This Scouting year sure seems to be getting off to a fantastic start. The Annual Plan is exciting and looks to be super fun and this year between the committee and the Patrol Leaders Council, there is a great plan in place to enhance the program en total..
We put in place a good plan to promote Order of the Arrow Activities in an effort to grow the participation of our Arrowmen Yes there is a bit of incentive as we can earn an award for that too. The Order of the Arrow Unit of Excellence Award. We have been moving to getting our Arrowmen more active through participation in the chapter and lodge events. We are well on our way, but with this concerted effort and plan, I am curious to see how it turns out.
One of the other plans that we have put in place is to promote Physical Fitness throughout the Troop. This includes the adults. We make a promise every Monday night to “Keep ourselves Physically Strong”. We plan to keep that promise. Establishing a good habit of physical fitness now will help our Scouts and Adults be more fit in the future.
Last night at our Troop meeting, the Scouts of the Troop made a commitment to be Scout Strong. Each Scout was given an activities log. As a troop we are going to track our progress for the first 6 weeks and then set new goals for the next 6. We are using the PALA (Presidents Active Lifestyle Award challenge) as our base for picking activities and will be incorporating activities into weekly meetings.
It is going to be a super fun year and adding these kind of kinds of programs to our annual plan is just what we need to round out the Scouts experience.
To Keep our promise to keep ourselves Physically Strong. Sounds like a great plan to me.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
This Scouting year sure seems to be getting off to a fantastic start. The Annual Plan is exciting and looks to be super fun and this year between the committee and the Patrol Leaders Council, there is a great plan in place to enhance the program en total..
Scouts that join our units begin their walk on the Eagle Trail through our program forest. This forest of Scouting has much to offer the passer-by. When you enter the forest the trail is clearly marked and a guide is provided. This guide keeps the new Scout on the right trail while he learns about the forest and the skills that he will need to navigate the trail through to his destination. The trail is long and provides many opportunities for the Scout. There is a fork in the trail called First Class. Once the Scout reaches this point in the forest, the trial gets a little less clear. There are still markers along the way, but the Scout is challenged to seek the path and maybe do some bushwhacking.
The trail through the forest at times will seem to be very narrow and at times the forest opens up into meadows and the trail needs to be tried and new routes found. A Scout needs to remember that the forest is full of trees. Those trees represent the opportunities of Scouting. Every four years a Scout will find a huge tree called Jamboree. He can choose to visit that tree and learn about its opportunity. He will also chance upon trees called NOAC (National Order of the Arrow Conference), he will have the opportunity to visit four trees called the National High Adventure Bases. A trip to the Philmont, the Summit, Sea Base or Northern Tier tree will prove to be a high light of his Scouting walk through the forest. There are merit badge trees and places along the trail to practice leadership and service. The trails always need maintenance. There are trees along the trail that the Scout will find other Scouts that need help finding the way. He will make the choice to lead them until they can do the same for other Scouts they meet.
There is a big lodge near the edge of the forest. This is where the Eagle Scouts hang out. They are still close to the forest so they can hear the call of Scouting and spend time back on the trail.
The forest of Scouting is full of great opportunity, fun, and adventure. But the opportunity, fun and adventure only comes to those Scouts that see the forest instead of the trees. The trees are the things that we bump into as we travel through the forest, but they are not the reason we go through Scouting. Finding the trees in the forest are the things that we do as we move forward in Scouting seeking the opportunities and fun that come with the program. The name of the trail is called Scout Oath trail. Along that trail we learn our laws and rules. We develop a habit of service, and we become a person that has Character. The trail is hard at times and forces us to stay physically and mentally strong. The trail is long and full of adventure, but we need to keep the forest the most important thing and let the trees appear. The Forest is the Scouting Aims and along the way you will bump into those trees that keep you moving in the right direction.
Loosing focus on the Forest and jumping right to the trees will eventually cause the Scout to turn around and leave the forest. He will hit all the trees that he wants but will miss the whole trail through the forest. The trees that are deeper into the forest are bigger and better, but the Scout that enters the trees and not the forest will miss out on them.
I have seen Scouts that have walked into the forest only to find a small stand of trees. They provided lots of merit badges and rank, but never any of the exciting opportunities that lay ahead on the trail. I also have seen Scouts that have immersed themselves into the whole trail. They have seen the big trees, participated in the great adventures and when he reached Eagle Lodge looked back at a great time in Scouting.
As you mentor young men in Scouting and as you introduce young men as they join your troop, show them the trail head into the forest and remind them to see forest rather than the trees. The trees will appear as you follow the trail.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
It’s August, 8 months into the year 2014, 8 months into “The POLICY” Change that sent Scouters into a tail spin running for the hills and screaming that our values suddenly changed. 8 months since the “End of Scouting” as we know it. Really? Where are you? What has changed?
I have yet to see an openly gay Scout. I have yet to have to deal with sleeping arrangements and one boy hitting on another one. Just has not happened and I hate to be that guy.. but I told you so.
