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25th Anniversary
Our troop just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Last fall, a scout wanted a leadership position to advance to Life but all the regular spots were assigned by the new SPL.

So, I got to use the "Scoutmaster assigned leadership project" clause in the advancement requirements. This scout took on the task of organizing the anniversary party while working with an adult volunteer. He found the location, ran a contest for the scouts to design a patch, developed an agenda, and organized the food and activities. About 7 months later, the party was a big success!

The scout did a lot of behind-the-scenes work, but he also got to speak in front of the entire troop a few times. I feel it was a great opportunity for the scout to practice planning and organizing before his Eagle project.

We wound up having a simple but fun lunch of sub sandwiches, ice cream in a rented cart from Culver's, soda, and chips.
We rented three inflatable structures - an obstacle course, bouncing cage, and bungee stretch. They were kept busy the entire 3 hours.
Each patrol organized a game or activity.
We invited Webelos too, but the local Packs already had their picnics planned for the same day.
This was a party and all family members as well as past troop members were invited. There was not really much 'scouting' involved. A few demonstrations or competitions of scouting skills would be an area to add next time, I think.

If your troop is coming up on a 5, 10, ... 75, or 100 year anniversary, don't let your troop committee define the celebration - use it as an opportunity for leadership for a scout or two.

Scout On
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Posted: 10:29 05-30-2007 149
Hiking and Backpacking
We have eight scouts preparing for a 5-day backpacking trek in July. On Monday we met for some skills review. The scout that presented stove use did a great job other than turning on the gas 'before' lighting the match and leaning over the top of the stove to reach the gas valve on the far side. :-) That's the only time I intervened.

We're busy doing practice hikes and getting used to carrying backpacks. Each scout is doing the Hiking merit badge and a couple are also taking on the Backpacking m.b.

The first scout to make a trip plan for a hike used Google and mapped out our route and then saved it as a JPG image and emailed it to everyone. Pretty darn cool! It was 10.3 miles and everyone got to lead part of the way and get 1 of their 5 10-mile hikes completed.

I've added a couple PDFs to the Hiking and Backpacking merit badge pages for a Trip Plan, Time Control Plan, and Backcountry Injury Report. This might be helpful for scouts working on those merit badges.

Scout On
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Posted: 10:50 05-24-2007 148
Scout Advancement Videos
Check out the Boy Scout Advancement videos on the official BSA site.

There's some pretty good insight into the direction BSA is going with the program components. The videos are big downloads and need Quicktime.

Scout On
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Posted: 23:57 05-22-2007 147
High Adventure Directory
Looking for a new adventure? There are about 80 programs listed in the online Council High Adventure Directory segregated by state or region.

If your troop is looking for something new to try next summer, check out these programs including canoeing, backpacking, caving, horseback riding, sailing, whitewater, mountain biking, and rock climbing.
The directory lists all council-operated high-adventure trekking programs that span at least five nights and six days. A few programs of lesser duration are included as specialty adventure programs.

Listings include a point of contact, program description, duration, cost, and directions to site.

If your council's high adventure program is not listed, there's a form for a council representative to enter the program info.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:22 05-20-2007 146
Habitat for Humanity
I've just spent the past two days at a Habitat for Humanity project in our community. Four homes are being built to provide affordable housing in a nice neighborhood for four families. What a terrific time!

It was great to be outside and get dusty, sweaty, and tired while getting to know some people from my church a bit better. I was the youngest there besides the couple of Habitat college-aged guys that are spending a year with the program. Most people were retired since it meant working during the week.

Seems to me Habitat could be a great thing for stronger, more mature scouts to try. I understand they couldn't use power tools, but there's a lot of manual labor work to be done too. I'm going to check and see if there are opportunities for scouts after school gets out.
Have any of you had scouts do Habitat or similar building projects?

Scout On
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Posted: 18:32 05-18-2007 145
BSA Camp Staff
My son will be a Counselor In Training (CIT) at a local council BSA camp the first half of this summer. He's hoping to get hired on for the second half also.

If you've got some guys that just aged out of your troop and are looking for an exciting summer, check out this BSA High Adventure Staff Needed page. The contact info for Philmont, Northern Tier, and Sea Base are listed.

