Our troop had a scout go to the World Jamboree this month in England. He said it was great, but there was a Jambo song that got a little old. Actually, I believe he said someone would yell, "JAMBO!" and everyone else around the area would yell back, "HELLO!" - hundreds of times a day.
I've checked out other troops' web sites and notice that quite a few (especially back East) have their own Scout Hut or meeting place. We are quite crowded in the basement of a church so it hinders the activities the scouts can do at troop meetings in winter or bad weather. It would be so cool to have our own meeting area where we could have large group games.
When a troop has a place it can call its own, I believe the scouts are more productive in meetings. Each patrol can have its own 'corner' and motivational items can be left displayed rather than removed after every meeting. An area with a high ceiling, such as a gym or open beam structure gives more room for activities. I believe we will be looking for new space in a year or so and that is what I'll be hunting for.
I imagine most of you have some Purell or similar product in patrol boxes or troop trailer. The gel magically kills 99.99% of germs and makes your hands nice and clean - or so the scouts seem to believe. :-)
I have an ongoing battle to train scouts to wash before preparing meals. In our troop, everything is done by patrol so I'm not directly involved with their meal preparations. But, I do see most of the patrols open their cooler and patrol box and start making a meal right after playing a wide game or doing some other activity. Seldom will a scout remember to wash his hands first.
Quite often, I'll see a scout squirt some Purell on his hands, rub them together and then declare he's ready to eat. The fingernails are still black and the dust has now become more defined as lines and splotches, but he's convinced his hands are clean.
We've had some scouts mysteriously develop bad cases of 'flu' right after a campout. And, it's usually just a 12 hour flu - their bodies dump everything out both ends and then they're ok. It sounds much more like food poisoning to me and I believe it is caused by lack of proper sanitation.
"A Scout is Clean" is an area where I will be asking our next SPL to concentrate on improving the troop. He'll know that we can have contests, games, prizes, whatever he wants to try to change the habits of the troop. I'm looking forward to see what his team comes up with and if it makes a difference carrying into next summer.
I'm even contemplating having him declare Purell as the official fire-starter rather than hand sanitizer. No, just kidding! In case you were not aware, Purell and similar products are about 2/3 alcohol and do a great job as a fire starter. During the day, the flame is very hard to see so accidental burns are a real problem. At night, I must admit it's pretty cool to squirt a line of it on a rock, light it, and watch the pretty blue flame dance away.
Having scrambled up Cloud Peak at 13,167 feet twice this summer, I was pretty pleased with myself. But, it's just a bump compared to the real mountains of the world. There's a young man locally here who is working on climbing the tallest peaks on each continent - now that's ambitious! He tried Mt. Aconcagua at the start of 2007, but had to turn back. Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina is the highest peak in the southern and western hemispheres at 22,831 feet. It's actually the highest mountain outside Asia. I ran into a site called Tusker Trail that leads climbs of both Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro (19340 feet). There's a pretty cool video on the site about Kilimanjaro and the guide that has climbed it over 30 times now.
If you remember in previous post, I mentioned that I though having a scout spend time on camp staff was a great thing. Here's an example.
The scoutmaster of Troop 68 in Melorse, MN has a video of the Many Point Camp Staff leading the Many Point Rouser at the opening of their week of camp. It's inside because of a serious rainstorm, but that doesn't appear to have slowed them down.
Last spring, my son took a tour with his classmates to Washington D.C. and had what he called an 'Excellent' time. These educational student tours are a super way for high school students to explore the country and get to know the other students in their group. My son was in a social studies group, but there are tours for theatre classes, musical groups, and even custom tours. If your troop is large enough, something like this might be a viable way to explore part of the country you normally would not visit, or a way to cut down on vehicles and adults required. If you're really ambitious, you might even go on a tour to another country - remember World Jamboree 2011 is in Sweden. If your son asks about going on an educational tour, I'd recommend promoting that as much as possible. I was pessimistic and figured it would just be a waste of money, but my son had a great time and learned a lot about the government.
As part of the planning for our backpacking trek this summer, the scouts needed to figure out how much food to bring. I let them know that I was a lazy old man and didn't want to carry any more than necessary, but didn't want to go hungry either.
This was actually a great learning experience in many ways, most important is that they will hopefully be prepared to pass on their experience to the 2008 trek crews we send out.
We spent some time discussing how many calories are needed in the average day, and how trekking days are not quite 'average'. We also defined calories as being units of energy and found out that 'calories' in food are actually kilo-calories with 3500 kilo-calories in one pound of fat. We discovered that larger people required more calories and carrying a pack requires still more calories.
Then, being some analytical types, the scouts figured a 150 pound person takes about 100 calories to walk 1 mile. They figured all our weights together (plus estimated pack weights), how far we'd be hiking, how many days we'd be on the trail, the elevation we'd gain, and came up with a huge total number of calories required.
