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Philmont Christmas Present

I received a letter from Philmont - we got lucky and have reservations for 2 crews for the middle of June, 2008!!!! Now, that's a nice early Christmas present.

Now, over Christmas vacation, I'm sending an email to the Senior Patrol Leader so he can figure out what to say at his PLC meeting on Jan. 2. The patrol leaders should be excited to hear we got in. He'll need to announce the trip at our next troop meeting and tell everyone that a $50 deposit is required before Jan. 21st. He'll need to find two crew leaders to start working on the trip. It's still a long way off, but there is a lot of planning and prep to be done.

Over the past two years, the scouts have gotten quite good at planning campouts so I'm confident that a couple of them will do just fine handling Philmont. Since I've gone in 2005, I expect to guide them along as needed and ensure the essentials get covered, but it will definitely be their trek. I'll direct them to the older scouts that went in 2005 for advice and guidance and then fill in any holes that were missed.

We have two high-adventure backpacking trips to organize and execute in 2007 so those will be helpful for the Philmont crew leaders' learning.

Hey, maybe we'll see you at Philmont!
Scout On!
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Posted: 9:45 12-23-2006 109
Christmas - of course
Just a note to join the millions of Merry Christmas wishes on the Internet.

Our family will be spending the next week visiting relatives and dodging snow/rain flurries. We finally got our first snow of the year - of course it was just before we plan to hit the road. :-) But, at least we're not heading to Denver!

Peace to you and your family.

Scout On!
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Posted: 0:22 12-22-2006 108
Scouting Google Gadget
sample here

Just today, I read about Google Gadgets so I decided to see what I could do. These gadgets are little bits of code that allow a person to add interesting things to their web page. For example, a clock, a calendar, a random photo, weather, even a magic 8 ball.
I tried my hand (mostly just to learn about it) and made a random Square Knot award gadget. Anyone can embed it on a web page just like you see in the box to the right where it says 'sample here'. It's just a single line of javascript code so its awful simple to do.

If you refresh this page or right-click in the gadget and choose 'Refresh' you'll see a different knot.
I did notice that there may be nothing showing up if you have your browser security settings tight. If you refresh this page, then it might show up.

Scout On

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Posted: 20:01 12-18-2006 107
Storyteller Extraordinaire
I expect you've heard a great story while gathered around a campfire sometime in the past couple years. Maybe you thought, 'Wow, now THAT was a good story!'

I'll tell you, a good story doesn't just happen. The storyteller puts in some real effort to read, learn, and memorize the story well before casually telling it on a starlit evening as if it just came to him. A storyteller extraordinaire is a gift, a burden, and a curse.

Some people just don't seem to be able to tell a story. No matter how hard they try, it seems a line is forgotten or the sequence is mixed up. That person able to transport an audience to a different place just through his words has a gift. But, it is a gift that can be enhanced through effort. I sincerely believe that anyone can learn to tell at least a few good stories if they really try. The amount of effort needed varies from person to person.

The burden of telling stories is that the next one has to be better than the one you just told. Once you tell 'a good one', people will want to hear another. It's tough work keeping a small collection of good stories ready to tell. It's even harder to cycle in new ones each year to prevent stale stories. The work doesn't end for a storyteller.

When the campfire flames dwindle and the scouts start yawning and you chuckle at a few of the younger ones with their heads nodding around like a bobblehead doll, inevitably someone will pipe up with 'Hey, tell the one about ...!' And, then you're on the spot again to tell that same story you've told umpteen times before but they always like it - that's the curse of being a storyteller. You may be sick and tired of a story, but you still have to tell it again. In my case, there are two of these stories that the scouts which began in my Tiger den and are now in our troop want to hear - The Purple Gorilla and The Medicrin. It got so bad with the Medicrin that I made up The Med and Sin and The Medic Men just so I could have a variety. :-)

Even though being known as a storyteller can be an extra burden, the rewards far outweigh the burden! The most fun is when I hear someone request a story and a scout starts telling one of 'my' stories and the new guys just love it. And, so begins another generation of storytellers.