I lost a good Assistant Scoutmaster over this non issue. And 8 months later nothing has changed except for ink on a policy letter.
So where are you? Where are all these gay boys that were screaming to get into Scouting? Where?
Ok… drama aside…
Last night at our District committee meeting we were discussing the real issues, in particular membership and saving Cub Scout Packs. The idea that people have turned away from Scouting because of this policy change came up. The fact of the matter is that nothing changed, EXCEPT… now we are open to serve ALL young men.
So, this should open doors to new membership, right? Wrong. Boys that are attracted to Scouting will join Scouting. So what do we need to do to attract them? That is what we need to do to get them in our great organization.
Ideas floated around and you know it all comes down to what Scouting is. A great values based outdoor organization that promises adventure and fun. It appeals to parents and boys and always has. The biggest issue is that we do a terrible job of selling that. We get to wrapped up on political correctness and worrying what the public perception is. If we just stick to the basics of what Scouting is.. they will come. But we need to tell that story.
National is not spending the dollars during prime time to tell our story. Local Councils do not have the budget to do it either, so it’s up to us to get out there and tell the story of Scouting.
Start by know what Scouting is. Tell the story as often as you can. Don’t be afraid of what people think, change their minds by what they see.
A policy to allow ALL young men the opportunity to join Scouting should not have sent anyone into a tail spin, it should have opened the door to talk about what Scouting offers in the year 2014 and beyond. Instead an over reaction and a terrible lack of action on the part of Scouters to get out in front and say.. NO.. We invite everyone, but the need to follow our rules.. it’s that simple.
8 months into this year of change and where are they. Those that value Scouting and Scouting’s values are here, the rest left or have not joined.
So now what. We have a crisis in membership at the Cub Scout level. WE NEED TO GET MORE CUB SCOUTS!
Is this policy an issue? NO. So lets move on and sell Scouting.
Tell our story.
From the Boy Scouts of America website; The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.
For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.
Is there something there that people have a problem with? If so, move on and tell the story to someone else.
A Scout is Friendly, Courteous and Kind.
Get out there and tell our story!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
This summer our Troop went on a great adventure. We backpacked in the Olympic National Park. We.. the whole Troop. We broke up the Troop into three crews, that way we could maintain Wilderness area policies of no more than 12 heartbeats and good leave no trace principles. As we began the process of planning for the adventure we were met with resistance. The first was the issue of our new Scout Patrol. 11 year Scouts, what will they be doing? Backpacking was the answer. 11-year-old boys can not do a 50 mile backpack trip I was told. I believe that they can was my reply.
I searched the age appropriate guide lines, the guide to safe Scouting, and other BSA policies and could not find any thing that would suggest that a new Scout patrol could not complete a 50 mile backpack trip.
So we started training. Three backpacking trips that would increase in length prior to the big trip. We began tearing apart backpacks and looking at detailed packing lists. We looked at getting pack weights down to accommodate the little bodies. Menu planning and setting the course for a “doable” adventure that would accomplish the 50 mile goal and ensure success for every one in the troop.
The plan was to allow the three crews to determine their miles. The older Scouts wanted to move fast and far, the middle group wanted to stay around the 50 mile mark and the new Scout Patrol decided that 50 miles would be enough. I believe in them.
We decided on 7 days on the trail. This would allow us to spread the miles out over more days keeping our daily mileage around the 6 to 8 mile mark. That would put us in camp daily earlier allowing us to provide some program. The New Scout Patrol would focus on the trail to First Class while they were in camp, the middle group would focus their time on leadership development, and the older group was in it for adventure.
The plan was set, we used the Philmont meal plan, and got busy mapping our course. The three training outings went well and prepared us for some of the challenges we would find on the trail. Map reading, adapting to changing plans, and working as a crew.
As we prepared we made major changes to the way we would prepare meals and how we would rotate leadership within the crews. We also found which Scouts worked well together and based on their performance on the practice trips we set the crews. I believed that they could all do it.
Watching the Scouts do the practice trips gave me more and more confidence. I knew that they could all do it.
Fast forward now with me to the end of the trip. 7 days backpacking in the Olympic National Park. The First year Scouts did 51 miles and not one Scout failed to complete the adventure. On the 7th day the Troop met at a large camp ground to spend our last night in the Olympic together. There were nothing but smiles all around. I took time that night to talk with the new Scout patrol. They all shared the same attitude, “Lets do it again”! The middle crew ended the trip at 52.4 miles and saw some of the most beautiful country in the Northwest. It was an epic adventure. The older Scouts ended up backpacking 70 miles and found a great place to base camp where they dropped packs and went on a 20 mile day hike. They placed themselves close to the group site on the 6th day and got a jump early on day 7. They hiked so fast that they had time to jump in the cars and head into the nearest town and take showers. That last night we had an awesome campfire, singing songs and sharing stories of our adventures.
I knew we could do it.
Since we got back I have shared our story with some Scouters. They think that we stepped way out-of-bounds taking first year scouts on this adventure. I disagree.
