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Scout Shop Visit
I dropped by the scout shop after a talk with my District Executive, just to see what's new to throw my money at.

I was immediately drawn to the merit badge display looking more like a rainbow than the usual red/white/grey tower. All the merit badge pamphlets are now out in 4-color. The insides have colored photos and nice paper. The actual requirements and text has not changed in them, except for those being updated this year, but there has sure been a lot of effort put into making them more attractive. (And, hopefully, more interesting to read.)
I picked up an Aviation pamphlet to show off at the next troop meeting, let the scouts know they are out, and discuss with the Librarian what he wants to do about it. At least it will make it easy over the next couple years to weed out the old versions!

I actually didn't go straight to the merit badge display. I first had to fight my way past the Centennial uniform display which took up most of the front of the store. My first face-to-cloth look at the new product, and I'm sorry to say that I'm disappointed with a few things.

The breast pockets look really weird, more like something I'd expect to see on a girl's shirt. The US Flag and "Boy Scouts of America" are not sewn on patches, but more like ironed on decals. They look really cheap.
Finally, the sleeve pocket is just plain dumb. The new patch placement guide (due out in a month) will supposedly direct us to place Position patches centered on the pocket. So, now that I've sewn the pocket shut with a patch, it's worthless. I was told that you can unstitch the pocket, sew on the Position patch, and then resew the pocket onto the sleeve - yeah, right! Or, the other suggestion was to use Badge Magic.

So, what was I impressed with? Well, the cap is just green with a subdued Fleur-de-Lis and there are 3 different sizes so I got one that actually fits me! I do think the hat looks pretty cool. Also, the canvas belt looks tough and the dull metal buckle is hefty. The socks and pants seem just fine and I like the new colored Troop Numerals, Trained patch, and Position patches.

Actually, I think as BSA gets feedback over the next few months about the shirt and get it fixed, the uniform will be a good thing. They need to hear from their customers what's going to sell or not. I for one won't be buying a new shirt, but have the other bits on my birthday list. :-)

Scout On
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Posted: 17:48 08-22-2008 353
Did you see Usain Bolt set a World Record in the 200M yesterday? He was so far ahead of the field, it wasn't even funny. The race itself wasn't that exciting but what happened afterward was interesting.

The 3rd place finisher (Wallace Spearman for USA) stepped on the line on the turn and was disqualified after review of the race. After further review, the 2nd place finisher (Churandy Martina for AHO) was also disqualified, giving the Silver and Bronze medals to two other USA runners. Anything can happen.

Another example that anything can happen was the women's 100meter hurdles. Lolo Jones had the definite lead and apparent victory when she clipped her heel on the ninth hurdle. She stumbled across the finish line in 7th place even though she was obviously the fastest one on the track.

These, and a collection of other slight mistakes, show that:

It might be fun for your troop or pack to have its own Olympics at a meeting. Here's some ideas: Silly Olympics Balloon Olympics

Scout On
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Posted: 16:08 08-21-2008 352
Scouting for Adventure
Today, we have two crews on their way to the Boundary Waters for 5 days of canoeing. I don't get to go since I'll be around here helping with a weekend campout for the younger scouts working on scout skills for advancement.
We've had a full summer with backpacking, kayaking, canoeing, summer camp, horseback riding, and visiting the new Grizzly Bear exhibit at the zoo.

I thought that was pretty adventurous, but I heard there is a new Scouting for Adventure television show on the Outdoor Channel. Being one of the seven people left in the world that don't have 194 cable channels to surf, I can't watch it. So, use the link above to find out times and give me a holler what you think about it. It looks like the first episode will be scouts doing a SCUBA adventure.

Maybe recording the episodes can give you a few snippets to help your troop come up with high adventure ideas for the years ahead.

Scout On
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Posted: 12:29 08-12-2008 351
American Legion Eagle Scout
Shakopee, MN can boast for a year. This small town has produced the American Legion Eagle Scout of the Year in Paul Banwart.

Paul has earned 102 merit badges, completed a plethora of service projects, and excelled in school. read more.

Other awards Banwart has received include: Young American, Hornaday, Presidential Volunteer Service Gold, Congressional Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medals.

It's amazing to me when I hear of a scout that accomplishes so much. The scout's family provides immeasurable support for him to have the opportunities to excel and his commitment to take advantage of those opportunities must be very strong.

We all have the same 24 hour days, but some of us squeeze more life out of each hour.

