The pandemic has affected life in so many ways, Scouting being just one of them. Units have had to scramble to continue providing program despite restrictions on group meetings – the very lifeblood of the Scouting experience – and trying to plan for the future in a world where the future could change with little advance notice.
Realizing this, the Boy Scouts of America have realigned one of the tools we use to evaluate how we are doing in providing the Scouting program to our youth. Journey to Excellence has been with us for a decade now, and although it was overhauled repeatedly early on, its measurements have remained relatively stable in recent years.
This year, however, is different, and many of the evaluation points became difficult to meet. So, in order to allow for the current “normal” in Scouting, a few changes have been made to the JTE scorecards to allow for remote, virtual and online programs and activities.
One of the biggest changes that I see is in the rank advancement category for Cub Scouts. Where previously a unit met the Bronze level for having half of its Scouts achieve their rank during the year, packs are now permitted to earn Bronze by connecting families through Scoutbook, the free unit administration tool provided to all units by the BSA. This should be an easy one to achieve, and while it’s not a substitute for earning the rank, it should ease some of the concerns that Scouts may fall behind due to a lack of group activities or the difficulty of meeting rank requirements in a distance environment.
Other changes acknowledge that more events are being held online, so committee meetings, recruiting events and even virtual service projects are permitted.
Here is a summary of the changes, which are now in effect:
Remote engagement options
The new scorecards allow for remote or virtual committee and parent meetings. Joint Webelos/troop activities can also be held virtually online, as can den, pack, patrol and troopÂ meetings.Â Courts of Honor can still be held using Zoom or GoToMeeting. Training can be taken remotely for all courses except Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills, but online training for all but IOLS has been available previously. It’s not certain when advanced training, such as Wood Badge, can be held, as these are uniquely in-person experiences that don’t easily lend themselves to distance learning.
Units can hold either a recruitment activity or use a personalized invitation method (not just an information page or posting, but some sort of individual outreach) and have current information attached to their BeAScout pin. The pin should be kept current in any event, but it’s doubly important now to have correct contact info – and to follow up on it. The Silver and Gold levels in the Building Scouting category have been eased up a bit. For Silver, it’s only necessary to recruit at least one new Scout. The former 5% increase requirement for Silver has been bumped up to the Gold level.
In lieu of camping, troops can offer alternative home-centered approaches. A family campout is actually a good idea, as it allows the Scout to practice and demonstrate what he or she knows about the outdoors to family members who may not know the skills they learn through camping. A virtual patrol campout could include Scouts planning meals together online, cooking for their families and meeting back via Zoom to discuss how it went. Or families could go on a hike with the Scout, who then joins his or her patrol online afterward to tell what they saw or found. (Of course, parents should observe these online meetings, and adults must maintain the no one-on-one contact rule when meeting with youth virtually.)
Packs can count family-centered activities that are coordinated by the pack, such as virtual outings, field trips online (e.g. visit a museum’s website and discuss what you saw). Packs can also count council-offered alternatives as camping opportunities.
Service projects can include home-based activities that provide service to others. Assembling face coverings for nursing homes might be something a Scout could do with his or her family. So could making phone calls or e-mails to encourage donations to food or clothing banks, or mailing bulletins orÂ newsletters to church members on behalf of the chartered organization. Remember, we can’t raise money for other organizations or engage in political activity other than reminding people to vote, but there are many ways we can do a Good Turn.
It’s going to be a challenge to keep our units operating, functional and growing as the school year dawns. Creative Scouters are working on ways to provide engaging program this fall. Use the resources at your disposal, including your council’s activities and your local Roundtable meetings, and reach out to your unit commissioner if you need any kind of assistance. And review the revised JTE scorecards so you can be ready to meet the requirements as updated.This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.