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Senior Patrol Leader elections were last week with an 8th grade Life scout taking the reins for the next 6 months. The troop elects a new SPL in Sept. and March - then a mad flurry of training occurs. It's pretty fun and the training of scouts is one of a Scoutmaster's main goals.
Since we have elections mid-September and the new leadership team takes over on October 1, we have about 2 weeks for initial training. And, it goes something like this:
- The troop elects an SPL.
- On the same night of the election, everyone desiring a leadership position checks their 1st, 2nd, 3rd choices on a sheet and turns that in.
- The SPL and I meet to decide who gets which position. At that time, we also do our initial training that lasts about 45 minutes - filling him in on his duties, expectations, and upcoming responsibilities. One big responsibility is scheduling the Troop Leader Training and Troop Planning sessions. TLT is usually right around the first day of their term.
- The SPL then contacts the troop (using the mail blast on TroopKit.com) to let them know the new leaders and when TLT will happen.
- The SPL, ASPL, and I meet. The SPL and I do initial training of the ASPL and we go over the agenda for TLT. We divide up duties, having the SPL and ASPL do as much of the presentation as they can, depending on their past experience.
- Over the next week, the SPL does initial training of each patrol leader while the ASPL does initial training of the scouts that report to him. This training is to go over responsibilities and takes about 15-30 minutes.
- TLT happens as a culmination of the training bombardment.
We use the small Troop Leader Training package from BSA and give out position cards. But, we also include other topics that have been fairly helpful. The day lasts about 3 hours plus 1/2 hour lunch and goes something like:
- Intro to Training - parents are asked to stay for 15 minutes to hear what 'scout-led' means, the SPL's vision, the SM's vision, and their role in ensuring their son fulfills the minimum duties of his position.
- Troop Positions - identify traits of a good leader, show troop org chart, each scout describes his position and duties.
- Troop Processes - confirm the rank advancement and merit badge processes, discuss how these leaders will help the newer scouts succeed.
- EDGE Instructing - explanation, demonstration, and then practice of using EDGE in all our skills training.
- Position Goals - each scout defines personal goals for their term and writes them on their wallet card.
- Special Topics:
- Campfires - having a theme, soliciting content, and MCing a successful program.
- Games - preparing, knowing the rules, enthusiasm, and fair play.
- Meetings - prepare agenda, materials, goals; start on time and stay focused; make it fun.
- Skills - have expertise and materials ready, use EDGE, teach small groups, and use helpers.
- Reflection - feedback on the training and how to improve next time.
The Troop Planning session has the SPL and Patrol Leaders deciding on activities for a 6-month period 12 months out and putting them on a calendar. This is following the 18-month calendar plan from the BSA so they are planning activities for next year.
Each patrol leader present volunteers his patrol to plan and organize one of the campouts.
They also brainstorm high adventure ideas for 2 and 3 years out to make sure we're doing the Philmont and SeaBase lotteries.
This planning session can happen any time in the first month or so, but the new SPL chose to do training and planning today. In the past, we've done training on a campout or at our meeting location. But, the scouts' favorite spot is my basement so I'm off to vacuum the cobwebs and shove the Wii into a corner.
Posted: 6:31 09-26-2009 444
Say Thank You
The troop took a week-long trip this summer, having a great time exploring the Pacific Northwest. We ran into lots of different people, some just wanting to exchange money for a campsite and that's all, others enjoying life and sharing their little part of the world with visitors.
A few folks we met really made an impression on the crew by their helpful and friendly attitude. So, on the way home we had a discussion about how people make an impact, good or bad, and what we might do to encourage the 'good'. The scouts thought it would be nice to send Thank You notes to a few they remembered.
I bought some official BSA cards and gave them to one scout that volunteered to write the notes. He then brought them to a couple troop meetings to have all the crew members sign them. Then, I addressed them (since I had all our trip bills and paperwork) and included one of our troop nickels
. The notes just finally got sent - about 2.5 months after the trip, but at the end of a busy summer for most of the people that we wrote to.
I'd like to think that receiving a thank you card might bring a smile or two. It also might make it a bit easier for the next troop that visits where we stayed. And, if nothing else, it gave our scouts experience in showing appreciation to others.
In case you were curious, here's some of the people that we met:
- Gary and the guides - at High Desert Outfitters whitewater rafting company in Maupin, Oregon. They showed us a great time on the river.
- Doug - a great old guy that works at the KOA campground in Hammond, Oregon. He took us clam digging at 5:30am using his own gear and introduced us to his War Vet buddies on the beach.
- Rhonda, Emily, and the Rental Dude - at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, Oregon. They got us a nice ski ticket package. The rental dude worked his behind off to get us outfitted and on the hill.
