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OA Conclave 2008
A week ago, I attended the Totanha Nakaha Lodge's Mustang chapter conclave and it was one of the most educational experiences I've had in scouting.

I've been an ordeal member for a couple years, being selected as an adult and doing the Ordeal before either son was elected. When I was selected, I told the OA folks that I would not be doing any scouting activities until at least one of my sons was also involved in the activity. The next year, my son was elected and went through the Ordeal.

This year, my son and I both completed the Brotherhood requirements together so we now have the middle sash with the red bar on each end. It was pretty tough for an old dog like me to get through all the requirements, but I did! And, I got a lot more out of watching the ordeal ceremony and recalling the names and meanings of so many bits and pieces in the dialog. The time I spent memorizing information was well spent - I can almost pronounce some of the words now.

I strongly support the goals of the OA, such as promoting camping and cheerful service among scouts. The Brotherhood ceremony was very impressive and I appreciate all the work the scouts put into it. I could also follow along much more since I understood the general structure and meaning of the strange words.

My youngest son was just elected into the OA this year but could not do the Ordeal yet. He is planning to complete it at the spring conclave. We now have 10 scouts of the troop in the OA and I'm encouraging them to promote its goals into the troop more this year. Two of the OA members are taking responsibility to present Leave No Trace camping concepts to the troop so that is a great step in the right direction. There has also been a lot of talk about 'servant leadership' instead of just leadership, so there is another step forward.

I hope the OA is strong in your neck of the woods. If you're not very familiar with it, take some time to learn about it and promote it to your scouts, especially those that are moving along quickly and could use something more to challenge them and broaden their scouting experience.

Scout On
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Posted: 23:56 09-29-2008 363
FastTracks Program for Cub Scouts
BSA has expanded the FastTracks program of Cub Scout den meeting plans. This program provides more advancement opportunity in den meetings rather than each scout working with parents at home to complete requirements. Testing of the program the past two years has indicated that a scout retention improvement of about 20% occurs when using the program resources.

The program is a set of about 16 den meeting plans in PDF form for each Cub Scout rank that step the den through all the requirements to earn rank. The plans list materials and preparation needed, gathering, opening ceremony, advancement activities, and closing for each meeting - pretty sweet! Den leaders can just print off the PDFs, follow the schedule for the year, and move along. As long as scouts show up, they should all earn their ranks just fine.

Turn on your sound and check out FastTracks Site

Scout On
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Posted: 12:16 09-25-2008 362
Den Chief Training
BSA has developed a nice online Den Chief Training course for Boy Scouts taking on this important role. It is a good way to have the scout learn his job as Den Chief, both what is expected of him and what is NOT.

There are two First Class scouts in our troop who will begin their Den Chief roles on October 1, one for a 4th grade Webelos den and the other for a 5th grade den.

Having a Den Chief has a remarkable impact on the percentage of Webelos that continue on to Boy Scouts. It may not help with Boy Scout retention, but it at least gets more scouts in the door to try it out.

If your troop wants to grow in size or strenghten your ties with a "feeder Pack", supplying a Den Chief for the 5th grade Webelos is a great step to take. It certainly is a big commitment by the scout so be sure he understands the expectations before taking on the job. And, remember to recognize his extra work to the rest of the troop.

Scout On
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Posted: 11:03 09-24-2008 361
Confluence Project
Now, here's an idea I wish I had had first. Check out Confluence.org - Latitude/Longitude intersections around the world are being visited and the view from there being recorded. Way cool! This project has actually been going on for 12 years, but there are still over 10,000 intersections to visit out of the 16,325 desired for the project.

It's fun to take a look at the intersection points in your state and see what's there. Just about all intersections in the U.S.A. are completed - unless you want to visit Alaska or Hawaii!

This could be a really fun way to take a cross-country hike and use a GPS to find an exact spot. Instead of the integer intersections, your crew could find a .50 intersection just for your own experience.

Similar to geocaching, take care and minimze your impact when traveling offtrail.

Scout On
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Posted: 12:53 09-18-2008 360
BSA Rifle
BSA Rifle

Got $900 to blow and love rifles? Henry Repeating Arms has designed a BSA 100th Anniversary Commemorative rifle that will fulfill your needs.

It's a .22 so maybe we'll see some at summer camp next year. :-)

I guess this is really what you'd call a niche market - a $900 .22 rifle.

Scout On
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Posted: 11:03 09-16-2008 359
Pack Packing
The training for high adventures or weekend hike-in campouts should include proper pack weight distribution skills.

