More than half of all new Scouts drop out during their first year in a troop! Our Adventure Weekend helps new Scouts (& parents) get off to a solid start. It develops enthusiasm among new Scouts and their parents, and it helps them understand many of the mysteries of Boy Scouting (it also helps teach parents about the significant differences between Cub Scouting/Webelos and Boy Scouting).
We expect all new Scouts to go to summer camp their first year in the troop. We tell them (and their parents) that summer camp doesn't end our activity year—it begins it. And our new Scouts get to start summer camp one day earlier than the other Scouts. With permission from the summer camp, we move into our summer camp campsite a day early, on Saturday (as soon as the previous week's troop has departed). For the next 24 hours, our Troop Guide and other older Scouts working for him will teach the new Scouts how advancement works, teach them basic Scouting skills, help them earn Tenderfoot or Second Class (occasionally some are ready for First Class). We have adults to assist the Scouts as needed, to offer Scoutmaster Conferences, and to conduct Boards of Review.
We also take the new Scouts on a camp tour. This not only shows them where things are, but also makes them the experts on camp locations and new activities. New Scouts will cook as a patrol, camp as a patrol, learn about the mysteries of Scout advancement (how it works, who to contact, about Scoutmaster Conferences and Boards of Review).
The Adventure Weekend agenda is planned by the Troop Guide in consultation with the Scoutmaster or the Assistant Scoutmaster responsible for advising the Troop Guide. The weekend is run by the Scouts, with many adults around to provide assistance when called on, conferences, and reviews. We "expect" at least one parent of each new Scout to attend (and most do). That way, they also learn many of the mysteries of Scout advancement, Scout patrol camping, and what their new role is. Remember, most of these new Scouts and their parents came out of Cub Scouts, where adults do everything, so Boy Scouting is a dramatic change most are unprepared for!
By the Adventure Weekend, many of the new Scouts who joined in winter are already Tenderfoot or Second Class, while those who joined in late spring may not have earned Tenderfoot yet. So we must be prepared to teach the skills related to all three basic ranks (Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class). That takes quite a few older Scouts and a number of adults (we typically will have about one older Scout for each new Scout).
New Scout Patrols
We place all our new Scouts in a special New Scout Patrol, led by an experienced senior Scout called the Troop Guide. We also assign an adult Assistant Scoutmaster to work with the Troop Guide as an advisor. Most boys join the troop in the winter and spring, and will remain in the New Scout Patrol until summer camp. At most troop meetings, the Troop Guide plans a program for his new Scouts separate from the regular troop meeting program. Mostly, they will work on basic Scout skills, and work toward Tenderfoot rank. On campouts, the New Scout Patrol camps like any other patrol, with the Troop Guide teaching them the basic skills. Although some things may be taught by an adult, most teaching is done by the Troop Guide and by other senior Scouts he may ask to help out.
By summer camp, most new Scouts have been in the troop for a few months and have been on a couple of weekend campouts. They may (should) have made new friends, and are getting to know enough about the other Scouts in the troop to know who they most like to do things with. So during summer camp, the New Scout Patrol disappears. Our new Scouts have two choices: they can choose to join one of the regular patrols already in existence, or they can get together with a number of other Scouts and organize a new patrol. In this case, they need to find a qualified First Class (or higher) Scout to be their patrol leader (we don't allow a Scout to be a patrol leader until he has been a Scout for at least a year—if he tries it sooner, he is likely to find this challenging job is just plain miserable).
At the Adventure Weekend which begins summer camp in our troop, the new Scouts are still new. By the end of summer camp they are Tenderfoot, Second Class, occasionally even First Class Scouts, but they are no longer new.
Troop Guides & Senior Troop Guide
The Troop Guide is a standard BSA position. He is an experienced older Scout who volunteers to work with new Scouts to help them get started. In our troop, the Troop Guide must be at least Star rank, and must have been a patrol leader of a regular patrol. This is a vitally important job, to get our new Scouts started right (remember, nationally, more than half of all new Scouts drop out their first year; in our troop, we have found that if we can keep a new Scout for the first year, he will stay an average of about four years, which is more than double the national average).
Most years, we have enough new Scouts to organize two (or sometimes three) new Scout patrols. Each has separate activities led by a Troop Guide (who usually has another older Scout as his assistant Troop Guide). The overall program for our new Scouts is coordinated by a senior Scout we call the senior Troop Guide (he is actually an Assistant Senior Patrol Leader with responsibility for the overall new Scout program). His job is to make sure the Troop Guides do their job, and to coordinate and evaluate the overall program for our new Scouts, including planning and leading our Adventure Weekend for new Scouts. The senior Troop Guide typically provides overall leadership for 12 to 18 new Scouts and 4 to 6 other senior Scouts who function in Troop Guide and Instructor roles. More often than not, the senior Troop Guide goes on to become our Senior Patrol Leader, and his experience with the program for new Scouts has prepared him well to lead the entire troop.