training

Going Camping

Merit Badges or Fun?Heading out into the woods this weekend with the Troop.  New Scout Patrol will be stepping off on the Trail to First Class, but not until after a fun morning on the range shooting Shot Guns.  Then the older guys will get to shoot all afternoon, but not until they develop some leadership skills in camp.  Modeling the Expected Behavior will be their theme for the weekend.
Weather calls for sun tomorrow.. we hope for the best.
So, I will let you all know how it goes on Sunday!
What are you up to this weekend?
Please share!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, gear, Hammock, Just fun, Leadership, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Skills, training | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

The STEM Push

stemThe other night I held a couple Scoutmaster Conferences, both for Scouts earning the Star Rank and both of the Scouts good young men.  During our discussion the subject of merit badges came up as you need them for the Star, Life, and Eagle ranks.
One of the young men asked me why certain merit badges were Eagle required, while others were not.  We looked at the merit badges that were on the Eagle required list and I explained to him that these are important merit badges that support the goals of Scouting.
Citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World focus not on teaching you about citizenship, but what your obligations are as a Citizen.
First Aid, Camping, Life Saving, Hiking, Emergency Preparedness, Swimming, Cycling, Personal Fitness and Cooking all focus on the Scout being fit and self-reliant.  Communication, Family life and Personal Management focus on how he acts in the world.  These are important.
Finger printing, art, music, basketry, and astronomy are just cool things that spark interest in the Scout.
I have noticed that there is a big push on the STEM programs in Scouting.  As if Scouting was becoming a vocational arm of the education system.  Now before I get hate mail, I am all for the Science and technology stuff,  I am fascinated by what engineers can do.  But this is Scouting dang it.  I don’t want to take my Scouts to Summer camp and have them sit in class all day learning about how to split an atom.  I want them out there enjoying the outdoors.  The go to School from September to June… July and August are times for them to be boys!
The STEM push has taken over and I want it to back off a bit.  Even in our Council STEM is all over the place.  We have great STEM partners in our areas that are assisting young men in cranking out merit badges.  But are they learning anything?  My guess is no.
I asked this young man in our conference which merit badges he had earned (looking at his history I knew the answer).  He had really not got much out of the “filler badges”.  He did talk about First Aid and the Citizenship badges though.
I am not against the STEM Program, but I personally do not want Scouting to become the math club.  Scouts get enough School.  They join Scouts to get adventure and that is what we need to give them.
Sit a Scout down for an hour and teach them about anything.. they want to get up and run.. give them an adventure and in the process teach them life skills and appreciation for the outdoors and you have captured them for life long Scouting.
STEM is not going away.. this is the world we live in, but let’s do more Scouting!
Just my opinion and thoughts.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Camping, Character, Citizenship, comments, Cooking, fitness, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, Summer Camp, technology, training | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Teaching Winter camping Skills- Revisited

