Methods

Back to the Future… The Outdoor Program

If you build it they will come pt.4, The Annual PlanBoys join Scouts for the Outdoors.. they join for the adventure and fun times that they are promised.  Parents sign them up for Character development, life skills, and the values of the program.  The outdoor program is the heart of Scouting.  It is the place where the Scout learns, practices skills, develops friendships and a love for the wilderness and has fun.
I am sure by now that you have tore through the Aides to Scoutmastership… this has been a fun couple of days pouring through the writing of our founder.  The more I dig in to the book, the more I know that the organization that BP was forming was centered on the boy and that his first and foremost goal was developing them to be good men.  In the early years of the 20th century, England was a different place and boys were not allowed to just be boys.  There are so many problems with suppressing the will and spirit of the boy and BP saw the destruction of  boyhood and the effects that it has on manliness.  I fear that this is happening again and its high time to take get it back.
The outdoor program of the Boy Scouts is how we do just that.

“In spite of teachers and parents, boys remain loyal to their own world.  They obey their own code, although it is quite a different code to the one that is taught to them at home and in the schoolroom. They gladly suffer martyrdom at the hands of uncomprehending adults, rather than be false to their own code.  “The code of the teacher, for instance, is in favor of silence and safety and decorum. The code of the boys is diametrically opposite. It is in favor of noise and risk and excitement. “Fun, fighting, and feeding! These are the  three indispensable elements of the boy’s world. These are basic. They are what boys are in earnest about; and they are not associated with teachers nor schoolbooks. “According to public opinion in Boydom, to sit for four hours a day at a desk indoors is a wretched  waste of time and daylight. Did anyone ever know a boy-a normal healthy boy, who begged his father to buy him a desk? Or did anyone ever know a boy, who was running about outdoors, go and plead with his mother to be allowed to sit down in the drawing room?
“Certainly not. A boy is not a desk animal. He is not a sitting-down animal. Neither is he a pacifist nor a believer in safety first,’ nor a book-worm, nor a philosopher.
Remember that the boy, on joining, wants to begin scouting right away; so don’t dull his keenness by too much preliminary explanation at first. Meet his wants by games and Scouting practices, and instill elementary details bit by bit afterwards as you go. “He is a boy-God bless him-full to the brim of fun and fight and hunger and daring mischief and noise and observation and excitement. If he is not, he is abnormal.”

I have made it pretty clear in writing this blog what my feelings are regarding how I think Scouting should be.  I am a believer that Scouting is done in the outdoors.  I know that there is a place and need for the merit badge program, but feel that it is over emphasized  especially the “Filler badges” like fingerprinting and skating and those types of badges.  Again, I know that there is a place and need… but sometimes I think they, and other non outdoor focused activities distract from the Scouting program.
Having said all of that…
The outdoor program provides adventure and opportunities that allow the Scout to develop skills that make them self reliant.  The Scouts classroom is in the outdoors.  That is were Scouting should happen.  Scouts plan their adventures and carry them out in the outdoors.  In short.. the outdoors is the center of the Scouting program.
The outdoor program is the fix for the boys and to Scouting.  It is where we teach our Scouts the skills and an appreciation for the outdoors and adventure.  It is were we let them play the game with a purpose and watch as they grow in leadership and we achieve the aims of Scouting.  It is in the outdoors that boys develop character and practice citizenship and fitness.
As the Boy Scouts of America states; “Learning by doing is a hallmark of outdoor education.  Unit meetings offer information and knowledge used on outdoor adventures each month throughout the year. A leader may describe and demonstrate a Scouting skill at a meeting, but the way Scouts truly learn outdoor skills is to do them themselves on a troop outing.”
There are many ways that the outdoor program can be executed.  The key is to just get outside and do it.  Make a commitment with the Patrol Leaders Council  to add high adventure activities to the Troop plan.  Make sure that every month has an outdoor overnight experience.  NEVER Cancel an outdoor activity.  Shame on the adults if they are the cause for failure of the outdoor program.  The outdoors is a must for Scouting to happen.  It is a must for the Scout to grow and meet the goals that Scouting has promised him.
Get out and play!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, comments, Cooking, fitness, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Philmont, Scouting, Skills | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Back to the Future… the Patrol Method

patrolmethodOk.. So to get back to the Future.. we need to focus on those basics that I referred to in the last post.  I am going to, in the next few post expand on what I think we need to focus on.  This is the world according to Jerry… and Baden Powell..
We start where it all starts and ends.. the Patrol.
The Patrol method is not just something we do to group boys together.  It is the method that ties the Troop together, it is the basis for teaching and coaching the three elements of Citizenship, Character, and Fitness that are the primary goals of the Scouting program in achieving our Mission.
Again, I turn to Aides to Scoutmastership and see what Baden Powell has to say about the Patrol method.

The Patrol System is the one essential feature in which Scout training differs from that of all other organizations, and where the System is properly applied, it is absolutely bound to bring success. It cannot help itself!

That is correct, if we do not use the patrol method we can not and will not be successful in our mission.  While other clubs sort their youth in age groups, gender groups, or interest groups, Scouting creates groups that will self govern, learn decision making, establish friendships, and challenge one another and the Patrols around them.

An invaluable step in character training is to put responsibility on to the individual. This is immediately gained in appointing a Patrol Leader to responsible command of his Patrol. It is up to him to take hold of and to develop the qualities of each boy in his Patrol. It sounds a big order, but in practice it works.

There always seems to be resistance in this area.  Some adults either have no faith in the boy, or find it easier just to do it themselves.  Which one develops the boy?  Give a Scout responsibility and training and he will rise to it.  I think you will be surprised when you see even a first year Scout lead to his level.  You will see his character develop as he is placed in situations that will test his strength of character.  He will have to choose right over popular, he will have to choose discipline over chaos.  He will have to take charge and responsibility and understand that his needs are secondary to those of the Scouts he leads.  He is first up and last down.  He ensures that meals are prepared and done correctly.  He develops communication techniques that allow him to effectively represent his patrol at the Patrol leaders council and get the information back to his patrol so they can be full participants in the program.  He is the cheerleader of the patrol, he is the compass that keeps the patrol heading in the right direction.  The Patrol leader is the motivator and goal setter.  At the end of his term, he will have taken a step towards being a better leader in his School, home, and among friends, not to mention in his troop.

