advancements and Awards, which are not the goal of these features (though they are a nice bonus). I always introduce objectives before doing activities. If a chalk board is available, I’ll even write them down so the Scouts can see them throughout the activity. If they understand why we are doing the activity, they are far more likely to make connections and learn the life lessons Scouting works to impart.
The Advancements and Awards section will guide you to those requirements the Scouts will fulfill in doing the suggested activities.
Tips for Leadership Teams and Parents
This section lists things you need to consider as you plan this month of activities. This is similar to the “Prepare yourself spiritually” section of Come Follow Me. The better the leaders are prepared, the more the Scouts will learn. Plus, this gives you a chance to plan your main event and decide how best to structure activities to prepare the Scouts for that event.
Because the Scouts in our troop are young and pretty new to the program, I would plan on doing the green circle or “Essential” level main event, which is a half-day first-aid clinic for the Scouts to practice their skills. This means that the weekly activities need to be focused on learning essential skills. In preparation for all of the activities and the main event I would need to make sure the troop’s practice first-aid kit is fully stocked. Our troop is pretty small, so I will probably do all the training myself. If your troop is larger, or you don’t have someone available to certify the boys in CPR, you will probably want to look for outside help. Start with the parents.
This section also gives tips for what parents can do to participate. If the parents are involved it adds another layer to the connections the Scouts are making between the things they learn on Sunday and the things they do at Scouts.
Basic and/or Most Important Information
This information is similar to that in the merit badge books in that it gives basic information that your troop will need to know to successfully complete the activities. Think of this information as a set of essential tools, like the scriptures at the beginning of each lesson. These tools will become more useful to your Scouts as you apply them in scenarios and have the youth talk about them.
Because these Scouts are already familiar with the way we discuss scriptures in Sunday school, it will be easier for them to approach this material the same way. I will present every set of information with an introduction as to why it is important. After teaching the material, I will ask questions and lead a discussion to gauge understanding and give the Scouts a chance to clear up misunderstandings and relate to the information. When I’m teaching the ABCD of first aid, for example, this discussion will probably include asking why breathing and circulation are the first things to check for and then helping the Scouts understand how rescue breaths and CPR actually help these things happen.
If they understand the why in addition to the what, they will be far more likely to remember what to do in an emergency. This is another lesson I could start the Sunday before: the Plan of Salvation teaches us why we are here so we will be motivated to do what God asks us to. Each of these lessons will teach the Scouts how to learn and create patterns of understanding that will be of benefit to them throughout their lives.
Sample Activities and Games
After we’ve gone over the information and asked questions to make sure the Scouts understand, we’ll play a game. The program feature includes several different kinds of games, so find one that fits your Scouts’ skill level and personalities. For our Scouts, I would start with the “First-Aid Baseball” because I know from experience that they love answering questions and competing with each other. Again, I would let them know what the purpose of the game is before we start.
The E.D.G.E. (Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, Enable) section can help you teach effectively and give the Scouts a template to help them teach effectively as well. The boys in our troop are still a little hesitant about taking leadership roles, so initially I would teach them the E.D.G.E. method and then show how I use it to present material (like what to say when calling 911, for example). Once they are comfortable with this method and how it works, I would have them teach each other using this method.
The best part about this method is that it will be invaluable to them in both Scout and church settings. Every month Come, Follow Me has at least one lesson focused on missionary work and helping others understand gospel truths. My little brother, who is currently serving a full-time mission for the church, has said several times that the E.D.G.E. method that he learned and practiced at Timberline has been a great tool as he teaches others. By getting the Scouts used to using this method I can help them teach each other in Sunday school, which makes every Sunday class a mission prep class.
Main Event Summaries
These main events each have a more detailed plan at the end of the feature. Each main event is assigned a difficulty level: green circle for essential, blue square for challenging, and black diamond for advanced. You will see these symbols throughout the program feature to help you plan your activities according to the needs of your troop. Our troop is still young, so we stick with essential activities. If your boys are older or more experienced, you will want to plan accordingly. Tell the youth about the main event at the beginning of the month so they can look forward to it as they go through the other activities.
Each program feature includes meeting plans that you can use each week in your activities. You’ll probably notice that these activities follow the E.D.G.E. method. First you explain necessary information, then demonstrate first aid skills, then guide them as they practice, then finally enable them to demonstrate what they’ve learned with a game or activity. Being consistent with this method will help the youth become more adept at learning and mastering new skills and retaining information. Plus, it will make leaders out of them, which is what Scouting is all about.
These meeting plans are flexible so you can adapt to the needs and interests of your Scouts. Focusing on what they want and are interested in within topics will give them a sense of ownership over their own progress.
Each Come, Follow Me lesson ends with time for the youth to share what they learned, reflect on new understanding, and ask questions. Each Scout activity should end the same way. Give the Scouts a chance to regroup and discuss. This would be a great time to point them back to the objectives and discuss how they were met and whether the youth want to spend more time on any part of the material. This is also a great time to help them make connections to the things they learned on Sunday. Maintaining this focus with this kind of reflection will make Scouting an extension of church and help youth use Scouting to better understand and live eternal truths.
How will you use the new Program Features in your troop?
Author: Maria Milligan | Grant Writer, Utah National Parks Council, BSA