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We lost a few scouts from the troop over the summer. One patrol had 3 scouts move out of town, so that was a blow.
So, I've been promoting the concept of recruiting to the scouts. Historically, we've had all the Webelos we can handle coming into the troop each spring. We're probably going to get 2 patrols from Webelos in 2007. But, I know there are boys in 6th and 7th grade that would have a great time in scouts but 'graduated' from Webelos or were never in Cub Scouts and are now missing out.
My speech I've been giving in scoutmaster conferences and at meetings goes something like this:
As you know, Jimmy and Bobby moved away this summer so they're no longer in our troop. They'll be starting 7th grade in a new school in a new town in a few days. I sure hope they meet some new friends there. Wouldn't it be great if some boy in their class said 'HI' and asked them if they were in Boy Scouts? Then, they could join a new troop there.
You'll be starting 7th grade (or 6th grade) in a couple days too. I bet there will be a boy or two in your class that you've never met. How do you think he'd feel if you introduced yourself and asked what he likes to do? If he seemed like a nice guy, you could say that you're in scouts and ask if he is too. If he's not in scouts or if he just moved here and needs to join a troop, you could invite him to our September campout or a troop meeting.
What parts of the Scout Law would that be doing? helpful, friendly, kind, cheerful.
So far, I've got promises from 7 scouts that they'll be giving it a try.
Posted: 12:44 08-31-2006 83
New Scout Pants
BSA has come out with a new option for uniform pants. They are called 'SwitchBacks' and are long/short zip-off nylon pants available online and should be in local scout shops. These are intended for use in the outdoors since the other official uniform pants aren't that practical. Unfortunately, they are priced at $40 which is about double what you can get similar 'unofficial' zip-offs for.
and click the 'New' link in the navigation list at the top of the page.
Posted: 9:31 08-24-2006 82
When Do They Get It?
We just returned from a great kayaking weekend. The weather was perfect and the river was mild. The Breakfast Pizza
I made in the dutch oven for the adult's breakfast was a hit. Pretty much the only hitch was the brain flush that seems to happen to many scouts between outings.
I and the SPL and other adults have mentioned more times than I can remember that we crush trash before putting it in the garbage. We started pushing this after one weekend where we had 3 garbage bags full that I reduced to just one by crushing the trash.
This weekend, when we cleaned up the campsite, the garbage bag was full of empty, capped, intact plastic bottles - taking up about 3 times as much space as needed.
So, before our closing reflection, I explained to the group that we crush our trash and I explained why we do this. I have no idea how many scouts heard me this time.
But, I imagine that one Sunday I'm going to notice a very small, very heavy trash bag and then I'll know that they 'Got It'.
Until then, I guess I keep trying new ways to get the point across. Maybe I can save up a couple cases of empty bottles for the next outing and add them to the garbage early, early, early Sunday morning to see if anyone notices - that might be fun. I suppose I could request of the PLC that plastic bottles be 'outlawed' on campouts for 6 months, but I'm not much for adding extra rules.
Posted: 17:40 08-20-2006 81
I just found out about a Leave No Trace Master Educator Course
being offered to BSA leaders on Sept. 5-10 at Northern Tier and Sept. 17-22 at Philmont.
More details are on this Northern Star Council PDF Flyer
Sounds like an exciting opportunity to get some intense LNT training which you could then share with your local troops.
Posted: 13:31 08-13-2006 80
New Scouting Products
Hey, I was looking at www.ScoutStuff.org and noticed a few new items that I think will be quite helpful for scouts.
There is now a $2.00 clear plastic Scout Handbook cover as an option to the $9.00 black cloth one. One of the most common problems for scouts is keeping their handbook alive until they reach their Eagle board of review. The handbooks made the last few years seem to have a real problem with the advancement pages in the back easily coming unglued. Combine that with leaving the book out overnight on a campout by the campfire and you've got a mess.
I think this new, inexpensive cover will be a big help to keep books dry and clean.
There is a minibook which has all the rank requirements taken right out of the Scout Handbook. It is intended to be taken on campouts instead of the full-sized handbook and used to temporarily record achievements. I got myself one so I can have all the requirements quickly available, even if I forget my handbook.
It is twice as big as it needs to be because it is written in English and Spanish. There are no places for sign-offs, just the little checkboxes like the pages within the Scout Handbook instead of the advancement pages in the back. So, if you want to use them for sign-offs, you'll need to sign in the margin area.
Posted: 13:11 08-12-2006 79
End of Summer Depression
Does it happen to you? Do you hate to see the summer winding down?