The best progress is made in those Troops where power and responsibility are really put into the hands of the Patrol Leaders. This is the Secret of success in Scout Training.

Amen BP..   Take away the Patrol Method and you essentially do not have a Boy Scout Troop.

The Patrol Method is supported by the Patrol Leaders Council.  The PLC is the heartbeat of the Boy Scout troop.  Without an effective BOY LED Patrol Leaders Council, you do not have a Boy Scout Troop.  You have an adult led club.
The Patrol Leaders Council makes the decisions for the troop.  They plan the troops activities and meetings and by and large the training that will occur for first year Scouts and skills that are required for specific activities.  The Patrol Leaders Council is led by the Senior Patrol leader.  He is trained and seeks advice from the Scoutmaster.
The Scoutmaster’s primary job is to train that Senior Patrol leader.  Then he can watch as the SPL in turns trains and guides using the EDGE method those Patrol leaders.  A great opportunity for leadership development and training is the use of Troop guides.  These Scouts are part of the Patrol leaders council and assist the Patrols were needed, especially those younger Scout patrols.
The Patrol Leaders Council, I can not stress enough must be allowed to function, even when it’s ugly… the Scouts that make up the council need to be allowed to make mistakes, they need to be allowed to make a decision and then fully realize the consequence of the decision.  Adult leadership should stand back and coach when needed not allowing safety to be compromised or the general welfare of the Troop.  Using the assessment tools that are part of Junior leader training, or the new National Youth Leadership Training program. The Patrol leaders council can evaluate themselves and learn from success and failure.
This is the learning ground for Patrol leaders and will assist them is developing sound leadership, as rough as it looks sometimes.

The bottom line.  Back to basics.. back to the future starts with the Patrol Method.  Period.
As the founder taught us; “”The patrol system is not one method in which Scouting for boys can be carried on. It is the only method.”

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

The more things change.. the more they stay the same

DanielBooneThose of you that have followed the blog for a while know that I am a fan and collector of Scouting literature.  I don’t just collect the books, magazines, and other literature, I love to get into them and see how Scouting was, how Green Bar Bill wrote and what the program looked like over the decades.
A common phrase I hear often from “older” Scouters is how things were “Back when I was a Scout”.  It seems that things were so much better back when we were Scouts.  But then I got to digging in to the literature and what I have found is that the more things change.. the more they really do stay the same.
Yes, before I get hate mail… Scouting has changed a lot over time, but really, it has stayed the same.
In the 1959 edition of the Boy Scout Handbook the Boy Scouts of America talks about YOU, the American Boy.
Before I get into this, I was listening to a podcast the other day.  The host of the podcast was talking about kids today and some of the things that they have lost over time.  Some of the heritage of America has not been adequately passed down to our kids.  I remember when I was a kid that we played like we were on the wild frontier of America.  I was Daniel Boone and some of my friends would play the roles of Davy Crockett and Kit Carson, and Wild Bill Hickok.  We would fight the battle of the Alamo, build rafts and float down the “Missouri”.  We built forts and tried to live the legends of American History.  I once met Daniel Boone at Frontier land in Disneyland.  It was a great day, you would have thought Daniel Boone came back just for me to meet him.
I think everyone I knew could sing every word of Davy Crockett.  You remember.. he was the “King of the wild Frontier”.
I think watching the tv shows, seeing our hero’s at Disneyland, and learning about them in Scouting, School, and out in the woods shaped how we played the game with a purpose then.
Who are the hero’s today?  Who are those Davy Crockett’s that the kids today run through the woods acting like?
The 1959 handbook talks about the American boy…
“Have you ever dreamed of hiking the wilderness trails that were worn down under moccasins hundreds of years ago?  Do you hear in your imagination the almost soundless dip-dip of Indian canoe paddles or the ring of the axe of an early pioneer hewing a home out of the American wilderness?  Have you followed with your mind’s eye the covered wagons on the trek across our continent?  Have you thought of the men and women who built our country by their determination and devotion?  You are the descendant of those people.  You are the guardian of what they built.  You are the American on whom the future of our wonderful country depends.”
Great writing.  It inspired Scouts for years to learn about our heritage and not feel ashamed of being an American boy.  It valued the spirit of the pioneer, the frontiersman, the explorer an encouraged the Scout to seek that adventure and become a part of the American Narrative.
We have lost that kind of writing in our current handbooks.  Now the handbook gets the Scout to the next rank.  But the more they change, the more they are the same. Where we have lost it is in us.  We have stopped teaching them.  We have stopped allowing them to be American boys.
“Today you are an American boy.  Before long you will be an American man.”  The ’59 handbook continues.  “It is important to America that you become a citizen of fine character, physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”  We all agree that there is no change there.  The handbook, as in today’s handbook sets the course for the Scout to begin a life of values and adventure.  “Yes, it’s fun to be a Boy Scout!  It’s fun to go hiking and camping with your best friends… to swim, to dive, to paddle a canoe, to wield and axe…  to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers who led the way through the wilderness…to stare into the glowing embers of a campfire and dream of the wonders of the life that is in store for you.”  Do we make that promise to our boys today?  Why not?  Nothing has changed there.  The world is not that much different.
I always tell our new Scouts as we sit around the campfire to watch the older boys as they join us in the circle.  There is a magic in the campfire.  It is a magic that no matter who you are or what your job is in the troop, it plays true every time.  That magic is in the embers.  It forces one to stare and quietly be a part of it.  And sure enough, someone will join us in the circle and their eyes will immediately move to glow of the fire.  Where once a loud noise came is now silent and engaged in the magic of Scouting.  It is for us to not allow things to change.  Scouting is rich in tradition, values, adventure, and spirit.  The more things change, the more that will always stay the same.  If we want it to.
I think that we need to go back and take a look at old handbooks.  Look at the writing of William Hillcourt and how he could draw the imagination of the boys of America.  Look how he engaged them to being a part of the rich heritage and adventurous spirit of Americans before them.
We have lost that spirit and way that pull the boys of America into this great adventure.  It will be gone if we don’t share it.  If we don’t allow them to be American boys.
Building rafts like Huck Finn and standing atop the Alamo defending an ideal.  Hanging out in a tree house and hiking off into the wilderness in search of new land.  We hold them back in the name of protection, we kill their spirit of adventure and call it safety.  I cringe at the thought of not passing on our American spirit to this generation of boys.
They want it.. they just don’t know what it is.
The more things change.. the more the American boy is the same.. Let him be one!
“When you are a Scout, forest and field, rivers and lakes,  are your playground. You are completely at home in God’s great outdoors.  You learn to notice every sound,  to observe every track.  Birds and animals become your friends.  You master the skills of walking noiselessly through the woods, of stalking close to a grazing deer without being noticed, of bringing a bird to you by intimating it’s call.  You learn to find your way cross country by map and compass, to make a meal when you are hungry, to take a safe swim when you are hot, to make yourself comfortable for the night in a tent or under the stars.  You become a true outdoorsman.”  Boy just like when I was a kid acting like Daniel Boone.. the king of the wild frontier.   This was Scouting when I was a boy… and it is Scouting now.  We just need to remember that things really have not changed that much.. it is us that changed.  The wilderness still calls, adventure still yells for our boys to come.  Are you going to let them?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Cooking, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Methods, Patriotism, Patrol Method, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, stories, Values | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