The American Legion has a great program that scoutmasters should mention to scouts entering high school. I spent a week at Boys State when I was a youth and it was a great experience. I'd recomend you find out more about the program and tell scouts to apply if they have any interest at all in government.

Scout On

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Posted: 8:34 08-09-2008 350
Cooking Lesson
This summer, E. Coli struck scouts and staff at a scout camp in Goshen, VA. The latest news is that beef at the camp has been found to be tainted. Whether it picked it up at camp or at the supplier is not known, and doesn't matter for my point.

This event is a very real example of how our scout cooking and food preparation has crucial impact. How we wash hands, handle food, and thoroughly cook food determines if we get sick or not.

If this meat had been thoroughly cooked, the bacteria would have been killed. But, the theory is that some of the meat used in tinfoil dinners may not have gone over the magic 165F internal temperature. So, make sure all meat is thoroughly cooked.

Even if the meat is cooked well, what about the hands that handled it? If someone formed patties or balls and then touched some cookies, fruit, salad, or any other food that was not cooked - bingo! As soon as someone is done handling the raw food to be cooked, they need to wash before touching anything else. The same is true for utensils used on the meat or by the compromised hands. This cross-contamination is a big potential problem in patrol cooking.

Another problem is food that won't be cooked. Packaged goods are pretty safe, but fresh fruit and vegetables should be washed very well, preferably at home before the campout.

A fun way to demonstrate how contamination can spread is to get a black light, a rubber chicken, and a yellow magic marker. Scribble all over the chicken with the magic marker so it is fairly covered with ink, but the color won't be visible. Play 'Toss the Chicken' by having everyone stand in a circle and throw the chicken around. After a bit, have them stop and announce that we just discovered the chicken had E. Coli bacteria on it. Turn off the lights and turn on the black light to see who has infected hands.

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Posted: 13:19 08-05-2008 349

ArrowCorps5, the biggest national BSA service project since WWII, wrapped up yesterday with the last of the five locations closing in the Bridger-Teton forest.

About 5000 Order of the Arrow members participated in conservation projects across the country at five separate locations. Every participant receives a way cool Service Team Member Emblem which is a temporary patch to be displayed centered on the right uniform pocket. Participants that complete their service will also receive a Service Shield.

See ArrowCorps5 News page for articles about the projects.

There is a Photo and Video contest going on as an effort to create a digital archive of the projects. I'm looking forward to seeing what gets entered.

From all reports I've seen, ArrowCorp5 has been a great success with many miles of trail being created or improved and many other projects being completed. The only hiccup I've heard of involved the Dutch Joe area in the Bridger-Teton project. Another group moved into the area, causing the ArrowCorps5 planners to select a different location for that part of their project. From what I've read, the BSA folks handled the potential conflict very well, keeping the experience of the scouts and goals of service in the forefront.

Click for Information on ArrowCorps5

Scout On
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Posted: 14:56 08-03-2008 348
Get Ready for Leave No Trace
In my little world, this is very exciting news!

Eric Hiser is the Chair of the BSA Leave No Trace Task Force and they've come up with a new council-level focus for Leave No Trace in the BSA. Here's Mr. Hiser's words:

I am pleased to report that the Boy Scouts of America National Council has officially authorized a new "council outdoor ethics advocate" position. This position will serve as the lead council representative for Leave No Trace training and advocacy. Responsibilities of the position include: recruiting master educator and trainer candidates; encouraging master educators to hold trainer courses; coordinating delivery of Trainer cards to master educators providing training; serving as a resource and advocate for the local council, districts and units; liaising with the Training, Program and Camping committees, and working with training staffs to ensure that they are familiar with Leave No Trace principles when providing outdoor and position specific training. We in the BSA’s Leave No Trace Task Force are very excited about this commitment made by BSA to enhancing Leave No Trace training for all of its members.

As a Leave No Trace (LNT) Master Educator since 2006, I'm waaaaay looking forward to see how this pans out. Besides this new council position, I've heard that the next Scout Handbook coming out in 2010 will have specific LNT requirements for 2nd and 1st Class advancement. Those requirements should really help push the LNT knowledge out to troops, as long as scoutmasters take them seriously - I've heard some troops are being pretty lenient with the 'Tell a Friend' and 'Bullying' requirements.

