Sure, I’m a Scouter, but first I’m a nerd. Two of my favorite things are Tolkien and organization, which alone should paint a fairly accurate picture of who it is that’s advising you right now.
Do you remember being a kid and getting brand new school supplies? It was exhilarating and took the edge off of saying goodbye to summer. I’m fairly certain I referred to my very first Trapper Keeper as “My Precious”, it was that important. Some of us outgrew that excitement, then there are people like me who compartmentalize their life into perfectly organized binders.
My theory is that every big adventure requires at least a little planning. Gandalf didn’t just show up and push Bilbo out the door toward the Lonely Mountain. He showed up, Bilbo made snacks, and sat down with Thorin, Fili, Kili, Dwalin… you get it… and developed a plan.
Everyone was given a role in their great adventure and off they went, making no mistakes. Wait! Perhaps if they’d had an organized food plan in a binder somewhere, they wouldn’t have gotten low on food in the Mirkwood and strayed off the path and into the webs of hungry spiders. Worst case scenario, yes, and certainly one that could happen to a den leader with the best intentions, but you get the point.
BP told us to “Be Prepared.” When you join a leadership team, you need to invest some time in preparing for keeping your den or pack on track and ensuring that the Scouts in your care are accounted for and credited appropriately. ScoutBook is, of course, an excellent tool for staying on top of things, but nothing beats a paper copy when you’re in the field. This will be my fifth year with the same binder and dividers, and I suggest you make your own. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A three-ring binder, impervious to destruction, like this Wilson Jones Flex Poly Binder (I’ve always received neon green, but note there’s a chance that a pink binder will arrive in your order. These can be purchased at your local office supply store with your own choice of color.)
- Snap-in dividers like these Avery Snap-In Plastic Bookmark Dividers
- A poly binder envelope with snap closure for holding your pens, small papers, trail maps, and other loose items
- An Amazon Basics Thermal Laminator and Laminating Sheets
Your Binder Sections: 1 Attendance & Plans
First things first, you’ll want to make sure you’re taking attendance and that the materials you prepared for your upcoming meetings are easily at hand. Your first section should be Attendance & Plans. I created much of my binder materials on my own to best suit my group, but you’re welcome to use and edit them how you see fit.
Print a Den Attendance Sheet and customize it with your own Scout names. (This one is set-up to best suit Webelos / AOL dens or dens that are a little bit larger than the normal 6-12 Scouts and includes spaces for 3 separate patrols and their individual adult leaders or the parents who are stepping up to guide them.)
Next, add in your Den Plans. I created a fillable Den Month Planning Worksheet that I’ve used for years to plan out my month in advance. These worksheets have been a life-saver, especially if I’ve had to pass on leadership duties to an assistant den leader at the last minute.
Your Binder Sections: 2 Meeting Materials
Sometimes I’ll create an abbreviated version of each Scouting adventure that I then print and hand out to my Scouts or keep for myself as a guide. This “Arrow of Light: Outdoorsman Adventure” is the perfect example! The Meeting Materials section is great for reference items you might need for a future meeting, like trail maps, recipes, skits, or game rules. It can also be home to a running list of great ideas you come up with on the fly!
This is also where I keep my adventure-specific materials that I’ve laminated and will be using in the outdoors. We’re talking First Responder First Aid Cards, Snake Safety, maps, and more. Anything that you will be carrying around in your hiking pack goes here!
Your Binder Sections: 3 Patrols / Chiefs / Denners
It doesn’t matter if your Scouting unit is large or small, it can use all the volunteers it can get. Reach out to your sister Troop or another nearby and request Den Chiefs, middle and high school-aged Scouts who fill leadership roles within your Pack. You can also have your Scouts elect Denners to teach them about leadership and responsibility. Packs with large dens should consider instituting a scaled back patrol method that prepares young Scouts for moving up into a Troop. This section should include your Den Chief Plan, a Denner Pledge, and a breakdown of your patrols and their leadership.
Your Binder Sections: 4 Awards
Let’s face it, once a Scout receives that very first belt loop, they’re hooked and so are you. Most leaders vow to bridge their Scouts into a Troop looking like chandeliers! Well, that means you’re tracking an awful lot of Awards as you go. Avery Ultra-Tabs are perfect for keeping these awards organized, and are sturdy enough to stand up to years of flipping and thumbing.
Here are a few you’ll want in your binder:
- SCOUTStrong Healthy Unit Award
- World Conservation Award
- Outdoor Activity Award
- International Spirit Award
- Shooting Sports Awards
- Emergency Preparedness Award
- National Den Award
Your Binder Sections: 5 Archives
Ah yes, the Archives! Between Cub and Boy Scouts, I’ve found that membership cards and merit badge blue cards are best stored in plastic baseball card protector sheets. This is where I keep Whittling Chips, Cyber Chips, and business cards. It’s also where I store camp registration receipts, and any award certificates the family has received.
Actually, it’s just begun, but at least this part is complete!
Do you have any additions or changes you’d make to your binder? Did I help you out in any way? I’d love to hear all about it. Don’t forget to like, follow, and share Look Wider Still!
Yours in Scouting,
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