NOTE: The current Troop 356 Handbook is available here.
| Sound advice from some other parents In this section, adults who have watched their boys grow into young men within Troop 356 and have gone on before you, share some valuable advice for new and prospective parents on this page. Here are the topics covered: • Surviving as a Troop 356 Scout Parent
• Troop 356 Handbook
• Registration and Camping Fees
• What Should Parents Do?
• Going Camping With the Troop
• Scout Leadership
• Scout Advancement
• Scout Growth
• Adult Training and Resources
• Contact Information
Surviving as a Troop 356 Scout Parent
Troop 356’s goal is to help your son become a young man of good character, with strong organizational and leadership skills. Boys who lose interest in Scouting tend to be those who are disorganized, lose things, and don’t know where they are headed. You can help your son avoid those traps with these proven ideas.
Every Scout who crosses over into Troop 356 receives a three-ring binder with the Scout’s name proudly displayed on the front. The binder contains helpful information for the Scout including the Troop 356 Handbook. Scouts should keep track of their Scout materials and records throughout their membership by keeping them in the binder. The binder also contains plastic 8 ½” x 11″ baseball card sheets for badge and rank completion cards, totin’ chip cards, and unsewn or unworn patches. Additional binder pages are available at Wal-Mart, the Scout shop and many office supply stores.
When your son earns his first rank advancement, he will either attend a Court of Honor to receive his patch and completion card, or it will be given out at the regular troop meeting if it will be a while until the next Court of Honor. During that ceremony, the Scout’s mother (or other adult attending) will also receive a pin.
Although the boys will be told about upcoming activities and events at the weekly meetings, the Troop 356 website can give you additional information about the Troop’s activities. You can also find the necessary forms for each event. Make sure you register your email address with the Troop so you can get up-to-date information about Troop activities.
Write troop events from the troop calendar on your family calendar so conflicts can be minimized. Attendance is the key to keeping up, advancing in rank, and liking Scouting. The most up-to-date calendars are found in ScoutTrack and on our website, and they can be printed for your convenience.
Attend the troop meetings and share your time and skills to strengthen the troop. You will know what is happening and how your Scout relates to your troop. You can help provide a more complete experience for your son if you are involved. Don’t worry about not knowing much about Scouting, all the adult volunteers had to learn, too. Please don’t be bashful. It is important to remember that every adult involved in the troop is a volunteer. Your help will be appreciated by each and every one. Remember, “If everyone does a little, no one does a lot.” Over the years, we have found that each participating adult adds his or her own special strengths to the leadership team, and has a lot of fun while helping the boys grow and develop.
Teach your Scout to call his leader (Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader or Scoutmaster) if he won’t be able to attend a scheduled activity.
Troop 356 has written policies advising everyone of what is expected in order to be a member of Troop 356 and participate in Troop activities, contained in the Troop 356 Handbook. Every Scout and parent/guardian should read the policies and be familiar with them. Both the scout and his parent or guardian are required to sign an acknowledgement that they have read and will abide by the Troop’s policies. The current Troop 356 Handbook is available here.
Troop 356’s dues are $100 per year, plus an annual BSA registration fee of $20 that includes a subscription to Boy’s Life magazine. That includes all Troop 356 insignia plus all ranks, merit badges, and other awards.
Troop 356 charges for most campouts and other events. This money goes to purchase fuel for the vehicles, food for the participants, pay campground fees, and other necessities. If the Scout has accrued Scout Money, he can use that towards his event fees.
When it is your Scout’s turn to buy camp meals for his patrol, help him learn how to make good purchasing decisions (using coupons can help keep costs down). Costs should not exceed $10–20 per weekend per boy, except when special circumstances warrant more and we always know that in advance. Look in the Boy Scout Handbook for more information on a Scout’s responsibilities in this leadership task.
The events cost different amounts depending on many factors. The adult leadership in Troop 356 determines a non-profit budget well in advance of each of these events and communicates the costs to the troop. The troop’s philosophy is to break even whenever possible.
Participate in fundraisers. Registration fees do not make the troop financially successful, fundraising does. Rather than raise our registration fees, Troop 356 uses fundraisers to provide additional operating capital. Our most successful fundraiser is selling Christmas wreaths. We have also conducted several very successful dinners. The funds generated allow us to provide Troop 356 Scouts with a financially sound program and to purchase equipment when needed.
Some troop fundraisers allow the boy to accrue Scout Money as an incentive. This is virtual money that can be applied towards Scout event fees such as campouts, and rewards the Scout for his efforts. Some enterprising boys have actually paid for their summer camp this way!
