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Youth Leadership Training Continuum
The Boy Scouts of America has a vision to be the foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training in the country. To support that vision, a Youth Leadership Training Continuum has been developed. It currently consists or three courses that work together to develop leadership in scouts.

The material in these courses is taken from the very best leadership courses available in many settings, even corporate executive training.

The courses are:

If you've used the 'old' JLT troop training program that was a complete course, the new TLT is just a couple page outline with very little direction. It is up to the SPL and Scoutmaster to make up and present the training they feel is important. TLT is specifically intended to quickly tell new youth leaders what they need to do and its success relies on the SPL having NYLT experience. If you have an opportunity to acquire an old JLT program, I recommend you get it so you can have more ideas available.
Since our troop does TLT twice a year and have been doing it forever, it goes smoothly and gets the new leaders ready for their jobs.

The NYLT course in our council is great according to the 6 scouts that have attended from our troop - 2 each summer. The troop pays for their camp in exchange for their commitment to use their new skills to guide the troop. The expanded understanding of EDGE, EAR, SMART, SSC, and Be-Know-Do is helping to bring the troop to a higher plateau of overall skills and leadership.

I don't have experience with NAYLE, but there is a web site with more info.

Hey, don't worry about all those TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) I tossed around. I'll be blogging about them over the next few days.

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Posted: 9:57 09-30-2007 217
Mice and Men
I saw the funniest thing this morning while out on my walk.
I was walking on the bike path that runs along a divided 4-lane road. So, it's path, curb down, 2 lanes, curb up, median, curb down, 2 lanes, curb up, sidewalk, grass - get it?
Right in front of me, a tiny mouse comes scurrying out of the grass and across the path. I couldn't even see his little legs, they were moving so fast. If you've ever seen a mouse run, the look like they are hovering as the zoom along. This guy was in a big hurry!
He ran right to the edge of the curb and kept on going - whoosh! into air off the curb and plomp! down to the road with a somersault on landing.
He kept right on running across both lanes right at the curb of the median without slowing down. Bam! He bounced back off the curb after hitting it full steam, ran back at it, and scurried up. Across the median and whoosh! into air off the curb again with a somersault when he hit the road. Across the 2 lanes as fast as he can go right at the curb - yep, Bam! again.
After tumbling back and scarmbling up the curb, he zipped across the sidewalk and into the grass and was gone. I swear if I had had a video camera, it would be one of those $10,000 home videos on TV. :-)

While continueing my walk, I figured that mouse must have had poor eyesight and could not discern the curbs. He just knew he had to get to cover and was bent on getting there no matter what.
It made me wonder how often we are set on reaching a goal and ignore the different ways we have to get there because we try to charge right down the most direct route no matter what. Maybe taking a little time at the start to check out the options and make a plan and then be willing to revise the plan as it unfolds would keep us from slamming our heads into curbs as much.

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Posted: 23:40 09-28-2007 216
Don't Skimp on Boots
I'll usually skip name brands and spend less money on no-name products, especially for commodity items like food, paper towels, and such supplies. From my experience, the extra money for a brand is not worth it. There isn't a taste difference to me between Kellog's raisin bran and a grocery chain's raisin bran.

But, one place I've found that a brand's reputation is worth paying extra for is in footwear. I've had cheap shoes fall apart quickly and that's a chance you can't really take at Philmont or on some other long-distance trek. Danner boots are high quality products that have been around a long time and have a great reputation. I'm partial to them because they are based in Portland, OR which is a wonderful town in a beautiful part of the country.

But, you don't need to go to Oregon to buy Danner, Rocky, Morrell or any other brand of boot as long as you have the Internet. Many sites carry Danner as well as other top brands of footwear at competitive prices. I recommend visiting a shoe/boot store and try on boots until you find one that fits - but then check the online prices and buy where you feel most comfortable doing business.