Before the trip I called out those adults that seem to think that it was ok for us when we were kids to have adventures. Drink from hoses, stay out till the street lights came on etc. I still believe that the reason our kids today “can’t” do it is simply because we don’t let them. Well We let them and they proved me absolutely right! They can do it. More so though.. they WANT to do it. We need to believe in them.
For the past three weeks I have completed 9 Scoutmaster conferences, mostly with the new Scout patrol. They all remain excited about their accomplishment and can not wait for the opportunity to do it again.
I believe in them. It is that belief that allows me to let them seek and find adventure. It is that belief that gives our Patrol leaders council the ability to plan the next great adventure. It is a visible attitude that sets these young men apart. Sitting on their butt is not an option for them. They want to get out there and explore their world.
I read about troops sharing their summer camp score about this time each year. 20 Scouts, 99 merit badges etc.
Well, here is our Score for this year. 23 Scouts. 23 merit badges. 31 50 miler awards. An adventure that they will talk about for the rest of their lives.
I believe that we offered them this thing we call SCOUTING!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Note: I hiked with the middle group. These guys impressed me to no end. The leadership that they developed over the course of the trip was great. I believe that they will be outstanding leaders for the future of our troop.
The other night I had the pleasure of sitting in as an advocate for a Scout in my Troop at his Eagle Board of Review.
I enjoy the position that the Scoutmaster is placed in as the advocate, physically the Scoutmaster sits behind and out of the view of the Scout and mentally, it is a great place to learn from the Scout to know that you are truly delivering the promise of Scouting.
The first question the board asked this young man was if he had ever looked at the back of his Scout Handbook. On the back cover are the Aims of Scouting. The Scout replied that he had not looked at the back. The board asked him to pick up his book and read it. Then asked if he was aware that these were the aims or goals of Scouting. He said that he did know that. How did you know that they wanted to know. My Scoutmaster does not stop talking about Character, Citizenship, and Fitness the Scout said in a matter of fact. They chuckled a bit and then asked what he thought about those three words and how much they meant to Scouting. His answer knocked me out of my chair. He looked at the board and said “Those three words mean more to me than this award. They mean that I am a good man and that I will always be a good man.”
From that point on I knew that this board was going to be interesting. And it was. He had an opinion when they asked for one, he talked about the great times that he had in Scouting and he shared what he had learned about being a leader.
As I sat behind him I felt deep pride in this young man and listened as he confirmed that we really are providing a program that the boys get.
To close the board, they asked about the Scout Oath and Law. He shared his feelings, understanding, and practice of living the Oath and Law daily. Not without challenge and difficulty but the bottom line was that he is that person every day.
This got me to thinking about comments I have heard from Scouts and Scouts all over. It reminded me of an on going discussion that we have about being a Scout and living Scout like all of the time, the fact that we only have One Life.
We are what our Facebook Status says we are. We are what our Twitter account looks like. We are where we hang out and the people that we associate with. We are what we say and what we do. That defines our Character.
You are not just a Christian on Sunday, you not just a Scout on Monday nights, you are not just a Dad when the kids are around, you are not just a Scoutmaster when you wear the hat.
There is no separation. There can’t be, that goes against the principle of Character. Choose to accept that or not but your Character will be your guide and that is when you will have to face the reality of who and what you are.
I stress character all the time in our Troop, in fact I care more about character than anything else in Scouting. I don’t care if a Scout earns his Eagle if he has not got the point about character, citizenship, and being mentally and physically fit. If he did not get it, he just got another patch and the award will be meaningless.
We hold the Eagle award up on that lofty space for that reason, we all do it. Every one respects and admire those that have earned this award and rightly so…if they got it. If they make that choice to have one life and that is the life of Character.
I was asked by a Scout why I will not friend him on Facebook. I make it a practice not to friend Scouts or any minor that is not family on Facebook. It is not because of what I might put on the internet… it’s that I don’t want to be placed in a position to know what they are putting on the internet. I would rather have them make good choices and discuss it during conferences. Facebook is not where I want to build my discussion bullets for the next time I see the Scout.
You have but one life. You do not get to split out your internet life and your real life. You have the ability to maintain good character. Once you decide to part ways with it, it can not come back. Once the bell is rung, you can not un-ring it.
Think before you act, pause before you hit enter, read before you press send. Character matters.
“Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Have a Great Scouting Day!
The motto of the Boy Scouts of America is “Be Prepared”. Prepared for what? Well, any old thing said our founder. Being prepared for your backpacking trek is an absolute must. When planning your next trek you need to consider those things that can go wrong. Preparedness will reduce the risk and make the trek a lot more fun.
Andrew Skurka, an Ultimate hiker, Adventurer, and Guide, shares on his website “When I embark on a trip, I always try to abide by the Boy Scout motto — “Be prepared” — by bringing three types of resources, either carried on my back or between my ears, to help me achieve my goals: Gear, e.g. clothing, shelter, stove, etc. Supplies, e.g. food, water, fuel, etc. Skills, e.g. how to hike efficiently, select good campsites, purify water, start a fire, navigate on-trail and off-trail, ford snowmelt-fed rivers, stay warm when it’s cold and wet, etc.”