DSCN0627As most of the country is still experiencing Winter conditions and here in the Northwest, the Winter Camping season is really in full bloom, as late as it is, there are still Troops and Crews that are venturing into the woods for some good winter camping.  I thought I would revisit our teaching or winter skills, just as a reminder that even though it’s March, we need to stay focused on how we camp in the winter.  Most of these skills transfer well all year round anyway.  I will take a page out of the Safe swim defense and Safety Afloat program.  Supervision and Discipline are a Must.
So here are a few rules that we maintain whenever we are talking about High adventure and Cold weather camping.
Remember anytime you engage in a high risk activity… you increase your preparation, supervision, and discipline.
The first rule is take it serious.  Cold Weather camping can be one of the most enjoyable activities with challenges and memories that your scouts will cherish.  But at the same time Cold weather camping can be Extremely dangerous when not taken seriously.
I use a three strike rule when dealing with the issue.  Three strikes and you are not going on the event.  Period.
A scout that does not want to pay attention or is goofing off too much will not get the information that is being presented.  This can lead to dangerous consequences in the field.
Before we do any Winter camping adventure we have a couple mandatory meetings.
During these meetings we teach Cold Weather first aid.
Understanding and knowing the symptoms of cold weather conditions such as frost bite and hypothermia.  Knowing what to look for on your buddy for those signs and then how to treat them.
We teach techniques for setting camp, preparing meals, setting up gear to best meet the conditions of Cold weather camping.  Simple stuff like zipper pulls and tent anchors.  Issues like meal preparation and how to better prepare meals at home for ease in the camp site.
These meetings we feel are important to set the tone for the High adventure activity.
We do the same thing for Rock climbing activities.  Mandatory meetings get the scout into the mind-set that this is so important that they are “Making” me be there … or I do not go.
Enforcement of the mandatory meeting is just as important.  If you make it a must for one that they get all the information, then make it a must to all.
If need be…have a make up meeting for scouts that absolutely can not make a mandatory meeting… give them opportunities to participate, but ensure they get the skills, training, and information that are needed for a successful outing.
The next rule that is non negotiable is using the buddy system.  Now I know that the buddy system is part of Scouting anyway, but in cold weather environments it is a must.
Buddies need to be established early in the process of planning, training, and preparing for the camp out.
Getting these buddies to learn the first Aid skills together, planning of meals together, and in camp routines will lead to skilled buddy teams that understand the importance of one another in the process.
When they train in first aid, it no longer is a routine activity, they understand, that if I do not check you and you don’t check me.. we can get hurt.  If I am not aware of what creamy colored skin means…then you may be getting frost bite on your nose or fingers.
Enforcing buddy teams is a must and hard fast rule.  In camp use the Patrol leaders to monitor buddy teams and ensure that they are maintaining discipline as a team.
One issue that may or may not come up, it has with in my unit, is when you are tent camping in the snow and most of the Scouts have single person tents maintaining the buddy concept.
The fix here is that they, unlike when camping during the summer, cluster the tents.  Have buddy teams set up their single person tents right next to one another.  This way they can still communicate throughout the night.  One technique that our boys have used is setting up their tents for the doors face each other, and they put them real close. Almost to the point where they can share vestibules.  I have seen them actually tie their vestibules together creating a tarp like set up.  It makes a little cooking area and allows them to sit and talk while in their sleeping bags.  Now this is all dependant on what their tents are like, but the point here is that sometimes they need to think out side of the box to overcome obstacles.  But they need to be aware that the buddy system is extremely important in the cold.  And because it is important, they need to do things that allow them to watch each other, and communicate with each other.
So rule number 2 is the buddy system, do not over look this, it is way to important.
Rule number 3 is TIME AND PLACE.
There is a time and place for everything.  There is a time and place to screw around and have fun, there is a time and place to be serious.  The sooner your Scouts know this.. the better.  Enough said.
I try not to get bogged down with a bunch of rules, after all we have the Scout Oath and law and that is pretty much all we need, but when it comes to high risk activities, it is important to establish importance in the seriousness of Cold Weather camping.
So now we have established it is important… so when teaching these Scouts about cold weather camping what are some things that need to be taught.
I guess if I had to narrow my list down to the top things to teach Scouts about Cold weather camping the list would include.
First.  Cold weather injuries and how to prevent them and treat them.
Second.  Gear.
Third.  In camp routines
Fourth.  Planning a preparation.
And fifth.  Getting around in the snow, including moving and orienteering.
So lets quickly talk a little about these 5 items.
First Aid.  Or better yet understanding the risks of Cold weather injuries and how to prevent them.  The idea is that you do not want to get into treatment.  You won’t have to if they prevent the injury to start with.
Hypothermia, frost bite, Frost nip or chill blains, immersion foot, sun burn and snow blindness are the biggies.
Show pictures of frost bite, that is enough to get the attention of your scouts.  The Scouts need to be able to tell you what they are looking for on their buddy.
Do they recognize the disorientation, nausea, and the fact that their buddy is no longer shivering means that he is probably slipping quickly into Hypothermia.
One of the biggest issues regarding the treatment of some cold weather injuries is getting the Scouts over the idea that they may be put in what they feel is an uncomfortable position.  Getting into a sleeping bag with another Scout is not normal, but it may be that which saves his buddies life.  Again, it’s all about prevention.  How do you prevent getting into that position?
Well that leads me to the next topic…gear.
Clothing and equipment are important in the cold.  First know that when talking about clothing… Cotton kills.
Do not allow your Scouts to wear lots of cotton.  Underwear bottoms are ok, but any clothing on the body that can get moist due to perspiration needs not to be cotton.  I’m talking primarily about T-shirts and socks.
Poly propylene underwear, long johns and sock liners are fantastic items to put against the body.  It reduces the chances of sweat staying on the skin and eventually leads to freezing.
Teach them about layering.  Talk about Base layers, Mid layers that insulate, and a shell layer that protects.  Handing out flyers that discuss the layering system are a great idea so that mom and dad understand what you expect.
When teaching about gear, talk about the difference between gear they use the rest of the year, also show them how they can use their gear all year round, with modifications.
