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Uniform Inspection Sheets
The BSA has uniform inspection sheets available for the centennial uniforms now. The main difference is a mention about placement of patches on the sleeve pocket. But, all the inspection sheets have been updated and a couple new ones created.

There are now sheets for Cub Scout, Webelos, Boy Scout, and Adult Leader.

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Posted: 13:25 02-11-2009 395
Going Green
With 50 scouts in the troop and a new batch of 15 joining this month, we're finally forced to face the 'going green' issue. We can no longer purchase red shoulder loops, red troop numerals, or red Trained patches.

Fortunately, it's ok to put the loops and patches on the older khaki shirts so scouts can easily upgrade.

I got the ok from the troop committee, so I'm heading to the Scout Shop tomorrow to get green shoulder loops, numeral patches, and 2008 Centennial Quality Unit patches for all the scouts and registered adults in our troop. The SPL has decided we'll have a short ceremony at the next troop meeting to replace the shoulder loops and hand out the troop numerals. Hopefully, there will be some talk about the 100th anniversary in there someplace too.

I expect most of the scouts will not replace their existing troop numerals due to the sewing hassle. So, over the next couple years, the red numbers will fade away as scouts age out or outgrow their shirts.

Rather than purchasing 3 individual green numerals for a troop like 479, there is a 3-numeral patch that you can custom purchase in lots of a dozen. Instead of costing $3.57, it costs just $2.09 (according to my local Scout Shop guy). The shoulder loops cost $1.99/pair.

Don't forget the green Trained patches for troop leader training, too.

Scout On

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Posted: 7:01 02-11-2009 394
Cemetery Service
service projectFor the past 4 years, our troop has been travelling across the city to Ft. Snelling Veterans Cemetery to team up with other local troops in an Order of the Arrow sponsored service project. In one day, the scouts remove all the wreaths that were placed by veterans' headstones before Christmas.

This year, the weather was around freezing so it was a great day and easier work. Two years ago, our troop was one of only a couple that showed up because it was soooooo cold. Just snipping plastic ties was a challenge that day.

Besides cleaning up the ragged, weather-worn wreaths, the scouts get a glimpse into history by reading many of the headstones and learning when all these soldiers died. The row upon row upon row of graves cause at least some of the scouts to pause. We've even had a few conversations about costs of freedom, responsibilities as scouts, respecting veterans, and responsibilities as scouts.

You might check in your community to see if a similar service could be done.

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Posted: 6:58 02-09-2009 393
Really Cold Camping Tips
See winter camping tips for general advice for cold weather camping.

But, when it's really cold, like 20F below zero, there are more weird things that happen and stuff for which you might not be prepared:

These are all things experienced last weekend by our scouts as 7 of them earned their council Zero Hero awards.

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Posted: 5:28 02-04-2009 392
Using Tools
The PLC knew that new scouts would be joining the troop at the end of the month. They were trying to come up with ideas on what to include in troop meeting agendas to get the new guys off to a good start. I sat there tracking the ideas in my head as I came up with them, ready to offer a couple if the SPL asked.
But just then, an Instructor pulled out this sheet and they had their skills training sessions done for the next two months.
They chose not to do whipping and fusing rope since they'd be inside, but decided knots would be a good choice since our next campout requires them to lash together a drive-in movie screen.

I've found that coming up with ideas immediately when asked is not a common skill amoung scouts (nor any population). But, with a reminder list of ideas, they are very good at choosing the ones that would be most fun and organizing and expanding on them. So, having a list of the advancement requirements for new scouts, they have no trouble choosing ones to do in troop meetings. I believe this is using the tools available to your advantage.

In this instance, they chose not to do whipping and fusing rope since they'd be inside, but decided knots would be a good choice since our next campout requires them to lash together a drive-in movie screen. Older scouts will practice lashing and hopefully design a screen while 6 scouts teach the new scouts two half-hitch and taut-line hitch. At the second meeting, they plan to have a knot-tieing race or relay to keep it fun. When we camp, the new guys should be able to contribute to the project right away.

Providing usable tools for the scouts is a Scoutmaster's job. Training is certainly an important tool. The gear we use: axes, saws, tents, rope, matches, bandages, ... and so on are obviously tools. Scouts have little problem mastering those physical tools and using them to accomplish tasks. The more difficult parts of Scouting, the leadership, citizenship, and character building, also require tools. Good role models, discussions of right and wrong, and training sessions are all helpful. But, I think a set of tools can make the job easier without detracting from the goals.

Whether scouts are planning a campout or a troop meeting or a year of activities, having tools to work with helps them accomplish the goal. If the tools are used as prompts and suggestions rather than cookie-cutter answers, the scouts gain in skill.

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Posted: 8:25 02-03-2009 391
We're Famous
For 15 minutes, or a couple pages in Boys' Life at least, Troop 479 gets to be famous.

