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Two Millionth Eagle Scout
Anthony Thomas of Troop 3471 here in Northern Star Council (I believe Burnsville, MN) has been recognized as the 2,000,000th Eagle Scout yesterday. How cool is that?

Arthur Eldred of New York was the first Eagle Scout in 1912, so it's been a busy 96 years.

Congratulations, Anthony!

Scout On
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Posted: 21:07 05-23-2009 418
Expanding Cooking
Let's play Jeopardy...

I'll take Scout Cooking for $200, Alex.

And the answer is: Hotdogs

BZZZZZ... "What is the simplest way to get Second Class requirement 2g signed off?"

I'll take Scout Cooking for $400, Alex.

And the answer is: Poptarts

BZZZZZ... "What is an even simpler way to get Second Class requirement 2g signed off?"

I suppose you probably know of some even simpler - maybe heating a piece of bread with a Bic Lighter? So, the question becomes "What constitutes 'cooking' for cooking requirements?"

By expanding the cooking repertoire on a campout, the meals can certainly be much more challenging and rewarding. I really enjoy making meals outdoors using heat from coals burned down from a fire that I started with just sticks, my knife, and one match. As a matter of fact, I'm usually up before anyone in camp just so I can play with fire without scouts seeing me. :-)

There needs to be a consistent definition of 'cooking' across the leadership of your troop. That definition should come from the PLC with the scoutmaster's input. It should then be shared with each scout and adult leader so everyone is on the same page. If you've not done this, give it a try and I bet the scouts will come up with a fairly good definition. Then, they own it and can ensure it is followed for rank advancement.

As leadership changes and troop dynamics evolve, some skills will trend down while others improve. In our troop, cooking has gradually degraded into the simplest prepackaged, precooked, processed foods available. It's time to push that skill back up so the SPL and I will discuss it next week.

boy scout cooking Last weekend, the SPL and ASPL had meals with the adults. They really enjoyed all the dutch oven meals and they even made cookies in a dutch oven. Well, actually one big cookie, but they made it and cooked it perfect.
At the end of the weekend, the ASPL said it was amazing how easy the dutch ovens are and how good the food is and how he plans to have his patrol use them more. Now, the adults have been using d.o.s for 3 years and have been trying to get scouts hooked with virtually no luck. Maybe this ASPL will be the convert that wins the tug-of-war.

Using dutch ovens is just one way to expand the cooking experience at camp. They really are easy, but until scouts are confident using them, scouts will stick with pots of water, hotdogs, and poptarts.

There are many other ways to cook on campouts. We have a few of those pie irons that clamp stuff between bread and roast over a fire. Stuff wrapped in aluminum foil and dropped in the coals can be good cooking with a variety of vegetables and meat and spice. Getting off propane and onto a real fire occastionally is a good move to make towards more expansive cooking.

Scout On
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Posted: 13:21 05-20-2009 417
Police Explorers and Terrorists
The BSA has quite a broad scope of programming, from Scouts and Soccer to Law Enforcement Exploring with ages ranging from 6 to 21 years old. I'm just doing my best to keep up with the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts programs with which I am active, but there's a whole lot more than that available.

Exploring is part of Learning for Life's career education program. Law enforcement is one of those careers, along with fire service, aviation, science, skilled trades, and others. Exploring helps youth gain practical knowledge of and experience in a career.

Did you know explorers can learn to fight terrorists? WHOA! What's that, you say? Yep, and that's probably the typical and hoped for reaction the NY Times was looking for with their recent article. There are some great pictures of explorers with guns, explosions, storming buses, and attacking terrorists. There are a couple sensational quotes. There are a couple statements about sexual abuse by leaders. Everything needed to make a great, informational piece of news. :-(

Weapons use, hostages, negotiations, first aid, self-defense, crisis intervention, and ethics are just some of the skills law enforcement officers need. These explorers participate in a complete program, which I expect includes a whole lot of training before participation in the mock scenarios as presented in the article. Too bad the article didn't mention how many hours were spent learning and demonstrating all the skills in teamwork and safety before the drill. But, that would have been boring.

The part most interesting to me was scanning through the 475 comments left since yesterday and that a large number of them had to be censored. People can read one article about a certain facet of a program and extrapolate it into paramilitary, nazi-like, world-destroying, right-wing bigotry.