From the Desk of the Scoutmaster

Dear Parents,

As you may be aware, the Boy Scouts of America voted the other day to change its policy to allow boys that are homosexual to join the organization.  This decision, even though it has been debated for the better part of a year continues to draw much discussion.  At the National Meetings of the BSA the resolution was passed with a 60% approval.  Earlier this year the BSA asked us to participate in a survey on this issue.  I made the choice to participate in the survey and allowed my voice to be heard.  It is my belief that the 60% approval is a fair representation of those that took the survey.
And so it is with thoughtful consideration that I feel the need to address this issue with all of you.
Within our Troop we have discussed this issue and have various opinions ranging from full support to no support of the decision.   I have not withheld my opinion in the matter and am available to discuss where I stand in the matter, but I think this letter should serve to express how this decision should have an effect on our Troop, which ultimately is how I feel about the issue.
I think it fair to share some of the common arguments against the decision and where I think the Boy Scouts of America stand.  I can not speak on behalf of the BSA, but I feel that I am in agreement with the policy change.  You will see how and why in this letter.
First, the argument over the ability for a Scout to live up to the promise that he makes to be “Morally Straight”.  I do not see an issue here as we as Scout leaders do not define a Scouts morals.  The Boy Scouts of America have always insisted that moral instruction is the responsibility of the of the family and the religious institution of the individual Scout.  At best it is my responsibility to model moral behavior.  Behavior that I was taught as a young boy by my family and my faith group.  I think it is safe to say that my family and my faith formation have led me to being a good man that makes sound moral decisions.  I am of the belief that parents all start off with the best intentions for their children.  Parents that introduce their boy to Scouting understand the timeless values and the ideals that Scouting offers.  Parents that want their son to enjoy Scouting know and understand the shared commitment of the Scout Oath and Law that Scouts and Scouters make.  Most parents may not understand the policies of the BSA or the methods of the program, but just like the average person, they know in one way or another, that Scouting is about doing good.
The decision to allow gay boys to join Scouting does not change our values in the least.  We find the values of the BSA in the Scout Oath and Law.  Just as I remind your son during the many Scoutmaster conferences we share, we make three promises in the Scout Oath.  Those promises are our duty.  They are to serve our God and Country, to Help other people at all times, and to remember the promise we make to ourselves in keeping ourselves physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
Before we leave the Scout Oath, let me remind you that during our Scoutmaster Conference your Scout holds all of the answers that allow him to grow and advance, largely in part to how you have raised him and not because he says the Scout Oath.  The Boy Scouts do not define God and does not require a Scout to be religious.  When a Scout promises to do his duty to God and Country, we allow the Scout to decide who or what that God is.  The Scout handbook tells us that we are to respect others and their religious convictions.  When I ask your son what that means to him, I become a listener and not a judge.  I firmly believe that in that answer we learn about how the Scout is growing in his faith and watch as he fine tunes his moral compass.  When a Scout is struggling with this discussion I ask a few leading questions.  Those questions are simply this, do you believe that it is a good thing to “do to others as you would like done to you?”  They typically answer yes, which leads to question number two, “what does that mean to you?”  Then I share with your Scout that religions of every creed maintain that as a foundation of living a good life.  That simple phrase known as the “Golden Rule” is the magnetic pull that keeps our moral compass straight.  It has nothing to do with life style or sexual behavior.  It guides us in treating others with respect and dignity and is a foundation for the Scout law, the second area in which we find the values of Scouting.
It is with that in mind that we can expect our Scouts to live the Scout Law.  To be trustworthy to one another, Loyal to family, friends, God and Country.  It demands that we are helpful  as you are aware we ask our Scouts to develop a habit of being a selfless servant.  A Scout is a friend to all, so says the founder of Scouting Lord Baden-Powell.  We ask that our Scouts are courteous and kind to one another and practice that at home, school, and in their daily lives.  I can go on about how and what we expect from our boys in living the Scout law, but I will touch on just two more points that I think are relevant in this discussion.  Obedient and Reverent.
Once again, as their Scoutmaster and role model, I find that it is my position to be obedient to the BSA and it’s policies.  I do not have to agree with the gay lifestyle or the choice to be homosexual.  Once this policy change goes into effect in January of 2014, I will comply and welcome every boy who wants to be a Scout into our troop.
Reverent.  The Boy Scout Handbook tells us that a Scout is Reverent.  According to the handbook that is defined as such;  “A Scout is reverent.  A Scout is reverent toward God.  He is faithful in his religious duties.  He respects the beliefs of others.”  Please take note that the definition does not define the Boy Scouts of America’s belief, it directly instructs the Scout to do HIS duty and be faithful in HIS religious duties and HE respects the beliefs of others.  HE and HIS not OURS and THE BSA.  Now this may seem like an easy out, but to be honest with you I would not have it any other way.  Look at our Troop, we have members from many different faith groups.  We have a wide variety of Scouts with many different levels of faith formation.  We treat them all the same.  We expect them to live what you have taught them and couple that home and church formation with that of the Scout Oath and Law.
So how will this be different with a gay Scout?  It won’t be.  Again, I am going to assume that the parents of that young man want the best for him.  They want him to be in an organization that maintains a good set of values, that by and large will be consistent with those of their family, no matter what that family looks like.  Again, that is not for me as a Scoutmaster to judge.
Here is the bottom line as I see it.
Our troop is going to maintain the values of the Boy Scouts of America.  We are going to continue to focus on the mission of the BSA and never go away from the three aims of Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.  We will use the eight methods to achieve those aims.  We will still go camping every month.  We will not change our program in the slightest.  Just as we did not change when you brought your son to our troop, we will not change for any other boy who joins our unit.
I can assure you that our Troop understands and practices youth protection and this too will not change.  The Boy Scouts of America have sound practices when it comes to protecting our youth.  Nothing here will change.  We will maintain a safe, friendly environment for your son and all of the Scouts of our troop.  We will address all personal issues as they happen, just like we currently do for the Scouts that we currently serve.  We will observe their privacy, and respect each and everyone in our troop as we would have them respect us.
Many Scouters are already talking about leaving the Boy Scouts over this issue.  I know that we will lose some really good people, I hope none from our troop, but I do understand that some people must be true to how they feel and what they know as the direction of their moral compass.  I would hope that you all trust that we have the best interest of your Scout in mind in everything we do.
To those that feel the need to part ways with our organization, I wish you well and pray that you do not have ill feelings toward those of us that stay.  I welcome you back whenever that time is right for you and your family.  I believe in the Boy Scouts of America and regardless of this policy change and the heart ache that it seems to have caused,  is still the very best youth organization on earth.  I believe this with all of my heart, and I trust that you understand that I am sincere.
Please feel free to discuss this issue with me personally if you have the need.  I think it important that you understand that I am not and neither is the Boy Scouts of America, asking that you accept the homosexual life style.  It is expected that all people are treated with respect and dignity.  This is all I can ask of you, your Scout and our troop.
The Boy Scouts of America has made many ground breaking changes in its 103 years.  This will not be the last.  The testament of the stability of this great organization is in its timeless values that are there for everyone.
I thank you for the time and hope we have a lasting relationship in the future.
Yours in Scouting.
And as Always, Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, respect, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Service, Values, Youth Protection | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments

