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Blue Tuesday
I was curious about where the connection between Democrat=Blue and Republican=Red started. It seems like it's always been that way, but it's actually only from this century.
NBC was the first station to use red and blue to show states won, but in 1976 they used Blue for Republican. Other stations caught on and used red and blue in subsequent elections, but there was no standard.
In the 2000 elections, red states and blue states were finally consistently used to mean Republican and Democrat.

Now, what about that Donkey and Elephant thing? :-)

Congratulations to President-elect Obama.

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Posted: 23:58 11-04-2008 371
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Posted: 10:20 11-03-2008 370
The troop held its 4th annual Scoutorama on Saturday for the local Webelos to spend some time outside doing Boy Scout activities. The weather was just perfect and the day went great.

The scoutorama is 3 hours of scout skill activities, lunch, and scout games. We've created a fun way for the Webelos to spend a little time with every patrol in the troop and try new things. Most kinks have been worked out and the scouts are now running pretty much the entire day. We had adults handle lunch, but I expect a patrol will volunteer to do that next year. (This is the only event where adults cook a meal for the scouts)

If you'd like to read how we do it, check out Scoutorama Activity for a PDF or Word doc.

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Posted: 16:55 11-02-2008 369
NHP Award
National Honor Patrol awardThe National Honor Patrol Award is a great way to recognize patrols that are working together to a common goal and supporting their patrol leader.
In our troop, we've had one patrol earn this award last year and three newly-elected patrol leaders have told me a goal in their 6-month term is to earn the award. That is so cool!
To me, this award recognizes the core fundamentals of scouting and I'm sure glad Bill Harcourt drove it into being in 1986 as the "Baden-Powell Patrol award". The requirements to have patrol spirit, regular gatherings, outdoor activities, good turns, advancement, and uniforms are all key to a successful scout group. By setting a goal of attaining this simple star patch, a patrol pulls together and learns the basis of scouting.
I like that a patrol can earn it many times so each patrol leader can use it as a measuring stick of his abilities to lead. Nine star patches can fit around the patrol emblem and wouldn't that be something to see? :-)

Since each troop determines when a patrol meets the requirements, there may be temptation to award it for 'close enough' efforts. Sticking to the requirements maintains the prestige of the award. From other scoutmasters I've talked with, very few have patrols wearing the star.

Why not give scouts in your troop a 3-month challenge of working toward this achievement?

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Posted: 14:11 10-26-2008 368
Knots or Not
The troop instructors taught the lower ranks how to tie the Bowline knot while another instructor taught the higher ranks how to tie it one-handed at the troop meeting. Everyone there said they could tie the knot.

So for a competition, the scouts did Bowline Trust Lean, but connected to a small circle of rope in the center. Since they had just been practicing the bowline, it should be pretty easy.

Well, theoretically, anyway.
Lots of knots were tied, and a few were bowlines. Lots of pulling on ropes and bouncing off each other, and a bit of concentration.
Lots of playing and complaining, and some helping others.

It was certainly a useful exercise in that it showed clearly that the skills were not actually learned. Even more, it showed that some patrols could really benefit from more teamwork experience. Now, the SPL and ASPL are brainstorming with the scoutmaster some ways to encourage higher skill levels in fun, active ways.

Do you think the scouts you know have mastered the scouting skills up to first class? Try that Bowline Trust Lean as a quick activity and find out.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:14 10-16-2008 367
Scoutmaster Training
Our district held its fall Camporee this past weekend and efficiently combined the outdoor skills portion of Scoutmaster Specific Training into the agenda. The idea being that adult leaders will be there with their troops anyway and the day of training would require minimal time away from family or troop.

The Camporee environment helps cover some of the training, such as flag ceremonies and campsite selections. Plus, the training participants get some immediate hands-on experience with the training content.

It sure seems to work out well, so I'd suggest you mention it to your district training chair. I believe it increased the attendance at both the training and the Camporee.