Being prepared for those things that can go wrong starts with training yourself and your group to do things right. Practice packing, unpacking, setting up gear, looking at the individual gear and group gear that is on the trip. Map reading, first aid, and an honest to goodness understanding of where you are going.
Before a trek learn about the conditions you are walking into and how to deal with them. Trail conditions, weather, and the condition of your crew.
You know the route and conditions but what can go wrong? Plan for it. Injuries? How do we react if someone twists an ankle? Big cuts? Sickness? What are your bail out plans and how have you communicated them?
There is a fine line between over packing for your plan and making sure you are prepared to react. I have hiked with guys that carry 65 lb packs because they plan for every contingency. You can build kits for every plan, but what about that great tool between your ears.
In our Troop we have very few rules. Rule number 1 is always to Have fun. Rule #2 is no one gets hurt, if you are hurt you are not having fun. Rule #3 is refer to the Oath and Law. That is it. Not getting hurt and putting yourself in a position to get hurt is a person thing and starts between the ears.
I have heard the saying “stay low and slow” on the trail. That means to keep a good pace that reduces chance of injury and to stay grounded on the trail. Jumping, climbing, and choosing to venture on bad trail increases the chance of injury. Assess the risk and then go if it is safe.
Look at what you carry to react to or mitigate risk and risky situations. We all carry the 10 essentials and in a lot of cases we carry gadgets and neat tools to make our backpacking experience fun. Do you know how to use it all and have you ever needed it. If the answer is no to one or both, get it out of your pack.
So what can go wrong?
Injuries. Probably the thing that we worry about the most, but the fact of the matter is that we rarely have injuries that can not walk themselves off the trail.
Getting lost. This is a big one. More people get lost because they rely on guide books, GPS, and the fact that because they shop at REI they think they can take their shiny Subaru to a trail head and go hiking. Learn to read a map and use a compass. Train yourself on terrain association and staying oriented on the trail. Don’t wander or allow group members to wander off or away. Have a plan to rally should something go wrong while on the trail.
When hiking with a group always stop at any trail intersection and wait for the group to catch up. Stop and check the map every once in a while. Make sure that lots of people in the crew have a map.
Weather. We can not control the weather, but we can plan for it. Rain is not a downer on the trail if you are prepared. Know when the weather is going to change by monitoring the forecast in the area. Know that it will get darker sooner if you have heavier cloud cover.
If you are not prepared to hike during hours of limited visibility, be prepared to start looking for good camp locations before it gets dark.
Have a plan for water. Filtering, boiling, or carrying a lot of it. You need water. Plan your day around your water availability and resources.
Sit down and list all of the things that you think will go wrong on your trek. Think of ways that you can reduce those risks and plan for how you are going to address them when and if they happen.
Planning prevents poor performance and when you are backpacking you need to be aware and be prepared.
Know all of the skills that will make your trek fun. Make sure that you share that knowledge with the members of your group.
Skills, Gear, and Supplies will get you through the toughest times on the trail. What you have between your ears will go along way to making it a fun trek. Your skills and attitude will reduce the risks that come with backpacking. In short. Be Prepared.
In our next segment we will talk about preparation of gear and what to consider for your next long trek.
Have a Great Scouting Day.
The other night I held a couple Scoutmaster Conferences, both for Scouts earning the Star Rank and both of the Scouts good young men. During our discussion the subject of merit badges came up as you need them for the Star, Life, and Eagle ranks.
One of the young men asked me why certain merit badges were Eagle required, while others were not. We looked at the merit badges that were on the Eagle required list and I explained to him that these are important merit badges that support the goals of Scouting.
Citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World focus not on teaching you about citizenship, but what your obligations are as a Citizen.
First Aid, Camping, Life Saving, Hiking, Emergency Preparedness, Swimming, Cycling, Personal Fitness and Cooking all focus on the Scout being fit and self-reliant. Communication, Family life and Personal Management focus on how he acts in the world. These are important.
Finger printing, art, music, basketry, and astronomy are just cool things that spark interest in the Scout.
I have noticed that there is a big push on the STEM programs in Scouting. As if Scouting was becoming a vocational arm of the education system. Now before I get hate mail, I am all for the Science and technology stuff, I am fascinated by what engineers can do. But this is Scouting dang it. I don’t want to take my Scouts to Summer camp and have them sit in class all day learning about how to split an atom. I want them out there enjoying the outdoors. The go to School from September to June… July and August are times for them to be boys!
The STEM push has taken over and I want it to back off a bit. Even in our Council STEM is all over the place. We have great STEM partners in our areas that are assisting young men in cranking out merit badges. But are they learning anything? My guess is no.
I asked this young man in our conference which merit badges he had earned (looking at his history I knew the answer). He had really not got much out of the “filler badges”. He did talk about First Aid and the Citizenship badges though.
I am not against the STEM Program, but I personally do not want Scouting to become the math club. Scouts get enough School. They join Scouts to get adventure and that is what we need to give them.
