Patrol Method

Winter Camping Leadership Tool box

***  EDIT NOTE:  This post was scheduled for today (12-14-12).  I contemplated “pulling it” in light of the tragic events that have shaken us in Connecticut.  Our hearts go out to those families.  The reason I did not “pull” this post is simply this..  We must go on.  I am sorry about the devastating events of today, but as our thoughts and prayers flow to those victims, we can not live in fear and can not let the actions of a few dictate how we live our lives.
I am sorry if this is ‘too soon’.. but this coming Monday our Troop will still meet and we will be getting ready for not only Winter Camping, but Troop Junior Leader Training and we will go on.
God Bless. *** 

SAM_0024Winter camping is like no other camping.  It requires skills, smarts, and the right attitude. It also requires strong leadership.  Leaders that accept responsibility and leaders that understand that the group comes before the individual.  In my Troop Training for winter camping is a significant part of the process.  We make certain rules on participation in winter camping events such as; You must participate in the 4 meetings that lead up to the camp out.  This way you get all the necessary training.  This is important as your buddy is counting on you to be there, understand what he is looking for, and is a part of the team when it comes to the in camp routines that are unique to winter camping.
A lack of discipline will also get a Scout “Uninvited” to a winter outing.  There is no room for a lack of discipline when it comes to camping in cold weather and high risk activities.
Part of the training that our Scouts receive are from the older Scouts.  They are given the training and the tools to ensure that proper training is being conducted.  I have given them the following to add to their Leadership Tool box.  The following is directed at the Leader and speaks directly to them so they can properly set the example, train their Patrol’s and have a great winter camping experience.
You are welcome to all of this information, feel free to copy and paste.  If you have questions, please feel free to ask.  You can always send an email or drop a note in the comments section.

Here are some items for a leader to have in his tool box for camping in the winter.

1.  The right attitude.  You must demonstrate a positive attitude in the winter.  The people following you depend on it.  As you go with you attitude, those that follow you will go.

2.  Be an example of right.  The leader must possess the skills and attitudes that make winter camping successful.  The leader must demonstrate those skills and teach others to use them.  The leader can not take short cuts and look the other way.  The leader must set an example by doing the right thing. 

3.  Skills.  There is a list of skills that make up a good winter camper.  Here are some that the leader must use and teach.
Gear- use the right gear and use it properly.  More importantly taking the right gear with you and packing it right.  Every item in the pack or SECURED to the outside and covered with a pack cover.
Staying dry. – Wet kills in the winter.
In camp routines.  Camp set up.
                           Getting in and out the tent without dragging snow in.
                           Storing gear.  Everything stays packed unless needed.
                           Gathering and “Making” water.
                           Gathering fire wood and making the fire.

Setting up camp.  Looking for best placement of tents/shelters.  No widow makers.  Building up snow walls.  Cooking areas.  Designated BIO area.
Anchoring of tents/shelters.
Morning routines.  Get up and cook right away.  Get things cleaned and stored.  Pack un used gear.  Hang anything that is damp to dry.
Cooking.  Have a plan. 
                Store food in bags in order they will be eaten.
                Repackage meals to reduce trash.
                Hot meals always
                3 good hot meals and lots of snacks.
                Hot beverages
                Clean up as you go and never leave dirty dishes lying around.
                Pack it all out.  Do not dump uneaten food in the snow. 
                Just because you can bury it does not mean it is right.
                Monitor water use and stay ahead. 
               Watch fuel consumption. No flame without a pot on it. NO empty pots.
               Don’t be lazy.  Cook and eat well.
Sleeping.  Dry equals warm.  Stay out of wind and wet and you will stay dry and warm.  Open your sleeping bag as soon as your tent is set up.  Get the loft going.  Make sure to have insulation under you.  Closed cell pads work great in the winter.  An extra blanket works too when used with a pad.  If nothing else your jacket should go between you and the pad or under your feet.
Your boots go in the tent and under your sleeping bag (foot end).  Do not wear anything wet to bed.  Change your socks and clothing before you go to bed if you are wet.  ALWAYS change your socks before you get in your sleeping bag.
Avoid condensation in your sleeping bag.  Wear a hat and keep your face out of the bag.  Short guys.  Fold unused portion of sleeping bag under you.
Take a trip to the pee tree before you go to bed.  Relieve yourself and then get comfortable.  You do not want to hold it till morning. You won’t sleep and you won’t stay warm.

4.  Be a Good example.  Yes, we say it twice.  This will get you farther as a leader than anything else in the cold weather.  If you do things right and maintain a positive attitude, those that follow you will to.

IMPORTANT.  Leaders are responsible.  You are the last ones in the sleeping bag after everyone is checked.  You are the last ones to eat or eat before the rest.  This way you can check, assist, monitor the rest as they prepare and eat.
Leaders.  You are the key to success.  You have been given the responsibility to teach and coach.  Use it.