As such a huge user of the outdoors, we certainly need to minimize the impacts we make as much as we can. For the past few years, LNT has been in the scout handbook and other BSA literature, but I've seen little actual implementation of the seven LNT principles. Those principles are:

Summer camps, camporees, Philmont, Northern Tier, and pretty much any BSA camp are all front country camping where impact should be concentrated in existing impacted areas. The LNT principles apply there, but a troop that only uses these camps and then heads out backpacking in the real wilderness with no further LNT training will make a much bigger impact on the environment than necessary. Just having a troop go through a 60-90 minute LNT Workshop will make a huge difference. The principles aren't rocket science, but there are some things that should be done which aren't obvious to most folks. One good example is the correct way to cross a meadow - should we go single file to impact just one thin line or spread out and impact a separate path for each person?

With this newly defined BSA direction, the council LNT advocate will ensure that a couple people are trained as LNT Master Educators by attending a week-long intense outdoor program. Then, those LNTMEs will set up LNT Trainer courses which are usually a weekend. Every District will be expected to have a couple LNT Trainers who will then present LNT Workshops to units and leaders in their district. Being a Leave No Trace Trainer is a totally fun role!

Taking a step better would be to have a scout in every troop become a Trainer so he can put on workshops for his troop, local pack, and other interested groups. I think the perfect candidate for this role would be the Troop OA Rep since that leadership position tends to have little activity but the OA promotes camping and service. I can also see a troop that is looking for an identity to become a "LNT Troop" specializing in promoting the minimal impact message to other units in their council.

I've done LNT Workshops for my troop and my church that sends backpackers to Wyoming each year. An LNT Workshop is a lot of fun with very little "sit and listen" and almost completely "do and learn" activities. If you have an opportunity to attend one before next spring, I'd highly recommend it. If you are versed in the principles of LNT, then please consider how you can help promote the message in your unit, district, and council. I expect council Scout Executives will be scrambling looking for "advocates" soon - maybe you could drop a hint to your executive.

Scout On

PS: Check out Leave No Trace Dude for more LNT information.

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Posted: 19:37 08-02-2008 347
Advancement Isn't Everything
There's a scout in the troop that just finished eigth grade this spring. In the 3 years he's been involved in the troop, he has advanced only to Tenderfoot. On paper, some folks might say he's "failing", or at least not "getting" the scouting program. Far from it.

I just had a scoutmaster conference with him today to check in and see if I could help get him through some requirements. We chatted about our week we just completed at summer camp and I told him it was pretty cool that he earned the NRA Marksman First Class award. He also completed the Rifle and Shotgun merit badges. He had a great time at camp.

This scout actually has a great time at pretty much every scouting event he attends, and he attends a lot. So, you would think he'd be advancing more. When I asked him what his plans were for reaching the higher ranks, he told me he wasn't really interested in that - he just liked scouting. He wants to keep having fun with his patrol and doing the fun stuff that the troop plans.

And, I guess, that's hitting the nail on the head right there. A scout does what he enjoys doing and that's what keeps him involved. Some scouts thrive on badges, pins, and ribbons while others just like burning stuff and skipping rocks. As long as they are having a good time and getting what they need from their troop and patrol, it's all good. They will be learning good stuff without knowing it. Some enjoy being up front leading but there's room for those that mostly follow along too. Those followers may not demonstrate what's required to be an Eagle, but they can certainly contribute to their patrol.

We did discuss the fact that he will need to reach First Class to attend high adventure trips next year and he has created a plan to advance that far. He's actually done practically everything needed, but just doesn't ever get his book signed. He isn't lazy or forgetful, it just isn't a priority for him.

He told me directly that he is not interested in being an Eagle scout. All the work of a project and leadership roles and mandatory merit badges does not appeal to him. If he reaches Life, I'll be very surprised. But, I won't be surprised to show him out the door on his 18th birthday and right back in again as an Asst. Scoutmaster the next day.

I need to keep in mind that every boy that comes along to join Boy Scouts is unique but every one wants to have fun. Each one has potential to accomplish great things and I just need to follow him along his trail to see how it goes. There's nothing wrong with him stopping for a bit to rest or just to blow dandelion seeds for the heck of it, as long as we're enjoying the trail. As long as he and I understand where he wants the trail to take him, I can nudge him along if he wanders too far off. Not every scout's trail is headed towards Eagle.

Scout On

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Posted: 17:39 07-25-2008 346
All Things Emergency Response
Here is a news snippet about the All Things Emergencry Response that I helped with last week at Many Point. My role was to present the Wilderness First Aid Basics training so the 14 participating scouts could receive their certification.
The participants also earned their CPR certification and completed a few merit badges, but I didn't get to be part of that - I had our troop to enjoy for the week also.

