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Stoves for Scouts
Hey, first of all, if you have some suggestions for something I should write about here, give a shout. Or, if you have a contrary viewpoint to something I've written, I'd like to hear it - I'm always learning new stuff and new ways to do things better.

Anyway, each patrol in our troop has a two-burner Coleman green propane campstove. They are sturdy and have worked well for years. The troop purchased two new ones two years ago and may need to get one more for the new scouts this spring. These stoves work, are easy to use, and have a big, flat cooking surface.

So, here's the debate I have going on with myself. Every campout, we consume a couple 'disposable' containers of propane. The $2.50 green metal bottles. I just hate seeing so many of these getting tossed away. The cost and the waste are frustrating to me. Also, the regulators that connect fuel canister to stove occasionally stop working and they are not adjustable so that is a $17.00 expense. What can we do instead?

Campfire Cooking - the adults often have dutch oven meals or other food cooked in coals instead of on our stove. The scouts ooh and aah, but don't often make their own meals that way. I think this is much more fun, but it takes planning and longer meal prep time. Most everywhere we camp for weekends allow campfires and are often on private property so there is little impact from other campers throughout the year. This means consuming firewood is not a problem.

Backpacking Stoves - this is what I'd like to promote more. They are smaller so less space in the patrol box is used up. The fuel is less expensive. The canister waste is eliminated. By using them on weekend campouts, scouts going on high adventure trips are already experts with them.

There is significant training needed for scouts to successfully and safely use these stoves. Filling, pressurizing, lighting, and balancing are the common problem areas. This would be a good opportunity for experienced scouts to teach beginners and for the new guys to get approval for their new skills when they master the stoves.

I'm planning on starting new scouts with the Coleman propane stoves and graduate them to the smaller stoves as they become experts. Ensuring scouts view it as an accomplishment to 'get to' use the smaller stoves is key.

The adults will also need to be trained and be responsible for managing the fuel storage as well as monitoring any filling or lighting of stoves.

I'm planning on providing each patrol with two stoves and a grill on which to balance pots. This will replace the large Colemans while keeping equivalent functionality.

I'm also going to design a card similar to the Totin Chip or Fireman Chit that scouts will earn when they demonstrate abilities with the stoves. Maybe the Chef Chit or Cooking Chit?

I'd like to hear what your troop does for cooking - stoves, fires, or microwaves?

Scout On
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Posted: 14:34 01-31-2007 123
New Webelos Super Achiever Patch
The Northern Star council has a new Webelos Super Achiever award patch for Webelos that complete all 20 activity badges. This award has been around a long time, but the council now has a new patch as shown.
It's ready just in time for this year's Webelos receiving it at their Blue Gold events.

Scout On
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Posted: 22:23 01-29-2007 122
Wavering Webelos
Last week, I got to visit a Webelos scout at his home. His mom had asked me to come by and chat about how Boy Scouts works and what the troop does.
Her son is very involved in music and other activities and they decided he needed to choose between continuing scouts or joining another music group. I think that's a healthy thing - choosing what you want rather than trying to cram everything into a boy's life. There's room for scouting and other things, but not everything.

When I was growing up in small towns, my choices were church youth group, sports, or playing with friends. There was room for all of it. But, now my kids get to choose between sports, music, theater, scouts, church, math club, and even more opportunities. There's no way to do it all, so choices do need to be made.

You scoutmasters should really make sure the cubmasters and Webelos den leaders in your area understand you are available to chat with their scouts about Boy Scouting. Go to a den meeting where they are comfortable and take a bunch of patches or mementos of troop outings. I show off sticks I've carved on our high adventure trips.
Next Friday, I get to visit with 3 Webelos that have not yet decided about Boy Scouts. I'm going to ask them to just try it for the summer and see what its like. Commit to going on 3 outings and then decide if they want to do summer camp or not. By then they either love it or are ready to drop it.

By the way, at church today, that musically inclined Webelos scout came up to me and said he's joinging the troop!

Scout On
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Posted: 22:55 01-28-2007 121
Global Warming Affects Scouting
We did not earn a Zero Hero patch on our winter camping outing last weekend. It's actually been three years now with temperatures that did not dip below Zero Fahrenheit which is required to earn the patch.
Maybe this global warming thing is true. I might need to ask the council to change the award requirements from Fahrenheit to Celsius. I guess that would help move us along to the metric system too.
Just today, I was outside with my 1st class scout son in just our t-shirts finally taking down the Christmas lights. It was almost 40 degrees, I think - downright balmy. If this keeps up, we'll be having mosquitos in March and snowplow drivers in the unemployment line. We already have ski areas around here hurting pretty bad.
Well, I don't know about you, but I'm hoping winter 07-08 sees massive snow storms and frigid temperatures. We still have a chance for some snow in the next two months, but it doesn't look promising to me. The PLC planned a troop meeting in February to be sledding, so we have our fingers crossed.

