Month: April 2012

Methods

Over the last couple of weeks Scouter friends and I have had numerous discussions about Scouting in our District.  After the last Scoutmaster training session it became pretty clear that many Scouters have heard about the methods of Scouting, but do not really put them into practice in their units.  Kind of like knowing that the BSA has a mission statement, but really it only applies at the National Level.. ahhh right?  Ahhhh.. No.
We got to talking last weekend about the methods of Scouting and how we should be using them in our units.  During the outdoor skills portion of the Scoutmaster training, it was unclear to many participants that the methods needed to be used to have a well-rounded program.. for that matter.. a Boy Scout Troop.
So I thought I would discuss the methods of Scouting over the next, lets see, 8 blog posts.
To quickly remind every one of what the methods are, they are:  Ideals, Patrols, Outdoor Program, Advancement, Association with Adults, Personal Growth, Leadership Development, and the Uniform.
Those eight methods are the steps that we take to reach our goals of Citizenship, Character, and Fitness.  The Boy Scout program (or the achievement of the goals) are dependant on all eight methods working at the unit level.
To start off the discussion we will dive into the IDEALS of Scouting. The ideals of Boy Scouting are spelled out in the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, the Scout motto, and the Scout slogan. The Boy Scout measures himself against these ideals and continually tries to improve. The goals are high, and, as he reaches for them, he has some control over what and who he becomes.  These ideals are the foundation for everything that follows in the Boy Scout program.  Without the ideals, it is just a club that goes camping.  The building blocks for the Scouts character is directly tied to the ideals found in the Oath and Law.  It is extremely important that every Scout learns the Oath and Law and practices these ideals daily.  As a Scout advances it is a good idea for the Scout to do a self check on where he is in his character development.  This is tough at times and some Scouts will understand or mature at a faster rate than his peers.  That is why the self check is important.  The Scout is not measuring himself against his peers, he is measuring himself against the Oath and Law which are lofty, but simple concepts that grow with the Scout as he negotiates his life.  The basic understanding that he must be a person that strives to achieve those ideas outlined in the Oath and Law is important and should not be taken lightly by the Scoutmaster.  It is ok to call out a Scout that is not demonstrating those values.
The other part of the ideals of the Boy Scouts of America are that they are not only an individual responsibility, but they are ideals, values, that are shared among the group.  We all know and believe that the values expressed in the Oath and Law are good and true.  We can all agree that every Scout, no matter what his background, education level, learning capability, or social status, can live up to the Oath and Law.  It is hard, but it is attainable.  Expecting that from every Scout and Scouter is reasonable.
These shared ideals are the foundation for the rest of the program.  If they are modified or removed, there is no reason to continue.  Character development hinges on the values found in the Oath and Law.
Dictionary.com defines Character as:
(noun)
1.  the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.
2.  one such feature or trait; characteristic.
3.  moral or ethical quality: a man of fine, honorable character.
4.  qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: It takes character to face up to a bully.
5.  reputation: a stain on one’s character.
The Boy Scouts of America in setting one of its goals to develop men of Character considers this in its values.  Time tested, tried, and unwavering values that shape a mans character.
The qualities of being someone who can be trusted, a man who is loyal to his family, friends, School, work etc.  A young man who is helpful and works with a smile on his face, friendly, courteous and kind.  Someone that is obedient to our laws, parents, employers and faith.  A man with a cheerful spirit not someone who belly aches and brings down the morale of the team.  A man who is thrifty with his money, time, and resources.  This is the man who will develop a sound attitude of stewardship.  Brave is not just for standing up for himself, it is standing up for other people, ideals, values, and that which the Scout believes in.  Being Brave is important in the world we live in where our values are tested daily.  And then the part of a man’s character that keeps him clean and reverent.  These are matters of the mind, heart and body.  The Scout should stay clean of mind and body.  Spiritual health is important to for a well-rounded man of character.  These values, when put in to practice demonstrate the attitudes of character.  They are if you will.. the characteristics of character.  I think we all can agree here that without them Scouting is not Scouting.
The method of our Ideals is the foundation of Scouting and the launching point for all of the rest of the methods.  Everything ultimately comes back to the Oath and Law and as a Scoutmaster we need to continuously teach these values, not only with our words, but our actions.
St. Francis of Assisi said; “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”  We should do the same with the Oath and Law.
Let me know what you think.  Leave a comment or thought.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