Using a three season tent as a four season tent for example.  Simply by adding guy lines and anchors.  Tents do add warmth to the scout, they protect against the elements.  Snow and wind are the two elements you are concerned about.  Guy lines and tie downs will keep your tent steady in the wind.  Digging into the snow and setting your tent up sheltered by a snow wall will combat against the wind.  The tighter the guy lines, the better also for keeping snow from collecting and damaging your poles.  Reinforcing your poles by wrapping them with duct tape is a way to strengthen them.  The tape can be removed in the spring.  Making sure the Scouts know to constantly keep the tent clear of snow during the day and clearing it off before they turn in for the night will reduce the strain the tent poles feel.
Your Scouts need to understand that cold air settles in low ground.  Digging a trench outside of their tent by the door will move cold air away from their sleeping platform, just like in a snow cave.  It also allows for a place to sit up right when dressing.
Boots, lets talk about boots.
First, make sure that your scouts have good boots suitable for wear in the snow and cold.
Then make sure they keep them dry.  Boots when worn should be protected by wearing gaiters.  This protects the laces and upper portion of the boot.  They also keep snow from entering the boot, keeping them dry.
When boots are not being worn, they need to be INSIDE the tent, use an old stuff sack or even garbage bag to put the boots in.  Put them under or in your sleeping bag to keep them warm.  Boil up some water and fill a water bottle before you get in your tent.  Put the water bottle in your boots.  It will keep them warm and you will have water in the morning that is not frozen.  In the morning if your scouts can boil up some water and fill that bottle up and put it in the boots for about 15 minutes.. they will step into nice cozy boots that will ready them for the day.
Backpacks should be packed with stuff sacks, ditty bags, and need to be kept organized and accessible.
Adding zipper pulls or tabs to zippers will make it easier to get in and out of pockets, this goes for their jackets too.
Gloves and or mittens.  Check the gloves your Scouts bring.  They need to be water-resistant and warm.   Do not allow just any glove.  They need to provide insulation and protection.  I had a Scout show up once with gardening gloves.  Not acceptable in the cold weather environment.  As a leader, take extra gloves with you.  I have found that gloves come up missing or get wet, I carry a stuff sack with a few extra pair of gloves to throw on chilly hands when needed.
Outer wear.  Protective shells that keep the Scout dry and out of the wind.
You will know what right looks like, they do not need to run out and buy North face $300 jackets, although it would go a longer way in protecting them, to stay warm and dry.
Have a shake down of gear the week before the camp out.  This will allow you and your Patrol leaders the opportunity to look at all the gear and a week for the Scout to make corrections.
In camp routines.  These need to be discussed prior to the camp out, but practiced in camp.
Things like setting up camp quickly, getting shelter up, gathering fire wood, cooking and cleaning up, settling down for the night, staying dry, and fun things to do while in camp.
Establishing good in camp routines, just like in the summer is an important part of winter camping.  Gear gets lost in the snow, part of good in camp routines is storing gear and staying organized.
Planning and preparing for the winter camp out is probably the most important thing to getting the most out of your winter camping experience.  This includes training, planning, and readying your gear for the trip.
You need to know where you are going, how long you are going to be there, how you are getting there and how you are getting into the area you are camping in.  And then what you are going to do once you get there.
Preparation is so key to a successful Cold Weather camp out.  The Scouts need to be prepared and properly instructed.  Like I tell the boys, we are not planning to treat cold weather injuries, we are preparing to prevent them.
Taking that approach with you cold weather camping preparation will lead to success.
You as the adult leader, or even for those Junior leaders that listen, need to become experts in the skills needed to camp in the cold.
Preparing the Scouts of your troop starts with some clear goals for the experience.
In your first year of camping in the cold weather, you may want to limit your overnight stays to a single night and progressively move to longer stays.
You may want to start by taking day hikes and excursions into the cold.  Set up camp and work on skills such as shelters, building fires, and staying dry.  Then retire to the comfort of a lodge for the night.
In your planning you need to figure out what your objectives are.  Going into the woods and setting up camp, eating and hitting the rack is not enough to keep scouts interested in camping in the cold.  What are you going to do once you get into camp?  Navigation is a great skill to practice in the snow.  Folks get disoriented easily in a snow filled forest.
How about winter relay’s, snow shoe hikes, igloo building or snow caving, Cross country skiing, or just plain winter skills.  There are many things that you can do that lead up to the cold weather camp out.  Make gear like snow shoes, then test them out when you get to camp.  There is a great Scouting resource available at your Scout Shop.  The book Okpik:   Cold Weather Camping #34040 shows you how to make gear, as well as activities and know how on camping in the winter.
Use other resources too, one of my favorite books on Camping in the cold is Winter Hiking and Camping, by Michael Lanza a book put out by Backpacker Magazine.
In planning and preparing, get you hands on as much material as possible and become familiar, almost to the point that you are an expert.  You need to be, those boys depend on you.
Finally, getting around in the snow.  I alluded to snow shoeing and cross-country skiing earlier.  These are super fun activities that the Scouts really have a great time with.  If you are going to snow shoe or ski, it is a good idea to get out there prior to the camp out and get a feel for it.  If time is an issue, when you get to your drop off point, leave the packs in the car and take a little hike to get used to the snow shoes or skis, it is better to establish balance and some skill before you throw your pack on.
If you get a lot of snow, I would recommend show shoeing for your first time winter campers.  It is a skill that is easy to pick up and provides the most stable mode of on foot movement in the snow.  Trying to walk in deep snow with a pack on can be frustrating as the scouts post hole their way into camp.  Taking along snow shoes provides not only ease of movement, but a fun activity to do once you get camp set up.
Most winter sports outlets rent snow shoes and we have gotten real good Weekend rates when you mention you are taking a group of Boy Scouts out for a snow shoeing adventure.
Let me leave you with this.
The best tool you have in the winter camping environment is your brain.  It will know when things are good and when things get bad.  Listen to it.  Adult leaders need to be upbeat and positive throughout the winter camping process.  A positive attitude is infectious and the boys of the unit must keep a great attitude when camping in the cold.
Seeing an adult with a negative attitude, complaining about the cold, or showing frustration at gear, not being able to accomplish tasks, and generally not having a good time will surely infect the rest of the Troop.  Keep a level head, have a great time, acquire the necessary skills, and have a positive attitude and your winter camping adventure will be a fantastic memorable experience.   Oh and take lots of pictures.
Get out there and camp in the cold.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, fitness, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Motto, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Action Required