Sit a Scout down for an hour and teach them about anything.. they want to get up and run.. give them an adventure and in the process teach them life skills and appreciation for the outdoors and you have captured them for life long Scouting.
STEM is not going away.. this is the world we live in, but let’s do more Scouting!
Just my opinion and thoughts.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
As most of the country is still experiencing Winter conditions and here in the Northwest, the Winter Camping season is really in full bloom, as late as it is, there are still Troops and Crews that are venturing into the woods for some good winter camping. I thought I would revisit our teaching or winter skills, just as a reminder that even though it’s March, we need to stay focused on how we camp in the winter. Most of these skills transfer well all year round anyway. I will take a page out of the Safe swim defense and Safety Afloat program. Supervision and Discipline are a Must.
So here are a few rules that we maintain whenever we are talking about High adventure and Cold weather camping.
Remember anytime you engage in a high risk activity… you increase your preparation, supervision, and discipline.
The first rule is take it serious. Cold Weather camping can be one of the most enjoyable activities with challenges and memories that your scouts will cherish. But at the same time Cold weather camping can be Extremely dangerous when not taken seriously.
I use a three strike rule when dealing with the issue. Three strikes and you are not going on the event. Period.
A scout that does not want to pay attention or is goofing off too much will not get the information that is being presented. This can lead to dangerous consequences in the field.
Before we do any Winter camping adventure we have a couple mandatory meetings.
During these meetings we teach Cold Weather first aid.
Understanding and knowing the symptoms of cold weather conditions such as frost bite and hypothermia. Knowing what to look for on your buddy for those signs and then how to treat them.
We teach techniques for setting camp, preparing meals, setting up gear to best meet the conditions of Cold weather camping. Simple stuff like zipper pulls and tent anchors. Issues like meal preparation and how to better prepare meals at home for ease in the camp site.
These meetings we feel are important to set the tone for the High adventure activity.
We do the same thing for Rock climbing activities. Mandatory meetings get the scout into the mind-set that this is so important that they are “Making” me be there … or I do not go.
Enforcement of the mandatory meeting is just as important. If you make it a must for one that they get all the information, then make it a must to all.
If need be…have a make up meeting for scouts that absolutely can not make a mandatory meeting… give them opportunities to participate, but ensure they get the skills, training, and information that are needed for a successful outing.
The next rule that is non negotiable is using the buddy system. Now I know that the buddy system is part of Scouting anyway, but in cold weather environments it is a must.
Buddies need to be established early in the process of planning, training, and preparing for the camp out.
Getting these buddies to learn the first Aid skills together, planning of meals together, and in camp routines will lead to skilled buddy teams that understand the importance of one another in the process.
When they train in first aid, it no longer is a routine activity, they understand, that if I do not check you and you don’t check me.. we can get hurt. If I am not aware of what creamy colored skin means…then you may be getting frost bite on your nose or fingers.
Enforcing buddy teams is a must and hard fast rule. In camp use the Patrol leaders to monitor buddy teams and ensure that they are maintaining discipline as a team.
One issue that may or may not come up, it has with in my unit, is when you are tent camping in the snow and most of the Scouts have single person tents maintaining the buddy concept.
The fix here is that they, unlike when camping during the summer, cluster the tents. Have buddy teams set up their single person tents right next to one another. This way they can still communicate throughout the night. One technique that our boys have used is setting up their tents for the doors face each other, and they put them real close. Almost to the point where they can share vestibules. I have seen them actually tie their vestibules together creating a tarp like set up. It makes a little cooking area and allows them to sit and talk while in their sleeping bags. Now this is all dependant on what their tents are like, but the point here is that sometimes they need to think out side of the box to overcome obstacles. But they need to be aware that the buddy system is extremely important in the cold. And because it is important, they need to do things that allow them to watch each other, and communicate with each other.
So rule number 2 is the buddy system, do not over look this, it is way to important.
Rule number 3 is TIME AND PLACE.
There is a time and place for everything. There is a time and place to screw around and have fun, there is a time and place to be serious. The sooner your Scouts know this.. the better. Enough said.
I try not to get bogged down with a bunch of rules, after all we have the Scout Oath and law and that is pretty much all we need, but when it comes to high risk activities, it is important to establish importance in the seriousness of Cold Weather camping.
So now we have established it is important… so when teaching these Scouts about cold weather camping what are some things that need to be taught.
I guess if I had to narrow my list down to the top things to teach Scouts about Cold weather camping the list would include.
First. Cold weather injuries and how to prevent them and treat them.
Third. In camp routines
Fourth. Planning a preparation.
And fifth. Getting around in the snow, including moving and orienteering.
So lets quickly talk a little about these 5 items.
First Aid. Or better yet understanding the risks of Cold weather injuries and how to prevent them. The idea is that you do not want to get into treatment. You won’t have to if they prevent the injury to start with.
Hypothermia, frost bite, Frost nip or chill blains, immersion foot, sun burn and snow blindness are the biggies.
