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

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

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

Scout On
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Posted: 22:10 04-05-2008 319
Scout Heros
Boy Scouts that have been in the troop less than 2 years tend to be down the pecking order quite a way. Older scouts in a troop can lord over them and the experienced scouts naturally tend to lead the troop. I've found that scouts really look forward to the time when they can be on top of the heap.

I was reminded this evening that every Boy Scout can be a hero and be looked upon with awe. It only takes about 45 minutes and a little preparation, and it's a lot of fun.

Since I teach CPR and Wilderness First Aid, the Cubmaster of a local pack asked me if I would teach the cub scouts basic CPR and First Aid skills - in about 15 minutes. :-) Once I caught my breath from laughing, we haggled down to an intro to the topic and some interactive demonstrations.

I got 5 boy scouts to stop by for 30 minutes. They did a very short skit where they showed Check - Call - Care steps and Pressure - Elevate - Bandage for a cut. They also demonstrated Airway - Breathing - Circulation for breathing emergencies.

We had a couple dozen gauze pads, roller bandages, slings, and gloves for the cubs to practice with. Each boy scout took 3 or 4 cub scouts and put red duct tape on an arm or leg. The other cubs fixed the victim up real good!

What fun! The cubs did their best, then got silly with head wounds and full body wraps. But, they actually heard the main points and used them. And, best of all, they were tripping over each other trying to impress the big boy scouts with what they could do - even though these boy scouts were the younger ones in the troop. It was great for them to be the 'big guys' for a change.

So, look for opportunities to get your boy scouts down to the pack level to help out with short program topics when possible. First Aid, rope work, navigation, fire safety, or campfire stories can all be quick, interactive activities to do with the cubs. Don't try to teach them, just let them taste a bit of the adventure to come.

Scout On
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Posted: 23:42 03-25-2008 318
Forming Patrols
New Scouts joining the troop are a blast. When they are with the older scouts in the troop, they are pensive, unsure, quiet, and checking out everything that goes on around them. Then, when they are in their New Scout Patrol with just their peers, the chatter goes through the roof, they get squirrely, and the excitement of being a Scout really shows. In a month, when they are comfortable with their position in the troop, the troop meetings will be more 'lively'.

Our troop has new scouts from 4 different packs this year, from a single scout out of one to an entire den of 7 scouts from another. In past years, it's been easy because we only had enough new scouts to make one patrol or we had fairly even-sized groups from packs so they made patrols. But, this year, there are some new challenges and some of what I've done might be helpful to others.

First off, I had to decide to split 18 scouts into 2 or 3 patrols. I would love to have 3 patrols and then have every scout really try to recruit another boy to join. If 2 in each patrol were successful, that would make patrols of 8 scouts each. But, historically, individual scouts have rarely recruited friends.

A patrol in our troop typically has 50% to 75% participation on campouts. A patrol of 6 means 3 to 5 scouts while a patrol of 9 means 5 to 7 on a campout. Nearly all scouts in our troop are active in at least 2 other organizations besides school - sports, music, theater, church.

For those reasons, we have 2 new patrols with 9 scouts in each. This gives them the opportunity to earn the National Honor Patrol award too. I believe patrols of 8 to 10 work better than 6-8, especially in communities with many activity choices.

It didn't seem right to have 7 friends from a pack in a patrol with 1 or 2 new guys thrown in. To mix things up and still keep good friends together, I made a list of all the scouts and handed it out to every scout. They chose 1, 2, or 3 names they wanted to be with in a patrol. Or, they could choose "Anyone is fine".

This actually worked out very well. Every scout got to be with at least 2 of his 3 choices. One patrol was made up of 4 from a den and 5 from another den. The other patrol had 1, 1, 4, 3 so there was no dominating group in either patrol. The next time this happens, I'll have them pick 1 or 2 names instead of 3. That will set their expectations better.

The last thing I did was to talk with all the new scouts in a separate room from the troop. I made it clear (hopefully) that scouting is an individual adventure in the company of other adventurers. At times, we'll all work together and other times they each have to push themselves to succeed. One of the great parts of scouting is making new friends and I will put the patrols together to make that possible. My goal was to set their expectations that Boy Scouts is a new, different experience from Cub Scouts and they won't have the same old guys together - they're expected to make a new gang.

On Monday, the new scouts will meet and learn who is in their patrols. The Troop Guides will make the announcement and then gather their scouts together for a couple get-acquainted games. They'll then do as many of the Joining requirements as they can and start in on Patrol identity - name, yell, and flag.

Realistically, two scouts from each patrol will drop scouting in the first 6 to 10 months. Since I know this to be a high probability, recruitment will be pushed. The SPL, Troop Guides, and Scoutmaster will all be telling the new scouts that 10 is the best size for a patrol. They will be encouraged to invite friends to our open house in May or to a troop meeting, patrol meeting, or campout.