- Sandy - a park ranger at Ft. Clatsop in Oregon. She got us set up to earn our NPS Junior Ranger patches and pins. :-)
Don't forget to thank the people that help make the scouting experience special for your scouts. Lots of people do a bit extra and we certainly shouldn't take them for granted.
Posted: 16:54 09-23-2009 443
BSA Green Bag
The Scout Shop has another new item I'm compelled to mention. For just $.99, the BSA Green Bag
gives you a handy recyclable carrier made of recycled materials.
I can hardly wait to see if it sparks any conversations at the check-out buying groceries. I also plan to get a couple for our new Leave No Trace troop trainer to carry his demonstration materials and props in. Gee, maybe every patrol can have one for carrying their dry goods on campouts?
Posted: 13:41 09-17-2009 442
Merit Badge Sash Pins
Last year, my wife got me the world's most useless Christmas present - a BSA Branding Iron
(which, if you read the page, has a warning that it is not intended for children under 3 years due to choking hazard, but no mention of burn hazard ???)
But, I just saw that the Scout Shop has now made available possibly the most useful item ever - a Merit Badge Sash Pin
The scout pins it through his epaulet and sash to hold the sash in place - wonderful!
I've been looking for something to present to scouts at their Star rank presentation and this is it. Their sash is getting top-heavy and sliding to the front and this will be servicable and sharp-looking.
I expect it would work just as well for an OA sash, so I might get one for myself - I deserve it. :-)
Posted: 8:40 09-16-2009 441
Yesterday, I was asked by a nice fellow in Irving to let you know about ScoutCast
- a series of podcasts for Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Commissioners. The 'Value of Scouting' ones are very inspirational and interesting. The 2,000,000th Eagle from Minnesota and the 2008 Conservation Hero from New York are my favorites.
The 'CubCast' sessions are intended for pack and den leaders with ideas for monthly programs from volunteers around the country. These are only audio so you can listen them while doing other computer work.
Be sure to notice the 'Archives' link on the far right to hear past podcasts.
Posted: 11:36 09-15-2009 440
Free Troop Groceries
Well, here's something that would sure be interesting. What if your troop got $5,200 worth of free groceries next year? Check out New World Pasta's contest
Of course, you could just keep it yourself, but wouldn't it be cool to see what the scouts would cook when the sky's the limit?
Posted: 20:34 09-12-2009 439
Back to School
So, there's this school called Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
, or just Olin College, in Needham, MA. Ever hear of it? Me neither. But, it's a pretty cool place - actually really cool.
It's just 70 acres with 5 buildings (including the two residence halls) and has 334 total students. Hardly a blip on the screen and the fact that it opened in 2002 contributes to its obscurity. But, if you happen to know a high school scout with a passion and aptitude for engineering, you might want to mention it to him.
Olin reminds me of going to camp. It's surrounded by woods, appearing isolated, but actually close to other colleges and the community. The student support is amazing with mentors, clubs, partnerships, orientations, and even an Honor Code which encompasses many points of the Scout Law. Being a small school, it's like a small town - everyone knows you and you don't disappear into the masses. Each student matters.
Admission to Olin is a real challenge. Deadline to apply is Jan. 1 and info is on their admissions page
. If you'd like to see what the accepted students are like, check this out
The leadership and teamwork experience gained from scouting is a real plus for acceptance to this school as well as any others that screen their applicants. I'm glad my son chose this school and I believe if it had not been for his experiences in scouting he would not have made the cut. Of course, his SAT and ACT scores helped, but there's lots of real smart people - not so many with smarts and well-developed interpersonal skills.
Posted: 8:04 09-06-2009 438
The Old Favorites
We're an awful lucky group when it comes to campfires. There's never a lack of enthusiasm for skits on Saturday night. Sometimes the enthusiasm isn't always accompanied by planned skits and a patrol will have a great time hitting and tackling each other in some sort of pantomime with no real storyline which leaves the rest of the troop wondering what the heck is so funny. Stories take more effort to memorize than made-up skits, so they are a bit more rare but still a mainstay of our troop.
Occasionally, scouts will run out of ideas before they're too tired to stay awake and will ask me for a story. And, as creatures of habit, they'll request The Old Favorites
- that is any story heard in the past that they remember hearing, but can't recall well enough to tell themselves.
Trying to live the motto - Be Prepared
- I have a paper in my wallet with the titles of 2 dozen stories that I've got memorized. Before each campfire, I get a couple of them ready in my mind "just in case". I think it's good to have the scoutmaster ready to fill a lull with a good story.