Build your tool box.  Fill it with those things that make you a great leader and you will be.  Collective knowledge and a willingness to learn, practice, and share is the success of all leaders.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Patrol Method, planning, Risk Management, Skills, teamwork, training, Winter Camping | 2 Comments

Expect more

It is amazing how themes run together and I think I have said it before on the blog about how a subject seems to maintain a solid thread in life for a time.  This week it seems that the subject of what we expect of our youth in so far as work ethic, values, and skills has taken up much of the conversation I have had electronically and with some friends.
Yesterday I received an email from a reader that challenged the idea that Scouts are not allowed to use liquid fuel, like white gas etc.  He made mention of my recent videos and said that I was irresponsible for encouraging our Scouts to use equipment that is “proven to be dangerous”.
So let me get that out-of-the-way first.  “Proven to be dangerous”… By who?
Reader, do you honestly think that REI and other fine outfitters would have the MSR Whisperlite, the Dragon Fly, the Soto Muka, and the Trangia stoves on their shelves if they were “Proven to be dangerous”?  Do you think for a minute that the Tooth of Time traders at Philmont SCOUT Ranch would sell the Whisperlite and Simmer light stoves as well as make available at the commissary Coleman White Gas.  And finally Reader… Do you own a Guide to Safe Scouting and have looked up the policy found in the Chemical Fuels and Equipment Document published by the Boy Scouts of America?
It seems that our Reader, based on his email, does not feel that Scouts are “Responsible” enough to handle liquid fuels.  He also feels that I act irresponsibly by taking the Scouts camping in the winter.  “I find it hard to believe you would risk injury of your Scouts in camping in temperatures below freezing.” he wrote.
Now, I really don’t want to offend any good Den Leaders out there, but this guy obviously has not moved on the Boy Scouts yet even though he signed his email “Scoutmaster”.
I am not going to address all of the “issues” he has with me and as he called it “My brand of Scouting”, but I do want to discuss this as a matter of course in the conversation of week regarding our youth.
I know exactly where this “Reader” is coming from.  He is of the class that believes that our young men (boys) are not capable of doing anything other than sitting in front of a TV watching Barney.
He is so afraid to let boys be boys that he is killing our young mens ability to function as men.  I am sure that knives are not allowed in his Troop and that the Mom’s do all the cooking.  He is of the mind-set that does not allow Scouts to build a signal tower and climb it.  Him and his fellow non believers in youngsters are the ones that keep a good and sturdy rope bring 18 inches off the ground and find the need to “spot” someone who is literally inches from doom.
He is the reason that Scouts are not supposed to camp with their patrols.. ohhhh… hear that sound.. that’s Green Bar Bill  rolling in his grave.  This reader is why we have Eagle Scouts that can’t tie Clove hitches and max the minimum when it comes to everything in Scouting.
They don’t believe that a Scout is able to do anything that he and his buddies set their minds to.  He has no sense of adventure and won’t let a young man push himself.  He is the reason that we expect less from our youth and as a result get less.
As you may be able to tell… this really chaps my butt.
Our young men can do anything.  They can use an ax, they can climb mountains, they can swim in open water, they can hike miles and miles and still have energy to sing and joke.  They can ride horses and slide down a zip line.  They can build fires and sleep under the stars.  They can ride their bike for a 100 miles and camp along the way.  They can scuba dive in the Florida Keys and canoe the Boundry waters.
But this guy won’t let them.  Why?  Because he does not believe in the power of a boy!
He Expects less and he gets less because he does not believe in them.
Expect more… get more!
Train ‘em, Trust ‘em, and Let ‘em lead!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, comments, High Adventure, Ideals, Leadership, Patrol Method, Risk Management | 6 Comments

Band-aids

The other night we had a spirited conversation with our Troop committee about, among other things, youth leadership and keeping older Scouts engaged.
One of the main ingredients of the Patrol method and effective youth leadership at the Troop level is that the youth run it.  Well, no duh.. right.  And sometimes that is not always a pretty process which in many cases parents are not happy seeing.  And in many cases it has an adverse effect on the Scouts in the troop also.  And there is the issue.
We can stand back and watch the Scouts struggle and bleed… or we can rush in and apply band-aids for every skinned knee.
Now if we are doing this right.  We teach and coach, we train and mentor, and we allow knees to get skinned on occasion and see if the Scouts apply their own band aids.  When the bleeding gets out of control.. there we are to assist in whatever the wound of the day is.
I presented that analogy to a parent the other night, I am pretty sure they got it, but I stressed that as a Scoutmaster we always try to find a good balance between the bleeding and the band-aids.
Scouts need to be in charge and allowed to make mistakes.. even fail.  They need to struggle through some really bad meetings and then challenged to see where the issues are and make attempts and fixing them.  We are always there with our first aid kits (figuratively speaking) to apply a band-aid when needed.  Sometimes that band-aid comes in the form of a complete shut down, sometimes it’s a gentle talk with and offering of advice.  But no matter what it is always the Scouts that come up with the solution, the right idea, and the plan to get out of the mess they are in.
Parents and Scouts alike do not like a disorganized  and non productive meeting.  I don’t mind them.. especially because they lead to teaching and learning opportunities…
But what of the Scouts (and parents) that decided that they are not patient enough to allow the process to work?
Well, they need to develop some patients, the Scouts need to be trained properly, and the program needs to be allowed to work.  When those happen, learning happens and the Scouts start to see more success over failure.
If a Scout says they are going to leave… well, try to explain to them that this is all a part of the process.  Ask them what they are doing to help.  If they insist on leaving.. invited them back.
I don’t know that you can convince them all, those that get it get it.  Those that don’t and refuse to be patient really don’t understand Scouting and what we are trying to accomplish here.
We are not a church club or a Cub Scout pack.  We are trying to play a game with a purpose that forces young men to make decisions and develop leadership skills.  We are asking that these same boys make ethical choices that will serve as the foundation of their decision-making for the rest of their lives.  We are trying to show them through the process that life is hard and those that work hard, handle adversity well, and can work with others on a team will be successful in life.  They will measure their success not in wealth, but in how they live a life of character.
So we can stand back and let them bleed a little, or we can rush in with the band-aids.
To be honest, I really don’t mind the sight of a little blood.  It means that they are learning.
Before I get emails and comments about letting Scouts get hurt.. that is NOT what I am suggesting.  It is just an analogy.  If it doesn’t work for you so be it.
Train ‘em..Trust ‘em.. and let ‘em lead!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, comments, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, teamwork, training, Values | 3 Comments

