Skills

Cold Weather Camping – Sleep System

photo courtesy of Thermarest

photo courtesy of Thermarest

Getting a good nights sleep is an important part of any camp out, and very important when camping in the cold.  Sleeping in the cold creates some anxiety in young Scouts.  While the Scout is up and moving he can control his level of warmth.  Teaching the Scout that it is possible to be warm in the winter will help him get a good nights sleep.
First, lets talk gear.
When I talk gear for sleeping, I refer to it as a sleep system.  The system may vary depending on conditions, temperature, and he person.
The sleep system consists if the Sleeping bag, the sleeping pad (insulation), and sleep clothing.  You may add to the system a sleeping bag liner, a bivy sack, and of course a pillow.
The sleeping bag is the base of the system.  The rating of the bag needs to be at least 20 degrees.  Lover is preferred especially when the temps are known to frequently dip below 20 degrees.  Adding the sleeping bag liner will add another 10 degrees of warmth to you in the bag and is a light weight, inexpensive option to adding warmth.
Down versus Synthetic?  It really does not matter.  They are equally as warm, down is going to cost more, but you will get your savings in weight.  Down needs to stay dry to keep warm.  Synthetic materials fair better than down when wet or damp.  Which is an important consideration when coaching Scouts on which type of bag to purchase.
It used to be popular opinion to wear as little as possible when in your sleeping bag, now however, your clothing is considered a part of your sleep system.
First thing to remember is whatever you decide to wear, it needs to be clean and dry.  For most that means wearing a clean set of poly pro long underwear.  Again, keep in mind that it is easier to stay warm than to re warm.  Change into your “sleeping clothing” when you are warm.  Boil up some water and drink a hot beverage.  While you are drinking, boil up enough water to put in a water bottle.  Throw it in your sleeping bag as you change into your sleep clothes.   Hand warmers are also a good way to preheat the bag.
A change of your socks is also a great idea.  If you are like me, your feet are the first thing to get cold.  Dry socks going into a sleeping bag is fantastic and will keep you warmer.  Find a real thick pair of wool socks, you know, the kind that you would never hike in but look super comfy.  Wear them at night to keep your feet warm.
Possumdown socks or a good thick merino wool sock are what I find to work the best.
The set up of your gear is important.  Get out of the elements.
Don’t sleep in low ground.  Cold air settles in low ground.  When selecting your sleep area, where you pitch your tent, make sure you stay on the upper part of the slope.  If you must pitch camp in low ground, dig a sump outside of the door of your tent.  This will pull the cold air away from you as you sleep.
Vent your Tent.  If you fail to vent you will wake up wet, condensation will form in your tent.  You can expect a little, but if you don’t vent you will certainly get too much moisture in your tent.  This is bad for your gear and also will make your packing a bit harder.
The sleeping bag liner is a great piece of gear.  It is perhaps the biggest addition to my winter gear.  Adding ten degrees to my sleeping bag, it is made of fleece, which absorbs some moisture from my breath at night, keeps my bag dry, and takes away the feel of cold nylon as I slip into my bag.
Getting a great nights sleep is critical when camping.  Staying warm is key.  Knowing your sleep system and how to use it is an important skill in winter camping.
We will talk more about winter camping in our next post.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, gear, Skills, training, Winter Camping | 3 Comments

Cold Weather Camping pt. 2 Skills

Backpacking Tip of the WeekJust as a recap… Cold weather camping is a High Risk activity that is challenging, fun, and rewarding for those that venture into the cold weather environment.  This type of camping takes discipline, skills, and a great attitude.
Once leaders understand their role in accountability to those they lead, monitor behavior, and maintain the same “can do” attitude, they will provide fun programs in the cold weather camping environment.
In this post we are going to continue some of the discussion on training for camping in the cold, focusing on some of the skills that need to be developed to ensure a safe, fun outing.
Obviously what you wear and how you wear it is a skill in and of itself.  Knowing when to layer up or down takes skills and awareness of the conditions.
How all of this clothing gets packed require a skill set also.  Those skills need to be practiced and repeated.  One of the ways in which we develop that skill is simply to have the Scouts pack and repack.  They unpack, set up, and then repack in fair conditions.  The second evolution is practiced with gloves on.  The same skills worked over and over.
It is once the Scout can do these skills that we practice outside, in the cold.  You will see the mastery of this skill proven at that point.
Understanding that the simple skill of packing a backpack in the cold can have a huge impact on the fun of the outing.  A Scout that struggles with this skill will place himself in painful situation and prolong his time spent being cold.  Remember that it is easier to stay warm than to rewarm.  Packing is a skill that will help the Scout find success in the cold.  Nylon gets cold and as the Scout packs he is in contact with cold material that may also be icy or wet.  It is important to do this correctly the first time so he can quickly return to activity that keeps him warm.
The Scout needs to understand that there is an order to his packing so he can access those items that he will need throughout the day to stay warm, cook meals, and move in and out of layers.  He also needs to understand how his gear works so he can have quick set up and take down periods.
His tent should be set up and modified to meet the Scouts needs in the cold.  Guy lines added and tied to the tie out points.  Knots pre tied and line measured to specific lengths so there is not a lot of adjustments to be made.
A plan for anchoring his tent needs to be made and practiced.  I do not worry about snow stakes.  A stick will do or a regular tent stake placed in the snow sideways will hold the tent in place.  Additional guy lines may be needed in the event of heavy winds or snow.  Have those lines in place before you go.  A simple bowline tied at the end of the line will make for quick set up and take down.

