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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
Legacy of Honor
legacy of honor I just finished reading Legacy of Honor by Alvin Townley. A parent in the troop let me read his copy.

It's a fun book to read with lots of short stories to ponder. Mr. Townley spent many months interviewing Eagle Scouts across the country and compiling their stories into his book. Throughout these personal accounts, what it means to be an Eagle Scout is presented in individual views and a consistent thread throughout all the stories.

I'd highly recommend every adult involved with Scouting take the time to read this book. As a Scoutmaster that did not participate in Boy Scouts as a youth, it gave me great insight into the lasting impact gained from the Eagle rank. The virtues of great men that have earned the rank and then gone on to participate in society are a great reminder of what our goals as Scouters needs to be.

One of the best things about the book for me was how it addressed the question about whether an Eagle Scout makes the man or the man was there all along. I gained in my conviction that participation in Scouting and attaining goals, such as Eagle, will not create a man but will influence, guide, and strengthen a youth's character through exercising and practicing important skills and values. The great men exposed in Legacy of Honor would probably have done great things even if Scouting was not offered to them, but their time spent in Scouting allowed them an opportunity to expand their abilitites and prepare for their life as adults.

In my view, there are a few parts where the stories get dry and somewhat monotonous but it was interesting to learn more about important men in all areas of society with a common background thread. This would be a great gift for an Eagle Scout, but don't be disappointed if he doesn't devour the whole book in a weekend. It is a good resource for reading later on - maybe give it to a Scout you know that just graduated from college and is in a position to get back involved with Scouts.

Scout On
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Posted: 21:36 08-28-2008 355
Scouting Contests
If you've got scouts or leaders looking for a few bucks to fund their scouting addiction, or just something cool to win, here's a bunch of items that might interest you.

Did you notice there's a
Monthly Contest on Boy Scout Trail? Each month, you can win a $25 gift card for www.ScoutStuff.org, a fire piston kit, or a ClassB.com $50 coupon. Feeling lucky?

Scouting Magazine's Camp Cooking Recipe Contest has scouters come up with original recipes for BSA gift certificates up to $400. Enter before Oct. 1, 2008.

Boys' Life is running their 2008 Annual Reading Contest where scouts write a report, send it in, and maybe win a $100 gift card.

Trails End (the Popcorn guys) are having a marketing contest called Best Popcorn Pic where scouts can win 1 of 100 Nintendo DS-Lite game systems. See Contest Page for details and enter before Dec. 1, 2008.

Trails End is also doing a Best Unit Kickoff video contest where your unit could win $2,500. See Contest Page for details and submit your video before Dec. 1, 2008.

Ongoing rewards in Boys' Life and Scouting Magazine include:
Check your Boys' Life and Scouting magazines for details or go to their boyslife.org and scoutingmagazine.org sites.

Good Luck and Scout On!
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Posted: 10:59 08-26-2008 354
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
Olympics
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
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