Once they had an idea of how many calories we'd need, they set to work dividing that into carbohydrate, protein, and fat calories. Then, they looked for food that would fulfill the calorie needs, pack well, prepare easily, taste good, be relatively inexpensive, and somewhat healthy.
When the dust had settled, we found that you can get a darn good menu off the shelves at normal grocery stores. The menu was carbohydrate heavy with more empty sugar and fat calories than normal, but was pretty good. We had dinners of noodles & beef, spaghetti & dehydrated hamburger, mac/cheese & tuna, teriyaki rice & salmon, noodles & chicken.
When the trek was over, we found that we had packed too much breakfast food and trail food, but pretty much right on for lunches and dinners. We had just about 10 pounds of food for each person for a 5.5 day trek, so we could have trimmed 1 or 1.5 pounds off that.
There is a fairly accurate Calorie Calculator at HikingDude.com along with some other good food ideas.
My Morrell boots had another couple hundred miles put on them this summer from practice hikes, campouts, and two weeks backpacking in Wyoming.
There's a wide range of boot brands to choose from and it can be challenging to find the best one for you. The best thing to do is go to a store and try on a wide range of brands. I especially like the Rocky boots and am thinking of adding those to my birthday list. My current boots have a real nice Philmont brand on them, but since I'll be going there again next summer, maybe I can brand a fresh pair of hiking boots. If you do need new boots, be sure to purchase them well before your hike so you have plenty of time to get your feet used to them. Many boots don't really need much breaking-in time these days, but your feet do need to get used to the fit and extra weight.
I've been fortunate in my few years as scoutmaster to work with scouts that really seem to have it together. Some of them are more naturally leaders and others tend to follow along, but none have had serious personal problems that have surfaced. We've dealt with some issues, but nothing that a plan with parents and scout could not solve.
I expect some day a parent might ask me for help with some problem for which I'm neither trained nor prepared. For times like that, I think it's good to have an idea of alternate avenues of support for families. I've checked our local area for teen support groups and family health organizations so I can mention them to families.
Become aware of the support system in your community for teens. Maybe it's not specifically a part of the scouting program, but it's another resource for you to have at your disposal.
Sometimes you might wonder why you keep spending so much time volunteering for scouting. Once in awhile, you get a great big knock upside your head that reminds you why. This past weekend was a big 'THUMP!' for me.
The Penguin patrol planned a good agenda, actually right down to the 5 minute level, which of course is impossible to follow, but a good schedule to shoot for. With a thorough agenda, whenever a scout asked me 'What are we doing next?', I would just say, 'Ask Sam'. Sam is the patrol leader of the Penguins. This was his first experience with leading the troop.
On this campout, the Senior Patrol Leader did not attend, nor did the Asst. SPL. When that happens, the SPL must pick a scout to take over his duties. For this campout, he chose a scout that had just earned Star rank and has been an Instructor for the past 5 months. This was his first time leading the whole troop.
With a substitute SPL and a scout-in-charge, there was some confusion about who was really in charge - I learned a lot this weekend and have a lot of notes for the next troop leadership training! The substitute SPL (my younger son) did his very best and performed well, but his patrolmates tended to not give him the respect due the position. We had some time for his patrol to talk and I'm confident we'll work past any issues just fine.
Other than the leadership confusion, the weekend was a blast. We caught lots of fish - northern pike, sunfish, bullheads, and bass. A few scouts caught and cooked (and even ate) the fish required for the Fishing merit badge. We got a start on the Flyfishing merit badge and a couple scouts nearly completed Canoeing.
It was great having my son the Life Scout back from camp. He led the troop in a couple new songs at the campfire and taught them some new camp skills. This was really good for the first year scouts to see a much older scout enjoying scouting and giving it his best and having fun doing it.
If I start to wonder if it's worth the time and effort, I just start looking back through the troop photo gallery and see how the scouts have grown. That's enough to snap me out of it and look forward to the next troop meeting or campout where I have high hopes for another big 'THUMP!'
We leave in a couple hours for the troop's first 'WaterWorks' campout! We're offering the Fishing, Flyfishing, and Canoeing merit badges at a local Lutheran camp on a lake. They have canoes, rowboats, and paddleboats with PFDs for us to use.
We have 3 adults that have completed Safety Afloat and Safe Swim Defense and are certified in CPR. All scouts have passed the BSA Swimmer test at summer camp and the camp has a designated swimming area in the lake. So, I think we're pretty well set.
The weather forecast is 75 degrees and 10% chance of rain tomorrow so this has the potential for a practically perfect weekend. If the scouts just wake up early and get some fish for breakfast, that'll be great!
The Penguin patrol planned this campout and they have a packed agenda that should keep everyone busy for two days. It's really enjoyable to see a patrol work together to lay out a trip and get the other patrols to contribute campfire skits, stories, and songs and help with instructing skills where needed.