Our troop is heading to Philmont in June, 2008. With young guys and growing feet, I'm recommending they purchase their boots no earlier than March and no late than May 1. But, I've told the adults to consider getting boots for Christmas so they'll have plenty of time to get comfortable in them.

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Posted: 7:14 09-28-2007 215
Life Saving ASM
An Assistant Scoutmaster in Nebraska saved a teenager from drowning in a car accident this summer. The article in the Papillon Times tells how he heard the crash at night, pulled the victim from the car, and performed CPR.

Next month, the ASM will receive a BSA lifesaving award for his actions. Now, that's the kind of recognition I like to read about.

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Posted: 16:06 09-27-2007 214
The Perfect Campout

This was the perfect campout! The weather was perfect - I mean absolutely perfect with blue skies, low humidity, cool nights and a warm Saturday. The tinder was dry so scouts could easily practice their fire starting. The clear skies let them find direction at day and night without a compass. They even chose to sleep under the stars instead of in tents which is rare due to mosquitos and threat of rain.

The dutch ovens were well-used this weekend too. There was kelbasa sausage and potatoes, chicken chili, apple cobbler, chocolate/cherry dump cake, and Sunday morning doughnuts! There were a few PopTart holdouts and hotdog chefs, but it was good to see signs of better meals.

A couple older scouts spent a lot of time with the new scouts on their advancement requirements and that seems to have carried over to the troop meeting last night. I noticed more interacting and talking between patrols than is typical. Hopefully, it will continue.

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Posted: 16:20 09-25-2007 213
ScoutMate Retiring
If your troop uses the Scoutmate software, it was announced last month that the folks that make it are throwing in the towel after 16 years. They sent an email to registered users, but things change quickly in some units so you may not be the registered email they have.

This would be a good time to consider using TroopMaster since they are offering a discount to past Scoutmate users. The Scoutmate site even recommends that you check into the move and there are instructions for converting your Scoutmate data to Troopmaster.

Now, that's nice to see companies working together for the ultimate good of the customers. I hate to see a product pulled from the market because that lessens the urgency of competition and tends to result in fewer choices with higher prices.

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Posted: 12:02 09-21-2007 212
American Business tool
A couple days ago, I mentioned being 'thrifty' and doing things myself. Sometimes, it's hard to distinguish between thrifty and cheap, according to my wife.

One area where I've learned that I need to be very thrifty is the stock market. Years ago, I set aside some money that I could invest however I wanted - kind of like play money, but it was real. It was something I had always been interested in, but was afraid I didn't know how to do it. So, having a set amount that I could lose or grow put limits on my involvement.

I did ok and any money I made I set aside out of the playing field. I made a few poor investment choices and the original funds got used up so my game was over. I pretty much broke even, making a little bit but not much, and that taught me that I'm not really very good at that.

Now, if it was just pretend money, it still might be a fun game. I was looking for resources for the American Business merit badge and I came across an interesting site called where they are having a rookie challenge that is free to register and participate. The idea is that you start with $100,000 in virtual money to invest in real stocks. You get to compare the results of your investments against other players. Now, that's my kind of investing. :-) And, they even have weekly winners of real cash. The site says they give away $1000 each week.
Well, it's a good way to learn about trading stocks with no risk. If an American Business merit badge counselor approved of it, scouts could use the site to buy and track their stocks for that requirement. Since they're under 18, they wouldn't eligible to win any real money so they might want their parent to register.

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Posted: 11:41 09-21-2007 211
Volunteering Pays Off
So, I've been volunteering to set up computers at my son's school in the morning for their barrage of annual testing. It's pretty much monkey work - push buttons and type the same words over and over for each computer. It sure isn't difficult, but it takes about 30 or 45 minutes to do a room, so I'm freeing up a staff person for other work.

I've discovered that there can be a ton of unexpected benefits to volunteering for short-term tasks like this...

Church, school, and other community groups always seem to be looking for more volunteers. I've made my commitment to Scouting for now, so I usually have to turn down the other opportunities - they're usually long-term needs and I put way too many hours into Scouts. But, short-term tasks are a great way to help out and try something new. Give it a try!

