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I've had the good fortune to learn from a lot of good men while volunteering in the Boy Scouts of America. They range from professional artists to scientists, some with a high school diploma and others with too many letters after their name to list. They all have interesting stories and valuable experience to share.
One Scouter in particular that I know has had a very eventful career, and this year was the keynote speaker at the Northern Star Council Million Dollar Day event. Dr. Andrew Baker provided terrific leadership and support to our troop while his sons progressed through the program. Dr. Baker is a great example of how Scouting can help a boy become a better man.
If you have just 13 minutes to spare, Dr. Baker shares his international experiences, Scouting impact, and how not to go winter camping.
Actual Failing would be dropping out of the program without gaining anything significant from it. That is something adult volunteers should definitely NOT let happen, but it is often our fault because we don't provide appropriate challenge to individual scouts.
The Scouting program succeeds by challenging scouts to push their abilities. What is challenging for one scout may be boringly easy or frustratingly difficult for another. One scout may be ready to navigate 30 miles, cross-country, in a blizzard, at night. Another may be challenged to point north at high noon. Our challenge is to challenge each scout in ways that help avoid failure.
This simple graph keeps me focused on this concept. The slope is the difficulty of what the scout is being expected to do - the steeper the slope, the more difficult that activity. Every scout (every person) has a built-in graph like this, set specifically to their interests, abilities, and aptitudes. If too little is asked, it's boring and I'll find something else to do. If it's easy, I won't learn much new but I can help others. If it's challenging, I gain from it and can help others gain a little, too. If it's strenuous, all my effort will be to learn and I won't be helping others. If it's so difficult for me that it is frustrating, I'll not learn it and most likely eventually find something else to do that is fun.
As scouts gain skills and experience, their graph will get steeper. Those activities that were challenging may now be boring.
No activity will fall into the challenging area for every scout, but it may be easy, challenging, or strenuous for nearly all of them. That allows most of them to gain something from the activity. We get into trouble when activities are always geared at the same center of mass for the troop - those advanced scouts get bored of things always being easy and inexperienced scouts get tired of never doing very well.
Patrols of similar-aged scouts allow a smaller group with more closely matched skills to do activities together. This removes a lot of the frustrating, easy, and boring areas. Some scouts will be ahead or behind their patrolmates, but not as much as an entire troop.
High adventure treks help with advanced scouts falling in the easy area too often. Finding other ways to challenge them is important. Constantly asking them to "help the younger scouts" gets old fast.
The ultimate way to ensure each scout is properly challenged would be to track his current skills, interests, and needs, and then have a way to map that to planned activities so every scout gets exactly what he needs. I don't think that's practical, but holler if you've figured out how to do it. Instead, we can plan opportunities that will help nearly everyone.
Other ways to help keep scouts in the challenging zone:
- Talk with each scout. Be aware of his current rank and what he should be generally working towards next. Be aware of what he tends to find easy or difficult, whether it's public communication or knots.
- Hold Skill Sessions for a set time at troop meetings or campouts where any scout can get help with up to First Class skills. Either advanced scouts or adults (if no scouts know the skills) provide the help.
- Create incentives for scouts to help others. Some advancement requirements include this, but there are other ways to make helping "the younger scouts" more fun. Just keeping a sheet of signatures from every scout that comes to him for help might be enough for some scouts, or a prize for every 10 or 20 scouts helped, or a spoof merit badge, or a public Thank You at courts of honor.
- Be a Lurker. On outings, don't just sit and drink coffee. Watch the scouts and keep an eye out for ones that appear uninterested or frustrated, especially when skills are being put to use.
- Any other ideas? Share as a comment below.
As the graphs tend to show, Discouragement is a much easier target to hit than Motivation. It's important to make efforts to keep Scouting time focused close to that challenging zone for every scout.
Already tired of winter vacation?
Bored with your current job?
The week after Christmas is a great time to think about new opportunities. As a scout with lots of outdoors skills, leadership qualities, and interpersonal communications, there are lots of openings for you to work in exciting, adventurous settings.
Whether you are a high school or college student, or looking for full-time work, there are many needs across the country that you can take on. Here are a few...