Why Wood Badge?

For those of you that have been to Wood Badge you understand the great training, the lasting friendships, and the spirit of Scouting that comes in every Wood Badge course.  You get idea that every Scout deserves a trained leader and that in Wood Badge you are participating in the Advanced Leadership Course of the Boy Scouts of America.  You understand the committment that it takes in time and money to seek out the best training and then follow-up that training by spending up to a year and half working a ticket designed to make Scouting better for the youth we serve.  You get all of that.
So why should a Scouter go to Wood Badge.  Yes, it’s all of the stuff previously stated but it’s a lot more than that.
Why Wood Badge?  Well for starters it is the best Scout leader training the BSA has.  No matter at which level you serve in Scouting, Wood Badge has something for you.  Whether you are the Chief Scout Executive or a Den Leader, Wood Badge will teach you how to provide a great program for our Scouts starting with why we do this thing called Scouting.  The Wood Badge experience gives you insight to the World of Scouting, not just your little piece.  It reinforces methods and Aims and gets all Scouters on the same sheet of music, and yep, you will be singing a lot!
Wood Badge allows you the much-needed opportunity to step back into the hiking boots of a Scout and be that Scout as he experiences Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and is introduced to Venture Scouts.  You get to learn like a Scout learns and in doing so you become a better communicator and teacher.  You learn to train and lead using the EDGE method.  I think you will find that this method satisfies every learning style and will assist you in sharpening your leadership skills.
Wood Badge sends you back to you unit with a song in your heart, a smile on your face, and a mission to make Scouting better.
The training at Wood Badge will make you a better Scouter, a better Spouse, a better employee when you use the tools taught in the course.  It gives you perspective on everything in your life and a method to work you future plans in and out of Scouting.  The Wood Badge training is world-class and is used in corporate America and in organizations big and small.
So why Wood Badge?  Well, for one thing, it is our direct link to Baden Powell’s training of Scouters.  The methods may have been refined, the uniforms certainly are different, and Scouting has changed with the times, but the Wood Badge is the Wood Badge and our history and tradition in Scouting is brought full circle in the Wood Badge experience.
When Baden Powell held the first Scoutmaster Training at Gilwell, he organized the participants into Patrols.  This is the foundation of a Boy Scout Troop and BP understood that we learn by doing and do it with our Patrol.  During the Wood Badge course the instruction all leads to doing.  Within the Patrol, the participants work together to become a high performance team.  Once this is realized, the experience can be taken back and applied in the Scouters unit. 
Wood Badge has four specific objectives and as a result of attending Wood Badge, participants will be able to:
First, View Scouting globally, as a family of interrelated, values-based programs that provide age-appropriate activities for youth.
Second. Recognize the contemporary leadership concepts utilized in corporate America and leading government organizations that are relevant to our values-based movement.
Third,  Apply the skills they learn from their participation as a member of a successful working team.
And finally, Revitalize their commitment by sharing in an overall inspirational experience that helps provide Scouting with the leadership it needs to accomplish its mission on an ongoing basis.
So Why Wood Badge?  Back when I became a new Scouter helping out with my oldest son’s Pack I was invited to go to Wood Badge.  I did not give it too much thought, after all, I was just a Cub Scout Den Leader, why do I need more training?  Then I became a Cubmaster, and again, an invitation to Wood Badge was extended.  A group of Scouters that were (and still are) super active in the District kept encouraging me to go to Wood Badge.  They kept telling me that this “Mountain Top” Scouting experience was something that I really needed to attend.  And again, I blew it off thinking that everything was going great in the Pack and I really didn’t need more leadership training.  In 2004 I became a Scoutmaster, and again the same group of Scouters encouraged me to get to Wood Badge.  I went to a Wood Badge dinner in January of 2005.  It was a gathering to recognize Wood Badge participants that had completed their tickets and introduce Wood Badge to prospective participants.  My wife and I went and enjoyed the evening.  The room was filled with the most enthusiastic Scouters I have ever seen.  They were from every corner of the council and represented every level of Scouting.  Toward the end of the program a Scouter stood in front of the crowd and asked if “There were any Beavers in the house?”  At first I thought he was referring to the Oregon State Beavers.. but what happened next sealed the deal for me.  About a dozen Scouters stood up and broke out in song, when they were finished, the whole room (well those Scouters with beads on) stood and sang.  They all sat down and about another dozen different Scouters stood and sang a verse about Bobwhites.. and so it went till the whole room was singing.  The staffers closed out the song and everyone began hugging and shaking hands and there was nothing but smiles and laughter in the room.  I sat there with my wife with a big grin on my face.  My wife looked at me and said.. “Well… go sign up.”  And that night I registered for the next course. 
I participated in WE1-492-1-05 and was placed in the Beaver Patrol.  I did have a “Mountain Top” experience and took all I learned back to my Troop.  In 2009 I was asked to be on Staff.  I had to turn it down because I was over extended as not only the Scoutmaster of my Troop, but the Scoutmaster of a Troop heading to the National Jamboree.  In late 2010, I was asked again to be on staff for the 2011 course and I immediately said yes.  I served as a Troop guide for W1-492-11 and as I have shared with my fellow Troop guides and the mighty Buffalo Patrol, “I had a great experience when I went to Wood Badge, I fell in love with Wood Badge on staff.”  Early this year I was asked again to staff a Wood Badge course.  And again, I said yes. 
The people who attend Wood Badge and those that staff Wood Badge are the greatest Scouters out there.  Their dedication to Scouting and the youth we serve is second to none.  Their committment to training and making the Scouting organization better is beyond compare.
So Why Wood Badge?  Why Not?
If you have been invited to attend Wood Badge, please consider it.  You will not regret it.  If you are concerned about time and money.  Contact your local Wood Badge staff, ask at your next roundtable, there are ways to get you into the next course.  The benefits of Wood Badge outweigh the excuses not to go.  You are a dedicated Scouter, I know this, because you waste you time reading my blog.  SO if you have not been to Wood Badge..  GO!  And you will have a great experience.  I promise.
If you are a Wood Badger… What’s your Critter?  Leave a comment and share your Wood Badge story.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Ideals, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, planning, Scout Law, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Wood Badge | 4 Comments