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Posted: 13:47 09-20-2007 210
Doing It Yourself
A lot of Scouters I know seem to be the Do-It-Yourself types, I know I am. At the OA Conclave, my chainsaw was having problems so another Scouter had a look at it. 'Looking at' also included taking it apart which resulted in a lost bolt. We had scouts helping us scour the ground, but no luck.

Fortunately, I had the nut and found a 70 cent bolt to replace it at the local hardware store. That was a cheap fix. I've been involved in other 'fixes' that weren't so cheap. For example, our furnace stopped working a couple years after we moved in. I played with it and discovered that the ceramic starter was broken. For $55, I got a replacement part but in my clumsiness of installing it, I cracked it. I swear I barely touched it, but as they say knowledge is power and if I had known how fragile it was, I could have done better. As it turned out, I bought a second one and installed it just fine. The cost of two parts still saved me about $75 over having someone else come and take care of it.

I think that might be why the kind of folks that scout also do things themselves. We like to believe we are self-sufficient and I think that 'thrifty' comes into play there quite often. It's amazing how many scoutmasters keep old gear working and operational long after 'normal' people would have thrown it out. The same goes for their homes - why buy new when I can get this thing fixed?

There are thousands of articles about home improvement projects on various web sites. Whether you want to repair your troop trailer or get ideas for Eagle Scout projects, it doesn't hurt to read a bit before tackling the task. If you're more of a Watcher than Reader, getting an instructional DVD can also improve your results, it probably would have helped me with my cracked ceramic starter.

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Posted: 15:31 09-19-2007 209
Scouts Outside of Scouting
I've been volunteering at my son's school to set up computers for state testing in the morning. As I was walking down the hall, I saw one of the scouts in our troop and the look on his face was priceless when he saw me. It was like - "WHAT!?! are you doing here?" "This isn't right. You don't have your uniform on and we're not camping. Huh???" And, then he got a big smile and said Hello.

So far, I've seen 4 scouts in the halls the past couple days. After the first one, I've had my eye open for them. A couple I've seen way before they noticed me and it was great to see how they interact with their buddies. I can't help but compare them to other kids, and being completely unbiased :-) I must say they look like good kids to have as friends.

I even saw a boy that was in scouts but dropped 2 years ago. It was nice to say 'hi' and remember his name and ask how things were going. He seemed to be doing just fine without scouting, but I'm pretty sure I detected a slightly sheepish look about him while we talked. I think that's common in scouts that dropped the program so I never bring up scouting when I see them. I just say it's good to see them and ask how school's going and how their folks are. That's usually safe and easy for them.

Keep your eyes open for scouts wherever you may be.

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Posted: 14:19 09-19-2007 208
Better than a Flashlight?
This summer at Boy Scout camp, we had the usual racoons roaming the campsites. I went to each tent and asked if they had any food or smellables or anything at all that they wanted me to store away in the lockbox for the night. Every one said, "No, thank you."
Well, I woke up at about 1:30 hearing a bunch of grunting, snarling, and scuffling about. I got my little LED flashlight, slipped on my mocassins, and went out. There was the cutest, little darling (NOT!) of a racoon tearing apart a scout's daypack getting at his baggie full of GORP.
I chased the little rascal off and then woke the scout and his buddies, who were still sound asleep. I gave them the choice of getting up now and taking care of the mess or having this rabid, 28 pound ball of fury and gnashing teeth come back looking for more snacks where he had found this one. It didn't take them long to get it cleaned up. :-)

I've thought it would be really cool to have a pair of night vision binoculars at times like these. Then, I could really see what was going on without bothering the wildlife until I needed to stop some mischief. Some night goggles would also be very useful on Friday nights when our troop always seems to be setting up camp in the dark.

There's an interesting article on this page about how night vision works.

