Starting the Scouting Year with youth-led planning can be a challenge. Chances are your Section wasn’t as active over the summer as it is in other seasons, and youth and Scouters alike are trying to find their rhythm for a balanced year. It’s easy for a Section to find itself a month or more into the Scouting Year without having had a dedicated meeting to plan its adventures for the rest of the fall—let alone thinking ahead for the winter, spring and summer program cycles. Fortunately, it’s never too late for your Section to plan its future adventures, and there are some great resources to provide some structure and spark the imagination.
Colony, Pack and Troop Scouters should introduce their youth to their Program Maps. The Pond Map, Jungle Map and Canadian Trails Map are a great way for youth to think about the adventures they’re planning in terms of the six Program Areas. The symbolic frameworks are a fun way for youth to think about well-rounded personal development as an adventure in itself. Talk about going on adventures and visiting different places on the map.
As a Colony or Pack Scouter, it’s up to you to create an inclusive atmosphere that encourages youth in your Section to use their imaginations while exploring the Pond or the Jungle. As Section Leadership Teams—including White Tails for Beavers, Howlers for Cubs and Troop Leaders for Scouts—finalize their Section’s plans, they can ensure their adventures are balanced across the Program Areas by tracking them on their Program Maps with game pieces.
Section Leadership Teams will probably find their Planning Guides helpful when thinking about their adventures and how they can be managed over the seasons ahead. Brainstorming adventures can be a lot of fun for youth, but scheduling them is another thing entirely. It’s important that the Planning Guides are used in age-appropriate ways so that the process is as engaging and fun as possible.
For Beaver Scouts, simply modeling the use of the Colony Planning Guide is a good way to introduce this planning concept. By Cubs, a Pack Scouter may recognize a Howler who is keen and able to capture some of the Pack’s adventures on the Pack Planning Guide. A responsible Troop Leader (Scout) might be fully entrusted with holding on to the Troop Planning Guide, even between meetings. Remember that the Planning Guides are fillable, so it’s up to you and your Section to decide if it’s better to print the guide out and use a pen or pencil, or bring a tablet or laptop to the meeting.
While Program Maps and Planning Guides are helpful resources for keeping adventure ideas focused and clear, sometimes the hard part is just getting the ball rolling on a good brainstorm. This is where Trail Cards come in. Whether browsing on Scouts.ca or thumbing through a deck of Trail Cards that your Section has printed itself, the Canadian Path Trail Cards are one way to introduce fun new adventures to any Section. Best of all, there are Trail Cards for every Program Area and each Section age group—from Beavers all the way up to Rovers. Your Section might have more than enough adventure ideas for, say, Creative Expression, but the youth may be stumped about how to explore the Environment & Outdoors Program Area. Point your youth to the Trail Cards for this Program Area. Some ideas might appeal just as they are, but Trail Cards can also be helpful just to get the creative juices flowing.
Scavenger hunt? Done that. Underwater scavenger hunt? Now we’re talking!
As plans for specific adventures come together, know when to remind youth to check out the Outdoor Adventure Skills. While the adventure is always more important than the badge, youth enjoy mastering new competencies, and this doesn’t tend to happen without a plan. For example, if your Scout Troop is sharing a weekend canoe trip, the Scouts can plan opportunities for every youth to expand their outdoor skillset, like taking turns in the stern and mastering new paddle strokes.
These are just a few of the resources you can turn to for support with youth-led planning. For more ideas, check out the Scouters’ Tip, “How Do I Plan for a Program Cycle?”, and Chapter 2 of the Scouter Manual.
Letting the youth lead and create their own program isn’t always easy. Some mistakes will be made along the way, but that’s okay! The Plan-Do-Review method gives breathing room for youth to learn from their mistakes in a safe and inclusive environment, and they will be better prepared for success in the world because of it.