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Annual Adult Recap
I just held our troop's annual 'Adult Recap' meeting last weekend. This is the second year we've done it so it's not really a tradition yet - just an experiment.

I invite the registered adults (not all the parents) over for pizza and a short review of the past year and a look forward to the year ahead.
I have a page highlighting the program parts that went well last year. In this case, it included the Scout-o-rama, patrols organizing campouts, scout-planned high adventures, troop muster, and an exceptionally good Troop Guide.
Then, I have a page with the areas for improvement, either things that have degraded, did not live up to our expectations, or some way we can challenge the scouts to excel even more. In this case, it included accountability for leadership jobs, having more fun activities at troop meetings, and getting known in the community.
Finally, a page listing a few ways to help with the areas of improvement and a request for ideas for an overall better program.

We spend a little time letting the adults tell what they saw as positives from the past year and suggestions they have for the coming year.

This year, our recap happened right after the troop planning session led by the new SPL. So it worked out that I could share with the adults what the scouts had come up with for the troop schedule.

If we do it again next year, then I guess it's officially a troop tradition. :-)

Scout On
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Posted: 12:06 03-30-2007 135
Leader Training
Last weekend, the new SPL held our semi-annual Troop Planning and Leadership Training day. It's a long day, but a lot gets accomplished.

In the morning, the SPL, ASPL, Scribe, and patrol leaders meet to review the current 12-month schedule. They discuss any changes that are needed to dates, themes, and planning responsibilities. Each patrol is responsible for planning an outing and sometimes patrols swap events if the dates work better for the new patrol leaders.

After reviewing and accepting the current schedule, they tack on another 6 months worth of outings. Before this meeting, each patrol is given a brainstorming sheet to use to come up with their favorite ideas for outings. Their patrol leader is responsible to promote these ideas to the troop. Sometimes it works, sometimes its just one scout saying what he'd like to do, sometimes there's no input at all.

A challenge I gave the scouts this time was to come up with 'Adventure Themes' rather than activities. For example, one scout really wanted to ride horses. Instead of a horse riding campout, they've planned a 'Western Round-up' with horse riding, rope fusing & whipping, open fire cooking, lasso contest, and other cowboy stuff. They seemed to be more excited about it and I expect participation will be higher. They also came up with 'Amazing Race' road rally, 'Big Game Tracking', and 'Castle Caving'. The last one is just going on a cave tour while camping at a Webelos camp that turned an old barn with silos into a castle - they went there for skiing this winter and loved the castle. :-) So, sometimes, just a cool theme makes a big difference.

Around noon, after the schedule is laid out, the rest of the PLC team shows up for training. It takes about 4 hours, including 30 minutes for lunch. Each scout tells about his position and his goals for the 6-month term.
We cover Merit Badge and Advancement processes, new scout success strategies, how to lead games, how to lead meetings, and how to teach skills using EDGE.

I plan on asking a handful of Life scouts to run the Planning and Training sessions next time. We have some scouts that have been through it 3 times and even new activities each time don't freshen it up enough.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:59 03-29-2007 134
New Troop Leaders
Since troop elections two weeks ago, I've been too busy to keep in touch - sorry about that.

A new Senior Patrol Leader was elected and all other scouts filled out a form of which troop leadership positions they were interested in. I put those in a spreadsheet and gave it to the SPL. Separately, he and I came up with our selections for the positions and then compared. He did a great job choosing scouts that could succeed at the positions.

He and I also met for an hour for his initial training. That's always a fun time because the SPL realizes what he's gotten himself into. :-) There is a lot of responsibility in that job! We scheduled the leader training session and he contacted all his leadership team.

He met with the ASPL to discuss his duties and I was there but didn't need to add much at all. Now, both the SPL and ASPL are doing individual training with each scout leader that reports to them. Then, I will chat with each scout leader to ensure they understand their responsibilities.

Historically, we've had challenges ensuring scouts perform the duties of their positions. To help this happen, each scout is required to report his accomplishments to the SPL or ASPL at the 2, 4, and 6 month marks of his term. This catches lack of performance early enough to plan a correction.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:16 03-26-2007 133
Moccasin Project
The PLC decided it would be fun to make moccasins so scouts have them to wear in troop meetings and at summer camp.
One scout volunteered to gather the shoe sizes from all scouts that wanted to participate and get those to me. I ordered 25 kits from the local Tandy Leather shop and they are ready for tonight's troop meeting. The kits cost $12 and are pre-sized, pre-cut, pre-punched, pre-padded, and ready to sew together using the shoelace-like stitching included. It looks like a nice, simple project for a first attempt and for younger scouts.