It makes sense to most people to pack the heaviest things in the bottom of the pack, but that isn't correct. A quick demonstration is all it takes to convince them that high and close to the hiker's back is best. It's all about center of gravity.

When standing normally, your body has a center of gravity running from your feet up through your head. There is the same amount of weight in front and behind and side to side of this imaginary vertical line. If you bend your head backwards, your hips move forward to counter the weight. If you lean to the left, your hips move to the right. Pretty simple.

When you plop a pack on your back that weighs 1/4 to 1/3 your body weight, you naturally need to lean forward to counter it. But, packed correctly, the amount of lean can be reduced resulting in more comfortable, upright posture while backpacking.

Pack a Backpack Place a heavy tent or dense food at the top, close to your back. When you lean forward a little, this weight crosses the center of gravity, helping to offset the rest of the pack weight.
Place that same tent low on the pack and you need to lean forward further to offset the weight.
The further out from your body a heavy item is placed, the more lean is required to offset it.
A heavy item to one side will require lean to the other side to offset.

So, high and close centered side to side is key for the heaviest, most dense items. Sleeping bag and pad should be low. Lightweight items like an empty water jug can be furthest out.

Philmont Backpacking Here is a scout at Philmont. See how far back the sleeping bag and pot are? If he moved that sleeping bag and pad to the top of his pack, he wouldn't feel like someone was trying to pull him over backwards.

Any item, such as the cooking pot, that is free to swing will cause problems. Things like sleeping bags thumping against the backs of legs drive hikers insane and the weight motion causes them to use extra energy. They will also eventually swing their way loose and fall in the dust. Be sure to strap everything down well.

Even though I don't personally like camelbacks, their design is cool for this weight distribution concern - heavy water close to your back and centered. If you have two 1-litre bottles like me, one on each side of your pack, that is 2.5lbs on each side. If you drink all of one, you're lopsided. Drinking some from each side keeps the load even.

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Posted: 9:30 09-12-2008 358
LNT Wannabes
Oh, happy day!

I'm a Leave No Trace Master Educator and really believe the message of minimizing impact when experienceing the outdoors is an important one to distribute across scouting.

Before the PLC meeting this week, I asked the SPL if he could try to find 3 scouts willing to present the seven Leave No Trace principles to the rest of the troop. At the PLC, he asked and three 9th grade scouts from the Phoenix patrol stepped right up and said they'd do it.

The plan is that they will meet with me for about 45 minutes to go over the seven training activities, then practice them, then be ready to present the principles in 30 minute blocks at 2 upcoming troop meetings. Each guy will do one principle and the troop, broken in groups, will rotate through the three stations.

The outcome of these training sessions are on multiple levels. All the scouts that attend will be introduced to the LNT concepts and they'll hopefully take some of it to heart. These three instructing scouts will know a few principles very well and will gain some cred as experts in the troop. I'll get to do some training of scouts so they can train others.

But, even more importantly, the scouts will get experience in interactive training rather than the 'lecture' training that is the common lazy way to 'teach' (and doesn't work). All of the training is actually short games and activities that drive home the principle with a short reflection after the activity. The troop will break into patrols so each instructor will have a small group doing the activity.

Small groups, interaction, reflection afterwards - aaaaah, a perfect educational experience. Well, theoretically anyway. :-) I'll let you know. This is the training environment I continually promote, but we still occasionally have scouts 'teaching' others by reading the information from the Scout Handbook.

Hey, if you would like to do some similar LNT training in your troop, just holler at me. I can send you some info on what is planned.

Scout On
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Posted: 0:51 09-04-2008 357
School Days
Tomorrow, I get the house to myself again! Now, I can really get some work done with both scouts off to high school and the wife teaching at school also.

Start of school is a great time to remind scouts to practice their friendly, kind, cheerful, and brave skills by welcoming new boys they find in their classrooms. As a boy, I moved about every 2 years so I know what it's like to be the new guy. A friendly welcome makes a great impression and, who knows, maybe he was in scouts in his old town.

Cub Scout Packs are ramping up this month and looking for new scouts while Boy Scout Troops got their big influx in the spring. That recruiter patch might be a good incentive for some guys in your pack or troop. Our 6th grade patrols are on the prowl for a couple new recruits since this is a prime time to tell their buddies about the great time they had at summer camp. I'm hopeful of getting at least two non-scout visitors besides the dozens of Webelos that will stop by to fulfill their Arrow of Light requirements. Maybe we'll even get a few boys to join up!

Scout On and Drive Careful
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Posted: 0:06 09-02-2008 356
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