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 other night I had the pleasure of sitting in as an advocate for a Scout in my Troop at his Eagle Board of Review.
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.
We often talk about having all of our adult leaders trained. When we speak of training we are talking about the basics. Has the adult completed Youth Protection? Attended their Basic Course for the specific position? And according to the Boy Scouts of America, that’s pretty much a trained leader.
You are qualified to be an adult that delivers the promise of Scouting. Really.
Ok, now… everyone just take off your Scouting hat and put on your parent hat. Now you know nothing about Scouting except that your son wants to be a Scout. You know that Scouting is a great organization that reinforced those character traits that you are teaching at home and he and his friends enjoy going camping once a month. But who is this “Trained” leader? What qualifies him to take your son out into the woods?
A couple videos? An online training session and a “suitable for framing” print out certificate?
Oh, but maybe the leader has been to Wood Badge. So he knows the Boy Scout Program and is able to teach and reach his goals. He communicates well, but what of the skills he needs to take my kid into the woods.
My point here is this. In a world in which we bubble wrap our kids. We don’t let them stay out after dark, they can’t climb trees, drink from a garden hose, or in some cases even push a lawn mower.. we drop off our sons to people we don’t really know, they hop into their trucks and vans and drive away for a weekend in the woods.
Say that out loud and it is a bit creepy.
We trust that they know what they are doing with our kids. We hope to see smiles on their faces and that they are in one piece when they arrive back at the meeting hall.
Trust. That is what we have in our leaders. But it’s 2014 so what has he done to be trusted. What skills does he have to gain my trust. Who is this guy taking my kid into the woods?
I am a big fan of Boy Scout Training and take it a step further. I am on our district training team and teach the Scoutmaster basic course. I am a Wood Badge staffer and love to teach leadership.
So knowing what I know, I know that the Boy Scout minimum training is not enough to build that trust. But the leader that goes the extra mile and gets more training, now that’s the guy I want.
Not to toot my horn, or the horns our leaders in my Troop, but we respect that trust and that is why we all go the extra mile.
In our Troop, all the Assistant Scoutmasters are Wood Badge trained.
We have Certified Climbing instructors.
We have Certified Wilderness First Aid First Responders.
We have Wilderness First aid trained leaders.
White water rafting guides
Leave No Trace master trainers
Cold Weather camping experts
Everyone is CPR/AED trained
Everyone has done the supplemental training for Trek Safe, Safe Swim defense, Safety Afloat, and Climb Safely.
I know that I am missing something, the point is that we go out of our way to be over trained.
This is where the trust of the parents is gained and maintained.
It is an important part of protecting our youth and delivering the very best program to them.
So who is your Scout leader? Do you trust him or her with your son in the woods?
Have a Great Scouting Day!
I can not remember where or who I heard this from, but I recalled a quote the other day that I thought was a good way of illustrating our job as Scout leaders and parents.
“We are not building roads for our children, we are building children for the roads.”
Essentially it is saying that we can lay out everything to make life easy for our kids or we can prepared them for the road of life, which we all know is not easy.
When I thought about this quote, it got me to thinking about some of the ways we discuss our Scouting programs. As you all know I am a fan of traditional Scouting and doing things the right way. I am not a fan of giving everyone a trophy and I know that not every Scout will be an Eagle Scout… nor should they be. If they have been properly trained in their young lives to work hard, then they will reap the rewards of hard work.
The road of life is difficult and only made easier by getting on it and traveling. Know that it is hard, but stay the course. The beauty of the road is that you get to pick your destination. You can pick the path of least resistance and when you get there you will find that it took you to a place a fewer rewards. You can get on the highway of success and its direction will lead you to the world of Success. But you need to know that there will be detours and pot holes, but if you negotiate them, you will be successful.
So as Scout leaders and parents we need to encourage our children to take that road and prepare them for the detours and pot holes. We do not need to drive them there with the knowledge of the location of the pot holes and hardships. You can build the road, nice and smooth. Pave it with gold and make it a fast lane for your child, but he will not get the most out of it and will fail to learn lessons along the way.