Scout On

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Posted: 10:54 03-14-2008 317
BSA Report to the Nation
The BSA creates an annual report to highlight the achievements of its program. A group of scout delegates is chosen to present the report to the Speaker of the House each year to fulfill a requirement in the BSA charter. Since Hilliam Howard Taft in 1910, every U.S. president has received a BSA Report to the Nation delegation.

The youth in the delegation are chosen because they embody the spirit and values associated with Scouting. This year, a Webelos scout from Minnesota was chosen as a delegate because he saved his younger brother from drowning. He received the Honor medal, just like his father did as a youth.

The delegation has just completed their 5-day trip and the BSA has a site showing the delegates and their activities at What a great experience, meeting top government officials and touring tons of historic and political sites.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:24 03-08-2008 316
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others."

As a scout experiences the wonders of the outdoors, stormy weather and calm blue skies, pounding surf and trickling streams, bitter cold and stifling heat, towering trees and barren desert, he experiences the work of God. Appreciating life in its multitude of forms, from the smallest insects to gigantic wildlife, a scout comes to terms with his place in the world. Though humans are the dominant beings on our planet, we need to play the role of steward rather than king - tending and caring for our world instead of taking all we can for our own comfort.

As technology continues to become more and more prevalent and people visit the wild places less and less, our connection to and understanding of our natural environment lessens. We take shelter, food, comfort, and entertainment for granted rather than needing to work for it. When we never have to harvest an apple from a tree, kill a fish or animal for meat, or put on layers of clothes to stay warm, we lose the sense of awe and respect we should have for nature.

Many outdoors people claim that the wilderness is their 'church' rather than a specific structure or organization. These people revere in the awesome power of God by being in the thick of natural creation. The reverence expressed for the world and its creation is common ground that all scouts can reach when struggling to understand the last point of the Scout Law.

No matter the specific religion or denomination, being reverent toward God should include our natural environment. In nature, there is no good or evil, just survival. Animals don't have the human vices of lust, pride, envy, gluttony, greed, sloth, and anger. We can learn a lot about simplifying and enjoying life from observing the wild creatures. We can also learn how our ability to care for and serve others puts us above the simple animals.

While in the wilds, a scout may come face-to-face with God. He may feel God around him in the wind, the water, the earth, and the open, wild beauty. When the scout returns home, he needs to continue that respect and awe toward God by participating in the practices of his religion. Becoming a complete citizen includes fulfilling expectations of the church to which a person belongs. What a great opportunity to share with other youth and adults in his church, when he returns from a backpacking trek. Faithfully performing his religious duties demonstrates his reverence while in civilization.

Respecting the beliefs of others can be a challenge. It does not mean to accept and believe those other beliefs. It means to allow other people the freedom to believe what they have found to be true in their lives. In a scout troop associated with a specific church, practices of that church can be used on scouting activities with everyone having the same belief structure. But, in troops with scouts from various beliefs, we need to be careful not to promote specific practices of one group. For example, requiring scouts to remove their hats at grace may be appropriate for some religions but may be a demonstration of disrespect to God for another.

Reverence fosters joy and a cheerful heart, able to appreciate and care for the good in life.

A Scout is Reverent.
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Posted: 15:34 03-04-2008 315
A Blue & Gold Week
Normally, the Blue & Gold parties of the local packs are spread out over a month. This year, most of them scheduled for this week. It actually makes it easier for an old guy - I only have to worry about being at the right place this week, then I can relax.

The BSA has scheduled a different Cub Scout theme for each month. This helps Packs plan out their activities because there are also resources available to support those themes.

In case you didn't know, February's theme for Cub Scouts is Chinese New Year. Even though I'm a Scoutmaster and spend little time with the local Packs, this theme had a big impact on me this week. As I attended 3 separate Blue & Gold banquets (and still have one more on Friday) to receive new scouts crossing over to our troop, every meal was a Chinese buffet. I've been drooling since the first B&G on Sunday and it's been getting worse every time I open the door to the next banquet.

The problem is that I haven't gotten to eat any of the food! Once I had already eaten and the other two times our scouts chose to only attend the ceremony and not the dinner. Since I'm just a tag-along, they made the decision. But, the kicker is that those scouts still got to have a plateful of leftovers while I was meeting with the new scouts' parents!

So, Friday is my last chance. I plan on showing up a bit early and maybe put on my poor, starving, pathetic look. That should be good for an egg roll at least.