Parents play an important and vital role in Scouting. You should encourage your son to work on advancement and to participate in Troop 356 programs. If you think of Troop 356 as a glorified babysitting service, you can be certain your son will not think much better of the program and will most likely not be happy with his experience. Without exception, every Eagle Scout we’ve seen earn his rank has had at least one parent who has actively participated in the troop.
Scouts should not be expected to earn their Eagle rank without some help along the way. It is a tough set of requirements for them to fulfill, but the Eagle rank is within every Scout’s reach. You are invited, and encouraged, to attend troop activities, from troop meetings to campouts, from Courts of Honor to committee meetings, as often as your schedule will allow. Troop 356 needs your active participation to keep the program alive.
Parents may not sign off any rank advancement or merit badge requirements. Advancement in all ranks is signed by the registered Scouts or Scouters appointed by the troop (typically these are uniformed adult leaders, Eagle Scouts, and Merit Badge counselors). However, parents should be familiar with the requirements for advancement, especially for the Scout and Tenderfoot ranks. Some parental participation is required for some of the initial ranks. From the day your son joins the troop, he can be working towards advancement. If your son completes a requirement, teach him to follow up in getting it approved and signed off.
As far as how quickly your Scout advances, naturally everyone progresses at a different pace. However, if a new Scout regularly attends troop meetings, goes on at least half of the campouts, goes to summer camp, and does a little bit of reading in the Boy Scout Handbook, he will learn everything he needs to know to progress through the ranks all the way to First Class in his first year of Scouting, and have a lot of fun along the way.
If you have special skills, hobbies or abilities, please learn how you can become a merit badge counselor and share your knowledge with our Scouts. Thanks to the efforts of some of our Troop adults, the boys have been exposed to experiences that would probably not be available anywhere else, or at least not inexpensively.
There is always a need for more adult leaders. Each year, as older Scouts leave the troop, the troop also loses adult leaders. These positions must be replenished from among the parents of newer Scouts, or the life of the troop can be threatened. The Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmasters simply cannot do it all, nor can the Troop Committee. It takes many adults willing to enjoy the Scouting experience and provide a safe haven for youth to make a healthy, successful troop.
Camping is the heart of Boy Scouting. While parents (and sometimes whole families) accompany our Scouts on campouts, all Scouts camp with their patrol and not with their parents or family members.
Scout Tenting and Meals — Scouts tent with their patrol in a patrol site separate from the other patrols. Patrols plan their own menus, and cook and eat together as a team. Each Scout has his own tent. Adults do not eat or tent with a Scout patrol.
Adult Tenting and Meals — Adults tent in an adults-only area separate from the youth patrols, but close enough to provide a safety oversight. The adults plan their own menu, and cook and eat together as a team.
Adult/Youth Tenting — BSA youth protection policies forbid an adult and a youth (below age 18) sharing the same tent. While these youth protection policies allow a father and son to tent together (if no other Scout or adult shares the tent), it is our Troop’s guideline that Scouts tent with Scouts, and adults with adults. If a father tents with his son, it is our experience that the Scout will lose out on many opportunities to make decisions and be part of the patrol.
Smoking/Drinking — Drivers may not smoke while Scouts are in the car. Adults may not smoke or use tobacco products, nor drink alcoholic beverages during a Scout activity. Adults who must smoke or chew are required to do so discreetly, out of sight of the Scouts.
Boy Scout activities are based on what the BSA calls the patrol method, where Scouts learn teamwork, leadership, and most Scoutcraft skills from their peers. It is important that adults not be in the middle of patrol activities such as site selection, tent pitching, meal preparation, and anything else where boys get to practice decision-making.
A key difference between Boy Scouting and Cub Scouting/Webelos is youth leadership. Look for the word “leader” in a Scout’s job description, and you will begin to appreciate the difference. The responsible person for a Cub/Webelos den is the adult Den Leader. The responsible person for a Boy Scout patrol is the youth Patrol Leader.
This isn’t token leadership. A Patrol Leader has real authority and genuine responsibilities. Much of the success, safety, and happiness of six to ten other boys depends directly on him.
Adults should not interfere with the functioning of youth leaders, even if they make mistakes (we all learn best from our mistakes). Step in only if it is a matter of immediate safety or if the mistake will be immediately costly. If at all possible, discreetly involve a uniformed adult leader first.
Boy Scouting teaches leadership. And Scouts learn leadership by practicing it, not by watching adults lead.
So what do we adults do, now that we’ve surrendered so much direct authority to boys? Well, we have a really good time and still stay busy.
