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Scout Explosion
Since 2002, our troop has been gradually growing - from around 20 to 55 scouts. Throughout each year, some drop along the way, some age out, and then each spring we get an influx of new scouts. Pretty typical.

This year, 30 Webelos chose to join the troop - about double the average for the past few years. This has popped us up to 84 scouts.

Fortunately, I've been pushing to move from our cramped meeting area for awhile and we just got that to happen on March 1st. Now, we're overflowing this new, larger area already. :-)

Logistically, adding the new guys has gone very well:

But, my feeling is that a troop over 40 or 50 is less healthy and should become two troops:

Just this weekend, a patrol organized a "Bike Rally" campout for the troop. We had over 40 bikes congesting the 20 miles of trail at a local park. They did a great job of having patrols spaced 5 minutes apart so we weren't a huge mass, but I'm sure we disrupted the morning of quite a few people on the trail - much more than 20 bikes would have don.

I realize there are some very large troops that operate in a way that works for them. There are two troops using Troop Kit that have over 100 scouts. I would love to visit them and see how they have scouts manage the troop.

In my case, I believe a smaller group offers more opportunity to the scouts and allows them a better chance at ongoing success with less stress and frustration. By this time next year I expect to have a plan to divide the troop into two units. Since we have age-based patrols and multiple patrols at most age levels, the actual division is pretty easy. Getting families and the troop committee to support the change will be the challenge. It may be that someone else will be comfortable supporting a group this large and will take over the scoutmaster position. We'll see.

Until then, we've got an exciting summer of hiking, backpacking, sailing, and camping starting up and 50 scouts going to summer camp. It's an exciting time!

Scout On
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Posted: 7:18 04-21-2010 494
Catching Up
I hit the ground running when we returned from spring break in Switzerland and haven't put any time into posting here.
(this is us by Lausanne, Switzerland with France on the far side of Lake Geneva)

But, there's lots to share:

I'll get to those over the next few days. :-) But, right now, I have to get the YAMF (Yet Another Medical Form) onto the troop website. Yep, there's a new BSA medical form - a great, fill-in-able PDF file that was created by the National BSA for consistency and simplicity. You can save your info and just update it next year. What a great idea! See FAQ page for reasoning to make this new form - first one is to stop the confusion over the 20 plus different med forms being used across the country.

But, for some reason, our council has decided that official, national BSA form is not what they need so they've created YAMF just for our council.

How's that for some complicated simplification?

Scout On
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Posted: 8:00 04-20-2010 493
Historic Merit Badge Program
The official info is Finally available on Scouting.org page - let's do this thing already!

The final completion date is still December 31, 2010.

The page above has links to online info and requirements for each badge.

Scout On
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Posted: 18:22 03-31-2010 492
3-D Eagle Ceremony
We're having our first multiple-Eagle ceremony this afternoon. These three guys in the Sharks patrol have been together since Tiger Cubs and have all earned Eagle over the past six months, so they decided to combine their ceremonies.

They've got another patrolmate who's involved in theater for their MC and they have a theme of "Eagle in 3-D" since there's three of them and a play on all the 3-D movies being offered. It should be a fun time.

For the past few years, I've been carving fire pistons for scouts that reach Eagle. I carve the troop number on one side and their initials on the other, plus some sort of design. In this case, it's supposed to be waves since the Sharks are in the ocean, but maybe they look more like flames of fire, I don't know. :-)

Anyway, I just finished polishing and testing the pistons this morning after working on them all week - nothing like pushing it to the end. Luckily, the weather has been great so I've been in the sun on the front porch cutting away and remembering some of the fun we've had together.

When reviewed all at once, it's amazing how many adventuers an active scout can have. These guys will have traveled from the bottoms of oceans to the tops of mountains; from dessert heat to arctic cold; from urban congestion to wilderness isolation. It's an amazing collection of memories.

Thinking of their adventures, it reminded me how important it is to prompt the scouts planning our troop outings for next year to stretch their imaginations and not fall back on the old, trusty, safe activities. Those campouts and trips will not only make memories to enjoy years from now, but they will help make young men of character.

Scout On

(you can click the image for a larger view)
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Posted: 9:39 03-28-2010 491
BSA Centennial Coin - I Got Mine!
Just like waiting to get tickets for the big game, I was sitting here on my computer in line at 11:00am Central time for the USMint.gov to open the doors to the BSA commemorative coin vaults.