On the other hand, we can train him up to set a course, know how to go around a detour and take it slow on a pot hole filled road. He will learn and develop and by the time he gets where he is going he will be a man who you will be proud of.
Last night at Round table I had a little chat with a Scouter about Eagle Scouts. He made the comment that every Scout should be an Eagle Scout and that the sooner they get it, the better.
Again, I thought about the road. Did we build the road for the Scout or did we build the Scout for the road. I don’t know the answer in his particular case, but how many Eagle Scouts have we seen that are not prepared for the road. I personally can tell you that I have seen many. While I am proud of their accomplishment, I wonder if we as Scouters are not quick to reward and less enthusiastic to take the time and build that young man.
The road of life is a tough one. We owe it to our children and our Scouts to build them ready for the road of life.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
I have been digging through my collection of Troop Pictures and wanted to find some good annual pictures of our Troop, you know, the Summer camp shots that show what a great year of Scouting we had.
As I dug through my collection I looked back on all of those young men that have enjoyed a great program at our Troop. I think about all of the young men that have come and gone. Some stuck it out to the end, some are still active with the Troop.
It has been fun to look at the guys and think about the funny stories that come with each of these pictures.
In light of current discussions on growth and membership, when I look at these pictures I see our program and why it works. I see great kids that want to play the game with a purpose. I see those adults that give a ton to the program. I see the place we have been and things that we have done and it makes me want to give more to these incredible young men that join looking for the adventure of a life time.
As I look back on these pictures I can’t help but remember those years when membership was booming and activities never seemed to end. I think back on our transition from a “Patrol Box Troop” to a “Backpacking Troop” and how that changed our adventure. It also changed our membership. It made us a bit smaller, not every young man wants that kind of adventure. I think about all the Scouts that we talked with on join nights and Troop visits that we suggested different Troops to. Those young guys that had that look that they did not want to join our Troop, but for us them staying in Scouting was more important. I often run into some of those young men and am glad that they stayed in Scouting. Even though we did not ‘get them’ Scoutingwon and so did the Scout. A look at the pictures bring back memories of attacking raccoon’s and awesome dutch oven cook offs. They tell a story of our Troop and the fun that we have had.
Doing an independent camp out in Eastern Oregon was a great adventure. A staff made up of our parents and Scout leaders. Trips to historical sites and learning to catch bee’s. Water skiing, horseback riding, and launching rockets. Hanging out in the stream and paddling rubber rafts across the pond with our hands. Catching fish and having an amazing fish fry, for some the first time they ever had Trout.
Leaving an Order of the Arrow Sash at Chief Josephs grave marker was a special day and raising the flag on the flag pole we cut, shaved, and placed on the ranch property leaving the owner speechless with a tear in his eye is a memory I will never forget. Troop 664 shined that summer and did something that I never thought we could pull off. 5 hours from home and one of the best summer camp experiences we have ever had.
In 2010 13 members of Troop 664 went to the National Jamboree with Contingent Troop 720. I had the pleasure of being the Scoutmaster for that Troop and Rob, one of Troop 664’s Assistant Scoutmasters was an Assistant Scoutmaster in 720 also. The rest of the Troop went to Camp Baldwin that year and I do not have a picture of that group.
If you have never been to a National Jamboree you need to go. It is said that the National Jamboree is a once in a life time experience. Well, not really, you can go to as many as you want. But 2010 was a special year. Being the 100th Anniversary of Scouting in America, the Jamboree in 2010 was very special. It was very cool that I was selected to be a Scoutmaster. It was extremely special that my two sons were in my Troop. It was the only National Jamboree that the three of us would every be able to go to together. The young men of that Troop were very special and bonded quickly. Those bonds remain. That group will forever have a special place in my heart.
As you all know, Philmont has a special place in my heart also. I love Philmont. In 2012 our Troop put together two Crews and made the journey to Scouting’s Paradise.