The underlying principle is worth repeating: Never do anything for a boy that he can do for himself. We allow boys to grow by practicing leadership and by learning from mistakes. And, while Scout skills are an important part of the program, what ultimately matters when our Scouts become adults is not how well they remember to use a map and compass, but whether or not they know how to offer leadership to others in tough situations, and that they live by a code of conduct that centers on honest, honorable and ethical behavior.
When a parent goes on a campout, he or she enjoys really, really good food and camaraderie while providing an example the Scouts can follow without having to tell them what to do. The adult tents are some distance from the youth. That way they aren’t right next to a boy patrol where our mere presence could disrupt the learning process.
If you go camping with us, we hope you will visit the patrol sites, talk to your son and the other Scouts, ask what’s going on and how things are going. At the same time, remember to give the guys room to grow while you enjoy the view.
Don’t hesitate to show a Scout how to do something, just don’t do it for him. Don’t jump in just to prevent a mistake from happening (unless it’s serious or involves safety). Encourage Scouts to make their own decisions; ask them what they think should be done or how THEY are going to solve a problem. We all learn best from our mistakes and a big part of our job as adults in the troop is to provide them with a SAFE environment in which they can make mistakes.
And above all, remember to let the youth leaders lead. That’s their job, not ours.
Camping with the troop is more fun than you probably imagine and is something you should do if you can. The Troop’s adults are men and women who are committed to being a part of the troop and contributing to its health. Everyone pitches in and the workload is shared.
As a Scout begins to learn some of the skills of Scouting, he can advance in rank. The ranks are:
The specific requirements for each rank can be found in The Boy Scout Handbook. In general, if a Scout attends troop meetings, goes on campouts, and goes to summer camp, he should have no problem attaining First Class rank in a year or so. Each boy progresses at his own speed.
To attain a rank, the Scout must fulfill the requirements for that rank and have the requirement signed off by an adult leader or designated Scout. Once all the requirements have been met and signed off, the Scout can request a Scoutmaster conference by making an appointment with the Scoutmaster. (Many Scouts and Tenderfoots tend to be shy; encourage your son to work up the courage to ask the Scoutmaster himself.) The Scoutmaster conference is not an inquisition; it is a chance for the Scoutmaster and the Scout to talk. The Scoutmaster will then either ask the scout to brush up on any areas that need work, or pass the Scout on to a board of review.
Again, the board of review is not an inquisition. It is composed of several adult leaders who talk to the Scout about the requirements for the rank, and also about more general topics such as how he is doing in school, his likes and dislikes, and his goals and aspirations.
Once the Scout passes the board of review, he is duly recognized by receiving the emblem of his new rank to sew on his uniform.
Never do anything for a Scout he can do for himself. Let him make decisions without adult interference. Let him make non-injurious mistakes so he can learn from them. Be willing to help Scouts learn and teach without criticism.
The Boy Scouts of America provides an outstanding handbook for adults and an excellent training course to help us understand the goals of Scouting and how to attain them. The adult manual is called the Scoutmaster’s Handbook, and it’s worth your time to become familiar with it. Mandatory adult training for individuals who will be active with youth is offered in our area several times a year, and online adult training is available on the BSA web site. It’s also a good investment of your time. Troop 356 strongly encourages each of its uniformed adult leaders to be familiar with the Scoutmaster’s Handbook, and requires that each completes several mandatory training classes.
If you wish to participate in Troop activities you will have to register with the BSA, have a current Medical Form on file with the Troop, and be ready to help out and have fun.
All parents and guardians must review and be familiar with BSA Youth Protection policies.
The current National and Council training guidelines are:
1. All registered adults, including Merit Badge Counselors, are required to take Youth Protection training within two weeks of registration and before meeting with youth. This is an on-line course and is also offered in a classroom setting at times throughout the year . This Youth Protection certification must be renewed every two years. This course covers the protection of youth, BSA Guidelines in association with Health & Safety for our youth, as well as protection for leaders.
2. Fast Start Training in the appropriate program area is also required for all unit serving registered adults. This certification is only required once in the program area of registration (Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturing, Varsity, and Sea Scouts) and does not expire. This course covers all types of Scouting.
3. This is Scouting is essential for all leaders in all program areas and is available on-line, replacing New Leader Essentials as part of basic training. This course covers all types of Scouting.
4. In order to be a fully trained leader and obtain the “Trained” patch in Boy Scouting, the following courses are required:
Contact information for Troop members can be found on the ScoutTrack website. When you join the Troop, be sure to supply a current email account. The Troop webmaster will add your email to ScoutTrack, and you will receive a message containing login information so that you can access Troop information. You will also receive emails from Troop leaders via ScoutTrack informing you of upcoming events.