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Recognizing Volunteers
Our district had its volunteer appreciation dinner last night. It's kinda weird to be eating real food with these guys instead of half-cooked or over-cooked stuff in a pot. But, for the most part, everyone had nice manners. This was a time for awards to be given out to those people that put in exceptional amounts of time and effort the past year to keep the scouting program alive and strong.

I think it's a really good idea to take a minute and tell the people that volunteer 'Thank You' occasionally. Volunteers are seldom helping out because they want the praise, but too often they get taken for granted. Whether its Sunday School teachers, scout leaders, hospital visitors, soup kitchen help, or whatever, letting them know they are appreciated is nice.

I'm having the adult volunteers of our troop over for pizza and a movie next month to say 'Thanks'. Of course, I'm also going to include a discussion of the highs and lows of the past year, but nothing's free. :-) Maybe we'll watch 'Follow Me, Boys' since I've not seen that old film yet.

Hey, if you happen to be reading this and volunteer your time to scouting or some other helpful organization, let me say THANKS! and keep up the good work.

Scout On


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Posted: 14:07 01-27-2006 48
Council Specific Awards
Tonight I'll be attending a local pack meeting with 6 boy scouts from our troop. They will be presented with the Summit Award. The 'What?' award, you ask.

Our Summit Award is earned by scouts that have received their Arrow of Light, earned 3 additional activity badges, and attended an extra troop function as a Webelos scout. They then need to join a troop, do 3 hours of service, earn the Scout badge, and participate in a troop outing.

This award is then presented to the scout at a pack meeting of his old pack so the cub scouts can see how one of their own has moved on to boy scouts and is having a great time. It is helpful in encouraging Webelos to keep active.

This Summit Award is specific to our council. I found that there are at least 3 other councils with different Summit Awards, all with different requirements and goals. These council-level awards can make things confusing for folks, especially when you look at a uniform that has weird patches you've never seen before in places you didn't know they could be. :-) Sometimes, that is due to misplacement of patches and other times it is due to councils deciding to issue their own patches.

I think its a good opening for conversation when you notice a new patch on someone's uniform. Finding out what they did to receive it can get the ball rolling.

Now, I hope I survive this cafeteria full of wild cub scouts tonight. It's been 8 months since I've been in the wild with them!

Scout On


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Posted: 9:22 01-19-2006 47
Resolutions
One of my nephews has joined Tiger Scouts this year. The experience so far has been less than encouraging from the parents' point of view. It seems that the scouts are allowed to run wild with very little learning or growing going on.

I hear from quite a few people that send me email here making similar comments - that the cub scout program (and mostly tiger cubs) is just a madhouse with no direction or goals. I assure them that it is not supposed to be that way.

The program in the Tiger Handbook has specific activities for scouts to do, not just have boys run around and play the whole time. The den leaders should set behavior expectations right at the start of the year with the buy-in of the parents and scouts and then stand by those expectations.

An adult is required to attend every Tiger meeting and activity for every tiger scout that attends. This is so the tiger has some fun time with the adult and so the adult can keep the tiger in line and on track. The den leader should not be expected to play the role of parent.

A den leader needs to have the leadership skills to talk with a parent if a tiger scout is disrupting the den's activities. There should always be a goal for every activity, game, meeting that scouts do. Scouting is a game with a purpose and it's important that the adults know the purpose but the scouts don't need to know it. The scouts should just think they are playing and having fun - they'll learn as they do the activities in the handbook.

One of the really great things I've discovered from being part of the entire scouting program from Tiger to Eagle is 'Continuity'. The small tasks that tiger scouts do build into larger, more complex tasks for Life and Eagle scouts. For example, Tigers take a hike with their den, Wolfs plan a walk, Bears plan an outdoor family day, Webelos participate in a den campout, Tenderfeet camp out 1 time, 2nd Class camp out 5 times and plan some meals, 1st Class camp out 10 times, planning and supervising meals. The tasks build from year to year and are age-appropriate with more being expected as a boy matures in age and skills. The same sort of progression is in the program for first aid, leadership, citizenship, swimming, knots, camping, and other scout skills.

