Planning an eleven-year-old (EYO) Scout program has significant challenges that non Latter-day Saint Scout units do not struggle with. Because boys advance in the Primary Scouting programs based on their birthday, each boy is on an individual advancement basis that begins on their birthday. The EYO Scout leader can have new Scouts entering and exiting the program all year long. In other Scout units, boys generally cross over all at once and each boy is progressing through his requirements largely at the same pace as all the other Scouts in his patrol. The LDS Scouting program is much more challenging for the EYO Scout leader
As an EYO Scout leader, I needed a program solution that allowed me to serve all the Scouts no matter when they were entering or exiting the program. Enter the annual plan. Scouting has always promoted the annual plan. In fact, it is the number one item on the 2016 Journey to Excellence Scorecard. For the EYO Scout leader, a repeating annual plan is more important than ever to provide the continuity necessary for any Scout entering the program.
What I needed was a plan that allowed me to cover all the key categories, while allowing boys to advance and learn the First Class Scout skills (the skills required to be a Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class Scout). Under the current guidance in the Scouting Handbook for Church Units in the United States (revised May 2015) eleven-year-old . . . “Scouts participate in rank advancement. They are encouraged to complete as many of the First Class rank requirements as possible before turning 12, with the exception of the requirement for six overnight camps” (section 6.2). From the requirements, I developed a list of the key categories that a First Class Scout must master/participate in. Conveniently there happen to be 11 major categories. But, if you add in a service project then you have 12 monthly Scout focus areas that can align with the 12 months of the year. They are:
Camping & Outdoor Ethics Cooking
First Aid & Emergency Preparedness Fitness
Scout Spirit Service Project
I then allocated these advancement focus areas to match the month and season that worked best in the area where I lived. We had 12 focus areas that provided advancement allowing a Scout who attends regularly the opportunity to advance through Second Class Scout while completing most of his First Class Scout requirements.
I then turned to the Program Features for Troops, Teams, and Crews, volumes 1, 2, and 3. This resource (available at the Scout Shop or search online for PDF copies) brings together 48 features to help make program planning a little easier for unit and youth leaders. Useful features I employed as an EYO Scout leader were: Camping (volume I), Cooking (volume I), First Aid (volume I), Nature & Environment (volume III), Swimming (volume III) for aquatics, Paddle Sports (volume I) also for aquatics, Backpacking (volume I) for hiking, Citizenship (volume III), Project Planning (volume III) for leadership, Pioneering/Geocaching (volume II), Orienteering (volume II), Emergency Preparedness (volume III), Duty to God (volume III) for meeting plans to adapt to the Faith in God Award, and Fitness and Nutrition (volume II).
With an annual plan developed and program features in hand, it was time to execute the plan with the EYO patrol leader and assistant patrol leader. For example, I would hand them the program feature for cooking (volume I) and let them look through the material. I would instruct them to look over the proposed meeting plans and suggest what changes they needed to make in skill instruction to meet the requirements of Tenderfoot through First Class Scout for the EYO Scout patrol. Once they had planned their weekly meetings, we would plan our day outing, modifying it to include an Iron Chef Day—cooking a breakfast, lunch, and dinner using different methods. They always surprised me with their imagination and approaches.
With the tools of an annual plan, the program features, and the imagination of the youth leaders, our EYO Scout program provided a full year of excitement for the Scouts and advancement for every boy no matter when they entered the program, because in the course of a year, we would cover all the advancement requirements for each rank.
As you look at your EYO program, consider putting together an annual plan that is repeatable. A repeatable program based on a full-year understanding of the advancement requirements through First Class Scout will ensure your EYO Scouts have the opportunity to achieve and bring credit upon themselves for their efforts.
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. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.