I I expect if you are viewing this blog of mine you're involved in the Scouting world online and are already aware of Scoutmaster Clarke Green's blog. (That's him in the pic) He posts much more than I do - both quantitatively and qualitatively. That just means he posts good stuff often. :-) You really should bookmark his site!
I have to share a link to his most recent post in case one of the three folks that read my blog don't know of him yet. His thoughts on ways to improve the merit badge system, especially the Eagle-required badges, is nearly identical to what I'd like to see done. Please give him a read at this page and let me know what you think.
Giving scouts more opportunity to choose their own merit badges from categories of badges, rather than a long list of required badges, makes sense to me. It gives them ownership, flexibility, alignment to interests, and self-direction. It helps them define their path to Eagle and reduces competition between scouts to complete badges, focusing the scout on completing his own path.
One of the Leave No Trace principles to minimize impact is Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. One of the ways to interpret this is to stay on trails when hiking.
As you can see, that is a good idea not only to minimize impact but also to keep safe. I found his little friend of mine along the trail this morning while doing my daily hike. With the three cute little leafs, all shiny and green, he looks harmless enough. No prickly needles or scratchy thorns, but he can cause plenty of trouble if you touch him.
It's the urushiol in the poison ivy that causes skin irritation, more on some people than on others. By staying on the trail, keeping your eyes open, and paying attention to your surroundings, avoiding poison ivy isn't too difficult. When you go off trail, chances of running into it go way up. Actually, just off the trail is one of the best places for poison ivy to grow since it likes wood edges just like the side of a trail, road, or meadow.
It takes only a few minutes after contact with poison ivy for the urushiol to absorb into the skin, but it may take many hours for the itching, rash, and blisters to develop. Immediately washing off the contact area with soap and water is your best bet. Clothes that have contacted poison ivy should also be washed.
Poison Oak and Poison Sumac are also urushiol-producers and cause similar problems as poison ivy. Burning poison ivy is especially dangerous because inhaling the smoke can effect your lungs.
There's a troop here that advertises itself as "The Oldest Troop In Eden Prairie". Well, as of June, Troop 911 can call itself "The NEWEST Troop In Eden Prairie" since our charter was just (finally) signed, accepted, authorized, officially endorsed, and all that.
We have 5 scouts and 5 adults registered and will have a kick-off gathering this coming Sunday. It has taken much longer than I anticipated, but we're now ready to start Scouting!
We have an awesome facility provided by our charter organization which is Grace church - a huge place with classrooms, gym, and lots of property outside on which the scouts can play, explore, and learn. It is in the exact part of town that is not closely served by the other 5 troops. The staff have been very welcoming. There are close neighborhoods that should provide plenty of future scouts. It's an exciting time!
A few people have asked why I'm helping with a new troop. I was scoutmaster of a troop for 7 years. During that time, it grew from about 30 to over 79 scouts, due to what I feel was a program that followed the BSA recommendations, guidelines, rules, training, and structure. If I didn't know how something should be done, I would find out how rather than making something up. Just because it was done a certain way in the past, I checked to be sure that was the appropriate way to do it according to the BSA. A very caring, involved, and trained scoutmaster staff kept the program on track and supported the scouts in developing and running their troop.
As we approached 70 scouts, I made it clear that I felt a troop of that size was too large. The committee agreed that cloning off a second troop would be a good idea, and that meant I could not be one of the scoutmasters or no one would want to split. Two new scoutmasters were found and I stepped down, becoming a unit commissioner and offering a hand to other troops in the district. At the same time, the decision to divide the troop was changed so the troop remained large (don't ask me about that).
Well, unit commissioning did not fulfill my need for scouting. When my friend whom I worked with in the troop earlier let me know he wanted his son to be in a small troop, we looked into the requirements. We found this great charter organization, got a few of his son's buddies and another couple boys and started paperwork. He'll start off as scoutmaster and my role will be the troop committee chair, until someone else can be convinced that s/he would be much better at it than myself. It doesn't match my skill and interest set, but is critical to get the troop moving forward. I'll also provide training and outdoor skills as needed.
Since the scouts are all 6th graders that have never been in any pack or troop, our goal is to help them reach First Class by next March. Management of the parents should be easy since there is no Cub Scout parent mentality in place - we should be able to teach them the Boy Scouting way directly.
We chose Troop 911 because our hope is to have an emphasis on the safety aspects of Boy Scouts, and have that become part of our reputation. There are merit badges and awards dealing with safety, survival, and first aid. Over time, I think it would be great if the scouts would start a Safety Day for Cub Scouts to learn first aid and safety skills. It could expand to include any youth in the community. The troop may even help out with Community Emergengy Response Team (CERT) drills, man first aid stations at community events, and provide other helpful service to the community once their reputation spreads. There is an amazing Scouting group in Texas called NBOSTT that does massive amounts of training for the scouting community there.
