Scouting Forums

Scouting Skills for new Scoutmasters?

I am the COR for a Cubscout Pack, a BSA Troop(B) and also a BSA Troop(G). I currently have a new SM for our girls who is very committed and needs help with scouting skills like knot tying, camp crafts, and general scouting skills needed for advancement. The SM for the boys now has about 18 months experience, has attended SM training and just last week received Woodbadge beads. Neither of these Scoutmasters have most of the skills that we ask them to teach to scouts and I can’t find any training course to send them to. We are in a large council with many excellent facilities but our troops are out at the very fringe where there is little access to more experienced leaders to get help. Where are new leaders supposed to go to acquire the skills to teach to scouts?

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Well? First I would say send SCOUTS to Summer Camp to learn the skills so they can teach leaders and future scouts. It is the scouts job to pass on the info and teach the skills - not the leaders.

Second, the leaders cannot be embarrassed to ask others “How do you do that?” “Can you teach that to me?” Most Scouters will gladly share info.

Many UofS have skills classes. Tons of YouTube videos on specific things too.


I think Mr. McNeil points out some good things. The youth are supposed to be handing down knowledge to one another, but I’ve been in units where that works and others where it doesn’t (for numerous reasons).

So several things:

  1. Congratulations on figuring out to never turn down a volunteer. Figuring out how to work with inexperienced volunteers is tough, but not impossible. Going to any available trainings is always a step in the right direction, but not a complete solve-everything solution as it seems you’ve figured out. There needs to be a desire. If the desire is there, there needs to also be the self initiative. So don’t hesitate to point your leaders in the right direction to find the information they need.
  2. Knot tying… Google and Youtube are your friends. Even then; practice, practice, practice. OR, delegate. Find a local fire department and I guarantee there’s a rescue nut that’s a ropes technician who’d be more than happy to share his skills. I have found more success by involving my sphere of influence as well as the community.
  3. Camp crafts… again, Google and Youtube. Again, also look for a camping nut that knows how to and wants to share their talents. We have one in our church and he’s awesome.

Be creative. Think outside the box. One of my most famous meetings that the youth force me to do annually is campfire building. We build nests out of twine and set them on fire outside in the parking lot. We then go over with real wood how to build the different types of fires. Finally we conclude inside at a table by building the different fires with Twizzlers and candy. The creative, interesting meetings, particularly the meetings that aren’t perfect and you’re forced to come out of your own shell, are always the best meetings. Plan, plan, plan. Plan your meetings out well ahead of time with your patrol leaders, bring the schedule for approval (and ideas to make them better) before the committee, and then PLAN for execution. Always be prepared and you’ll never go wrong.

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Intro to outdoor leadership skills is a scoutmaster training that will teach everything that you need to take a kid from entry to first class scout.

That being said, I’m an Eagle Scout and a scoutmaster of a brand new girls’ troop. I bring in older boys from local troops to teach skills


IOLS —Intro to Outdoor Leadership Skills. Most likely it’ll be offered wherever your troop goes to summer camp.

It’s a good course to learn the basic scoutcraft skills, and it will get them connected to other leaders of varying experience levels. I highly, highly recommend it for any adult that’s working directly with the scouts.


I am to a Eagle Scout , many of the knots (before we started the boys troop) I haven’t done in 30 years I had to to goggle for a refresher course. One thing our scout master does in his back yard ( we park the trailer there) is get the cooking pans out and tries out new recipes we can show to the kids.

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The Scout handbook is also a great reference.

First, Krikwood1, thanks for all you do for the youth.

Ditto IOLS. Our council won’t let you remain an SM/ASM without it. But if that’s the SM training that you say they got, don’t send them back! Clearly it wasn’t the inspiring learning environment for them that it should be.

Try this … get each scouter a Boy Scout Handbook, and challenge them to “earn” 1st class rank. Ask their SPL (or if the troop has only a single patrol, that PL) to sign off on the skills they demonstrate. At the end of the year recognize them for their achievement. Their reward? A handbook full of signatures of the scouts who helped them become better leaders!

There are other simple things, like encouraging them to attend district roundtables, go on outings with other troops, attend camporees, etc … that will help them master skills.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for Powderhorn, Wilderness First Aid, and other advanced trainings.


Another great under utilized resource is the Boyscout Fieldbook. Really great information on outdoor skills that is aimed at old Scouts and Leaders. Even the older versions are great resource and you can find them really cheap on Amazon.

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Absolutely keep the fieldbook handy. It should be part of a troop’s mobile library – along with a few volumes of Boys Life and Scouting Magazine. This library should be a carry case that you all can set up for casual reading during slack time at camp.

