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Schedule Accepted
I hope you all had a restful, enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend. My family visited all the relatives and we were lucky to have good weather for all our driving times. No big family arguments, either, so that's a bonus. :-)

The Troop Committee discussed and approved the troop's 18 month schedule last week so the SPL will present it to the troop at tonight's troop meeting. There will be a lot of excitement about the new outings that have never been done before - geocaching, military base, biking, huck finn - and the high adventure trips to Wyoming and Utah.
Then, at least by the parents, realization of the costs to do these things will sink in. :-( So, the new fundraising plans will also be announced to hopefully soften the blow. :-)

Scout On
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Posted: 8:26 11-28-2005 37
Fun Fundraising
One challenge of having a very active troop is that outings to interesting places tend to cost quite a bit. We need to provide opportunities for scouts to pay their own way.
The troop has historically sold Christmas wreaths and Trails End popcorn in October to raise funds. Our policy has been to have money from each sell go into an individual scout's account so that scouts making more sales have more money to pay for camping.
With the popcorn, Trails End receives 1/3 the price, the council receives 1/3, and the troop receives 1/3. Our troop keeps 1/3 of its 1/3 and puts the other 2/3 of its 1/3 into the scout's individual account. Not confusing, is it? Anyway, a scout sells $90 of popcorn and receives $20 in his account while the troop receives $10.
With the wreaths, a scout receives $5 per item sold no matter the price just to keep things simple. Prices range from $12 to $40 with $15 being the most popular.
We have 6 troops and 8 packs in the area and competition to sell wreaths and popcorn has gotten pretty strong. So, the troop has begun looking for new fundraising ideas. The scouts came up with ideas, from selling Girl Scout cookies to Saxophone reeds. :-) They then whittled down the ideas to a few and the troop committee decided to support a Flag Service idea for this year to see how it goes.
The criteria used to determine how good a fundraising idea is included:
The flag service met our guidelines and we are now in the process of surveying the community to get an idea of the level of support for such a program. If it turns out that enough probable customers exist and enough scouts will participate to manage them, then we'll go ahead in 2006. I'll let you know how it goes.

Scout On!
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Posted: 11:20 11-23-2005 36
More Downtime
Yesterday (Nov. 21) the site was not available most of the day. I'm sorry about that - I've been told the hosting service where I run this site was attacked and had a bunch of problems. If I can't rely on their servers, I'll start looking for something better, but bad stuff happens when there's bad people out and about.

Last night, our troop committee approved all the monthly campouts and the 4 high adventure trips planned by the scouts for the next 18 months! So, now each patrol can start organizing the next outing they are responsible for while I present the schedule to the adults and try to get an adult to be a resource for each outing. I'll also be getting adults to volunteer to drive for each event.

Our outings have gotten much better now that the patrols understand how to organize them rather than having adults do most of the planning. Summer of 2006, the troop will take our first self-directed backpacking trip. This entire trip - food, hike route, campsites, travel, costs, training - will be planned by scouts with guidance as needed from an adult. I'm very excited to see how it comes together over the next 6 months.

Scout On!
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Posted: 9:30 11-22-2005 35
Annual Planning
Last weekend, the troop put together its 18 month plan. The Senior Patrol Leader, ASPL, Scribe, and 7 patrol leaders met to figure out what the scouts want to do. What a great job they did!

Three adults attended just to give input about school calendar conflicts and other district level events such as Camporees. Other than that, the scouts did it all.

Each patrol leader brought ideas from his patrol. The ideas were listed and then narrowed down to about two dozen. From there, the scouts marked which ideas made sense to do in summer, spring/fall, or winter. They then plugged them into months of the year.

With the campouts for each month in place, a weekly calendar was used to list every holiday, troop meeting, PLC meeting, and district event. That showed which weekends made the most sense for campouts.

From this activity, the troop had its schedule of meetings and weekend campouts for the next year and a half. Each patrol leader then chose which campouts his patrol would take responsiblity to organize, plan, and lead. They will have an adult resource for each campout and will report their progress monthly at PLC meetings.

After a break, the scouts tackled the task of High Adventure trips. The same process of sharing ideas, prioritizing which sounded the most fun, and then choosing the best was done. We now have the high hopes of a week-long backpacking trip to the Bighorns of Wyoming in 2006 and Arches National Park in 2007. These are in addition to SeaBase in 2006 and Philmont in 2007.

These will be the first trips of this magnitude that the troop will have scouts completely plan. We have been preparing them for this for the past 18 months by asking them to perform a larger and larger part of weekend campouts. In the past, scouts made the schedule but then adults would organize and prepare for individual campouts. Now, a patrol does everything for a campout except pay for reservations, drive, and other tasks requiring an adult. Of course, the patrols of the younger scouts need more adult support than the older ones, but it has been working out great.

