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Day 8
100 days of scouting Day 8: Contacted the last den leaders about Webelos cross-overs. Finally have the 'firm' numbers and commitments. The SPL has asked for volunteers to attend the cross-over ceremonies and welcome the new scouts. There's a couple scouts assigned to each of the three ceremonies, so we're ready there.

Printed out the information sheets we give to new scouts - youth app, adult app, welcome letter, survival guide, year's schedule, everything to get them up and running quickly.

Went through the scout handbooks of a couple transfer scouts and entered the data into Troopmaster. Now, there's a fun way to spend 1/2 hour of your life. :-)

Finally, hooked up a couple more instructors for the district's Intro to Leadership Skills training this spring.

I'm curious what you do when welcoming a new scout to your troop.

We used to have scouts welcome him at his cross-over by replacing the neckerchief and blue shoulder loops with the troop's custom neckerchief, slide, and green loops. Then, he'd be given troop numerals, scout handbook, binder of information, and pointed over to me so I could welcome him and his parents too.
We've had some scouts never show up after that, so it has changed.
Now, they don't get the custom neckerchief, slide, and troop numerals at cross-over. At the first troop meeting after they complete their "Joining" requirements, the troop does a simple ceremony where these items are presented by the SPL and the new scout is a 'member'.

That saves on lost items and gives incentive to get moving on advancement. It also makes the cross-over faster and less confusing and introduces each new scout once again to the troop later on. The new scout gets his scout handbook right away which he needs to get started, and the green loops show he's a boy scout.

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Posted: 21:30 02-15-2011 569
Day 7
100 days of scouting Day 7: Our troop is considering dividing into two troops. We've discussed it for the past year and are now in the decision-making stages since I've announced I'll be done as scoutmaster in the fall. We have two excellent scoutmaster candidates lined up, facilities in which to meet, about 70 families to divide, and 8 months to get it done. It's an exciting time.

This afternoon, I chatted with one of the scoutmaster candidates to start sharing all my information, files, tasks, and 'stuff'. I chatted with the other one last week.

We had a troop committee meeting specifically for parents to discuss the split, followed immediately by a troop meeting. The scouts elected a new SPL to start on April 1 for a 6-month term. Now, I get to start training him and helping him choose his leadership team and schedule Troop Leader Training.

We also had Order of the Arrow elections. The scouts in this troop have historically been very stingy with these elections. They proved that again last night by electing only 1 scout out of 14 eligible candidates. I did not hear the introduction to the voting so I'm not sure how the stage was set, but I need to ask about it.

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Posted: 8:31 02-15-2011 568
Don't You Dare Forget
100 days of scouting Day 6: I spent most of my afternoon in a district annual planning meeting, representing Training. It wasn't much fun really, but important work to figure out when we'll have Camporee, Klondike, Pinewood Derby, Scoutmaster and Cubmaster training, Outdoor Leader Skills, OA events, Eagle Previews, and the dozens of other things that go on each year.

Oh, and I baked cookies to take to the meeting and took a bag of wooden neckerchief slide blanks from Whittler Bob so everyone there could take one home to carve.

Tomorrow night, I've got troop meetings. Yes, I know it's Valentine's Day - that's why I brought flowers home today! And, I was pretty darn proud of myself too.

So, don't you dare forget your Valentine tomorrow!

Scout On
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Posted: 21:54 02-13-2011 567
Ever Notice?
Did you ever notice how much a BSA troop flag looks like a Campbell's soup label? Why's that? Coincidence or conspiracy? Hmmmm, I wonder.

Another thing that's interesting. Look closely at those little gold stars around the bottom of the soup can label. They aren't really stars - they are fleur-de-lis. Another BSA/Campbell's connection. Hmmmmm, I wonder.

Finally, one other point to ponder. The diameter of the top of a Campbell's soup can is precisely the same as the height of a scout rank patch. A scout can clean a soup can and store all his previous rank patches in it forever! Hmmmmm, I wonder.

100 days of scouting Day 5: Set up two scoutmaster conferences, had a nice chat with an ASM, informed one emailer that the 'Popcorn Kernel' patch was not an official BSA position and another that Bugling and Music are still separate merit badges.

