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A Blue & Gold Week
Normally, the Blue & Gold parties of the local packs are spread out over a month. This year, most of them scheduled for this week. It actually makes it easier for an old guy - I only have to worry about being at the right place this week, then I can relax.

The BSA has scheduled a different Cub Scout theme for each month. This helps Packs plan out their activities because there are also resources available to support those themes.

In case you didn't know, February's theme for Cub Scouts is Chinese New Year. Even though I'm a Scoutmaster and spend little time with the local Packs, this theme had a big impact on me this week. As I attended 3 separate Blue & Gold banquets (and still have one more on Friday) to receive new scouts crossing over to our troop, every meal was a Chinese buffet. I've been drooling since the first B&G on Sunday and it's been getting worse every time I open the door to the next banquet.

The problem is that I haven't gotten to eat any of the food! Once I had already eaten and the other two times our scouts chose to only attend the ceremony and not the dinner. Since I'm just a tag-along, they made the decision. But, the kicker is that those scouts still got to have a plateful of leftovers while I was meeting with the new scouts' parents!

So, Friday is my last chance. I plan on showing up a bit early and maybe put on my poor, starving, pathetic look. That should be good for an egg roll at least.

This crop of new scouts looks very promising. We have groups of 7, 5, 5, and 1 coming from four Packs. This is the first year of receiving scouts from one pack, so that is exciting. Fourteen of the guys appear to be chomping at the bit to scout, while I think the other four are coming along to check it out. Keeping them involved will be the challenge for our Troop Guides.

Scout On
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Posted: 17:56 02-27-2008 314
Artificial Adventures
The Nature Conservancy funded a study to determine if the trend in outdoor recreation was declining or not. The study includes data on camping, backpacking, fishing, hiking, hunting, visits to national and state parks and forests. The study was done in the USA but collaborated by similar results in Japan.

Results indicate that between 1981 and 1991 there was roughly a 1.25% annual rate of decline in per capita nature recreation. Since then, nature use has continued to drop between 18% and 25%. That means for every 100 people that enjoyed nature 15 years ago, there are now only 75 people.

At first glance, folks like me that enjoy a little solitude on the mountain might say, "Cool! less people bothering me out there!" But, if we stop and think, a sickening realization sets in. Fewer people experiencing nature means fewer people that care about it, and fewer people caring means less conservation, protection, and maintenance. Without experiencing nature, people don't make the connection that clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, and clean food to eat all require work on our parts.

Why are we getting outdoors less? The study indicates the root cause is videophilia - the sedentary pasttime of video games, movies, and internet. Computers can now create such vivid and exciting adventures for us to watch, we don't need to go experience things ourselves. Instead, we sit on our butts and navigate a character through a imaginary world with our little thumb instead of navigating our entire bodies to the top of a real mountain.

As these artificial adventures become more interactive and sensational, I expect the trend to sit at home will continue to rise. As that trend continues, our natural spaces will gradually disappear with no one left to care about or care for them.

As a scouting volunteer and outdoorsman, this trend is not a surprise to me. I see it every week when I ask scouts what they've been doing. We have two scouts that enjoy golfing, but the rest can carry on lengthy, in-depth discussions and debates about the various techniques to improve your score on Halo, Puzzle Pirates, Need for Speed, and a slew of other games while having no interest in any outdoor activity.

One of my main goals this year is to raise the participation level in the troop and to challenge scouts to become more in tune with nature on our campouts. Making that as interesting as doing laser battle with an army of dragons or space monsters will be a tough order. But, we have them captive for 12 days at Philmont, a week at summer camp, and 4 days canoeing so we have a chance.

Scout On

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Posted: 11:46 02-25-2008 313
Boys Life Prize
The UPS guy stopped by yesterday with a package for my youngest son. A few months ago, he had decided to contribute a joke just to see what would happen. Well, yesterday he became an official Boys' Life contributor with an official patch and everything! The package contained a letter from Pedro, this patch, and a BSA Fieldbook - now that's pretty cool.

He's planning to keep it secret until the March issue comes out with his joke in print. Then, he'll show it at a troop meeting so all the newly joined scouts can see what is possible.

Encourage your scouts to contribute a joke, collection idea, comic caption, or any of the other contests they have running at the site. For example, you can win a Wii game system for the next week by finding a Pedro image on the site. (but, don't enter that one because my son really wants to win.)

