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Scouts in Action
In the Boys' Life magazine, there are stories of Scouts in Action - acts of heroism by scouts of all ages.
Not many scouts find themselves in situations where acts of heroism are required. But, every day, scouts are in action doing simple, helpful tasks that demonstrate the skills and values they've learned from Scouting. This week visiting with relatives has given me the chance to notice this in my own two scouts.
With 10 grandchildren from various families running around, it was impressive to see the amount of time they spent helping with the really young ones as well as doing other chores. They also led the gang in most of the playing that went on.
I saw lots of the leadership training we've done over the past three years being used - and used just as if it was the normal way to do things, not as a forced effort. Praising others, explaining what to do, demonstrating what is expected, including everyone, cooperating rather than winning - all examples of what they've picked up from Scouts.
I hope and expect that many scouts across the country have impressed their families similarly this week. Now, as we get ready for a new year, we'll continue to look for the spark of a strong Scout Spirit to drive these guys even when Santa's helpers aren't watching so closely. :-)
The Daily Good Turn is something we often mention in our troop and is also one of the more challenging things we ask scouts to do. It requires them to keep an eye out for others in need rather than just looking out for themselves. That's why it is so important. Putting others first is a big part of the Scout Law and Scout Oath and a huge step towards manhood.
It isn't a single big step when a scout suddenly changes. Over time, with constant exposure to good role models, scouts gradually grow their skills and mature as hoped. Keep watching for Scouts in Action and remember to thank them when you notice a good job.
Posted: 15:54 12-30-2007 283
Squishy Bowl for Christmas
Santa got me something I didn't ask for, didn't need, but will probably use a ton. It is a set of Squishy Bowls
The bowl and cup are flexible, squishy silicone and withstand up to 400 degrees. They bend any old way so you can back them into any spare little place you have left in your pack, unlike my rigid bowl and cup I've used the past 5 years.
They cost around $15, but the low weight, easy packing, and simple clean-up make them a worthwhile investment. To clean them, you can turn them inside out and lick away. Then, an easy rinse and you're done!
I'll let you know how they stand up to weeks of use in 2008 - I'll be using them at Philmont and my son will use his all summer at Boy Scout camp.
I never would have gotten these myself, so, "Thanks Santa!"
Merry Christmas to everyone in the Scouting Family
Posted: 10:38 12-25-2007 282
BSA Card Decks
Have you checked out the Scout Shop Christmas Catalog? Lots of gift ideas in there, from an offcial BSA basketball to BSA long underwear! With the ever-growing selection of stuff that BSA is selling, I was kidding my wife this summer that they will soon offer BSA diapers so boys can get going the day they come home from the hospital. Well, I haven't seen those (yet) but there IS a BSA branding iron now - I guess those die-hard scouting families could put the logo on a new baby's behind so there's no doubt about it. :-) :-) :-)
There ARE some useful items available, though, and here's a couple. The Scout Shop has come out with a couple new card decks that your troop should include in its resources. We've got the Scout Skills game and the Deck of Knots and they've been very helpful in helping scouts learn the skills and having fun and competition in the troop meetings.
We'll be getting the Stars and First Aid decks right after Christmas and put them to use right away.
Deck of Scout Skills
64 questions and answers for scout skills taken from the scout handbook and fieldbook.
Deck of First Aid
Cards for all the first aid rank requirements and techniques for proper treatment.
Deck of Knots
Instructions and illustrations for all the Boy Scout knots plus lots of others.
Deck of Stars
Glow-in-the-dark constellations for night exploration and identification.
Posted: 15:11 12-23-2007 281
Aging Out Ceremony
A scout recently earned his Eagle and has now aged out of the troop at 18. We've had some challenges with our scouts maintaining their patrol equipment and it caused some unnecessary expenses last year.
I discussed this with the Eagle to see if he had any ideas. He did!
At his last troop meeting as a scout, he carried his patrol box and tent to the front of the troop. He told the scouts that this would be his last meeting as a scout. He was the last scout left from his original patrol and he wanted to return the gear he had been given when he started.
He asked the troop Quartermaster to come and join him. He handed the tent over and thanked the Quartermaster for letting him use it for 7 years. He said it was pretty worn out, but the troop might use it for demonstrations.
He gave his patrol box to the Quartermaster and said he had just checked the inventory list and everything was accounted for except paper towels and a scrubbie. He said some of the pots were dented and one of the plastic spatulas was melted, but the rest should be fine for the next group of scouts.
The Quartermaster thanked him and took the gear to the back of the room while the rest of the troop applauded.