The Cold Sump or pit, draws cold air away from you at night.

The Cold Sump or pit, draws cold air away from you at night.

Digging a cold sump outside of the tent will pull cold air away from you as you sleep.  Cold air settles in low ground, creating that low space will keep you warmer at night.  You will also have a place to sit and put your boots on and fire up the stove to boil water for a nice cup of hot chocolate.
Cooking in the cold is another challenge that requires a few more skills than boiling water.
First the Scout needs to understand that eating is critical for staying warm in the cold weather environment.  Eating keeps you hydrated, it keeps you warm and comfortable, and it provides the nutrients to keep you going.  When you cook or boil water, it is a good way to treat that water and get fluids into your system.  Dehydration is the number one cold weather injury.  Scouts do not feel thirsty because it is cold.  It is when you feel thirsty that you are in the early stages of dehydration.  Cooking a meal and having a cold or warm drink with help prevent dehydration.
The gear used for cooking needs attention and skill to accomplish the cooking of your meal.  Liquid fuels such as white gas are very reliable in the cold.  Canister fuels work well also, but you need to keep the canister warm.  Throw it in your sleeping bag at night.  Keep it in a wool sock.  Use a small square of Closed Cell Foam pad to set the canister on as you cook.  This insulates and keeps the fuel warmer.
Why do I consider cooking a skill for the cold weather, well there is great emphasis in cooking in the cold.  You can not get away with quick trail meals.  You need to eat warmer meals to stay warm.  The average person burns about 2700 calories a day in the summer.  In the winter you need to be prepared to burn about 4000 a day.  Considering this, it takes skill in planning and preparing those meals, not to mention getting them into camp. Again, packing becomes a tremendous skill that pays off.
We teach the acronym C.O.L.D.  Clean, Overheating, Layers, and Dry.  This simple acronym is all about skills.
Staying clean, both your body and your clothing.  Dirty, oily clothing allows for water to seep as well as wind.  This will not protect you against the elements any longer.  You must stay as clean as you can.  A quick wipe down before you go to bed and when you get up in the morning will keep you warmer.  Keeping from Overheating will reduce sweat and therefore will keep you warmer.  Reducing the amount of moisture on the body will keep you from freezing.  We do this by wearing loose layers.  An effective layering system of clothing that will assist you in regulating your temperature keeping your comfortable and warm.  And finally staying dry.  Staying out of the snow when it is critical to stay dry.  This means changing after playing in the snow or digging a snow cave. Water is your enemy in the cold (unless you are drinking it).  Remember C.O.L.D. to stay Warm!
Camp.
Before setting up your tent, pack the snow.  You are your buddy, walk with your snow shoes stamping down a platform for your tent.  It need not be too much bigger than the footprint of the tent.  Pack it so you no longer punch through when you walk.  This will provide a comfortable platform to sleep on and make it easier to set up your tent.
This also keeps you from possible tearing a hole in the floor of your tent should you step through a patch of unpacked snow.
It is counter intuitive to think about opening your tent, but make sure your tent is vented well.  This will reduce condensation keeping your tent and the rest of your gear dryer, thus keeping you warmer.
In part three, we will discuss sleeping in the cold.
What do you think?  Are you ready to get out there and camp in the cold…
Let me know what you think.  What winter camping skill do you think is the most important?

Have a Great Scouting Day!

 