Camporee

Well, Camporee is over once again for another year.
Here are some thoughts on the weekend…
First and foremost I need to tell you that pride is just one word that comes to mind when it comes to how I feel about the boys of my Troop.  Now, you may be saying to yourself… yeah Jer.. You say that all the time.. and yes, yes I do, but this time it is a “Coming of age” kind of pride.
As you also know, our troop camps using a “Backpacking style” of camping.  We don’t have patrol boxes, we pack it in and pack it out, and we insist on boy leadership.  We teach our Scouts to be self-reliant and to think and do things for themselves.  Above all we have fun.
Our senior Patrol runs the Troop and is trained and guided to make sound decisions.  They are not always right and they certainly are not always popular, but in the end the Troop seems to meet its goals.
Maybe it’s me, but for more than a few years it seems that our Troop has been sort of black sheep within the district.  Until recently the only Troop that camped strictly using Backpacking methods.  This year we noticed that a few more Troops are adopting our style of camping.
There are certainly advantages and disadvantages of being a backpacking Troop in a car camping district.
Super fast set up and take down and smaller footprint.  I think this one and cooking are the two things that other Troops can’t wrap their heads around.  We got into camp at about 7:30 PM.  Within an hour we were all set up and working on the gateway.. we will talk about the gateway later.  The camp site gets up quickly and allows for the patrols to get to the business of having fun.
This morning, the Scouts hit their typical Sunday routine.  They woke up and started packing.  Once packed, they cooked breakfast and finished camp chores.  The troop was pretty much ready to go, but given a set schedule for camporee made the choice to lolly gag around camp.  This is both a disadvantage and advantage.  Lots of time, and nowhere to go when it comes to waiting on the rest of the schedule.
Cooking and clean up is easy and not without a good meal plan.  A big misconception is that backpackers only eat freeze-dried cardboard.  Not so.  If you can cook it on a green stove, you can cook it backpacking and this was demonstrated all weekend as the boys cooked great meals
Lighter loads made for easy load out and pack up.  I figure this is where many Troops have a problem with the way we camp.  Immediately after closing ceremonies we were loaded in the cars and on our way home.  As we drove off we could see the “heavy Troops” still taking down camp and loading up the trailers.
Now, I don’t really have a problem with the car camping style.. it’s just not for me and certainly not for our Troop.  It is nice to wake up cook, clean up, pack and hike out.  Makes for happy Scouts that, at the end of a good weekend can look forward to easy tear down of camp.  A couple of our Scouts were talking with one of the troops next to us.  They reported that the Scouts were not happy that they had at least an hour of clean up, tear down, and then put away once they got home.  It is so much easier to load a bunch of backpacks into the truck and drive away.
To be honest, I find no merit in making the Scouts unhappy.
Our Troop never scores well on the camp site inspection, largely in part to the fact that the folks doing the grading don’t know what to look for.  They are looking for patrol boxes, watch stations, and tents that are all pitched in a row with even spacing and Canopies to cook under.  We don’t get scored high because our cook kits are put away after each meal and our food is hung in bear bags.  They don’t see the little bottle of camp suds that we use to clean our pots and mess kits and they are not used to seeing single person tents or tarp set ups.  So we have grown accustomed to just camping and having a fun weekend at camp o ree.  The Scouts don’t seem to mind that we don’t “win” each year, but it is clear that they have a great time.  That is not say that the Patrols don’t come away empty-handed.  Each year they show well in the events and always take home ribbons.  But as a total score, I am afraid that we won’t get the grand prize until the committee decides to grade backpacking troops fairly.  This is going to be an issue in the near future as more troops are adopting our style of camping.
We had a large group of Webelos camp with us this year.  A Troop guide volunteered to be their guide all weekend and he did a spectacular job.  I think of the 8 Webelos, we should get at least 6 of them to cross over into the Troop.  They are motivated and liked the way we camped and had fun.  The Dad’s that camped with us from the Webelos seemed to have a good time and were impressed with the way our boys ran the troop.  It was a good opportunity for them to see the Troops of the District all at once.  It was really good for us when they noticed a couple of troops that had the moms and dads doing all the cooking for the boys.  “That is not the way Scouting should be” said one of the Dad’s.  I could not help be agree.
Where are the judges when the Scouts are not doing their own cooking.. but hey to each their own.  That’s not how we do it.  Green Bar Bill is flipping in his grave.
Our Scouts did a great job this weekend.. Perfect, No… but perfect in the way we do Scouting.
We had a real fun time this weekend and like I said at the beginning.. I am proud of the Scouts of my troop.
Our Assistant Senior Patrol Leader got an opportunity to lead the Troop this weekend and continued to develop into a good leader.  He stepped up and did a nice job.  It was nice to work with him and teach him some leadership techniques.  Watching him apply them was rewarding for both him and I.  Real proud of him… he will be a great Senior Patrol Leader.
Our Senior Patrol leader was torn this weekend between the Venturing Crew that he is a member of and the Troop.  He did a fantastic job this weekend, but I could tell that he was torn when the Crew earned the Top spot for Crews this year.
Each Scout learned something this weekend and once again tested leadership and skills.  It’s those things that make me a proud Scoutmaster.
Have a great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Cooking, gear, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Scouting, Skills, teamwork | 3 Comments