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Posted: 18:00 02-12-2011 566
Day 4
100 days of scouting Contacted Webelos den leaders about scouts crossing-over this month and to see if anyone would benefit from a rah-rah chat about Boy Scouting.

Emailed some other scoutmasters about training scheduled this spring.

And, voted for Garr for the American Spirit Award over at Boys' Life.

Now it's Friday evening and time to get away from this internet for awhile. :-)

If any other scouting bloggers want to use the numerals, they are at[xx].jpg - replace [xx] with 01, 02, 03, ..., 98, 99

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Posted: 18:27 02-11-2011 565
Day 3
100 days of scouting Day 3: Wrote two letters of recommendation for Eagle scouts for scholarships. Our council has an Eagle scholarship as does NESA and other organizations. This is one instance where achieving that rank does pay off.

If any other scouting bloggers want to use the numerals, they are at[xx].jpg - replace [xx] with 01, 02, 03, ..., 98, 99

I received my Leave No Trace membership packet in the mail today from I keep my membership up since I present their workshops and training sessions. The package included a cool member's t-shirt but I gave that to my son and said he could count it as his birthday present. I don't think it will work.

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Posted: 17:07 02-10-2011 564
Day 1 & 2
I'm starting a day late, but "100 Days of Scouting" wagon's moving slow enough I figure I can climb on.

100 days of scouting Day 1: Had two scoutmaster conferences in the afternoon. One was with a neighbor Webelos scout fulfilling his Arrow of Light requirements and thinking of joining our troop. In the evening, I visited another Webelos scout for his Arrow of Light and then chatted with a Webelos den about Boy Scouts.
Man, LOTS of enthusiasm in those 10 year olds! :-) We have 5 packs in the area and they all have scouts joining different troops.

100 days of scouting Day 2: Spent an hour with a Tenderfoot scout watching him carry, sharpen, and use a knife, axe, and saw. Then, he built a fire and demonstrated a backpacking stove. All the time, we also had his scoutmaster conference so he just needs to get his Board of Review for 2nd Class.
I'm also working on a letter of recommendation for an Eagle Scout applying for scholarships. Really easy to write this one for such a great scout!

If any other scouting bloggers want to use the numerals, they are at[xx].jpg - replace [xx] with 01, 02, 03, ..., 98, 99

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Posted: 23:03 02-09-2011 563
Reaching Eagle
Eagle Rank
It's often the goal of a scout (and/or his parents) that he "get his Eagle". That's the way I most often hear it phrased - "getting" his Eagle. Earning, achieving, and completing aren't used much - it's "getting". When it comes up in conversation, I usually offer my view of advancement as, "a method we use to help scouts reach goals, but not a goal itself." I think that fits with the BSA program pretty well. I don't push scouts very much on advancement, but the troop has a program that provides opportunity to advance quickly.

Advancement is the most visible way we have in scouting to measure a scout's progress. It provides tangible recognition for achieving standard requirements. It allows peers to compare themselves. It requires effort and results. But, since advancement is a method and not a goal (or Aim), it really does not amount to success. A scout can be a model of a fit citizen of high character and never advance past First Class. It's important to keep that in mind when encouraging scouts to advance in rank.

But, since "getting" Eagle is on the minds of many people, I made a simple chart for a scout (and his parents) to see how he is progressing through ranks toward that goal of his. The 'Optimal Path' gets a scout to Eagle in time for him to give back to the troop with no pressure of advancing for a couple years. The 'Slow Progress' area means he's going to need to step it up to make it. I think 'Eagle Out of Reach' probably needs no explanation. A scout can check on progress at a glance and alter his plan as he feels is needed. Click the image to see a larger view.

The majority of scouts in our troop experience advancement fairly close to the orange line with a couple bumping against the green line. Motivated boys could join a troop at the end of their 9th grade year and earn Eagle rank. If they start after their 16th birthday, there's not much chance of progressing through all the ranks in time.

I think it would be a fun experience to have a 15 year old boy join the troop and earnestly go for his Eagle. Have you ever had that happen? Did he make it?