It was a life changing event for many of the Scouts of our Troop. That group of Scouts that made the trek in the Sange DeCristo Mountains came home different. The other day we were talking about the guys that went to Philmont Scout Ranch. Of that group all but three stayed in Scouting. 5 are or will be in the very near future Eagle Scouts. The rest are still active in the Troop. One completely turned himself around and became our Scout of the Year last year. Philmont made a lasting impression on the life of Troop 664. Last Monday I sat with a Scout, he was my Crew leader at Philmont, for his Scoutmaster Conference for the Eagle award. We talked about Philmont and his impression of the experience. He shared with me that at first he was not to excited because he was the crew leader and was afraid that he would be to busy leading that he would miss the experience. On the contrary. It was his leadership and the way our Crew bonded that made the Philmont experience a special one. We talked about his experiences in the Troop and his growth. He talked about Jamboree, Philmont, and all the cool camping trips. Troop 664 delivered the promise to him and continues to provide the adventure of Scouting to the young men that keep showing up.
Last year our Troop went North to the Chief Seattle Council to Camp Pigott. It was the second time we have been there and the experience was once again fantastic. The camp is great, the staff is wonderful and the experience is always one that the Scouts talk about for year. In all of this, as I look back though, it’s not the camp, it’s not the staff, it’s not the time of year. It’s the Troop that makes these pictures come alive. It’s the Troop that as it grows and passes along traditions, stories, leadership, and fun creates the wonderful adventure of Scouting. That is the common theme that has run through the adventure of Troop 664 for the last 10 years and I am certain it will continue for the next 10… and beyond.
Finding that adventure in where we go and what we do. In our young men and the dedication of the adults that go along for the journey. As I look back at these pictures I can’t help but think that we are doing it right. The proof, they keep coming back. They learn, they grow, they become men of Character. All of that wrapped up in this game we play.
Delivering the Promise is a unit thing. Every unit needs to wrap itself in that promise and provide endless adventures for the young men of tomorrow. I look forward to seeing more and more pictures of Troop 664. I need to find the rest. It is fun to watch the growth of the Troop.
How’s your adventure?
Have a Great Scouting Day!
At the end of every Troop meeting our Troop circles up, joins hands, and sings Scout Vespers followed by reciting the Scout Law. This has concluded our meetings for years and has become a great tradition in our Troop.
A couple of weeks ago a young Scout asked why we sing that particular song, since we are not really at a campfire. He thought it was odd that we say “as our campfire fades away” when we are in a meeting hall.
I explained to him, and then the Troop that we always have the spirit of the campfire in us. It is Scout Spirit. There is magic in every campfire and we carry that with us every day.
The campfire within us burns bright showing the world that we are Scouts.
And that is why we say the Scout Law after we sing the song. As the campfire fades we need to add more fuel to it to keep it burning. As we send the Scouts away from the meeting each week we rekindle in them their fire. We remind them that they have a fire burning in them and that they need to live that Scout Spirit using the Oath and Law as their Guide.
So we sing and remind one another of the fire inside each and every one of us.
This is a great tradition in our Troop. I hope your Troop has similar traditions that make Scouting not only fun but meaningful.
What are some of your Troop traditions?
Let us know.
Softly falls the light of day,
As our campfire fades away.
Silently each Scout should ask
Have I done my daily task?
Have I kept my honor bright?
Can I guiltless sleep tonight?
Have I done and have I dared
Everything to be prepared?
Listen Lord, oh listen Lord,
As I whisper soft and low.
Bless my mom and Bless my dad,
These are things that they should know.
I will keep my honor Bright,
The oath and law will be my guide.
And mom and dad this you should know,
Deep in my heart I love you so.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
This weekend was spent rekindling the fire of the Order of the Arrow in me. I attended our Lodges annual gathering called Rendezvous. Our Lodge hosts three major events each year. The Native American Arts and Ceremonies Seminar, The Rendezvous of the Order, and The Leadership Development Conference. We also participate in the Section Conclave and many service projects throughout the year as well and four Ordeal weekends and a Vigil Induction annually. So, needless to say we have an active Lodge with ample opportunities to be an active member of the Order of the Arrow.