Show pictures of frost bite, that is enough to get the attention of your scouts. The Scouts need to be able to tell you what they are looking for on their buddy.
Do they recognize the disorientation, nausea, and the fact that their buddy is no longer shivering means that he is probably slipping quickly into Hypothermia.
One of the biggest issues regarding the treatment of some cold weather injuries is getting the Scouts over the idea that they may be put in what they feel is an uncomfortable position. Getting into a sleeping bag with another Scout is not normal, but it may be that which saves his buddies life. Again, it’s all about prevention. How do you prevent getting into that position?
Well that leads me to the next topic…gear.
Clothing and equipment are important in the cold. First know that when talking about clothing… Cotton kills.
Do not allow your Scouts to wear lots of cotton. Underwear bottoms are ok, but any clothing on the body that can get moist due to perspiration needs not to be cotton. I’m talking primarily about T-shirts and socks.
Poly propylene underwear, long johns and sock liners are fantastic items to put against the body. It reduces the chances of sweat staying on the skin and eventually leads to freezing.
Teach them about layering. Talk about Base layers, Mid layers that insulate, and a shell layer that protects. Handing out flyers that discuss the layering system are a great idea so that mom and dad understand what you expect.
When teaching about gear, talk about the difference between gear they use the rest of the year, also show them how they can use their gear all year round, with modifications.
Using a three season tent as a four season tent for example. Simply by adding guy lines and anchors. Tents do add warmth to the scout, they protect against the elements. Snow and wind are the two elements you are concerned about. Guy lines and tie downs will keep your tent steady in the wind. Digging into the snow and setting your tent up sheltered by a snow wall will combat against the wind. The tighter the guy lines, the better also for keeping snow from collecting and damaging your poles. Reinforcing your poles by wrapping them with duct tape is a way to strengthen them. The tape can be removed in the spring. Making sure the Scouts know to constantly keep the tent clear of snow during the day and clearing it off before they turn in for the night will reduce the strain the tent poles feel.
Your Scouts need to understand that cold air settles in low ground. Digging a trench outside of their tent by the door will move cold air away from their sleeping platform, just like in a snow cave. It also allows for a place to sit up right when dressing.
Boots, lets talk about boots.
First, make sure that your scouts have good boots suitable for wear in the snow and cold.
Then make sure they keep them dry. Boots when worn should be protected by wearing gaiters. This protects the laces and upper portion of the boot. They also keep snow from entering the boot, keeping them dry.
When boots are not being worn, they need to be INSIDE the tent, use an old stuff sack or even garbage bag to put the boots in. Put them under or in your sleeping bag to keep them warm. Boil up some water and fill a water bottle before you get in your tent. Put the water bottle in your boots. It will keep them warm and you will have water in the morning that is not frozen. In the morning if your scouts can boil up some water and fill that bottle up and put it in the boots for about 15 minutes.. they will step into nice cozy boots that will ready them for the day.
Backpacks should be packed with stuff sacks, ditty bags, and need to be kept organized and accessible.
Adding zipper pulls or tabs to zippers will make it easier to get in and out of pockets, this goes for their jackets too.
Gloves and or mittens. Check the gloves your Scouts bring. They need to be water-resistant and warm. Do not allow just any glove. They need to provide insulation and protection. I had a Scout show up once with gardening gloves. Not acceptable in the cold weather environment. As a leader, take extra gloves with you. I have found that gloves come up missing or get wet, I carry a stuff sack with a few extra pair of gloves to throw on chilly hands when needed.
Outer wear. Protective shells that keep the Scout dry and out of the wind.
You will know what right looks like, they do not need to run out and buy North face $300 jackets, although it would go a longer way in protecting them, to stay warm and dry.
Have a shake down of gear the week before the camp out. This will allow you and your Patrol leaders the opportunity to look at all the gear and a week for the Scout to make corrections.
In camp routines. These need to be discussed prior to the camp out, but practiced in camp.
Things like setting up camp quickly, getting shelter up, gathering fire wood, cooking and cleaning up, settling down for the night, staying dry, and fun things to do while in camp.
Establishing good in camp routines, just like in the summer is an important part of winter camping. Gear gets lost in the snow, part of good in camp routines is storing gear and staying organized.
Planning and preparing for the winter camp out is probably the most important thing to getting the most out of your winter camping experience. This includes training, planning, and readying your gear for the trip.
You need to know where you are going, how long you are going to be there, how you are getting there and how you are getting into the area you are camping in. And then what you are going to do once you get there.
Preparation is so key to a successful Cold Weather camp out. The Scouts need to be prepared and properly instructed. Like I tell the boys, we are not planning to treat cold weather injuries, we are preparing to prevent them.
Taking that approach with you cold weather camping preparation will lead to success.
You as the adult leader, or even for those Junior leaders that listen, need to become experts in the skills needed to camp in the cold.
Preparing the Scouts of your troop starts with some clear goals for the experience.
In your first year of camping in the cold weather, you may want to limit your overnight stays to a single night and progressively move to longer stays.