The BSA membership resolution has passed today. See the BSA statement for details.
Over the next 6 months, I expect we'll see changes to logistics policies and training, especially Youth Protection. As those changes are being planned, designed, and implemented, all of us Scouting volunteers can continue the program we've promised boys in our communities.
For myself, my plan includes starting a new troop in town. We have 5 scouts and adults signed up and will start meeting in a couple weeks. Now that the membership policy is in place, I will be contacting families of scouts that have dropped after Webelos or first year in Boy Scouts to see if they'd like to give a small troop a try.
I'm excited to help a friend with a 6th grade son introduce him and his buddies to Scouting. I look forward to starting with a small group and helping the scouts grow into leaders able to run their own troop and add more boys that they want to hang out with. And, most of all, I'm ready to get back to silly skits, off-key singing, and nearly edible meals.
Starting from scratch will be a new experience for me. Helping boys with no scouting experience become a troop and understand that they really are in charge should be a lot of fun. I'll tell you more about the troop as we move ahead with open doors and high hopes.
Since the Scouting Pen Pals feature was added to Boy Scout Trail last summer, there have been 218 units sign up! Messages are flying back and forth from USA to UK, and Canada to Africa. There's lots of room for more scouts to find pen pals.
You can see the most recent units to sign up, and add your own unit. Dens around the country have been exchanging emails, letters, and packages with new friends around the world. It's an easy and safe way to get connected with other scouts, and learn more about scouting where they live.
Hey, a funny thing happened to my on the way to celebrating the 1,000 Likes of Boy Scout Trail on Facebook.
I used random.org to select a number between 1 and 29 which is how many people commented on the 1,000 Likes blog post. The lucky winner was Cory W. so I checked over on Facebook.com to see if he liked Boy Scout Trail. Yep, looks good. So, I sent him an email letting him know he had a week to reply with his address. Wait, wait, wait,... no reply.
I sent him another email saying another winner would be chosen. Then I went through the random number, find winner, check Facebook, send email. Bingo! Right away, Melissa B. replied - at the same time I got an email from Cory including a message he had sent me a week ago with his mailing address!
Sometimes I just hate the Internet. :-(
So, the double prize winners of the 1,000 Likes on Facebook celebration are Cory W. from Ohio and Mellisa B. from Kentucky. Their $25 Scout Shop gift cards went out in the mail today. Thanks for playing, using Boy Scout Trail, and letting others know about this resource.
I think we should try again at 2,000 Likes. The more people that use the site, the more fun things we can do, so please consider telling your online friends.
PS: If you run into a lost email message out there from Cory to me, please send it on its way. It's out there somewhere!
A revision to the BSA Guide to Safe Scouting is out this month, with one very important clarification for Cub Scout dens. Cubmasters and den leaders make note of this!
Tigers and Wolfs may not use knives during Scouting activities. Bear scouts and Webelos are allowed to use knives, but should be given proper and thorough training before receiving that privilege. The Whittling Chip is a good start for knife training.
So, if your Pack has been letting Tigers or Wolfs whittle away, it's time to stop. I'm sure many first and second grade boys you know can handle a knife just fine - I had my own when I was that age. But, while Scouting, follow the Scouting guidelines and keep everyone safe. Review Age-appropriate Activities on scouting.org for a chart of what's cool to do at each level of Scouting.
It's the unit leader's responsibility to know, understand, and follow the BSA safety guidelines. Give copies of the BSA Commitment to Safety to all your unit volunteers, get them trained, and enjoy Scouting.
How does a Boy Scout make a fire with two sticks: Make sure one is a match.
We are supposed to be good at many outdoor skills, one of which is fire starting. It is just a Scouting thing. In reality, I have not met many scouts that can start a fire readily - in good weather, let alone rain or dampness. Even when training with Scouters, it is rare that one will volunteer to lay and light the fire, prefering to give someone else the opportunity to show off.
This is one of those very few things that I have learned in Scouting that totally confuses me. I LOVE fire - making fires, lighting fires, and burning stuff. I like tossing armfuls of leafs on a fire to make a huge cloud of smoke. I like making fire with bow drills, fire pistons, magnifying glass, flint-n-steel, and any other primitive way I hear about. I like flicking a Bic just as well. I enjoy keeping the smallest of flames alive, as well as a roaring bonfire. I get a kick out of bringing seemingly dead ash back to life. But, I'm afraid, I'm a minority - maybe that's a good thing.