“NOT WORTHY”

Last night we had another Webelos Scout cross over into our Troop.  He started in his last year of Cub Scouts a little late and wanted to complete his Arrow of Light, so rather than cross with the rest of his Den, he waited, finished his AOL, and crossed last night in a ceremony with his Pack.
Our Troops ceremony team conducted the ceremony and true to form, did a great job.  Last night as I stood patiently awaiting the new boys arrival from one side of the “Bridge” to me, I listened as the team presented the decorative arrows symbolizing their journey to achieve the Arrow of Light.  In the ceremony they test the arrows to see if they are straight and true and worthy to continue the journey.  In the quiver are placed non decorative arrows that are broken in the ceremony.. they are “Not Worthy” to continue on the trail to Eagle.  As each arrow is tested the suspense grows with the beating of the drum.  The Scouts are all worthy, and soon will cross the bridge to their next adventure.
I really have not given much thought about this ceremony until last night.
The symbolism of the broken arrows and how fragile they are.  Keeping the arrow straight and true and worthy of being a man of character.
Our character is that arrow, the Scout Oath and Law help keep it straight and true and worthy of the journey.  It is when we fall off target, like the arrow that is not straight or has a flaw that we will give our character away.
After the ceremony, we went back to our Troop meeting to prepare for the up coming camp out.  Last night, I shared this thought with the Scouts of the Troop, each having seen this ceremony at one point along the way.  I challenged them to seek an arrow that is straight and true, one which will not fall off its mark.  It is then that they will be worthy… worthy of a life of character.. to be called an Eagle Scout.
I challenge you.  Find that arrow within you and keep it straight and true.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

SMMPodcast # 104

Welcome back to the SMMPodcast, we dusted off the mic and got back to talking Scouting!  We are trying out a new segment.. “The Mobile Thought”..  In this show, we talk about Reverence, Troop Elections, and Youth Leadership.
Hope you enjoy the show.  Let me know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Direct LINK
Listen here

Delivering the Promise

At last nights Roundtable I was pleased to see a great turn out in the Boy Scout break out.  Last nights attraction was Camporee and what units can do to get ready for it.  We had about a half hour left so I thought it would be worth our while to talk a little District talk with the leaders that took their time to be at the break out.
Now first of all.. I have said it before, and I am sure I will say it again.. at Roundtable we typically are preaching to the choir, but there were plenty of newer faces in the room, so putting on my District Chairman hat, I stepped up front and spent a few minutes sharing some district news, reported back a little on the District Journey to Excellence Score card, and made myself available for questions.
Summer camp.  This became a big subject last night.  There are way to many units that still have not reported a summer camp sign up for this year.  It is a fact that Scouts that attend summer camp stay in Scouting longer.  We looked at the numbers. Only 1/3 of the scouts signed up for our council camps are from our council.  That means that lots of units from outside of our council are flowing into our camps.  That’s a great thing, except to say, that means that lots of Scouts in our council are not going to summer camp.
Retention.  Summer camp leads us to retention.  IF lots of Scouts are not going to summer camp, then its no wonder why they are not staying in Scouting.  Our numbers show that we are doing well crossing Webelos into Boy Scouts, and we are doing a great job getting boys to join Scouts “off the street”.  But we are not doing the best we can to keep them in Scouting.  It is no surprise that boys leave the program when they are not engaged.  If they are not having fun, or participating fully in Scouting, they will leave.  I mean, why stay?
Program.  Back when I was a new Scoutmaster, a mentor of mine shared with me that regardless of everything else the key to a successful unit is the program.  He said Program, Program, Program!  I have shared this here before to, my “Field of Dream” philosophy.  If you build the program, they will come.. and stay.  Monthly camp outs, Summer camp attendance, advancement focus, service opportunities all add up to great program.  Youth leadership that is driven to lead to the next adventure keeps them excited and wanting more.  A solid program at the unit level is the answer to most if not all of the problems we face in the Scouting movement.
Which brought me to the final point of the evening.  What is the role of the Council and the District?   Resourcing.  It is not the role of the Council or the District to run units.  They are there to assist in the administrative tasks, financial opportunities, and resourcing of program (materials, camps, etc).  I think too many people wait around for the Council or District to do things for them.  The unit is where Scouting happens.  It is where Scouts become men of character, good citizens, and discover fitness.  If you wait around for the council to do that, you will never be a successful unit.  The council and district can not build you a program that is successful.  They can assist with the resources that will help your success… but wait around and you will fail.
A question came up about the DE and his role.  Again, he is a resource manager.  He is there to raise funds, develop relationships in the community to build and grow scouting.  He is there to assist units in training, growing, and ensuring that the promise of Scouting is being delivered in those units.  But wait for him to do the work at the unit.  You will fail.  This is not a bad thing.  This is the way Scouting was designed.  Scouting is owned and operated by the volunteers that care to serve our youth.  Bottom line.  We are Scouting and we Deliver the Promise.  We, the volunteer.  Our District committee is made up of volunteers, our Council committee is made up of volunteers, but more importantly, our units, Packs, Troops, and Crews are made up of thousands of volunteers that every single day do something to deliver the promise of Scouting to the great kids that come seeking fun and adventure.
It was great to be able to talk with some of those volunteers last night.  As I looked at the room and saw the faces of the BSA, people that really care.  I know that all is well.  The numbers are the numbers, and they will come around.  The people care and will do what ever it takes to develop those programs to make Scouting the greatest.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Esbit Alcohol Stove

