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Annual Adult Recap
I just held our troop's annual 'Adult Recap' meeting last weekend. This is the second year we've done it so it's not really a tradition yet - just an experiment.

I invite the registered adults (not all the parents) over for pizza and a short review of the past year and a look forward to the year ahead.
I have a page highlighting the program parts that went well last year. In this case, it included the Scout-o-rama, patrols organizing campouts, scout-planned high adventures, troop muster, and an exceptionally good Troop Guide.
Then, I have a page with the areas for improvement, either things that have degraded, did not live up to our expectations, or some way we can challenge the scouts to excel even more. In this case, it included accountability for leadership jobs, having more fun activities at troop meetings, and getting known in the community.
Finally, a page listing a few ways to help with the areas of improvement and a request for ideas for an overall better program.

We spend a little time letting the adults tell what they saw as positives from the past year and suggestions they have for the coming year.

This year, our recap happened right after the troop planning session led by the new SPL. So it worked out that I could share with the adults what the scouts had come up with for the troop schedule.

If we do it again next year, then I guess it's officially a troop tradition. :-)

Scout On
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Posted: 12:06 03-30-2007 135
Leader Training
Last weekend, the new SPL held our semi-annual Troop Planning and Leadership Training day. It's a long day, but a lot gets accomplished.

In the morning, the SPL, ASPL, Scribe, and patrol leaders meet to review the current 12-month schedule. They discuss any changes that are needed to dates, themes, and planning responsibilities. Each patrol is responsible for planning an outing and sometimes patrols swap events if the dates work better for the new patrol leaders.

After reviewing and accepting the current schedule, they tack on another 6 months worth of outings. Before this meeting, each patrol is given a brainstorming sheet to use to come up with their favorite ideas for outings. Their patrol leader is responsible to promote these ideas to the troop. Sometimes it works, sometimes its just one scout saying what he'd like to do, sometimes there's no input at all.

A challenge I gave the scouts this time was to come up with 'Adventure Themes' rather than activities. For example, one scout really wanted to ride horses. Instead of a horse riding campout, they've planned a 'Western Round-up' with horse riding, rope fusing & whipping, open fire cooking, lasso contest, and other cowboy stuff. They seemed to be more excited about it and I expect participation will be higher. They also came up with 'Amazing Race' road rally, 'Big Game Tracking', and 'Castle Caving'. The last one is just going on a cave tour while camping at a Webelos camp that turned an old barn with silos into a castle - they went there for skiing this winter and loved the castle. :-) So, sometimes, just a cool theme makes a big difference.

Around noon, after the schedule is laid out, the rest of the PLC team shows up for training. It takes about 4 hours, including 30 minutes for lunch. Each scout tells about his position and his goals for the 6-month term.
We cover Merit Badge and Advancement processes, new scout success strategies, how to lead games, how to lead meetings, and how to teach skills using EDGE.

I plan on asking a handful of Life scouts to run the Planning and Training sessions next time. We have some scouts that have been through it 3 times and even new activities each time don't freshen it up enough.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:59 03-29-2007 134
New Troop Leaders
Since troop elections two weeks ago, I've been too busy to keep in touch - sorry about that.

A new Senior Patrol Leader was elected and all other scouts filled out a form of which troop leadership positions they were interested in. I put those in a spreadsheet and gave it to the SPL. Separately, he and I came up with our selections for the positions and then compared. He did a great job choosing scouts that could succeed at the positions.

He and I also met for an hour for his initial training. That's always a fun time because the SPL realizes what he's gotten himself into. :-) There is a lot of responsibility in that job! We scheduled the leader training session and he contacted all his leadership team.

He met with the ASPL to discuss his duties and I was there but didn't need to add much at all. Now, both the SPL and ASPL are doing individual training with each scout leader that reports to them. Then, I will chat with each scout leader to ensure they understand their responsibilities.