All the BSA high adventure bases need staff every year:
More BSA jobs:
Outside of the BSA program, there are even more jobs that a Scout might find interesting, challenging, and rewarding:
- Boundary Waters Outfitter
- Appalachian Trail Ridge Runners interact with A.T. hikers to improve the trail experience.
- National Park Service has thousands of outdoor jobs.
- Forest Service
- Department of State has a long list of sites where you can find outdoors jobs.
- Coolworks lists outdoor jobs
If you don't want to work this summer, you could Hike a Long Trail or Bike across the country.
Or, you could always stock shelves at the local grocery store. I did it, most boring job I ever had.
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of WASPcam. All opinions are 100% mine.
Who takes pictures and records your outings?
I have hundreds of photos that we've used in slide shows, web posts, ceremonies, and recruiting. It's fun to occasionally send an old photo to a past scout that is now out in the real world. He gets a kick out of seeing himself and his buddies as 'kids'. But, most of those shots are of static scenes since I've not been able to participate and record the activity at the same time.
To really share the adventure and excitement of a fun outing, video works much better than photos. Action-Sports cameras capture first person participation and put the viewer right in the adventure - and it's easier than you might think. The new WASPcam 9907 4K camera does an exceptional job of replacing your old digital camera with high quality videos. And, it's so small, sturdy, and easy, you can pass it off to a scout to record the more extreme activities your troop does.
This WASPcam records High Definition video in 1080p, 2K, or 4K with many programmable options such as time-lapse, motion detection, and loop recording. It also takes up to 20megapixel still photos in single, burst, or time delay mode. For extra control, it has WiFi connectivity and a smartphone app that allows you to remotely control the camera so YOU can be in the picture or video with your gang.
A key feature of the WASPcam 9907 4K is that it is waterproof - without requiring an extra case. This means snow sports, water sports, fishing trips, and rainy campouts are no longer a concern.
The camera itself is small and light (about 5oz.), and stealth black color. It comes with mounting fixtures to adhere it to your helmet. There are also a wide range of camera mount options so you can easily swap it between your helmet, handlebar, dashboard, tripod, surfboard, chest, head, or even your dog's back, whatever makes sense for the moment.
I've found that videos when mounted on a helmet or person are much smoother than when directly attached to handlebars or vehicle since the person absorbs a lot of the bumps and jolts of the trail.
I found this camera to be very easy to use and a huge win over my digital camera and smartphone pictures and videos. It's very cool how crisp the images are, even moving activity. I really like the time lapse video, compressing an hour into a minute or less by taking a frame every 1, 3, or 5 seconds. The motion detection feature lets you set it and automatically catch .5, 1, or 5 minutes of any activity that happens, whether it's an animal walking by or hikers passing on the trail. I've included a snip of these below.
So, my favorite features of this action camera are:
- Waterproof and sturdy so it's usable anywhere with no concern about weather or rough handling.
- Range of recording options to change image clarity and storage use.
- 20MP photos are big and sharp.
- It's small, unobtrusive, and mountable many different ways.
This item would make a great gift for anyone that spends time outdoors and likes to share their adventures. There are a few things that I didn't enjoy:
- The automatic motion detection mode seems to only notice movement just a few feet away. A deeper range would be more useful.
- The optional smartphone app wasn't as useful as I hoped. It only starts and stops video recording and snaps photos, but you get to be in the picture!
- The user manual is unusable for me because of the tiny font, but here's a link to the User Manual PDF which is fine.
There's a video of my impressions of the camera on youtube with unpacking, setup, and sample video captures.
The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act just became law! So?
Well, it directs the USDA to significantly increase the role of volunteers in trail maintenance projects. That means more opportunities for scouts to step up and provide assistance to the Forest Service to improve trail access to national public lands. Your scouts can contribute through eagle service projects, Hornaday projects, or general conservation work.
One of the most fun camping trips I've done was 3 days with a handful of scouts building part of the North Country National Scenic Trail.
This Act directs the USDA to figure out how to get more volunteers, have volunteer opportunities, and increase volunteer trail maintenance by 100% in 5 years.
They will also identify about a dozen areas where the lack of trail maintenance is severely affecting access to public lands, and work on fixing those problems. This could be blowdowns, eroded trails, anything that is preventing trail usage.
