Month: May 2012

Methods – Uniform

“Putting on the uniform does not make a fellow a Scout, but putting on the uniform is a sign to the world that one has taken the Scout obligation and folk expect Scout like acts from one wearing it” – Handbook for Boys 1927

And last… but certainly not least.. The Uniform.
I have a strong opinion on this one and I am going to let it be known.  While the uniform is the final method on the list, it is not the least among the methods that should be practiced.  The uniform is an important part of Scouting and should be promoted with zeal and excuses for non uniformity removed.
Uniforms seem to be argued over, dismissed, and modified more than any other method.  People argue the expense is overwhelming, they argue that the Scouts do not like to wear them, they argue that the uniform is impractical, and they argue over the pocket on the sleeve.  STOP IT!
The Uniform has been a method of Scouting since the beginning.  A quick study of Scouting’s history will show that the uniform has always been deemed important.
The Boy Scouts of America state that “The uniform makes the Scout troop visible as a force for good and creates a positive youth image in the community.  Boy Scouting is an action program, and wearing the uniform is an action that shows each Scout’s commitment to the aims and purposes of Scouting. The uniform gives the Scout identity in a world brotherhood of youth who believe in the same ideals.  The uniform is practical attire for Scout activities, and provides a way for Scouts to wear the badges that show what they have accomplished.”
Ok, so what’s the beef?  The price?  The style?  The geeky nature of wearing a uniform?
Lets remove crutches.  Price, yeah, its a bit spendy, but there are many options.  First.  Earn it!  Sell popcorn, mow lawns, get off your butt and earn it.  It’s not that spendy.  Second.  “Experienced uniforms” are always great.  Units should maintain ‘uniform banks’ or ‘lockers’ for Scouts that need assistants with uniforming.  Third.  The Scout uniform is the Scout uniform.  As long as worn properly, any of the styles will do.
Style.  It is what it is.  I like the Scout uniform now.  When I was a Scout it was green and did not have a collar, I hated the beret, and I thought the green pants looked real dorky.. and looking back at pictures of me then.. it was a dorky looking uniform.  But we wore it.
The tan shirt wears well and looks good with the green pants.  I like the move to the green tabs and I really like the more “active styles” in the pants.  Starting with the Switchbacks and moving into the newer pant styles, they are more practical and wear well in the outdoors.
Geeky.  Only if you think so.
Here is my opinion.  EVERY ADULT SCOUTER SHOULD ALWAYS WEAR THE FULL UNIFORM.  You set the example and the attitude for proper uniforming.  NO EXCUSE.  You can send me a note about price and practicality.. and I will argue with you if you would like.  If you want a fully uniformed unit.. and there is only one way to actually wear the uniform.. then you should set the example.
In our Troop we require every leader, youth and adult, to wear the full uniform.  That is a rule set by the PLC, not me… now in all fairness I concur and they know it.
When a Scout crosses over from Webelos he has a tan shirt.  We ask the parents to buy him pants.  That simple.  If they can not afford it, we encourage them to assist with fund-raising and we introduce them to the uniform bank.  We want every Scout to feel like they are part of the team.  And that is exactly how we and the BSA look at this method.  Teams wear uniforms.  You don’t see a football team arrive for a game with some blue shirts on and some red.  Some guys have helmets and others are wearing ball caps.  The uniform identifies each player as being part of the team, even the guys on the bench wear the uniform.  So it is with Scouts.  Each Scout is part of the team.  He shows his team colors and numbers and pride in his patrol and troop.
The uniform is a great equalizer.  It makes everyone the same.  Old or new, it is still the teams uniform and everyone on the team is equal.
I think the uniform method is important.  It brings us together in the brotherhood of Scouting and marks us as a force for good.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Methods- Leadership Development

Besides backpacking and teaching skills for the outdoors, my favorite subject in Scouting is leadership.  I know that leadership is but a small part of Scouting, but leadership when done correctly requires the leader to be of good character.  Leadership asks of the Scout to develop good citizenship, and of course being a good leader encourages a Scout to be physically fit.
Leadership is tested in Scouting.  It is a requirement for rank, a Scout must demonstrate his ability to lead others culminating with the Eagle project.  To be an effective leader, the Scout must first learn to be a follower.  Leadership starts early in a Scouts life with following.  The implication is that the Scouts needs to see other Scouts leading.  This is where leadership develop starts to take root.
Scouts that develop strong leadership habits and skills work wonders in a Scout led Troop.  They show what “right looks like” and are examples for others to follow.
Leadership does not require a patch.  Every Scout can start leading.  Being a great example is the best leadership tool.  Every Scout will have an opportunity to develop leadership through active participation in shared and total leadership situations.
Through the leadership development method a Scout see’s how leaders effect the over all good.  Understanding the concepts of leadership helps a boy accept the leadership roles of others and guides him toward the citizenship aim of Scouting.  This is why leadership development is important.  It takes time and energy to become a leader.  Leaders are not born, they are made and Scouting helps get them moving as an effective leader.  He will have skills and tools that will continue to be practiced and tested throughout his life.
Units should provide opportunities to develop Junior leaders.  Troop Junior Leader training, sending Scouts to the National Youth Leadership Training, the Eagle Scout service project, The Order of the Arrow, and various High Adventure base opportunities give the Scout a wide variety of leadership training.  Along with holding positions of leadership in the unit the Scout can find many ways to develop his skill sets and leadership tool box.  Aside from holding unit positions of leadership staffing at Summer camp is one of the greatest experiences that a Scout can have to demonstrate and practice leadership.  Unit leaders should encourage Scouts to take advantage of all of the leadership opportunities that Scouting has to offer.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Methods- Personal Growth