Historically, we've had challenges ensuring scouts perform the duties of their positions. To help this happen, each scout is required to report his accomplishments to the SPL or ASPL at the 2, 4, and 6 month marks of his term. This catches lack of performance early enough to plan a correction.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:16 03-26-2007 133
Moccasin Project
The PLC decided it would be fun to make moccasins so scouts have them to wear in troop meetings and at summer camp.
One scout volunteered to gather the shoe sizes from all scouts that wanted to participate and get those to me. I ordered 25 kits from the local Tandy Leather shop and they are ready for tonight's troop meeting. The kits cost $12 and are pre-sized, pre-cut, pre-punched, pre-padded, and ready to sew together using the shoelace-like stitching included. It looks like a nice, simple project for a first attempt and for younger scouts.

Unfortunately, the kits only go up to size 10. Scouts with larger feet and those that just wanted more of a challenge could choose to make moccasins 'from scratch' for $8 instead of using a kit. We have 6 scouts going this route.
I bought a moccasin pattern from Tandy which only makes up to size 10 (kinda dumb) and had my wife 'super size it' on the copy machine at work to 105%, 110%, and 115% so it was approximately size 11, 12-13, and 14-15.
I bought suede leather, foam pad, leather lace, and glue. I also got two hole punches and two screw-on threading needles.
I drew the patterns onto the leather and cut out each scout's chunk - I figured this would save a lot of waste instead of having the scouts place pieces haphazardly. I also glued the foam pads for the feet onto the soles since it's pretty potent glue and takes an hour to set up - I figured that would be pretty boring watching glue dry at a troop meeting.
So, tonight the scouts get to cut out their pieces and hole-punch them, and then they are at the same starting point as the scouts that got kits. It's about an extra hour or 90 minutes of work for a pair.

We'll see how it goes tonight. We also have a batch of new scouts attending their first troop meeting so I got another 18 kits of smaller sizes in case they want to make a pair. We had no way to contact them beforehand since they are turning in their contact info tonight. The guys at Tandy were very helpful and said I can return unopened kits.

I'm looking forward to seeing lots of moccasins on feet soon and I hope this sparks some ideas for other troop projects.

Scout On
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Posted: 8:48 03-12-2007 132
More Snow Camping
Gee, I thought we did our snow camping for the year back in January, but nooooooo.

Last week, we accumulated another 18 inches of snow, and it was good, thick, packing snow, not that really light, fluffy, cold-of-winter snow. So, my youngest, Josh the First Class scout wants to build a snow hut. And, of course, what good is a snow hut unless you sleep in it?

So, Monday night, I was outside sleeping in a snowhut with the temperature at 3F degrees. But, we were toasty warm in our Cabela's Summit bags and the full moon and stars with no clouds were beautiful at 2:00am when I had to run inside to use the little boys' room.

But, there's really more to the story.
We have an exchange student, Igor from Brazil staying with us until June. He lives at 4 degrees south of the equator and said he'd always wanted to sleep in a snowhut. So, we actually were doing a 'Good Deed' by making the hut. He and my oldest, Kory the Life scout, slept out in it on Sunday night when it got down to 1F degree.
And, this isn't one of those little quinzees that you can barely wriggle into because you scraped all the snow together from a half acre lot into a pile slightly higher than your knee. This was 5 feet high and big enough inside for 4 people. We had 4 little candles in alcoves in the walls and enough headroom for me to sit up. This was practically a mansion.

But, tomorrow the temps start climbing and the forecast is for a massive melt-off over the weekend so this will probably be the last snow for the year.

If you want to see some pics, I slapped together Igor Was Here - luckily the domain name was available. :-)

Scout On
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Posted: 0:05 03-08-2007 131
Blasphemy Challenge
If you have never heard of Blasphemy Challenge, then just skip this blog entry.

I've had a few people email me asking if Boy Scout Trail supports Blasphemy Challenge like they mentioned in a press release and has been propagated around the web.

I made a response page at Blasphemy Challenge with the hope it gets picked up by the search engines and ranks well when people search for blasphemy challenge.

It is amazing how much effort people put into things just to stir the pot and irritate others. It's like spam - all that effort could really be used for something good if it wasn't being wasted on trash.

So, the bottom line is that Boy Scout Trail does not support Blasphemy Challenge.

Scout On
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Posted: 13:26 03-05-2007 130
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