Requiem for the Preopening

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preopening

One of my current projects is working on the BSA’s new Program Planning Features, which will replace the old Troop Program Features and will offer 48 updated themes to Boy Scout troops, Varsity Scout teams, and Venturing crews. In spending a lot of time looking at meeting outlines, I’ve been thinking about an old friend: the preopening.

Now, I haven’t done a comprehensive survey, but I have a feeling that the preopening–that 15 or so minutes before a troop meeting’s opening ceremony–is more or less dead in most troops. It seems like Scouts and leaders slip in the door at 6:58 (or 7:03) for a 7 o’clock meeting and move right into the meat of the meeting.

That’s a shame, because the preopening serves a couple of important functions:

  • It gives rank-and-file Scouts a preview of the meeting and whets their appetite to learn more. For example, if the month’s theme is hiking, you could set up a display of hiking boots and trek poles, give out samples of trail mix, or let early arrivers explore topo maps of Philmont Scout Ranch, the Appalachian Trail, or the troop’s favorite hiking destinations.
  • It gives youth and adult leaders a chance to huddle about plans for the evening and fill any last-minute gaps. For example, if the Scout who was supposed to plan the game forgot to bring required supplies, it’s better to find out before the meeting than at the moment the game is supposed to start.

The preopening is also a good time for advancement checks, Scoutmaster conferences, and games that work well with varying numbers of players. Just be sure you’re doing something that gets Scouts and adults there early and gets them ready for a productive meeting.

How do you use preopenings (if you use them at all)? Post your ideas in the comments section below.

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3 thoughts on “Requiem for the Preopening

  1. I agree. I have forgotten about the pre-opening as well.

    I am also an Assistant District Commissioner over Roundtable and could use some suggestions on pre-openings for Roundtable as well.

    When is the new manual scheduled to come out?

    • Program Planning Features will come out in three volumes this fall/winter. I don’t have specific dates yet.

      As for preopenings for roundtable, many of the same things would work. You could also look for YouTube videos illustrating the skills you’re going to be talking about.

  2. Good Lord! I’ve always seen a well-planned Preopening as mandatory if not crucial. Back in my days as Council Cub Training Chairman, I referred to them as Gathering Periods and would become incredulous (verging on irate) if I learned Cub Scouters weren’t utilizing them, and even worse, didn’t know what they were! There’s a plethora of great gathering periods available for everything from weekly troop meetings to big show, monthly pack meetings, and yes, the fact they can be so cool, so much fun, and contribute in a valuable way to the program definitely translates into a whole lot more Scouts arriving early ready for action.

    How do we use them? Before the meeting begins, we have a golden opportunity to heighten the Scouts’ interest and general level of enthusiasm by presenting an activity that teaches or refines a special Scout skill, e.g. for Boy Scouts, igniting a bird’s nest of raveled binders twine with flint, steel and charred cloth, or in a number of ways, provide an opportunity to score patrol points e.g.: successfully send and receive a relevant, prepared message in morse code via wigwagging or flashlights.

    But, let’s not forget, a basic premise of the “Preopening” is to provide a worthwhile activity that serves to prevent early arrivals from either being bored or running amok before the meeting officially begins.

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