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Active Participation
I received a question from a visitor and thought it might be good to share with you...

Question: My husband and his friend lead a local Boy Scout troop. They have attempted this year to bring organization to a Troop that had some lax requirements for advancement. One of the things they require is a 60 percent meeting attendance. Word is that several of the older boys working toward their Eagle are leaving the troop for another church troop that only requires 50 percent attendance. Is there a national requirement for meeting attendance? If so, we want to do what the national office requires, regardless of the loss.

My Reply:
The short answer is "No, there is no meeting attendance requirement."

I'm a Scoutmaster of a troop of 60 scouts now. I try to manage our troop following the BSA guidelines and rules all the time. I've been through Scoutmaster training and I read the Scoutmaster Handbook, Field Book, Guide to Safe Scouting, and any other BSA literature I can acquire. I use these as my sole direction when it comes to requirements, rules, and regulations. I've spent lots of hours talking with other Scoutmasters just to find out how their troops are run. I've sat in on their troop meetings and talked with scouts in other troops as often as I can. The reason I do this is because I'm always looking for ways that our troop might improve.

The requirement to be 'active in your troop' for Star, Life, and Eagle scout rank advancement is a difficult one to interpret. The BSA has purposefully made it vague because every scout's situation is unique. This gives the Scoutmaster leeway for each scout. Without specific requirements such as "attend 60% of troop meetings", a Scoutmaster could play favorites or could make things very difficult for some certain scouts. Unfortunately, I know that has happened.

Many troops have done exactly what your troop is doing - setting a percentage requirement. That is not a good thing. It tells scouts they 'have to' attend a certain number of meetings rather than having them 'want to' attend. It also takes a great method of self-evaluation away from them. I believe a better solution is to talk with the scouts as they advance and let them know that 'being active' and 'demonstrating leadership' are requirements they need to fulfill in order to advance. I try to have a Scoutmaster Conference at least every 6 months so the scout can check in and let me know how he is doing. The best way I've found to decide if a scout is being active or not is to ask him. Usually, a scout knows if he is participating enough or not and will tend to be harder on himself than I will. There are some that will try to fake their way through, but they tend to be pretty obvious too, and then I pull out the report of how many activities he has participated in and ask him to explain how his participation equals 'active participation'.

If a scout no longer enjoys scouting, then he should not be in scouts. Whether it is 10% or 80% of the troop activities that he is being forced to attend just to get the next rank, he is not a scout fulfilling the requirements to advance. If a scout is active in football and track and comes to the 40% of troop activities that he can and demonstrates scout spirit, leadership, and fellowship while he is at them, then that is 'actively participating'.

Just to be sure you understand, it sounds good on paper, but every 6 months when the scout leadership changes, I start over from scratch training the new leaders on expectations. Sometimes it works great. Other times I find myself looking forward to the next 6 months. :-) When a troop is really led by the scouts and supported by adults, it will have high times and low times, very dependent on the scouts in leadership positions. If a troop runs efficiently and consistently, it is probably too dominated by adults.

Scout On

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Posted: 14:33 04-30-2008 324
20 Miles is Pretty Far
Our two Philmont crew leaders came up with a schedule of 5, 10, and 20 mile hikes to prepare for the treks. There's a total of about 250 miles planned and everyone is expected to participate in at least 110 miles. In addition, we're supposed to get more conditioning on our own through sports or exercise.

Some of these scouts are also undertaking the Hiking merit badge so each 10 and 20 mile hike has a planned route and trip plan created for it. The scouts write up a short report after the hike about the weather, terrain, environment, and interesting observations.

On Sunday, I participated in the first 20-miler - we have another the end of May. One scout laid out a 20-mile loop through a large county park on the other side of town so it was new territory and not redundant - but then he couldn't attend. :-( So, he missed the rain, and the sleet, and the 2 hours of SNOW! He also missed the deer, owls, snow geese, swans, hawks, and other assorted critters.