OK.. I tried to get this post out yesterday.. not sure if it was the computer or the operator.. but lets try it again…

I have been playing with a new stove the last couple months.  Taken it out on the last three outings and I am in love with it.
The Esbit Alcohol Stove is designed like the Trangia stove out of Sweden.  The Esbit is from Germany and is built to last just like the Esbit chemical fuel tablet stove.  When I was an 11 year old Tenderfoot I got one of the chemical tablet stoves, as most of the guys in my Troop had them.  We lived in Holland at the time and it seemed to be the standard for our Troop.  I still have that stove.
So back in February I wanted to find one to show the Scouts of the Troop.  I found them and bought a new chemical fuel stove, and right next to it on the shelf sat the Esbit Alcohol Stove for $19.99.  I picked it up and thought for 20 bucks it’s worth a shot.
Let me tell you why I like this stove, but first.. let me tell you what I look for in a stove.
First, I like a stove that is easy to use.  To many buttons, knobs, pumps, or steps to operate frustrate me.
Next, I like a stove that is not too heavy.  I am not a gram weenie.. but something that is too heavy is usually bulky also.
Finally, I like a stove that uses different fuels or multi fuel stoves.
And so.. the esbit alcohol stove has caught my eye.  Let me throw some specs out at you.
The stove weighs in at 3.2 ounces or 92 grams for those of you that count them up.  The stove will burn denatured alcohol, solid fuel (chemical fuel) tablets, and white gas.  The Esbit is made of Brass and is 1.8 x 2.9 in or 4.6 x 7.4 cm.
The stove has a screw top with a rubber seal.  This is a great feature that allows you to keep fuel in the stove while its in your pack without leakage.  It has a simmer ring or flame regulator.  I love this feature.  It allows you to either go for a full boil or simmer for delicate cooking and frying.  This simmer ring has a nice fold away handle that works real well when on the stove.  When looking for the full boil, 1 ounce of fuel (Denatured Alcohol) will get water to a rolling boil in 5 minutes.  That was a time that I never thought I could get out of an alcohol stove.  I am not big on faster boiling or cooking.  The way I see it.. I’m camping, relax and enjoy it.  Which brings me to another feature of the stove that I love.  It makes no noise.  It is absolutely quiet.  Real nice to site around and chat with.
Alright… But the BSA has a ban on alcohol stoves.. right?  No.  the BSA has defined the prohibition like this; Prohibited chemical-fueled equipment—Equipment  that is handcrafted, homemade, modified, or installed  beyond the manufacturer’s stated design limitations or use.  Examples include alcohol-burning “can” stoves, smudge  pots, improperly installed heaters, and propane burners  with their regulators removed. ” – Chemical Fuels and Equipment publication.  Homemade stoves are banned.. but stoves like the Trangia or the Esbit are manufactured with the intent of being used as a stove.
The fuel on the other hand is where the question and where you will have to make a judgment call.  Denatured Alcohol is “Not Recommended”, but no where does it state it is prohibited.    So you have to be the judge.  Here is my take.  Let me be clear here.  This is MY take.  I understand that the BSA has to make decisions based on the lowest common denominator.  Denatured alcohol, while it may be toxic if swallowed, is non explosive and extremely stable.   The absolute worst thing that can happen if it spills is evaporation.  No gear is ruined, and it will be dry before you need it.
The danger comes in the color of the flame.  The flame when first lit is almost invisible.  This could lead to burns.  But in my opinion that rule goes for any stove.  Proper training and instruction is important when using this stove.  So what I am saying is that when Scouts in my Troop ask if they can use one of these, the answer will be yes to Scouts that I trust can handle it.  Scouts that have proven that they will operate it with care.  I suppose it is just like giving a Scout his Totin’ Chip.  Once they are trained and demonstrate proper use and care, they are allowed to carry and use a Knife, Saw, and Ax.  We trust them with other stoves, but only after training.  The Esbit Stove is much easier to use than most stove.  It is clean, small, and easy to maintain.  The only moving part is the simmer ring, which is not used when just boiling.
I love this stove and look forward to cooking many great meals on it.  I’ll report more as I use it.  Stay tuned.