actionrequiredWhen we teach leadership to our Scouts the best way to demonstrate that leadership is to be an example of expected behavior.  We show them how to lead by being good examples.  And we expect the youth leadership to follow suit.  They in turn are expected to be good examples for those that they are leading.
This requires Action.  Not just knowing how to lead, but applying that leadership.
A good foundation for leaders in Scouting is to be action oriented.  Seek opportunities to be a teacher, coach, and mentor.
In our recent discussions on “Laziness”, we outlined some of the effects of the lazy Scout.  In short, focusing on the obstacles rather than the objective.  As a leader this is where your action comes in.  First and foremost, leaders can not be lazy.  The leader needs to recognize when a follower is need of instruction or motivation.
We teach our leaders that all leaders provide Purpose, Direction, and Motivation to those that they lead.  When we talk about leading a lazy Scout we need to double down on the root cause of his laziness in a specific area.  We need to find out why he either can not perform the task or why he is unwilling to complete the task.  This is where purpose and direction become the start of your action steps.
Motivating the Scout to complete the task, not by verbally beating him up or making him look bad, rather, by leading him to the objective.  Sometimes I think the obstacles just look to overwhelming that the objective can no longer be seen.  It is an effective leader that will lead the follower around, through, over, or under the objective by teaching, coaching, and mentoring.  Refocusing the follower towards the objective and developing in the follower those skills to negotiate that obstacle in the future.
This is leadership 101 and will make leaders of every level successful.  Success breads success and grow the leader to be a great leader in no time.
Action is required in leadership.
First the leader must be willing to learn and continue learning.
Second, the leader must be and model expected behavior.
And third, the leader must be willing to teach, coach, and mentor those he leads.
Remembering that the leader is a servant to those that he leads and as such, must put the followers needs above his own.  This is a daunting concept for some young men.  But when they understand that their success is based on the success of others and that by developing as an effective leader, they will find success and leadership will become a habit that they will never give up.
I had a discussion with a young leader in my Troop, he said that I make it look and sound so simple.  I told him that it is.  Again, in leadership you focus on the objective, not the obstacle and as long as you are willing to take action the rest falls into place.
A willingness to take action where action is required.. that is leadership.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Patrol Method, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, training | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