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Posted: 17:03 02-01-2011 562
Expertise, Sense, and Knowledge
They tell me BSA doesn't stand for "Baby Sitters of America" but, much like a trusted babysitter, adult volunteers do take on the responsibility of keeping youth safe. Their parents expect us to have expertise, sense, and knowledge enough to return the same number of scouts we started with, in pretty much the same condition. I feel that is a reasonable expectation, don't you?

So, how do we know how to keep our scouts safe?
boy scout expertise Expertise comes from experience. You need to actually do stuff in order to be an expert at it. How do you know if a scout is using a knife, stove, rope, or other gear safely unless you are experienced with using it? You don't! You have to actually use the gear yourself first. You can't evaluate the fit and security of hiking boots, backpacks, climbing ropes, life jackets, ... by just reading about it. You can't hike 50 miles, ski a black diamond, or do a one-arm handstand without the experience of building skills to an expert level. We need to continually expand our skills and abilities in order to offer an exciting, safe program for scouts.

boy scout common sense Sense develops from experience also. Normally, a more mature person makes more careful decisions - this is termed 'common sense'. Boys the age of scouts often don't think things through before making a decision, taking a step, or a flying leap. As adult volunteers, we need to keep a wide-lens view of our activities and step through all the things that might go wrong in our mind before actually trying them for real.

I try to ask myself, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" If it's not a serious injury, I get ready to help if needed and see how it plays out. In my sense of safety, climbing trees, crossing streams, swinging from ropes, playing with sticks, throwing small rocks can be done safely. I know all those things could result in serious injury, but so can standing up in a bathtub or walking down your stairs. It is a remote chance. Other activities, such as climbing on the roof, swimming in rapids, and walking the yellow line down the middle of the highway have a higher chance of injury so I would use my sense and say, "Nope!"

boy scout knowledge Knowledge can be obtained many different ways. Experiencing actual situations provides knowledge, but that's not the best way to know how to splint a sprained joint or tie a climber into a harness. We can all increase our knowledge through Training so we know what to do even though we have no experience. I know how to do CPR even though I've never done it on anyone. I was trained on climbing knots before I actually used them. I know 'theoretically' about many things that could happen but have not happened yet and most likely never will.

Maintaining a sense of safety while expanding a base of knowledge from training into expertise through practice is a great way to prepare to keep the youth you take out on adventures safe from harm. From their point of view, it's all still dangerous and exciting. From your point of view, it's all under control. And, from the parents' point of view, you are adequately prepared to fufill their expectations.

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Posted: 23:33 01-28-2011 561
Snow Fun
scout snow shelter This was the perfect weekend for tons of snow fun! The snow pack has been building for the past month or so and we finally had plenty to build quinzees with snow to spare. The temperature ranged from 10F down to -15F during our campout.
In past outings, the snow depth was not enough to cut blocks, but this year I finally got to complete my snow block shelter and here it is. I still needed to finish the door at this point.

Not like an igloo which requires larger blocks tapered and banked, this hut has vertical walls with the last few layers starting to lean in. It then has rows of two blocks leaning together at the top to make a vaulted ceiling. This uses less snow than a quinzee and I think it is less work and more fun. Certainly more room inside. I shoveled snow all over it to fill the cracks.

Friday night, I slept in it before the roof was put on. Saturday night, two scouts borrowed it since their shelter collapsed while they were digging it out. That's their story anyway and they're sticking to it. :-)

Most of the experienced scouts are skilled in making quinzees, but I'm hoping next year some of them might try a block house since there were some interested observers. If nothing else, they enjoyed smashing it on Sunday.

In all, the scouts built 8 quinzees and 14 scouts slept out - the rest opted for the indoor shelter.

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Posted: 0:22 01-26-2011 560
Top 10 Benefits of Small Troops
boy scout troop size The BSA says that the average Boy Scout troop size is 14 scouts. Lord Baden-Powell is attributed with stating the optimum troop size to be around 32 scouts. Depending on what other activities are available for boys in your area, I believe that number of 32 is close to optimum today. If your scouts tend to participate in half your activities and meetings, then the number could climb to about 50 scouts. More than that and the value to an individual scout from scouting diminishes rapidly and the efforts required of volunteers rises disproportionately. The picture at the right is of a 14-member troop and a 50-member troop - which one looks more fun?

