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Tech Chip
How are electronics handled in your troop, pack, or crew? Are they banned, allowed only at certain times, or permitted? just scouts, or adults too? All electronics, including GPS, flashlights, watches? A specific list of devices that are illegal?

I noticed quite a bit of online discussion about electronic devices on scout outings over the past year. Some adults just ban them altogether. Others let the scouts decide. Others ban them from scouts, but not adults.

In our troop, each newly-elected Sr. Patrol Leader determines how electronics should be handled. Long ago, none were allowed on campouts because they were just radios and music. As cellphones became more common, scouts snuck them along. This caused friction between the scouts. More recent SPLs have allowed electronics, but only in the cars, or only at specific times, or only for certain uses such as clock or emergency light - which has been difficult to manage.

Most recently, we've reached the consensus that electronics are too integrated into our daily lives to toss them away for a weekend. Setting expectations on how technology should be courteously and safely used in scouting has been our direction. Over the past couple months, we've created a short training program called Tech Chip, in the spirit of Whittlin' Chip, Totin' Chip, and Firem'n Chit. It is about 20 minutes of skits and discussion to ensure everyone understands the expected use of electronics at our scout events. At the conclusion of the training, each participant receives a wallet card.

At this past weekend's campout, I presented the training to the SPL, ASPL, and a PL. They then presented it to 15 other scouts. Everyone that I asked was excited about getting to take their devices now and they all could recite the expectations to me. Some of them were just excited to have a cool wallet card even though they didn't own cellphones. :-)

See more about the Tech Chip, training outline, and wallet cards you can purchase for your Troop, Pack, or Crew at the Tech Chip Award page.

If you have suggestions for improvement, please email them to me.

Scout On
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Posted: 14:11 01-27-2010 478
Winter Hike
A Tenderfoot has been trying to find time to complete his Second Class 5-mile hike requirement since September. With his involvement in sports, poor weather, and whatnot, we finally got it done yesterday.
None of his buddies needed the requirement and he couldn't get any to join him, so it was him, his dad, and myself - poor scout stuck with a couple old guys for 2 hours. But, with 21 degrees and beautiful blue skies, it was a great hike.

He had an aerial map of the park with hiking trails and ski trails marked. I asked him where we were on the map and then asked him to take us to a creek on the map so we could see if it was frozen or not.
After we discovered that creek and that it was emptying the lake, I asked him to take us to the creek that feeds the lake. Finally, I decided I would like to play a game of snow baseball so he took us to a ball field and then back to the starting point.

Along the way, he oriented the map a half dozen times, figured general direction without his compass, learned and then demonstrated triangulation, figured distance traveled using a map scale, and discussed general winter safety as well as crossing frozen water.

We even tried out my cardboard eskimo sunglasses I made yesterday morning. They aren't a great fashion statement, but they sure cut out the snow glare.

When you have just a couple scouts around, you can pass on a ton of skills, tips, experience, and knowledge, so be ready for those great opportunties.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:09 01-17-2010 477
Historic Merit Badges
Four old-time merit badges are being resurrected for the BSA Centennial celebration. In 2010 ONLY, scouts can earn Carpentry, Pathfinding, Signaling, and Tracking - the last three being dormant since the 1950s! Of all the planned hoopla, I think this is about the coolest - not many scouts will be able to show off these few patches.

Final requirements and patch designs are supposed to be ready by the end of January, but right now is time to line up merit badge counselors for these skills. Since scouts must complete their requirements by December 31, you should get the ball rolling asap.

I'm soliciting counselors this week so we can announce the counselors at our troop recharter event next week and hand out blue cards to scouts that want to do them. You might have a challenge finding adults with skills to counsel for these badges.

See the Merit Badges for details. The info is preliminary for now, until the BSA posts final requirements.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:54 01-13-2010 476
Thrifty Moccasin Party
The troop did a real cool thing last night, taking advantage of a great sale at the scout shop.

Using TroopKit.com as our event and meeting planner, the SPL set up a Moccasin Making Meeting. Scouts signed up for the moccasin size they wanted to make. After the deadline, I went to the scout shop and purchased the 1/2 price kits for everybody at the end of November.

Then, at last night's troop meeting, the kits were distributed and over 20 scouts started making their own pair of moccasins for wearing in camp on this year's campouts. For under $10, the scouts have fun footwear.

It was a very hectic, lots of fun, half hour getting them all started so they could finish at home. The troop had made moccasins just like this 3 years ago so the many of the older scouts already had them and just helped the younger guys get started. I expect/hope we'll do it again in 3 years.

In case you didn't know, moccasins are great for in-camp footwear during the summer. After wearing awhile, the soles harden a bit but are still soft and flexible enough to promote Leave No Trace. Your steps make less impact than hard-soled boots. And, they are dry and comfortable after hiking all morning. And, they weigh practically nothing. And, They look way cool!

My two nephews (one is a Webelos) are visiting this weekend and will make their own moccasins since we had a couple pair left over. That should keep them busy awhile.

Scout On - and keep an eye on those www.ScoutStuff.org sales.
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Posted: 23:18 01-12-2010 475
A Safer Summer
Eleven scouters and two scouts got certified in in my WFAB session yesterday. WFAB = Wilderness First Aid Basics training from the Red Cross.
That will help make 2010 a little safer around here, at least. The two scouts were guys in our troop so I'm happy they've increased their skill level a bit more.

WFAB or its equivalent is now required to trek at Philmont and Northern Tier. I expect Seabase will require it rather than just recommend it very soon and the Summit will require it too. So, don't wait to get some members of your 2010 crew trained now - the WFAB sessions can be hard to find later in the spring. It would be frustrating to cancel your trek because of inadequate training.

Now is a good time to review the CPR, Youth Protection, Safety Afloat, and Safe Swim Defense certification expirations of your unit - those all have short expirations. Ensure you have appropriately trained adults and youth leaders to make your adventures safe.

Scout On
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Posted: 12:21 01-11-2010 474
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