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Posted: 23:06 09-18-2007 207
Search for Steve Fossett
You can help find Steve Fossett, National Eagle Scout Association president, if you just have some free time and your PC. In coordination with those involved in the search efforts in Nevada, BSA volunteers are being asked to join the search by using the Internet to study recent satellite images of the area where the adventurer disappeared September 3.

To sign up to help, visit and follow the instructions. You need to sign in to aid in the search. The Web site assigns an image of a 278-foot-square section of the 6,000 square miles being searched. After studying the image, the user simply clicks "yes" or "no" as to whether there is any sign of Fossett's airplane that might warrant further investigation in that section. Anything larger than two or three feet will appear in the image, and instructions and examples help users understand what viewing. The flagged images are passed to the search team coordinating the flights over the area.

Good Luck

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Posted: 23:57 09-17-2007 206
OA Conclave
I attended our Order of the Arrow chapter conclave this weekend. We had about 60 Ordeal candidates that 'enjoyed' their weekend of providing service at a local camp. We all woke up Saturday morning to frost on tents or tarps since it dropped to about 30 degrees overnight.

I really did enjoy my day of cheerful service - I got to run a chainsaw all day, making firewood from downed trees for the camp's 3 lodges. In all, the scouts stacked almost 3 cords of split wood (4x4x8 feet). Other teams put a new metal roof on a lodge, packed the summer's Webelos camp tents away for winter, and pruned trees.

The tree pruning was interesting. Everything below 6 feet was lopped off to retard fires. The hope is that a fast-burning grassfire will rip through and not generate enough heat to ignite the branches higher up. Plus, it allows scouts to walk through the woods and under the trees. Well, it looks a little too manicured to me, but I hope the fire-prevention doesn't ever get tested.

Our troop had 4 scouts and 1 adult added to the order this weekend.

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Posted: 16:32 09-16-2007 205
Rocks In My Backpack
Through the Internet, I've had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with a wonderful Scouter living in Colorado named Tom Sholes. Tom has written a book about his life as a Scoutmaster in Wisconsin and then in Colorado over a 40 year career. He sent me a copy of "Rocks In My Backpack" to review and asked me to let him know how I liked it.

I've read other books that people write about their 'stories' just because they enjoy the memories so much they figure other people will like them too. It often doesn't work out that way. But, for my 2 cents, "Rocks In My Backpack" is the most entertaining book about Scouting I've ever read. I could relate so many of Tom's scouts with guys in my own patrol it made me believe that boys will always be boys, generation after generation.

I was so impressed with Tom's writing and all the years he's put in with Scouting that I've decided to promote his book on this site.

If you're looking for a gift for your troop's Scoutmaster, ASMs, Committee Chair, or any voluteer at any level in Scouting, I believe this book would be greatly enjoyed. The summer is winding down and Christmas isn't that far away so please consider supporting a Scouting veteran's efforts and reward your favorite Scouting volunteer with a fun present.

- Buy It - > < - Buy It -

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Posted: 23:07 09-13-2007 204
Wolf and Bear Arrow Points
I was asked, "Do you need to do all requirements for each Bear elective?"

The very last page in the Bear Scout Handbook is a blank Arrow Point Trail Record where the scout can list the achievements and electives he completes for arrow points. That chart asks for number and letter of the elective.

That means each individual item in an elective counts towards an arrow point and when any 10 items are complete, an arrow point is earned.

For example, a scout may do requirements b, c, and d in the Electricity elective, a, c, d, and f in Aircraft elective, and a, b, and c in Masks elective to earn his gold arrow point. He didn't do all the requirements for any of those electives, just the things that were interesting to him.

Also, requirements in the Achievements that were completed but not used to fulfill the requirements for the achievement can be counted towards arrow points. For example, "The Past is Exciting and Important" achievement has 6 requirements and the scout needs to complete 3 of them for the achievement. If he visits a library, talks to an old-time cub scout, makes a pack scrapbook, traces his family tree, and writes a journal - he can use two of those as arrow point items.