This program was excellent. The scouts got to work through staged accidents for bicycles, automobiles, planes, burning buildings, water and ice, explosions, as well as general wilderness scenarios.

(Press PLAY button to start)
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Posted: 22:18 07-24-2008 345
Recovering from Philmont
Philmont TrekThere's nothing like a nice long bus or plane ride to start the recovery process after a Philmont Trek. I was expecting a lot of chatter and excitement, but as you can see it was a pretty quiet trip.

We had a 6 hour drive to Denver from Cimarron and then a 2 hour flight to Minnesota. For the most part, there was sleeping with some talk about where everyone would eat 'real food' as soon as they got to Denver airport or home to Minnesota.

One productive thing that did get taken care of on the way home was having each scout complete a High Adventure Feedback about their trek. This provided some great input for our future treks and areas for the crew leaders to consider working on their leadership skills. I'd highly recommend a similar review of any high adventure trip.

Now that the 17 scouts are rested up from Philmont, 15 of them are off to summer camp on Sunday. No rest for the weary. Hmmm, maybe we'll see another bear.

Scout On
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Posted: 16:43 07-11-2008 344
Philmont Food Tips
On our 84-mile Philmont trek this year (trek #32), we noticed that the food we received was quite skimpy. Our ranger mentioned that breakfasts were especially light this year and I noticed the same thing since my 2005 trek. I calculated calories from the packaging and it looked like breakfast was around 800-900 calories, lunch about 1100, and dinner was impossible to figure out since there was no calorie info on the packages. I figure dinner was around 1000-1300 calories.

A 150lb person requires around 2000 calories per day for normal activity. The activity level in camp at Philmont is much more than 'normal' with all the extra work to gather water, participate in programs, and walk to and from your campsite. Add on about 100 calories per mile hiked and you easily go over 3000 calories. The addition of a 40lb pack requires more calories. Whether doing a trek of 55 or 85 miles, crews receive the same amount of food for meals. That extra 2 miles per day costs more calories which is not replaced.

Our ranger had told us about the swap boxes at staffed camps. He said they were for exchanging food they did not want for food they did want. Trying to follow the rules, since they had consistently eaten all their food, scouts were passing by the swap boxes.

By the 4th day, we had some fairly hungry scouts. Hungry enough to figure out that walking past food instead of taking it and eating it did not make sense. From then on, they often did the swap box sift, checking for more to eat whenever possible. We were probably one of the few crews that pulled out and ate things like mashed potatos and corn rather than the normal gorp, pineapple, raisins, and other sweet stuff.

Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed the Philmont food. I lost a few pounds, but had enough to eat. The scouts learned a bit about taking opportunities when they crop up and making due with what you have and not wasting anything.

I squirreled away some food items during the end of our trek and brought them back to the troop. At our Court of Honor the day after we got home, the younger scouts got to see what we ate and got to sample gorp, Santa Fe trail mix, jalapeno squeeze cheese, jerky, apricots, pineapple, and other assorted items. This was a really good way to start them thinking about their Philmont trek since we'll be starting that process in just a couple months.

For your Philmont trek, consider the size of your crew members. A 200lb scout gets the same meal as a 100lb scout so crews should be prepared to check that everyone is getting enough. Also consider the length and level of your trek. 10 miles a day burns more calories than 6 miles a day, but the meals are the same. One more thing, weather will play a part in calorie needs. Cold weather requires more calories to stay warm at night while hot weather requires more water but less calories.

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Posted: 11:12 07-05-2008 343
Home from Philmont
philmont bearJust got back from Philmont last night and wanted to share this picture right away. There really ARE bears at Philmont!
Our crew ran into this bear in a ravine with a creek in the north country around Pueblano - one of the dwindling wet areas for wildlife to get water. We were hiking up the trail when the lead scout saw the bear about 20 yards ahead and hollered "BEAR!". Of course, the excitement level went WAY up, but the bear just moved along the far side of the ravine while we waited.
Once he was well off the trail and across the ravine, we continued on. I was invited to lead the hike for the next mile or so. :-) About 10 minutes before this, I had commented that it sure looked like bear country with the water, shade, and plants.

Our second crew also got to see a bear in the Hidden Valley at the end of their trip. We heard reports of quite a few crews seeing bears this week as well.

There'll be more Philmont posts over the next few days as I work my way through the photos.

Scout On
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Posted: 14:50 06-30-2008 342
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