Texting Made Easy (and Free) for Scout Troops

Standard

signalling

If you haven’t gotten the memo, memos are passé. So, according to many Scouts, are email and even Facebook. To really get your message across these days—or at least this week—texting is the answer.

The trick is finding a texting solution that’s both affordable and easy to use. Well, I think I’ve found the answer: Remind. The service, which targets teachers, is free and a breeze to use.

To get started, you create a user account at Remind.com. You’re given a short code (and an alternate phone number) to which users send a text message in order to sign up. For example, a user might text @troop123 to 12345 or 555-555-1212. Users can also sign up to get your texts by email; to do that, they send a blank email to an address like troop123@mail.remind.com.

You can administer your classes from both the Remind website and the associated iOS and Android apps, so you could, for example, easily send a message from an outing with an updated return time. To send a message, you simply choose the class, type your message, and click Send. (A handy counter warns you as you approach the 140-character limit.) You can also schedule a message to go out days or even months in the future—and edit or delete it if you need to before it goes out.

The website and apps let you see who is signed up for each class, although for security reasons you can’t see their phone numbers or email addresses. This is a good way to keep track of how many troop families are really getting your information.

You can create multiple classes under a single user account, so you could have separate groups for your adult leaders, your patrol leaders’ council, and your troop committee. Messages can go to a single class or as many classes as you select. You can even send messages to a single individual; just be sure to heed the BSA’s prohibition on one-on-one contact with Scouts.

Until semaphore mounts a shocking comeback, Remind may be the best option yet for communicating with your Scouts and leaders.

Advertisements

Eagle Court of Honor Support Jobs: Printed Program Coordinator

Standard

2016-06-23 10_38_01-ScoutStuff.org

I recently began a series of blog posts on support jobs for Eagle courts of honor. These are the behind-the-scenes tasks that are less visible than, but nearly as important as, planning and running the ceremony itself. This week: the printed program coordinator.

When you go to most ceremonies—from weddings to graduations to religious services—someone probably hands you a printed program. This program serves as the agenda for the ceremony, a souvenir to take home, and a sketch pad if you get bored.

Courts of honor are no different (although I hope no one gets bored at yours!). So find someone with an artistic bent and access to a photocopier or laser printer to create printed programs for your ceremony. The program should include the ceremony agenda, of course, but it can also include a photo of your honoree, an Eagle poem, or general information about the Eagle Scout award or the honoree. Your local Scout shop can provide program covers, or you can also create your own if finances are tight. (The sample shown above runs $10.99 for 50 pieces at http://www.scoutstuff.org/p-c-es-flag-50pk.html.)

In addition to creating and duplicating the programs, your printed-program coordinator should also recruit a few Scouts to hand them out at the ceremony. Don’t just leave them at the door and hope people will pick them up.

The Eagle Court of Honor Book offers more ideas, including a sample agenda and a position description..


For more great ideas, check out my new ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both EagleBook.com and Amazon.com.

10 Ways to NOT Waste Your Summer

Standard

nyjCR9m

Beyond summer camp and perhaps a high adventure trip, many troops take it easy over the summer—or even take the summer off. Summer is definitely a great time for more relaxed meetings and the occasionally purely fun activity, but it’s also a great time for you and your troop leaders to get some important work done.

For example, if you haven’t done so already, you should have the SPL schedule an annual planning conference to plan your calendar for the next program year. But there are other things you ought to be doing as well. Here are 10 possibilities:

  1. Meet personally with each of your new troop families from the spring to get to know them, communicate expectations, and find out how their first few months have gone.
  2. Get your troop records up to date.
  3. Go through your file of medical forms. Shred the forms you still have on former Scouts and make sure forms on current Scouts are up to date.
  4. Hold an informal cookout with your adult leaders to evaluate the past year and set priorities for the coming year.
  5. Work with your troop committee chairman to fill vacant leadership positions.
  6. Update your troop website.
  7. Make sure your chartered organization has current contact information and knows what’s going on in the troop. Make a presentation at a chartered organization meeting and present a slideshow of this summer’s activities.
  8. Contact your district executive or district membership chair to find out about in-school recruiting opportunities for the fall.
  9. Make a reservation for summer camp for next year.
  10. Spend some quality time with your family!

Your list may vary, of course, but handling jobs like these in the summer will make your next program year easier. It will also let you spend more time enjoying Scouting in the months to come.