Plan Ahead Now - start thinking about conservation work your scouts can do next spring and summer. Contact your local USFS folks - start at the Region Office and ask them about how you can help.
PS: Did you know that two beings have their own personal zip codes in the United States? One is the president. Post a comment when you figure out who the other is.
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Check out my North Country Trail 100 Miles patch! Any scout can receive this patch and certificate by hiking at least 100 miles on the North Country National Scenic Trail by the end of 2016. So, you've got a month remaining to get out on the trail and rack up some miles.
You can walk the same mile of trail back and forth, or start hiking and keep it up until you've gone at least 100 miles. That's not hard for a lot of scouts in the northern part of the country since the NCT is 4,600 miles long from the New York/Vermont border to the middle of North Dakota. I did my 100 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail, completing 85 miles with a friend on a 5-day backpacking trip and then the other 15 miles on pieces of the trail through Duluth. The Superior Hiking Trail, Border Route Trail, and Kekekabic Trail are all part of the NCT in Minnesota.
Snowshoeing, running, and walking are all legal ways to do your 100 miles. Weekend hikes in December or a longer trip after Christmas will get you through the challenge. You can read more details about the NCT Challenge.
If you've already hiked some miles on the NCT route, push it to finish it! A couple weekends could do it.
Scouts working on the Hiking, Camping, or Backpacking merit badges, or the National Outdoor Badges for Hiking, Camping, or Adventure can get even more out of miles on the NCT.
You might even win some very cool gear for your camping adventures next year.
Everyone I know that camps has been at least a bit scared by something going bump in the night. My scare was one night on the Arizona Trail, all alone, when I heard coyotes howling - not from one direction, but all around me. My tiny little silnylon tent didn't feel like much protection that night.
New campers can feel a lot more comfortable with just a slight bit of illumination to fight back the utter darkness in a forest with no city light pollution in the sky. Whether it's his first year at scout camp or first wilderness backpacking trip, the UV PaqLite can help a scout relax and get some rest out in the wilds.
The PaqLite is a vacuum sealed, flexible package of glow-in-the-dark crystals (strontium aluminate) that absorb light and then slowly release it as a green glow for hours. Shining a flashlight on this and then hanging it in a tent gives off a reassuring light until everyone is asleep, and it will still be glowing if someone wakes in the middle of the night.
The UV PaqLite provides comfort without wasting hours of flashlight batteries. A bright, overpowering light really isn't helpful at night, but a soft glow is perfect. This night light is a very thin 6x7 inches, weighs just about 1 ounce, can be rolled, folded, or crunched into any small spot in your pack, and illuminates a 3 person tent nicely.
Enough glow is thrown out so you can actually read by it for about an hour or so, but it does fade over time. A quick shot from a flashlight under a cover (to not bother tentmates) and hang it back up will give more time.
As you can see in the image, the crystals come in various packaging. The PaqLite is the large rectangular item. You can also get small amounts of crystal embedded in clear, poured epoxy so they are indesctructable, solid, and reusable indefinitely. These are good to hang on pieces of gear you might want to find in the dark. These hard packages come in various sizes and shapes, and you can cut and drill them to make smaller zipper pulls or whatever.
It's a night light for camping without the disposable waste from snap glow sticks - maybe a good little stocking stuffer?
Looking for a fun winter activity for a Webelos den? The US Forest Service has a Junior Snow Ranger program that you can use in a den meeting. This PDF file is a great activity book with an application form at the end. It covers science, animals, safety, and a lot more.
Scouts can receive a card, badge, and bandanna upon completing the program.
It's that time of year when all good scouts take on the extra challenge of camping in cold weather. Whether 'cold' to you is 30 degrees or -30 degrees, preparing and educating scouts is a big part of a successful outing. Here's a few ways to help remember important information...
WWWW - Wicking, Warmth, Wind, and Water are the Ws of dressing for cold weather camping. When dressing for cold weather, LAYERS are key to warmth and safety. The goal is to stay warm and dry.
A wicking layer against your skin pulls moisture away so it can evaporate and your body stays dry. This layer is polypropylene long underwear.
A warmth layer is a fluffy insulation around your body to keep the heat you generate trapped. This can be wool, down, fleece, or other light, fluffy jacket or vest.
