Northern Star Council holds a "Gathering of Eagles" each year - an evening for all Eagle Scouts to get together and recognize a few special people.
Not being an eagle myself, I've never been to this event but last night I got to attend. My son, who just became an eagle in November, was presented with the council eagle scholarship he earned so I got to tag along.
Man, talk about a high-power room of folks! Our district executive was there. The council's scout executive was there. The regional director was there. Even the Chief Scout Executive was there all the way from Texas.
It was pretty cool to meet Mr. Mazucca and he gave a very good talk touching on the three parts of the scout oath tied into future plans.
But, the way cool thing about the night was when they had all the eagle scouts in the room stand up. Then, they asked those that received their eagle in this century to sit. Then, those that received it in the 1990s. Then, the 80s. Then, the 70s. And so on. There were still 7 or 8 men standing for the 30s! They took a microphone to each one and had them tell when and where they received their eagle.
This evening impressed on me the life-long impact the eagle rank can make on a person. Once a scout earns eagle, it's not the end - it's just the beginning of a life of higher expectations, obligations, and opportunities.
I was asked if "electing" a Senior Patrol Leader and Patrol Leaders was a rule, or if a Scoutmaster could just appoint them.
On page 13 of my 2001 Scoutmaster Handbook, it says " ... the senior patrol leader. He is elected by all members of the troop." On page 13, it also says, "One patrol leader is elected by the members of each patrol."
Appointing the SPL or PL is not the way it is supposed to happen and there's absolutely no reason it should happen. But, an adult overrunning a group of boys can get away with doing pretty much whatever s/he wants unless someone points out the correct way to do things. Things are usually done wrong because:
it's just easier for the adult
the adult wants to be in charge
the adult does not know the correct way
I always assume it's the last one until I learn different. Not much can be done about changing the first two, but the last just requires reading and training.
Every troop is constantly evolving and changing. I believe the larger the percentage of well-trained adults you have, the closer you will be to having the perfect Boy Scout troop. Not following simple program steps like electing the SPL rather than appointing him indicates a need for basic training for the scoutmaster and troop committee.
You can read similar words about electing SPL and PLs on the official BSA website here and here.
On a recent campout, the Eagles patrol tried out the Volcano II stove for their meals. They really enjoyed testing this stove while fulfilling their Second Class 'cook over an open fire' requirement.
Since the temperature was 10F to 20F below zero the entire weekend, cooking on propane stoves was a real challenge. But, the Eagles had no problem getting their wood fire going and using it to cook. They boiled soup in a pot on the grill for lunch. Then, they grilled hamburgers directly on the grill for supper.
The Volcano II is a collapsible fire ring that is vented to promote hot, full burning of fuel. Like the scouts, it can burn wood or briquettes, and there is a propane attachment that can be added.
The Eagles found that in very, very cold temperatures it's better to let it burn out rather than dose with water. The water froze the ash solid and we needed to let it thaw before dumping it into an ash can. That was the only glitch they had, even on their first use so they were very impressed. They especially like being able to have their fire wherever they wanted, rather than right in the dirty firepit.
18 scouts of our troop are expecting to raise enough funds this June to completely support the troop's program for the next 8 to 12 years. What started as a week-long camping trip, has turned into the best fundraiser ever.
Three adults associated with our troop were drawn in the 2009 National Sasquatch Hunt Lottery so they each have an opportunity to take a bigfoot this year. They've asked the scouts to help with the hunt – tracking, herding, and packing out the game. The scouts will get to keep all the meat since the adults just want the publicity. There has already been one sasquatch taken east of Mount St. Helens this year so we have high hopes of taking three more from that same area since they tend to live in small herds. We'll be flying into Seattle and camping in the Gifford Pinchot forest. Once we get the animals, we've got a deal with jerky.com to sell them all the meat for $200/lb so they can process it into their new sasquatch jerky. Since the average sasquatch weighs 600-700 pounds, that's 300 pounds of meat each. 900 pounds of meat will get us $180,000 so the scouts are quite excited at this opportunity. That's a lot of money, but you should go see how much they are selling the jerky for!
It's not too late to register for the lottery if your troop could use some more funds. The deadline for 2009 is April 3rd and the lottery entry fee is just $45. I'll let you know the results when we get back from our trip in June. Oh, and in case anyone is concerned, sasquatch was removed from the endangered species list last year according to U.S. Fish & Wildlife web site, so everything's cool.
My two sons would just as soon spend 3 or 4 hours playing computer games than interact with real people. But, who can blame them? With the amazing graphics, sound, and practically real interaction, games these days are nearly "like being there". One son just got a unicycle for Christmas and has put in many hours and can now ride it. But, he just found an online unicycle game and there he can hop, jump, ride rails, fly, and more waaaaay cool stuff that he'd never be able to do in real life. Fantasy at your fingertips, I guess.
It's pretty hard for hiking and camping to compete with flying, explosions, racecar driving, and the like. Actually getting out into the world takes effort, has limitations, and isn't always fun. Why bother when I can click a button and be flying a plane or parachuting behind enemy lines or battling orcs and goblins?
For all the concern scout leaders have about sports and other organizations taking boys from scouting, we are completely missing the boat. A boy involved in any other activity is positive, but we are losing boys to sedentary fantasy without social interaction. This, I believe, will result in the slow death of nature.
A very interesting study complete in 2006 (http://www.videophilia.org/uploads/JEM.pdf) takes a look at the 50 year increase in national park attendance followed by 16 years of decrease through 2003. The decrease began in 1988, right when Internet use, video games, home theatres all began to gain popularity. Time spent on these sedentary activities increased 327 hours/year for the average American from 1987 to 2003 – that's about 2 full weeks. I would suggest that for scout-age boys, the increase is vastly greater. This electronic entertainment propagation is reducing the amount of time we spend actually living life.