This specific explorer post has sure pushed the envelope and made an exciting program. From what I can see, they've followed the BSA Explorer guidelines. I wouldn't be interested in participating in such a drill, but it looks like a real learning experience for youth interested in a law enforcement career.

I'll stick to my backpacking and square knots and try to help a few scouts grow in citizenship, character, and fitness. But if participation in a mock hostage situation is the 'high adventure' reward built on a strong base of skills that gets some other youth to grow in those same dimensions, then good for them.

Scout On
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Posted: 18:08 05-14-2009 416
The Good Turn Daily Knot
I was asked what the knot is at the bottom of the 2nd Class and 1st Class scout rank badges that reminds scouts to do a good turn daily, and how to tie it.

It is an overhand knot in a bight and it's pretty simple to tie but has few uses. Now you can impress all your scouting friends on your next campout by learning to tie it.

On the actual embroidered badges, it's difficult to make out and there are different versions of the knot, but you can see the full size official image by clicking this thumbnail -

See the Guide to Tieing this Knot.
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Posted: 22:29 05-10-2009 415
Get Fit - or Stay Home
Our troop is using the new BSA medical form this year since it's available and makes life so much easier - same form for everyone, instead of Class 1, 2, and 3. The fact that most of it can be done online and saved by the parent is great - saves them lots of time each year.

The new BSA medical requirements are that everyone get a physical check every 12 months - no more 3 years for youth and adults under 40. Every year, every person.
As a scoutmaster responsible for safety on our outings, I'm glad this change is in place. In 3 years, a scout changes an incredible amount.

There have been some grumblings about this. The only valid argument I've heard is insurance not covering a physical exam that often. If that's the case, then slipping your exam date out a week or so every year might be needed.

Another health item that is part of the new medical form is the Height to Weight participation requirement. This one is causing a lot of concern.

From the health form: Individuals desiring to participate in any high-adventure activity or events in which emergency evacuation would take longer
than 30 minutes by ground transportation will not be permitted to do so if they exceed the weight limit as documented at the bottom of this page. Enforcing the height/weight limit is strongly encouraged for all other events, but it is not mandatory.

When I look at the weights on the chart, it's amazing how heavy someone can be and still be allowed to trek. The arguments against this requirement range from being big-boned to solid muscle and in great shape even when over the limit.
At our roundtable meeting last night, I figured about 1/3 of the guys there would not be allowed to backpack - and I certainly would not want them anywhere near any trek I was on.

There is good, sound reasoning for these limits - obese people have a much higher risk of heart failure and other problems under physical exertion. This isn't the BSA being dictators, but setting limits to the minimal level of safety on strenuous activities.

Setting an example of being fit is a very important part of Scouting for adults. The "adult interaction" method lets scouts see how adults 'should' be. A fit man able to hike along with the scouts should be a requirement - and has been a requirement at the National BSA camps for years. BSA is just pushing the Philmont, SeaBase, Northern Tier requirements down to units doing their own high adventure treks.

Obesity continues to be a growing problem in our country. On the charts I could find, a 6foot person is considered obese if they way over 220 pounds. The BSA height-weight chart allows a 6foot person to weigh up to 239 pounds and still participate in high adventure. That sounds quite generous to me.

Finally, the height-weight limit does not eliminate obese scouters from participation. The limits are not mandatory for short-term camping within 30 minutes of emergency help. Car camping at the local park can still be done by any adult volunteer that completes the annual medical record.

Here's the chart. Will you need to diet before that big backpack trip or before attending national jamboree in 2010?

See BSA Annual Health and Medical Record
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Posted: 8:13 05-08-2009 414
BOGO again
Another opportunity to boost the overall uniforming of your unit. has a Buy One Get One sale this month for Classic uniform items.

It looks like they are clearing our the left-over switchbacks, shirts, socks, sashes, and such. I'm still happy with my switchbacks I got in August, 2006!

If you'd like to promote full uniforming, it's a lot easier to get families to buy $20 pants rather than $40. Two scouts or a scout and parent can each get a pair, even different sizes.

