Scout BSA Troop 159 Holds Meeting Online While In-Person Events Are Cancelled

The+scouts+of+Troop+159+at+the+semi-annual+Court+of+Honor.+Photo+courtesy+of+Christopher+Perkins.

Photo By Christopher Perkins

The scouts of Troop 159 at the semi-annual Court of Honor. Photo courtesy of Christopher Perkins.

By Jake Schlanger, Reporter

As COVID-19 cases first began to appear in the Austin area, the local Scouts BSA council decided to cancel all in-person events from Monday, Mar. 16 to Monday, April 6. Despite this cancellation, the youth and adult leadership of Troop 159 decided to plow ahead and hold the troop’s first completely virtual Monday night meeting. 

“Scouting is a big part of the lives of the youth in our troop,” Assistant Scoutmaster Robert Sartin said. “Scouts get a lot of benefit from being able to work on scouting skills, continue rank advancement, and perhaps above all else have social interactions with each other, [which is why we decided to go ahead with the online meeting].”

The effort to plan the virtual meeting began when Assistant Scoutmaster Robert Sartin sent an email to the troop’s youth leadership on Friday, Mar. 30. The email was sent to Senior Patrol Leader Ryan Perkins ‘23, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader Jacob Sartin ‘22, and Troop Guide Jake Schlanger ‘21 and explained the potential of holding troop meetings online with the teleconference service Zoom.

My first idea was about finding ways to make online merit badges available using technology like Zoom meetings,” Mr. Sartin said. “Based on emails from other adults in the troop and experiences at my church and work [using teleconference technology], I pretty quickly shifted the first priority to holding an online troop meeting.”

After Mr. Sartin sent out the email, youth leadership quickly took command. The decision was made to modify the original meeting plan so that it would be possible to effectively conduct the meeting online. Through email, it was decided that there would be a planning meeting scheduled for Saturday, Mar. 21 so that the meeting could be planned in more detail.

The things I wanted to plan at our Saturday meeting was what our meeting was going to look like,” Perkins ‘23 said. “Obtaining a full plan and schedule so the meeting went as planned, making sure all leadership involved in the meeting knew what to expect, and I knew that they were on task [were all priorities].”

It was decided that the meeting would begin with a lesson on the Cyber Chip, which is mandated for all online activities. Scouts are required to renew it every year, which added to the need to address it as the troop moves to online meetings.

“I wanted to make sure people understand the basics of internet safety,” Sartin said. “Things like how to make a good password or knowing who to interact with [online] are both crucial for skills to learn for someone who is new to the internet. We are dealing with a lot of people who need to do more with the internet than they are used to.”

The troop would then break out into three different workshops aimed at first-year scouts, intermediate level scouts, and senior scouts. The first break out session was lead by Daniel Goolsbey ‘24 and taught basic scout skills. The second break out session was lead by Schlanger and aimed to sign off any requirements that scouts needed to complete. Finally, Sartin led the third workshop which offered older scouts the opportunity to discuss what merit badges they wanted to work on.

During the breakout meeting, I just wanted to give a chance for anyone to ask questions about merit badges they are working on,” Sartin said. “Many people rely on [our] weekly meetings to work on that, so I wanted to make sure they still had the opportunities that they are used to.”

Overall, Troop 159 leadership said that the meeting went well. They expect that this meeting format will continue to be used in the future to ensure that the regularly scheduled meetings can be held as the City of Austin implements a stay at home order for all residents. The troop’s next meeting is currently scheduled for Monday, Mar. 30.