This past spring, my nephew joined a troop in Cincinnati’s Dan Beard Council. Since it was his first troop summer camp, my son and I drove over to surprise him.
It was a very interesting experience. It was my first time visiting Camp Friedlander. In fact, most of my scouting experience has been in the Crossroads of America Council, especially North Star District. This visit allowed me to see some new takes on scouting.
One of the surprises was a simple system for encouraging advancement. My nephew’s troop has an advancement board. The entire free time after lunch, scouts were hovering around the board, adding their own white tiles, moving the white tiles to reflect in-camp boards-of-review completed, and otherwise planning their advancement plans for the week.
The scoutmasters had encouraged the new scouts to take a white “tile” (a small piece of wood painted white) and use colored Sharpie pens to customize their tile. Hooks and eyes were set into the tiles to allow them to hang properly.
No adults were prompting advancement conversations, but the campsite was buzzing with plans. The troop had made clear that Scoutmaster Conferences were being held Wednesday and Boards of Review on Thursday. This chance for immediate advancement and the privilege of moving the tiles quickly helped further the drama.
In the electronic age, we tend to forget old tools sometimes work best. Our own Troop 35 has the privilege of a dedicated room for scouting. As a result, they have one of the old-school advancement charts hanging on the wall. (Generic and Cub Scout and Boy Scout specific charts are available.) Each boy can easily see his own progress. In my short visit in June, I saw several scouts go over and read the chart to find out where they and their fellow scouts stood.
If you want to encourage advancement, find a way to put advancement before the boys in writing. They will tend to think about advancement more often.