These scouts keep almost a 4MPH pace when hiking and take very few short breaks. We completed the hike in just about 6 hours - and it was definitely a full 20 miles. The most common comment at the end was "Well, I won't have to do THAT again!" The requirements for the Hiking merit badge include five 10-mile hikes and one 20-miler.

So, I've now hiked the 84 mile distance of our scheduled trek #32. I'll do it again over the next 5 weeks and then it's the real thing. It looks like our longest day on the trek will be about 12 miles, but with backpacks, terrain, elevation, and altitude, that will be a lot more of a challenge than any 20-mile flatland hike down on the prairie.

Scout On
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Posted: 16:57 04-29-2008 323
Keeping Interest
For the scouting skills required for advancement, there are enough experienced scouts that can teach and pass on the skills to the newer scouts. But, how do the experienced scouts learn new stuff that keeps them interested?

This troop has peer patrols rather than mixed-age patrols. The oldest patrol has 6 scouts, all of whom will be aging out over the next year.

At the last PLC meeting, their patrol leader started a discussion around his patrol's view that the PLC is always asking them to help the little scouts and they don't do anything fun at troop meetings.

When I was asked to join the discussion, I acknowledged that they are often asked to lead, mentor, and teach since they have the skills and experience to share. That's the way things work, not just in scouts, but everywhere.

I asked if there were any particular things the experienced scouts wanted to do, but they had no specific ideas. I offered a few ideas and they thought they sounded interesting.

I made a deal with them. They organize an interesting, interactive, fun knot-tieing session for a troop meeting. If it is well-planned and executed, then the next troop meeting there will be a race car and some sports cars and an expert to present racing skills to them.

After that, if they want to do more, there will be other new activities as long as they continue a high level of mentoring and support of the troop. Other ideas offered by adults in the troop include airplanes, advanced first aid, rock music gear, gas engines, and chemistry. My hope is that the scouts will soon come up with ideas they want to do, otherwise it will fail.

If this catches on, then it may become a venture patrol over time. Even though ideas are a dime a dozen, without them things get stagnant.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:51 04-23-2008 322
Jamboree Countdown

counter from site
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Posted: 10:39 04-17-2008 321
2fer Scout Pants
On April 15, the Switchback zip-off scout pants go on a 2-for-1 sale. That's $20/pair rather than $40 and they are suddenly a pretty good deal. The sale is supposed to be for 2 weeks.

I've been wearing my Switchbacks to every scouting outing, meeting, and roundtable since August, 2006 and they are still working great. Now, this is a great opportunity for the troop to replace many of the blue jeans with green nylon. And, it's perfect timing for the crews going to Philmont.

One scout in the troop has volunteered to gather orders and checks and pick up the pants at the scout shop for everyone since it's about 20 miles away. Reducing travel, time, and hassle for the families.

You might want to check with your local scout shop about the sale. I've been told the sale is on the national level so don't miss out!

Scout On
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Posted: 11:01 04-11-2008 320
It's been awful hard to find time to post the past couple weeks. Since I try to make the posts somewhat useful rather than just rambling about life as a scoutmaster, I'd rather not post than post about nothing.
I just presented Red Cross CPR training to a troop in a neighboring town today. This is the third year they've had me do this for them so they can meet their high adventure requirements. Today, there were 14 people so I'm glad to have been able to help them out.
I figure it's a great idea to train your scouts in CPR since chances are they will use it to help one of us old dudes rather than one of the young scouts. I think of it as cheap life insurance.

Every weekend until August, I'll either be presenting Wilderness First Aid training for crews going to Philmont or camping with our troop. Even if you aren't heading to Philmont where the WFAB certification (ore equivalent) is required, it's some good knowledge to have for your normal campouts where you're more than 30 minutes from ambulances anyway.

For this training, I'm making some fake wounds that look way cool! A guy in our troop is getting me some IV bags so I can have the wounds pump blood so the next session should be a real kick. As a bonus, I think the scouts will have fun using them for first aid training for rank advancement and merit badges. I plan to put together a photo and instructions page so other troops can make some - they're real easy and look real real.

Scout On
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Posted: 22:10 04-05-2008 319
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