This crop of new scouts looks very promising. We have groups of 7, 5, 5, and 1 coming from four Packs. This is the first year of receiving scouts from one pack, so that is exciting. Fourteen of the guys appear to be chomping at the bit to scout, while I think the other four are coming along to check it out. Keeping them involved will be the challenge for our Troop Guides.

Scout On
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Posted: 17:56 02-27-2008 314
Artificial Adventures
The Nature Conservancy funded a study to determine if the trend in outdoor recreation was declining or not. The study includes data on camping, backpacking, fishing, hiking, hunting, visits to national and state parks and forests. The study was done in the USA but collaborated by similar results in Japan.

Results indicate that between 1981 and 1991 there was roughly a 1.25% annual rate of decline in per capita nature recreation. Since then, nature use has continued to drop between 18% and 25%. That means for every 100 people that enjoyed nature 15 years ago, there are now only 75 people.

At first glance, folks like me that enjoy a little solitude on the mountain might say, "Cool! less people bothering me out there!" But, if we stop and think, a sickening realization sets in. Fewer people experiencing nature means fewer people that care about it, and fewer people caring means less conservation, protection, and maintenance. Without experiencing nature, people don't make the connection that clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, and clean food to eat all require work on our parts.

Why are we getting outdoors less? The study indicates the root cause is videophilia - the sedentary pasttime of video games, movies, and internet. Computers can now create such vivid and exciting adventures for us to watch, we don't need to go experience things ourselves. Instead, we sit on our butts and navigate a character through a imaginary world with our little thumb instead of navigating our entire bodies to the top of a real mountain.

As these artificial adventures become more interactive and sensational, I expect the trend to sit at home will continue to rise. As that trend continues, our natural spaces will gradually disappear with no one left to care about or care for them.

As a scouting volunteer and outdoorsman, this trend is not a surprise to me. I see it every week when I ask scouts what they've been doing. We have two scouts that enjoy golfing, but the rest can carry on lengthy, in-depth discussions and debates about the various techniques to improve your score on Halo, Puzzle Pirates, Need for Speed, and a slew of other games while having no interest in any outdoor activity.

One of my main goals this year is to raise the participation level in the troop and to challenge scouts to become more in tune with nature on our campouts. Making that as interesting as doing laser battle with an army of dragons or space monsters will be a tough order. But, we have them captive for 12 days at Philmont, a week at summer camp, and 4 days canoeing so we have a chance.

Scout On

Read the article.
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Posted: 11:46 02-25-2008 313
Boys Life Prize
The UPS guy stopped by yesterday with a package for my youngest son. A few months ago, he had decided to contribute a joke just to see what would happen. Well, yesterday he became an official Boys' Life contributor with an official patch and everything! The package contained a letter from Pedro, this patch, and a BSA Fieldbook - now that's pretty cool.

He's planning to keep it secret until the March issue comes out with his joke in print. Then, he'll show it at a troop meeting so all the newly joined scouts can see what is possible.

Encourage your scouts to contribute a joke, collection idea, comic caption, or any of the other contests they have running at the site. For example, you can win a Wii game system for the next week by finding a Pedro image on the site. (but, don't enter that one because my son really wants to win.)

Scout on

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Posted: 10:06 02-24-2008 312
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is clean. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit. He chooses the company of those who live by high standards. He helps keep his home and community clean."

There's no way to camp, hike, and play in the outdoors and not get dirty. Getting dirty is half the fun, whether it's tramping down a muddy trail or wiping dust off a sweaty brow. Many honorable jobs also result in a dirty body - farmers, mechanics, miners, and so on. This natural kind of dirt is not the heart of this point of the Scout Law, but it still needs to be managed.

Scouts can also make a huge impact on the cleanliness of their environment. Our care for the natural world needs to be improved. Bad habits of consuming more than we need and having no concern for the next generation need to be broken. Performing service and conservation projects are great ways to build the sense of servitude toward the community that each of us need to nurture.

Scouts that fail to keep their gear clean and dry discover it wears out faster or becomes ruined. Washing and sanitizing hands before cooking ensures a safe meal for everyone. Bathing each day helps remove harmful germs, dirt, and odors from a scout's body. The discipline of daily cleaning demonstrates maturity and responsibility as well as a commitment to the Scout Oath of keeping physically fit.

If it's not dirt, earth, and grime that makes a Scout dirty, what does? It's a simple chore to scrub dirt off skin, but a much more difficult task to clean up filthy thoughts, habits, and behaviors that accumulate in our lives. First a feeling of jealousy or mistrust towards someone, then a derogatory comment about them, and soon a person is a fountain of malice spewing forth filth, vulgarity, and hate. Cleaning up such a mess is nearly impossible, but fortunately takes a long time to develop. By keeping the mind and heart clean and not allowing the emotional grime to settle in, the problem is kept at bay.