You may want to start by taking day hikes and excursions into the cold. Set up camp and work on skills such as shelters, building fires, and staying dry. Then retire to the comfort of a lodge for the night.
In your planning you need to figure out what your objectives are. Going into the woods and setting up camp, eating and hitting the rack is not enough to keep scouts interested in camping in the cold. What are you going to do once you get into camp? Navigation is a great skill to practice in the snow. Folks get disoriented easily in a snow filled forest.
How about winter relay’s, snow shoe hikes, igloo building or snow caving, Cross country skiing, or just plain winter skills. There are many things that you can do that lead up to the cold weather camp out. Make gear like snow shoes, then test them out when you get to camp. There is a great Scouting resource available at your Scout Shop. The book Okpik: Cold Weather Camping #34040 shows you how to make gear, as well as activities and know how on camping in the winter.
Use other resources too, one of my favorite books on Camping in the cold is Winter Hiking and Camping, by Michael Lanza a book put out by Backpacker Magazine.
In planning and preparing, get you hands on as much material as possible and become familiar, almost to the point that you are an expert. You need to be, those boys depend on you.
Finally, getting around in the snow. I alluded to snow shoeing and cross-country skiing earlier. These are super fun activities that the Scouts really have a great time with. If you are going to snow shoe or ski, it is a good idea to get out there prior to the camp out and get a feel for it. If time is an issue, when you get to your drop off point, leave the packs in the car and take a little hike to get used to the snow shoes or skis, it is better to establish balance and some skill before you throw your pack on.
If you get a lot of snow, I would recommend show shoeing for your first time winter campers. It is a skill that is easy to pick up and provides the most stable mode of on foot movement in the snow. Trying to walk in deep snow with a pack on can be frustrating as the scouts post hole their way into camp. Taking along snow shoes provides not only ease of movement, but a fun activity to do once you get camp set up.
Most winter sports outlets rent snow shoes and we have gotten real good Weekend rates when you mention you are taking a group of Boy Scouts out for a snow shoeing adventure.
Let me leave you with this.
The best tool you have in the winter camping environment is your brain. It will know when things are good and when things get bad. Listen to it. Adult leaders need to be upbeat and positive throughout the winter camping process. A positive attitude is infectious and the boys of the unit must keep a great attitude when camping in the cold.
Seeing an adult with a negative attitude, complaining about the cold, or showing frustration at gear, not being able to accomplish tasks, and generally not having a good time will surely infect the rest of the Troop. Keep a level head, have a great time, acquire the necessary skills, and have a positive attitude and your winter camping adventure will be a fantastic memorable experience. Oh and take lots of pictures.
Get out there and camp in the cold.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Yesterday I was listening to some talk radio and over the course of the day the recurring theme of child raising came up. I heard a fantastic quote on one of the programs that I thought needed to be shared here.
“We are not raising our children to be good children, we are raising them to be good adults.”
Yes, we are. I think that much too often we focus on keeping our kids children and not looking to the future and what kind of adults they are going to be.
There is a balance there. A balance between keeping our kids in a safety bubble and letting them run wild. Finding the middle ground and ensuring we teach them the right skills to negotiate life is where we will develop them to be those good adults that we wish them to be.
It is for this reason that we focus on Citizenship, Character, and Fitness in Scouting and not cranking out Eagle Scouts. While there are certain rewards for earning the rank of Eagle Scout is far more important that we see in our Scouts that development of Character. An Eagle Scout without Character does himself and Scouting a disservice.
I am not sure when things went wrong and I certainly do not want to sound like those folks did when we were growing up, you know… walking to School in the snow up hill.. both ways… Life was not rough when I grew up, and life is no rougher now. The difference was in our parents then I think. We stayed out till the street lights came on, we played outside all the time, bumps and bruises were part of life. Now we did have a lot less distractions then. We did not have 700 channels on TV, there was no such thing as the internet or cell phones, and once you mastered Pong on the Atari it was time to get back outside.
Our parents may have worried about us, but knew that we would be home when it was time to come home, or when we got hungry.. which ever came first.
I think our parents understood balance. They understood that we needed to have quiet time and we needed to have loud time. We did not sit in time out… we got spanked and it was over. We learned lessons and moved on.
Fighting and making up was a part of being friends. No drama, just growing up.
Our bikes were made of parts and I don’t think you could find two of the same color. We made tree forts and fell out of them more times than I can count. But my mom did not put me in a bubble and make every bad thing in the world disappear.
Balance. We can place our sons in a bubble and protect them, or we can let them learn about the world by living in it. I prefer living, knowing boundaries, and getting out there in life’s great adventure. That is how we raised our kids and they all turned out to be good adults.
We are not raising children to be children, we have enough adults in the world that act that way. This is why we have adults in the world that still wait for a hand out. That is why we have adults that are immature and live for the drama of a teenager. Just look at Facebook at what adults do on it.
We need to raise our young men to be men.
