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Free Prizes
Did you notice there's a Monthly Contest on Boy Scout Trail? Each month, you can win a $25 gift card for

Besides that, there are some contests running by Boys' Life and Scouting magazines...

Scouting Magazine's Cartoon Caption Contest has scouters come up with captions for 4 cartoons and maybe win gift cards.

Boys' Life's Summer Fun Photo Contest has savings bonds as prizes for scouts.
Boys' Life is also running their 19th Annual Reading Contest where scouts write a report, send it in, and maybe win a gift card.

Good Luck and Scout On!

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Posted: 17:20 05-31-2006 66
Hiking for Food
We have a crew of 8 scouts and 4 adults going on a week-long backpacking trip in Wyoming in July. It is a big undertaking to plan your own high adventure instead of just participating in the canned Philmont or Sea Base programs, but it sure does give the scouts a lot of leadership opportunity. One scout chose a campground for the trip there and back. Two more are working on the menu. Another is designing shirts and finding a vendor. Lots of other duties distributed by the crew leader so everyone has something to accomplish before the trek begins.

Tonight, our crew hiked 3 miles to a local burger joint, had dinner, then hiked back. What a great hike! We even had 3 tag-alongs that aren't going on our trek but are getting in shape for a different backpacking trip. It was fun to see the looks when we all tromped in with our backpacks on. Luckily, this place is run by super people with great attitudes and they serve really good hamburgers. I guess I should give them a plug - it's called Lion's Tap and I'm sure they'd love to have you stop in. One guy eating there said he was an Eagle scout and was looking forward to having his 9 month old son join Scouts. I told him the 6 years would fly be and he'd be a Tiger in no time. :-)

Scout On!
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Posted: 22:16 05-30-2006 65
Hornaday Award
The William T. Hornaday award is a BSA award started in 1917 for service in conservation. There are a bunch of increasingly difficult levels to the award. A troop can earn a certificate by completing a meaningful conservation project. A scout can earn a (very cool) metal badge by completing some merit badges and leading a meaningful conservation project. This could be great practice for an Eagle project. A medal can be earned by completing multiple projects. A Scouter can earn a certificate or medal, but only after a very significant long-term contribution to promoting conservation in Scouting.

For anyone in Minnesota, I found out that MN DNR has over $300,000 funding available for grant proposals for restoring native shoreline vegetation. Possibly other state Natural Resources Departments offer similar funding. If you can think of a shoreline that needs work, you might be able to receive funding to help restore it. If you are looking for a challenge, are interested in conservation, and would like to try for a pretty rare BSA award, consider the Hornaday award.

To learn more about the Hornaday awards: Award Page

To learn more about the DNR funding: MN DNR Page

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Posted: 8:41 05-25-2006 64
Bugs of Summer
Last evening, we went on a conditioning hike for a trip this summer to the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. I got my first mosquito bite of the year - actually 4 of them!

I'm sure mosquitos must do some good in the world, but I'm at a lose to understand just what that is other than be a food source for bats, birds, and fish.

Last summer, I wore a Buzz-Off shirt and pants on most of my camping trips and they worked great. They are impregnated with Permethrin.

But, this year I have something new to try. I just bought some new bug repellent made with Picaridin instead of DEET. DEET in about a 20% mixture works well for me, but I'm anxious to see how well this Picaridin works.

You can buy Buzz-Off clothing online directly from ExOfficio
Buzz Off Insect Repellent Clothing by ExOfficio

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Posted: 10:08 05-10-2006 63
Summer Camp Planning
Looks like we have 39 scouts going to summer camp in July. We're trying something new this year. We have adjacent camp sites and will have 4 patrols in one camp and 3 patrols in the other. The hope is to have some friendly competition for camp cleanliness, good campfire programs, and stuff like that. With some incentive, we might wind up with campsites kept in a little better order than the last couple years.
Plus, the scouts receive twice as many program slots throughout the week - last year, we had a lot of scouts in each program session with a lot of sitting and waiting for their turn.

So, I spent yesterday preparing planning documents for each patrol to start working on at the troop meeting tonight. Each patrol picks the top 10 things they want to do during the week from the camp's program topics. They also decide which merit badges to work on. Scouts going into 8th grade and above also get to choose a few more activities from an additional advanced program. Once all the patrols complete their planning, the SPL and ASPL will figure out the week's program and merit badges.

It's great to pass on as much of the planning to the scouts as possible. I still have the fun of making sure we have enough drivers, how many adult meals are needed each day, tent arrangements for adults, and a hundred other little bits. And, its still two months away! :-)

Scout On

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Posted: 9:00 05-08-2006 62
Ballistas and Bridges
The troop returned from their first campout of the 'summer' yesterday - 50 degrees and 48 hours of drizzling rain doesn't count as summer. The weekend's theme was Pioneering and the Cobra patrol planned the agenda.