Now don’t let the word personal get you.  Yes we want each and every Scout to grow, but we want them to find this growth within the context of Scouting’s values (found in the Oath and Law).  Personal growth is a tricky method in that it will sneak up on you as the Scout develops.  Each Scout will grow at his own pace and so we use tools and watch and guide his growth.  First and foremost, his family.  Stay in touch with his family, develop friendship and a relationship with the family.  They should be able to seek your input and you should be able to offer your suggestions also.  You see the Scout outside of the family context on camp outs and other events.  When you see a behavior change, talk with the young man or ask the family if they are seeing something different.  This is the tricky part.  If you are not comfortable getting into their lives, well then, you can’t assist with this.
I recently got a call from one of my Scouts Dad’s.  He was concerned about a change in behavior and wanted to know if I saw it.  We ended up talking for about an hour about different parts of this young man’s life.  It was a great opportunity for me to share some of the things that I see and he was even open to hearing what I thought on the matter.
The second tool we use is the Scoutmaster conference.  I have said this before, but it is always worth saying again… the Scoutmaster conference is not all about rank advancement.  You, Mister Scoutmaster are a mentor, a role model, a friend, use the Scoutmaster conference to get to know these young men and what makes them tick.  You can assist in the personal growth of each and every Scout by talking and listening.  When they know you care and want to listen, they will talk to you.  Sometimes, you are a better set of ears than their parents or teachers.  You are the guy that goes camping with them, plays games, and teaches them skills.  They trust you.  Don’t take advantage of this, but keep in mind that if you want these young men to grow into good men, you need to take an interest in their lives [outside of Scouting also].
And finally, the last tool set we will discuss are the various programs in Scouting.  The religious emblems program, doing a good turn, and being helpful at all times.  These programs/values will shape the young man and develop good habits in him that will last.  You will see growth in the character of the Scout as he serves others and learns about his spiritual world.  But there probably is no device so successful in developing a basis for personal growth as the daily Good Turn.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Backpack cooking – Follow up

I received an email the other day asking some questions about the backpacking video that I recently put up on the blog.  They are great questions and so I thought I’d share the email and answers here.
Question:  What sort of Food Bag do you use? Is it insulated? Does that keep frozen foods cool enough to prevent bacterial growth over a summer weekend?
The food bag that I use is the Sea to Summit Trash Dry sack.  It is a 10 liter dry bag.  Total water proof and more importantly reduces the oders.  I repackage all my food into heavy-duty zip lock bags and then it all goes in the “inner bag” of the food bag.  It is not insulated.  In so far as frozen foods.  The foods that are frozen I put in the freezer and keep it there until Friday when we leave.  Typically it will stay cold and thaw in time for me to cook it.  I have never had a problem with bacterial growth.  The food stays cold enough.  Having said that though.. I live in Oregon.. and our temps don’t get to high until August.  I have used cold streams to store the food in also when I think there is a need to keep things cold.  Our water is never warm.  That is another nice feature of the bag.  It can be placed in water and everything stays dry.  I love the hooks on the side.  Makes it easy to hang.  This bag is endorsed by the Leave No Trace Organization.

Question:  Was that a metal spork you were using to stir up the meal? I had always been taught that metal utensils will damage the anti-stick coating in pots. I could see using a plastic spork, but I wanted your opinion if you thought this was important.
Yes that is a metal (Titanium) spork.  It is the REI Ti ware spork.  I have used that spork for years now.  And yes it will scratch the surface of a non stick pot if you are not careful.  I would not recommend this to Scouts that do not care for their gear, but it works for me.  I think it is worth teaching the Scouts to be careful.. even plastic utensils will begin to scratch if not careful.  I have an ASM that cringes every time I do that.. but my pots seem to not be worse for the wear.

Question:  What sort of lid lifter do you recommend for Scouts?  I have looked for something like this to purchase, but have not been able to find anything under a “lid lifter” search. 
I actually have an MSR pot lifter that came with the pot set.  Since I started using the Imusa mug to do most of my cooking however it have been dropped from the packing list.  Here are some of the types of lifters that I would suggest for the Scouts.  LINK.  Most if not all of our out fitters locally have them for purchase.  They range from about $4 to $15 dollars depending on the brand.  I have gotten so used to using the rag with the Imusa mug that it has become routine.  But pot lifters are a great idea.