How do You fix Lazy?

skillsHere is a question for you… How do you fix lazy?
I do not intend this to be a rant, rather a real look into why are people.. in particular.. some of our Scouts so lazy.  Yes.. I said Lazy, and if the shoe fits they need to wear it.
Well, Scoutmaster Jerry… you can’t call a boy out like that.. you may hurt their feelings… Really?  If you don’t want your feelings hurt, stop being lazy.  It’s really that simple.
Here is the situation.
We do a very good job of teaching skills.  As is the case in Scout Troops all over our Country, Scout leaders have vested interest in making sure that our Scouts are trained in skills, both life skills and those skills that can be applied in the great out doors.  In the case of my Troop, we have assembled a group of adult leaders that are the best.  That is a pretty lofty claim, but true.  We have multiple BSA certified Climbing instructors.  Multiple Wilderness First Aid trained and First Responders.  Medical professionals, skilled outdoors men.  Trained and certified trainers for extreme cold weather activities, etc. Avid backpackers with years of experience and mastered skill levels.  Leave No trace experts etc.  We  have made it a point to be over trained so the Scouts of our Troop will have the benefit of training that is current, relevant,  expert, and will ensure that the Scout will gain the most of his Scouting experience.
Now, before I go on.. YES, we are YOUTH LED… BUT…
As you all know there are times that Adults with know how need to step in and not lead, but train.  The Scout leadership is still leading and teaching basic skills, but when it comes to high risk activities it is important that Adult instruction from those that are qualified, skilled, and trained need to do the teaching.
So, we have assembled this great group of skilled folks that know what they need to know and are willing to teach and provide mentoring as the Scouts develop their skills.
I suppose it is worth mentioning that a Scout joins our Troop knowing what he is getting into.  It is also fair to point our that we do not push participation.  A Scout will get out of Scouting exactly what he puts into it.  If a young man makes the choice to not participate, well then he will get that experience out of Scouting.  On the other hand, if he makes the choice to fully immerse himself in the experience, he will have an outstanding experience while a Scout and more likely than not carry that with him the rest of his life.
We are what we are we are not going to change that based on Lazy.  We have made it a point to never cancel based on outside of Scouting choices.  We encourage our Scouts to be active outside of Scouts also and we know that there are certain outings that lend themselves to less participation, but we will not cancel those based on the interest level of some of the Scouts taking away that opportunity for others.  We would rather go with 5 that are totally into it than 40 that are not.
On one hand we preach that this is the Scouts Troop, and yes that is the case.  They are the Scouts that made the choice years ago that they wanted to be a high adventure unit.  And that is what we became.  That is why boys join our Troop.  Then some realize that we expect more from them individually than perhaps their School teacher do or their parents.  We expect them to become self-reliant.  We expect them to pay attention and learn.  We expect them to develop skills and become proficient in those skills and at some point teach those skills.  We expect them to push themselves beyond their comfort zone.  We do not think that this is too much to ask, and when parents bring their son to us, it seems that it is not too much for them either.  Parents by and large seem to like the idea that we expect much from their sons.
We see it over and over again though that some, not all, of our Scouts are just plain lazy.  It would seem that they would rather freeze to death and starve before they took a tiny bit of initiative to do the right thing.  They are trained, but have difficulty applying that training because they are too busy trying to take a short cut or allow someone else to do it for them.
They would rather be told 100 times to do something than just do it.  They would rather be cold and miserable than to apply the training that they have learned from some of the best folks around.  Simple things like keeping your gloves out of the snow or staying dry.  This is just plain lazy.
They would rather have Mom and Dad replace gear than take care of it.  They would rather crawl into their sleeping bag than learn new skills and develop their own level of expertise in those skills.  They would rather… well, I think you are getting the point.
I do not understand this way of thinking.  I do not understand Lazy.  Now before I get one comment that tells me that kids today are different from they were 20 years ago… JUST STOP.  They are no different.  The difference is not in the kid, it is in how they are raised in the world around them.  They have been wrapped in layer of bubble wrap and not allowed to explore.  They have been force-fed pills to calm them down, they have been sheltered because of the boggy man and Al Qaeda.   They are sat in front of a TV as a baby sitter and the world around them tells them that they don’t have to work for a living.  Don’t worry.. the Government will take care of you and the more ailments you can rack up the more Uncle Sam will take care of you.  You don’t have to get a good paying job, you can apply for hand outs.. so don’t work and you will be fine.  I don’t understand this thinking.  And it is happening.  Citizenship used to mean making a contribution, now it means waiting for one.
Are their legitimate ailments out there?.. sure there are.. but c’mon.. When you are a 13-year-old boy, you need to get out and at it.
Lazy is a habit.  It is formed early and reinforced often.  Here is the thing.  I don’t know how to fix it.  Well I do, but in the process I will lose Scouts and upset parents.  This is the issue I am dealing with.  How do I fix lazy and maintain Scouts and get them on board?  How do I do this and keep Mom and Dad happy?
I will be working on answers to this question.. I am curious as to what you have to say.
Please leave your answer to How to fix lazy in the comments section.  I want to know what you do.. or do you just allow it.  Either way.. share.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, comments, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Risk Management, Scouting, Skills, teamwork, training, Values, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Finding the Arrow

