Capturing Scouts’ Attention


We’ve all been there: In the middle of a conversation with a spouse, boss, or coworker, we realize the other person hasn’t heard a word we’ve said. Perhaps she’s thinking about how she’s going to respond. Perhaps he’s checking an “urgent” text message. Or perhaps–squirrell!–something else distracts that person from what we’re saying.

Of course, the same thing happens at every troop meeting, especially when some well-meaning adult makes a series of long-winded announcements. (Cue a clip of Charlie Brown’s teacher saying, “Wah wah woh wah wah.”) But it can also happen when you’re trying to teach a skill or even introduce a new game.

I thought about this recently when I came across an informedED article on capturing and holding the attention of students in school. You can read the article for yourself, but one of the key points was that teaching techniques that involve demonstrations and questions are more effective than straight lecture.

The article concludes with 10 concrete suggestions, many of which apply directly to Scouting–if we do Scouting as it was intended. I especially suggestion #4 (“Incorporate regular free play”):

The government of Finland has decided that all grade-school students should receive 15 minutes of free play time during every hour of class. The research supports this method: Analysing higher brain regions following periods of abundant social play in juvenile animals, Gregory & Kaufeldt found that one-third of all the genes they monitored were “significantly jogged one way or another by the playful activities.” They explain: “Without a regular diet of fun social engagements, children become hungry for play and begin to ‘act out,’ potentially disrupting the flow of classroom instructional activities.”

Are you making time for fun in your troop meetings? Are you involving your youth leaders in planning (suggestion #5)? Does the teaching you offer stretch Scouts a bit without being too far over their heads (suggestion #6)? If not, you may just be wasting your breath and their time.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at


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