Passion

course_logoI just walked in the door from another fantastic Wood badge course.  W1-492-13 is now in its application phase and as the participants walked out of camp yesterday I could not help but think about the impact that was about to hit the Scouting world.
53 Scouters took labored steps toward their cars yesterday heading back out into the Scouting world with a new set of tools, a renewed spirit in Scouting and new friendships made.
As the staff gathered to have a final staff meeting the comment was made that like a pebble thrown into a pond causing ripples, we have cast our pebbles into the pond of Scouting and the impact will be endless.  Those 53 Scouters will make such a difference within their units, districts, and even the Council.  Touching the lives or more Scouts and other Scouters than any single leader can.  When we talk about making a difference, I believe that Scouters that have the Wood Badge experience make a the biggest splash!
I love Wood Badge and each time I participate, I learn more.  Wood Badge compels me to take seriously the concept of life long learning.  This was my second time on staff, and I hope not the last.  The first time I staffed Wood Badge, I learned more than I think I learned as a participant.  In fact, diving into the syllabus I know that I learned the material which allowed me to make a difference as a Troop Guide.  This time I served the Wood Badge course as the Assistant Scoutmaster for Support and Physical Arrangements.  Part of the Administrative staff I got to see “the other side” of Wood Badge.  I got to see the nuts and bolts that it takes to hold a Wood Badge course together.  And I must say that while the troop guides make a hands on impact on the learner, the admin staff set the enviroment for good learning.  They coordinate speakers, materials, and facilities and most of all are the guardians of maintaining the standards of the Wood Badge course.  Ensuring that the syllabus is followed and the learners have the best opportunity to succeed.
Ok, that’s all logical and expected.  It was a great experience to be on the staff in this position.
Here is what I saw that has made a lasting impact on me.  Yeah.. on me.
Our Course Director/ Scoutmaster is John Caputo, he is a Scouters Scouter.  He is humble and knowledgeable.  He is compassionate and strict, he is a great teacher.
Spending the the last 6 months on his staff was special.  John’s greatest lesson was passion.  John is passionate about Scouting, but more specifically, his passion lies in training.  He has been a Trainer in Scouting for “a few years”.  His knowledge and commitment to dropping rocks in the pond is not just visible, it’s contagious.  I left the Wood Badge staff in 2011 with a renewed committment to my Scouts and the Scouting world as well as being a better father, husband, and friend.  I left this years staff with a renewed passion for training, for making my troops leaders better, and with the first draft of my next ticket.  A ticket the will focus on my wife.
This is the impact of Wood Badge and I love it.  It is such a special part of my life and I am happy.
Thanks John!
Have you found passion in your Scouting world?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Camping, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Oath and Law, respect, Scouting, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Wood Badge | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Who’s to say?

DISCLAIMER:  THIS IS MY OPINION AND NOT THE OPINION OF THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, TROOP 664, OR THE FINE LEADERS THAT I CALL MY FRIENDS.