Right at 11:00am, the site came to a screeching stand-still. The "Add to Cart" button just started my little hourglass spinning and it just sat there. Then, I could get no pages to show up.
I can only assume that the other million BSA volunteers were all doing the same thing. :-)

But now, 24 minutes later, I got my Proof coins ordered! Those are the most expensive $1 dollars I've ever had. Well, I don't have them yet - I can only wait until they get delivered to see how they look.

With only 350,000 being minted, you should order yours today. I expect they won't last long. And, if they should run out before you get a chance to buy one, drop me a line - maybe we can work something out $$$$$$$$$$ :-)

It looks like you can also purchase the coins through ScoutStuff.org - the process is easier, but the shipping is higher.

Scout on
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Posted: 10:25 03-23-2010 490
The Scout conference
Just as the scouts learn outdoor skills, leadership skills, and life skills as they experience the adventure of scouting, Scoutmasters keep learning as they spend time in their "job".
Attrition has always been one of my personal concerns and each year I try to improve the troop's retention ratio. This year, I'm applying quite a bit of effort to the Scout conference - where a new scout earns his Scout badge.

Similar to the first step of a thousand mile journey, the Scout conference confirms that the scout is a member of the troop and part of the gang and starts him on his scouting trail. He's demonstrated that he is sincere in his interest to participate and follow the direction set by the Oath and Law. He's prepared to give it his best.

The new group of scouts that crossed over this past month all met on Monday. The newly elected SPL had chosen three Troop Guides. At the meeting, each Troop Guide stood in front and called out the names of the scouts in his patrol. Each group went outside and spent the next half hour playing "get to know you" games and talking about scouting. Guess what the scoutmaster did - chatted with the parents!

Since the scouts are doing such a great job of getting the new scouts moving ahead, I'm not needed much. By training the Troop Guides beforehand, they're ready to lead the guys. My time comes when the scouts set up a scoutmaster conference with me. We use TroopKit.com for our scheduling so new families get up and running pretty quick.

This past week, I've had eighteen Scout conferences, but ten of those were on last weekend's campout. The new guys are waaaay excited for the Court of Honor on Monday because that is when they will receive their patch, troop neckerchief and slide, troop numerals, and a special gift that's a surprise for now.

I did my best to welcome the guys to the troop, answer their questions, and listen to what they were hoping to experience in scouting. By the way, every one I asked has a Wii game system. :-)

By making sure the scouts and their parents know the door is open and a phone call is welcome, a scoutmaster sets the direction for open communication, caring, and community. The Scout conference sets the tone for that scouting family's experience in the troop, so it's a very important 20 minutes.

Scout On
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Posted: 23:36 03-19-2010 489
Even More Historic Merit Badges
Do you recall the post at Scouting Magazine that got everyone excited about the Historic Merit Badge program? Carpentry, Signaling, Tracking, and Pathfinding merit badges are being resurrected for 2010 only as a part of the centennial celebration - a great idea!

It's been a little more than two months since that post. In that time, the actual merit badge patches have become available at scout shops, scouts have become excited about participating and lost that enthusiasm, and I've yet to find anything official about the program. In our council, applications for merit badge counselors for those badges are not being accepted yet.

Today Scouting Magazine has posted an update, basically saying "any day now!" Sorry, but my skeptic side is showing today. See the post at Scouting magazine.

But, hey, I guess those badges are even more historic now than they were two months ago! There ya go.

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Posted: 14:57 03-17-2010 488
Spring has Sprung
Wahoo! We're going camping tomorrow!

There's still almost a foot of snow in most places, but the continual rain and above freezing temps the past few days have melted to grass in some places. That's spring as far as I'm concerned.

And, just now, I heard my first thunderclap of the year - at 8:30am on March 11 - that's got to be a record! That certainly means SPRING has arrived. Keep in mind, this is Minnesota, and March has historically been our snowiest month of the year. So, maybe I'm pushing things a bit - less than 3 weeks ago we had our Klondike Derby.

The scouts planned this campout to be GeoCaching and it will be the first outing for some of our newly crossed-over scouts. Should be a soggy, wonderful time.

Scout On
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Posted: 8:28 03-11-2010 487
Does Eagle Matter?
A couple guys at Baylor are getting almost $1,000,000 to find out. In two years, we'll hear if Scouting makes a difference in mens' lives and if Eagle Scout rank matters or not. Sounds like a fun job!