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Gear Alternatives

SAM_0008As you know by reading the blog, I am a fan of gear.  I like to play around with gear, test it, try it, and change it often.  There are pieces of gear that I love and pieces of gear that I am always looking for the newer, better, more efficient, or just cool.  Lately I have been in a few discussions about some gear like knives and stoves.  What is significant about these discussions is the idea that for a lot of Scouters there is little knowledge about what is allowed, what is not, and what is out there to show to your Scouts as gear choices.
Take a look at all the old Field books and Hand books, Peek into the Boy Scout catalogs, it’s all the same stuff.  All the old-time tested and true gear.  It all works well and is super reliable.  I don’t have a problem with any of it, but just because it has always been there and done that way does not make it the only or best way to do it.
At a few recent Boy Scout break outs at round table we have talked about gear and gear alternatives.  Much of the discussion focusing on stoves and knives.  As discussed in my recent post “The Great Knife Debate“, it amazes me that many Scouters just do not know the rules.  They perpetuate a rule that does not exist for what ever reason, but the net result is not the safety of the Scout, but a lack of exposure to new and different ways of doing the same old thing.  The same can be said for alcohol stoves.  The BSA has prohibited the use of “Homemade” stoves.  And I can see that the BSA does not want some Scout to get hurt because his leaders failed to train him on how to do it right.  But the use of alcohol stoves in general is not prohibited.  Manufactured of purchased stoves are not prohibited and I am glad for that.  I exclusively use an alcohol stove and scouts in my troop are using them also.  I teach them how and make sure they do it right.  There is nothing unsafe about them, well, they are about as unsafe as using an MSR Whisperlite.  It comes down to training them to use it correctly.  Stores like REI and many online outdoor outfitter are selling alcohol stoves.  And the fact is you can use them to cook anything.
I can bake, fry, simmer, and of course boil water with them.  Here is the point.  They are an alternative way to do the same old thing.  Camping, Cooking, sleeping in a shelter, whether that is a tent, a tarp, or a bivy sack is all the same.  Camping is camping.  There are many methods and ways to go about it, but in the end it’s all the same.
You also know that I am a big fan of wood stoves (like the Solo Stove).  They are a great way to cook.  It takes a little skill and you can absolutely cook anything with them.  I have had Scouters tell me that one can not use them because you can’t turn them off.  Huh? What?  First Class Requirement 4 e states; On one camp out, serve as your patrol’s cook. Supervise your assistant(s) in using a stove or building a cooking fire. Prepare the breakfast, lunch, and dinner planned in requirement 4a. In the most previous edition of the Boy Scout handbook Second Class requirement 2g required the Scout to;  On one camp out, plan and cook over an open fire one hot breakfast or lunch for yourself, selecting foods from the food pyramid. Explain the importance of good nutrition. Tell how to transport, store, and prepare the foods you selected.
So in one edition of the hand book, we have decided to dumb down the Scouting experience not make it a requirement to cook over an open fire, but it’s a choice.  But it’s still there and it always has been.  But in checking the Guide to Safe Scouting I can’t find anywhere that suggests wood stoves are prohibited or cooking over an open flame is prohibited because you can’t put it out.  You see, to me that is just a way for Scouters to impose a rule that is not there when it comes to gear.
There are lots of great gear alternatives out there.  Allow your Scouts to explore them.
Many of the Scouts in my troop are moving to camping under tarps.  Some are using you standard 10X10 Wal Mart tarp, while most are going to good camping tarps.  SilNylon tarps that are light and easy to put up.  Some even have built-in doors and can be pitched between trees or using their trekking poles.  I love the idea that the Scouts are exploring different gear and ways to camp.  It keeps it fun and exciting for them.
I suppose the bottom line is that there are many options out there, as a Scouter you should gain an understanding and knowledge of that gear and not push it aside just because you don’t like it.
We had this same debate during the 2010 National Jamboree.  Many ‘older Scouters’ did not like the idea of allowing the Scouts to bring and use “Electronics”.  There was a misconceptions that electronics are not allowed in Scouting.  No where is this found in writing.  I allowed the Scouts of my Jamboree Troop to bring their “electronics”.  Cell phones, Ipods, and of course cameras.  I wanted them to be able to communicate with me and other Scouts, I wanted to be able to shoot a text to the troop when I needed to make quick contact with them.  I wanted the Senior Patrol Leader to be able to get everyone on the bus on time and sent group texts to better communicate with his Troop.  We established “No ear bid zones”  Touring at Arlington National Cemetery for example was a No Ear Bud zone.  Sitting on the bus for two hours however was not.  As long as the Scouts obeyed the rules, I allowed them to use the electronics.
The same goes for their gear.  As long as they use it as intended, be it a stove, knife, or any other piece of gear, I allow and encourage them to try new things.
This is a big part of the adventure of Scouting.
Get to know some new gear.  Pick something to try with your Scouts.  Try something new.
Allow the adventure of Scouting to happen.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Methods, Scouting, Skills | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Map and Compass