We are spending far less time in the outdoors and the trend is continuing down. Environmental awareness, conservation, and responsible stewardship can't help but drop as we spend less time interacting with and experiencing the wilds. As all our cravings for excitement and challenge are fulfilled electronically, we care less for the real world. It doesn't really matter if there are green spaces, wilderness areas, birds, or beasts if we have no perceived need for them.
Videophilia is the new human tendancy to focus on sedentary activities involving electronic media. This is in contrast to Biophilia, people's appreciation of nature, and is already having a huge negative impact on our population. It has been tied to the national surge in obesity, poor exercise habits, lower social awareness, and lessened interpersonal skills. As these trends continue and our concern for the people and world around us decrease, support for, use of, and caring about our natural environment will fall by the wayside.
Looking at the overall problem through the eyes of one person, it may appear hopeless. After all, the Internet is here to stay, video games keep getting better, and electronic entertainment just keeps getting more and more real. That can't be changed, and it may be a losing battle, but I can at least do something where I am. Here's a few ideas:
Ensure the troop has at least one campout every month
Push for one more hike or outdoor activity every month
Hold troop meetings outdoors
Find outdoor rather than indoor service projects
Guide Eagle Scouts towards outdoor projects
Challenge scouts to earn the National Camping award
Promote environmental merit badges and awards, such as Leave No Trace, Hornaday, World Conservation, Paul Bunyan
Go for a walk every day, even if it's just 10 or 15 minutes
Maybe we should list Outdoors first of the eight methods of scouting for the next few years since it always seems to be around 3 or 4 when they are listed. This is the main reason I started my sons in scouting. It wasn't for the citizenship or character development – it was to make sure they had a reason to spend time in the outdoors, learning to care for themselves, nature, and others. The citizenship and character come from that experience.
Here are some great resources for scout learning in a fun way. Rather than reading books, these Decks Of ... have useful information packed onto colorful, well illustrated, sturdy cards.
They are great for a patrol meeting or merit badge session. They aren't waterproof, but heavy coated cardboard which holds up to lots of handling.
Stars, Birds, First Aid, Fishing, and Knots support the Astronomy, Bird Study, First Aid, Fishing, and Pioneering merit badges as well as being wonderful aids for rank advancement skills.
The new Birds and Fishing decks are for identification and have a few bonus cards with other data.
Fishing has great color illustrations, distribution, scientific name, fishing techniques, and a bit of other info for each fish.
Birds has a color photo, flight pattern, breeding times, wingspan, distribution, song, egg, and plumage helpful info.
Our troop has one of each in the troop library and they work well to keep scouts involved before a troop meeting. Maybe you could have your troop librarian buy one or two every six months until you have the set. They are $10 each at the scout shop.
A great image video for the world scouting movement - please share this one with parents of new scouts. "Think globally and act locally" comes to mind when I put into perspective the work at the troop or pack level against the cumulative effect of scouting around the world. Every scout is bound through the fleur-de-lis with all other scouts around the world.
Sticking with this training theme for one more post... With Webelos crossing to troops, this is a great time to review your adult training levels. All adults, whether registered volunteers or not, should complete Youth Protection before interacting with scouts, as a minimum. Youth Protection should be retaken every two years and can be quickly taken online. Those in registered positions should have a plan for completing the required training to receive the 'trained' strip.
Selecting an adult as your Training Chair can make life easier by having a single person with the main duty of tracking adult training needs and completions. Newly involved adults may need quite a bit of guidance in understanding what training is needed and finding available training sessions.
At MyScouting.org you can now take Climb On Safely and Trek Safely online. These are in addition to Weather Hazards, Youth Protection, Safe Swim Defense, and Safety Afloat.
In case you didn't know, at least one adult on every outing is supposed to be trained in Weather Hazards starting in 2009. There's no reason I can think of not to have every adult go through ALL of these online training modules to increase the overall safety of your unit.
AJ from Alabama and Lisa from South Carolina have claimed their prizes and a new contest for March is under way. There's $103 in prizes available, contributed by Firepistons.com, ClassB.com, and BoyScoutTrail.com.
You could win a $28 Fire Piston kit, $50 product coupon, or $25 Scout Shop gift card. Or, if you don't enter, you can be sure to win none of the above.
There's nothing I enjoy more in scouting than kicking a scout out. When new scouts join, one of the first things I tell them is that my hope is to kick them out. I don't really care if they reach Eagle or not because that is completely up to them. But, I want to be the one to kick them out of Boy Scouts because they are still here having fun when they have to leave at age 18.
The oldest patrol of scouts in our troop is now down to two scouts with one more aging out in two weeks. The last to go will be in June. Six scouts in that patrol stayed active until their 18th birthday - some more active than others, but all participating. Four of them also reached Eagle rank.
At this week's troop meeting, I presented the most recent "ager outer" with his Eagle square knot so he'd have it ready when he became active as an adult. I feel that recognizing each scout that stays active to 18 is important. If they didn't reach Eagle, there's a good chance they earned the Arrow of Light and you can give them that square knot. If not that, then a sincere thanks for their impact on the troop.
Depending on the plans of the scout, he might be ready to take on an Assistant Scoutmaster role so you could present him with an adult application and patch right away too.
Recognizing the aging out scouts shows the younger scouts that expectation of "sticking with it". My hope is that this recognition activity will be taken over by the scouts instead of me for the next scout in two weeks since it's their troop and would probably be more meaningful. Besides, the next scout is my son. :-)