Read More

Scout On
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Posted: 12:16 03-04-2010 486
Life EDGE Requirement
I've been thinking about it, and I have a concern with this new requirement #6 for Life rank:

I love the idea of having higher-ranked scouts teaching lower ones and of using EDGE as a standard method of teaching. The interaction of scouts and the extra opportunity for younger advancement is great.

One of the listed skills that can be taught, for example, is Second Class #1-a:

So, the Star Scout gets a compass and a map and a Tenderfoot scout that has not yet learned this skill. He then explains the skill to be taught, demonstrates the skill, guides the Tenderfoot through the skill, and finally ensures the Tenderfoot is enabled to perform the skill all on his own.

Throughout this teaching, the scoutmaster should be watching that the EDGE method is being used. When the teaching is complete, the Tenderfoot would then demonstrate the skill to the scoutmaster to show he has learned it well enough.

Here's my concern ...
The scoutmaster should sign off on the Tenderfoot's advancement requirement since it was done to his satisfaction. Then, the scoutmaster signs off on the Life requirement, unless EDGE was not used or the Tenderfoot did not learn the skill.

This seems to push the "Learn It, Show It, Forget It" problem we're working to get past. In this scenario, the Tenderfoot may have seen a map and compass for the first time, parroted what the Star scout did, and got it signed off. In a day, or an hour, he may not remember how to orient a map.

The adults and Star, Life, and Eagle scouts in our troop teach skills to lower-ranked scouts. They often use EDGE. They sign off on T-2-1 scout skill requirements. But, they don't teach a skill and sign off at the same time. If a scout wants a 'demonstrate' advancement requirement signed off, instructing has been done earlier. The scout walks up, demonstrates, gets the sign off.

This new Life requirement seems to promote the teaching and signing off at the same time, which I've found to lessen retention. I'm still trying to work out the best way to handle this new requirement without adding to it, nor weakening the skill level of the scouts.

The best way I've come up with is interpreting "so that he is prepared to pass those requirements". Since it doesn't say "so that he passes those requirements", the scoutmaster might observe that the teaching was done and it appears that the Tenderfoot knows the skill good enough to get it signed off. But, he may not sign off right then, waiting for the Tenderfoot to demonstrate the skill at a later time. Letting the Tenderfoot know this is just a training time for him rather than a sign-off time might set expectations correctly.

Any constructive suggestions out there?

Scout On
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Posted: 12:01 03-04-2010 485
High Adventure Training
Philmont and Northern Tier require Wilderness First Aid certification in each crew. The American Red Cross has offered a course for this certification for a few years, developed by an ARC chapter in North Carolina. This spring, an entirely new, national ARC course titled Wilderness and Remote First Aid takes its place.

This new course has been developed in cooperation with the BSA and is based on our Wilderness First Aid Curriculum and Doctrine Guidelines - I bet you didn't know we had that, huh?

There's a flyer about the course Here.

It's 16 hours, like the previous course, but it should be less expensive, have more hands-on, and use consistent ARC materials. A few key differences about this new training:

This training is not JUST for Philmont and Northern Tier - every troop and pack should have people prepared to handle emergencies wherever they are. If it will take more than 20-30 minutes for an ambulance to reach you, these skills can be life-saving.

I'm really looking forward to presenting this new training to help keep Scouting safe!

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Posted: 9:26 02-26-2010 484
Thwarted Good Deed
Driving to church with the family this morning with an uncharacteristic amount of extra time to get there.
A couple blocks ahead, in the right turn lane onto the freeway from the 4-lane road we are on, there's an SUV sitting there with its emergency blinkers going, blocking access to the freeway.

I say, "Hey, should we see if they need help?" (with my hopes high of maybe getting to do a real good turn today).
Both wife and son say, "Sure!", so I pull up beside them on their left and ask my wife to roll down her window so we can ask what we can do. I notice there are two carseats with children in them in the back seat.

Just as we get beside the driver's window, he pulls forward and makes the right turn onto the freeway and off he goes - and the driver still talking on his cellphone!

I had to say a couple extra prayers of forgiveness for some of the thoughts I had toward the guy. :-) I guess he didn't have his Tech Chip yet.

Scout On
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Posted: 11:48 02-21-2010 483
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