mapcompassHere is the Scoutmaster Minute that I gave to our Troop the other night… Hope you find it useful.
As you travel on the trail to First Class Scout you find that there are many skills that you develop.  You learn them and eventually master them well enough to use them in your daily lives, while on camp outs and even teach them to other people.
Learning to use the Map and Compass is one such skill that takes practice and hands on use.  Once you master the use of the Map and Compass you will always know the direction you heading and will be able to find your way.
The Map shows you the terrain.  It lets you know where you are and where you are going.  It’s colors represent what is on the ground around you and the obstacles that you will face.  As you read the map, you see the hills and valleys that you will be trekking on.  It shows you where you can find water and other resources.  The map can tell you where the trail is easy or hard or give you options for a detour.  Using you map, you always know where you are and a clear path to where you want to go.
The Compass is the other tool that when used with your map gives you clear direction.  Knowing how to use the compass properly will allow you to set your course in the right direction.  It orients your map and gives you an accurate picture of what is ahead.  Without the compass, the map is just a picture of the section of earth you are traveling on.  Add the compass and you have accurate and steady direction.  The compass is always true.  It can set you on the path that will get you to your destination.
These two tools are important in your life.  Yes, we have GPS now and that is very helpful, but the GPS will never replace a good map and compass.
We have another map and compass that get us headed in the right direction and keep us on track to our destination.  The Scout Oath and Law.
The Oath is our map.  It gives us a clear picture of the person that we should be.  It has features much like the map.  Duty, Honor, and being Selfless are some of the marks we see in Oath.  If we use it, we will know the landscape of our lives and will be able to stay the course.
The Scout Law is our compass.  It is the steady set of values, unchanging, that when used with the Scout Oath will be our guide on the trail of life.
The Law points you in the direction of our values that make you the person that you are.  Like the compass it has a steadfast needle that ensures your heading is true.
Using the Oath and Law together, like the map and compass these tools will set your course to being a man of Character, a good Citizen, and promote in yourself and other fitness in your mind, body, and heart.
As we have traveled that trail to First Class, weather is is recent or in the past, or if you are just starting that journey, remember that the skills you develop today are there for you to use for the rest of your life.  Focus on these skills they will make a difference not only on a camp out but every day that you wake up and look in the mirror starting your Great Scouting Day!
Set your azimuth to achieve your goals and keep checking your map to stay on course.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Leadership, Scout Law, Skills, Values | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The Solo Stove

I have been talking quite a bit as of late about the Solo Stove.  In fact, I became an affiliate of the Solo Stove this week.  The more I use this stove, the more I like it and realize I should use it more.  I have had this stove for about 2 years now and it has gone on a couple of hands of camp outs.
Never have to carry fuel.  I live in Oregon, so fuel is never an issue.  I even burned soaking wet sticks in it.  Pine cones will get you a boil in no time.
Small.  The Solo stove fits in most pots.  And it doesn’t weigh much either.  The stove weighs in at 9 oz.  It is 3.8 inches high and 4.25 inches wide.  I keep it in a 12 cm imusa mug when I take it on the trail.
The construction of this stove is second to none.  Yeah, you may be able to make a hobo stove that looks like it, but put the Solo Stove in your hands and the 304 Stainless steel material and rock solid construction, beautiful lines, seams, and detail will blow you away.
It takes about 8 minutes to get a good rolling boil.  That’s pretty good considering the source.  Besides, where are you going… you’re camping.. relax.
Leave No Trace.  This is a perfect stove when trying to leave no trace.  Why?  Because it leaves no impact.  You burn stuff lying around, small sticks etc.  It doesnt leave a mark on the soil, you don’t need a fire pit, and what’s left after the burn is fine white ash that with less than a cup of water completely disappears.  Not allowed to have a campfire.. no problem.  This stove does not produce sparks and staying right inside the burn chamber.  It is totally contained.
Like I said, I really love this stove.   It is not quite my go to stove, I still love my Blackcat alky stove.  But the more I play with the Solo Stove, the more I want to use it more and more.  And for 9 ounces, it is worth throwing in the backpack.
If you are interested in learning more and ordering a stove.  Use the link over here on the right to click-through to Solo Stove.  If you are looking at getting your favorite Scoutmaster on the internet a nice Christmas gift… I would love the Solo Stove pot 900.
Enjoy the video.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, Just fun, Leave no trace, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: | 4 Comments

Troop Leadership Corps

tlcpatchFrom 1972 to 1989 the Boy Scouts of America had a program called the Troop Leadership Corps.  This program was designed for Scouts 14-16 to serve their Troop in leadership roles.  They were not a member of a Patrol within the Troop, but held direct leadership within the Troop.  They served as guides for new Scout Patrols, they served in traditional leadership roles and they were charged with being skills instructors and role models to the Troop.
In 1989, this program was replaced with the Venture Patrol within traditional Troops.  At this point the older Scouts now became a patrol and Troop positions of leadership were created to fill the void.  The Instructor and Troop Guide Positions were created and added to the leadership roll of offices.
Since 1989 many Troops however have held on the Troop Leadership Corps (TLC) as a foundation of leadership in the Troop.  It is also a great way to maintain older Scouts keeping them active in the Troop and engaged with the younger Scouts.
Our Troop is now among them.  We are rebuilding the Troop Leadership Corp, with our own spin on it.  during the heyday of the TLC the Scouts that made up the Corps left their patrols and entered the group of leaders to form a patrol.  In our situation the Scouts will remain a part of their Patrol.  The TLC will be made up of those Scouts that demonstrate leadership and leadership potential.  They will be Scouts that buy into our leadership philosophy and are willing to step up and lead.
This is an incentive program.  The Scouts that choose to belong to the Troop Leadership Corps will have high adventure opportunities and time set aside for them to be teenagers.  We have a group of Scouts that are taking the lead on this.  They are motivated and willing to lead.  They all believe in our core values and leadership philosophy and want to see the Troop become more successful.
We are doing this to keep the older Scouts engaged and maintain them longer as members of the Troop.
Here are the 5 leadership principles (philosophy) that we maintain in the Troop.  It is these 5 principles that the Troop Leadership Corp will center their leadership on.  It is these 5 principles that they will use to teach and coach the troop to success.
1.  Never Stop Learning, Be a life Long learner.
2.  Focus on the Little things.  Focusing on the little things make the big things happen.
3.  Model Expected Behavior.
4.  Communicate Effectively.
5.  Be a Servant Leader.
When we do these 5 things the Troop works like a well oiled machine.  Leadership is not a chore, and everyone finds success.
So we are bringing back the Troop Leadership Corps.  We will report back on how it is going.
Does your Troop use the Troop Leadership Corp model?  How is that going for you?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Ideals, Leadership, Patrol Method, Scouts, Service, Skills, training, Values | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