When folks plop down into a Tiger den, they usually are not aware that it is the first small step that is part of a 12 year program helping their little boy become a well-rounded man. They also are sometimes not aware that no program can be successful without support, love, and guidance from the scout's family. I believe those two points should be emphasized at the start of each scouting year by the den leader, cubmaster and scoutmaster.

Scout On


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Posted: 12:40 01-15-2006 46
New Year - New Adventure
First troop meeting of the year last night. Wow, 35 scouts in one room - where did I put those earplugs? The troop instructors presented sessions on winter first aid, including hypothermia and frostbite.

Our first campout of the year is in 2 weeks - building snow huts up north by Lake Mille Lacs. To prepare, another instructor demonstrated how to wrap a sleeping bag into a snow cocoon to keep it dry. Then he explained how to build a quinzee hut. He did a real good job.

We have two years of scouts that have never been on this outing since we got snowed out last year - blizzard the day we were to go. So, lots of excitement and plenty of anxious moms asking questions ( What if it caves in? How will they stay warm? Are you outside ALL day? ... )

This is my favorite outing of the year, mostly because we're blessed with a natural setting that much of the country does not enjoy, being able to build these structures. And if the temperature drops below 0 degrees fahrenheit, our local council has a "Zero Hero" patch that the scouts can earn if they stay out all night. It got down to 3 degrees last time so it's been 3 years since anyone got this in our troop.

Scout On!

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Posted: 0:10 01-11-2006 45
Merry Christmas
That's pretty much it - Merry Christmas!

I received some nice gifts from my family today. Some compression bags from Granite Gear and a pretty funny waterproof toiletpaper holder/bag from Sea to Summit. I expect it will probably wind up being a very useful item next summer, but the idea of it is funny.
Last summer at Philmont, our maps got pretty wet so the waterproof map case my brother gave me is a great tool!

We now have a few days to visit, eat, and enjoy ourselves before returning to the normal schedules.

I hope you have a happy, restful time this Christmas.

Scout On!
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Posted: 12:10 12-25-2005 44
Court of Honor
Everyone survived the skiing. Two brothers forgot their skis in their parents' van when they were dropped off so their dad got to drive up to the ski area on Saturday. That was lucky for my son since the dad also took his helmet which had been forgotten. :-)

The stand-in SPL did a great job as I figured he would. Some boys just 'get it' easily and understand what it means to lead as does this one. He knows what is needed, does what he can, sees when he needs help, and asks for support. And, he is rubbing off on to other scouts in his patrol.

Our quarterly Court of Honor was held last night. This is typically a smaller ceremony and we had 2 First Class, 1 Star, and 1 Life scouts receive their patches. Sometimes we have 5 or more scouts all receiving the same rank and it makes it much less personal. I really enjoyed having time to concentrate on the achievements of a single scout at a time and I think the ceremony was more meaningful.
Each of these scouts had taken longer than 'normal' to reach these ranks so it was great to have them accomplish this.

We also had an Eagle earn his Bronze Eagle Palm. He has been an Eagle for awhile but his ceremony was delayed and will be finally happening this Saturday. He's a great scout - very giving and supportive of others. And, his dad has been a huge asset to the troop for the past few years. Now, we have a few months to work on replacements for both his dad's role and his leadership.

So, these Courts of Honor are fun but also show that scouts move on and new scouts need to keep coming in to fill the void and make the troop their own.

Scout On!
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Posted: 16:49 12-13-2005 41
Missing an Outing
Well, there are some jokes around about how you can tell if you are spending too much time scouting. Tomorrow, the troop is going skiing for the weekend and I am not going because there are enough adults to drive already signed up. I feel just awful about missing an outing with the guys! Sure wish I was going!

I believe that the minimum required adults should go on an outing so that the chances of it truely being 'boy-led' are increased. Since I'm not really needed, I'll be staying home. There are a handful of new parents that have not done camping with us all summer that have signed up, so its important to get them into the program. I know it would be good for me to be there to show them the ropes, but I've already let the old goats that are going know I want them to teach the new guys.