Eagle Court of Honor Support Jobs: The Reception

Standard

1252722_46502506

I recently began a series of blog posts on support jobs for Eagle courts of honor. These are the behind-the-scenes tasks that are less visible than, but nearly as important as, planning and running the ceremony itself. This week: the reception.

A reception is a great way to end an Eagle court of honor. Much like a wedding reception, it gives people a chance to mix and mingle, congratulate the new Eagle Scout, and grab some sinfully delicious cake and punch. (Since I usually skip meals before courts of honor I plan, that cake and punch usually constitutes my dinner.)

Although a part of the court-of-honor experience, the reception is really apart from it. In many cases, the reception takes place in a separate location, and the reception coordinator often has to work during the ceremony to get ready for the post-ceremony onslaught of hungry Scouts and leaders. That last thing you want the honoree’s mother or Scoutmaster to be doing during the ceremony is worrying about whether the caterer will show up.

You’ll want to give plenty of thought to who should secure your supplies and run the reception. Ideally, this should be someone who has experience. After all, how many of us mere mortals know how much cake to order for 60 people (a full sheet cake) or how far in advance you need to plug the coffee pot in (an hour ahead for 48 cups)?

The Eagle Court of Honor Book offers more ideas, including a shopping list, but the best resource is that experienced party planner in your troop.


For more great ideas, check out my new ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both EagleBook.com and Amazon.com.

Program Features for the 21st Century

Standard

Program Features 1

Back in 1989, when I was just a few years into my time as an adult Scouter, the BSA came out with what I thought was an amazing resource. Called Woods Wisdom, it combined 36 program features–three full years of monthly troop programming–with a wealth of information on Scoutmaster minutes, games, ceremonies, and more. In one very thick volume, it offered Scoutmasters and youth leaders pretty much all the program content they needed.

Over the years, however, that content became dated. While the BSA eventually split Woods Wisdom into pieces–the three volumes of Troop Program Features plus Troop Program Resources–it didn’t really update the information. New users encountered the same black-and-white, pre-internet, narrowly defined content I did so many years ago.

That has all changed over the past few years with the introduction of Program Features for Troops, Teams, and Crews: A Guide to Program Planning. I was fortunate to be able to help write and edit this massive resource, working alongside veteran Scouter Jim Virgin, who chaired the project.

Like Troop Program Features, the new resource comes in three volumes, but there the similarity ends. Here are a few things that are different:

  • Each volume includes 18 modules, giving you a year and a half of programming.
  • The modules cover a much broader array of activities, spanning six areas: outdoor program, sports, health and safety, citizenship and personal development, STEM, and arts and hobbies.
  • The modules address the needs of Boy Scout troops, Varsity teams, and Venturing crews (in part by incorporating discontinued materials in those other programs)
  • The skills development sections in the troop meeting plans offer ideas at the essential, experienced, and advanced levels, and there are main event (outing) outlines for each level.
  • Each module includes a page showing how to use the elements of the Teaching EDGE along the way.
  • The modules are self contained, eliminating the need to refer to other publications.
  • The modules encourage appropriate uses of technology, such as showing YouTube videos that demonstrate particular skills.
  • The modules are in full color, meaning your PLC members might actually look at them!

All three volumes are now available at ScoutStuff.org. Here are the specific links:

I think you’ll find these books a useful resource as you plan meetings and activities. Feel free to share your stories in the comment section.

Eagle Court of Honor Support Jobs: Decorations

Standard

COH backdrop 2

I recently began a series of blog posts on support jobs for Eagle courts of honor. These are the behind-the-scenes tasks that are less visible than, but nearly as important as, planning and running the ceremony itself. This week: decorations.

On page 933 of the 1938 Handbook for Scoutmasters is a striking photograph. It’s the setting for a court of honor, and it features a backdrop painted to resemble a Southern campsite, complete with Spanish moss, cypress trees, a pup tent, and an American flag. Another photo from the same handbook appears at the top of this post.

Those displays may be a little over the top–okay, a lot over the top–but they hint at the ways a good decorator could contribute to the ambiance of your court of honor. If you have someone in the troop with a knack for decorating, enlist him or her to spiff up the hall where you’re holding your ceremony and reception.

The Eagle Court of Honor Book includes a number of decorating ideas, but a good decorator will have plenty as well. An Eagle Scout banner, some helium balloons, table centerpieces, potted plants, and framed Scouting prints can turn even the most ordinary or familiar location into a magical place–even without cypress trees and wall-sized American flags.


For more great ideas, check out my new ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both EagleBook.com and Amazon.com.