This weekend, I have to be honest, I was not entirely looking forward to. I did not attend last years Rendezvous because I am finding it harder and harder to tolerate some of the behavior that we have seen at some, not all, OA events. I suppose that I have an expectation that “honor society” means something and clearly that is not the case to some Scouts and their leaders.
Being elected into the Order of the Arrow is supposed to have some special meaning. Our Lodge Advisor said it best last night at the Banquet dinner when he summed up membership in the Order of the Arrow as a Journey, much like the journey Dorthy took in the Wizard of Oz. They (the principle parts of the the Wizard of Oz) sought a Brain, Courage and a Heart. We too in the Order of the Arrow seek Wisdom in the Scout Oath and Law, We strive to be Courageous in doing the right thing, and a Heart for service. And Dorthy.. she is the model of a Servant Leader, putting the other three needs above her own desire to go home. It is a Journey to constantly seek the path that leads us to be bound in that brotherhood that cheerfully serves.
And here is the problem I have been having and I guess this is a universal issue within me that expects more out of those that we trust are “worthy”. Whether that is a Scout that has earned his Eagle Award or a Scout that has been elected into the Order of the Arrow. I expect them to live that code that we promise. In addition to the Scout Oath and Law, the Obligation of the Order of the Arrow are tremendous guides for our lives. It is that yellow brick road that leads us to a life that is worthy of being called good.
I understand the need for membership and so I understand that there will be Scouts that will take time to mature into young men that we can trust to live the obligation. I get that. But where is the coaching and mentoring that get them on the path to doing right? This is my issue. When I see Scouts that are disrespectful, unkind, selfish, and run from service, I wonder how and why they are members of the OA. Or better yet, who is teaching them or not teaching them the expected behaviors that come with being a Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow.
This weekend I attended for a few reasons. First I was asked to do some service. We cleaned out and sorted, repacked and labeled the bins in the Wood Badge trailer. Since I was the last Assistant Scoutmaster for support and physical arrangements I had a great interest in helping out those future staffers, making their jobs a bit easier. Second, I was asked to attend the Banquet Saturday night as I was “officially” being called to the Vigil Honor along with the rest of this years Vigil Candidates. I’ll get right back to that.
The third reason was that we are trying to get the OA members of our Troop fired up again about the OA and rekindle their fire in ceremonies. So I talked it up to the members in my Troop and a group of them decided to attend. Being a good example, I knew that I needed to be there also to demonstrate that I care about the OA and their membership in it.
And finally, I knew that a bunch of my Scouter friends from around the Council would be there and to be honest, I wanted to hang out with them. It’s always a great time sharing stories and catching up.
Back to number two. The Vigil Call out.
Throughout the day on Saturday many of my friends and other members of the Lodge approached me with congratulations on being elected to the Vigil Honor. Folks that I have not seen in ages and some that at other times have never given me the time of day, but the thing that mattered was their genuine attitude about what the Vigil Honor means to them. They all shared a little something about what the honor has meant in their lives, not sharing anything about the induction, but what that simple little triangle of arrows on their sash has meant as they apply living what I gathered as the gifts they received from membership in this organization. I kept thinking last night about this trip down the yellow brick road and that, even though I don’t know what is to come in the Vigil induction, I feel like it is that point in the journey when you finally meet the great and powerful Oz and much is reveled . This journey from Ordeal member to Brotherhood has taken me on a trip to find the arrow. That spirit of Cheerful service and living the Oath and Law fully in our daily lives… above and beyond that of just being a Scout. To truly understand being selfless and applying that attitude every day. One does not need the Order of the Arrow for this, but in the context of Scouting is a great life lesson that when demonstrated by those that have been selected to the highest Honor brings great credit to Scouting, this organization that we believe in and love.