Maybe I'm the only one with this affliction, but since I've been playing the role of scoutmaster I get a serious case of depression in August. It's not because school is starting or because the weather will soon be changing. It's because the summer camps, high adventures, and big outdoors events are done for the year.
The troop will still have weekend campouts each month and there's lots to do for recruiting, advancement, and learning skills. But, now I have to wait 9 months for the next really big scouting trip. If you can believe it, I'm already looking forward to advising a couple scouts in planning their trek to Arches National Park next June and round 2 of Wyoming backpacking in July, plus we'll have the week at summer camp to plan. The planning is a very enjoyable and rewarding experience, but that will slowly form and then come in a rush just the month or two before each trip.
So, for the next few months, I get to relax a bit and not be too stressed. That's what my wife says anyway - I think of it more as being bored. :-)
Posted: 15:14 08-07-2006 78
Really High Adventure
We've returned from the mountains!
Our 1716 mile round trip to Wyoming was a great success, even though we did not reach the summit of Cloud Peak. The day we hiked up it, thunder rolled over the top so we stopped at about 12,200 feet - 1,000 feet from the summit.
The scouts were successful in lowering the flag at Mt. Rushmore with the ampitheater completely packed with visitors - what a super experience! As you can see below, they were a good looking group and they did a very crisp job.
Kemp's Kamp in Keystone, SD is where we stayed our first and last night. They have a nice pool, showers, and the folks running the campground are good people. See Kemp's Kamp
web site for details. It's close to Mt. Rushmore too.
From Buffalo, Wyoming, we drove to the Hunter Trailhead, registered our group and then backpacked in to Soldier Park area. Since this is still outside the wilderness area, it is routinely abused by inconsiderate users. Hacked trees, fire pits all over, 4x4 damage, ... everywhere you look, its a mess.
One of the goals of this trip was to emphasize Leave No Trace ethics so this was a great way to see the difference that LNT makes. The scouts were so appalled that they decided to clean the place up. They spent over 2 hours hauling trash, erasing fire pits, and reconstructing a single fire ring. They actually discovered 3 fires that were still burning. With the 90 degree heat and strong wind, it was very fortunate that our crew came along to take care of them.
Once inside the wilderness area, the LNT practices were evident. There was much less impact along the trails and very little trash for us to pick up as we hiked along.
Our trek was about 35 miles and we carried all our food and gear for the 5 days of backpacking. We experienced some great sites, including 5 moose and 2 mule deer our last morning.
If you would like details about our trek, please just ask. The scouts are already planning next year's return trek - they are interested to see how badly their cleaned-up site will look and they want to reach the summit.
Posted: 11:29 08-01-2006 77
The Value of Planning
On Saturday, we have a crew of 8 scouts and 4 adults heading to the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming for the troop's first ever self-guided high adventure.
We have been planning this trek since March with practice hikes every week, crew meetings every few weeks, and distribution of tasks.
There is a ton of work that goes into making a trip happen and the scouts going on this one now have a better appreciation of that. The SPL is going and he has been the primary planner, defining what needs to happen and handing out jobs. The scouts have done an excellent job of defining tasks and getting them done. I believe they have already learned more valuable skills on this one trip, even before departing, than all the campouts we've done before this.
Tonight, I went shopping for food for 12 people for 5 days with the two scouts tasked with food planning. I had gone out earlier to do research and to make sure we stayed on the right track. We had a fun time purchasing all we'd need. Then, at a scout's home we repackaged everything into meals that will be distributed to individuals to carry on Friday. At least these two scouts have now seen the value of repackaging - we saved a few pounds of excess weight, have less garbage, and each meal is complete. They've also seen first hand how much food a group consumes in a week.
Another scout got crew T-shirts made and they got here last week. He did online research and ordered the shirts from a web site.
Another scout created an elevation map of our route based on a topo map we have and Google Earth images. He gave a short presentation about it at our crew meeting on Monday. His map is really a graph of our elevation at every 1/2 mile increment of our 34 mile trek. This gives us a very good idea about which days will be more difficult, how far we go and how high we go. We were impressed!
Another scout found campgrounds for us to stay at in Rapid City on the way there and back. I made the reservations, but he got all the information to me.
Since this is our first try at something this big, my job was to make sure the bases were covered and to teach some scouts what they needed to do for their tasks. I also presented Leave No Trace guidelines to the group so we are fresh on that. After this trip, I'm sure that Leave No Trace ethics will be important to this group and they will begin to spread it to their patrols.