Having said all of that I am going to briefly revisit this whole “Gay Scout” issue.
This last week it was announced that the BSA will be putting the issue on the table for a vote.  You can read all about it elsewhere, I am not going to go into the details here.
The bottom line is that the vote will come down to this;  The BSA will change it’s membership policy to include “openly gay” Scouts but it would continue to restrict the membership of “openly gay” adult leaders.
OK…. here is my opinion on the matter, and in light of recent announcements from a few of the Churches that seem to be at the fore front of the issue, I should say that my opinion has not changed.
First, I really don’t think that the issue will make a difference.  I do not care personally what a person does sexually.  Now many will argue that this is a sexual issue, I tend to disagree.  How many “openly gay” Scouts do you know?  I have a feeling on some Scouts and in most if not all cases when it comes to our teen-aged boys… they don’t really care either.  I guess the better question is how many gay boys are beating down the doors to get in to the Boy Scouts of America?  I have yet to meet one.  Most if not all gay boys will not be looking for the activity that the Scouts offer.  This is not a predatory issue.  They, gays, are not looking at the BSA as an opportunity to meet and date.  I mean.. that’s so ridiculous.
Anyway… Morality is the next issue.  So I suppose we need to address what that means.  Now, I know that I will piss some folks off with this, but I think it needs to be said.  Church does not make you moral.  I know openly gay members of the Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, and the LDS Church.  They may not make it to public, but you don’t have to be a sociologist to know that they are gay and they tend not to hide it among friends.  They hide it because they are made to feel like lepers in their respective communities that preach love, peace, and compassion.
If we look at moral thinking then where does love enter the conversation?
When we look into the definition of morality it leaves the reader wondering where does morality come from?  Defined morality looks like this:
1. a : a moral discourse, statement, or lesson.  b : a literary or other imaginative work teaching a moral lesson.
2.  a : a doctrine or system of moral conduct.  b. plural : particular moral principles or rules of conduct
3.  conformity to ideals of right human conduct
4.  moral conduct : virtue
So we over time have decided what the social norms are and how we practice moral thinking and teaching.  The first documented use of the term “Morality” was not till the 14th century.  What ever did we do before then?
Since morality is decided by man’s ideals and virtues, some say they received from God, again, in the Scouting context, which God is that?  It is common that all virtue and religious teaching universally comes down to “Do unto others…”
So why then do we treat people like outcasts, deviants, and unworthy of membership in our club?
There are those that think homosexuality is deviant behavior.. and it may be.. who am I to judge?  It’s not my cup of tea, but then again, I don’t like rap music either and certainly not the life style it promotes.  Not a big fan of smoking or excessive drinking either.  Not a fan of those that abuse their kids or beat their wives… yet that deviant behavior seems to be just fine.
I work with openly gay folks.  They are good people.  I have had discussions with them about Scouting and they all think it is a great organization… BUT…
Yeah, they always have the “but” comment.  They to do not understand that a group that claims to live by a certain code and a set of values would exclude people based on their sexual orientation.  Further, they consider the argument not one of sexual acts but of who they love.  And that gets me wondering where the morality comes in and who decides it.
A Scout is starts the Scout law.. it is followed by the set of values that we live by.  Which one of the 12 points would not allow a gay boy in?  Right away people go to “Clean” and “Reverent”.  Defined (again) the Scout law suggests that a Scout is Clean in thought, word, and deed.  But I still can’t find where sexual orientation would be an issue, especially when it comes to a boy.  Straight boys don’t even have sex when they are 13 for the most part… right?
Reverent?  The Boy Scouts of America does not define who God is nor does the organization suggest how a Scout must worship.  The Boy Scout handbook says “A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.”  The BSA does not extend its moral teaching beyond that of the Scout Oath and Law and refers the Scout to his faith group and family for furthering religious teaching and moral thinking.
So that is where it comes from and that is where it should stay.  Once we put our uniforms on and raise the Scout sign we should be inclusive and respectful.  We should be friendly and helpful.  We should be courteous and kind.  We should be loyal and cheerful.
All of this is found in Scouting and why not let openly gay Scouts in?
Now the LDS church has come out for this, the Catholic Church is sitting on the fence and other faith groups are afraid to take a stand that allows for love and friendship to trump bed room activity.  Even though we are talking about young men here and not pedophiles or social deviants.
So happens after the vote.  Gay boys will either be allowed in or not.  If they are in… who leaves?  If they are out.. who drops support?
It seems to me that what ever happens the Scouts will loose.  So are we willing to deal with the results and how?  My guess is that at the unit level nothing is going to change.  If the new policy is that gay Scouts will be allowed, I wonder how many families leave my troop?  I don’t care about funding or policy… but what about those folks that are unwilling to change?  I figure that if the families that are currently in my troop are happy now.. why would that change?  But I know it will and so I need to be willing to deal with it.
Will this be the end of Scouting as we know it?  I hope not.  Are there still Scouters out there that will be willing to stay the course, even though the course will have changed?
I don’t know the answers.. I am curious to see how this all plays out.
Let me know what you think.  Leave a comment.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, respect, Scout Law, Values | 9 Comments

