Dedicated to the Troop 8 parents who give so much to the parish, troop, and the boys.
This little handbook is designed by the scout leadership to provide an introduction and handy reference to what goes on in the Troop 8 version of Boy Scouting, from a parents’ perspective. Mostly, it’s written as a response to many “frequently asked questions” we have gotten over the years. We tweak it from time to time, in response to committee decisions and parent comments (so if you have any comments, please let us know!)
We hope it helps as you get to know our troop and its program.
Copyright 1999 by Bob Geier. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Requests for permission beyond the scope of this license should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Troop 8 is owned and operated by the Roman Catholic parish of St. Thomas the Apostle, as part of its service to youth in the parish. The parish provides meeting places and other resources to the troop, and the pastor's representative oversees troop operations, including the appointment of troop adult leaders. Like other St. Thomas youth programs and the elementary school, it is open to youth from the greater community who want to participate in our program. As a Catholic organization, Troop 8 reflects the mission and character of the parish, and supports the moral teachings of the Catholic Church in its program, along with the character and skill-building aspects of the worldwide scouting movement.
The Church through the parish and our national body, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, poses three requirements for us in particular.
The program is supported by a troop committee, a group of dedicated parish and community volunteers who believe in the mission of scouting and the benefits it provides to young men. They provide strategic oversight, logistical support and fundraising help, approve policies, and select adult leaders to recommend to the pastor. They serve as an advisory board, similar to a board of directors or a school board. Like a school board, you'll never see them in daily operations; their job is to mind the store for the future. We are also blessed by a nation-wide group of dedicated and loyal Troop 8 alumni.
The scout program itself is run by a group of adult scouters, consisting of parish/community volunteers and parents who enjoy the outdoors with kids. One of these is appointed to serve as scoutmaster, usually on a rotating basis and for a maximum term of two years. Functionally, the scoutmaster is the "CEO" of the organization. No company can succeed if the CEO and a couple of executives are expected to do all the work; similarly, Troop 8 will not provide the kind of experience we want for our children if we expect the volunteer scouters to do it all for us. For this reason, the regular participation and volunteer efforts of parents are required in Troop 8 scouting.
Parent participation is required in three areas:
Managing 40+ kids in one large group is enough to make anyone want to jump off a cliff. At best, it would turn us into school marms, and scouting should be about adventure, not school. So to help us and especially to help the boys, the troop is subdivided into three or more Patrols, consisting of a number of boys led by a Patrol Leader. The best way to think about patrols is to think of Harry Potter and Hogwarts. Lord Robert Baden-Powell who founded Boy Scouting was British, after all! If Troop 8 is Hogwarts, then the patrols are the Houses in the school, like Gryffindor and Hufflepuff and Slytherin. Each has its own personality and proud traditions.
When your son joins the troop, the older boys and adult leaders will do the "sorting hat" routine with your help, and welcome him into a patrol that we feel will fit his interests and personality. His patrol will be his home in Troop 8, and he'll progress from a young first year to an experienced older scout by following the example and guidance of the older boys in the patrol. As he moves up in rank, he in turn will become one of those older scout examples and mentors for younger boys, who will think he is so cool! For summer camp and other events, he may even help his patrol earn patrol points toward the "house cup" - the top patrol award.
Each patrol is headed by a couple of older boys, who serve the patrol as Patrol Leader and assistants. These boys are selected by the older boys and the members of the patrol for their ability, maturity, and readiness to lead others. The Hogwarts equivalent would be "prefects." When your son has any questions about the troop, his one-stop shop for answers will be the Patrol Leader of his patrol.
In boy scouting unlike Cub Scouts and most other youth programs, we believe in youth leadership. The real organizers, planners, and leaders are the boys themselves, represented by their Patrol Leaders Council (PLC) and the chairman of the board, the Senior Patrol Leader (SPL). Scouting teaches responsibility and leadership by giving responsibility and leadership of its programs to the boys. They decide on the program, schedule and plan the events, publish the newsletters, and set many of the rules by which the troop runs.
This notion of boy leadership distinguishes scouting from many other youth programs. If you're new to scouting at this level, it may take some getting used to. Troops run more like a "pick up game" than an adult-run league, because we feel it's important for kids to learn how to organize a team, officiate & settle disputes, decide on positions and work out strategies. We don't take that away from them by having the adults do it all. By making kids manage themselves as a group in that way, they learn a level of judgment, responsibility, and teamwork that is much deeper than what can be achieved in adult-run activities.