I was looking through some of my collection of Scouting literature and found a small booklet that was distributed back in 1968 to new members of the Order of the Arrow. It is a basic run down of what the OA is, gives the Legend of the Lenni Lenape and discusses the membership Honors of the Order. There is a sentence in the paragraph about the Vigil Honor that I feel sums up my attitude about those Scouts that fail to live up to the expectation of membership. The converse I suppose can be found in this statement, “…members of our Order who give outstanding or distinguished service, or who by unusual devotion to Scouting…” Unusual devotion to Scouting, maybe that is why I don’t get some of the behavior or attitudes. I have an unusual devotion to Scouting. Yep… I love Scouting that is a fact and I constantly try to tell Scouting’s Story. The Vigil Honor is calling me to do just that… I think.
I’m going to go with that for now anyway.
I am firm bound in Brotherhood.
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!
Ok… all of this talk about being lazy.. and it caught me. Not really. I wanted to get a Saturday Quick tip out this week but once again my Scouting life got in the way of the blog.
Saturday, I was at a Staff Development session for the upcoming Wood Badge course. I am not on the staff this time, but I have been asked to be a Guest presenter during the course. I will be presenting the Teaching EDGE and more than likely will be doing dishes also… it’s what we Wood Badgers do.
Sunday was dedicated to one of my Scouts. We held a Court of Honor to present his Eagle Award. Man, what a great day. I love Courts of Honor especially when we honor a Scout that has worked so hard and has become an Eagle Scout.
Alright… enough of the excuses.
I was going to shoot a video about a piece of gear that I always keep in my pack. In fact I keep a few of them in my pack at all times and love them. They are the Wet Fire ™ Fire starting Tinder.
They are made by a company called the Revere Supply Company and is part of the UST line of products. Designed for survival kits, these little Fire starters are the best.
Now, we don’t teach survival to our Scouts, rather we teach preparedness and being ready in the event that everything goes South. Being Prepared is the way to stay out of survival situations.
Having said that, we all like a fire and the Wet Fire ™ Fire starting Tinder is the best way to get a fire going quick and easy. I don’t know about you.. but I’m not into the whole rubbing sticks together and flint and steel went out of style in the 1800’s. When I want fire, I want it now. And I live in Oregon, read… wet. The Wet Fire ™ fire starting tinder gets that fire going while drying out other tinder and smaller wood so you can have a nice fire in camp.
Each cube is 1” x .75” x .5” (24 x 19 x 13mm) and only weighs .16 oz (44g), they do not take up a bunch of space and for the efficiency you won’t worry about the added grams.
You can read more about it at their website. The Wet Fire ™ fire starting tinder is available at most stores and are inexpensive. About $6 for a package of 5.
Here is a little video from the folks that bring you the Wet Fire ™ fire starting tinder.
I carry these in my pack and I highly recommend them for everyone.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Here is a question for you… How do you fix lazy?
I do not intend this to be a rant, rather a real look into why are people.. in particular.. some of our Scouts so lazy. Yes.. I said Lazy, and if the shoe fits they need to wear it.
Well, Scoutmaster Jerry… you can’t call a boy out like that.. you may hurt their feelings… Really? If you don’t want your feelings hurt, stop being lazy. It’s really that simple.
Here is the situation.
We do a very good job of teaching skills. As is the case in Scout Troops all over our Country, Scout leaders have vested interest in making sure that our Scouts are trained in skills, both life skills and those skills that can be applied in the great out doors. In the case of my Troop, we have assembled a group of adult leaders that are the best. That is a pretty lofty claim, but true. We have multiple BSA certified Climbing instructors. Multiple Wilderness First Aid trained and First Responders. Medical professionals, skilled outdoors men. Trained and certified trainers for extreme cold weather activities, etc. Avid backpackers with years of experience and mastered skill levels. Leave No trace experts etc. We have made it a point to be over trained so the Scouts of our Troop will have the benefit of training that is current, relevant, expert, and will ensure that the Scout will gain the most of his Scouting experience.
