Old Lone Scouting BSA shoulder patch emblem

Scoutmaster Conferences and Boards of Review while a Lone Scout

Content added by Mike Walton

Image of Eagle Scout medal

Eagle Scout medal

The immediate reference to this discussion is found within the BSA's Guide to Advancement (GOA). This is a free, downloadable and updated document from the BSA (the link to the full document is below and also on the References page). Specific references will be marked here with "GOA -" for instance. While the information there appear to be sparce in regard to specifics dealing with Lone Scouting, this page was created to ampify specifics to how Lone Scouts and their Friend and Counselors, as well as others, work the details with regard to the Scoutmaster's Conference and Boards of Review for each Scout rank. Please use the link below to ask specific questions here; if we cannot answer your questions, they will be forwarded to the BSA's Lone Scouting Commissioner Support Team and BSA's National Advancement Team for resolution. The "bottom line" is that, with some minor tweaks to account for the differences between being a member of a Troop and Patrol and being a Lone Scout, the requirements ARE THE SAME and are intended TO BE MET AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE. )

Important to the Scout advancement system are two elements: a formalized discussion with each Scout at least seven times (before earning Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle) between the Scoutmaster of the Troop (or the Venturing Crew Advisor or Sea Scout Ship Skipper) and a Scout. This discussion is conducted in a semi-private manner, with at least one other adult visually observing the discussion to conform with the BSA's youth protection policies; and done one Scout at a time, to provide that Scout to freely discuss matters of his or her progress as a Scout.

How do we do this for Lone Scouts? The same exact manner.

The Scoutmaster's Conference is designed to allow the Scout to explain and discuss his or her progress toward a specific rank, issues or problems with getting there, and things they discovered in earning the rank. These can be great things, good things, bad things or issues of concern which the Scoutmaster (in Lone Scouting parlance, the Friend and Counselor) should be made aware of.

This is NOT a "graded event" but a CONFERENCE. Many Scoutmasters take notes during this conference period so that they can refer back to them later or remind Scouts of tasks that they agreed to do in meeting the next rank. There is nothing preventing a Conference to be held early on in the advancement step.

Keep in mind, however, that this is a REQUIREMENT. You must hold a conference prior to the Scout participating in a Board of Review for that rank.

What do you talk about? How long should it last? Do you have to talk about "Scout Stuff" for the entire time? What topics do you two NOT talk about -- and why? The Guide to Advancement talks about all of those things -- in detail (GOA
"The conference is not a retest of the requirements upon which a Scout has been signed off. It is a forum for discussing topics such as ambitions, life purpose, and goals for future achievement, for counseling, and also for obtaining feedback on the unit’s program. In some cases, work left to be completed—and perhaps why it has not been completed—may be discussed just as easily as that which is finished. Ultimately, conference timing is up to the unit. Some leaders hold more than one along the way, and the Scout must be allowed to count any of them toward the requirement. Scoutmaster conferences are meant to be face-to-face, personal experiences. They relate not only to the Scouting method of advancement, but also to that of adult association. Scoutmaster conferences should be held with a level of privacy acceptable under the BSA’s rules regarding Youth Protection. Parents or guardians and other Scouts within hearing range of the conversation may influence the Scout’s participation. For this reason, the conferences should not be held in an online setting. Unit leaders do not have the authority to deny a Scout a conference that is necessary for him to meet the requirements for his rank."

A Board of Review is conducted as the last step of each rank prior to it being approved and awarded. It too is NOT A RETEST or EXAMINATION of the Scout's progress. In the traditional Troop, Crew or Ship setting, members of the Scout's unit Committee, along with representation from the local BSA Council and for Eagle, representation from the community or chartered partner organization, assemble to hold a discussion with the Scout as to his or her progress toward a specific rank. Like the Scoutmaster Conferences, there are seven of these Boards of Review: one conducted before the Scout is approved for Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life; and before the Scout is recommended for the Eagle Scout rank to be conferred (Eagle requires National approval and in Lone Scout cases, must be approved by the local Council Scout Executive AND the Director of Scout Advancement at the National Center).

A Board of Review should be coordinated by the Friend and Counselor at least two weeks before the date of the Board, to give everyone involved the opportunity to clear their calendars and to participate without "rushing through this". For adults, it's another meeting with your son or daughter. To them, however, this is a significant gate toward their advancement to First Class and later to Eagle. The FRIEND AND COUNSELOR DOES NOT SERVE ON THE BOARD OF REVIEW, no can family members (spouses, partners, mates, adult brothers or sisters or other relatives) serve as Board of Review members. The intent is for the Scout to discuss his or her progress with adults outside his or her normal "circle of influnce".

A Board of Review should run between ten and twenty minutes for the first three ranks; between 15 and 30 minutes for Star and Life; and should not run more than 45 minutes for Eagle. There really is not much to discuss with regard to the first three ranks, as much of it centers upon the Scout's understanding of the importance of the outdoor elements in Scouting, and his or her knowledge of the principles of Scouting and their application of those principles into their daily lives. The Boards of Review for Star and Life adds their experiences during summer camps or other extended outdoor programs, their relationship to community and family living, and the experiences in earning merit badges and other awards and personal recognitions during the period. The Eagle Board of Review adds their experiences as a leader, in and outside of Scouting, alogn with the presentation and discusison of their Eagle Scout leadership/service project and the lessons learned and missed during their execution of their project.

In all of this there is NO "PASS OR FAIL". One does NOT "fail" a Board of Review. The requirement states to PARTICIPATE in a Board of Review. Approval or recommendation for the next rank does NOT stand upon whether a Scout "answers the questions correctly for everyone" since there are no set questions to evaluate upon. Nor does it stand upon whether the Scout exercises what parents would call "common sense" in the selection of merit badges or leadership roles that the Scout participates in (in a Troop, Crew or Ship, one is elected or appointed to serve in a leadership role; as a Lone Scout, one may have to go out and FIND a leadership role to serve within and that role may be as an assistant to a leader or as a "worker bee" within a project or team.) Those constraints, as well as the location of the leadership role or the lack of official merit badge counselors because of where the Scout is living or working works into the discussion during the Board of Review and helps make the determination that the Scout met the "standard".

In a Troop, a subset of the Troop's Committee serve as members of the Board of Review for Scouts in their Troop. Where does Lone Scouts get their "Committee" from? Several sources have been used and are recommended:

  • NEIGHBORS. The people around your community and in particular, your adult neighbors who know of your son or daughter, serve as great "Committee" members, especially if they are former or present volunteer or professional Scouters.

  • Your UNIT COMMISSIONER, EXECUTIVE or EXECUTIVE TEAM MEMBER. These are people who know aspects of Scouting and are willing to assist you and your son in carrying out this vital part of the advancement trail.

  • SCHOOL, CHURCH OR CIVIC MEMBERS. Member of Rotary? VFW? Church or Synagogue? Does he have a favorite teacher? All of these people are ideal to serve as members of a Board of Review for a Scout rank.

  • CO-WORKERS. They know you, but may not know your Scout son or daughter. Give them the opportunity to do so.

  • If they agree on doing this, if they are not registered with the Boy Scouts of America in some role, they MUST BE. This is done by them completing a volunteer application and using the codes for a non-paying role. They must also complete the Youth Protection training prior to participating, which is also free. These important gates must be closed out and completed BEFORE the Board of Review (this is also why I stated that you need to hold your son or daughter's Board of Review at least two weeks out...to allow you to identify people and get the paperwork done. Naturally, if they are already BSA volunteers in any role or are employed by the BSA, there is no additional registration needed).