This does mean that troop operations will carry a distinct "kid-print" and not always be "organized" in an adult way. It also means that troop boys end up being better at managing themselves and others than most other young adults, because they have had the real-life experience of doing it themselves.
The Patrol Leader's Council sets the annual calendar and budget for the troop from September to the following August. Individual boy leaders are then assigned jobs as Trip Leader(s) for each of the outings and activities that have been planned. Those boys handle planning and reservations for their trips, assisted by an adult Assistant Scoutmaster who serves as Field Leader. Every few weeks, the PLC meets and reviews plans for upcoming events. The patrol leaders then work with their patrols and individual boys to be ready for the event by planning menus, doing skills instruction, and getting gear ready. This division of labor allows us to run a wealth of different outings during the year. While one boy is working with one adult to plan the October backpacking trip, another is working with a different adult on the November campout. Divide and conquer! Because of this, for any given event, the Trip Leader(s) and Field Leader are likely to know more about the event than the Scoutmaster.
Troop meetings are held one night a week, typically on a Monday or Tuesday. Typically, they run from 7-8:30pm. Indoor meetings are held in the St. Thomas Elementary School cafeteria, while outdoor meetings can be held at a variety of local parks in the area. The events and program at any given meeting vary extensively, depending on what the boys decide at the Patrol Leader's Council. Often meetings will include some skills instruction, time for individual patrols to meet for the boys to learn about upcoming events, and perhaps planning or preparation for an outing. Boys can sign up for events at a meeting or on-line. Meetings are also good places for our adult leaders to "check in" with each boy for guidance and encouragement.
In addition to regular indoor or outdoor meetings, the boys will occasionally plan a special event or "fun night" at places like Ann Arbor Whirly Ball or attending the Banff Outdoor Film Festival together as a group.
We ask that you help your son learn to be courteous and responsible in terms of meeting attendance. The older boys and the adult leaders work very hard to put together meeting plans, often showing up half an hour early and leaving up to an hour late, on top of the planning they do beforehand. It really hurts when boys don't take this effort by their friends and volunteer adult leaders seriously enough to show up, on time, and stay to the finish. Scouting is a team, and meetings are the team practice before the game.
Scouting is all about outing. One of the things that has distinguished the Troop 8 program over the years has been the number and variety of outings. From fun nights playing mini-golf or going canoeing at Gallup Park to two weeks of summer camp or 9 days skiing in Vermont, the outdoors is where the real magic of scouting happens for kids. Boys get to work with and play with other boys in their patrol, learning from older scouts, helping younger scouts. They get challenged to learn new things, and get the direct feedback that comes from experience ("If I don't clean the pot at night, then it's really gross in the morning and my buddies think I'm a jerk.") They build confidence in their abilities by facing the challenges of climbing, or skiing, or watching a wild thunderstorm roll by.
To prepare for and be properly safe on outings, the troop tends to run sequences of events leading up to more challenging trips. A biking sequence might start with checking out bikes at a meeting and learning some things about bike maintenance, then progress to troop meetings at the favorite mountain biking parks around town, then to a weekend outing with some longer trail riding. A water sequence might start with swim nights at a local pool, then canoe days on flat water, then moving water practice on the Huron, then a fun trip up north on a more challenging river like the Pine, then a whitewater rafting weekend. The more challenging the trip, the more fun and adventure! And the more preparation! For a boy or adult to participate on the later trips in a sequence requires participation in some of the "pre-trips" and "gear-checks" which help us be prepared and safe.
In terms of logistics, we use one permission slip for the year, rather than individual slips for each outing. We ask that you keep your son's health and medical information up to date through your personal page on the troop web site. Once a year, a physician physical exam is required using the medical exam form for all adult and youth participants in events. Trips normally leave from the St. Thomas school cafeteria, and when we return from trips boys are normally dropped off directly at home (please make sure they can get in if you are not there, or they will be going home with us!). Boys should bring some personal money to pay for fast food meals on the road, but all trip expenses are covered by dues or will be billed home.
During their time in the scouts, boys progress through seven ranks, finishing with the rank of Eagle Scout. In order, these ranks are Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle. Troop 8 has a proud List of Eagle Scouts.
