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Troop Activity

Hello all,
I have a question about counting activities.
We have been invited as a troop to one of our scout’s Bar Mitzvah. Would you count this as a troop activity even for the bar Mitzvah boy.
Thanks

Probably not, in the same way that I wouldn’t count a scout’s birthday party as a troop activity, regardless of whether or not the entire troop was invited. I was trying to formulate a clear statement of my thought process, but I wasn’t able to get a really clear description together. My closest attempt is below.

Generally speaking, I wouldn’t count as a troop activity something organized by anyone outside the troop, unless the troop is coordinating its own participation in the event (e.g. troop participation in a city- or county-wide service event). Even so, I would tend to filter out activities that are primarily for an individual purpose, rather than those for a scouting purpose. For example, just because the troop coordinated carpools to my son’s birthday party wouldn’t make it a troop event IMHO.

That doesn’t necessarily make me right, and I’m not aware of any clear guidance from the BSA as to what is and is not a troop event.

I think you’re right, @CharleyHamilton. I would not consider anything a “Troop Activity” unless it was organized and carried out specifically as a Scouting activity by the troop.

@JohnBurnham, I think if this is a step outside of the cultural/religious spheres of many in the troop/patrol, you should consider how to make it an honest-to-goodness activity, I would ask the Bar Mitzvah boy to explain the event in advance at a meeting. (What it means. How to behave. What to bring. Uniforms or suits? Neckerchiefs?)
Then plan some after-action review at the meeting after. Ask questions like:

  • Who had never been to a celebration like that?
  • What did you learn about the scouts’ family/culture/religion?
  • What are lifetime milestones in your family/culture/religion?
  • What are milestones in a youth/adult’s scouting career?

I think it’s a huge honor to be invited as a troop to something very personal. It shows you all mean a lot to this scout. Many weekends you’ll be off camping and won’t have the chance to participate in things like this. So, I think you should really make the best of it.

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No it won’t count as a “troop activity” for any sort of rank or scout adancement. but it can be an activity done by a group of friends in support of that scout.

Thought experiment. If a scout said he wanted to camp someplace in particular with his patrol for his/her Birthday. They make a plan (line up adult chaperons, transportation, food, candles, etc …), would it count as an activity?

Conducted under the auspices of the BSA, meaning 2 minimum registered adult leaders, complying with BSA regulations, approved by the chartering org or their designee (e.g. scoutmaster) as a unit or part-time activity, etc? I’d say it would qualify as a patrol activity most likely. Troop activity, probably not unless multiple patrols are invited to participate. However, if it’s just organized as a group of friends, without approval as an activity by the chartering org or its designee, even if all of those friends and their adult chaperones are registered in the BSA, it’s not a scouting activity.

Is there a reason we’re looking at boundary cases? Are we trying to define an algorithm for identifying what is and isn’t a scouting activity?

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I submit for your consideration the American Cultures merit badge requirement #1 (a, c, and d):

a. Go to a festival, celebration, or other event identified with one of the groups. Report on what you see and learn.

c. Talk with a person from one of the groups about the heritage and traditions of the group. Report on what you learn.

d. Learn a song, dance, poem, or story which is traditional to one group, and teach it to a group of your friends.

Just “going to the event” ? probably not. Working on the merit badge as a troop activity? Sure, why not?

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I am not Jewish, but as a male, out of respect to Jewish traditions, when I am in uniform I wear my uniform hat instead of a scull-cap in a Jewish synagogue, “a house of God”.

I think we do want to move on to identify minimum conditions. I don’t feel we are looking for a checklist to program into Scoutbook … or some set of rules that someone from one side of the country could bludgeon a scouter with. I do think we want to let other scouters know what each of us finds key to defining an activity. Having already given my opinion for this “odd” case, I was fishing around for the things we’d look for in a specific case.