The Wolf arrow point trail is different. Wolf scouts have 12 achievements to complete to earn their Wolf rank. A few of those achievements have optional requirements, but they are not used for arrow points.
There are over a hundred Wolf Electives which count towards arrow points when done by the scout. Just like Bears, each individual item counts, not the entire elective. So, if a Wolf Scout did all the items in "Be An Actor" and "Make It Yourself", that would be 10 items and an arrow point.

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Posted: 10:26 09-12-2007 203
Eagle Previews
Our troop has its hands full of Life Scouts. They are beginning to ask about the Eagle process and what they need to do and when things are due and, and, and ...
Fortunately, we have a great Eagle Advisor in the troop that is happy to help them along the trail. In addition to that, the district offers an 'Eagle Preview' session every spring and fall.
These sessions are open to all Life and Star scouts to learn about the Eagle process and start getting their ducks in a row. They last about 90 minutes and include a lot of good information. I think they mostly scare the bejeebers out of the scouts. :-)

Check with your unit commissioner or district executive to see what guidance is offered for Life Scouts just starting towards Eagle. It might save you a lot of headaches down the road.

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Posted: 0:42 09-12-2007 202
Cool gadget for Troop Websites
We have a photo gallery on our troop web site. It's pretty good, with tons of photos, but they are just static photos, one after another. Our Troop Historian is responsible for getting them online and then parents can look at what their scout did over the weekend.

I've been looking for some way to make it more interesting and there is a new tool at Qlip Media that looks awful promising. It's beta right now, but they have a lot of examples that folks have created.

You can create a running audio stream and import photos to create a slideshow with dialog. Now, that is much more interesting to parents and scouts that couldn't attend than just plain photos. You can even draw on the imported images to point out key parts, like Johnny doing something funny in the background.

These little videos are called Qlippits and they can be emailed or stored on a web page.

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Posted: 0:28 09-12-2007 201
Code of Conduct
I was asked today: Is a 'code of conduct' for Cub Scouts like there is for Boy Scouts or does each Pack create its own?

Just like the Boy Scouts have the Scout Oath and Law as their 'code of conduct', the Cub Scouts have the Law of the Pack and the Cub Scout Promise. Those are the only codes needed to describe how scouts act.

There are many techniques that den leaders have employed to help manage the bahavior of scouts. A common one is the 'Den Candle' which burns as long as the den is behaving. When the candle is burned up, the den gets a prize of some kind. These can be useful for promoting expected behavior, but they don't define that behavior.

Scouts know how they should act, but that does not mean they will always act that way. While a Tiger, Wolf, Bear, and Webelos den leader, I was fortunate to have very few behavioral problems. I believe that was because I was blessed with an exceptionally great den of scouts and because they did not have time to get in trouble. I had more activities planned for a meeting than we could possibly do and then had a couple extra games 'just in case' that we never got to. I tried to never have the scouts sitting still for more than 10 minutes - longer than that feels too much like school.

I found that the best way to alter behavior was to simply ask which part of the Law of the Pack the scout was practicing - was it following Akela, helping the Pack go, or giving goodwill? Occasionally, a more in-depth discussion of better ways to practice was necessary was required. The couple of times that didn't work, calling a parent, explaining the situation, and handing the phone to the scout solved the problem.

Sometimes troops or packs write down some guidelines which help define a process, such as how the trailer gets packed or how to air out and store tents. These are useful and unique to that unit. When we start writing down 'behavioral' restrictions, then we've crossed a line that will cause nothing but grief.

Codes of conduct will stifle creativity and foster the need to push against the restrictions and find loopholes and uncharted territory. We'll soon hear, "But, the code of conduct didn't say I COULDN'T do it!" and then we'll have to add that to the list. If we just stick to the Law and Oath, the scouts have a well-defined set of guidelines and room to play.