At our troop meeting last night where we went sledding at a local park rather than meet at the normal place, one scout ran up saying, "Did you see it? Did you see it?"
He was waving his Boys' Life magazine that had just arrived in the mail today and had an article about the troop's winter campout last winter. The guys crowded around, "Hey, that's me!", "Here's you, Matt!"

We had just returned from this year's winter campout on Sunday so it was nicely fitting to have the article arrive the next day. This year, it was -20 with windchill down to -35 so we got a bunch of Zero Hero awards unlike last year when it dipped almost to zero but not quite.

This short, safe introduction to extreme cold weather camping is a great learning experience. When a tin cup or metal spoon instantly sticks to your lips, you learn to use plastic. Scouts learn that bananas are not practical cold weather food when they see one frozen rock-hard and are unable to eat it. There is no simple chore in frigid weather - every task is a challenge.

In case you didn't know, you can submit your troop's upcoming adventure as a story idea at Boys Life

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Posted: 8:34 01-27-2009 390
LNT in Brazil

Fortaleza, Brazil is a big city in a warm climate and has many poor people and lots of trash around. Many of them are too busy surviving to worry about the natural environment, much like large cities in our country.

There was a natural area in the city close to where we were staying so we took a walk through it one day.
As soon as we stepped off the paved road onto the dirt trail, it was like a completely different world - nearly what I would expect a jungle to be like.

I was very excited to see this sign along the trail. It describes how long trash takes to decompose and is nearly identical to the Leave No Trace materials I use when teaching at home! (Click on the image to see a larger version)

We saw crabs in the mudflats, teaming fish, lizards, monkeys, birds, and thick foliage that completely masked out the surrounding city.

There were also signs warning against campfires, staying on the trail, and this one about observing animals from a distance.

This was one of the many highlights of my trip. Minimizing impact isn't just a USA-specific ethic - it is a global one.

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Posted: 9:28 01-10-2009 389
Fun First Aid
Making a personal first aid kit is a 2nd Class rank requirement that can be a fun activity. Every year, I show scouts that I have my kit and tell them I take it with me everywhere. I also give each of them a CPR mask and gloves from the Red Cross to start their kit.
This little kit is the basis for an extremely valuable part of Scouting - that of being prepared for medical emergencies as well as small injuries.
It's fortunate that I do take my little kit with me, even on family vacations. Last week, we used many bandaids for scrapes and scratches on the beach and around town.

But, that little kit is really just for the simple cuts and scrapes. When something bigger happens, you need to rely more on your ability to improvise with what is on hand and know the basic First Aid Response steps for various situations.

The basic skills introduced in the early ranks are built on in various merit badges, such as First Aid, Emergency Prep, and Lifesaving. Additional training available to scouts for Babysitting, CPR, and Wilderness First Aid expand on skills that ready a person for many situations. We really do need this sort of training to help ensure a safe scouting program, but it can get boring if not applicable to the scout. Making it relevant through examples, stories, and hands-on experience is crucial. I'm always looking for new examples, preferably not my own.

While playing in the waves in Brazil, my wife was unceremoniously smashed into the sandy bottom by a very impressive reminder of the power of nature. She came up with blood on her forehead and her hand on her neck, complaining that it hurt.
OK, right now, if you have some first aid training, you're probably thinking 'immobilize!' The problem was that those waves weren't just stopping until we could casually stroll on up the beach. They continued to knock her around, so getting her out of the water fast was the first task. Once we were in a safe spot, then we tended to her neck.
Turns out she just tweaked the neck muscles and the forehead was just skin scraped away. But, it was a good lesson that first aid can't happen until the scene is safe.

When I'm presenting WFAB sessions or doing first aid with scouts, it's more fun and interesting to stage scenarios. I could say, "Pretend this is a cut and show me how to treat it." Or, I could get a package of ketchup from Arby's and my pocketknife and pretend to be cut. Or, even make some easy fake wounds to use often.

Making the serious skills fun to learn is the trick. Maybe "Build it and they will come" could be "Make it fun and they will learn". This is what the Instructors in our troop hear from me over and over, through my words, and hopefully through my example when I'm doing the teaching.

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Posted: 22:16 01-08-2009 388
Fruit Basket
An apple a day keeps the doctor away - but it gets pretty boring eating an apple every day!

In Brazil, I was introduced to a plethora of fruits that I'd never tried - papaya, mango, cashew, and at least 3 others I can't write or pronounce. They were all wonderful, colorful, and tasty beyond belief. I didn't even know cashew had a fruit, and it tastes even better than the nut.

I'm used to apples, oranges, bananas, and grapes, with watermelon and cantalope added in season. They taste great, are healthy, and I know what to expect. But, just like having an apple a day gets boring, it can be monotonous cycling through the same small set of fruits month after month. By trying something new, I experience a unique flavor sensation. Sure, I might not care for some of the tastes, but I can only find out by trying.