It was a simple thing that said a lot. It showed that a scout should be responsible for his gear and the gear can really last through an entire scouting career. It made an impact on the younger scouts. Whether it will make a difference or not will be seen over the next couple years, but I hope to see similar short presentations by the scouts that age out over the coming year.
Posted: 14:08 12-22-2007 280
New Zero Heros
The troop went skiing this weekend. We camped in a 'lodge' at a scout camp and drove to the ski hill. A 'lodge' is a large open room with cement floor, not to be confused with a 'ski lodge'. This one had some thin mattresses to toss around too.
On Friday night it got down to -11F so two intrepid scouts earned their Zero Hero
patch. They slept in a tent and did their patrol cooking. Myself and another adult also earned the patch, but we slept in a tent because it seemed more comfortable than the 'lodge' anyway. Now, I'll have an old Viking Council version and newer Northern Star Council version.
One scout working on his First Class cooking requirement led his patrol in cooking pancakes on a dutch oven lid
. After some hassles with stoves and freezing wash water, I think quite a few scouts figured out that dutch oven cooking makes sense in very cold weather. All the adult meals were dutch oven and we had very little clean-up to do and no cooking pots to scrub.
Hopefully, we'll have equally cold weather in February when we actually go on our Okpik winter campout. The last few years, it has not dropped below zero.
Posted: 17:58 12-17-2007 279
NESA Eagle Search
National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) is searching for all Eagle Scouts. They want to find and contact every living Eagle Scout and create a document of his achievements. They will call this document Roll Call: The National Eagle Scout Registry
and it will capture the tradition, history, and honor of the scouts.
Now, that sounds like an interesting idea. I get quite a few emails asking how to prove someone was an Eagle, how an adult can receive Eagle, where to get replacement Eagle items, ... and so on. It would be cool to have a list of every Eagle Scout and have a new section added each year. I'd like it to include the year and age they made Eagle and what they did for their project.
But, the small news blip makes me wonder about this project and its real motives:
- Since this news item is listed on the home page of scouting.org, it insinuates that the BSA doesn't have a good record of who is an Eagle Scout - otherwise, they could just supply the list to NESA.
- NESA wants people everywhere to tell Eagle Scouts about this search effort. Or, you can contact your local council and turn in the Eagle's name. But, I couldn't find any mention of who Eagles or people turning in Eagles should contact on the NESA News page. How organized is this search?
- This registry will supposedly only be available to 'bona fide Eagles' and will only list Eagles that are adults and agree to be listed. It kind of sounds like another Who's Who listing that you get the priviledge of purchasing and seeing your name in print.
I hope it turns out to be a useful registry and NESA can successfully list every Eagle Scout. I'm passing the word on to you and to the Eagles in our troop. I'll be hopefully waiting to see where it goes.
Posted: 9:38 12-17-2007 278
Planning ahead to Philmont next year, there are some items that we've found to be quite useful and waiting too long to take care of them can be troublesome.
- Boots - of course you shouldn't wait until the week before your trek to buy new boots. A growing scout might outgrow boots in 6 months so don't buy them for Christmas. Shopping for the right boot and figuring out which one to buy can be done now, but actually buy the right size about 3 months before the trek.
- Duffel Bag - transporting backpacks by plane or bus is a great way to break off buckles, straps, and webbing. Our crew just got these canvas duffels delivered today. They are an inexpensive way to put a layer of protection between your pack and the roughhousing you know goes on by the baggage guys.
- Stoves - If your troop already has and uses backpacking stoves, you're set. If not, be sure to purchase them early and train all crew members on their use.
- Water Filters - we use the Katadyn Guide filters. They've worked well for our troop backpacking but are getting more difficult to find. There is a new ultralight filter coming out in early 2008 called the Katadyn Mini and it has gotten a lot of good reviews. It is around $100 though.
- Crew Shirts - one of the highlights of a Philmont or any other high adventure trek is adding YATS (yet another t-shirt) to my collection. It's a good idea to get a design done and figure out where to get the shirts made - all of it can be handled by scouts.
- Transportation - if you haven't started on plane, bus, hotel, shuttle arrangements yet, you'd best get started. The shuttles to Philmont from Albuquerque and Denver are convenient, but expensive and popular.
- Backpack Cover - it rains at Philmont and a rainproof cover is essential for keeping your gear dry. A couple garbage bags may last the whole trek, but I doubt it. Garbage bags to wrap around your sleeping bag are a good idea, and so is putting clothes inside plastic ziploc bags.
Posted: 18:02 12-11-2007 277
Tonight, a Life scout is receiving a German Interpreter Strip
for his ability to converse fluently. This is the first Interpreter Strip issued in our troop, so I see it as being a pretty big deal. I don't know of any others in our community, either.