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Posted: 0:12 09-12-2007 200
Sports Training Videos
Here's a great resource I found, especially for Den Leaders putting the Cub Scout Academics and Sports program into their annual scouting program. Check out the instructional guide for sports at

There's hundreds of short videos demonstrating and teaching skills for football, soccer, baseball, basketball, tennis, and other sports. If you're a den leader trying to learn good ways to present basic skills to your scouts, these can be a nice way for you to pick up some new drills.

There is an emphasis on good sportsmanship and examples of how to help young athletes enjoy the practices and become better team players. That seems to be somewhat lacking in youth teams I've watched in our area recently - the winning can sometimes become more important than the playing.

Besides the videos, there are also blogs by coaches with additional tips and advice. Quite a long list of coaches, too, and the soccer coach's blog had some real positive bits of information about really young players and good sportsmanship.

Hey, you might even want to let your son's football or hocky coach know about the site. Maybe s/he will pick up a couple ideas.

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Posted: 23:53 09-11-2007 199
Healthy Popcorn
diacetyl - sounds better than C4H6O2, I guess. There's been a suggestion by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that diacetyl, when used in artificial butter flavoring, may be hazardous if heated and inhaled over long periods of time.
That artificial butter flavoring is what's used in microwave popcorn, which we heat and then inhale its aroma.
With scouts around the country gearing up to sell microwave popcorn door-to-door, you can expect this concern to come up in your pack or troop. To prepare for that, the BSA has issued a Press Release letting folks know the Trails End popcorn is safe. That release says that the popcorn suppliers have "voluntarily started removing diacetyl from their products". Hmmm, 'started' removing it?
So, I checked the Trails' End web site and they have a big link on their home page that takes you to their press release. It says they have removed diacetyl so everyone can be happy now.

Whew! Now, I can inform the scouts that the popcorn they are selling is diacetyl-free. I don't suppose we can actually call it 'Healthy' though, can we? :-)

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Posted: 14:51 09-10-2007 198
Troop Gear Lookout
We bought new tents for the new scouts that joined the troop last spring as well as replacements for some that had worn out.
I bought them online at, and I feel we got a good deal, but I find myself using up more time than I should looking for the very best deal sometimes.
For purchasing troop gear, it's a good idea to check out different stores for good deals to minimize your impact on the troop's resources, but using hours of time to save pennies can be too hard on the Scoutmaster.
Plan ahead for the gear you expect to need in the next year or 18 months. Then, research to find the general prices for the gear. Then, keep your eye out for sales and such as you shop and surf. When a good price shows up, buy what you need and don't worry about possibly having missed the same gear for $.25 less someplace else.

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Posted: 14:33 09-10-2007 197
Celebrating the Adventure. Continuing the Journey
The 100th Anniversary of the BSA is still 2.5 years away - in February, 2010. But, planning for the celebration is well underway with a 100 Years of Scouting site online. There's a nice PDF file of a history timeline and other promotional literature.

Probably of the most interest to scouts is the Logo Contest open to all scouts with 5 winning categories - overall, Venturer, Eagle Scout, Boy Scout, and Cub Scout. Everyone that enters receives a patch and certificate and the overall winner goes to San Francisco to help finalize the logo design. Submissions are due by the end of November, 2007.

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Posted: 14:34 09-08-2007 196
Climate Change
It is now obvious to practically everyone that climate change is a real and present danger to our world environment. Some people believe the change in average temperatures is a natural phenomenon, just part of the normal cycles of history. But, most people realize that our carbon fuel use and green house gas emissions are having a drastic and immediate impact on the global environment.

On the Climate Change area of Energy Policy TV, there is a collection of very interesting videos from recent conferences and climate change events. For example, there are videos of Senator Clinton, Senator Klobucher, and President Bush. There's even a video of Theodore Roosevelt IV with a keynote address at a conference in Florida. He doesn't look much like the 26th president, but I thought it was cool to see a guy whose great-great-grandfather is on Mt. Rushmore.
The videos are long and not the entertaining type you find on YouTube, but there is a lot of good information about the problems and proposed directions to take.