13 year old Eagle.

From the Facebook page of Steve Harvey

I thought I would let it simmer for a bit before I weighed in.. and now I just can’t keep my blog silent on this.
So, at a risk of pissing a bunch of folks off.. here it goes.
By now, if you are an active Scouter, you are aware of the young man named James Hightower III.  He was presented his Eagle award on the Steve Harvey show.
This ambitious Scout earned his Eagle award at age 12.  (he is now 13) He earned 61 merit badges, the last of which, the ever so tough Fingerprinting on the Steve Harvey show.
He is a member of the Order of the Arrow and appears to rank among the young genius’ of our time.  Band, Leadership in his Church, etc etc.
OK.. you all know that I am one that believes in maintain standards.  First, there is no age limit other than 18 for earning the rank of Eagle Scout, I get that.. but let’s do the math.
He crosses over at a minimum of 10 1/2 years old.  Earned his Eagle rank at 12.  From First Class to Star the Scout must be active with his Troop for at least 4 months.  During that 4 months, he needs to serve as a leader for that time period.  Then from Star to Life, the Scout needs to serve as an active member of his Troop for 6 months.  During that time, he needs to serve in a leadership position and do service.   We are up to at least 10 months… not to mention the 30 days it takes to earn Tenderfoot and at least a few months to get to First Class.  Since joining, he would have participated in 10 separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), three of which included camping overnight.  In most Troops that would represent at least 3 months.  So the simple math is 14 months.  He is now 11 1/2 or 12 depending on when his birthday is.
Then he must serve for another 6 months as a Life Scout to earn Eagle.  We are now 20 months into this young mans Scouting life.
20 months.
Some one please tell me.  Has he really practiced real leadership?  How much leading has he done?  Was he the Librarian and Historian for his leadership?  I know they count, but really.. we are talking about an Eagle Scout here.
Yes I know that this wunderkind is active in many areas of his life.  Which begs the question.  When did his have all this time to lead, earn merit badges, rank, perform service projects etc?  Band, Church, Junior National Honor Society, active in the Order of the Arrow, Top Teens Program… 20 months as a Scout.  Just think about the Scouts in your Troop.
OK.. 20 months… Most Troops camp 11 times a year and go to Summer camp in that 11 months.  He needs 20 nights camping for the Eagle Required  Camping Merit badge.  That’s 6 camp outs plus a 6 night summer camp.  So that’s the first year.  12 of the 20 months got the basic nights out-of-the-way.  I assume as a leader he attends most if not all camp outs.. after all, that is where leadership and the Patrol method are really practiced.
10 1/2 to 12 years old is one and a half years.  That’s 18 months.  Now we don’t know when his birthday is, but the numbers do not add up.  From a math point of view and a practical point of view.  What has this young man got out of the Eagle experience.
The article says he plans on staying in Scouting.  That’s awesome.  Maybe now he will become the Eagle that he is.
I am sorry if I seem to be bashing this young man.  I am not.  I am really bashing his Adult leadership for not ensuring that the process is producing Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.. not just Eagle Scouts.
I applaud this young man for his achievement… I don’t know how he did it… 61 merit badges alone takes time.. when did he find all that time in 18 months.  I am sure he has friends, school, and eats and sleeps on occasion.
When people see the Eagle badge, they think leadership, accomplishment, self-reliance, the ability to serve and accomplish tasks.  When I see a 12-year-old.. I think HOW?  I wish I could applaud and not question.  But I have been a Scoutmaster for a long time and just can not see how this works.
For me, it takes away from every person that has earned the award and has come through Scouting with Knowledge, experience, and the ability to lead as a servant.
Again, I am sorry if I question this young mans achievement.  I just can’t see how this math works, which makes me believe that those standards are being manipulated some how.  And that my friends, I can not tolerate.  I never hold back a Scout, but I do make sure that he does it right.  I make sure that he is completing the requirements without short cuts.  I do not add to or take away any requirements and produce no false road blocks.  As a Scoutmaster, I just make sure that the experience is more important than the badge.
Congratulations?

