SM Thoughts Notes (Dark Page)
Thoughts on Early Webelos Crossover
Our troop operates on a yearly cycle during which we endeavor to onboard all our new First Year Scouts at the same time in the Spring. That cycle is a little flexible, but not by four or five months. We maintain an Onboarding cycle for various reasons:
Our program is specifically planned around a late March/early April onboarding time, with activities specifically targeted to First Years (New Scout Orientation Day, a "First Campout" held locally and supportive of Tenderfoot-oriented activities, Summer Camp promotion, and more), and it also is respectful of the multiple non-overlapping Spring Breaks that we experience in March, which result in a dearth of Scouts and leaders.
We typically have First Year Scouts join us from multiple different packs (recently 6, 117, 164, 200, 422) and as non-Cub joiners. We feel it's really important to establish patrol identity and esprit de corps right from the start with these Scouts and that can only be done effectively when they all start the program at the same time.
It's more efficient to cover the same information once, both for us as well as incoming boys and parents.
We've had very good success with this cycle (satisfaction with the program, high Summer Camp participation, and high retention rates) and we feel it's a key component to a boy's successful onboarding.
I would imagine most troops have a similar Onboarding cycle, whether formal or informal. Perhaps, though, other troops can be more flexible or are not as concerned with groups of First Years entering at different times.
It's important that any pack longevity issues not adversely affect any Webelos II's and their ability to successfully integrate into Scouting. Were I in a position to affect the situation I would make sure to find Scouting-related activities for Webelos to do if their pack "closes down" at the end of the calendar year (or any time substantially before "Crossover Season"). The only things I can think of are registering them in another Pack, finding a troop that will welcome them in early December, or registering with a troop that will take them later, but continuing to do some Scouting-related things in between. Even if they don't join Troop 98, we'll do our best to welcome these Webelos to visit our meetings and activities, and portray Scouting in the very positive light it deserves. We ultimately want to see these boys join Scouting somewhere (and there are lots of great choices in our area, as you know).
Thoughts on Webelos I visiting Troop meetings
While we'd be happy to have you visit anytime, our experience with Webelos 1's who have visited in the past is that it wasn't very valuable to have them come to a Troop Meeting (at least one that wasn't planned with their visit in mind). The Webelos weren't familiar with the context and flow of a Boy Scout meeting, and, even though it wasn't a sit-down type of meeting, I frankly think they found it boring (and that's a terrible impression to leave).
SM Award for Outstanding ServiceScouts BSA differs from many youth organizations in that it requires meaningful service and increasing leadership/responsibility.
These are typically tied together. A patrol leader organizes and encourages his patrol for routine activities but also for participation in service projects and opportunities. The Senior Patrol Leader runs the PLC and troop meetings and activities, but also meaningfully works on bigger things (like Camporees, High Adventure, summer camps, and "big" troop service projects like the Philadelphia Encampment and Winterfest).
It's no surprise that all of our Scouts do this in order to advance, but many of them do far more service than is required, or even serve in a leadership capacity when they don't need it for rank.
Every now and then a Scout goes way beyond expectations in carrying out service and leadership.
For these Scouts, Troop 98 has established the Scoutmaster Award for Outstanding Service. You don't apply for it and few Scouts have received it.
The Scoutmaster witnesses a Scout's consistent dedication and effort, far beyond what is required and normally shown, and chooses to award it.