We recently bought some new patio furniture. If you’ve ever done the same, you realize that it most likely comes to you in pieces and you need to put it together yourself. The large Swedish-based retailer whose logo shares colors with Cub Scouting (you know who I mean) is well-known for their quality and price, and equally known for their cryptic assembly instructions. But this furniture was not from that store, and the instructions were even more puzzling – just a single sheet with eight tiny, hard-to-read drawings. Only my mechanical intuition and well-stocked tool chest saved me from the total frustration that would have ensued had I tried to assemble it with the minimal hand tools supplied
I briefly pondered taking pictures or making a video of the way I ended up assembling the furniture. Some of the pieces didn’t fit just right, and I found that threading the screws in a particular sequence helped the parts go together. Better directions than the ones that came with the furniture would certainly have helped me, and could be of value to anyone else attempting to assemble theirs.
As Scouters, we are often given just basic information to go on. Den and pack meeting plans are there for Cub Scout leaders to plan their meetings. By the time we ascend to Scoutmaster, it’s assumed that we know more about the Scouting program and that we’ve read the manual. For those who choose to partake, the training offered by the Boy Scouts of America adds more direction, but mostly trains us in the “what” rather than the “why”. We can follow the directions, but if we encounter a situation that isn’t covered in the manual or the training, we’re lost and don’t know where to turn.
The BSA does offer more in-depth training in various areas, but relatively few Scouters take part, and the ones who do are fairly well committed to Scouting and have a thirst for more knowledge. Besides courses like Wood Badge and Powderhorn, however, a Scouter can benefit from official and unofficial sources of information about our programs – the “missing manual” of sorts.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- The most easily accessible resource for nearly every Scouter is their monthly district Roundtable. These informative meetings review and announce events around the council, learn program helps appropriate for their positions, and offer opportunities for Scouters to meet and discuss common problems and concerns with fellow adult volunteers. It’s fun, too. Every Scouter should attend Roundtrable at a very minimum.
- Nearly every council offers a day-long learning event commonly called University of Scouting, Scouters’ Conference or Pow-Wow. These events are usually held annually or every two years and consist of a half-dozen or more individual modules covering a wide variety of topics across all programs. There’s something for every volunteer, whether a den leader, Cubmaster or Scoutmaster, crew adviser, committee member or commissioner. It’s a great chance to learn about specific topics, such as recruiting, Webelos transition, committee management, cooking, knot tying – even the many uses of duct tape. Watch for your council’s University of Scouting and make plans to attend. If your council doesn’t offer one, check neighboring councils – and bring some of your fellow volunteers along.
- For those willing to make the trip and invest time and money, the BSA’s national training center at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico offers a full complement of in-depth courses over the summer. As many as ten different week-long courses are offered each week of the eleven-week summer season in topics such as how to offer programs for special-needs Scouts, how to recruit for sustainable membership, reaching and engaging families, and workshops for Scouting in various faiths. It’s a mountaintop experience in more ways than one. Similar but smaller training centers at Northern Tier, Seabase and now at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia offer week-long courses in line with each camp’s specialty. The Summit is offering a few courses, mainly along the lines of STEM and technology.
In a future article I’ll describe some of my favorite unofficial sources of missing information for Scouters. Meanwhile, don’t be frustrated by incomplete assembly instructions – go build your Scouting program with help from your friends.