Have a Great Scouting Day! 

 

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Oath and Law, Order of the Arrow, Patrol Method, Scout, Service, Skills, Values | Tags: | 17 Comments

Discuss, Demonstrate, Show

scouthandbookWhen it comes to advancement in the Boy Scouts, it’s not really rocket science.  First, the Scout needs to want to advance.  Second the Scout needs to do the work.  And finally, the Scout needs to be tested.
This process can be easy for some Scouts while harder for others, but what I have learned in 10 years as a Scoutmaster is that it is all up to the Scout.  I have seen Troops in our area that place more value on advancement than in other methods and I have seen some that do not at all.  I think that we view it as one of the eight methods and my philosophy has always been that advancement will come when the Scout is actively participating and engaged in the Troop.
A Scout came to me asking for a Scoutmaster conference.   OUTSTANDING!!  Grab a couple of chairs and let’s have a talk I said.  So how have you been, we haven’t seen you in a while.  Well, I have been busy with other stuff says the Scout, and Scouts just kinda took the backseat, here’s my book, I need you to sign off a bunch of stuff.
Now, I am no drill sergeant when it comes to signing books, but there are some things that just need to be done.  Discuss, Demonstrate, and Show.  If that is what the requirement says, then that is what the Scout needs to do.
So, Tommy Tenderfoot, lets talk about these things that you have circled for me to sign off, I say to the young man.  You mean you are not going to sign my book the Scouts replies looking agitated.   No, that’s not what I am saying, I just want to make sure that you know what you need to know, this process is designed to progressively teach you the skills that you will need to be a good Scout and one day help teach other Scouts.  I went on, You see, here is says to Demonstrate how a compass works and how to orient a map. Explain what map symbols mean.  Did you bring a map and compass with you?  I’m sorry, but for tonight’s meeting I didn’t bring that stuff.  Frustrated, the Scout says No… but don’t you remember that hike that we did last year when we had the map out?  I know how to use it, can’t you just sign it?  No, I am afraid we need to sit down with the map and compass and work this out.  It’s not me being hard, it’s the standard.
Long ago I learned that most things in life can be broken down to three things.  Tasks, Conditions, and Standards.
There is a task to do like demonstrate how to orient a map and compass.  The conditions are that you have a map and a compass and you use them to determine your orientation.  And that standard is that once the task is complete, the map is oriented correctly.  And so it goes with pretty much everything, at least in Scouting in the area of advancement.  The Scout is given the task, the conditions are set, and there is one standard.  The standard is always to do the task correctly.  I always tell my Scouts that there is only one way to do things right and that is the right way.  This can be applied to everything in Scouting and in life.
When the Scout handbook asks the Scout to Demonstrate, he needs to demonstrate.  If it tells him to Show, then he shows, and if the handbooks instructs the Scout to discuss, well, that is exactly what it means.  These are the Tasks, the Conditions, and the Standards.  It is not rocket science, it’s just keeping the standards set.  It is the right way.
So why do I feel the need to share this?  Simple. I believe that we owe to our Scouts to make sure the standards are kept.  We owe it to the Eagle Scouts and Scoutmasters that came before us.  We always hear about “the good old days”  You know, how tough it was when we did it… well, it wasn’t that tough… there are standards that were upheld.  And we need to keep those standards.  It’s simple, it’s not rocket science.
So when the book tells you to do something… just do it, it’s the right way.  It’s the standard.
When a Scout needs a conference, give it to him.  Don’t be hard, just follow the task, conditions, and standard.  The Scout will benefit and so will the troop.  It is fair and consistent and the way Scouting has always done it, why?  Because it is the right way.
Demonstrate the standard.  Show the standard.  And Discuss the standard.  It’s the right way.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Character, Leadership, Methods, Skills | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