Scout on

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Posted: 10:06 02-24-2008 312
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is clean. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit. He chooses the company of those who live by high standards. He helps keep his home and community clean."

There's no way to camp, hike, and play in the outdoors and not get dirty. Getting dirty is half the fun, whether it's tramping down a muddy trail or wiping dust off a sweaty brow. Many honorable jobs also result in a dirty body - farmers, mechanics, miners, and so on. This natural kind of dirt is not the heart of this point of the Scout Law, but it still needs to be managed.

Scouts can also make a huge impact on the cleanliness of their environment. Our care for the natural world needs to be improved. Bad habits of consuming more than we need and having no concern for the next generation need to be broken. Performing service and conservation projects are great ways to build the sense of servitude toward the community that each of us need to nurture.

Scouts that fail to keep their gear clean and dry discover it wears out faster or becomes ruined. Washing and sanitizing hands before cooking ensures a safe meal for everyone. Bathing each day helps remove harmful germs, dirt, and odors from a scout's body. The discipline of daily cleaning demonstrates maturity and responsibility as well as a commitment to the Scout Oath of keeping physically fit.

If it's not dirt, earth, and grime that makes a Scout dirty, what does? It's a simple chore to scrub dirt off skin, but a much more difficult task to clean up filthy thoughts, habits, and behaviors that accumulate in our lives. First a feeling of jealousy or mistrust towards someone, then a derogatory comment about them, and soon a person is a fountain of malice spewing forth filth, vulgarity, and hate. Cleaning up such a mess is nearly impossible, but fortunately takes a long time to develop. By keeping the mind and heart clean and not allowing the emotional grime to settle in, the problem is kept at bay.

Associating with other people that demonstrate clean minds and hearts is the best way to keep clean. Adult leaders that encourage, praise, and support others are like strong detergent. Scouting with other scouts that cheerfully provide service to the community, help others at all times, and accept responsibility helps keep a scout sparkling clean. Outside of scouting, the choice of friends plays the same role. Hanging out with people that use foul language, have malicious fun, or care only for themselves will engrain those habits in the scout.

The term filthy liar is spot on correct. Lying, cheating, and stealing are all habits formed from an unclean soul. Resolving to speak the truth and resist temptation to lie is the basis of being Trustworthy. It is manifest as clean, honest words and actions. A clean scout tempers his tongue and only speaks the truth in a kind manner. This is based on a sense of caring for others. Self-centered people have no care for others or how actions may effect them. An unselfish scout caring for the needs of others out of compassion is an industrial-strength vacuum on the dirt of his soul.

Dirty jokes, vulgar comments, racial slurs, ridicule, and swearing are often heard in many situations. They have no place in scouting and no place in a scout's life. Besides choosing to not say those kinds of things, a scout should also make it known that he will not tolerate those things. A single scout will most likely not change the behaviors of a group, but he can make his feelings known and then remove himself from the crowd. He can also support someone he finds as the butt of these comments and demonstrate compassion to those unclean louts, possibly helping them recognize their ways.

A Scout is Clean.
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Posted: 10:52 02-22-2008 311
Okpik Success
What a great weekend! Scouts built a variety of snow shelters and all but 4 slept outside.

Two scouts drilled ice fishing holes then covered them with boards and piled their quinzee on top. They hollowed it out with the plan to fish all night, but they were asleep by 11pm. :-)

Two other groups found that the wind had piled snow almost 4 feet deep in the cattails so they dug into that instead of piling their own. The cattails were tough, but they succeeded.

One group found they could cut the packed snow into blocks and built part of their shelter with stacked bricks.

The rest built traditional quinzees on the ice.

I slept in a tent right out in the middle of it all just in case anything was needed in the night. There were no complaints of cold - everyone was comfortable all night.

It was too warm so no one got the Zero Hero patch, but it was in the single digits. Scouts discovered that some foods are better for winter cooking than others. Anything dry that needs to be hydrated is good. Anything with moisture in it (like fruit, juice, pancake batter, eggs) freezes solid. They also discovered that clean up is much more difficult and grease should be avoided.

Scout On
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Posted: 10:23 02-20-2008 310
Heart Day
Today is the one day of the year when you should toss out the Thrifty point of the Scout Law and concentrate on the Brave point.

If you have a sweetheart, make darn sure you get her a card, some flowers, candy, something that will let her know you didn't forget Valentines Day. Don't make the excuse that it's just a waste of money or a Hallmark holiday, be unthrifty and do it. This will get you started on a great year of scouting because she'll be more understanding of your needs to get out and scout.