Here are 10 Benefits of smaller troops (15-45 scouts) over larger ones (60+ scouts):
  1. Hunger - By being smaller, there is a desire to grow. Scouts have a reason to invite their friends to join. If it already feels crowded and 'full', scouts don't want to grow. The current scouts are also less welcoming to new scouts joining the troop because it means more crowding. More potential scouts are never asked to join.
  2. Success - With 40 scouts, the SPL has about 5 or 6 patrols to direct - a reasonable number. He can personally drive the troop to his goals. When an SPL must manage 8 or 10 patrols, the amount of time required becomes exhorbitant. His scouting competes with his schoolwork and his role becomes a job. This results in no scouts willing to take on the huge time commitment or adults taking on more of the logistics and the SPL becoming a figurehead.
  3. Mob Anonymity - Chaos thrives in larger numbers. I can get away with more bad behavior when no one can see me. I can go along with others when I'm just one of the herd. A smaller group allows the leaders to notice who is doing what, good or bad. It allows a scout to excel and be noticed, rather than do his best time after time and not be recognized in the crowd. When the SPL raises the sign, it takes a larger group longer to quiet, raising the frustration level and wasting time.
  4. Making a Difference - One scout out of 75 not pulling his weight can be absorbed by the rest and he can coast. In a group of 20, every person is important and needs to be relied upon. A larger troop meets the needs of lazy boys that want to just slide by.
  5. Time Commitment - There is a certain amount of time required of the scoutmaster to develop a relationship with a scout. It takes the scoutmaster 10 minutes to just say "HI" and shake hands with each scout if there are 50 scouts present. With more scouts, the relationships do not develop. Studies have shown that an individual can only handle a certain number of friends and acquaintances - and Facebook friends are not really friends.
  6. Camping - It is much easier to find a location for 3 vehicles and 15 people than 10 vehicles and 50 people. Leave No Trace suffers with larger numbers. Patrols tend to camp much closer together to each other and to adults in larger troops. The probability of actually experiencing any wildlife drops rapidly as a group grows.
  7. Challenge - Only one person can be first to ride the rapids or swing on a rope or shoot a gun or whatever the exciting thing is to do. With a larger group, people have to wait their turn longer and the thrill of something new evaporates as we see others doing it before us.
  8. Efficiency - The inefficiency of the patrol method becomes more obvious as a troop grows. It makes more sense to combine patrols, buy and cook food for everyone, have one adult manage the gear, and hundreds of other ways to make an outing more efficient. The leadership opportunities for scouts are reduced in proportion to the efficiency introduced by adults.
  9. Tardiness - A parent will occasionally be late picking up a scout from a meeting. If a family is late once a year, that seems like no big deal to the family. But, if every family is late once a year in a troop with 60 scouts, the scoutmaster and another adult wind up waiting after EVERY meeting. The same holds for camping departures and returns.
  10. Consistency - A scoutmaster with a handful of assistants can easily chat about challenges in the troop, intepretation of requirements, goals for the scouts, and other general directions for the troop. As more adults are involved, individuals promote their own agendas, interpretations, and values which may be contrary to the overall troop's direction. More formal meetings are required for the adults to ensure everyone agrees to the same goals. Even after a general consensus, individuals may still do their own thing in a rogue manner. In a large troop, the scoutmaster can become a manager of adults to whom he has distributed the direct scout interaction, rather than being a role model, mentor, and friend to the scouts.

What did I miss?

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Posted: 10:50 01-25-2011 559
A Hero
Boy Scout Hero So, what do you do when someone runs their car into yours while you're driving your mom around?

Well, if you're Justin Jackson of Troop 797 in Florida, you follow the Scout Oath and "help other people at all times" and in the process earn the BSA's highest lifesaving award - the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms.
Congratulations, Justin!


In 2009, there were 16 Honor Medals with Crossed Palms awarded and just over 230 since it was created in 1924.

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Posted: 8:54 01-17-2011 558
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