treesScouts that join our units begin their walk on the Eagle Trail through our program forest.  This forest of Scouting has much to offer the passer-by.  When you enter the forest the trail is clearly marked and a guide is provided.  This guide keeps the new Scout on the right trail while he learns about the forest and the skills that he will need to navigate the trail through to his destination.  The trail is long and provides many opportunities for the Scout.  There is a fork in the trail called First Class.  Once the Scout reaches this point in the forest, the trial gets a little less clear.  There are still markers along the way, but the Scout is challenged to seek the path and maybe do some bushwhacking.
The trail through the forest at times will seem to be very narrow and at times the forest opens up into meadows and the trail needs to be tried and new routes found.  A Scout needs to remember that the forest is full of trees.  Those trees represent the opportunities of Scouting.  Every four years a Scout will find a huge tree called Jamboree.  He can choose to visit that tree and learn about its opportunity.  He will also chance upon trees called NOAC (National Order of the Arrow Conference), he will have the opportunity to visit four trees called the National High Adventure Bases.  A trip to the Philmont, the Summit, Sea Base or Northern Tier tree will prove to be a high light of his Scouting walk through the forest.  There are merit badge trees and places along the trail to practice leadership and service.  The trails always need maintenance.  There are trees along the trail that the Scout will find other Scouts that need help finding the way.  He will make the choice to lead them until they can do the same for other Scouts they meet.
There is a big lodge near the edge of the forest.  This is where the Eagle Scouts hang out.  They are still close to the forest so they can hear the call of Scouting and spend time back on the trail.
The forest of Scouting is full of great opportunity, fun, and adventure.  But the opportunity, fun and adventure only comes to those Scouts that see the forest instead of the trees.  The trees are the things that we bump into as we travel through the forest, but they are not the reason we go through Scouting.  Finding the trees in the forest are the things that we do as we move forward in Scouting seeking the opportunities and fun that come with the program.  The name of the trail is called Scout Oath trail.  Along that trail we learn our laws and rules.  We develop a habit of service, and we become a person that has Character.  The trail is hard at times and forces us to stay physically and mentally strong.  The trail is long and full of adventure, but we need to keep the forest the most important thing and let the trees appear.  The Forest is the Scouting Aims and along the way you will bump into those trees that keep you moving in the right direction.
Loosing focus on the Forest and jumping right to the trees will eventually cause the Scout to turn around and leave the forest.  He will hit all the trees that he wants but will miss the whole trail through the forest.  The trees that are deeper into the forest are bigger and better, but the Scout that enters the trees and not the forest will miss out on them.
I have seen Scouts that have walked into the forest only to find a small stand of trees.  They provided lots of merit badges and rank, but never any of the exciting opportunities that lay ahead on the trail.  I also have seen Scouts that have immersed themselves into the whole trail.  They have seen the big trees, participated in the great adventures and when he reached Eagle Lodge looked back at a great time in Scouting.
As you mentor young men in Scouting and as you introduce young men as they join your troop, show them the trail head into the forest and remind them to see forest rather than the trees.  The trees will appear as you follow the trail.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Character, Citizenship, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Jamboree, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Oath and Law, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, Values | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Your Legacy – Mentoring