Zapping the Fun out of it

wallWe all get to a point when we hit the wall, reach the point of diminishing return, stop having fun.  Teen age boys seem to hit that point way before adults and that my friends seems to be normal.  So know what we know, how do we deliver that promise without loosing our cool, making Scouting painful, and zapping the fun out of it.
I have been giving this subject a lot of thought lately and it pretty much came to a head for me the other night at our Troop meeting when I had a little chat with a Scout and his Dad.  This Scout is a good kid, he is growing up and seeing where he can push and pull on the limits with his parents, school, etc… that to seems to be pretty normal, I mean, all kids test the waters.  They see were they can get away with things and what they will be allowed to do and not do.  But that is not really here nor there in the conversation other than to say, this young man is testing where he can and Scouting is becoming a push and pull point between his Dad and himself.
I remember when this young man entered our Troop, he was gung ho about Scouting and dove right in.  He quickly worked his way through rank and never missed a good Scouting opportunity.  Went to the National Jamboree and Philmont and has by and large been a good Scout.  But now he has a driver’s licence, a girl friend, and Scouting is not cool among the crowd he is hanging with at School.  Again, normal… right?
Like I said, this all has come to a head this week, the discussion about how we maintain a good balance for our Scouts without compromising the program.  How do we keep older Scouts engaged and how do we keep it fun and adventurous for them while we compete with the rest of their worlds?  How is that we keep them from reaching that point of diminishing return and get them to continue to make a contribution to the Troop?  How do we assist them in staying active as a member and leader in the troop?
Well, I may not have the answers, but I am willing to try to at least offer solutions.
I am, as you know, a big believer in the Patrol method.  I think that the Patrols are a big piece of the puzzle here.  Allowing the Scouts to maintain the Patrols of guys that they want to be with, share common interests and likes and dislikes.  Maybe if they stay together, they will rally around each other.  To much moving around and the Scouts start to lose interest in going through the stages of team development and maintaining that high performance attitude.
So let them pick and keep their Patrols and Patrol mates.  When they invite a friend, let that friend be in their Patrol.
Leadership is always an issue also.  We expect our older Scouts to be leaders.  And I agree, but to what end?  When they start to hit the wall, they are not affect leaders, they tend to go through the motions and develop bad attitudes.  If they don’t want to lead, don’t make them.  They will get their leadership time and I would much rather have a leader that wants to lead than one that is being forced.  Leadership comes in many forms and maybe just their example can be enough till they are ready to step back into the spot light of Troop leadership.
Attendance.  This one gets debated over and over again, and everyone has an opinion.  By the way, I am interested in yours.. leave a comment.  Here are just a few thoughts of mine regarding this issue.  I am not a big proponent of forcing Scouts to be there.  I want them to be there.  I also understand that life for these kids (and adults) is busy.  Sports, homework, vacations, friends, other clubs all pull at the Scouts and their families.  Don’t let Scouting be the thing that becomes the bad guy.  Make Scouting something they want to be at.  I have said it before, Scouting may not be for every boy and as their world pulls at them it provides an opportunity for choices to be made.  The more they understand the value of Scouting and the fun, the higher on the priority list it goes.  Attendance at meetings, outings, and other unit functions needs to be the choice of the Scout and the family.
But Jerry, how do you determine what “active” means?  Well, I always go back to what the Boy Scouts of America has determined as the standard.  Here is how the BSA defines “Active”:
A Scout will be considered “active” in his unit if he is;
Registered in his unit (registration fees are current)
Not dismissed from his unit for disciplinary reasons
Engaged by his unit leadership on a regular basis (informed of unit activities through Scoutmaster conference or personal contact, etc.)
In communication with the unit leader on a quarterly basis.
(Units may not create their own definition of active; this is a national standard.)
So that’s it.  That is active. I may or may not agree with it, and I am sure that there are some of you that feel that this standard is a bit chinsy.. but it is what it is.  That is how the Boy Scouts of America define it and that is what we must comply with when determining the activity of our Scouts.  That is the standard.
And so that is what I use as my guide.  Now, during the Scoutmaster conference I make it a point to ask what the Scout is getting out of the program… typically, you get out of Scouting what you put into it.  So once a Scout gets to that point where Girls, Gas, and Goofing off start taking a priority and troop meetings start to take a back seat, what is he getting out of it.  Does he still camp with the Troop?  Does he show up for service projects or courts of honor?  That would make him active, right?  I think it may.  The Scout will let you know how he is doing in the program, but we all know that forcing the issue on a teen-aged young man will result in push back.  And then you are back at square one.  The fun will officially be zapped out of it.
So what now?
First, know your Scouts.  What they like, dislike, and what makes them want to be there.
Second, use the Patrol method.  Enough said about that.
Finally, be flexible.  It’s only Scouting.  There is much to be gained in our organization, but if you are not happy here, or not here at all, you won’t get anything out of it.
Don’t be a Troop dictator.  Be as Baden-Powell said in Aides to Scoutmastership.. “To get a hold on boys, you must be their friend”.
Build trust in them and let them set their course for adventures in Scouting.
Hope that made any sense…  Don’t zap the fun out of Scouting.
Thanks for hanging in there and reading the blog.
Have a Great Scouting day!

 

Categories: Advancement, blog, Camping, Character, comments, Ideals, Jamboree, Journey to Excellence, Methods, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Philmont, Scoutmaster conference, Service, Skills, teamwork, Values | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Just do something…

DSCN0627

It has been an interesting week or so and the blog once again, while always on my mind took a back seat to the daily working of being a Scoutmaster.  As we prepared for the camp out and then went out on another winter adventure the Scouts of Troop 664 kept me busy
and looking for new ways to reach our Scouts and peak their interest.
On our way home from our camp out yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with the Senior Patrol Leader of our Troop.  We were talking about the morning and some of the challenges that we encountered.  Taking advantage of a good teaching and learning opportunity we shifted the conversation to what we could have done different.  James talked about how he could have been a better example in that he should have got packed up before the young guys allowing him to be more available to assist were needed and he could have worked better as a team with the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders.  I told him that he was right, a leader needs to always set the expectation by being a good example and that pretty much goes for everything.  We talked about some of the decision-making of the group this weekend and why some Scouts seem to get it and others don’t.  It comes down to decision-making and common sense.  We agreed that common sense is not as common as we would like and then talked more about decision-making.

When it comes to making decisions, especially in a cold weather camping environment, there is a simple rule in that for every action there is a positive or negative reaction.  The worst thing that a leader can do is nothing.
A Scouts skills is the knowledge base that his decisions are formulated and made from.  The Scout can choose to do the right thing, or he can choose to do nothing.  What we have seen from our Scouts is that when the make the choice to do nothing, they are cold, wet, and tired.  In short, they do not have a good time.  We have watched as Scouts that do not have fun on camp outs tend not to camp as much and lose interest in Scouting.  There are a few arguments for and against.  I have been told on one hand that it is my job to make sure that the Scouts have fun.  I have also been told to stay the course.  Now, before anyone jumps down my throat about this, let me tell you that we are not weeding kids out by camping in the snow and maintaining our Troop camping as backpackers.  Every Scout that joins our Troop knows how we camp and see the calendar so they know when, where, and how we are camping, climbing, and find adventure.  They make a choice at that time to join us or find another troop.  As long as our Patrol leaders council wants to head down that trail, we will.  We do a great job in training up our Scouts to be successful.  But we require that they make a choice.  They need to make a choice to learn or not to learn.  That is up to them.  Like I have explained over and over again, it is the jobs of the Scoutmaster and the Assistant Scoutmasters to assist Scouts in making it to First Class.  I am not to interested in Eagle Scouts, that will come with hard work, determination, and developing as a young man.  the skills learned and habits formed on the trail to First Class is the foundation of the making a man.  Camping Skills, Citizenship, Fitness, and Character are all elements of the trail to First Class.  But the first step on that trail is a choice.
So as I talked with the Senior Patrol Leader on the way home from the camp out we discussed possible reasons why the Scouts we have now are less mentally tough and unwilling to push themselves.  Why can they not take what they have learned and apply it?  Why have they not made the choice?  Is it a lack of training?  Is it a lack of want to?  Is it something that we have done or failed to do?  We could not put our finger on it.  Whats different in the Scouts we have this year opposed to the Scouts we crossed over 4 years ago or even 2 years ago?  We don’t really know.  They all come from good homes, great parents, and none of them have learning disabilities… so they all have the ability to learn and make sound choices.  So what is it?  We will find out I guess.
In the mean time, what does this mean for the Troop?  Tonight the PLC met and started getting ready for the next camp out.  Next month we will head into the woods to develop our Wilderness Survival Skills.  The plan won’t change and I am sure that some of the Scouts that have not been having a great time, well, they won’t go camping.  I asked the PLC what they thought about that.. they said that it was fine, at least they won’t have to have bad attitudes on the camp out.  I think the boys get tired of dealing with it too.  It’s that “one bad apple” thing and the majority of the Scouts really would rather camp with the guys that want to be there and have a good time.So what?  I think it is great the SPL is aware enough to have this talk.  I am encouraged by a PLC that is willing to stay the course and take a part in having a Troop that they want to belong to, that they want to lead, and that they want to share with their friends.
We will have to see where this takes us.  For now, we just get ready for the next outing and keep working with the young men that want to be there.  These last few months have been challenging for the Scouts of our Troop, some are stronger for it, some developed better leadership skills because of it, and some have made a choice not to camp in the winter.  I am ok with all of it.
What do you think?  I think that things will be just fine.  I think that the Troop will be fine and that we will continue to have great adventures in the future.  I think that while some of the Scouts choose to turn away from challenges, most boys want to be challenged and want to see just how far they push themselves.  I think this is the way boys are no matter how hard we try to be over protective and keep them in a bubble.  Some how.. some way.. boys need to be boys and Scouts gives them that outlet when we provide the program and allow them to make a choice.  That’s what I think.  I am curious to see what your thoughts are.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, comments, fitness, gear, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Bad Week as a Scouter