Since there is no official application form and the completion of the requirements is up to the unit leader, the actual work required to wear an Interpreter Strip most likely varies a lot from troop to troop. I suppose it's common place in some troops and I expect I'm on the more stringent side. :-)
This scout showed me the letter and translation he did, signed by his language instructor. He also supplied a written note from his instructor that he carried on a 5-minute conversation and translated a 2-minute speech.
Now, maybe we can get a few scouts earning the Swedish strip before the World Jamboree in 2010!
Posted: 19:08 12-10-2007 276
OA Rep - a Real Leader
In 1999, the Order of the Arrow Troop Representative became an official leadership position that can be used for Star, Life, and Eagle rank advancement. Depending on your location, the OA may have a very strong presence or be hardly known. The OA Rep position is a great opportunity for a scout to demonstrate real leadership and promote the OA purposes of camping and cheerful service within his troop.
We've had a few OA Reps in our troop over the past years, but they were not asked or expected to do much. Since they already had their rank advancement leadership requirements complete, there was not much incentive in that direction. With our next troop elections, the position will expand and have the following defined expectations:
- Attend 75% of OA chapter meetings - to keep abreast of what the chapter is doing
- Inform troop of OA events and news - get up front and speak. Promote the OA and its purposes.
- Assist OA members in gaining their Brotherhood membership - through encouragement and practicing the requirements.
- Attend the biannual troop planning session to ensure that camping opportunities are offered at least once each month.
- Encourage scouts First Class and higher to participate in high adventure camping - through individual encouragement and troop presentations.
- Encourage attendance at summer camp by all scouts - especially keep older scouts interested.
- Organize troop Service opportunities - work with the troop's adult service chair to ensure there are at least three service opportunities and help plan and promote them.
- Plan, promote, and present the troop's OA election - ensure everyone understands how the election is run and that it is held correctly.
- Promote and teach Leave No Trace in the troop - this ties directly with camping and service. It requires the scout to learn and use a specific knowledge set and help the troop become better campers and land stewards. Offer one workshop in the last two months in this role.
- Wear uniform correctly, set a good example, practice the Scout Oath and Law - a standard responsibility of all the troop leadership positions.
- Fulfill the requirements of this position for 6 months - the troop's chosen term of office
Some of these duties are to encourage others and have no specific targets so they are not measurable. Those that are measurable include 5 specific events in the 6 month term so this position provides worthwhile contributions to the troop.
More info at OA Site
Posted: 17:06 12-07-2007 275
Choosing Adult Leaders
How does your troop or pack acquire good, qualified adult leaders?
Every unit needs a Scoutmaster/Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Rep, and Committee Chair plus two more committee members in order to actually be a BSA unit. As scouts join and leave the unit, their parents come and go with them, causing a continual overturn of adult volunteers. In some cases, usually the Scoutmaster, an adult may stay in a position for years or decades but this is rare and its merits are debatable. Bringing in new volunteers and energy once in awhile usually helps a program. The challenge can be in identifying and recruiting quality adults.
When a volunteer announces that he will be leaving, three things are likely to happen:
- The other volunteers make efforts to keep him around for just one more year - for as many years as he keeps saying 'ok'.
- The other volunteers make a list of everyone that might do the job and then ask, beg, plead with them until one breaks down and says 'ok'.
- The other volunteers cross their fingers and hope the parent of a new boy joining will be naive enough to be talked into doing the job.
None of these actions put the best qualified person in the role. I know from experience. When our troop's Scoutmaster announced he would be stepping down, the troop did #1 and then #2. I broke down and said 'ok' before they got to #3.
A more thought-out, planned process should be used to prepare for the inevitable need for replacing volunteers. We need to follow the Boy Scout motto and "Be Prepared". Since we know new volunteers will be needed periodically, we can have a plan ready to get them.
Use Selecting Quality Leaders
from the BSA for a process and sample presentation. There is also a video of the same name available from the BSA. These are quite formal steps to select leaders and are more for recruiting someone that is outside the unit. A more common situation will be to recruit someone that is already involved in the unit.
When looking for an adult leader, search for someone with these traits:
- Commitment to the ideals of Scouting
- High moral standards
- Ability to relate to boys
- Ability to keep a cool head under pressure
- Good organizational skills
- Ability to relate to and interact with adults
- Flexibility and the ability to compromise
- Good planning ability
- High energy level
- Good attention to detail
Being prepared to replace volunteers in key roles really means to have a succession plan
in place - our troop now has this. The Scoutmaster may have told you he will fill the role for the next 5 years, but he may get transfered next month. A successor needs to be identified for the role, just in case. The successor should not be picked directly by the current volunteer, but by a selection team, to ensure someone with the desired traits is chosen. With a succession plan ready, there will be no scramble to fill a vacated role because the replacement is already on the sidelines.