Scout On
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Posted: 13:00 05-04-2009 413
Doing Natl Tour Permit Online
Both national and local tour permits can be done online now at MyScouting. I'm working through the process for the first time with a national tour permit and either I'm doing something wrong or the system isn't quite ready.

First off, when you log into MyScouting there is no place to get to the online Tour Permits. You first need to change your profile to enable the link to Permits.
  1. Go to
  2. Click the MyScouting link at the top and enter your account info.
  3. Click MY PROFILE
  5. Check the TOUR PERMITS chekbox
  6. Click SUBMIT button at the bottom
  7. Now TOUR PERMITS appears in the list of features.

Once you have that done (whew) you can start making tour permits. You need to enter vehicle information, leader info and training, and then info about the trip with itinerary, training, and policies.

For some reason, when I submit a permit I continue to receive a pop-up warning that the itinerary info is not complete. We'll see if it gets accepted or not.

Scout On
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Posted: 10:56 05-02-2009 412
Room Full of Eagles
Northern Star Council holds a "Gathering of Eagles" each year - an evening for all Eagle Scouts to get together and recognize a few special people.

Not being an eagle myself, I've never been to this event but last night I got to attend. My son, who just became an eagle in November, was presented with the council eagle scholarship he earned so I got to tag along.

Man, talk about a high-power room of folks! Our district executive was there. The council's scout executive was there. The regional director was there. Even the Chief Scout Executive was there all the way from Texas.

It was pretty cool to meet Mr. Mazucca and he gave a very good talk touching on the three parts of the scout oath tied into future plans.

But, the way cool thing about the night was when they had all the eagle scouts in the room stand up. Then, they asked those that received their eagle in this century to sit. Then, those that received it in the 1990s. Then, the 80s. Then, the 70s. And so on. There were still 7 or 8 men standing for the 30s! They took a microphone to each one and had them tell when and where they received their eagle.

This evening impressed on me the life-long impact the eagle rank can make on a person. Once a scout earns eagle, it's not the end - it's just the beginning of a life of higher expectations, obligations, and opportunities.

Scout On
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Posted: 14:26 04-16-2009 411
Elect or Appoint?
I was asked if "electing" a Senior Patrol Leader and Patrol Leaders was a rule, or if a Scoutmaster could just appoint them.

On page 13 of my 2001 Scoutmaster Handbook, it says " ... the senior patrol leader. He is elected by all members of the troop."
On page 13, it also says, "One patrol leader is elected by the members of each patrol."

Appointing the SPL or PL is not the way it is supposed to happen and there's absolutely no reason it should happen. But, an adult overrunning a group of boys can get away with doing pretty much whatever s/he wants unless someone points out the correct way to do things. Things are usually done wrong because: I always assume it's the last one until I learn different. Not much can be done about changing the first two, but the last just requires reading and training.

Every troop is constantly evolving and changing. I believe the larger the percentage of well-trained adults you have, the closer you will be to having the perfect Boy Scout troop. Not following simple program steps like electing the SPL rather than appointing him indicates a need for basic training for the scoutmaster and troop committee.

You can read similar words about electing SPL and PLs on the official BSA website here and here.

Scout On
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Posted: 7:50 04-15-2009 410
Volcano II Stove
On a recent campout, the Eagles patrol tried out the Volcano II stove for their meals. They really enjoyed testing this stove while fulfilling their Second Class 'cook over an open fire' requirement.

Since the temperature was 10F to 20F below zero the entire weekend, cooking on propane stoves was a real challenge. But, the Eagles had no problem getting their wood fire going and using it to cook. They boiled soup in a pot on the grill for lunch. Then, they grilled hamburgers directly on the grill for supper.

The Volcano II is a collapsible fire ring that is vented to promote hot, full burning of fuel. Like the scouts, it can burn wood or briquettes, and there is a propane attachment that can be added.

The Eagles found that in very, very cold temperatures it's better to let it burn out rather than dose with water. The water froze the ash solid and we needed to let it thaw before dumping it into an ash can. That was the only glitch they had, even on their first use so they were very impressed. They especially like being able to have their fire wherever they wanted, rather than right in the dirty firepit.