lifepinI should start by saying no one got hurt, no one died, and no one is going to jail…
It was August and we were heading home from Philmont Scout Ranch.  Our two crews from the Troop stopped in Grand Junction, Colorado to eat at the Golden Corral Buffet, a restaurant that our Scouts came to love on the trip down to Philmont.  I sat at a table with a handful of older Scouts and one in particular, I will call him Phil.  Phil was a life Scout and a real active member of the Troop.  Phil is a Senior in High School now, but at the time was enjoying his summer and just had a great time at Philmont.  Phil has a little brother in the Troop that is real motivated and did a great job in pushing Phil to get going on advancement and taking a more active role in the Troop.  So Phil and I started talking about his 18th Birthday and soon it would be on us.  We talked about his goals and what he was planning on doing after high school.  He stated that he was planning on joining the Army.  Immediately I had some advice for him and we started talking about wrapping up his last requirements for Eagle.  He had 8 months till he turned 18 and if he got going, he could knock out those last merit badges and focus on his Eagle Project.
About a month ago Phil decided that he really wanted to earn his Eagle rank.  So, we started looking into how he could finish the merit badges and get the project rolling.  Phil showed moments of absolute motivation and effort that I wish all our Scouts had in them.  He also showed moments of “let it ride”.  He fell into the trap of Maxing the minimum.  Last week he got some critical merit badges complete and his Eagle Project approved.  This week he hit a road block when he discovered that he was going to have a challenge that time would not allow him to over come.  Tonight, he decided, along with discussion with his Dad and then me, that he could not finish before he turns 18 on Sunday.
Tonight I went to his home and sat and talked with him, his brother, and his Dad.  We talked about the lessons learned through this process and that although he will not be an Eagle Scout, he has learned much from Scouting and that he is a better person for it.  I shared with him that I am not an Eagle Scout.. in much the same fashion, I ran out of time when I was approaching my 18th birthday.  I to joined the Army and turned 18 while in Basic Training.  Instead of Eagle Scout, I earned Private First Class.  All was not lost though.. the things that I learned in Scouting made me a successful soldier and in 24 months I achieved the rank of Sergeant.  I shared all of this with Phil to reinforce that even though he can’t be an Eagle Scout he can take what Scouting gave him and what he learned and earned and apply it for the rest of his life.
Over the past few weeks and in particular the last few days, I have done everything that I can possibly do to assist this young man in becoming an Eagle Scout.  I have looked for loop holes and work arounds and at the end of the day the lesson learned is that there is a process and that process needs to be done right.  No short cuts, no loop holes, and no work arounds.  With every thing we had we tried, we could not help the Scout that waited.
This is the first time I have ever had to look a young man in the eye and say that I am sorry he can not be an Eagle Scout.  This is the first time that we have run the course and not succeeded.  Not that the Scout is a failure, but that the Scout did not finish in time.
I am exhausted.  This young man has worked hard, but he started to late to get motivated and get it done.  I have seen a strong work ethic emerge in this young man and I hope that he learned that when he puts his mind to it, he can and will be successful.  This short fall is not the end of the world and a great lesson in life.
He’s going to keep working on his project so it will benefit the community.  That is a great thing.  His service will be lasting, something he learned along the way in Scouting.
What I have learned in this process is that I need to do a better job of setting the Scouts up.  I will not do the work, nor will I nag the Scout.. but what I will do, and what our Troop will do from this day forward is simple.  On their 17th birthday we will sit down with the Scout and his progress record.  We will explain the process and encourage them to start getting real serious if they want to be an Eagle Scout.  They will have 365 day notice that time is running out.  They will know beyond a shadow of a doubt what they need to finish and we will give them the tools to be successful.  What they do with it from there is up to them.
I will not scramble like this again.  I will not get in a position of working merit badges with a Scout 3 days before his 18th birthday.  It is not the way the process is designed and does not demonstrate what it takes to be an Eagle Scout.
I feel real bad for Phil.  I wish he was planning an Eagle Court of Honor right now.  What I know for sure is that Phil has learn some valuable life lessons this last month and I feel that he will go on to do great things with his life because of it.  I certainly hope so.
Scouting was real good for Phil.  He did well.  He just came up short.  That’s life.. as hard as that is to hear.  What he does with that knowledge is up to him now.
I gave him a coin tonight, it is the coin that I was allowed to have made when I became a Command Sergeant Major.  I can’t award him the Eagle Medal, but the coin is to serve to him as a reminder of hard work and dedication and the rewards for effort.  I am not an Eagle Scout, but I made it to the very top in the Army, so can he… if he wants to.
This has been a bad week for me in Scouting… but one that I learned alot and I hope that Phil did to.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Ideals, Methods, Philmont, planning, Scout, Scoutmaster conference, Values | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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