Scouting is Simple

As I have been digging into my copy of Aids to Scoutmastership the last couple days, I have become more and more a fan of both Scoutmastership and of Baden-Powell.
There is a chapter in the book called “Scouting is Simple”… here it is:

To an outsider Scouting must at first sight appear to be a very complex matter, and many a man is probably put off from becoming a Scoutmaster because of the enormous number and variety of things that he thinks he would have to know in order to teach his boys. But it need not be so, if the man will only realise the following points:

  1. The aim of Scouting is quite a simple one.
  2. The Scoutmaster gives to the boy the ambition and desire to learn for himself by suggesting to him activities which attract him, and which he pursues till he, by experience, does them aright. (Such activities are suggested in Scouting for Boys).
  3. The Scoutmaster works through his Patrol Leaders.

And yes ladies and gentlemen, it is just that simple.  I think the message of the last couple days and weeks has been leading to this thought.. keep it simple.
To many well-meaning committee members, district folks, and those that feel the need at the council level to get into Troop business, they have clearly not read Aids to Scoutmastership.
The role of the district and council are not to get into troop affairs.  The Aim of Scouting is to develop Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.  That is all Troop and Patrol business.  The Council and District are there to support the units when needed.. not to replace the Troops annual planning (boy led) it is also there for administrative functions as a ‘go between’ to the National organization.
So far as giving the boys the ambition and desire to learn.  Once again.. Troop stuff.  Providing opportunities at the council and district level does not promote desire and ambition.  This has to occur in the context of the Patrol.  Troop guides, Patrol Leaders, and Senior Patrol leaders that have been trained to provide purpose, direction, and motivation, for the unit to be the best it can be.  Again… Troop stuff.
And finally.. and my favorite!!!!  Working the Patrol method.  In all its pain and agony, its fun and success, its trial and error.  The Patrol is where Scouting happens.  It is that simple.
So, as BP says.. Scouting is Simple.  Don’t complicate it.  If your unit is not keeping it simple, it may be time to evaluate what’s going on in it.
Keep the conversation going.. let us know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Just fun, Leadership, Oath and Law, Patrol Method | 3 Comments

What kind of Scoutmaster are you?