Plus 6I do not talk much about the Order of the Arrow on this blog, and maybe I should.  I have not received a lot of requests for OA topics, but over the past few months I have been giving the Order of the Arrow a bit more thought.
As many of you know (that follow me on social media) I have been elected to Vigil Honor.
The Vigil Honor is the highest honor that the Order of the Arrow can bestow upon its members for service to lodge, council, and Scouting.  Membership cannot be won by a person’s conscious endeavors. (From the OA website)  It is a great honor to have been chosen to be a Vigil member.
Since I have been giving more thought about the Order of the Arrow, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on OA membership and what the Order of the Arrow really means [to me].
First some background on the Order of the Arrow.  And rather than rediscover the wheel, I am going to use information found at the Order of the Arrow website.
The Order of the Arrow was founded in 1915 by Camp Director E. Urner Goodman and Assistant Camp Director Carroll A. Edson at the Treasure Island Boy Scout Camp.  Goodman and Edson were looking for ways to recognize campers that demonstrated a cheerful spirit and service.  In those days there were many camp honor societies throughout the Nations Scout camps.    Some of those were the Gimogash, Ku-Ni-Eh, Nani Ba Zhu, Firecrafters and Mic O Say.  Over time many of those camper honor societies merged and became local Lodges within the Order of the Arrow.  Mic O Say is still active and recognized by the Boy Scouts of America.
The Order of the Arrow became a part of the National Program of the Boy Scouts of America in 1934.   By 1948, the OA, recognized as the BSA’s national brotherhood of honor campers, became an official part of the Boy Scouts of America.  Since then the Order of the Arrow has expanded to over 300 Lodges, most Lodges representing a Council, although some Lodges make up multiple Council areas.
The mission of the Order of the Arrow is to fulfill its purpose as an integral part of the Boy Scouts of America through positive youth leadership under the guidance of selected capable adults.  The Order of the Arrow is completely youth led.  A member of the OA is consider a youth until his 21st birthday.
The OA is more than just an honor society.  It has a specific purpose and looks to gain members that loyal live up to those goals.  It is for that reason that members should be chosen from within their units that best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives.  If the Scout is willing to not only live the Oath and Law daily, but dedicate himself to service than he is a good candidate for the Order of the Arrow.  Arrowmen are known for maintaining camping traditions and spirit, you will find that many if not all camp staff at your local Scout camp are members of the OA.  They promote camping and Scout spirit daily making our Scout camps fantastic.  Arrowmen serve promoting year-round and long-term resident camping, and providing cheerful service to others.  OA service, activities, adventures, and training for youth and adults are models of quality leadership development and programming that enrich and help to extend Scouting to America’s youth.  One of the great ways that the OA promotes long-term retention in Scouting is through ceremonies starting with Arrow of Light and Cross Over ceremonies.
As Scouting’s National Honor Society, our purpose is to:
Recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and through that recognition cause others to conduct themselves in a way that warrants similar recognition.
Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship as essential components of every Scout’s experience, in the unit, year-round, and in summer camp.
Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation.
Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.
Just like the Aims of the Boy Scouts of America, membership in the Order of the Arrow solidify in a Scout of Scouter the drive to be of service and grow in Character, Citizenship and fitness.  The Order of the Arrow is summed up in three words, often seen as WWW.  Brotherhood, Cheerfulness, and Service.  In other words, the OA is the Brotherhood of Cheerful Service.
OA1The OA is Local and it is National.  What I mean by that is simply this.  Just like your Troop is local and the programs offered at the Troop level are planned and executed locally, you and your Troop are part of the National Council or organization.  This is strength in program and resources.  The OA has many great local Lodge and Chapter programs, but the programs offered through the National Organization demonstrate the strength of the Order.
The support of the Order of the Arrow for the National Journey to Excellence program is one such program.  JTE for the OA replaced the National Quality Lodge program and gave the OA a better tool of measuring the Quality program it offered at the National and Lodge level.
The National OA Endowment was formed more than 30 years ago as means for the Order to fund scholarships and special programs. The national Order of the Arrow committee oversees the annual program budget which is funded using the earnings from the national OA endowment.
And there are more programs at the Lodge level that benefit the local Council, Arrowmen, and Scouts in general.
The Order of the Arrow has its own recognition programs also.  You can read all about the OA’s awards at their site.
OK… so that’s the Order of the Arrow from the book  But where the Sash meets the Scout what does the Order of the Arrow mean and represent.
I won’t go into the ceremony of the Order of Arrow other than to say from the beginning the Order of the Arrow, through its ceremony and tradition call on the Scout/Scouter to Find the Arrow.
The Arrow is that symbol that we use in Arrow of Light ceremonies to signify a journey.  An adventure that is straight and true.  A trail that leads the individual to find the right path in life.  One of dedicated service to others and the living of the Scout Oath and Law.  So in finding the arrow, we strive daily to seek that which is an honorable way of living.
The Order of the Arrow uses the legend of the Lenni Lenape Indians of the Delaware to start the members of the OA on that journey.  It is a journey marked by service to others.
Personal Thoughts on the Order of the Arrow.
As stated above, the OA has high-minded goals and bases its foundation on service.  This is why I initially started to like the Order of the Arrow.  Well, lets back up for a minute… This is why I started to like it as a Scoutmaster.  I was first introduced to the OA as a youth at Camp Freedom in Germany.  The initial impact of Indians coming across a lake at night in canoes holding torches to light the way.  A Great Chief that called his Brothers to seek those that were worthy to join the tribe.. those things as a Scout fascinated me.  It was mysterious and cool.  It was special.  When I went through my ordeal we were given an arrow carved from a piece of wood.  We had to wear that arrow around our neck and if we violated any of the rules of the ordeal a chunk was cut from the arrow.  This tested us as young men to be disciplined and live that part of the oath that called us to be obedient.   For what ever reason, that is no longer a virtue that parents feel important these days and the cutting of corner or chunk of wood is recognized not to reinforce expected behavior but that of offending or hurting the feelings of the person in violation of the agreed rules.  But the couple of days that we worked hard serving our camp, quietly laboring cheerfully left a mark on us.
I had the pleasure of becoming a Brotherhood member of the Order with my oldest son.  Again, we renewed our commitment to service.  John later became a Chapter officer and served the lodge as an Ordeal master as well as a member of the Pre Ordeal, Ordeal, and Brotherhood ceremonies teams.  Josh, my youngest son also sealed his membership in the Order of the Arrow as a Brotherhood member and served as an Elangomate during an Ordeal.  Having my sons as members made being a member of the Order special in a different way.  Watching them grow with an attitude of service was a great thing.
John, our oldest son continues his journey, even though out of Scouting now as a Vigil member.  Those values or Cheerful Service carries with him in his daily life.  Josh, our youngest, although out of Scouting now also does not stray from his commitment to live the Scout Oath and Law and be of service also.  Both look back at their Scouting life with fond memories of time spent with the Order of the Arrow.
Me, in my role as Scoutmaster value the added emphasis that the OA places on living the Oath and Law and being one that goes above and beyond that of an “average” Scout.  That may be that thing that is to set Arrowmen apart.  We are all called to serve and live the values of the Oath and Law… but as Arrowmen we commit to taking it a step further and making that a life long commitment.  Being a Brother in Scouting and to our fellow-man.  To serve cheerfully.
In a perfect world that meaning and those commitments would resonate within every Arrowmen.  Often times it is lost in a sash and flap and just another Scouting thing.  As is with those Scouts that say the Oath each week at their meetings, but fail to live the standard of it, there are Arrowmen that fall short.  But the Arrow is within them.  The need only to find it.
That happens when the mature and look into themselves and see where their lives are headed.  It happens when they see examples of Scouts and Scouters that truly live those values.  The example of leaders that proudly wear the symbols of membership and share the meaning and journey of seeking the arrow.
Elections are held annually for membership in the Order of the Arrow.  The Scoutmaster sets the ballot of eligible Scouts.  Scouts that have met the requirements of membership and more importantly are those Scouts that have demonstrated leadership in serving their fellow Scout.  I think also that we need to look at the Scouts potential to lead and serve.  I have seen Scouts that met the requirements but fell short in the service area that really took to the OA.  Becoming members of ceremonies teams and working for their troop and Council at camps and within the service opportunities offered through the Lodge.  The OA can enhance a Troops program because of the higher calling of the Arrowmen.
Now, I don’t want to sound overly dramatic here, but it does work.  You can see it in the faces of a Scout called to serve.  Reluctantly at first he finds success and meaning in his leadership and service.
The Order of the Arrow is good for Troops.  I know of many Scoutmasters that feel that the OA takes away from Troop programs.  When used correctly, the OA can be a game changer in a unit.  It is not meant to be secret or exclusive.  It is meant to enhance service and leadership.  It is designed to give incentive to Scouts looking for more.  In my opinion it is a great way to focus a Scout in the direction of finding the Arrow.
Where is the Arrow?  It is up to you.  We know that the foundation is a life that is right and true, but the Arrow is within each of us to seek and find.  Once found, a life of cheerful service becomes the norm and our society is better for it.  It makes the good Scout a Great Scout.  In turn making Scouting better.
This organization, founded to honor those that served camps has grown into an organization that is looked to as the Honor Society of the Boy Scouts of America.  That higher calling to serve, what more could Scouting ask for?
If you are a Scoutmaster not sure that support of the OA is the right way to go, rethink that.  Get it into your unit and watch the difference come alive.
For those of you that are in support of the Order of the Arrow.. Thank you.. keep it up.
I look forward to going through my Vigil Induction.  I don’t know what is ahead, but knowing the journey that I was set on at Camp Freedom those many years ago, I know that it will get me a step closer to finding the Arrow in me.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
**A note about the picture on top of this post.. From left to right in the picture are members of my Troop doing a Cross over ceremony.  First on the left is James, now an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member, Second is my Youngest son Josh.  A Brotherhood member and finished Scouting as a youth as a Life Scout.  Third is my oldest son John.  He is an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor Member.  Forth is Parker, he is an Eagle Scout and Brotherhood member.   Finally is Lucas, he is wrapping up his Eagle Award right now and is a Brotherhood member of the OA. 