Well, since we have our approved National Trip Permit back, I guess we're ready to head out. I'll miss posting anything until next weekend, so ...
Posted: 1:35 07-20-2006 74
Too Busy to Write
This month I have been too busy to find time to jot down my thoughts. I guess that happens from time to time.
We had an excellent week at Many Point Scout Camp last week. Most of my time was spent keeping track of all that was scheduled and checking on progress. We had 101 merit badges taken this year and about 2/3 or those were completed at camp. I expect next year there will be a huge rush on the Astronomy merit badge - the handful of scouts that took it this year had a blast. They put on a Star Party for the rest of the troop and explained what they had learned about constellations and cellestial bodies.
Thursday afternoon gave up our only storm of the week with hail almost as big as golfballs. Very hectic for 5 minutes and then it was pretty much over.
This year is the 60th anniversary of the camp so they have some special activities going on such as a medallion hunt and old time scout skills.
The past 3 years, we have cooked all our own meals at camp but the troop elected to move to a different campsite next summer and have our meals in the dining hall. That will be a new experience for everyone and should make life easier for me! :-)
I'm already looking forward to what it will be like. Nothing like camp!
Posted: 1:18 07-20-2006 73
Short Notice Service
A local youth camp had some oak trees taken down this spring and cut to firewood lengths. At our troop committee meeting on Monday, a request to have the wood split and stacked before their first week of camp was presented. First week of camp starts this coming Monday - not a lot of time to organize and do the task.
I volunteered to find out what scouts would help and then determine if we could help out or not. Before I tell you what I did, how do you think this 'should have' been done? How should I have found out which scouts were available and then contact the camp to let them know if we could do the work?
Well, I was in a very tight time crunch. I had to get this done in two days so we could do the work on Thursday. I thought I would use the patrols like a phone tree. I sent an email to all patrol leaders telling them about the work to be done and asking them to get a list of available scouts in their patrol back to me. I then called each patrol leader to let them know the email was in their mailbox. I wound up leaving messages for most scouts.
It worked great. By Wednesday noon, I had gotten word back from all eight patrols and we had nine scouts and two adults that would be doing the job.
But, I overstepped my role in the troop. I should have contacted the Senior Patrol Leader directly and discussed the project with him. If he felt the troop should and could do it, then he should have contacted the patrol leaders. The results would have been the same, but their would have been more more scout leadership going on instead of an adult running the show.
I'm still learning. In a crunch, I have to take extra time in deciding what scouts can do instead of me or other adults. Adults are needed to drive and ensure safety - pretty much everything else can be done by scouts, sometimes with adult guidance. Next time, I plan to do a better job.
The wood splitting went great. The two adults split and the scouts stacked about 3/4 cord of wood. We didn't finish the job in our available time, but we worked hard and made a good dent in the task. More scouts would not have helped since the wood splitter was the bottleneck.
Posted: 7:51 06-24-2006 72
Thunder and Lightning
Last weekend, I got to see my first actual lightning strike. On our way to camping, we had to pull over because it was raining so hard.
While waiting for the rain to let up, lightning was crashing all over the place. About 50 yards away, a bolt hit a tree and we could see the sparks dropping off the tree. That was about enough to convince the scouts in my vehicle to head back home for the weekend. :-) But, once the rain let up, things went great for our trip.
We did canoeing and fishing (no fish) and for the most part the weather was just fine. Lots of mosquitoes and a train passing through somewhere in the distance about every hour did make the campout not quite perfect.
This trip had a noticably smaller turn-out with about 12 scouts instead of 35. But, I tend to agree with the couple scouts in our reflection that mentioned it seemed like we got more done and got along better with a smaller group. Something to think about.
Posted: 22:40 06-23-2006 71
Youth Leader Training
On Sunday, I took my son and another Life scout to our council's Youth Leader Training. It's a week long camp that just got a face-lift and new name this year. It was called Pine Tree but is now called Grey Wolf - Info Page
One of them is in the Rhino patrol and the other is a Python. When I left, their Troop Guides were leading them in making Turk's Head Knots.
This camp is yet another opportunity for leadership development in scouting. It's so encouraging to see a scout looking forward to a chance to use some leadership tool he just learned. And, to see him try it out, hone it, and then look for another tool to learn. Of course, not every scout has a drive for leadership, but every scout can't help but learn some skills just by being imersed in the program.
When they return from Grey Wolf, these two scouts will give a report to the Troop Committee and I'm really looking forward to hearing what they picked up for use in improving the troop.
Posted: 11:55 06-13-2006 70
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