In the last post, we got a pretty good feel for the general attitude toward the “Merit Badge Mill” for a lack of a better term.  It seems that there is not a lot of support for this style of merit badge earning.
Now, I did receive some emails that found that style the best practice in, as one guy put it “the world we live in”.  But those comments were far less than those opposed.  In all fairness… I did ‘accept’ any comment that was made on the blog.  I did not respond to all of the emails, especially the one that called me “Old fashioned and not in touch with today’s Scouts”.
Which led me to thinking this week… What kind of Scoutmaster are you?
It was brought to my attention that the 1998 Scout Handbook does not make mention of Baden-Powell.  I have not checked this out for myself, but if that is the case, it begs the question.. Why?
But back to the subject at hand.. What kind of Scoutmaster are you?
Baden-Powell said in “Aids to Scoutmastership” that we need not be “Know it all’s”
To be a Scoutmaster you need:

  • He must have the boy spirit in him; and must be able to place himself on a right plane with his boys as a first step.
  • He must realise the needs, outlooks and desires of the different ages of boy life.
  • He must deal with the individual boy rather than with the mass.
  • He then needs to promote a corporate spirit among his individuals to gain the best results

Now BP goes on to explain all these points in the book and I won’t just copy and paste the whole thing here.. Google search Aids to Scoutmastership and get your own copy and read it.  But I will say that if you do as BP says.. you may just be a good Scoutmaster.
Scoutmasters should be a friend to the Scouts.  He should remember that these are boys and not adults.  We ask a lot from these young men which is all a part of the program, but at the end of the day they are boys.  They have issues at home, school, sports teams, and the everyday life of a teen ager.  So for the Scoutmaster that places himself on the “right plane” with the Scouts does a better job understanding them and working with them as they grow and develop.
The Scoutmaster needs to understand where the Scouts are in life.  Once again, they are not men, they are boys and they all grow and develop at different rates.  Some 14 year olds are more mature that others.  Some 12 year olds mature faster than some 15 year olds.  So it is important that the Scoutmaster works with the Scouts individually and not paint broad strokes with his Scoutmaster brush.  At the same time, the Scoutmaster needs to build the team up as well as the individual.  The team (Troop and Patrol) is an important part of the Scouting program and a huge part in developing young men.
On the other hand.  And I know too many Scoutmasters like this, they are ‘roped’ into doing the job, they have no real desire to do the job but they do it because their son is in the troop, and they have no desire to learn the program or assist in running it right.
Now is that a subjective statement.  Not so much.  In the introduction to being a Scoutmaster in the Scoutmaster training program, the trainers introduce the new Scoutmasters to the 8 methods of Scouting.  And with few exceptions the methods have remained the same for 102 years.  Those same methods that BP himself outlined.
In both Aids to Scoutmastership and Scouting for Boys, you can find all of the methods that we currently use to achieve the Aims of Scouting.
The Patrol being the foundation for the Scout to start learning.   The ideals found in the Scout Oath and Law as well as the motto and slogan take that foundation and apply it to their daily lives and the attitudes that shape the Patrol as a group.  Scouting is done and should always be done in the outdoors with a Patrol.  The Outdoor program is fundamental in the Scouting program.  It is as BP said “our classroom”.  Advancement opportunities set challenges and goals for the Scout to meet.  The Advancement program tests the Scouts ability to manage his goal setting and give him a measurement of his own success.  Not the success of the unit, but himself.  The association with adults is a method that is often confused.  Confused, because it is a method for the Scout.. not the adult.  In associating with adults the Scout learns to manuever through the world.  It places the Scout in a position to learn to be comfortable in job settings as well as social settings.  The adults role in this method is to be a good example.  Personal Growth is perhaps one of the most important methods that is often overlooked by Scoutmasters that do not take a personal care for each of the Scouts in their Troop.  The Scoutmaster that does the job for a set amount of time or because no one else would take the job often look at Scouting as a camping club.  Merit badges just happen at Summer camp and it really doesn’t matter if there is personal growth in the individual Scouts.  I mean, after all you only have to care for them on Monday nights and one weekend a month… right?  The uniform is where I see most of the lack of care for methods.  Cost is always an excuse, but rarely a solution is given.  The uniform has been a part of Scouting since the very beginning and should remain a method as long as Scouting exists.  It is not a financial burden if the Scout believes and lives the part of the law that suggests that he is “Thrifty”.  Adults create the burden by not enforcing the standard.  To many parents fail to see the value in Scouting’s values and would rather take the easy way out and just say that it can’t be done.  Hog Wash!  And finally, when it comes to methods Leadership development.  Now, I do know that I put this one last and that is not how they are listed… but here is where I see a big gap in the ways in which Scoutmastership is practiced.
Leaders are made, not born and sometimes that trial and error called learning is not pretty.  The Patrol and Troop are the practice grounds for leadership development.  And to be honest.. it’s real ugly sometimes.. that is when the good Scoutmaster needs to allow it to be ugly.  Parents don’t like to see that.. but it is the best way for a Scout to learn.  Mistakes are opportunities to learn as long as the Scoutmaster is there to teach, coach, train, and mentor the Scout.  By applying “Guided Discovery” the Scout will develop into a leader.  He may not be the next Patton or [insert your favorite leader here], but the lessons he learns while discovering his leadership potential will serve him later in life.
In short.. What kind of Scoutmaster are you?  Are you one that embraces the lessons taught us by Baden-Powell or do we throw it all out the window for “modern thinking” and convenience.  “Old fashioned and not in touch with today’s Scout”.  I don’t know about you, but can you disagree with the Values of Scouting?  How about the methods?  These are time-tested and work well when applied by caring Scoutmasters.
If that makes me old-fashioned… so be it.. but if you do as BP suggests.. you can never be out of touch with today’s Scout.  They are the same as they always have been… they are boys looking for adventure.
I am curious to hear what you have to say about this.  What kind of Scoutmaster are you?
“What the Scoutmaster does, his boys will do. The Scoutmaster is reflected in his scouts. From the self-sacrifice and patriotism of their Scoutmaster, Scouts inherit the practice of voluntary self-sacrifice and patriotic service.” – BP in Aids to Scoutmastership