If you don't have a sweetheart yet, but have noticed that girl two rows ahead and one seat over, be brave and tell her "Happy Valentines Day" after class. Give here a little card too, so she knows you mean it.

This is also a good day to remember that CPR training is a simple way to keep you prepared to help a heart in need someday. Schedule your certification training so you're ready for the summer ahead.

Scout On
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Posted: 7:51 02-14-2008 309
Okpik and Boys' Life
Okpik means "Snowy Owl" and is a Boy Scout winter camping program. There is an excellent resource titled "Okpik: Cold Weather Camping" available at scout shops which provides lots of great advice on operating a safe winter excursion. You might also learn a bit from reading Winter Camping Tips when planning the training for a campout.

Our troop heads up north on Friday for our own Okpik campout. The scouts have planned the morning to pile snow for shelters - there's 8 inches of snow so it takes some work to make a quinzee. While the snow settles, they're having a cross-country map and compass contest. Then, digging out their shelters in the late afternoon. It's a long day of work, but so exciting for scouts doing it the first time. Fortunately, there's a good handful of experienced scouts going along so they'll show the right way to build and prepare for the night outside.

This year, we're having a visitor from Boys' Life taking photos for a story which will probably show up next year. They called to find out what we were planning and if they could take photos. I said it sounded ok to me, but I'd have to ask the Senior Patrol Leader at the PLC meeting and get back to them. :-) It was pretty much unanimous that a photographer would be welcome.

If you saw the past issue of Boys' Life, there was an article about some Minnesota scouts icefishing and some other scouts doing some winter orienteering. It's good to see a broad range of winter scouting activities covered to broaden the sights of troop leaders.

The funny thing is that this photographer is flying up from Georgia, poor guy. This past weekend, it was -16F here but the forecast is a heat wave of 26F on Saturday.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:16 02-12-2008 308
Hazardous Weather Training
The BSA has an online course available to help with planning and decision making for weather. It has some pretty good graphics and interesting images to keep things moving along. It also has interactive quizzes to check your understanding of the BSA recommendations.

This training is a great review for all your scoutmaster staff and youth leaders to go through before the spring camping season (and bad weather season) pick up.

Try it online at BSA Hazardous Weather

Scout On
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Posted: 10:46 02-09-2008 307
Popular WFAB Training
Don't get caught untrained, uncertified, or unchecked for your high adventure treks this year! Besides the rigorous medical checks and CPR certifications, Philmont now requires at least one person in each crew, preferably two, be currently certified in Wilderness First Aid Basics (WFAB). You must present current certification cards upon check in to verify this requirement.

Sea Base and Northern Tier currently 'highly recommend' the WFAB certification, but I've been told it will soon be a requirement at those high adventure bases as well.

As an authorized instructor for the Red Cross, I've just started presenting WFAB this year to help troops in Minnesota fulfill their high adventure requirement. I've been scrambling to arrange extra classes for the demand! There are scoutmasters and committee members from all over the council contacting me to ask about openings in classes. It seems there are a lot of troops sending crews to Philmont this summer. :-)
And, I just know I'm going to get some calls in May saying, "I need training for our June trek!!!" It's bound to happen. Oh well.

The WFAB training itself is very useful and I wish it were a requirement on the Tour Permits for high adventures. I think it's great that more leaders get exposed to the methods of handling potential catastrophies that may occur in the back country. An accident might occur on any campout, not just at a BSA high adventure base. The WFAB certification is not just a good requirement for the BSA bases, it's a good idea for any troop that participates in camping where emergency help is more than 30 minutes away.

To improve the safety levels in our troop and others in the council, I'll be offering WFAB training periodically. By this time next year, my goal is to have 75% of the adult and youth leaders in our troop certified in WFAB and CPR.

When you look into WFAB and CPR training for your troop, contact your council and district to find out if any training classes are scheduled. Then, check around for other options and prices. WFAB price ranges from $45 to $245, depending on the provider and training location.

Scout On
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Posted: 23:34 02-05-2008 306
New Eagle Scout Application
The new printing of the Eagle Scout Rank Application, No. 58-728, has a notable change. Now, under requirement #5, the name of the candidate's Eagle project is required, as well as the grand total of hours devoted to it (from page 10 of the Eagle Scout Leadership Project Workbook). The new application will be required in 2008. If an older version is used, it may not be accepted.