My youngest son will be going on this skiing trip. That's actually a really good thing because he'll have an opportunity to lead his patrol without the scoutmaster dad around, and I'm sure he'll do just great. He tends to be my shadow on outings since this is his first year. I suppose in a year or so I'll never see him and miss him hanging around terribley, but that's a good thing to experience over time.

Anyway, on this outing both the SPL and ASPL will be absent so the patrol leader of the patrol that is organizing the outing has volunteered to be acting SPL for the weekend. What a great experience for him! At the Patrol Leader meeting this Monday, he took on the duties and is ready to give it a shot. Since this is just his 2nd year in Boys Scouts, it would be great to see - wish I was going! The biggest challenge will be to make sure the older scouts show him the respect and support he deserves for accepting the role. I've let the adults that are going know I would like them to keep an eye out and remind scouts as needed.

We've had reallly cold temps for the past week and the news says it should snow lightly all day on Saturday so it should be just a super time - wish I was going!

Now, I just have to figure out what to do at home all weekend while I'm waiting for Sunday to finally arrive so my son can tell me about his adventure.

Scout On! wish I was going.


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Posted: 23:37 12-08-2005 40
Scouting Service
A dozen scouts and 5 adults from the troop played bingo last night. Not a typical 'scout' outing was it?

But, we played at a senior assisted care facility along with about a dozen elderly residents. It was great to have 11 year olds interacting with 91 year olds for a couple hours. One of the Methods of Boy Scouts is 'Adult Association' because boys need contact with adults they can emulate. They really got to experience that last night.

One resident was deaf so a scout wrote down the numbers called out so this person could participate. That was very encouraging to watch and you could see the scout understanding that his job was important.

I got to meet a man that had been a boy scout during the Great Depression. He told about how he could not afford a uniform and how he attained First Class, but then had to drop out to work. He asked the scouts what merit badges they were working on and what ranks they were.

Another man said he was an adult leader of a troop about 40 years ago. There were around 20 scouts in the troop but he was pretty quiet and did not share much else.

I believe it was a good experience for the scouts to meet these men and understand that scouting has a life long impact. Someday, they will be grandpas and great-grandpas telling stories of their scouting adventures to little kids.

It was also a good evening to bring some companionship to a few of our neighbors, especially in this time before Christmas.

Scout On
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Posted: 12:26 12-07-2005 39
Scouting Nails
So, the troop now has a schedule for 18 months. Lots of exciting places to go, things to do, and skills to learn. Now comes the hard part.

How do you get 25 or 30 boys to a location 100 or more miles from home and back again for the weekend? Well, of course we need adults that will drive. And will use their vehicle. And have insurance. And will give up a weekend at home for a weekend in the woods. That all tends to whittle down the adults willing to support the troop.

Some people have to work on weekends. Others have commitments to teach Sunday School, fix the house, or watch younger kids. And still others need to run errands, walk the dog, or get their hair cut. Some people can always come up with something that prevents them from going on a campint trip without really admitting they just don't want to do it. It's much more efficient to be told that someone can not, does not, and will not camp - then I can spend time encouraging others instead.

In our troop, we are very fortunate to have a few highly active adults that recognize the value in participating in the outdoors program of Boy Scouts. These 4 or 5 adults attend about 80% of all our outings and have been invaluable in making the program happen, along with occasional participation from other adults. They are the nails that really build an adventurous and exciting year for the scouts out of all the events the scouts have planned.

I'm worried that some of the nails will get bent as they are used over and over. Unfortunately, we don't have a hardware store to easily buy more when needed. We have to start from scratch like the Blacksmithing at Philmont Scout Ranch. While we were there this summer, a staff member sat on a fence and it broke. He went into the shop and, starting with a rod of iron, crafted a big ol' nail and pounded it into the fence - good as new!

Every year, I get a few new iron rods delivered. Some of them fire right up and become strong nails in just a couple months - others sit in the fire for years and never do become a useful tool. I'm really hoping for some good iron this spring since it looks like a few old nails are wearing out.

Scout On.
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Posted: 18:23 12-06-2005 38
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
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