 

Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Protecting your online identity?

Awhile back there was some discussion on separating your Scouting life with your “Normal” life.  I argued that given the Scout oath and law there is no real way that (at least I) could separate the two.  As we have negotiated our way through this online maze and many of us have developed an online presence protecting that identity is important.  I am not talking about protecting bank accounts.. I am talking about protecting character.
It dawned on my today as I was checking my twitter account (@smjerry) and noticed some of the people who follow me.  Now I am not going to go into a list of who’s who, I think that would be tacky.. not only that, but you can see it for yourself if you know how to use twitter.  Based on twitter, I figured the same is true for Facebook and the blog.  Now I know that the blog does pretty well.  73,960 views for the 857 posts.  I have said it before that I am not a numbers guy.. but all of that is to say that people are reading what I write, watching the video’s I post on YouTube and checking in via twitter and Facebook.  Sometimes I wonder why, but then I check my twitter account and note that I follow a bunch of folks and care about what they have to say.  I read many blogs and spend a fair amount of time learning from other backpackers on YouTube.
So I feel it is important to watch what I say, post, type, and respond to.  At the end of the day this all becomes a record of my character.  Again, there is no separation between the various parts of my life.
Before I get slammed with emails… let me assure you I am not bucking for Sainthood.  I am just a man, but I am a man that believes in the Oath and Law.  As much as I believe in the Golden Rule and all of the other positive moral codes that have I have been introduced to in my life.  What I know for sure is that people do watch what you do and what you say and on the internet, given an anonymous identity when responding, or at least the fact that face to face contact is limited, people will say and write things that will hurt you if you are not careful.
I received an email recently from a guy that asked why I did not post one of his comments.  Well, the bottom line is this.. what he had to say did not add to the conversation.  Politely saying.. it did not fit on my blog.  I appreciate the guy taking the time to shoot an email my way, but I get to pick and choose how my character is going to be advertised.
You see, I control my character.  I am the only person that can give it away or lose it.  The things that I do, say, type, and post, tell my story and I need to protect my character, especially on the internet.
If anything all of this “exposure” has forced me to be more aware of how the Scout Oath and Law fit in my life.  It is not that I am better than anyone, or looking for special treatment.  I am just aware that my character is not for sale and I surely am not going to risk it on someone who has less control of their values and character.
I would rather have my bank account robbed than my character.  I can always earn, I can not repair damage done on the internet.
Protect your online identity.
Have a Great Scouting Day!