Scout ranks reflect increasing level of skills, maturity, and leadership. The Scout rank is earned as part of the joining requirements, and is almost identical to the requirements for the Arrow of Light in Cub Scouting. Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks are earned by completing a “laundry list” of requirements that include basic camping skills, first aid, and citizenship. The “field ranks” of Star, Life, and Eagle Scout require completion of merit badges, leadership within the troop, and service to the community. In order to earn a rank, a boy must complete all of the requirements by having them “signed off” by a scoutmaster or a scout of field rank. Next, the boy must have a personal conference with the scoutmaster, where he must demonstrate his knowledge. Finally, the boy must appear before a “board of review” composed of troop adults and satisfy them that he deserves the change in rank. It’s a great experience for developing confidence and interviewing skills.
Merit badges are recognition of advanced skills in a particular area. Merit badges are awarded for outdoor skills, citizenship, hobbies, and career-related achievement. Twelve merit badges are termed “required,” because they must be earned in order to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout (citizenship, camping, first aid, etc.). To earn a merit badge, a boy must fulfill all the requirements for that badge and be “signed off” by a merit badge counselor who is knowledgeable in that particular field. Counselors are always troop adults, either scoutmasters or parents. In addition to ranks and badges, scouting and Troop 8 each have a number of additional awards and recognitions for boys who have developed particular skills or participated in noble activities.
One of the highlights of scouting are troop award ceremonies, called “Courts of Honor,” where boys receive recognition for their achievements.
Troop finances and billing for troop outings are run by the troop Treasurer, so as to relieve the Scoutmaster and other adult leaders from this burden. All troop billing and payments goes through the troop treasurer. No boys or adult leaders will ever collect or accept payment for any event, or otherwise touch money!
The troop charges dues twice a year, in September and March. You can think of dues as your son's membership fees for the following six months. Dues provide for the base costs of outings for the six-month period, including food, stove fuel, camping and activitiy fees, meeting supplies, and minor gear maintenance. In addition, the September dues include an additional charge for registration and chartering with the Boy Scouts of America.
While dues cover all basic outing expenses, they do not cover costs for major trips like week-long summer camp, junior leader training week, or the biannual Vermont ski trip. For these major events, a separate information packet is distributed to boys that explains the event and the event costs. Payments for major events are typically split into two or more partial payments or deposits to reserve space. The troop cash flow relies on timely deposit payments! Trip deposits are generally non-refundable.
Dues also do not cover large expenses for weekend outings which are individually incurred. For example, dues are not sufficient to cover downhill skiing lift tickets for a weekend ski trip. When a trip has such additional costs, those costs will be listed in the online information about the event. If your son signs up for a trip, we will commit troop funds for his participation and you will be billed for that cost. If your son cancels at the last minute and we have incurred non-refundable costs, you will be billed for those fees.
The troop treasurer maintains accounts for each family. Approximately every two to three months, and any time major deposits are due, the treasurer will send out statements listing current account charges and requesting payment of any balance not covered by receipts you may have turned in. We ask that you pay off your account promptly. Troop 8 runs on a very limited budget, and delays in payment can compromise our ability to secure campsites and activities in a timely fashion and at the best price.
We recognize that sometimes individual families will be in financial circumstances that do not allow them to be able to afford some troop events. We ask such families to do two things: First, to pay the dues amount if at all possible, or if not possible in full to make some good faith effort toward paying the dues. Second, to let the treasurer or the parish Scouting Coordinator know of the difficulty in advance of major trips, so that we can plan appropriately. We value all our boys, and work hard to make sure we never turn a boy away from any trip because of family financial circumstances. Through a combination of generous alumni, parish support, and troop fundraising, we have been 100% successful. There are two important limits to our generosity, however. We cannot use financial aid money for a boy who cancels out of a trip. Therefore, if your son was receiving assistance but cancels out of a trip, you will be expected to pay our real cost. Second, we cannot cover financial need that we are informed of after the fact.
To help support our common troop gear and a portion of our scholarship support for boys, the troop conducts several fundraisers each year. The troop prefers to schedule "one shot" fundraisers like a pancake breakfast, rather than sales like the BSA popcorn drive. Parents of all troop scouts are expected to participate in a fair share of shifts (usually one or two) for each fundraiser as a condition of maintaining membership.