Scout On
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Posted: 8:51 04-05-2009 409
New Troop Fundraiser
18 scouts of our troop are expecting to raise enough funds this June to completely support the troop's program for the next 8 to 12 years. What started as a week-long camping trip, has turned into the best fundraiser ever.

Three adults associated with our troop were drawn in the 2009 National Sasquatch Hunt Lottery so they each have an opportunity to take a bigfoot this year. They've asked the scouts to help with the hunt tracking, herding, and packing out the game. The scouts will get to keep all the meat since the adults just want the publicity.
There has already been one sasquatch taken east of Mount St. Helens this year so we have high hopes of taking three more from that same area since they tend to live in small herds. We'll be flying into Seattle and camping in the Gifford Pinchot forest.
Once we get the animals, we've got a deal with to sell them all the meat for $200/lb so they can process it into their new sasquatch jerky. Since the average sasquatch weighs 600-700 pounds, that's 300 pounds of meat each. 900 pounds of meat will get us $180,000 so the scouts are quite excited at this opportunity. That's a lot of money, but you should go see how much they are selling the jerky for!

It's not too late to register for the lottery if your troop could use some more funds. The deadline for 2009 is April 3rd and the lottery entry fee is just $45. I'll let you know the results when we get back from our trip in June. Oh, and in case anyone is concerned, sasquatch was removed from the endangered species list last year according to U.S. Fish & Wildlife web site, so everything's cool.

Scout On
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Posted: 4:33 04-01-2009 408
The Slow Death of Nature
My two sons would just as soon spend 3 or 4 hours playing computer games than interact with real people. But, who can blame them? With the amazing graphics, sound, and practically real interaction, games these days are nearly "like being there". One son just got a unicycle for Christmas and has put in many hours and can now ride it. But, he just found an online unicycle game and there he can hop, jump, ride rails, fly, and more waaaaay cool stuff that he'd never be able to do in real life. Fantasy at your fingertips, I guess.

It's pretty hard for hiking and camping to compete with flying, explosions, racecar driving, and the like. Actually getting out into the world takes effort, has limitations, and isn't always fun. Why bother when I can click a button and be flying a plane or parachuting behind enemy lines or battling orcs and goblins?

For all the concern scout leaders have about sports and other organizations taking boys from scouting, we are completely missing the boat. A boy involved in any other activity is positive, but we are losing boys to sedentary fantasy without social interaction. This, I believe, will result in the slow death of nature.

A very interesting study complete in 2006 ( takes a look at the 50 year increase in national park attendance followed by 16 years of decrease through 2003. The decrease began in 1988, right when Internet use, video games, home theatres all began to gain popularity. Time spent on these sedentary activities increased 327 hours/year for the average American from 1987 to 2003 that's about 2 full weeks. I would suggest that for scout-age boys, the increase is vastly greater. This electronic entertainment propagation is reducing the amount of time we spend actually living life.

We are spending far less time in the outdoors and the trend is continuing down. Environmental awareness, conservation, and responsible stewardship can't help but drop as we spend less time interacting with and experiencing the wilds. As all our cravings for excitement and challenge are fulfilled electronically, we care less for the real world. It doesn't really matter if there are green spaces, wilderness areas, birds, or beasts if we have no perceived need for them.

Videophilia is the new human tendancy to focus on sedentary activities involving electronic media. This is in contrast to Biophilia, people's appreciation of nature, and is already having a huge negative impact on our population. It has been tied to the national surge in obesity, poor exercise habits, lower social awareness, and lessened interpersonal skills. As these trends continue and our concern for the people and world around us decrease, support for, use of, and caring about our natural environment will fall by the wayside.

Looking at the overall problem through the eyes of one person, it may appear hopeless. After all, the Internet is here to stay, video games keep getting better, and electronic entertainment just keeps getting more and more real. That can't be changed, and it may be a losing battle, but I can at least do something where I am. Here's a few ideas:

Maybe we should list Outdoors first of the eight methods of scouting for the next few years since it always seems to be around 3 or 4 when they are listed. This is the main reason I started my sons in scouting. It wasn't for the citizenship or character development it was to make sure they had a reason to spend time in the outdoors, learning to care for themselves, nature, and others. The citizenship and character come from that experience.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:33 03-28-2009 407
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