Finding a good balance and watching them develop.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Monday night our Troop held its annual Order of the Arrow election and its six month youth leadership election. Our Troop elections are like most Troops in that we hold the elections for youth leadership. We may differ in this aspect, we only elect the “assistants”. When we hold our elections every six months we elect the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Assistant Patrol Leaders. The idea here is that now the Assistant has six months to learn how to do the job, then he is more successful when it comes his turn to serve as the ‘Leader’. At the six month mark, the Assistant automatically becomes the leader and we elect new Assistants.
It’s pretty simple and works very well.
The OA elections are held just like everyone elects members into the Order of the Arrow. We do not announce the candidates until they are called out at Camporee.
After the meeting on Monday night a group of Scouts and I were talking about leadership issues and the OA. I shared a story about how my ordeal went when I was a youth compared to how they do them now. There are some differences for sure, but the spirit of the ordeal is pretty much the same. A couple of the Scouts mentioned that they wish that the ordeal was still like it was when I was a Scout. Now to be sure, I know that there is some form of “it’s cool if the Scoutmaster says it’s cool” going on here. Rest assured I am not saying this to stroke my ego, and there will be a point here I promise.
We talked about how sometimes it seems that some Scouts take things like the ordeal serious, while others do it to get a sash and pocket flap. I asked why they think that is. The overwhelming response was that it is cool to be in the OA, but members should be “worthy” to be in it. If they do not want to participate, they should not be in it.
I agree, but understand that to some the OA may be just another thing in Scouting and it certainly looks great on the Scouting resume.
One of the Scouts chimed in that he viewed it kind of like the different Troops we see at Camporee. Some take the wearing of the Scout uniform serious, while other look like slobs (his words not mine, although I agree). Some like to build the gateways, while others would rather hang out in camp around the campfire. I am not sure that there is a right or wrong answer here other than when we discuss methods, like wearing the uniform, but what I suggested to these Scouts was that it comes down to their unit’s culture.
And how is that formed? Well, I think that somewhere along the way we form our culture by the activities we do, the way we develop traditions, and our attitudes toward how delivering the promise of Scouting should look. The Troop’s program has a lot to do with that also in that it becomes the style of the Troop.
So in the case of my Troop we have Traditions that passed on as the Scouts move through the unit. New Traditions meet the older ones and it helps shape our culture. Our Troop’s annual program goes along way in the shaping of that culture. Being a backpacking Troop, we do things a bit different and the Scouts of the Troop view themselves as adventurous and skilled. This adventurous spirit and skills are the personality of the Troop. They like the idea that they are different from most Troops, especially at Camporee and summer camp. They like to show up with nothing but their packs. This attitude is a big part of our culture. It is not right or wrong, it’s who we are.
Where does that come from? Well, certainly I had a part to play. Introducing the Troop to backpacking, but then the Scouts took it because they liked it. As a Backpacking Troop it lends itself to adventures like Climbing, Kayaking and Canoeing, Glacier hiking, snow shoeing and lots of other adventurous activity. It is not for everyone and we have seen Scouts come and go because of who we are. And that is ok.
We decided awhile ago that we would deliver the promise of Scouting and this would be our delivery method. The Parents of our Scouts see that what we do works and those Scouts that stick around and take an active part in the program get a lot out of it.
We find a good balance of Youth leadership and Adult interaction through Coaching and Mentoring. When our youth cross over into the Troop they immediately learn who is in charge, the SPL and their Patrol leader. They never stop hearing it. The endless stream of Scouts seeking attention is more often time met with “Ask the SPL”. The culture of the youth led troop balanced with the ability to know when the Scout needs more than just the Senior Patrol leader.
The Scoutmaster conference is a big part of our culture. More times than not, it is not an open book and signing session. It is far more frequent for that Scoutmaster conference to deal with “Boy issues”. Stuff that they just need to talk about. To the outside eyes and ears that may sound a bit creepy, but in our unit Trust is high and sometimes there are just things you need to talk about with someone who you trust. I have built that trust with our Scouts and their parents.
That trust is a huge part of our culture and comes from an unwavering commitment to the Scout Oath and Law. Those are the rules of the Troop and those are the only rules.
I told you that there was a point here. Yes, our Troop is not for everyone and often times our Scouts look to be arrogant or have a swagger about them. That is true, however it is not arrogance, it is confidence. We pride ourselves on skills development and staying true to the goals of Scouting. We wrap all of that in our adventure and fun program. I believe like Baden-Powell asked us as Scoutmasters to the heart of the boy and to be their friend. That is why our Scouts would have that feeling that when I suggest it is cool.. it is. I am not always right and do not seek the worship of these young men. I will tell you quite honestly that I love it when they want to be adventurous. I love to see them push their boundaries and step out of their comfort zone. I love to see leadership in action, no matter how ugly it looks at times. This has become our culture, this is our Troop. I am sure that your Troop has its own culture and its own traditions and its own swagger.
Watch a Troop as it sings its Troop song or yell. That will give you a peek into that Troops Culture.
This all started with a couple of Scouts talking about how they wish things were different. My answer to them was simply this, If you want it to be different, change it. Know my guys.. they will.
Have a Great Scouting Day!