Scout On
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Posted: 0:09 01-27-2007 120
Kids Who Care
Kohl's wants to recognize Kids Who Care with monetary awards. There are winners chosen at individual stores, regions, and national. You can see the 2006 winners and nominate a kid before March 15 at Kids Who Care site.

Now I'm not saying scouts need to be rewarded for the good deeds they do, but if someone has done something noteworthy, this is a way to get more recognition for the need and say 'Thanks' to that scout.

Scout On
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Posted: 0:12 01-24-2007 119
Two Philmont Crews
Of the 18 scouts in our troop that signed the 'Interested in Going to Philmont' sheet in October, 16 have committed a $100 deposit to hold their spot. And, 2 additional scouts have signed up as well. I'm pleasantly surprised that so many are still in the game.

So, we are looking at having two crews of 9 scouts and 2 or 3 adults in June of 2008. We have 5 adults that have already said they want to go and it's just a matter of getting time off now.

Our troop decided to charge a $100 non-refundable deposit even though Philmont only requires $50. This is because a scout dropping out will increase the average cost per scout and the extra $50 will help a bit.

Now, our treasurer will be sending in a big check to Philmont and we're off and running! I am SO excited to have our first trek crew meeting and watch as the scouts figure out the two crews, identify crew leaders, and start on the long road of preparation just to get to Philmont. It's a long road, but an awful enjoyable one, I think.

The scouts will do just about all the planning, from choosing trek routes and program to making gear lists and deciding a training schedule. They will also decide if completion of certain merit badges, such as Hiking, Personal Fitness, and Backpacking will be required and whether crews will drive or fly to New Mexico.

If you're going to Philmont for your first time and have questions, just ask and I'd be happy to give you my two cents - for free. :-)

Scout On
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Posted: 23:34 01-23-2007 118
Snow Fun
When we arrived at our winter camping destination, I was sure we'd have quite a disappointing time. With only 3 inches of snow, my hope was to get one snow hut made, and maybe 2 if we were lucky.
Well, the scouts wound up scraping snow together for 5 huts - enough for 10 scouts to all spend the night in their own 2-man ice castles!
The day was cloudless as was the evening, so a bunch of scouts completed their requirement of telling direction in day and night without a compass. The only disappointment of the trip was having clouds this morning at 7:00am and not getting to see the Space Station fly over.

And, if any parents of scouts in your troop are concerned with snow caving in on their son, here's one of the huts with 9 scouts on top.
Scout On

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Posted: 22:52 01-21-2007 117
Challenger Troops
Troop 622 in Willmar, MN is a Challenger troop specially chartered for mentally disabled men. A story about them can be read here.

Scouts in Troop 622 have no 18 year old membership limit and they progress through the scout ranks at their pace. They persevere and meet requirements and celebrate their accomplishments.

There are many units that include scouts with various disabilities while other scout families prefer to have a unit dedicated to special needs scouts. In the Northern Star Council, there is a Challenger District to serve special needs scouts with special programs.

Our troop has hosted scouts from a challenger troop on occasional campouts and all scouts learned a lot. Your troop could check with your district or council to find out how you can help serve this special scouting population.

Scout On
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Posted: 22:41 01-17-2007 116
Why I Like Snow Camping
This is how it usually goes after the Sunday worship service while catching up with friends:
'So, anything interesting coming up?'
'Well, I'm going camping next weekend with the scouts.'
'WHAT? It's January. You're Nuts!'
Or, sometimes, they just shake their head as they walk away.

But, those that stick around hear me tell them that a snow shelter is really pretty warm, there's no bugs, and it's low humidity. Snow camping is a great time!

It's usually a small group that braves the Minnesota cold to sleep out in sub-zero temps, but it's also usually the hardiest scouts so the outing is great.

It's a perfect outing to learn how to tell direction without a compass in day and night. You can set up a stick in the snow and check the shadow every 1/2 hour or so throughout the day. And, since night comes very early and the sky is crisp and clear, you can find constellations fairly easily.

The worse part of snow camping, I think, is the meal clean-up. It's not much fun trying to dry dishes when its -5 degrees. Drip drying doesn't work, either. This is one outing where the savvy scouts plan their meals carefully. Last year, one patrol just heated cans of chili in a pot of water so they had no clean up, just throwing away the cans. :-)

Now, I've not had the fun of taking scouts camping in really deep snow where you can just dig a cave. I did that as a youth, but we usually have to scrounge a pile up and hope its enough. This year looks pretty dismal so we may wind up using tents for the first time. That will be good for the guys to experience how the ice forms during the night, and to figure out how to care for the tents when they get home.