The wicking and warmth layers need protection from wind and water. Wind can blow the trapped warmth away from you, and water can negate the insulation properties of your jacket. So, the outer layer is a waterproof barrier that also stops wind. This can be a raincoat, poncho, snow jacket and pants, or similar.
COLD - Clean, Overheat, Layers, Dry are four words to remember so you don't get cold when winter camping. Clothes that get dirty insulate less which makes you colder, so keep them clean. Overheating causes you to sweat which leads to getting colder, so minimize exertion and activity. Dressing in layers allows you to adjust your insulation as your exertion varies, adding or removing layers as needed or opening and closing zippers to vent heat. Dry clothes insulate, wet clothes don't. Remember COLD so you don't get cold.
Cotton Kills - The thing about cotton clothing is that it absorbs water and stays wet a long time. This is great sometimes, like wetting a cotton bandanna around your neck to cool off in hot weather, but is dangerous in cold weather. Clothing can get wet from rain, stepping in water, melting snow, or sweat from overexertion. Synthetic fabrics tend to absorb less moisture, retain insulation ability, and dry faster than cotton.
UMBLES - Mumbles, Fumbles, Grumbles, and Stumbles.
The signs of hypothermia can be remembered with the UMBLES. A person experiencing hypothermia will have reduced fine motor skills (fumbles), gross motor skills (stumbles), difficulty speaking (mumbles), and changes in mental aptitude (grumbles).
A quick way to check a scout's state is to ask him to make the scout sign and repeat the scout law. Watching how he accomplishes this simple task gives feedback in the four areas.
See more cold weather camping tips
Wow! It's been a busy year with new groups signing up to do pen pal exchanges. Over 400 new groups have signed up this year and there are now over 1200 groups in the database. As far as I know, this is the largest, active scouting pen pal database - please let me know if you are aware of another.
A bunch of Cub Scout and Boy Scout advancement requirements and awards include communicating and Pen Pals are a fun way to accomplish those requirements.
In the USA, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are separate, but most other countries have them combined. All are accepted in my Pen Pal program. There are lots of Girls Scout groups listed, and many international co-ed groups.
You can set up a relationship with another group and then exchange secure messages, emails, or paper mail - whatever you both decide.
If you don't see a group you'd like to meet, then there's also links to the international pen pal programs for Australia, Canada, Netherlands, and UK.
Scout On, and meet a scout around the world!
One reason I like taking scouts backpacking up in the mountains above timberline is because I can see forever. Not just the wonderful scenery, but the terrain around me, too. No little animals or snakes rustling in the brush right beside me, no prickly thorns and weeds scratching me, and no roots tripping me while I hike along. Unfortunately, those high mountain hikes are relatively rare since I'm a flatlander and we do most of our hiking through forest, grasslands, and prairies. These are beautiful, but there's a much higher probability of light injury to my lower legs.
A good way to keep lower legs safe, especially for enthusiastic, growing, gangly youth, is to wear a light pair of gaiters. Ankle-high gaiters keep debris out of your shoes as well as a bit of rain, but calf-high gaiters do all that plus provide protection to shins and much more water resistance.
I've owned a pair of gaiters since 1984 - yes, that long! But, I just got a new pair of Tuban Gaiters for free to try and review. They make my old pair (which still work fine) look and feel ancient.
My new gaiters weigh just 2.5 ounces each versus the old 3.5 oz. each so it's easy to forget they are on. They have a strong synthetic instep strap instead of a lace strap so I expect that to withstand abuse from the trail pretty well. A front velcro-type opening replaces my old rear zipper so they are much easier to put on and off. And, the top cinch is a strap and buckle rather than a lace. All in all, a huge improvement in design over a short 30 years. :-)
So, what's the same? Well, they perform their duties just fine. Gaiters are wonderful to keep snow off my pants and out of my boots. Staying dry in cold weather is as important as staying warm. They also help with rain by diverting drips off the shoe instead of letting it soak into the sock and into the shoe. Besides snow and rain, gaiters also stop sand, gravel, twigs, and other trail debris from working its way down to my feet to cause irritation, blisters, and a grumpy mood. Plus, knees down is where most of the trail dirt and grime are accumulated so gaiters help keep scouts and clothes clean on the trail.