Here's a few that have become old stand-bys and I enjoy telling. Maybe you can have a couple ready to share on your next campout:
And, one I reserve for trips with just older scouts - Scouts on Indian Grave
I have noticed this past year that many stories I used to get to tell are now being told by the older scouts. To be honest, I miss delivering the punch lines, but it sure feels good to hear a scout keeping 20 youngsters hanging on every word in the dark, anonymous circle around the glowing coals.
Posted: 21:58 09-04-2009 437
I was gone most of the past week driving 3000 miles from MN to MA and back. We took our oldest son, the Eagle Scout, to college (I'll post more about the amazing school later). And, I got to see how life is a bit different after scouts.
I remember going to college. It wasn't a big deal. I packed stuff in my car, drove to the university, did greek rush, joined a frat, and lived there with a bunch of guys. My folks didn't come with me.
They didn't run to Wal-Mart to get stuff I forgot to bring. They didn't put the sheets on the bed for me. They didn't arrange my clothes and tell me how to use the washing machine. They didn't hang my towel and put my shampoo in the shower.
I didn't do any of those things for my son either - except driving him there and carrying two boxes to his room. I spent all my time keeping my wife from doing those things, walking around the campus, and playing Othello to pass the time. :-) But, those are all examples of what I watched other parents doing for their kids. It was pretty funny, more like first day of kindergarten than college.
Our son checked in, got his room key, brought in his stuff, and set up camp - all before lunch. I didn't think much of it because it's pretty much how every troop campout goes - we arrive, scouts get their gear, and set up camp. But, when compared to the other students arriving, it really shows how self-sufficient scouting can make a person.
He's now 1500 miles away, completely on his own, and I have absolute confidence that he'll be perfectly content and responsible for himself. No small part of that is due to his years in scouting.
After Scouts, life is a bit easier to manage.
Posted: 15:05 09-03-2009 436
In case you've been too busy scouting this summer to do much else, here's a little reminder that Scouts and Scouters can win some cool prizes.
I just got my Scouting magazine and there's a Where Am I?
contest. But, it looks like their website is not up to date with the contest yet. I've got the answer all ready to enter because I've been there! So, I guess you all can just skip that one. :-)
There is a photo contest you can enter while waiting for the new contest to get posted. See Celebrate the Adventure photo contest
and get your pictures submitted before October 1.
There are six contests for scouts going on at Boys' Life and some end in the next week. See Boys' Life contest page
to enter. Find Pedro, send in photos, make a video, take a quiz, or write a report - lots of ways to win.
Posted: 8:25 08-25-2009 435
End of Summer
Summer officially ends tomorrow. I pick up oldest son from his 3rd summer on staff at Many Point Scout Camp. He was a First Class Adventure Director this year and had a terrific time. That's a lot of responsibility and some managing of peers. I think he learned a lot about mob mentality and how a couple good or bad influencers pull along the majority of followers.
I'll be bringing him and 2 other staff back to their families so I'm hoping for at least a few stories on the 4 hour ride home. If they all just zonk out, I'll be left to my Mountain Dew and highway noise.
At least the weathr for the past day and tomorrow is nice and dry so I won't load up wet, soggy, scouts - just smelly, dirty ones with many nights of camping under their belt.
Posted: 22:05 08-16-2009 434
Glissading the Volcano
There was an episode of 'Happy Days' where Fonzie jumped over a shark. Now, 'Jumping the Shark
' means a show does absurd or over-the-top episodes to boost ratings. I guess we jumped the shark this summer on our Sea2Sky trip when we 'Glissaded the Volcano'.
Climbing about 3500 feet through rock, snow, and ash over 4 hours to the top of an active volcano and watching the steam come out of a crater 500 feet below your feet was pretty absurd. But, taking just 1 hour to get back down was awesome!Glissading
is sledding down a steep hill - with no sled. It's way cool and can be done on snow, sand, ash, grass, on your butt or on your feet. We just sat down, while wearing our rain pants, and arrived 500 feet down the mountain about 30 seconds later.
We would glissade down, walk across the fall line, glissade again, over and over. We made about 6 runs total. In the middle picture, you can see people walking across the top.
Of course, like everything we do, there is a sense of danger and a bit of risk - raising the first while minimizing the second is key. We practiced how to use gloved hands to steer, use elbows, hands, packs, and legs to brake, and especially how to hoot and howl all the way down!
When you get a chance to try glissading, here's a few tips:
- Wear rain pants and jacket, and gloves.
- Tuck your jacket inside your pants to prevent snow from packing inside.
- Follow in the track made by the person ahead of you.
- Don't start a run unless you can see the end of the run - rocks at the bottom really suck.
- Roll to your stomache and raise up on your elbows, digging them in, to stop fast.
- Have everyone practice and demonstrate ability before going.
You can see our whole Sea2Sky trip at this page
Posted: 8:32 08-14-2009 433
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