When I became a scoutmaster, I was surprised by the lack of skill and interest in firecraft. Sure, the scouts like to poke fires with sticks and play around, but few were capable of, or interested in, getting a fire going.
Observing scouts for years, I've discovered these fire fails. Keep them in mind and maybe your scouts will be more successful in their flamboyant conflagrations:
Fire is a Mystery - When someone does not understand how a fire works, he can't make one. The Fire Triangle describes what is necessary for a fire.
Fuel - wood, gas, wax, any flammable material is fuel, but we use wood.
Air - a fire needs to breath. Without air reaching the fuel, the fire smothers.
Heat - the fuel and air combust with heat. The initial heat to start the fire usually comes from friction but could be solar or pressure instead.
If any part of the Fire Triangle is removed, the fire dies. This is the bane of a firecrafting Boy Scout.
Two Big Sticks - A fire needs to start small and grow. Start with tiny slivers of fuel and add gradually larger pieces. Often, a scout will make a small pile of big sticks and go through a box of matches trying to make one catch. Air is missing - there is not enough fuel exposed to air.
The Plateau Lay - Yes, I know you've not heard of the plateau fire lay. That's because it doesn't work very well. But, sticks laid on the ground - even nice, dry, slivers of fuel - do not make a fire. Many times, I've seen a scout light a twig and watch it burn out, wondering why it did not catch those twigs around it. Then, he'll light the next twig, and so on until he's out of matches. There's fuel and air, but no heat - all the heat went up into the sky rather than into the fuel laying around it.
Poof - The scout shaves some slivers, makes a nice pile, and lights it. Success! Then, he drops a large piece of wood on and smothers it.
ReDo - Flames quickly leap from the prepared fuel and the scout admires his work. When the flames begin to ebb, he realizes he needs more wood. While he's off gathering more twigs, it goes out and he's back to square one.
Fire making certainly is a mixture of art and science. It's a skill that, once mastered, can serve a scout his entire life. In any situation, he may very well be the only one knowledgeable and comfortable with quickly, safely, and consistently creating fire for heat, cooking, or just entertainment.
Fortunately, a couple years ago, a scout joined the troop with a spark in his eye. He kindled that spark into many a fire - campfire in dry summer, fire for hobo dinners in wet spring, and early morning breakfast fire in 18 inches of snow in dead of winter. Matthew made fires himself. He gathered and prepped the wood, laid the fire, and brought it to life with no help. He renewed my faith that there is still hope for a fire-cooked meal, s'mores, and campfire stories.
Hey, there's a lot going on today, but this is much more important and I just had to share. I love Physics. I love Oreos. I love Portland, Oregon. I love inventors. I love dry humor.
And, this video has it all!
I ALWAYS unscrew my oreos, but I like both the creme and the crunch. How about you? What's the proper way to eat an oreo?
This project could be an idea for lots of merit badges - Art, Electronics, Engineering, Inventing, Metalwork, Robotics, and Welding at least. Today is your last chance to enter this month's give-away on Contest page. And, don't forget to comment on the 1,000 Likes post for a chance to win a $25 Scout Shop card.
It's not so bad when you're right by the cars on a weekend campout, but if your food is lost while deep in the backcountry on a high adventure, you can be in big trouble. With a couple days hiking between your crew and the nearest trailhead, running out of food probably won't kill you, but it's a big step in that direction. What? How can a group LOSE their food? - you might ask.
Water - Rain and crackers don't mix well. Dropping a food bag into a lake or stream can ruin unprotected items. Fortunately, this is easy and light to prevent. Repackage everything into zip-loc bags. This reduces packaging weight and keeps everything safe from moisture. Putting multiple small bags into a larger 2.5 gallon zip-loc increases the protection. It also provides easy garbage storage.
Dirt - When you drop your ritz cracker with honey on it, you know which side will hit the ground! You can blow dirt off many items, but not all. Being careful when opening packages, passing bowls, and stirring pots is the best protection against dropping and spilling food. No one's going to want those ramen noodles after you tip the cookpot over, are they? There's not much concern about dirt getting into food while hiking, but spilling food at camp is a common problem.
Stupidity - The food is forgotten in the car, along the trail, or at the previous campsite. By just not paying attention and double-checking yourself, you can forget your food. Yes, I have seen it happen!
Animals - Critters are opportunists. Anything that smells interesting gets investigated. And, they can find the smallest bits hidden far out of sight so sleeping with your food isn't a great idea. The most common stealers are mice, chipmunks, raccoons, other rodents and birds. Bears generally stay away from people, unless they've been habituated - learned to associate people with easy food. In those popular locations with problem bears, special regulations are in place for visitors which often includes use of bear-proof cannisters. Whether it's bears or mini-bears (rodents) that are the concern, protecting food is handled in a similar manner. Storing it in a smell-resistant bag and hanging it out of reach keeps it safe.