I got to present the First Aid and Leave No Trace sections, so I had just a totally fun afternoon! I tried some new LNT activities that I came up with and they worked well. A walk through a field all in a line and then spread out had the best impact - the trail was still there the next day as a reminder for the participants. It's just awful hard to cram 120 minutes of stuff into 45 minutes so I skimmed over the Respect for Wildlife and Considerate of Others principles.

We did get to bandage legs, heads, and arms so that was fun. I even had a fishhook stuck in some flesh-colored caulk which was a great demonstration. I'll be asking our troop instructors to use that one now.

One of the most fun questions is asking how to remove a tick. There's always at least a handful of ways and people swear by every one.

If you've been an adult volunteer for awhile, you might know all the skills to First Class very well. But, remember that many adults are brand new to the game and they need your guidance in learning the skills so they can help the next wave of scouts. The Scoutmaster Training session is a nice intro, but offering the adults in your troop ongoing skills training is a good idea.

I've recently realized that I've not done as much as I should to prepare the adults in our troop to examine the scouts. We mostly have scouts teach scouts, but adults help too and sign off advancement requirements. To address this, I'm going to have 15-minute skill sessions available before troop meetings to see if anyone comes. And, at campouts, I will have specific time set aside for adults to practice skills.

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Posted: 14:11 10-15-2008 366
In Your Everyday Life
A requirement for every rank advancement in Boy Scouts is Demonstrate Scout Spirit in your everyday life. This requirement is handled in many different ways, from being an automatic sign-off to requiring scouts to write essays on what they've done to fulfill it.

It's a difficult one for a Scoutmaster to sign unless you see the scouts outside of scouting. Looking for opportunities to interact with scouts away from the troop is a good idea. Maybe you're lucky and go to church with some scouts, or maybe you're a school teacher or coach, or work in a popular store. Other than that, it might take a bit of work to track 'em down.

At a scoutmaster conference the other day, a scout told me he's on the middle school cross-country team and they had a meet today. So, I took an hour off and went and watched. It was drizzling rain, but it was great fun! There were actually three scouts from our troop running and another 5 kids from my church so now I have something to mention when I see them next time.

I also helped set up computers for some quarterly testing at the middle school in the early morning for a few days. I finished just as the kids were arriving from the busses so I saw 5 scouts at various times. One came tearing around a corner in the hallway to get busted by a teacher right in front of me. I think sheepish would describe his look pretty well. :-)

When you ask that question of "So, what do you do outside of scouts?" at a scoutmaster conference, jot down the reply and then try to check it out. It shows interest on your part and gives you another view of the scouts.

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Posted: 20:58 10-07-2008 365
Troop Training Updates
The newly-elected SPL ran the troop leader training and planning sessions on Saturday. He chose to do both in the same day and it worked out great - everyone was happy to get finished a little early.

This SPL just attended the council's youth leader training called Grey Wolf this summer so he has some new ideas to try. He added a short bit about Campfire Planning to the training day. A scout putting together a campfire should have a general theme to tie all the skits and songs together. He uses this theme for his MCing monologue. The idea is that the campfire is more of a running program rather than haphazard skits tossed in any old way. I'm looking forward to the results.

Another change he put in place is to have Instructors plan the skills training for troop meetings. We've had the patrol leader organizing the monthly campout decide which skills are needed to support the campout, but now the Instructors get to plan their own destiny. It sounds like it should make life easier for both positions and have a better skills program.

The biggest challenge in making the troop's program work has been getting permission forms for campouts turned in early so headcounts, drivers, and such can be planned. An emphasis this term is to have each Patrol Leader gather participation commitments from his patrolmates early. I'm meeting with each new patrol leader and a parent before the first week of his term is complete to ensure they both understand the responsibilities and goals of his role. I'm specifically giving the parent permission to help him remember dates and organize his duties since I think we've pushed "scout-led" so much it may have scared off some parents.

With the scouts doing such a good job running things, it's getting more difficult to find things to work on. :-)

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Posted: 9:50 10-01-2008 364
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.

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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

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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.

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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 - 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.

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Posted: 12:53 09-18-2008 360
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