‘Becoming a Jedi in Scouting’ Leadership Course: An Interview with Scoutmaster Tim Hodges

Scoutmaster Tim Hodges selected the course theme ‘Becoming a Jedi in Scouting’, complete with PVC lightsaber building, for a National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT) event in 2016. The national course for Scouts, which accepts up to 48 participant Scouts as young as 13, hones leadership skills including: planning, goal setting, team-building, problem solving, etc.

The six-day course is conducted in a camping environment. Scouts are assigned a Patrol (team) with a designated Patrol color during their stay. (Incidentally, the lightsaber blade colors in the photo were determined by the Scout’s Patrol color, and NOT a light side or dark side proclivity). Previous NYLT themes have included: King Arthur, Top Gun and Avengers.

SaberSourcing interviewed Tim Hodges about his fun, ‘Becoming a Jedi in Scouting’ course theme.

How did you decide to select the course theme ‘Becoming a Jedi In Scouting’?
A good friend and I both love Star Wars, and my favorite character is Obi-wan Kenobi. So, it was a natural that I picked a Star Wars theme.

Can you describe the process behind designing the course?
The Scouter adults and the course Senior Patrol Leader (a Scout, not an adult) attend a Course Development meeting run by BSA National and learn about how the course is conducted. The course syllabus, PowerPoints, videos, etc. are provided by the BSA and the course is a one-week presentation with a mix of lectures and activities. All of these are designed to teach leadership and group dynamics to Scouts in the 13+ age range.

They have videos on a range of topics like how to speak to groups, and how to develop goals. One of my favorites is the video of JFK talking about the plans to go to the Moon. “We chose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Another is a section from MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Both emphasize that even big goals can happen with vision, planning, dedication and teamwork. Not every goal will be simple, and every team will have to overcome adversity. This can then be applied to something as simple as planning a campout, or something more complex like a Troop experience at Philmont, or an Eagle project.

How does ‘Becoming a Jedi In Scouting’ compare to other National Youth Leadership courses that you or others have created?
I’m not sure, other than to say we have fun with our theme! We decorate the lecture hall with whatever theme we pick to make it not so dull like a boring school classroom. My year we put a large plastic “star field” (https://www.partycity.com/starry-night-room-roll-151959.html) along the wall behind the projector screen and put some Star Wars “stick on” ships like the Millennium Falcon and Luke’s X-wing on that. I had a couple of those life-size cardboard standups of Chewbacca and Obi-wan that we put in the corners, and a mechanical Yoda with a lightsaber that was on the table with the computer and projector we use for PowerPoints.

How did building and using lightsabers fit into the larger theme of ‘Becoming a Jedi In Scouting’?
We have fun activities in the evenings that emphasize group cohesion and team functions. When my friend did his King Arthur theme, the Scouts made plastic swords one night and the idea was that they were Knights in Scouting. I completely stole that idea and said to myself “we are making lightsabers on my course”! So, another friend and I experimented with ways to make them inexpensively. We couldn’t come up with a way to make them light up without a lot of cost, so we settled on lightsaber blades made of PVC and painted in the Patrol colors.

How did the scouts react when they learned they would be building lightsabers?
It was an instant hit. They loved doing it. After they were all done, we went out to a campfire and the staff talked about their experiences in Scouting and how important the NYLT experience has been in improving their Troops and their personal Scouting experience. We had the Scouts hold up their lightsabers and recite the Scout Oath and Law at the end. It was really fun.

What materials did the scouts use to construct the lightsabers?
The blades are just PVC pipes painted in the patrol colors. The handles are a chrome plastic replacement drain for bathroom sinks from Home Depot; they were kind enough to donate those. The Scouts then decorated each one with colored tape, and when they finished that they put them together with nuts and bolts through holes we pre-drilled in the pipes and handles.

Can you describe some of the more interesting or unusual lightsaber designs?
They were all outstanding. It’s impressive what a group of inspired Scouts can do with colored tape and markers!

Did the scouts get to keep the lightsabers?
Yes. We wanted them to have a physical item to remember what they learned at the course, the fun and friendship they had, and their new responsibility to carry that knowledge back to their home Troops.

What’s your favorite Star Wars lightsaber and why?
Obi-Wan’s [Original Trilogy lightsaber] of course! He’s my favorite character!

What’s next for you?
Well, my son is an Eagle Scout, and he is 19 (almost 20) now, and he’s off at college, so his and my Scouting days are pretty much over at least for now. If I’m lucky, he will have a son or daughter someday that we can take to Scouting and start the process again!

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For more information on the Boy Scouts of America National Youth Leadership Training program, visit
https://www.scouting.org/programs/boy-scouts/resources/nylt/

“Becoming a Jedi in Scouting” Reddit Post by Tim Hodges
https://www.reddit.com/r/StarWars/comments/9g1c2q/i_was_scoutmaster_for_a_bsa_national_youth/

IMAGE CREDIT: Tim Hodges

Read more SaberSourcing Interviews
https://sabersourcing.com/category/interviews

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