So, during these slow(?) times of winter, take some time and learn a handful of good stories for next summer. Always have a half dozen ready and you'll be able to fill in a slow campfire or cover for a scout that needs a bit more time to get a skit ready.

Scout On
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Posted: 23:50 12-17-2006 105
Troop Joining Questions
Around here, right after Christmas break is when Webelos families start deciding which troop to join. Most cross-overs occur in February at Blue-Gold dinners with a few Packs crossing in March.
Before a Cub Scout family decides on a troop, they really should investigate all their options. After all, this will hopefully be a group they will be associated with for at least 7 years. Some towns have a single Boy Scout troop, while others have a handful to choose between.
I've got a set of questions and some prefered answers at Joining Questions that will help get your mind thinking in the right direction. Every troop has a different personality and each scout will want to join one or another for his own reasons. It's important that the family consider the values of each troop decide on which one will be a best fit for the individual scout's enjoyment, advancement, and accomplishment.

Scout On
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Posted: 8:14 12-15-2006 104
Scoutmaster Conference Help
I've found that some scouts (ok, just about all scouts) don't prepare for a scoutmaster conference without prompting. When I ask what they've learned in the past 6 months, or what good turns they've done, or how they've demonstrated Scout Spirit, more often than not I get a blank stare.

To make scoutmaster conferences more interesting and valuable, I've put together this Scoutmaster Conference Preparation Sheet. A scout can print this out and complete it before his conference to help him have answers in his head for those questions that the scoutmaster will ask.

If the scoutmaster has scouts turn these in to him, he can keep a history of the scout's thoughts and see how his ideals evolve.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:25 12-14-2006 103
Winter Camping
I've heard that some troops don't camp in the winter. I've also seen posts on the 'net from troops down south exclaiming that they got a patch for camping outside when the temperature dropped below freezing.

Now, up here in Minnesota we don't usually make a big deal about cold weather, but I admit that we also have awards for cold weather camping.
At Northern Tier you can earn a patch for sleeping outside as a participant in their Okpik (snoy owl) program when it gets below 0F degrees.
The Northern Tier program is excellent, with dogsledding, snow shelters, snowshoe hikes, and everything you'd expect in deep winter.

Many councils have their own cold weather camping award and the requirements range widely, depending on the locale.
For example, in Minnesota, there is the Zero Hero patch from Viking Council (now Northern Star Council) which you can receive for camping out in sub-Zero fahrenheit temperatures.
Like most council awards, this one is awarded on the honor system and sometimes its awful hard to show scouts that the thermometer says 3 degrees. :-)

Philmont has a cold weather camping program also. Philmont is the only BSA National High Adventure Base where you might experience 'winter camping' year-round - due to their altitude. Kind of strange, considering most scouts think of it as a hot, summer camping location.
The Philmont winter camping program is called Kanik (snow flake) and they teach a lot of useful cold weather camping skills.

So, don't let the cold weather stop you from camping. Enjoy the snow, if you have it. Experience freezing waterjugs, frosty grass, or cold rain if that's all that mother nature sends your way. Whatever you do, do it safely and it can be fun. There is an excellent book available through your local scout shop that is the BSA guide for winter camping. It is titled, 'Okpik: Cold Weather Camping' and currently costs $10.
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Posted: 18:42 12-12-2006 102
Webelos Transition Help
I've been talking with the Webelos den leaders and Cubmasters of the three packs our troop usually pulls Webelos from. It looks like maybe half the Webelos will be continuing on to Boy Scouts. This year, I put in what I feel was a very big effort to make sure all Webelos, parents, and den leaders were aware of our troop, our meeting and recruiting dates, and that we are ready to help them transition. This included email, personal visits, and postcards.