Now, the question of recruiting new volunteers still exists - how do we recruit someone to be the replacement waiting on the sidelines? I've found it is much easier to find someone willing to 'start learning the ropes' than it is to 'jump in with both feet'.
Use the same general process outlined in the Selecting Quality Leaders brochure, but use it with people that have already become part of your unit.
- Form a team of 2 to 4 currently active volunteers.
- Make a list of people involved with the unit or expected to join the unit soon. A Webelos den leader joining a troop might be a good match to take over as Scoutmaster in a year or two.
- Based on the team's relationship with these people, compare them to the desired traits and rank them.
- The person that best matches the list of traits is at the top of your list. Visit him first and if it doesn't work out, work your way down the list.
- Tell the volunteer that you need him to replace the current Scoutmaster in 12 months or 18 months or whatever. And, he will have that time to learn from the current Scoutmaster, attend training, and become more comfortable with the program.
- Keep a list of the people currently in positions and their successors. Annually, at recharter time, have each person commit to another year in their role. This will identify positions you need to work on.
Whichever volunteer is chosen, he will have some strengths and some weaknesses. I, for example, am quite experienced and knowledgable about outdoors and wilderness, but I have to work hard to avoid being overly critical of scouts that don't follow through with things they commit to doing and I have to be more light-hearted and less analytical.
A few things that I believe should be considered very heavily
in a Scoutmaster candidate, and in my book would most likely disqualify the candidate, but not by BSA requirements:
- someone that I've seen smoking
- someone that I've heard swear or talk in anger at scouts or other children
- someone that I've seen or ridden with driving dangerously
- someone that I've heard tell racial, sexual, or otherwise very inappropriate stories or jokes
- someone that I've seen promoting his religion in a scouting setting
Those are just things that would affect my personal recommendation for someone. My family chose to join the troop we did because 3 of those were demonstrated at other troops when my oldest son was looking at troops to join.
One last thing: it is much easier to identify replacements if there is a relationship in place with all adults involved in the troop or pack. Some parents drop off their scout and pick him up 90 minutes later. That isn't what Scouting is about and it makes it nearly impossible to know how that adult might be able to, and want to, contribute to the program.
Offer and promote opportunities for parents to get to know you and the other parents. Have a parent party in February and in September so they can socialize, meet and welcome new parents, hear from the Cubmaster/Scoutmaster what has been accomplished the past 6 months, what is coming up in the next 6 months, and discuss needs of the troop or pack. We've found these gatherings to be very useful in getting to know parents and lining up recruits for future positions.
Posted: 10:23 12-06-2007 274
Bugler - a Real Leader
Of all the Leadership Positions in a troop that a scout can hold for Star, Life, and Eagle advancement, I suppose Bugler must be the one with the least amount of obvious leadership potential. A scout playing the role of bugler might just toot the bugle at a couple campouts and that's all. But, if a scoutmaster really wants scouts to demonstrate leadership as they advance in rank, bugler can include some meaningful responsibilities that give the scout opportunity to grow his leadership skills.
For example, the bugler supports the troop in these ways in our troop:
- Practice bugling so he is prepared when called on - improve his bugling skills
- Sound Taps, Reveille, and Assembly at troop campouts - two or more bugling events each campout. He is responsible to wake up first and ensure the troop is roused on time.
- Sound appropriate calls at Courts of Honor and other assemblies as directed by SPL - usually for presentation and retirement of colors.
- Recruit and prepare a back-up bugler for events that he can not attend - ensure the duties are performed by a replacement.
- Maintain the troop bugle - our troop has a very special bugle with a history. It is passed from bugler to bugler and needs to be cleaned and polished.
- Wear my uniform correctly, set a good example, practice the Scout Oath and Law - a standard responsibility of all the troop leadership positions.
- Fulfill the requirements of this position for 6 months - the troop's chosen term of office
These responsibilities require a scout to be prepared and able to play a bugle so there may be a small number of scouts able to hold this position. When the bugler is in front of the troop, parents, and guests at troop gatherings, all eyes are on him and he leads everyone in the ceremony being conducted. Even though he may never say a word in his duties, his leadership comes forth in his attitude, uniforming, and music.
Posted: 23:25 12-05-2007 273
Holiday Meeting Fun
We just had our monthly PLC last night. The scouts have next week's troop meeting planned and being it's nearly Christmas, I think I'll talk about Physics of Santa
for my Scoutmaster Minute. Actually, I hope to have one of our more intellectual scouts present it instead of me.
Here are a couple other holiday items you might find useful:
Posted: 15:23 12-04-2007 272
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