Our troop has historically done a few campouts year after year - skiing, lock-in, kayaking, climbing, pioneering, okpik. The scouts enjoy them and annually add them to the calendar. But, I noticed that attendance appeared to be dropping on some of those 'common' events.

By adding a few new 'flavors' of outing in each calendar, the scouts have kept the events interesting and attendance has improved. The old favorites are good and healthy, but the new exotics add something different for the guys that "have been there and done that".

Now, we have a platter of enough different outings that a three-year cycle can have no repeats except summer camp. It's still up to the scouts to decide, but there's no excuse to do the same old thing - unless it's too much fun and tradition to miss.

Challenge scouts to come up with some new outing ideas and I bet your fruit basket will be overflowing with some wild choices.

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Posted: 16:36 01-06-2009 387
Airlines - Do Your Best
I wish Delta would adopt the Cub Scout motto.

In the older Boy Scout lingo, DELTA means Developing Ethical Leaders Through Action. But, today I'm talking about Delta Airlines. I figured I should vent about this tonight at the end of a long day of catching up and be done with my whining for the whole year. :-)

It is amazing how unattached people can be to their jobs and the effort they make (or don't make) to fulfill their role. I was brought up to believe that whatever the task assigned to me, whether calling the plays or filling a waterbottle, I should do it as efficiently and thoroughly as I could. And, I still tackle tasks that way. When I have to shovel snow, I get it down to pavement or ice. When I vacuum, I get back in the corners where no one can see. I think the airline industry needs remedial training in task completion and ownership of duties.

Our family vacation to Brazil from Minnesota was a terrific experience with everything being great fun except for the problems with our air travel using Delta/Northwest. Our luggage was lost/delayed on the way there. The web page to check for luggage status never updated and even after we picked them up, listed our bags as at an 'unknown' location. The person that promised a call to let us know when they arrived didn't call. The people we talked to via phone said they would investigate and respond, but did not. And, on and on... We finally got our luggage at the airport 5 days late - we checked in person every 2 days.

Coming back to the USA, our luggage was again misplaced but did arrive the next day. I talked to one guy waiting in line to enter a claim and he said he was 6 for 6 on delayed luggage for the year with Delta. There are many people with much worse horror stories, like being stranded at O'Hare for 2 days, so I know our problems were not all that bad.

I understand there are lots of people flying and lots of bags moving around, but everyone else knows that too. The percentage of mixed up luggage is way too high. With all the technology we have, it just can't be that difficult to place Bag A on Airplane B. An automated system reading the barcodes on luggage tags should zip items lickety-split. And, we should have little scanners around the airport like the price checkers at Wal-Mart where you can read your luggage tag barcode and it tells you instantly where your item is. FedEx, UPS, and the like do it already.

I think the problem is that people get involved in the system. When a person that doesn't have pride in the work he is doing nor the self-respect to perform the task to his best ability takes on a task, then the system fails. If there is no incentive to get some luggage from here to there before the plane leaves, then it might not make it. Oh well.

This happens in any system, not just airline luggage. If a troop scribe doesn't think his notes from a PLC meeting help anyone, then he might get around to writing them down. If the patrol leader isn't going on a campout, he might not bother to make sure a menu is planned. If the scoutmaster's son finally made Eagle, he might not put much effort into guiding the other Life scouts on. Any of these can happen if the people involved don't have the mindset that doing your best is what you should do for every task.

I suppose lots of Cub Scouts and Den Leaders don't really think that much about the Cub Scout motto when they memorize and recite it. But, it's really one of the most important things anyone can learn. If I do my best, I can't really do much more than that.

Well, I feel better now.
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Posted: 23:17 01-04-2009 385
I'm Baaack
To my mom and that other person that checks this blog - I'm back from vacation!

My family returned last night (actually early this morning) from our once-in-a-lifetime trip to Brazil for Christmas and New Year's. I expect I'll be sharing thoughts and memories of the trip here for the next few days to get it out of my system, but it was basicaly a fabulous experience! A few quick blips:

I'm spending today working through Boy Scout Trail emails and other tasks that went undone. I hope you had a nice holiday and are ready for a great 99th year of Scouting in 2009.

Scout On
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Posted: 10:58 01-04-2009 384
Patch Trivia
I was asked which patches, medals, and awards from a Cub Scout uniform can be displayed on a Boy Scout uniform.

Here's my list - any additions or deletions?

There are different service star backings for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, so the scout could wear two stars when he's in Boy Scouts.
There are small metal pins that can be placed on the religious emblem knot to indicate it was earned as a Cub Scout, Webelos Scout, Boy Scout, or Venturer.

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Posted: 16:18 12-18-2008 383
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