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This afternoon, I had an open invitation to all troop adults to meet with me and share how the past year went and suggestions for the coming year. Two hours later, we were through most of it! :-) Eight people gave a lot of good input that reinforced some of the things our troop worked on this past year and made me realize we have some key areas to improve.
There were a few really good, really easy changes to suggest to the new SPL being elected next month which should make his meetings go more smoothly. It was encouraging to hear that for the most part we are going the right direction and there is strong support for the program from a good core group. We do need to spread the 'burden' of support to more adults - I guess that is a common thread for most troops.
I will be conducting 'parent training' sessions at March, April, and May troop meetings to give parents opportunities to learn about scouting, our troop, and expectations. They went over fairly well last year.
Three of the biggest things for the troop to work on are:
- how we do merit badges
- holding scouts accountable
- getting experienced scouts to encourage newer scouts
Looks like its going to be a great year - as soon as it gets back over 0 degrees. Brrrrrr.
The plan is to backpack for 5 days in the Cloud Peak Wilderness area in Wyoming in July. It looks like we'll have 5 to 8 scouts and 2 or 3 adults - a good 'first crew' to come back and infect the troop with the excitement of the mountains.
We had a crew go to Philmont last summer, but this trek will take us up to 13,000 feet which is almost 3,000 more than our highest point at Philmont.
July is still a loooooong way away, but the scouts have a list of training sessions for packing, use of stoves, filtering water, high altitude first aid, and waste management. Just tons of opportunities for the more experienced ones to teach and the younger ones to learn. Can you tell I'm excited about this one? :-)
I just picked up the 'Troop Leadership Training' 3-ring binder package of pages that is document #34306A at the Scout Shop. I was expecting the replacement for the Junior Leader Training materials, but there's nothing in it except a quick intro and a bunch of pages of wallet cards with position descriptions to hand out to the scouts. I'm really hoping I missed the real materials someplace or else I'm really disappointed. I'll have to search around to see what other folks have found out about this new leadership training.
Sunday, Feb. 5 is Scout Sunday - an opportunity to recognize scouts in your congregation.
|Good information about Scout Sunday can be found at this BSA Official Page.|
Scout Sunday is designated by BSA as the Sunday that falls before Feb. 8 (Scouting Anniversary Day) but each congregation can celebrate on a more convenient Sunday if necessary.
I hope you have an opportunity to wear your uniform to church tomorrow. If your congregation does not currently have a Scout Sunday program, it would be a good idea for you to discuss it with your pastor and see if something can be arranged for next year.
Also, a bunch of the existing merit badges have had requirement changes in the past year. Scouts and merit badge counselors should check the requirements before forging ahead with what they always did in the past. (I'm working on updating the worksheets here now)
Finally, there's a new requirement for First Class rank advancement...
#11: Tell someone who is eligible to join Boy Scouts, or an inactive Boy Scout, about your troop's activities. Invite him to a troop outing, activity, service project or meeting. Tell him how to join, or encourage the inactive Boy Scout to become active.
If scouts have not earned their First Class rank by June 30, they will be required to include this new task.
The new requirement fits well with what I've been 'preaching' to scouts for the last couple years. We can't take Webelos for granted - they may not advance on to our troop. A first year scout needs to invite a friend that hasn't been in cub scouts to join his patrol. It is a perfect time for a new boy to get involved because it is all new for the cub scouts moving on also.
I also see this requirement as another opportunity for older scouts to teach effective communication skills and better understanding of the joining process for everyone.
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I think it's a really good idea to take a minute and tell the people that volunteer 'Thank You' occasionally. Volunteers are seldom helping out because they want the praise, but too often they get taken for granted. Whether its Sunday School teachers, scout leaders, hospital visitors, soup kitchen help, or whatever, letting them know they are appreciated is nice.
I'm having the adult volunteers of our troop over for pizza and a movie next month to say 'Thanks'. Of course, I'm also going to include a discussion of the highs and lows of the past year, but nothing's free. :-) Maybe we'll watch 'Follow Me, Boys' since I've not seen that old film yet.
Hey, if you happen to be reading this and volunteer your time to scouting or some other helpful organization, let me say THANKS! and keep up the good work.
Our Summit Award is earned by scouts that have received their Arrow of Light, earned 3 additional activity badges, and attended an extra troop function as a Webelos scout. They then need to join a troop, do 3 hours of service, earn the Scout badge, and participate in a troop outing.
This award is then presented to the scout at a pack meeting of his old pack so the cub scouts can see how one of their own has moved on to boy scouts and is having a great time. It is helpful in encouraging Webelos to keep active.
This Summit Award is specific to our council. I found that there are at least 3 other councils with different Summit Awards, all with different requirements and goals. These council-level awards can make things confusing for folks, especially when you look at a uniform that has weird patches you've never seen before in places you didn't know they could be. :-) Sometimes, that is due to misplacement of patches and other times it is due to councils deciding to issue their own patches.
I think its a good opening for conversation when you notice a new patch on someone's uniform. Finding out what they did to receive it can get the ball rolling.
Now, I hope I survive this cafeteria full of wild cub scouts tonight. It's been 8 months since I've been in the wild with them!
I hear from quite a few people that send me email here making similar comments - that the cub scout program (and mostly tiger cubs) is just a madhouse with no direction or goals. I assure them that it is not supposed to be that way.
The program in the Tiger Handbook has specific activities for scouts to do, not just have boys run around and play the whole time. The den leaders should set behavior expectations right at the start of the year with the buy-in of the parents and scouts and then stand by those expectations.