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, comments, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Scoutmaster minute, teamwork, training, Values | 5 Comments

NOS

NOS means “Not otherwise specified” in Military lingo.  It essentially means that we can’t find a category for it.. and so it is with this post.
It has been a while since I posted last, so here is some catching up and thoughts.
I’ll start with the drama.  Last week I volunteered as a ‘Guest Instructor’ for the JROTC class at our High School.  I learned a lot while teaching the 6 classes a day about accountability, military customs and courtesies, and shared life lessons that will (if listened to) help these young men and women.  What I learned about JROTC was that it has very little to do with the military.  Rather, the National syllabus for instruction focuses on Character, Citizenship, Leadership, and fitness… now where I have I seen that before?
Now I understand that there is an Army component to the class.  They structure the class around an Army Battalion, wear uniforms once a week, and use Army language, but beyond that the curriculum is very generic in its content regarding character, citizenship and leadership.  This was a surprise to me not really knowing what to think about JROTC and knowing how the ROTC at the University level works.
I was also surprised to see that very little attention is payed to recruiting or pushing a career in the military to these Cadets.  It was rarely talked about.  Now, of course there were graduating Seniors that are currently making plans for a career in the military, but the JROTC program is not a pool for recruiting. 
I enjoyed teaching the class for the week and had the pleasure of meeting some outstanding students.  I also met my share of students that frankly I fear will not make it in life.  They are lazy, unmotivated, can’t seem to develop study habits, and generally could care less about their school, community, home, or one another.  This shocked me.  All of my kids currently attend this high school and for the last 4 years we have had a very positive experience.  Our daughter has been active with the Marching Band, Symphonic and Concert bands, and has made great friends at the High School.  Both of our sons have been athletes and members of various school clubs and also have made lasting friendships.  All three of the kids have maintained good if not excellent grades over their high school careers and so our view of the school has been shaped by the athletes, friends, and social activities that my wife and I have been fortunate to participate in and get to know.  Our house is always full of kids, mostly football players, and I have gotten to know them and their families and I can honestly say that they are good kids.  So to be at the School and see the apathy that I saw this week, well, it shocked me.
NOW, having said all of that, the School District is in a world of mess right now, the teachers are minutes away from going on strike, the School District Board is not budging and neither is the teachers union.  It has become very ugly in our little neck of the woods.  The climate at the School is very apathetic and so I can see where some of the students have got it.
I hope this resolves quickly.. from the Scoutmaster perspective.  Most of my older Scouts attend this School and it is effecting them.  This close to the end of School, with the impending strike, the students have been forced to scramble to get things done in order to maintain decent GPA’s to round out the year.  The uncertainty has left them questioning the dedication of both the teachers and the school district to their education.
Enough of that… I just hope it gets over quickly.
How this affects Scouting however is clear.  When things are weird in Scouts lives.. it gets weird in their Scouting life.  I had about half the Troop missing from this weekends Camporee.  All high school age students, and students that needed to get much need assignments completed to increase their final GPA.  They called me up and we talked about what was more important.  The least I could do for them is support them. 
Now Camporee… 28 went to Camporee this weekend, a good portion were the younger (First year) Scouts.  They did fantastic!  They proved that they are mastering Scout craft and basic skills.  They were motivated and showed the district that our Troop was there to compete.  We didn’t win the District Camporee Top Troop award, but each patrol came home with ribbons for winning Scout craft events.  They did not win the best camp site, it seems we were missing Patrol boxes and a trailer.  To that, the SPL suggested that we would never win.. and it’s ok.. we are backpackers and if they don’t like our style.. so be it.  I was proud of him and his attitude.
This morning as we packed up and loaded the truck with our packs I overheard a Scoutmaster from a neighboring Troop yell at his Troop this; “Look at them.. while you are struggling with your boxes.. they are playing frisbee!”
We could not help but high five each other.. the Scout leadership had done an exceptional job this morning and ultimately got the Troop and hour and half ahead of schedule.  They ate breakfast, cleaned up and packed in an hour and half.  Made it to the camp wide flag ceremony and awards and departed about an hour before the rest of the district had their camps taken down.  Our boys pride themselves in this style of camping.  One day the district will come around and have a backpacking score sheet for the camp inspection.
On the way home one of the Scouts said to me that when he first started in the Troop, he thought I talked just to hear my voice… but as he grew in the Troop he realized that I was really saying something.  After 4 years of being passed over for election in the Order of the Arrow, he was finally called out Saturday night.  Finally, he is learning to lead, take responsibility, and his peers felt him to be worthy of membership in Scouting’s honor society.  He thanked me for teaching him.  My response was simple.  You are welcome, now… continue to earn the right to be there.
I think this principle can be applied everywhere in our lives.
Well.. it’s going to be an interesting week here.  I hope yours is great!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, Competition, gear, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Order of the Arrow, Patrol Method, respect, Skills, teamwork | Leave a comment