The information about Eagle projects will be entered along with other information from Eagle Scout rank applications, and will be stored in a database. Councils will be able to run reports at the district or council level. This new database of Eagle projects will also be available at area, region, and national levels.

See Eagle Scout page for a link to the new application.

Scout On
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Posted: 14:50 02-04-2008 305
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is brave. A Scout can face danger although he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him."

From a young boy screwing up the courage to look under his bed at night to an old man sharing stories of his life while on his deathbed, bravery comes in many shapes, sizes, and degrees. Bravery is certainly not the lack of fear, but the strength to overcome that fear. Without fear, there's no need for bravery.

Fear is a feeling you have based on your surroundings. If you sense danger, you feel fear. It's a natural and useful feeling. When a Scout experiences fear, he can either control it or let it control him. Courage controls fear and allows a Scout to keep a cool head, rise above the danger, and act in a brave way. When fear controls the person, he loses his sense of honor and his gut instinct of self-preservation takes over, causing acts of cowardice.

Cowardly acts are wide-ranging. Any situation in which a Scout finds himself can result in an act of courage or cowardice. Does he try to save a drowning man or stay on the safe shore? Does he stand up to a bully or walk away while a small child is harassed? Does he volunteer to lead a hike or stay in the back of the pack?

As a Scout matures, he must understand the tense feeling that comes up in his body when he experiences fear. He needs to train himself to respond to that feeling with a courageous rather than cowardly response. The specific situation does not matter. What is fearful for one person with little experience may be of no concern for someone else that has been through it before. Shooting a rifle, swimming underwater, climbing a tree, giving a speech, hiking at night are all examples of tasks that may be quite comfortable to one person but terrifying to another. Bravery is not needed for the one, but necessary for the other.

A Scout needs to defend the weak, defend the truth, and defend his honor. Opportunities abound in daily life to demonstrate his commitment to these defenses. The brave Scout has a generous and kind heart, willing to put the needs of others ahead of his own. A person that is self-centered and brave may do courageous acts, but they will be based on the guide of self-preservation, much like the cowardly response to fear. When bravery is demonstrated in an act to aid others, that is admirable because the Scout has done his duty to others.

Since fear is a base human emotion, it is not a bad thing as is often thought. Fear gives strength and focus and, as long as it is controlled, is a powerful force to perform great feats. Scouts should be encouraged to approach fearful situations, whatever they are for that Scout, head-on and with purpose. Taking on small challenges that are fearful to a young boy but have no real danger, such as looking under a bed or opening a closet door, helps him understand that fear of the unknown is most common. As he realizes with his mind that there is no real danger, his fear disappears. He also comes to accept that unknown or unseen possibilities should not be feared, but anticipated with relish to expand his experiences in the world. This is a big leap to take and a great step in maturity.

Most boys want to be strong and brave, much like movie heros, able to overcome any obstacle. To prove themselves, they may do foolish things that are actually dangerous, such as walking a fence, jumping a creek, or fighting a bigger boy. These reckless challenges have consequences but have always and most probably will always be a part of a boy's life in some form or another. When a boy does such a task to prove his courage to himself, it can strengthen his resolve in other situations. But, if he is prompted to the task to win approval from other boys, he is actually being cowardly in bowing to their pressure.

This easily demonstrated physical bravery is obvious - the boy attempts the task or chickens out. A more subtle, internal bravery is that which compels a Scout to uphold his moral ideals. When he is tempted to lie, cheat, steal, or cover for someone else doing those things, he must be brave to decline and even more brave to tell authorities if necessary. By not going with the crowd, he may be ridiculed, outcast, or harassed. When the group is heading down a course that goes against the Scout's beliefs, the Scout Oath and Law, he is brave to stand and offer a different course. If he is overruled, then he must make the brave choice of leaving the group.

A Scout's moral ideals also help him to be brave when faced with challenges whose outcomes may only ever be known by him. Whether walking past a crying child without stopping or glancing at a classmate's test, fear can make us take the easiest, safest path. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of looking foolish, fear takes many forms and may cause bad habits. Making excuses and blaming others for mistakes rather than accepting the blame for actions and apologizing for mistakes are habits formed of fear. The Scout brave enough to accept consequences for his decisions is brave indeed.

A Scout is Brave.
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Posted: 11:32 02-01-2008 304
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