Gaiters also provide lower leg protection, specifically against shin scrapes and scratches. While hiking through an old train tunnel doing research for my next book, I hit my leg on a big rock. I was moving my feet slowly and taking my time since I had no flashlight - well, I had one but I was too lazy to get it out for this short tunnel. Oops. No real injury as more than a foot of skin on my shin got peeled off, but it bled and stung for an hour or so and it's just now pretty much healed. A sturdy gaiter would not have prevented me from being stupid about the light, but it would have prevented almost all the damage from that kind of injury.
More common than running into rocks is getting scratched by vegetation. Hiking the 800-mile Arizona Trail, I had my fair share of pokes, scratches, scrapes, and cuts. I was fortunate to not get any cactus injuries, but every plant in the desert is designed to injure whatever comes close to it. One of my water bags even got punctured. Gaiters are perfect protection while hiking in this territory or any place where the trail is narrow or if you have to bushwhack cross country.
The plants and grasses, even those that don't bite, are still irritating in the morning. Hiking the Ice Age Trail, the first couple hours most mornings got my lower legs and shoes soaked just because of the heavy dew and walking through the prairie grass, brush, or whatever was growing along the narrow, less used trail. Gaiters, worn just those first couple hours each day, would have made life much more pleasant.
There are specialty gaiters specifically for snakebite protection and these gaiters are not that kind. Those are heavier, almost like armor. But, even long pants are helpful to prevent snake bites since the snake may hit the fabric instead of your skin. With any gaiter in place, there is a bit more protection.
These gaiters are also a good Leave No Trace piece of gear. The synthetic fabric is so tightly woven that burrs, seeds, and other stickers don't cling to it for transportation. You don't wind up being a vehicle for invasive plants to have their seeds dispersed by hitching a ride on your pants or socks, just to be plucked off and thrown to the side to grow at your next rest stop. Also, with the protection from gaiters, you are more prone to stay on the trail instead of straying to avoid any small nuisance in the path.
If you're interested in checking out my gaiters, hike to Amazon and take a look. If you buy a pair, use this code to save 50% ( 2EX3VL22 ) They come in black (my fav), blue (not so much), or orange (hunting season!)
The largest part of my calf is 17 inches around, and 16 inches around just below the knee where the gaiter top rests. The size Large fits fine, but if your legs are larger, go for the size XL. Measure up 18 inches from the floor when standing to find where the gaiter top will be on your leg.
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Sometimes a Daily Good Turn takes some effort, and sometimes an opportunity literally blows up in your face.
You've seen the movies where a briefcase full of cash cracks open, or dollars are thrown from a building, or an explosion blasts money through the air, right? Well, this week it happened to me.
After a nice lunch with my family at a restaurant, we were walking down the sidewalk to where our car was parked. My wife and two eagle scout sons were a bit ahead of me. We were walking into a steady headwind. A car had just parked in a spot along the sidewalk and people were getting out as I passed by. The front passenger stepped onto the sidewalk right beside me and closed the door, just as I glanced over in his direction.
As he stepped away on the sidewalk, going the same way I was headed, a fluttering caught my attention in the gutter. A folded stack of dollar bills, certainly more than an inch thick, was unfolding on the pavement and the wind was just starting to flutter off each of the top bills, one by one, sending them scurrying and tumbling along the gutter.
I hollered, "Hey, dude! Wait a minute!" As he looked at me, I pointed to the money. You should have seen the look on his face. He stopped midstride, turned, and bent to pick up the pile - all while saying, "Oh my gosh! Oh no! Oh!"
In the same instant, I changed direction and went to head off the farthest bills before they escaped. They were all $20 bills and there had to be at least 30 of them, probably more. I made sure to keep my hands out in the open in front of me so he wouldn't think I was trying to keep any. We met at his car bumper. I handed him the handful I had gathered and said there was another one way under his car - hey, there's a limit to my good turn doing! He thanked me and I caught up with my family around the corner at our car.
OK, having written it down, it doesn't sound that exciting now. But, I'm glad I had the chance to help someone. If I hadn't been there, he may very well have lost all of it, and whatever it can buy him.
Good Turns are more often not so exciting, but they all make the world a bit better. Keeping an eye open for ways to help others, being aware of your surroundings, and pointing others before yourself are all ways to make finding those opportunities in the world around you.
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