Captain Obvious

Earlier today I received an email from a “fan of the blog and podcast”.. his email is certainly appreciated and I am glad that he took the time to express his thoughts, but…
I will not post the email here, but let me share with you the part that got me to write this post.
“OK Captain Obvious, we all know the ‘Methods of Scouting’ and use them, please tell us something we don’t know.. after all, if it isn’t broke we are not going to fix it”.
Really now.. it isn’t broke.  Well good timing my friend.  Last night at the Top Team meeting our Scout Executive presented the 2011 Progress review to the District Chairman.  I was floored by the results of the audit at both the National level and our Council.  Let me tell you that we have work to do.. at both the National Level… and the Council level.  Now our SE said we are going to “Celebrate our short comings.. and work to fixing the issues”.. I would suggest, strictly from “Captain Obvious’s” point of view that we need to work and work hard to get some of these things fixed.  So, tell us something we don’t know he said.  Let me tell you that the discussion on Methods is exactly what we don’t know.
Let me share some National numbers with you..
MEMBERSHIP-  In my last post on the Outdoor program, I suggested that PROGRAM, PROGRAM, PROGRAM, and working the Outdoor program method was a key point in getting Scouts to join and stay in Scouting.  It is what gets Webelos to cross over and invite their friends to join.   When I was at the National Meetings last year in San Diego, Rex Tillerson the BSA President talked to us about “the Main thing”.  that Main thing is delivering Scouting to young men.  They can’t do Scouting if they are not in Scouting.
In our Council we are seeing a terrible trend in Cub Scout market share (market share is how the BSA measures growth).   Our Council is pretty much average with the Nation, but here are the numbers from 2007 thru 2011.  In 2007 we had 15,022 Cub Scouts in the program, 14,465 in 2008, 13, 902 and 13, 303 in the next two years and in 2011 we ended the year with only 12,600 Cub Scouts.  That is a significant loss.  The reason that I find this alarming is that without Cub Scouts you drastically reduce the ranks of Boy Scouts.
Boy Scout membership in 2007 in our Council was 11,960 and in 2011 it dropped to 11, 731.  Now this may not seem significant but long term, the Cub Scout numbers will catch up.  Boys are in the Boy Scout program longer than their Cub Scout years, so we have not felt the impact of the dropping number yet.
I would suggest that this is broke and the question first is why?  Could it be programs?  Could it be the lack of leaders not trained.. we will get into that in a second.  Could it be that methods are not being followed?  I wish I had the answer.. but Captain Obvious here knows broke when he sees it.
Now the good news is that our Retention numbers are looking pretty good.. but only pretty good.  The National Average in retention is 70.6%.  We have way too many Scouts going out the back door.  Our Council’s retention rate is 76%.. still not a great number.. so why are they leaving?  Is it that they don’t agree with our values?  are they bored? are they not getting the bang for their buck?
The average size of a Boy Scout Troop in America is 21 Scouts and we recruit about 9 a year on average… so where are they?
Ok.. lets move on to Advancement.. yeah.. remember that’s one of the methods also..  How are we doing?
Only 39.8% of the Boy Scouts in the Nation advanced a rank last year.  Need we say more?  Captain Obvious says we need to work a little harder on this.
Now get ready to treat for shock.. TRAINING!
Only.. and I hope you are sitting down for this.. ONLY 34.4% of Direct Contact leaders, that’s Tiger Leaders, Den Leaders, Webelos Leaders, Cub Masters, Scoutmasters, and Venturing Advisors are Trained in their positions!  As my daughter would say OMG!  And we are taking these boys in the woods and asking parents to feel good about it.  I would not allow my sons to be in a unit with untrained leaders.  34.4 % is the National Average of trained leaders and I would suggest this needs immediate fixing.  There is no excuse what so ever for an adult to be un trained.  NONE.  In an age where the BSA has made Training easier than ever to access, District and Council training committees are holding multiple training events annually… why are we not trained?  How do we have “Adult Association” and mentoring for “Leadership development”.  How does an adult who is not trained teach, coach, train and mentor a Scout?  Captain Obvious is shocked.
So once again, I would like to thank the reader for the email and suggest that we revisit the “Main thing” and the Methods of Scouting.  maybe, just maybe we can fix some of these issues… nay.. we have to fix these issues and the methods will help you and your unit fix what you think is not broke.  Here is what I think.  Those that don’t know.. don’t know.  Those that are untrained, will not know.  There are no excuses for this.  We all love Scouting and for the most part will do what ever it takes to deliver the promise of Scouting.  Scouting is alive and well, but has some work to do to deliver that promise.  It’s obvious what we need to do.  ON MY HONOR I will do my part!
What are your thoughts?  I am curious to know what you think.  drop an email, leave a comment, or send me smoke signals.
Have a Great Scouting day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Camping, comments, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, training, Values, Webelos to Scout Transition | 6 Comments

