One of my favorite parts of the forthcoming second volume of the Troop Leader Guidebook deals with the special circumstances faced by very small, very large, and very new troops. In Scouting, we often assume that every troop includes three or four patrols and has been around long enough to have Scouts of all ages and ranks, but that’s not necessarily the case.
The biggest takeaway for me in researching that material is that every troop, regardless of size and tenure, can achieve the aims of Boy Scouting by using all eight methods. (Yes, even a patrol-sized troop can utilize the patrol method.) You may just need to get a little creative in how you operate.
A perfect example is high adventure. If your troop has eight members and six of them are 11 years old, you probably aren’t going to plan a trip to one of the BSA’s high-adventure bases. But that doesn’t mean your older Scouts can’t have a great high-adventure experience.
Philmont Scout Ranch, for example, offers eight distinct programs that individual Scouts can join. Here’s an overview (details are on the Philmont website):
- NAYLE (leadership training, 6 days and nights, $395)
- Rayado Trek (“the ultimate wilderness challenge,” 21 days and nights, $735)
- OA Trail Crew Trek (combines a week of trail building with a trek, 14 days and nights, $300)
- Roving Outdoor Conservation School Trek (combines conservation work with a trek, 21 days and nights, $535)
- Ranch Hands Trek (combines horsemanship with a trek, 16 days and nights, $300)
- STEM Trek (combines science, technology, engineering, and math activities with a trek, 12 days and nights, $870)
- Trail Crew Trek (combines trail work with a trek, 14 days and nights, $375)
- Mountain Trek (shortened trek for Philmont Training Center participants, 6 days and night, $415)
You can easily see that most of these programs focus on specific areas of interest–conservation or horsemanship or STEM–to better meet participants’ needs. What you can’t see so easily is that they’re a relative bargain. A standard 12-day Philmont trek costs $870, or $72.50 per day; by comparison, the 21-day ROCS Trek costs $535, or $25.48 per day. (In some cases, scholarships are also available.)
To me, however, the best part of these treks is not the price nor the program. It’s that they offer your troop a way to get Scouts involved in high adventure with very little effort on the part of adult leaders.