Unfortunately, the kits only go up to size 10. Scouts with larger feet and those that just wanted more of a challenge could choose to make moccasins 'from scratch' for $8 instead of using a kit. We have 6 scouts going this route.
I bought a moccasin pattern from Tandy which only makes up to size 10 (kinda dumb) and had my wife 'super size it' on the copy machine at work to 105%, 110%, and 115% so it was approximately size 11, 12-13, and 14-15.
I bought suede leather, foam pad, leather lace, and glue. I also got two hole punches and two screw-on threading needles.
I drew the patterns onto the leather and cut out each scout's chunk - I figured this would save a lot of waste instead of having the scouts place pieces haphazardly. I also glued the foam pads for the feet onto the soles since it's pretty potent glue and takes an hour to set up - I figured that would be pretty boring watching glue dry at a troop meeting.
So, tonight the scouts get to cut out their pieces and hole-punch them, and then they are at the same starting point as the scouts that got kits. It's about an extra hour or 90 minutes of work for a pair.

We'll see how it goes tonight. We also have a batch of new scouts attending their first troop meeting so I got another 18 kits of smaller sizes in case they want to make a pair. We had no way to contact them beforehand since they are turning in their contact info tonight. The guys at Tandy were very helpful and said I can return unopened kits.

I'm looking forward to seeing lots of moccasins on feet soon and I hope this sparks some ideas for other troop projects.

Scout On
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Posted: 8:48 03-12-2007 132
More Snow Camping
Gee, I thought we did our snow camping for the year back in January, but nooooooo.

Last week, we accumulated another 18 inches of snow, and it was good, thick, packing snow, not that really light, fluffy, cold-of-winter snow. So, my youngest, Josh the First Class scout wants to build a snow hut. And, of course, what good is a snow hut unless you sleep in it?

So, Monday night, I was outside sleeping in a snowhut with the temperature at 3F degrees. But, we were toasty warm in our Cabela's Summit bags and the full moon and stars with no clouds were beautiful at 2:00am when I had to run inside to use the little boys' room.

But, there's really more to the story.
We have an exchange student, Igor from Brazil staying with us until June. He lives at 4 degrees south of the equator and said he'd always wanted to sleep in a snowhut. So, we actually were doing a 'Good Deed' by making the hut. He and my oldest, Kory the Life scout, slept out in it on Sunday night when it got down to 1F degree.
And, this isn't one of those little quinzees that you can barely wriggle into because you scraped all the snow together from a half acre lot into a pile slightly higher than your knee. This was 5 feet high and big enough inside for 4 people. We had 4 little candles in alcoves in the walls and enough headroom for me to sit up. This was practically a mansion.

But, tomorrow the temps start climbing and the forecast is for a massive melt-off over the weekend so this will probably be the last snow for the year.

If you want to see some pics, I slapped together Igor Was Here - luckily the domain name was available. :-)

Scout On
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Posted: 0:05 03-08-2007 131
Blasphemy Challenge
If you have never heard of Blasphemy Challenge, then just skip this blog entry.

I've had a few people email me asking if Boy Scout Trail supports Blasphemy Challenge like they mentioned in a press release and has been propagated around the web.

I made a response page at Blasphemy Challenge with the hope it gets picked up by the search engines and ranks well when people search for blasphemy challenge.

It is amazing how much effort people put into things just to stir the pot and irritate others. It's like spam - all that effort could really be used for something good if it wasn't being wasted on trash.

So, the bottom line is that Boy Scout Trail does not support Blasphemy Challenge.

Scout On
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Posted: 13:26 03-05-2007 130
How Many Eagle Scouts Does It Take ...?
The question often comes up about how many scouts reach Eagle or what percentage of scouts make it. I just got an email asking about that so I checked around a bit and found the most recent, most official info I could at Facts About Scouting page.

Through the end of 2005, 1,835,410 young men had been awarded the Eagle Scout Award, achieved by only approximately 5 percent of Scouts.
In 2005, 49,895 scouts earned Eagle. So, I would expect the total for the end of 2006 to be about 1,885,000 Eagles.

The interesting thing to me is that googling for 'percent eagle scout' returns results citing less than 2%, 2%, 3%, 4%, 5% depending on the point being made on that page. :-)
Earlier pages from the mid-1990s on say 'about 4%' so it appears the percentage of scouts earning Eagle is going up. One could argue that that statistic shows 'paper eagles' are being made - or it means more scouts are focusing on completing that high goal.

Either way, I'm expecting more than 2 of the 40 scouts in our troop to reach Eagle. And, I do understand that I need to count the Eagles against all the scouts that joined, not just current members. I have a page where I track every scout that joins, what rank he reaches before dropping, and the reason given for dropping. There's lots of room for improvement!