We're doing all 12 points listed on Webelos Transition Tips but we are only half the solution. It is so important for Webelos den leaders to see their program as a stepping stone to Boy Scouts rather than a finish line for Cub Scouts.

We'll know for sure in March if our efforts made a difference, but I'm already preparing to meet with the Cubmasters in May to discuss how we can improve the Webelos Transition. I believe the most important thing to do is bring the den leaders to the stepping stone mind set.

Scout On
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Posted: 12:11 12-04-2006 99
Silly Online Game
Have you heard of LineRider? One of my sons heard about it from friends at school today. Tonight, they wasted about 90 minutes creating runs with it. Take a look at it Here. There is a site dedicated to it at

If your scouts are into computers, games, graphics, flash, ... then maybe a patrol competition to create the most interesting run would be fun for them. I prefer to stay away from electronics and the like when it comes to scouting, but imagination, creativity, and team construction can happen with this.

It's amazing how something so simple can be such fun to play with.

Scout On
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Posted: 0:23 12-02-2006 98
Google Scouting Logo
I'm sure you've noticed that Google often has special graphics in their site banner for various holidays and dates. Take a loog at them HERE - they're pretty cool.

Anyway, there is a petition to get Google to recognize Robert Baden-Powell's birthday with a custom graphic. If you'd like to sign the petition, go to and add your name. Or, just take a look at all the countries represented in the signatures. There's over 44,000 as of today, and another handful signed while I was writing this message to you. :-)

Scout On
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Posted: 9:10 11-28-2006 97
Eagle Characteristics
These are my thoughts on advancements after reaching First Class that I share with scouts in our troop.

So no one is surprised at what I expect from scouts advancing through the Star, Life, and Eagle ranks, I have made a list of Eagle Characteristics. These are qualities of character that I believe indicate a scout is closing in on the Eagle rank:

Advancing from Star to Life to Eagle ranks is not as simple as completing some merit badges, tracking a few hours at a service project, and holding a troop leadership position.

The written requirements for these ranks are purposefully vague in your Scout Handbook. For example, 'Be active', 'Demonstrate Scout spirit', and 'Serve actively' are difficult to quantify, as opposed to 'Earn 6 merit badges' which is obviously completed or not.

As Scoutmaster, I need to evaluate your growth towards the ideals of scouting. I look at how you have grown in your years with the troop and mostly how you have demonstrated scout spirit in the troop. In your scoutmaster conference, I let you know if you have demonstrated what I feel are the required characteristics of a scout your rank or if you need to demonstrate more growth in specific areas. When I sign off for your scoutmaster conference in your handbook, you then need to go through the same thing again with your Board of Review. Those adults involved in the troop are also monitoring your progress and considering your readiness to advance.

Our goals are not to prevent a scout from advancing. Nor do we want to surprise any scout that expects to advance in rank. That is why I have constantly requested that all scouts talk with me at least every 6 months that is at least, which means more often is even better. I want you to know where you stand in my eyes at all times.

If you are not involved in many troop activities and you do not chat with me, then my efforts are spent on those scouts that are obviously active and involved. You choose how much effort you want to put into scouting and advancement and you receive back a proportionate share.

How do YOU demonstrate trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent?

Scout On!
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Posted: 10:19 11-17-2006 96
Change of Pace
Tonight, I get to go on a weekend retreat with the youth from our church rather than with Scouts. It's a nice change from tents to bunkbeds with real mattresses, but it also lets me see what kids outside of scouting are like.
I don't know if the scouts get better because of the Scout program or if the type of boys that join scouts are just 'good', but I see a noticable difference in the levels of self-control, leadership, empathy, and looking out for other people between scouts and non-scouts. This is in a church group where I'd also expect to see these qualities in the boys. I suppose its even more pronounced in a place like school or the mall where all types of kids can be found.

Of course, there are superstars and oddballs in any group, but in general I'm very pleased by what I see in the scouts - both those in our troop and other troops that attend our church.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:03 11-10-2006 95
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