Your troop librarian should be handling more than just MB pamphlets!

Also, keep in mind that the SM does not need to instantly be an expert in all Scouting skills. They just have to know it five minutes before the scouts learn it.

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If the troop has instructors, refer to them.

Once upon a time, monthly Roundtables was where one could go to get extra hands on training on these kinds of skills, and if not that, make friends with other units who could help out with teaching the skills. Otherwise, there was the University of Scouting and other adult training available to adult leaders at Scout events and camps.

Knots and many of the skills are a use it or lose it thing- if they don’t have a purpose for using it, they’ll forget it soon after learning.

Best of all, the BSA Handbook does contain all a Scout needs to know!

Yes - I tell new Scouts constantly that the Handbook is the best Cheat Book they will ever have - as every answer they need is in there.

What specific skills are you wanting the SM to teach. Many have already mentioned IOLS and using the boys as an instructor for the girls in a specific skill. If you have specific items you wish them to learn; the SM that finished Wood Badge as a whole troop of adults to ask for assistance. Roundtables are a good resource. Also, if you need knots try the veterans groups for a retired Boatswain.

Hi, @KirkWood1,

I’ll be honest and say that most of what I’ve learned, I either learned as a scout, paid for a course (e.g. CPR/first aid certification) or learned through trial-and-error while doing it (picking out campsites). Summer camp was always a great education for me.

I have a couple of suggestions if you’re looking for “experts” to get specific skills training for your adult leaders and youth. This assumes you haven’t had any success with the various scout-to-scout, scout-to-leader, and official BSA training routes suggested above.

Generally, you might poke around the chartering organization to see if you have any “hidden experts” among you. Professionals in specialty disciplines (medical personnel, pilots, sailors, etc) may be able to lend their expertise to teaching some of the related skills. Eagle scouts don’t always remember everything we did way back when, but sometimes a bit of time fussing around is enough to get us going again on lashings, navigation, etc.

Also, merit badge counselors may be willing to come in to teach some of the skills (e.g. Camping, Cooking, First Aid, etc), if you’re not entirely out of the way. Some are more accommodating of this than others, so be prepared for the cold shoulder.

First aid skills
Reach out to any of the parents in either troop (or adults in the chartering organization) who are physicians, nurses, EMTs, or who served as military field medics. They may be willing to come in and run a skills clinic. Just make sure the pros know in advance the scope of what the scouts are learning, since what they know is generally well beyond what the scouts need to know. Another good resource on this would be a Red Cross First Aid/CPR instructor who could come in and teach, although they might be required by contract to charge for the official course. Again you might be able to get a First Aid merit badge counselor to come in and do a skills clinic.

Knots & Lashings
You’ve already gotten some solid recommendations, but you might see if there are any climbers or sailors in your chartering org who would be willing to teach knots. Lashings are a bit more specialized, so your best bet might be locating an Eagle Scout to lean on there.

Navigation skills
Sailors and pilots generally had to learn map & compass navigation at one point in their careers, and most of the ones I know haven’t lost it, even if it might be a bit rusty. Anyone who does any serious camping should know how to do this, so see if there are any backpackers in your chartering org. Some outdoor shops will teach this, although they may charge for classes.

General campcraft
A lot of park rangers are willing to talk about basic stuff like Leave No Trace/Outdoor Ethics if you catch them when they’re not busy. Not sure where you’re located, but some of the larger outdoor stores (e.g. REI out west) actually run training courses on camping, backpacking & navigation skills. Some are free, others are increasingly costly, depending on the sophistication of what they’re doing. Often, they may be skewed to sell particular gear, but the skills themselves are good.

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There have been some great suggestions here, and I’ll toss in one more. For knots, I downloaded an app on my iPhone called Knots 3D. It has every knot you would ever want and more, with videos, uses, and related knots.

For the other skills, yes, the older scouts should teach the younger ones, but if you have a young/new troop, and/or in a remote location, you may not always have the ideal situation. I have done fairly well with bringing in an expert to teach the scouts, and then I get to learn it as well.

Don’t be afraid to ask other scout leaders if they could spare older scouts to teach a skill to your scouts. Often, the youth will be happy to show off a new skill they recently learned.

Good luck!

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Absolutely take IOLS. I’m a staffer for that and we focus on teaching the skills through First Class in the way that Scouts will learn them.

I highly recommend reading the Handbook. I see so many questions on Facebook and forums that are actually answered there. Want a good recipe for dinner? Look on page 318 (14th edition) for the one pot stew. In IOLS, we have each patrol make their variation on that for lunch, then share tastes.