There are many documentaries, movies, and books written and being written on the subject. Finally, governmental and business leaders are putting in efforts to address the issues we face regarding climate change. I believe from what I've learned that by starting right now, today, it will still be well after I and my children are gone from the earth before a successful shift will begin. Much like turning a freighter, it will take many years of effort to notice change in direction.

In the Boy Scouts, I feel we have a good opportunity to promote the needed mental shift in young men that will be business and community leaders in 10 to 30 years. By looking at the topic of climate change and the need for a global community commitment, we can help lay the groundwork for the changes to come as the rest of the community shifts their views.

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Posted: 8:34 09-08-2007 195
First Roundtable
Last night, we had our first District Roundtable since the summer break. Lots of first-timers showed up since the organizers included a New Leader Essentials class break-out session.
It was good to see some other Scoutmasters and chat about what their troops did over the summer. It sounded like our troop had one of the more 'productive' summers as far as outings go.
We have district level adult training coming up soon and I've been asked to help with the Outdoor Leader Skills again. That will be fun. The plan is to have it during the district Camporee, hoping more adults will attend since they're out camping anyway. We'll hope and see.
Be sure to check your district's training schedule and promote the basic training to your adults. Help them earn that Scouter's Training knot.

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Posted: 10:23 09-07-2007 194
Recruiting Tricks
There are 6 troops in our town so Webelos have a nice choice of the type of troop they can join. In the fall, many of the troops offer events to help Webelos achieve their Arrow of Light requirements and show them how their troop operates. These events range from scouting campouts to video arcade nights, some promote scouting while others are specifically directed at luring scouts to the troop. We used to have a Lock-In which included a trip to a local video arcade, mini-golf, laser-tag place and that would attract tons of Webelos! But, it didn't really reflect what our troop does all year, so it's now a troop-only event and we invite Webelos to other activities. And, we don't do the laser tag any longer.

I've found that give-aways and prizes are quite an effective way to attract Webelos and make the event memorable. They are a low cost, high impact recruiting tool. An example is glow sticks which are always able to intrigue and interest young scouts. Just watch out for the inquisitive scout with his new pocket knife. These can be used in a lot of night-time games, probably the favorite of which is "throw the stick" - scouts just throw their sticks all over the place, obviously. :-)

With Halloween coming in a few weeks, your troop might even hand these out at a recruiting event and promote them as safety items for trick-or-treating cub scouts.

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Posted: 10:17 09-07-2007 193
Scouts in Prison
A recent story last month on Girls Scouts in Prison focusing on the program to allow girls a chance to visit with their moms every 2 weeks, showed that scouting can help keep families together even in very difficult circumstances.

There's a similar article about a Cub Scout program in Seattle from The Seattle Times in May, 2005.

It's a tough way to see a parent, but I have to believe that having contact every couple weeks must be a strong incentive for the parent to shape up. And, it would keep the child in touch with mom or dad.

You might want to check in your community to see if your scouts might be able to provide some sort of service for prisoners. Some kindness shown while in prison might have beneficial returns to the community when they finish their time.

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Posted: 15:44 09-05-2007 192
Mazzuca Forbes Article
So, I mentioned the new Chief Scout Exec, Bob Mazzuca, has taken over. There's an interview with Mr. Mazzuca at this Forbes page which gives some good insight into his plans.

I'm interested to hear more about the 100th Anniversary - since I'm not a 'bald eagle', I guess I won't be going to the Million Eagle March but events like that will hopefully be successful in driving the larger goal of reigniting scouting.

He recognizes youth obesity as a major problem in our country. He also mentions that he understands the need for the BSA to invade the virtual world of the internet, video games, and electronic media in general. I believe luring sedentary youth out of their virtual worlds into the real world is our greatest challenge.

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Posted: 9:40 09-05-2007 190
The end of this month starts the annual Scouting Popcorn Sales drive. If folks in your troop or pack are interested in something different that might net them a couple bucks, how about these ideas? ...