I focus on the plan with the working assumption that the SM is the CO’s designee. Our CO lets us cast a wide net as to types of activities. But, I suppose for some troops that approval wouldn’t be automatic. I like to see PL’s presenting plans. That’s a tall order for young PLs (their plans usually involve menus), but by age 13 they should have a good idea of what the SM considers to be a good plan – and, SMs should be paying attention to YPT and other safety mandates that should be in the plan.

So, if a well-planned birthday camp-out can be an approved patrol activity, we have the basis for what it may take to approve other birthday activities.

@PaulMcDonald, thanks for the pointer to American Cultures MB!

I’m all for getting the youth to develop their plans, and I believe we screen for safety, BSA regulations compliance (e.g. tenting arrangements, YPT, Climb on Safely for climbing events, etc), appropriateness (flag ceremony in uniform OK, political rally participation in uniform not OK), and practicality (e.g. Are we really going to Hawaii from California for a weekend trip?). Then, it’s off to “The scouts say they need W adults to drive and X adults to camp with them in location Y on date Z. Please see the attached trip info and contact Scout AA and ASM BB for questions.”

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I think I would be reluctant to consider it a troop activity unless it is a Jewish troop and it can be considered in earning the religious award for more of the troop members than just the celebrant.

I was thinking the opposite. I might be naive, but if it were a troop of Jewish boys, I’m thinking they may already be familiar with this celebration … not much to learn.

Regardless, it would be nice if the scouts could provide something as a group (a song? a skit?) to make a unique contribution from the troop.

I don’t see any reason they couldn’t coordinate a service project for such an event, that’s a good idea!

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That is a great idea. Not one I would have thought of. One I’ll keep in mind for thinking ‘out of box’. Similar to other times people come up with ideas that are not directly usable, but what can you take from it and use to get an idea for something new.

This is a lot like we do it. The boys pick the places and the activities and which month they’d like to do it. Then the parents get together with their calendars to make it happen. We’ve done it this way for the last 2 years and just did it for the upcoming year and it seems to be working well. It helps us make sure that we have enough adults to drive and camp. It also gives the SM a chance to review the activities planned to make sure we have the proper supervision and trained personnel attend, such as doing archery or climbing.

Duty to God does not require you to due your duty to only your method of belief. Learning about Judaism as a unit with the support of a member is Duty to God. I would definitely count it as a voluntary Troop activity.

Absolutely could be a troop activity. To say that the troop has to plan the activity is not a correct requirement. What if a troop wants to attend a program put on by a National forest ranger? The only organizing is rides. What a great opportunity for the troop to see a ceremony. I agree with the people who talked about Citizenship in the World or Duty to God or American Cultures. If the troop is primarily Jewish, it still cold be a duty to God ceremony. If Scout Sunday in February counts as a troop event, then a bar mitzvah should also count.

I would not consider this a Troop Activity. When my son had his Bar Mitzvah, we invited the whole troop and it’s leaders. One thing to consider, is that there is no alcohol permitted at Troop events. The Bar Mitzvah is different from a Scout Sabbath event.

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@SherriLondon, I understand where you’re coming from. I know that I probably would not like the thought of a scout checking off a requirement because of the graduation parties I had for my boys. The troop was invited. On the other hand, we had the parties right after their Eagle courts of honor, and nearly every scout who came to the party also went there. I don’t think any young scout logged that as two separate activities.

But a Bar Mitzvah also not like any other birthday party. For my scouts it would be a unique cultural experience. The celebration itself is not a troop activity. But the process of learning about it and understanding your family’s heritage could be.

The alcohol is a minor issue that folks often blow out of proportion. I know this is not a great metaphor, but a patrol might attend scout night at a ball park where alcohol is served. It is still a patrol activity.

In general, this is why I believe a scout should log his/her own activities. And, the sign-off should be between the scout and his PL. More often than not, scouts have a good feel for when they did something as a troop/patrol versus when they did something as friends of someone in their troop/patrol.