Ceremonies create pure magic!
Ceremonies provide an exclamation point, elevating an event from fun to fantastic. They can recognize effort, highlight accomplishments, and say ‘thank you’ in memorable ways. A ceremony reaches the individual through the senses. They are a signal to the audience that something significant is happening.
When designing a ceremony, first consider the setting by answering the following basic questions:
- Is there enough room for everyone?
- Can the entire audience see and hear?
- Will the chosen setting convey the mood appropriate for the ceremony being delivered?
- Is there a clear path to the stage?
Once the setting has been determined, decide what the audience should see. Is there a display? Think how engaging it would be for a young man to receive an award that was attached to an arrow suspended from a tree branch, or presented by an Order of the Arrow member in full regalia.
Next, consider what you want the audience to hear. Most ceremonies include speaking parts. If youth are expected to speak, is a microphone available? Don’t be afraid to alter the words of ceremonies to increase the comfort level of the Scout. Consider adding a drum beat or music in the background. Background music should enhance, not distract from, the mood.
Most importantly, consider how the audience will participate. For flag ceremonies, every age Scout can assist in the presentation of colors. Have commands written on cue cards. For flag retirements, even the youngest Scouts can carry flags to the fire ring and provide a final salute.
Here are some ideas on making awards ceremonies ‘participatory’:
- Have Scouts sharesomething they learned while earning the award. This should be rehearsed!
- Have Scouts recite the Scout oath, law, motto, or Outdoor Codeas a den.
- Provide Scouts with a verbal challenge. For example, have the Scouts affirm “___________ (scout’s name) is trustworthy”, or ask “Do you pledge to be clean in your outdoor manner?”
- Create an archway of neckerchiefs held up to walk under as the award is accepted.
- Have a ladder or some symbol of succession that boys can move a marker from a lower rank to a higher rank to indicate personal achievement. See examples in the Ceremonies and How To
- Create Den Spirit Awards to be attached to the den flag. For example, grommets retrieved from the fire ring following a flag retirement can be attached to the flags of participating dens. A musical note cut from fun foam could be presented to the den who led a song.
- Create a specific entrance, and have a password to enter for the adventure to begin.
- Create an event yell based on the theme.
- Introduce a den by asking for their den yell.
Ceremonies should be planned in detail. While veteran Scouters may prefer not to use one, a written script is handy for conveying general directions. Scripts are especially handy when someone must fill in at the last minute! Here is a quick checklist for advancement ceremonies:
- Communicate all details of location, time, and purpose to all interested parties.
- Generate the required advancement reports so that the intended awards can be purchased and prepared for presentation.
- Make sure all props are assembled and delivered to the location, and all actors/costumes are informed/accounted for.
- Plan ahead for required lighting and sound.
- Practice, practice, practice!
Summary – Picture the end result, sweat the details, and practice. Think in layers; appeal to all of the senses. The more attention to detail, the greater the impact.