Methods – Outdoor Program

A long time ago a Scouting mentor of mine told me that the secret to success in a Troop is PROGRAM, PROGRAM, PROGRAM.  When you have a strong program you have Scouts that stay in Scouting, you have good advancement, you have Trained leaders, you have active Scouts and Scout parents.  PROGRAM, PROGRAM, PROGRAM!
The outdoor program is Scouting’s classroom.  It is why Scouts join and stay in Scouting.  Without the outdoor experience it’s just another club.
Outdoor adventure is the promise that we make to these young men when they join Scouts.
Here is what the BSA’s website (Scouting.org) has to say about the outdoor program, I have highlighted a few key words in this excerpt from the site.
In the outdoors, boys have opportunities to acquire skills that make them more self-reliant. They can explore canoe and hiking trails and complete challenges they first thought were beyond their ability.  Attributes of good character become part of a boy as he learns to cooperate to meet outdoor challenges that may include extreme weather, difficult trails and portages, and dealing with nature’s unexpected circumstances.  Scouts plan and carry out activities with thoughtful guidance from their Scoutmaster and other adult leaders. Good youth leadership, communication, and teamwork enable them to achieve goals they have set for themselves, their patrol or squad, and their troop or team.
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.
Scouting uses the patrol method to teach skills and values. Scouts elect their own patrol leader and they learn quickly that by working together and sharing duties, the patrol can accomplish far more than any of its members could do alone. The patrol succeeds when every member of the patrol succeeds and Scouts learn that good teamwork is the key to success.
Exercise and fitness are part of the outdoor experience. As Scouts hike, paddle, climb, bike, or ride, their muscles become toned and their aerobic capacity increases. When they work as a patrol to plan menus for their outings, they learn to purchase cost-effective ingredients to prepare flavorful and nutritious meals.
Service to others and good citizenship is learned through such outdoor activities as conservation projects, collecting food, building trails and shelters, and conducting community service projects that promote healthy living. Through helping other people, Scouts learn to appreciate how they can share themselves and their blessings to those in need. By giving service to benefit others, Scouts gain a sense of personal satisfaction.
Your outdoor program is essential to the success of your unit.  Getting the Scouts out side and active is the method in which it all comes together.
Lets talk a minute about types of activities… CAMPING!  I don’t care how you camp… camp!  Backpack, tail gate, sleep in cabins, whatever.. just get out and camp.  And when you camp.. make it for more than 1 night.  1 night is not enough to excercise the important parts of the Patrol method.  Camp!  Place NO RESTRICTIONS on camping or activities in your unit.  Sumer camps and National High Adventure bases place age and rank restrictions on certain activities.  These are in place to reduce lines, give older Scouts incentives, and maintain certain levels or risk management.  At the unit level as long as you have QUALIFIED  and WELL TRAINED Leadership… the sky is the limit.  Younger Scouts can do amazing things when you let them.  So take them climbing, Kyaking, swimming, rafting, canoeing, backpacking… The sky is the limit.
Never say no to your PLC!  Let them plan and carry out great outdoor adventures!
Last weekend our Troop did a 10 mile Backpack trip over 2 nights (2.5 days).  The whole Troop did the event.  We have 17 brand new Scouts in the Troop and for a few this was their first camp out.  We trained them to pack their packs and reduce their loads. We did a shake down before we left to ensure they were all prepared.. then we went.  On Saturday, we gave the first year Scouts the option to carry their packs or have them forwarded to the next camp location.  Most of them carried their packs.. and after many adjustments.. they all did very well.  The best part is they challenged themselves.  They pushed themselves and did their best.  I am proud of them.
This is the adventure that they joined the troop for.  Remember.. They joined Scouts.. we did not join them!  You have to deliver the promise!
PROGRAM, PROGRAM, PROGRAM!
The outdoor program is an essential part of the Scouting movement.  It is universal, it is the class room of Scouting, it is… The Promise of Scouting!
Pictured above are some of the Scouts that went on the backpack trip this last weekend.  Most of the Scouts pictured are in the new Scout Patrol.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, High Adventure, Methods, Patrol Method, Skills, Summer Camp | Leave a comment

From the Founder

Just a little follow up on the Patrol Method..  It serves us all well to know what, why, and how we are deliver the promise of Scouting.

“[F]irst and foremost: The Patrol is the character school for the individual.  To the Patrol Leader it gives practise in Responsibility and in the qualities of  Leadership. To the Scouts it gives subordination of self to the interests of the  whole, the elements of self-denial and self-control involved in the team spirit  of cooperation and good comradeship.

But to get first-class results from this system you have to give the boy  leaders real free-handed responsibility-if you only give partial responsibility  you will only get partial results. The main object is not so much saving the  Scoutmaster trouble as to give responsibility to the boy, since this is the very  best of all means for developing character.

The Scoutmaster who hopes for success must not only study what is written  about the Patrol System and its methods, but must put into practice the  suggestions he reads. It is the doing of things that is so important, and only  by constant trial can experience be gained by his Patrol Leaders and Scouts. The  more he gives them to do, the more will they respond, the more strength and  character will they achieve.

Robert Baden-Powell (1930)
Aids to Scoutmastership

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Patrol Method | Leave a comment

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