Check your Boys' Life and Scouting magazines for details or go to their and sites.

Well, you won't get rich, but it's better than a kick in the rear.

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Posted: 23:53 09-04-2007 189
New Ideas
We made what I hope is a step forward in the troop tonight. A short meeting of the current Assistant ScoutMasters (ASMs) to present a shift in the program.

Our troop was around 16 scouts when the previous Scoutmaster started his term. I learned what I know from him, so I just did what he had done. Unfortunately, with 55 scouts, his way of managine a 16 scout troop has not been working so well. So, tonight we're starting to distribute the Scoutmaster duties to the ASMs. It will take effect with the new SPL and patrol leaders elected at the end of this month.

Each patrol will have an ASM that has volunteered to mentor its patrol leader and help guide its progress. This ASM will be aware of the rank and needs of each scout in the patrol and will encourage the patrol leader to hold regular patrol meetings, help patrolmates succeed, and contribute to the troop.

I am extremely excited to see how this goes for the next 6 months. 6 of our 8 patrols have an ASM, but I'll continue to mentor the two older patrols unless someone else steps up. (Our patrols are age-based). This isn't a huge change in program, but I'm hoping that defined direction for the ASMs will have a positive impact on the participation, retention, and advancement of the scouts.

If you would like a copy of my notes on ASM duties, just give me a holler and I'll send you a short Word doc.

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Posted: 15:41 09-04-2007 187
When camping with scouts, getting close enough to actually see an animal or bird can be a challenge. Of course, trying to minimize our impact on the local inhabitants, we don't try to get too close. But, we seldom have to worry about 'trying' to get too close - they hear us coming long before we're there. It would be nice to really see what made that squeek and then disappeared sometime.
I'll often take along a small pair of binoculars so I improve my chances. Since I'm usually up before the scouts, I can take my binoculars and go for a short walk. I'm not much of a birder, but bringing deer, elk, and even bear closer through optics is safer and less intrusive than physically moving closer.
I have Nikon binoculars, but Bushnell, Leopold, and others are also good quality. Optics are one place you shouldn't go for the low price option since they are precision instruments and you have to pay for that.
Binoculars are also useful for the Birds and Mammal Studies merit badges.

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Posted: 15:34 09-04-2007 186
New Chief Scout Exec
Starting on September 1st, Bob Mazzuca has taken the reins of the Boy Scouts of America as their 11th Chief Scout Executive. He replaces Roy Williams who held the position for seven years.
Mr. Mazzuca is an Eagle Scout with 36 years of serving the BSA in various postitions. See the News Release for more details.

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Posted: 21:10 09-02-2007 185
Tarps or Plastic?
Each year, our troop purchases new tents for incoming scouts. By the time the scouts finish their time in the troop, the tents are usually too worn out to pass on to the next generation.

To help keep the scouts dry, we have traditionally added blue poly tarps to each tent that the quartermaster distributes. The thought is that this extra layer of plastic will help when it really rains and the water is saturating the ground.

Just last year, one of our more experienced scouts mentioned that he figured a sheet of clear plastic would be just as good since it would be lighter and more waterproof. Some scouts have moved over to the clear plastic while others stay with the stronger, more durable, blue tarps.

We have two factions in the troop divided on the best way to keep scouts dry in a tent. One side says the tarp should go on the inside, the other side says on the outside.

I grew up as an 'outsider' rather than an 'insider'. But, when I became scoutmaster, the scouts were all insiders, so I went along with that. The reasoning for having the tarp inside is that there is no opportunity for water to collect on it if it is larger than the tent footprint and it stays clean. The main reasons for having the tarp outside is that it keeps the tent bottom cleaner.

This is just another opportunity for scouts to discuss how they might do things and then decide for themselves what works. Either way will be ok, but if they decide, then they're leading rather than just doing what the old man says.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:10 09-01-2007 184
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