Make your life easier with next-gen troop program features

The new design for the Science program feature (above) and the old design.

The new design for the Science program feature (above) and the old design.

Update, June 3: As several people have pointed out, these aren’t just for troops. Teams, crews, ships, and posts can find great use out of them.

In Scouting, one size doesn’t fit all.

So suggesting a month-by-month troop planning calendar on a national level, as in the past, just doesn’t work.

For example, take the Fishing program feature. A troop in Texas could make that work in March, but a troop in Wisconsin would find that timing a little less, well, comfortable.

Enter the next generation of troop program plans, sure to make your life easier. I have a preview of two from the upcoming generation that I’ve been authorized to share with you.

There will be 48 in all, delivered in three volumes of 16 each over the course of 2013 and early 2014.

But the best part is that the new program helps are flexible, and troops can customize their own year from the 48 months of activity ideas. Selection is key as youth leaders plan the upcoming year.

There’s also customization within the program features themselves. You don’t expect every skier to go down the same run, so why expect a 13-year-old First Class Scout to complete the same troop programming as a 17-year-old Eagle Scout?

That’s why meeting plans, like ski runs, come in three flavors: green, blue, and black. Skills marked with green circles are essential, those with blue squares are challenging, and the ones with black diamonds are the most advanced.

Another change is the way the program features are divided by volume. Nobody creates a troop calendar alphabetically, but past program features volumes were organized that way. This time they’re mixed up, deliberately combining outdoors, careers, and hobbies to make each volume more diverse.

Vol. 1 comes out this fall, Vol. 2 is out by the end of 2013 or beginning of 2014, and Vol. 3 is released in first or second quarter 2014. The hope is that each of the 48 program plans will be made available individually and digitally so units can purchase and download only those they want to use. Stay tuned for more details about distribution once I learn more.

Curious what one of these program features will look like? Well, gone are the black-and-white pages with illustrations that were charming but not always informative. The new versions are broken into chunks with information that’s clearly presented and easy to use right away.

It’s perfect for the Scouter who doesn’t have time to sift through pages and pages of information and just wants a clear, proven, effective plan for meetings and activities.

Take a look at the First Aid program feature, and the Science program feature (links open PDFs in a new window) to see what I mean.

And big thanks to Scouting pros Don Shepard and Diane Leicht for this exciting preview.

What are the program areas?

Here’s the tentative list of 48 subject areas:

  1. Camping
  2. Backpacking
  3. Pioneering
  4. Hiking
  5. Cooking
  6. Winter Camping
  7. Outdoor Ethics
  8. Nature and Environment
  9. Wildlife Management
  10. Rifle
  11. Archery
  12. Shotgun
  13. Climbing/Rappelling
  14. Fishing
  15. Cave Exploring
  16. Swimming
  17. Wilderness Survival
  18. Canoeing
  19. Kayaking
  20. Scuba
  21. COPE
  22. Geocaching
  23. Orienteering
  24. Bowling
  25. Cycling
  26. Fitness/Nutrition
  27. Basketball
  28. Skiing/Snowboarding
  29. Soccer
  30. Emergency Preparedness
  31. First Aid
  32. Special Needs Awareness
  33. Citizenship
  34. Safety
  35. Mentoring
  36. Financial Management
  37. Communications
  38. Project Planning
  39. Engineering
  40. Science
  41. Technology
  42. Mathematics
  43. Games
  44. Music
  45. Drama
  46. Spectator Sports
  47. Living History
  48. Ethics

What do you think?

How do you like the new designs? Do you use the existing program features? How will you use these new plans? Leave some thoughts below.

75 thoughts on “Make your life easier with next-gen troop program features

  1. Looks somewhat promising but I’m also concerned about length of time for each activity. Ever try to keep a young scout engaged for over 1.5 hours?

    Bryan – I’m confused by the “Main Event” activities at the end of each of these. Shouldn’t the Activity color symbol match the top wording? For example: in First Aid, should page 12 have the Blue Square and page 13 have the Black Diamond?

    • The old “program features” also have a 90 min plan. While our meetings sometimes last this long, we normally only plan for 60 min. Sometimes you have to shorten or eliminate an activity to fit weekly plan into your unit’s meeting length.
      I agree with Dave about the mislabeling of the “challenging” (blue square) and “advanced” (black diamond) main events, simple transposition.

  2. Bryan – I stumbled across this while looking for something else. I thinks its a great idea, but this is the first I have heard about it. What is being done to get this information to the youth leaders that this is available?

    I am our district Roundtable Commissioner. Is there more information that I could provide to scout leaders?

    Timing is going to be a problem. Most troops are in the process of doing their annual planners. Its too late for this year. They might get used next year.

    • Bryan, Can you give us any updates on the revision of the Troop Program Features? The ones currently available on are from 2003.

  3. Looks good. Looks like a updated version to the troop meeting kits of the 90s. Glad to see them make a return. The other ones worked great, I see no reason why the new version will not make a great addition

  4. Hi Bryan – Any news on when the new troop program features wil be available online? We have our annual program planning next week. Thank you. Good Scouting!Dale KrugEagle Class of 1975

    Date: Thu, 30 May 2013 16:43:18 +0000 To:

  5. When will we see the release of this? Units are beyond their normal annual planning date. Looks like a great improvement.