Scout On

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Posted: 8:46 02-28-2007 129
Tropical Escape
About this time of year, folks in the upper midwest are heading to Florida and other places south to thaw out a bit. Spring Break happens well before ice out and spring is still a long way off.
To combat the cold winters, dozens of 'indoor water parks' have been constructed over the past few years. These are small islands of liquid water, high humidity, and the smell of chlorine. Families visit for a day or a weekend and pretend to be places further south.
Our troop spent yesterday at the Waterpark at Mall of America - 7 hours away from the frigid arctic environment we've been in for the past month. It was a great day event for the youngest patrol to plan since there was relatively little planning required. It's a challenge to come up with ways to tie a waterpark with scouting, but the scouts got lots of exercise, had fun, and used the buddy system. And, the day was a good balance to our previous troop meeting which was night sledding for an hour while the temps hovered around 1-5F.

I'd recommend exploring a waterpark type event for a change of pace in the depths of winter.

Scout On
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Posted: 17:17 02-18-2007 128
Magnificent Seven

There's a great article in the Stillwater Gazette about seven scouts that just earned their Eagle ranks all together. They joined their troop together and made a pact that they'd all stick with it to Eagle.

That's the sort of support and teamwork that every scout needs to be successful. As we receive 17 new scouts over the next month, I plan on promoting a similar pact within each patrol. Giving each scout the responsibility and authority to help his buddies stay the course sounds like one more good thing to help patrol spirit and scout advancement.

Scout On

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Posted: 13:51 02-13-2007 127
Monopoly for Charity
Now here's one that is new to me, but sounds like a fun event. Host a Monopoly Tournament to raise funds for a worthwhile cause.
On March 3rd, troops 718 and 799 in Thousand Oaks, CA are hosting a tournament to benefit their council's endowment fund. See BSA Monopoly for a cool website they have for their tournament.
The winner of their tournament is eligible to continue on to a State tournament, and there are National and WORLD championships after that! I never even knew there were such 'official' tournaments available.

For information about sponsoring a tournament, check out Hasbro Monopoly page which even has a 28-page tournament guide.

Scout On

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Posted: 23:45 02-10-2007 126
Aloha, Y'all
Since this month's Cub Scout theme is 'Aloha Cub Scouting' maybe you'd like to try your hand at learning some scout promises, laws, and mottos in Hawaiian.
The Maui County Council has an Ideals of Scouting page listing the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, and Slogan in Hawaiian.

And, here's the Cub Scout Promise:
(Cub Scout Promise)
O wau o amalia, ho'ohiki no ka hana ana i kou kilohana
Me ka hana ana i ka'u mahelehana
i ke akua ame ko'u a'ina kahiki
A e kokua i kekahi po'e
A e ho'olohe i na kanawai
o ka pu'ali
I promise to do my best
To do my duty
To God and my country,
To help other people,
And to obey the Law of the Pack.

E ho'omakaukau
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Posted: 17:13 02-07-2007 125
Stove Feedback
I wanted to thank people that replied about my Stoves for Scouts entry, especially Jack, John, and Tom.

It sounds like most troops use propane stoves just like us. But, some of them use a 20lb propane tank with a distribution tree and hoses to each stove - set the tank in a plastic milk crate to make it more stable. This cuts out the problem of throwing out all those propane bottles and reduces fuel costs, after recovering the initial expense of tanks, trees, and hoses. The main reason our troop committee has not done that is because it forces the patrols that share a tank to set up right next to each other. We could have a tank for each patrol and that might be the best solution for weekend 'car' campouts where no packing in occurs. Maybe a 5lb tank per patrol would work. Unfortunately, this doesn't remove the main problem area from the equation - that $17.00 regulator that stops working.

The use of popcan alcohol stoves was presented also. Those are pretty cool and a great project for scouts to make. On minimalist campouts, they are great for a single person to heat water and rehydrate food. But, their 5-15 minute burn time isn't enough for actual cooking. I've got these on my list of 'projects to try at troop meetings' for the PLC to consider.

I sent an email to Coleman asking about the regulators that stop working, pleading for any way to adjust them, clean them, or fix them. We'll see if they reply.

One other thing to pass on to you all. One scouter said they had tried to refill the disposable propane bottles with a fitting you can purchase. His experience was that it worked a couple times until the seal on the bottle would start leaking. On the Coleman disposable bottles, it does say "Do Not Refill" so we've not tried that.

So, my plan is to have the adults try cooking on two liquid fuel backpacking stoves on the next couple campouts and see how we do. (We don't really have much choice since we inherited an inoperable regulator :-) ) We might purchase a wire grill to set over the stoves for pot stability.
Assuming that goes well, I'll discuss it with the SPL and see if he'll ask a couple older patrols if they'd like to give it a try.

Scout On
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Posted: 11:40 02-04-2007 124
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