eaglementorWhen teaching leadership to both our youth and adults, we spend a fair amount of time discussing what it is that leaders do.  Being a Teacher, Coach, Trainer, and Mentor is found within the job description of any leader.  We find ourselves as leaders focusing on being a good teacher of skills, coaching as those skills are applied, and training our leaders to be effective.  But what of being a mentor?
Not every leader is a mentor.  We tend to throw that around a bit too much in Scouting.  We have “Eagle Mentors”  We have “Unit mentors”, we even consider “Troop Guides” in the context of Wood Badge as a mentor.  But are they really mentors in the sense of having a lasting impact on the life of someone else.
Webster defines the word Mentor as; a trusted guide or counselor.  Other words are Tutor or Coach.
I think that a lot of leaders consider themselves as mentors, but as I look back on those that I consider my mentors I can’t help but go back to the definition.  Trusted guide.  And again,I ask myself what impact if any did this person have on my life.
Looking back, I honestly consider only a few people as a mentor.
In my life I break it down to a few areas.  Work, Spiritual life, Scouting, and becoming a man.
Work.
At UPS I do not consider any one person a mentor.  The work environment tends not to value leadership, rather there is a need to manage everything at UPS as material.  In the Army however, I have had a few mentors.  Men that really made a big impact on my leadership style and ability to lead.
In the Army there is a program that places fellow soldiers, leaders, in a position to develop their subordinates.  The Non Commissioned Officer Development Program (NCODP) is designed to make junior leaders better.  I had a First Sergeant named Ted Godwin that showed me how to use the tool box of leadership to care for soldiers.  He instilled in me the concept of Mission First, Men always.  This may seem like a little thing, but at the end of the day, that is what makes for effective leaders.  In the Army, with the division of leadership roles between the Officer Corps and the Non Commissioned Officer Corps it is the NCO that ensures the men are ready for the mission.  If the men are not ready, there is little chance for the mission to be accomplished.
The basic understanding of being a caring leader, one that truly understands those that he leads became one of the hallmarks of my leadership and a lesson that I passed on to those that I lead when I was placed in a position to mentor younger soldiers.
It was his trusted leadership style that inspired me to be a leader.  When he spoke, we listened.  When he instructed, we learned.
Another mentor of mine in the Army was Command Sergeant Major Cliff Neil.  He was a technical leader and understood why people act the way they do.  He was not a tactical superstar, but when it came to behavior, he was provided hours of lessons on how to be an effective counselor and dig deeper into the reasons why a soldier acted the way he did.  He showed me that everything is not always black or white… grey sneaks in to leadership and it is the effective leader that understands that will change behavior.  Changing behavior is the goal of discipline in the sense of punishment.  It is not a sign of weak leadership to know why.    CSM Neil was tough, but fair and made me an outstanding First Sergeant.  His impact on me was manifest when I became a Sergeant Major and was placed in a position to teaching my First Sergeants.  I adopted the grey area when the First Sergeants saw only black and white.  Typically we could change behavior without destroying a soldier’s career and livelihood.
Again, a leader that I trusted was leading me in the direction of becoming an effective leader.
In my Spiritual Life, I developed a friendship and allowed Fr. Rick Sarianni to be a trusted adviser.  I valued our talks and his understanding of me and my walk in faith.  I have known many Pastors, but Fr. Rick was a special friend that lead me to a clearer understanding of just what I believe and why I believe it.
In Scouting I have many friends that have helped me along the way and some that really made an impact on the Scoutmaster that I have become.  I won’t go into the specifics as there are many, but it I feel it important that I name at least two of the men that have made a big impact on me as a Scouter.  Tim Steenbergen gave me sage advise when I was a new Scoutmaster.  Program, Program, Program was his mantra and I have taken that to the bank.  John Caputo is the other.  John is the ultimate Scouter.  I had the absolute privilege to serve on his Wood Badge staff.  I met John the first time as a learner at Wood Badge in 2005.  He left an impression on me and we became friends.  I always looked to him as a role model in Scouting.  His wisdom and knowledge of the program and how to deliver the promise.  Over the past 10 years, John has always been there with advise and instruction.  Watching him as I have staffed on two Wood Badge Courses has been a pleasure and I have learned and taken many lessons from him along the way.
Again, two trusted counselors that left a large impact on me as a Scout leader.  Along the way as a Wood badge staffer I have been blessed to learn from dedicated leaders and folks that have an equal love for Scouting.
Being a Man.
There are four people who made me the man who I am today.  The first is my Dad.  He showed me the value of family and how to treat people.  I can go on and on about the lessons learned from him.
The other three are my two sons and my daughter.  Little did they know, but they guided me to being the Dad and man that I am.  They forced me to lead them and be consistent in how I raised them.  Without their pushing my life could have been different.  The obligation of being a Father was something that I could not take lightly.  The proof is in the pudding as they say.  I am a good man for them and they turned out to be fantastic young adults.
When a young man becomes an Eagle Scout we challenge him to prove that he earned it every day.  My wife has done that for me daily as we challenge on another to be good parents and people who can show our kids the way to being good adults.
So being a mentor is not something that just comes with leadership, it is something that has to be taken on as an obligation with the understanding that you will be impacting the life of someone else.  As I said, not all leaders are mentors.  I can think of many leaders that have come and gone throughout my life that I will never consider a mentor.  They were neither a trusted counselor nor would I consider them wise in the lessons learned.  By definition these leaders just lead.  In so far as their impact on me, I can not measure it.
Being a mentor is leaving your legacy.  That in and of itself seems to be lofty, but in the end, it is what mentor-ship is all about.  Passing on what I have to the next the generation.  Giving the gift of knowledge, of life skills and lessons, of whatever wisdom I have acquired to the next generation.
The other night after our latest Eagle Court of Honor I removed the Mentor Pin from my shirt that had just been placed there by our newest Eagle Scout.  This pin means the world to me, as do the other mentor pins I have received over the years.  I took a mental inventory of those pins and the Scouts that felt as though I had made an impact on their lives.  A pin from one of the Scouts of my Jamboree Troop back in 2010.  He gave me the pin stating that had it not been for me being his Scoutmaster at Jamboree he would have quit Scouting all together and would have never finished his Eagle Award.  Another Scout from my Troop presented me a mentor pin along with a picture of the two of us on a camp out.  He shared that the life lessons he learned from me are shaping him into the man who he wants to be.  Yet another pin reminded me of the young man that I have known all of his Scouting life.  He had always been a work in progress, but in the end blossomed into a fine young man.  He credited my straight talk and insistence on taking care of the little things to insure success.  He is well on his way to being a good man and I look forward to seeing him continue to grow.
It is that obligation to making an impact that I take serious.  Not every Scout, or person for that matter seeks guidance.   Sometimes it comes without a plea, it is a young man who hovers in the background taking it all in, that one day shakes your hand and thanks you for what you have done.
Understand this, Your actions, Your wisdom, Your behavior, and Your willingness to make a real difference in the life of someone else is what matters when in comes to being a mentor.
Trust, Competence, Being a Friend, these are qualities of being a mentor.  It is not the patch that you wear or the position that you hold.  It is your willingness to serve.
Leaving your legacy must be important to you, not for ego or pride, but for the future of those you mentor.
What is your impact, what is your legacy?  Are you a mentor?

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Leadership, Service, Skills, Values | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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