    • I emailed the supply division yesterday about the release date on the new program features. Below is the prompt response I got:

      Good Morning,
      We have no information on this yet.
      Thank you,
      Customer Service

  6. Just got off the phone with supplies, and have new dates.

    Vol 1 – 616351 – March
    Vol 2 – 616352 – April
    Vol 3 – 616353 – June

    Come on, BSA – we’re waiting on these so our Scouts can use them!! They were really excited by the new samples you showed us last summer, and which we were supposed to have starting last fall.

  7. That just means that they didn’t sell enough of the old ones to depleat their overstock and until such time as they sell the last of them, we will not be able to get our hands on the new releases. Reminiscent of the new Scoutmaster book(s) that is/are overdue by almost a year and the old handbook on sale for $4.98…

  8. Just got off the phone with supplies. AGAIN. And have NEW dates. AGAIN.

    Vol 1 – 616351 – April 5th
    Vol 2 – 616352 – April 5th
    Vol 3 – 616353 – June 30th

    This is very disheartening when you want to deliver a quality program, and have scouts excited about content they were told they’d have access to LAST FALL. The delivery date is a moving target. I’ll believe April 5th when I see it. Right now, I’m expecting none of them to be here before June 30th. If so, it’ll be a pleasant suprise.

    • Thanks for the update. There are a bunch of us waiting on them. I am a Roundtable Commissioner. I made a big deal about the updates last fall. So much for my credibility.

      • I was told by the volunteer head of the committee that drafted the new program features that the first volume would be released at the BSA Annual Meeting at the end of May.

        • May I ask that you pass on the comments from the people here about how disappointed people are at the repeated delays and procrastination? If they’d told us last year that they would be ready in May 2014, we’d have been fine with it.

          Instead, they told us Fall 2013 for the first one. Then it pushed out. Then it pushed out again. And now yet again.

          The misinformation has been inexcusable.

  9. This is absolutely absurd. We teach and reinforce accountability with the scouts all the time. Too bad that the folks at National have obviously forgotten (or more likely simply chosen to ignore) that value.

    These types of actions and attitudes by the National organization are exactly why I have stopped donating at the larger organizational level and instead focused my resources directly at the individual unit level where they can actually have a positive impact. *heavy sigh*

  10. Very disappointing and ridiculous that this important update to such a core program document is dragging on well beyond its advertised release date. I can only hope that the new content is good enough to overcome the inauspicious first impression that this delay is making. National leadership ought to be embarrassed at how badly they missed the release dates.

    As a Scoutmaster, I’m just not “feeling the love” from National Council. Like Steve, I also have lost faith in National leadership for a variety of reasons that I’ve observed and am focusing my financial contributions at the individual unit level where I feel they are much more effective and visible in the quality of program delivered to the Scouts in my community.

  11. Just got off the phone. At first I was excited because they told me they have 3000 copies on order. But then I got the actual delivery dates:

    Vol. 1 – July 5th.
    Vol 2 – August 5th
    Vol 3 – August 5th

    Now we are looking at a almost a YEAR from when were initially told these would start to be available. I. AM. COMPLETELY. DISGUSTED.

  12. It sure would have been nice to have them for Troop Annual Planners that normally occur in June and July.

  13. And the May 21st update…

    Vol 1 – 616351 – July 8th
    Vol 2 – 616352 – August 8th
    Vol 3 – 616353 – August 8th

    Pushed out yet again, although only by a few days. Still unacceptable when the initial date we were told was Q3/4 2013, and we’re looking at Q3 2014 instead. Almost a full year behind.

  14. OK – I know a little something about this. Two things to keep in mind.

    1) While we are all excited to have these modules come out, they are being written by volunteers. Not only do they know a lot about the subject, but are experts on scouting as well. That skill set is hard to find. But even volunteers have busy lives and sometimes don’t make deadlines, (or withdraw at the last minute). This actually happens all the time with other updates like merit badges, but since they are already in the store, you don’t notice the issue.

    2) Regarding timelines of production. You may not be aware, but a lot is happening at the national offices. There has been a major reorganization including a complete transfer of publishing. The team is continuing to produce, but there is just so much to do. New Cub books are in production and there are new Scout and Troop leader books coming out. In addition the new completely revamped Venturing Program has also directly effected this project. The new Venturing awards (that only recently got a name) need to be inserted as appropriate. But then again, isn’t getting everything right and up to date just as important as getting it out fast?

    I know we are waiting outside the oven waiting for the cake to finish baking. It smells delicious, but nobody wants to eat a gooey cake. Remember the scout law and how it relates to having patience. How would you teach that lesson to your kids?

    Sure this taking a long time, but hopefully it will be worth it. And if they are done right, are likely going to be with us for a long time.

  15. I just got the new program guide Vol 1, 2 and 3 and these are not what are in my guides, Did these get changed or did I buy old stuff?

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