Categories: Advancement, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, fitness, Good Turn Daily, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Motto, Oath and Law, Order of the Arrow, Scout, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, Summer Camp, training, Values | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Saturday Quick Tip

TOWToday we are talking about controlling your guy lines.  Whether you are a tent camper or sleep under a tarp you will have lines to control.
I hate it when lines are tangled and become a mess.  This simple way of controlling your lines is a perfect fix.  You can do this with gloves too which makes this a great way to get packed in the winter also.
As long as you can make a figure 8 with your fingers and know how to make a slippery half hitch.. you are good to go.
This tip will make your packing easier and when you get home to dry things out you will not have a mess of tangled lines everywhere.
If you have a tip or a skill that you would like to see drop me a note.
Thanks for coming to the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, comments, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, training | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday Quick Tip – Sleeping bag storage

TOWHere is your Saturday Quick tip.  This week we are talking about taking care of your sleeping bag.  The best way to store your sleeping by laying it flat.  But most of us just do not have that kind of room in our house, so the next best method of storing your sleeping bag is by hanging it.  This allows the air to circulate and keep the bag fresh as well as maintain the loft of the insulation.  It does not matter if it is synthetic or down, the insulation once crushed will tend to stay that way over time.  Crushed insulation will take longer to loft when needed and because synthetic fiber have memory, you will, over time lose much of the “R” value of your sleeping bag.
If you can not hang your gear, storing the bag in an over sized cotton bag is the way to go.  An extra-large pillow case or bag like that will do.  The point is get your bag out of the compression bag and let it air out and maintain its loft.
Remember, you paid a lot of hard-earned cash for that sleeping bag with the hope that it will be there for you when you want a nice comfortable sleep in the woods.  Take care of it and it will take care of you.
If you have comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, comments, gear, Just fun, Motto, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Frost Bite and Hypothermia

hypowrapWell, It snowed here in Oregon today.  The first real snow fall of the “Winter”.  And as much as we have already prepared for our winter camping experiences, the snow reminded me of the risk we accept when winter camping and more to the point the risk that we mitigate or manage through proper training and preparation.  First Aid is perhaps the most training we do to prepare for winter outings and we make sure that everyone going on the outing is versed in being prepared for cold weather injuries.
The scariest thing that I can think of in training first aid is Frost Bite and Hypothermia.  They can strike fast and have tremendous damaging effects if not prevented and once affected, treated.
As the snow fell today, I thought it would be good to refresh ourselves on those two cold weather injuries.
Frostbite mostly affects areas where the circulation is poor. Since cold weather will cause the body to take preventive measures by constricting (making smaller) the blood vessel, this opens the door to frostbite injuries.

Look for the 4 Ps of frostbite:
Pink – affected areas will be reddish in color. This is the first sign of frostbite.
Pain – affected areas will become painful.
Patches – white, waxy feeling patches show up – skin is dying.
Pricklies – the areas will then feel numb.

Tips to prevent frostbite:
Get to a warm area before frostbite sets in.  If it’s too cold outside, consider staying indoors.
Protect areas of poor circulation (ears, nose, fingers and toes).
Keep extra mittens and gloves in an area quickly accessible.
Wear larger sized mittens over your gloves.
Wear a scarf or gaiter to protect the chin, lips and cheeks. They are all extremely susceptible to frostbite.
Wear two pairs of socks – wool if possible
Keep feet warm and dry
Remove any wet clothing.

What to do in case of frostbite:
Do not rub or massage affected areas.  It may cause more damage.
NOT HOT – warm up the area slowly. Use warm compresses or your own body heat to re-warm the area. Underarms are a good place.
If toes or feet are frostbitten, try not to walk on them.
Seek immediate medical attention if you see white or grey colored patches or if the re-warmed area is numb.
Always be on the lookout for the symptoms of frostbite.  In case of serious cold weather injury, seek immediate medical attention.