If not this summer, then it's something you can talk to your scouts about for next summer if they are looking for awesome summer work.

Scout On
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Posted: 19:49 05-17-2007 144
Serve Actively
For Star, Life, and Eagle advancement, scouts need to demonstrate leadership. The requirements in the Scout Handbook say to "serve actively" in a position of leadership, but there is no official definition of what that means. This is a cause of concern for lots of troops and I received an email yesterday asking about it.

How do you know if a scout is serving actively or just wearing the patch? How does a Scoutmaster decide to give him advancement credit or not?

Lots of troops have developed a list of expectations for each leadership position. Here's an Example PDF file. Many of these lists can be viewed on troop web sites. All of them are similar, but not identical.

Having a list of expectations is a fine idea because it makes it more clear to the scout and scoutmaster what a scout should accomplish. As long as the scoutmaster can remain flexible and use it as a set of expectations and not absolute requirements, it should work.

Every scout has a different level of experience and ability when he takes on a job. I might expect a Life scout who used to be the ASPL and SPL and is now Librarian to accomplish much more than a 1st Class scout fulfilling his first troop role as Librarian. If a scout is doing his best and demonstrating leadership, but still not fulfilling all the expectations, then he is serving actively.

I believe the best way to ensure a scout is serving actively is to check his accomplishments against his goals every month. To do this, he first needs to set some goals and that is where the list of expectations is helpful. Either the SPL or ASPL should be checking on his accomplishments, not the Scoutmaster. Then, the SPL and ASPL can discuss the status of each position with the Scoutmaster, including their own status.

By having a quick SPL/ASPL/Scoutmaster status check every month, like before or after the Patrol Leader Council meeting, scouts not serving actively can be identified before its too late and they can be encouraged to step up and get their job done.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:23 05-16-2007 143
Mt. Rushmore Flags
I found an interesting page at Mount Rushmore that lists the Schedule of Events. The cool thing is you can see all the different scouting units that are scheduled to participate in their evening flag ceremony.
Unfortunately, our troop is not listed because sign-ups began in January and we were too late. So, if your troop would like to lower the Mt. Rushmore flag, start planning way ahead of your trip!

Scout On
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Posted: 15:16 05-13-2007 142
Hiking the Kinks Out
In a couple months, 10 of us will be backpacking for 5 days above 8000 feet. To prepare, our crew leader has scheduled practice hikes twice a week for the next 2 months.

These practice hikes probably don't seem like much fun, but I love 'em! It's a great chance to have each scout decide on a route, lead the group, and set the pace. I get to talk about the boring stuff with the other adults - driving, gas stops, tour permit, youth protection, ... and we get to imagine what great things we'll experience on the trek. We also get to practice being prepared for problems - throwing out 'What If' scenarios and see how we'd handle them. 'Call 911' isn't an accepted answer either. :-)

It's important to start nice and slow when beginning hiking after a sedentary winter, even though that can be a challenge. We just had our first hike and we only went for 1 hour, covering about 2.5 miles on flat ground with no packs. We'll increase the pace, weight, and distance over the next few weeks as feet get used to boots, muscles get used to working, and lungs get used to huffing and puffing.

All these practice hikes are also a great beginning to the hiking merit badge which is a pretty tough one to complete, along with backpacking.

Scout On
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Posted: 12:51 05-09-2007 141
High Adventure Planning
11 weeks until our crew leaves for backpacking in the Cloud Peak Wilderness area in Wyoming. We had our first meeting last night to list all the 'stuff' that needs to happen before the actual trek, and I think it might have been a bit of an overload for some of the guys. :-)
There are 8 scouts and 2 adults going so we're working on finding the best logistics for travelling. That's the biggest challenge for us, everything else looks like the scouts will step up and take over. Here's a short list of the tasks to be distributed by the crew leader:

So, there's enough work to go around. :-) Luckily, we kept information from last year so we're not starting from scratch this time.

Five of the eight scouts have already attended a 2-hour Leave No Trace workshop that I presented and they are demonstrating LNT skills on our two campouts before July.

There are some special first aid concerns for this trip - altitude sickness, dehydration, and hypothermia are all things we need to be aware of and keep an eye out for.

The practice hikes start next week!

Scout On
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Posted: 10:55 05-03-2007 140
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