If bears aren't a concern, as when I hiked the Arizona Trail, there are wire mesh food bags available that mini-bears can't chew through, like OutSak.
For those times when you need to hang, I've found the PCT Method (just google it) to be the best if there are large trees around. Along the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota, I could often only find small trees and came up with my own way of hanging so the food is high enough and away from the tree.
Throw rope with carabiner on end over high branch.
Clip food bag to carabiner.
Lift carabiner and food bag as high up the rope as possible and loop rope through carabiner so it doesn't slide.Walk the other end of the rope away from the tree to move the bag out from the tree.
Tie rope to another tree as high up as I can reach.
This puts the food bag well over 10 feet up since I can reach up 8 feet. Well, at least I didn't lose any food!
But, here's something new and interesting... A couple guys at University of Wisconsin in Stout, WI have designed a new product for hanging food bags. It's supposed to be simple to use and secure from pesky food stealers.
They made this video demonstrating how to use it. Unforatunately, there aren't any close-ups of the device or explanation on how it works. So, take a look and let us all know what you think - innovation or not?
Win $25 because Boy Scout Trail hit 1,000 likes on Facebook this week! That means for every person that likes Boy Scout Trail, about 41,000 people like Sponge Bob Square Pants. :-) But, hey, it's a start.
To celebrate, I'm giving a $25 Scout Shop gift card to a random one of those Likers. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post AND be in the list of people that like Boy Scout Trail on FB before the end of February. That's a week to give folks a chance to enter. One will be randomly chosen and I'll contact you at the email address you leave in your comment.
So, if you already LIKE Boy Scout Trail, just leave a comment below. If you're not sure, then Click Here to go to FB and LIKE away, and leave a comment below.
One of the things I like about Scouting is how the entire program from Tigers (or Lions now) to Eagles gradually provides age-appropriate opportunities for growth in the areas of character, citizenship, and fitness. One of the many tightropes a scout volunteer leader, such as den leader, cubmaster, and scoutmaster, needs to walk is balancing the appropriateness of activities and tasks.
For example, camping at the Cub Scout level happens in frontcountry settings and includes a parent or guardian for each scout while Boy Scouts have just a couple leaders and can explore into the wilderness as scout skills progress. Earlier experiences are small and manageable, and lay a foundation for more challenging later adventures.
Leadership is a core part of the scouting experience and all scouts should be offered opportunity to lead at all levels of scouting. The Denner role is a wonderful means by which individual scouts experience small doses of leadership, and the power, responsibility, and frustration that can come from it.
Every den should use the Denner position. The denner is a den member that has been selected to the position for a short time. This is usually a month or two so he can participate in this role multiple times. It's important that the den participate in the choosing of the denner, but selections can be handled different ways based on the age of scouts. Tiger and Wolf scouts may choose which scout will be the denner to fill a list of months. Bears may elect the next denner with a show of hands. Webelos could have a secret ballot election. If the den leader just assigns the job, it takes ownership away from the scouts. To ensure all scouts get a time as denner, den leaders should stipulate that no scout can be selected twice until all scouts have been denner once.
The denner wears the gold double-cord denner braid looped over his left shoulder while in the position. Many dens pass this braid on to the next denner. Past denners sometimes keep the gold tab portion to wear on their blue Cub Scout uniform to signify they have been a denner.
The denner duties are defined by the den leader. They should be appropriate for the age of the den and should be supplemental to the duties of the den chief, if one is used. The den chief and denner may work closely together which makes both jobs more rewarding. Some typical denner duties include:
Plan to arrive 10 minutes early to den meetings and stay 10 minutes after to help set up and clean up.
Wear the denner braid.
Bring a den snack.
Welcome scouts to the meeting.
Call den meeting to order using the sign.
Lead the den in a n opening ceremony.
Lead a song.
Help den leader with passing out supplies.
Prepare a joke or story to tell.
Prepare a game to play.
Help with uniform inspections.
Select teams or groups for activities and games.
Help den leader keep order as asked.
Asking a Tiger scout to do all these things is probably too much. As scouts become accustomed to doing small bits of leading, more responsibility is given to them. By the time a scout has advanced to Webelos rank, he may take on even more leadership such as leading ceremonies and organizing a den hike.
By using the denner role, a den leader helps prepare scouts for Boy Scout positions of responsibility, such as Patrol Leader and Senior Patrol Leader. Both of these positions build on the rsponsibility of leadership they were introduced to in Cub Scouts.