Now, before I go on.. YES, we are YOUTH LED… BUT…
As you all know there are times that Adults with know how need to step in and not lead, but train. The Scout leadership is still leading and teaching basic skills, but when it comes to high risk activities it is important that Adult instruction from those that are qualified, skilled, and trained need to do the teaching.
So, we have assembled this great group of skilled folks that know what they need to know and are willing to teach and provide mentoring as the Scouts develop their skills.
I suppose it is worth mentioning that a Scout joins our Troop knowing what he is getting into. It is also fair to point our that we do not push participation. A Scout will get out of Scouting exactly what he puts into it. If a young man makes the choice to not participate, well then he will get that experience out of Scouting. On the other hand, if he makes the choice to fully immerse himself in the experience, he will have an outstanding experience while a Scout and more likely than not carry that with him the rest of his life.
We are what we are we are not going to change that based on Lazy. We have made it a point to never cancel based on outside of Scouting choices. We encourage our Scouts to be active outside of Scouts also and we know that there are certain outings that lend themselves to less participation, but we will not cancel those based on the interest level of some of the Scouts taking away that opportunity for others. We would rather go with 5 that are totally into it than 40 that are not.
On one hand we preach that this is the Scouts Troop, and yes that is the case. They are the Scouts that made the choice years ago that they wanted to be a high adventure unit. And that is what we became. That is why boys join our Troop. Then some realize that we expect more from them individually than perhaps their School teacher do or their parents. We expect them to become self-reliant. We expect them to pay attention and learn. We expect them to develop skills and become proficient in those skills and at some point teach those skills. We expect them to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. We do not think that this is too much to ask, and when parents bring their son to us, it seems that it is not too much for them either. Parents by and large seem to like the idea that we expect much from their sons.
We see it over and over again though that some, not all, of our Scouts are just plain lazy. It would seem that they would rather freeze to death and starve before they took a tiny bit of initiative to do the right thing. They are trained, but have difficulty applying that training because they are too busy trying to take a short cut or allow someone else to do it for them.
They would rather be told 100 times to do something than just do it. They would rather be cold and miserable than to apply the training that they have learned from some of the best folks around. Simple things like keeping your gloves out of the snow or staying dry. This is just plain lazy.
They would rather have Mom and Dad replace gear than take care of it. They would rather crawl into their sleeping bag than learn new skills and develop their own level of expertise in those skills. They would rather… well, I think you are getting the point.
I do not understand this way of thinking. I do not understand Lazy. Now before I get one comment that tells me that kids today are different from they were 20 years ago… JUST STOP. They are no different. The difference is not in the kid, it is in how they are raised in the world around them. They have been wrapped in layer of bubble wrap and not allowed to explore. They have been force-fed pills to calm them down, they have been sheltered because of the boggy man and Al Qaeda. They are sat in front of a TV as a baby sitter and the world around them tells them that they don’t have to work for a living. Don’t worry.. the Government will take care of you and the more ailments you can rack up the more Uncle Sam will take care of you. You don’t have to get a good paying job, you can apply for hand outs.. so don’t work and you will be fine. I don’t understand this thinking. And it is happening. Citizenship used to mean making a contribution, now it means waiting for one.
Are their legitimate ailments out there?.. sure there are.. but c’mon.. When you are a 13-year-old boy, you need to get out and at it.
Lazy is a habit. It is formed early and reinforced often. Here is the thing. I don’t know how to fix it. Well I do, but in the process I will lose Scouts and upset parents. This is the issue I am dealing with. How do I fix lazy and maintain Scouts and get them on board? How do I do this and keep Mom and Dad happy?
I will be working on answers to this question.. I am curious as to what you have to say.
Please leave your answer to How to fix lazy in the comments section. I want to know what you do.. or do you just allow it. Either way.. share.
Have a Great Scouting Day!