Historically, our troop has planned 12 months of outings in October. Since our SPL holds the position for 6 months, this means the SPL elected in March did no troop planning. Now that we have 18 months scheduled, each SPL and his team will do scheduling. The upcoming 6 months is firm, the next 6 months can be modified if necessary, and the next 6 months needs to be filled with activities.

It was rewarding to see the scouts have ownership of the troop's plan and I'm excited to see how well they take on the organizing and promoting of their trips.

Scout On!

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Posted: 13:11 11-13-2005 34
Hey, if you are one of the two people that read this blog then you noticed it hasn't been available or updated recently.
I just finished moving the site to a new server and it took awhile for everything to get hooked back together correctly.

Anyway, I'm baaaaaaaack.

Our troop hasn't been idle the past month, though. We had a Shooting Sports campout in October that was a hit. One of our adult volunteers went through the Rangemaster training so he can manage us while shooting 22s and shotguns. This was the first time shooting shotgun for a lot of the scouts. We shot about 600 shells and there are about 550 completely good clay pigeons laying in a marshy field now - not many hits.
One scout brought a pumpkin for a .22 target. Another brought a plush Sonic the Hedgehog doll. Firm things make better targets - plush dolls just absorb the bullet and get a black freckle at the entry point. I'm taking some circles of sheetrock next time, hoping they will explode into puffs of dust - we'll see.

Well, its now really trying to become winter here, but thats ok because we've got skiing in December and snowhuts in January to look forward to.

Scout On!

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Posted: 8:02 11-10-2005 33
Selling Wreaths for Fun and Profit
The box elder bugs are out in force all over the south sides of everyone's houses in the neighborhood. The sun is warm, the air is cool, and the leafs are just thinking about changing color. Must be time to sell popcorn and wreaths again!

I've never really enjoyed fundraising. Some people get into it, but I'd just as soon eat glass. I have finally come to understand, though, that going to each neighbor's door and asking if they'd like to purchase a Christmas wreath is an annual ritual. It is expected and even looked forward to by a substantial number of folks.

I tagged along with my youngest son this morning on his first day of selling. He did a great job after practicing on our wonderful next door neighbor. It's a chance for me to say 'HI' to people I only see a couple times each year (isn't that sad.) and check out their yards, trees, and shrubs.

It's also quite fun to hear people say 'Oh my, it's that time of year already!' or 'Wreaths already? Where did the summer go?'

Our boys have a goal to pay for half of their scouting costs. That takes quite an effort on their part, especially now that the older one can do Philmont and SeaBase. They've learned that they are providing a good product that some people really want and they are making money selling it. They've also learned about competition in the marketplace as they go to homes that have promised their business to another scout. The one thing I still want to check that they understand is that these people are being very generous and supporting their scouting experience so they need to be sincerely thanked.

And, hey, if you really need some popcorn, please just send me an email. One of my boys can sell it to you over the Internet and have it delivered to your home - free delivery! :-)

Scout On!
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Posted: 0:00 10-01-2005 32
Troop Elections
Every six months, it happens - the current troop leaders are ready for a break and a few scouts are sure they can do a better job running the show. And, so we have Troop Elections!

Actually, only the Senior Patrol Leader is elected by the scouts and he then is responsible for selecting his leadership staff of Assistant Sr. Patrol Leader, scribe, librarian, historian, bugler, chaplain aide, OA rep, instructors, troop guides, and den chiefs. Each patrol also elects their own Patrol Leader. This is a lot like our national elections - we elect the president and he appoints his cabinet.

We're fortunate to have a great scout as SPL and his election platform was more fun so he has some key promises to fulfill this winter.

Now that he has selected his leadership staff, he and the ASPL are busy training them. I've spent an hour with him explaining his job, what is expected, and setting goals, and now he is passing that down the line.

Our next big joint effort will be our annual Planning Conference and Youth Leadership Training course next month. The SPL and Scoutmaster share the leading of these events and I'm excited to see what great new ideas these guys dream up.

Scout On
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Posted: 0:00 09-29-2005 31
Planning for Useful Fun
On our troop outing this weekend, we toured Root River Hardwoods sawmill where they logged hardwoods (oak, cherry, walnut, maple, hackberry, ..) and turned them into rough boards. Then, we toured their shop where they turned dried, rough boards into molding and finished boards.
After these tours in the morning, we made lunch at camp and then went on a cave tour in Mystery Cave.
After the tour, we stopped at Pine Tree Apple Orchard to learn how apples are harvested, graded, packed, and sold.