Associating with other people that demonstrate clean minds and hearts is the best way to keep clean. Adult leaders that encourage, praise, and support others are like strong detergent. Scouting with other scouts that cheerfully provide service to the community, help others at all times, and accept responsibility helps keep a scout sparkling clean. Outside of scouting, the choice of friends plays the same role. Hanging out with people that use foul language, have malicious fun, or care only for themselves will engrain those habits in the scout.

The term filthy liar is spot on correct. Lying, cheating, and stealing are all habits formed from an unclean soul. Resolving to speak the truth and resist temptation to lie is the basis of being Trustworthy. It is manifest as clean, honest words and actions. A clean scout tempers his tongue and only speaks the truth in a kind manner. This is based on a sense of caring for others. Self-centered people have no care for others or how actions may effect them. An unselfish scout caring for the needs of others out of compassion is an industrial-strength vacuum on the dirt of his soul.

Dirty jokes, vulgar comments, racial slurs, ridicule, and swearing are often heard in many situations. They have no place in scouting and no place in a scout's life. Besides choosing to not say those kinds of things, a scout should also make it known that he will not tolerate those things. A single scout will most likely not change the behaviors of a group, but he can make his feelings known and then remove himself from the crowd. He can also support someone he finds as the butt of these comments and demonstrate compassion to those unclean louts, possibly helping them recognize their ways.

A Scout is Clean.
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Posted: 10:52 02-22-2008 311
Okpik Success
What a great weekend! Scouts built a variety of snow shelters and all but 4 slept outside.

Two scouts drilled ice fishing holes then covered them with boards and piled their quinzee on top. They hollowed it out with the plan to fish all night, but they were asleep by 11pm. :-)

Two other groups found that the wind had piled snow almost 4 feet deep in the cattails so they dug into that instead of piling their own. The cattails were tough, but they succeeded.

One group found they could cut the packed snow into blocks and built part of their shelter with stacked bricks.

The rest built traditional quinzees on the ice.

I slept in a tent right out in the middle of it all just in case anything was needed in the night. There were no complaints of cold - everyone was comfortable all night.

It was too warm so no one got the Zero Hero patch, but it was in the single digits. Scouts discovered that some foods are better for winter cooking than others. Anything dry that needs to be hydrated is good. Anything with moisture in it (like fruit, juice, pancake batter, eggs) freezes solid. They also discovered that clean up is much more difficult and grease should be avoided.

Scout On
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Posted: 10:23 02-20-2008 310
Heart Day
Today is the one day of the year when you should toss out the Thrifty point of the Scout Law and concentrate on the Brave point.

If you have a sweetheart, make darn sure you get her a card, some flowers, candy, something that will let her know you didn't forget Valentines Day. Don't make the excuse that it's just a waste of money or a Hallmark holiday, be unthrifty and do it. This will get you started on a great year of scouting because she'll be more understanding of your needs to get out and scout.

If you don't have a sweetheart yet, but have noticed that girl two rows ahead and one seat over, be brave and tell her "Happy Valentines Day" after class. Give here a little card too, so she knows you mean it.

This is also a good day to remember that CPR training is a simple way to keep you prepared to help a heart in need someday. Schedule your certification training so you're ready for the summer ahead.

Scout On
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Posted: 7:51 02-14-2008 309
Okpik and Boys' Life
Okpik means "Snowy Owl" and is a Boy Scout winter camping program. There is an excellent resource titled "Okpik: Cold Weather Camping" available at scout shops which provides lots of great advice on operating a safe winter excursion. You might also learn a bit from reading Winter Camping Tips when planning the training for a campout.

Our troop heads up north on Friday for our own Okpik campout. The scouts have planned the morning to pile snow for shelters - there's 8 inches of snow so it takes some work to make a quinzee. While the snow settles, they're having a cross-country map and compass contest. Then, digging out their shelters in the late afternoon. It's a long day of work, but so exciting for scouts doing it the first time. Fortunately, there's a good handful of experienced scouts going along so they'll show the right way to build and prepare for the night outside.

This year, we're having a visitor from Boys' Life taking photos for a story which will probably show up next year. They called to find out what we were planning and if they could take photos. I said it sounded ok to me, but I'd have to ask the Senior Patrol Leader at the PLC meeting and get back to them. :-) It was pretty much unanimous that a photographer would be welcome.

If you saw the past issue of Boys' Life, there was an article about some Minnesota scouts icefishing and some other scouts doing some winter orienteering. It's good to see a broad range of winter scouting activities covered to broaden the sights of troop leaders.

The funny thing is that this photographer is flying up from Georgia, poor guy. This past weekend, it was -16F here but the forecast is a heat wave of 26F on Saturday.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:16 02-12-2008 308
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