An adult is required to attend every Tiger meeting and activity for every tiger scout that attends. This is so the tiger has some fun time with the adult and so the adult can keep the tiger in line and on track. The den leader should not be expected to play the role of parent.
A den leader needs to have the leadership skills to talk with a parent if a tiger scout is disrupting the den's activities. There should always be a goal for every activity, game, meeting that scouts do. Scouting is a game with a purpose and it's important that the adults know the purpose but the scouts don't need to know it. The scouts should just think they are playing and having fun - they'll learn as they do the activities in the handbook.
One of the really great things I've discovered from being part of the entire scouting program from Tiger to Eagle is 'Continuity'. The small tasks that tiger scouts do build into larger, more complex tasks for Life and Eagle scouts. For example, Tigers take a hike with their den, Wolfs plan a walk, Bears plan an outdoor family day, Webelos participate in a den campout, Tenderfeet camp out 1 time, 2nd Class camp out 5 times and plan some meals, 1st Class camp out 10 times, planning and supervising meals. The tasks build from year to year and are age-appropriate with more being expected as a boy matures in age and skills. The same sort of progression is in the program for first aid, leadership, citizenship, swimming, knots, camping, and other scout skills.
When folks plop down into a Tiger den, they usually are not aware that it is the first small step that is part of a 12 year program helping their little boy become a well-rounded man. They also are sometimes not aware that no program can be successful without support, love, and guidance from the scout's family. I believe those two points should be emphasized at the start of each scouting year by the den leader, cubmaster and scoutmaster.
Our first campout of the year is in 2 weeks - building snow huts up north by Lake Mille Lacs. To prepare, another instructor demonstrated how to wrap a sleeping bag into a snow cocoon to keep it dry. Then he explained how to build a quinzee hut. He did a real good job.
We have two years of scouts that have never been on this outing since we got snowed out last year - blizzard the day we were to go. So, lots of excitement and plenty of anxious moms asking questions ( What if it caves in? How will they stay warm? Are you outside ALL day? ... )
This is my favorite outing of the year, mostly because we're blessed with a natural setting that much of the country does not enjoy, being able to build these structures. And if the temperature drops below 0 degrees fahrenheit, our local council has a "Zero Hero" patch that the scouts can earn if they stay out all night. It got down to 3 degrees last time so it's been 3 years since anyone got this in our troop.
I received some nice gifts from my family today. Some compression bags from Granite Gear and a pretty funny waterproof toiletpaper holder/bag from Sea to Summit. I expect it will probably wind up being a very useful item next summer, but the idea of it is funny.
Last summer at Philmont, our maps got pretty wet so the waterproof map case my brother gave me is a great tool!
We now have a few days to visit, eat, and enjoy ourselves before returning to the normal schedules.
I hope you have a happy, restful time this Christmas.
The stand-in SPL did a great job as I figured he would. Some boys just 'get it' easily and understand what it means to lead as does this one. He knows what is needed, does what he can, sees when he needs help, and asks for support. And, he is rubbing off on to other scouts in his patrol.
Our quarterly Court of Honor was held last night. This is typically a smaller ceremony and we had 2 First Class, 1 Star, and 1 Life scouts receive their patches. Sometimes we have 5 or more scouts all receiving the same rank and it makes it much less personal. I really enjoyed having time to concentrate on the achievements of a single scout at a time and I think the ceremony was more meaningful.
Each of these scouts had taken longer than 'normal' to reach these ranks so it was great to have them accomplish this.
We also had an Eagle earn his Bronze Eagle Palm. He has been an Eagle for awhile but his ceremony was delayed and will be finally happening this Saturday. He's a great scout - very giving and supportive of others. And, his dad has been a huge asset to the troop for the past few years. Now, we have a few months to work on replacements for both his dad's role and his leadership.
So, these Courts of Honor are fun but also show that scouts move on and new scouts need to keep coming in to fill the void and make the troop their own.
I believe that the minimum required adults should go on an outing so that the chances of it truely being 'boy-led' are increased. Since I'm not really needed, I'll be staying home. There are a handful of new parents that have not done camping with us all summer that have signed up, so its important to get them into the program. I know it would be good for me to be there to show them the ropes, but I've already let the old goats that are going know I want them to teach the new guys.
My youngest son will be going on this skiing trip. That's actually a really good thing because he'll have an opportunity to lead his patrol without the scoutmaster dad around, and I'm sure he'll do just great. He tends to be my shadow on outings since this is his first year. I suppose in a year or so I'll never see him and miss him hanging around terribley, but that's a good thing to experience over time.
Anyway, on this outing both the SPL and ASPL will be absent so the patrol leader of the patrol that is organizing the outing has volunteered to be acting SPL for the weekend. What a great experience for him! At the Patrol Leader meeting this Monday, he took on the duties and is ready to give it a shot. Since this is just his 2nd year in Boys Scouts, it would be great to see - wish I was going! The biggest challenge will be to make sure the older scouts show him the respect and support he deserves for accepting the role. I've let the adults that are going know I would like them to keep an eye out and remind scouts as needed.
We've had reallly cold temps for the past week and the news says it should snow lightly all day on Saturday so it should be just a super time - wish I was going!
Now, I just have to figure out what to do at home all weekend while I'm waiting for Sunday to finally arrive so my son can tell me about his adventure.
Scout On! wish I was going.
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