Hypothermia
Whenever the body’s normal temperature becomes too low, hypothermia (hypo = low and thermia = temperature) occurs and will starve the brain of much-needed oxygen.  We experience hypothermia conditions when we engage in strenuous activity like hiking into camp, getting sweaty and then standing idle allowing the body to cool to fast.  During cold weather months, finding warmth can be the key to survival, but hypothermia can occur even during the hot days of July.  Swimming in cold water for a long period of time can induce hypothermia even in the hottest months of the year.  Remember, hypothermia can quickly become life-threatening.

Signs of Hypothermia
Look for the “UMBLES” from people affected by cold temperatures:
A person who mumbles;
A person who stumbles; and
A person who fumbles objects.

Tips to prevent Hypothermia
Wear clothes in layers: The under layer should be the insulating layer to prevent loss of your body heat while keeping the cold outside air away; the outer layer should be the “wind breaking” layer to reduce the chances of cold air reaching the insulating layer.
Drink warm fluids.
If you start to sweat, cool off a little. Wet clothes will accelerate other cold weather injuries.
Wear a hat – up to 40% of body heat loss can occur through the head.
Wear gloves or mittens or both!
Wear a scarf or gaiter to protect the chin, lips and cheeks – all are extremely susceptible to cold weather injuries.

What to do in case of Hypothermia
Remove wet clothing that promotes hypothermia.
Get to a warm place as soon as possible. Use several layers of blankets or sleeping bags, heated if possible.  Place the injured person in the Hypothermia Wrap.
If the person is alert, give warm beverages.
Seek immediate medical attention.
Always be on the lookout for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.  In case of serious cold weather injury, seek immediate medical attention.  Here is a quick video from Wilderness Medical Associates (WMA) that illustrates the Hypothermia Wrap.

BE PREPARED! We use the buddy system to watch out for each other! These two injuries are serious and can hurt you in the long-term.  Camping in the winter can be the funnest time of your Scouting life! But you have got to be prepared!

Hope that helps you in your preparation for your next winter outing.  I am glad that our guys pay attention, in 10 years of winter camping we have never had a cold weather injury.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, fitness, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, planning, Risk Management, Scout, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Training for the Parents

trainednewIt is often said that “Every Scout deserves a Trained Leader”… well.. sure.. Every Scout certainly deserves a trained leader, but do you really think that the Scout cares?
The saying should say, “Every Parent deserves a Trained Leader”.  Right?  After all, the training is more for the parents right?
The Scout does not care that you know the rules of the safety sandwich.  The Scout does not care that you have been to wilderness first aid.  The Scout does not care that you are climb instructor certified or that you have completed Youth Protection.
Ahhh… But the parents do.
They come to a unit and want to know that as they drop off Tommy Tenderfoot on Friday night that the guy driving the car is insured, trained, and will bring back their son in the same condition that he climbed into the Suburban heading to the camp out in.
Parents care a lot about the training that the Scout leader has.  I for one would not send my sons out with a Scout leader that was not trained.  I would not let my son go out into the woods with a guy that got his training by watching Survivor man on TV once.
Nope.  The parents deserve a trained leader.  I would go further to insist that every leader that goes near a Scout is trained, and if I were King for the day.. any leader that did not get trained or refused to spend the time, energy and money to get trained would not be allowed to be a Scout leader.
Boy Jerry.. that’s harsh…  Really?  Like I said, I would not let my kid go off for the weekend with a guy I don’t trust.
Training builds that trust.  At least it opens the door to trusting the leader.
I have talked a lot on this blog about leadership.  It goes not just for our youth leaders, but the adults too.
Think back to the 4 “C”s I discussed.
Don’t you want your adult leaders to be Competent and have Courage?  Compassionate and Candor?
Those are all things that come with training.
Our Troop goes climbing every year.  We have 8 climbing instructors in the unit.  Why?  Because it is the right thing to do.
We have multiple Wilderness First Aid certified leaders and First responders.  Why?  Because we go looking for  adventure and we are not near a parking lot.  It’s the right thing to do.
We go winter camping at least 3 times a year.  We have cold weather instructors and skilled leaders that know winter camping skills and stay up on gear and techniques.  Why?  Because we will never put a Scout in harm’s way.
The point here is that when a Scout crosses over into our Troop the parent knows that we care and are willing to do our very best for their son.  They can rest assured that we are trained and will take care of their boy.
Every one of the Assistant Scoutmasters, the Committee Chair, and me are all Wood Badgers.  Why is that important?  We all believe in life long learning and are committed to being better.  Wood Badge demonstrates to our Scouts and their parents that we are serious about training and taking care of their sons and more importantly, that we want to do Scouting right.
So every parent does deserve a trained leader.  Get trained or get out.  It’s that simple if I were King for the day.
On a side note.  I have been doing this Scouting thing for some time now and have served at the District level also.  Being the District Program Chairman and later the District Chairman, I had access to lots of reports that really don’t mean much.  The one thing that did mean something to me was the amount of units that struggle in multiple areas.  Membership, activities, etc.
The common thing that we saw in EVERY unit that struggles are UNTRAINED Adults.  You do the math.
Get trained for your Scouts.. and your Parents.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, Climbing, comments, Cooking, fitness, gear, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Risk Management, Scout, Scoutmaster minute, Service, training, Values, Winter Camping, Wood Badge, Youth Protection | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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