It was a very busy day with a great introduction to 3 different industries - agriculture, tourism, and lumbering. Unfortunately, no scouts in the troop are taking the Farm Mechanics, Forestry, Geology, or Woodworking merit badges. We did not take advantage of a good opportunity because we did not plan ahead far enough.

Looking ahead, the troop has scheduled a shooting sports outing next month. I've discussed the availability of the Rifle Shooting merit badge with the patrol organizing the outing in the hopes they will use its requirements as part of their agenda and tell the troop that it is available.

More importantly, I've made it part of my agenda to always check what merit badge or other award might be applicable to any outing the troop plans. And, then make sure the scouts organizing the event are aware of the opportunity for advancement well ahead of their event.

Scout On
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Posted: 0:00 09-19-2005 30
Scoutmaster Conferences
I really enjoy the times I get to sit one-on-one with a scout for a scoutmaster conference and try to see his view of the troop and scouting. In our troop, we have 59 scouts and 20 of them are new so it is a challenge finding time on outings and at troop meetings to talk with many of them. The scoutmaster conferences are very important to keep in touch with those scouts that don't attend some events.

I have a few goals in a conference with scouts that have not achieved First Class rank yet. I try to find out how their scouting experience is going their first few months. Are they having experiences they expected? Have they done things they were surprised to be doing? What skills have they learned to do? I mostly just ask prompting questions and then listen to their thoughts.

I also like to hear what they do besides scouting. Since I only get to interact with them at specific times, there's a lot more they do that I don't know about. Remembering who does what can be a challenge so I try to keep notes.

Finally, I believe its important to share with them what I feel is important in scouting. I simply share that in today's world we really need people willing to lead, help, and care for others, and to have the skills to help when needed. Also, I tell them to keep their eyes on the older scouts and try to figure out what makes a good scout. At every conference, I ask them if they've figured out any more of the puzzle. It's sometimes enlightening to hear from a scout that has really been taking this to heart and searching for an answer.
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Posted: 0:00 09-08-2005 29
Hurricane Relief
This week my problems and challenges seem pretty insignificant in comparison to the hardships in the southern states after hurricane Katrina. Sending prayers and donations is a great help but being an active bunch of scouts like we are, we felt the need to do more. 
Fortunately for us, a wonderful local television station Fox 9 Hurricane Relief Drive organized a relief drive and put out the request for volunteers. I got the notice at our Roundtable meeting last night (good thing I attended!) and sent email out to all the patrol leaders about the need. I left it up to them to organize their patrols and do a Good Turn as they saw fit. 
At noon today I got a call at work from my son (Tenderfoot rank) saying his patrol would be participating today from 1 to 5 and I was needed to drive. What a good excuse to get out of the office! I zipped home, got on my scout t-shirt, and we were off on an adventure. 
It's now 6 hours later and after 4 hours of unloading bottled water, diapers, food, and supplies from cars pulling up, then stacking everything onto pallets and loading it onto semi trucks, I feel great! We filled 2 semis that are now on the highway heading south - I'm told its about a 20 hour haul from Minnesota to Louisiana. I figure we loaded 75,000 bottles of water so that should help someone a bit. 
I sure wish we hadn't needed to do this, but I'm proud of the troop for stepping up and its a lot better than sitting and watching the news. 
We have more patrols pitching in throughout the weekend and help is needed as long as the cars keep driving up. 
Scout On! 
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Posted: 0:00 09-02-2005 28
Philmont Trip
Yes, it DOES rain at Philmont! We just got back from our 12 day trek and half the days were rain. But, other than that, it was a most excellent adventure.
8 scouts and 3 adults did Trek #12 that covered 65 miles with about 15 miles of side hikes thrown in. We made the top of Trail Peak to see the bomber wreckage and the top of Shaefer's Peak for some terrific views. The last morning, we climbed Tooth of Time and it was just as fun as everyone says.
Our ranger, Wade Hawkins from Atlanta, was a great help on the first couple days and he did a good job of explaining the Philmont way of backpacking with advice about bear danger, lightning, campsites, food clean-up, Leave No Trace, and other common concerns.
We saw no bears or cougars, but did see mini-bears, deer, turkey, grouse, burros, horses, cows, and crows.
We participated in blackpowder shooting, branding, blacksmithing, goldpanning, horseback riding, and rock-climbing. We ate a chuckwagon dinner and took a mine tour.

Now, we've all got our arrowhead patches and memories of wet trails hiked, crunchy meals eaten, and challenges conquered - until next time.

Scout On!
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Posted: 0:00 08-17-2005 27
Memories of Camp
Some memories in my head from camp last week that I'd better jot down before I forget...

Some things to remember:
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Posted: 0:00 07-21-2005 26
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