Here's Nick and Dave trying to smash their snow hut after sleeping in it overnight. You can see Nick went right through the top after some real effort. :-)
(CLick a photo for a full-size view)

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Posted: 22:56 01-14-2007 115
07 Scout Catalog
More fun than getting the SEARS catalog before Christmas when I was a kid. :-)

The new BSA catalog arrived today. The first thing I noticed was all the Pinewood Derby stuff - sirens, rockets, flashing lights, whistles, axle guards, and even a Master Mechanics kit. Now, the $4.00 car can easily cost over $30.00 - and that's if you don't bother splurging for the 'Pinewood Derby Speed Secrets' book!

Instead of one big catalog, BSA is going to be sending out multiple catalogs, each with a different audience. This one seems to have a theme of [What's New] with lots of decorations, crafts, gadgets, and gifts but not much scouting stuff.

I do like the Switchback zip-off pants that are listed. I've had mine for around six months now and like the light-weight and non-scratchy feel. We'll see how they hold up to 30 days of backpacking this summer.

Oops, found one other thing I thought was funny. Right in the midst of the catalog, there is a 'Child Guard Firearm Safety Device' - a good idea if you have guns, but seems weird in with ponchos, socks, and flashlights. :-)

Scout On

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Posted: 17:20 01-12-2007 114
Scout Camp Fire in WI
On a Wednesday night during January, there's usually not much activity at scout camps in Wisconsin. But, last night a fire did $30,000 damage in Summit, WI when a couple storage buildings burned down.

The camp is near Oconomowoc, Wisconsin and has two camps situated on 290 acres. It's one of the oldest camps in the country, being around since 1917.

I expect the loss is not that great, insurance and more volunteer work can take care of replacing the sheds and equipment. The concern I have is that the cause is still under investigation. It would be a shame to find out it was deliberately started.

Read the Story
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Posted: 14:20 01-11-2007 113
Troop Discipline
Looking through many troop web sites, I've run across dozens and dozens of 'Troop Guidelines', 'Troop Handbooks', and 'Troop Discipline Policies' - every one similar, but different in some ways.

When boys join the troop I serve, they are given a 3-ring binder containing a few pages of information about how Boy Scouts differs from Cub Scouts, how patrols work, and how they need to take responsibility for their own advancement. There are also a couple empty baseball card holder pages for them to store their advancement cards and merit badge cards. We've got nothing written about special discipline policies - they just aren't needed.

Every boy over 10 years old knows what's right and what's wrong and how to behave. That certainly doesn't mean they will always do what's right and behave correctly, but they know. So, what good does writing down rules do? I can't think of any rules that are not covered by just saying, 'Our troop uses the Scout Oath and Law as our guide. All scouts are expected to do their best to follow that guide.'

The main reasons that scouts misbehave are:

Whether or not you agree that the correct behavior is known, there will be times when someone misbehaves. Maintaining discipline in a troop can be touchy, just like in any other group. I've found that the structure of a troop helps take care of most situations effectively and quickly, and with minimal escalation.

Discipline isn't a bad thing - it is not the same thing as punishment. Discipline has at least a dozen definitions, and nearly all of them include 'training'. Discipline is training and correcting someone to bring about expected behavior.

Like everything in Scouting, the training of scouts is the most important thing a Scoutmaster team can do. Including the allowed and expected discipline actions in your junior leader training helps set the troop on the right track. The leaders need to know that they are expected to maintain discipline and what their limits are.

Scouts should maintain discipline in their troop by training other scouts how to behave. So, let's call them the trainer and trainee for these general tips:

Taking time to train scouts to maintain discipline gives them opportunity to learn to deal with power and authority. They will run to you for intervention much less, and they will learn to be fair.
It's a good idea to have the senior scouts do a presentation on discipline for the whole troop occasionally. A skit demonstrating how they would address an imaginary problem the right way is entertaining and educational - especially if the problem is one that has been noticed in a few scouts recently.
It's also a good idea to make sure the scouts are expected to report any disciplinary actions they take to the scoutmaster or his assistants. This gives them an opportunity to show they are doing their job and get positive reinforcement on a job well done.

So, I've just mentioned what you might consider trivial things - being obnoxious, being noisy in meetings, not respecting an instructor - and you're wondering about real discipline problems like fighting or stealing or constant cursing. Well, a boy will push the limits in whatever group he finds himself in until he discovers the limits. By having older scouts trained and available to maintain discipline for new scouts, they will quickly learn the limits. They will know cursing is not accepted. They will know that hitting in anger is not accepted. And, they already know that stealing is not accepted.

If a scout purposefully behaves against what he knows is accepted, then the Scoutmaster needs to handle the discipline immediately. This is not something resulting from being untrained, but from a specific decision to do what is wrong. Addressing the problem directly with the scout and his parents is the best way to handle this.

Most issues with scouts have to do with boys doing weird, impulsive things, and sometime just plain mean things, but rarely things that indicate a real problem. Allowing trained, older scouts to address the behavior nearly always brings it around.

As is true for everything in scouting, the discipline of a troop is an ongoing, never-ending, rollercoaster ride of learning. It is not a plateau that is reached and maintained.

Scout On!
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Posted: 13:45 01-08-2007 112
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