New scouts earned their Totin' Chips and spent quite a bit of time hacking, sawing, and whittling with their new-found freedom from having their own cards.

After a session of learning and reviewing lashings, everyone worked on a monkey bridge after lunch. Since some of the work required fewer people, a flagpole with tripod was also lashed together by some scouts needing a 'useful camp gadget' for advancement credit.

A very cool Ballista was also constructed and operated completely by scouts. They made the plans, did all the lashings and supplied the man-power. Pretty cool project! This was the first ballista ever constructed by our troop. Now they're talking about an improved version for next year.

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Posted: 19:39 05-01-2006 61
Moose Patrol

The new scouts chose to be known as the Moose Patrol. It was 'Bruce, the Spruce Moose' for awhile, but that didn't last long. All five of them received their Scout badges at the court of honor after having their scoutmaster conferences with me.
Now, they're excited for the troop's Pioneering campout in April where they'll help build a monkey bridge and hopefully a catapult of some kind. They might also earn their Totin' Chip and Firem'n Chit cards that weekend.

Our new PLC had their first meeting this week, planning the meetings for the next month out. They were amazingly on task so we might just be in for a very productive summer!

Scout On
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Posted: 10:19 03-30-2006 60
Energetic New Scouts
I'm glad cross-over from Webelos is at this time of year. It's a great injection of energy into the troop after a long, cold winter.
Four of our five new scouts have earned their Scout badges already and will be presented at the court of honor on Monday. A super Troop Guide just met with their patrol last night and is helping them with figuring out a patrol name, flag, and yell. So, they are just bursting with energy and getting busy!
I can tell this group of scouts is going to be great fun. As one indication, their Webelos den was a combination of the 'Phat Frogs' and the 'Flaming Arrows' so they became the 'Phat Flaming Frogs' - now that's a good patrol name! I'll let you know what they come up with for their Boy Scout patrol name.

Scout On
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Posted: 21:35 03-21-2006 58
Irish for a Day
As far as I know, I've got no Irish blood in my body. But, today, everyone gets to pretend to be related to Arthur Guiness, Molly Pitcher, or Oscar Wilde. Or, maybe you prefer to be a leprechaun and dance a nifty Irish jig.

Whatever your pleasure, enjoy this last festive day of winter. Spring starts with the vernal equinox on March 20. You wouldn't know it here though - my son and I just built a 10ft by 7ft by 6ft high pile of snow the past two days in the front yard. After school today his plan is to start digging it out, so we're gonna have fun! Maybe I can talk him into camping out in it tonight.

Scout On
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Posted: 13:25 03-17-2006 55
Ebb and Flow of Membership
It looks like this year will see our troop shrink a bit. We are getting 5 Webelos crossing over and losing a handful of scouts to aging out plus a few that gave scouting a shot and decided against continuing.
After our huge growth of 19 scouts last spring, this will be a much different year. We'll have lots of experienced scouts to show them the ropes and we have a couple Troop Guides that will be just great.
Another local troop that got just a handful last year is getting 18 this year so I plan on keeping in touch with their scoutmaster to see how it goes.
We've checked to see why there was a change this year and as far as anyone can tell, one scout from each den decided early to go to a troop and the rest of his den just followed along. That might be a good thing to remember if you are 'competing' with troops for Webelos - get one of them to commit to you early and tell the rest where he's going.

I'm not concerned with getting fewer scouts - its actually good for us, I think. I am sad about the few scouts that chose to leave the troop. Every one of them said the troop was fine, but... too busy doing other things. I wonder what I could have done different to have them still be with us.

We do have one fellow who told me he wants to be a 'part-time scout' and only attend the outings and meetings he can make. I tried to explain that everyone is a part-time scout and it would be just great to have him participate as he can.

Scout On

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Posted: 17:36 03-05-2006 54
Adult Input
I believe it is important to have the adults of a troop give input to the program as well as participate in the program.

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.

Scout On

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Posted: 0:03 02-19-2006 53
Planning Ahead
Last night, we had 7 scouts and a couple parents at a kick-off meeting for the troop's first self-driven high adventure backpacking trip. Two Life scouts ran the whole meeting which included a slide show of pictures of where they're going, description of the cost, travel plans, and itinerary, and demonstration of gear that will be needed for each participant. The meeting went just great.

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? :-)

Scout On

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Posted: 8:46 02-17-2006 52
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