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Today is Popcorn day - the first day that scouts can sell popcorn in our council. For the next couple weeks, scouts will be looking for new doors on which to knock and new people to help support their scouting habits. It's something I don't especially enjoy but makes it possible for boys to participate in the program.

The familiar theme from my boys is that there are too many scouts out there selling and its too much work for the funds raised. After a little family discussion last night to decide on a quota and set expectations, they are out today working together to see how much per hour they really can make. Our family decided that they would be expected to raise half of the cost of scout trips. So, if they only raise $50, they can go on $100 worth of trips.

It's a beautiful, sunny day and they had already reached 1/5 of their goal by the time they came home for lunch. As long as they can keep getting along, they should be able to finish up by Monday. One scout has historically sold to our church congregation on Sunday, so we don't do that. Two new cub scouts have started down the block, so we don't go down that way. So, they got out the town map and marked off some (hopefully) likely places and are out on their bikes now.

I don't know where you live, but in our town there are 6 troops and 6 packs - most of which sell popcorn and Christmas wreaths at this time. That makes it a challenge to figure out which neighborhoods have been covered, but not oversaturated. If there's just one troop, you can divide the place up, but we don't have cooperation between the different units. Maybe some day. Every year, I'm just sure there's a whole neighborhood someplace where no one sold anything but I've no way to tell.

If you have ideas that work for your pack or troop when selling door-to-door, I'd love to hear from you. And, if you have a really easy, sure-to-be-a-hit way to fund your scouting, please tell me all about it. :-)

Scout On
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Posted: 14:15 09-30-2006 89
Court of Honor
We had 18 scouts advance in rank last night, including 8 Star scouts. The core of two patrols that started the same year have consistently advanced as a group, which is strange for our troop. Usually, individual scouts advance on their own pace, but these guys are all chugging right ahead and doing a great job growing as leaders.
I expect this next year will see some break-up of the group as the requirements and expectations for Life rank are encountered. I think it will be good to have some wait for a troop leadership position since they have lots of time to continue advancement.

This meeting was also the last one for the current leadership team. The new SPL and his team take over this week with transitions from previous leaders to new ones at each position. Then, leader training the first weekend in October and we're off and running! It's been a real good summer and the next group looks ready to keep the troop's momentum going.

I can see how countries with kings can get frustrated with the USA's 4-year term of leadership. It must be hard starting over with a new guy so often - just when he (or she) gets good at it, someone else takes over. Well, at least in Scouts, the growth and learning are more important than the efficiency and competence.

Scout On
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Posted: 13:22 09-26-2006 88
Order of the Arrow Conclave
Our district had our O/A Conclave last weekend. We had 57 scouts and adults go through the Ordeal on a very windy night. My son and 2 other scouts in our troop along with one adult did the Ordeal. We also had two scouts go through the Brotherhood ceremony. I'm planning to wait and do it when my son is ready also.
If you aren't involved in it, you should find out more about the Order of the Arrow in your district. There are some good benefits to scouts and the order does make some significant impacts.
At the national level, the O/A has a NOAC (National O/A Conference) every 2 years and in 2008 there will be the huge national service project called Arrow Corps 5 - actually five separate conservation-oriented service projects on U.S. Forest Service lands across the country.
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Posted: 0:37 09-20-2006 87
Scout Pizza Party
boy scout blog
The Shark Patrol is having a pizza party this evening. Our troop has a little contest that runs for 3 months at a time. In those 3 months, whichever patrol earns the most Patrol Spirit points gets to choose the reward they want. The Sharks chose pizza - that's what everyone always chooses :-)

But, they are going to eat pizza and then go do a Patrol Good Turn - packing meals at Feed My Starving Children. It's a great organization in Minnesota and a really fun service project to get involved with.

The goal of out Patrol Spirit competition is to get patrols to bring their flag to events, participate, and do separate patrol activities. I'll post the information about it in the 'Activities' section soon.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:18 09-14-2006 86
Completed LNT Course

I spent 4 days last week at Northern Tier participating in a Leave No Trace Master Educator course.  This training was a BSA National event and there were participants from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, and Missouri.  I got to meet some people that volunteer in Boy Scouts at the national level and I learned a ton about both the BSA and O/A organizations!

The best part of the course was that I FINALLY got to visit the Boundary Waters and see what it's like up there - without the mosquitos and humidity since the weather has cooled off so much.  The training took place out in the wilderness and our trek crew was guided by Travis and Davey.  These two guys just finished their summer working at Northern Tier as Foremen for that Order of the Arrow work program that I think is so cool.  O/A members can work for a week repairing portage trails and then spend a week on a paddling trek - for a very reduced price, something like $125 for the two weeks.  There are similar programs at Philmont and SeaBase.

Anyway, Travis and Davey are amazing guys with leadership and outdoors skills beyond belief.  They've both put in lots of effort to improve their own troops and have helped lead the growth of O/A programs.  They also really live the Leave No Trace ethics when they are out with scouts and old guys like me.

Now, the challenge I have is to make use of the skills I gained. Our council has a Conservation Committee and I'm now getting involved in that. I'll be teaching LNT Trainer courses where I will teach others how to teach LNT workshops. These Trainers will in turn teach units the LNT principles and ethics. A goal we have is to have at least one LNT Trainer in each unit - that might be a new youth leadership position the troop creates or maybe the O/A Troop Rep position could take on the training duties. There are quite a few possibilities and I'm really excited to help this get going in the coming year!

Scout On!
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Posted: 18:05 09-11-2006 85
LNT Master Educator Training
If you read last month, I mentioned a Leave No Trace training available next week in the Boundary Waters. Well, it looks like I'll be attending that course for 5 days. I'm really looking forward to it for a few reasons:
  1. Even though I've lived in Minnesota for seven years, this will be my first trip to the Boundary Waters and first trip to the Northern Tier high adventure base.
  2. I strongly believe in the LNT principles and feel that BSA activities should always incorporate them.
  3. There are scouters coming from Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Alabama, and Minnesota - and maybe more places.
  4. At this time of year, there should be very few bugs and no hot humidity.
  5. I will have some valuable skills to share with other units in our council.

So, don't look for any updates to the site for the next week. But, when I get home I'll let you know all about the training.

Scout On!
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Posted: 17:44 09-02-2006 84
School Recruiting
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.

Scout On
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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.

See and click the 'New' link in the navigation list at the top of the page.

Scout On!
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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.

Scout On
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Posted: 17:40 08-20-2006 81
LNT Training
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.

Scout On
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Posted: 13:31 08-13-2006 80
New Scouting Products
Hey, I was looking at 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.

Scout On
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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. :-)

Scout On
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Posted: 15:14 08-07-2006 78
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