Question:  What sort of coffee do you prefer? I take it you must bring along the instant packets if they fit in that little Nalgene bottle.
I have been using Maxwell house instant coffee lately.  I transfer it all into that Nalgene bottle so I only have to fill it about every 4 camp outs.  I like the Starbucks Via coffee also, but the Maxwell House International Cafe stuff is cheaper and tasty.  I don’t have to add anything also.  As much as you could argue that there is nothing better than fresh brewed coffee.. when I can roll over in the hammock and fire up my stove, boil water, and in minutes have some good tasting coffee.. I will take it.  Besides, when backpacking, sometimes less is better and a Nalgene full of flavor and a little pick me up, well, that’s all I need.  I think talking about coffee is like discussing religion or politics… everyone has an opinion.  I generally use the backpacker philosophy of “Hike your own Hike” when it comes to coffee.  everyone’s mileage will vary and everyone have their own taste.  As with all my gear, it is what I am comfortable carrying and using, I do not proclaim that how I do it is the best, but it all works for me.  Having said that though.. It is how I teach our Scouts, how they adopt it and use it is up to them.
I have often said that I am not a big fan of the Jet Boil.. and yet many of the Scouts of my Troop use it.. They Hike their own Hike.  We always reinforce this idea.  “Here are some ways to do it, some gear to do it with, and recommended skills that will help… now find your style, gear, and routine and hike your own hike”.

I hope this helps.  Sometimes I look back and see that I put something out… and of course it makes perfect sense to me.. it’s my stuff.   Glad you asked the questions.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Methods- Adults Association

This method is somewhat confusing, especially at the troop level for parents coming from the Cub Scout program.  I say this because it is different.
I’ll explain as we go.  First and foremost, no matter what level of Scouting you participate in Adult Association starts with being a good example.  An example of what right looks like, attitudes, habits, and the Scout Oath and Law.  This is a lofty ask, but it is without a doubt the most important part of being a Scout leader when talking about the methods.
How you carry yourself, talk and act, wear the uniform, demonstrate skills, and teach and coach these young men will leave a lasting impact.  Remember that you must practice what you preach.  I hate to say this, but if you unwilling to be a good example, Scouting does not need you.
Adults need to model the expected behavior and demonstrate good character.
We practice adult association when we conduct boards of review, Scoutmaster conferences, and work with the Scouts on skills and merit badges.  They see modeled behavior and we expect them to act like we do.  So we need to be our best.
Scouts look to adults for guidance, for coaching and a person to be a mentor.  We are that person in Scouting.
I have seen too many adults that carry this a bit far.  Boy Scouts are still Boy led.  We need to know when adult interaction or interference is needed.  Two deep leadership can be achieved from a safe distance while maintaining a healthy level of adult association.
Cub scout parents that come to a Troop often find it hard to get used to adults not being so hands on.  But as I often say, there are no adults in a Boy Scout troop who’s patch say’s leader.
We teach, coach, train, and mentor and maintain a healthy adult association through modeled behavior that reinforces good character, citizenship, and fitness.  Oh and we are supposed to have fun too!.. Remember the Scouting way.. that’s the game with a purpose!
Have a Great Scouting day!

who’s it gonna be?

First of all, thank you all for the congratulations and nice comments about my oldest son earning his Eagle Award.  On behalf of John and the rest of the family, we are thankful and appreciate the comments.  It’s been a helluva week around here and I have not made time to sit and write.  I’ll try to make it up to you.
Now- on with the blog.
Thursday night was our District committee meeting.  The main topic was on Cub Scout recruiting.  Now Jerry… this is a blog that focus’ on Boy Scout subjects, why bother us with Cub Scout recruiting.  Great question.  And the answer is simple.  BECAUSE IT IS THE MAIN THING!
The main thing is providing Scouting for boys!  If they join Cub Scouts, the statistics tell us that by and large they stay in Scouts.  So Boy Scout leaders.. you need to grow Cub Scout Packs if you want to have a healthy Troop.  And that’s the fact.. Jack! as Bill Murray would have said.
So the other night we dove into the subject searching for answers and trying to establish a workable plan to grow Cub Scouting in our area.  Our Council has set a goal of 3oo new Scout units over the next 3 years.  100 units a year.. should be a piece of cake right.  The numbers show that Boy Scout Troops are healthy and doing well.. but over the last 5 years there has been a steady decline in the Cub Scout program.  So how do we reverse this trend?  How do we get 300 new units chartered?  How do we sell the Cub Scout program in our area?
Well, the answer to these and other questions seem to be a mystery, a tough nut to crack.  But I think we can offer some suggestions as least from the discussion we had the other night.
First.  We all know that we continuously preach to the same old choir.  We all belong to a group of dedicated Scouters that love this program.  And I have heard the sermon.. it’s good.  What we need is a bigger choir!
I am sure that your Roundtable nights are very much like our Roundtable nights, the same Scouters hanging out, great training, fantastic discussion, but only reaching about 30% of the Scouters in the District.  I am probably high on the 30% number.    So we need to get the word out.  We need to take our sermon to the streets and get where the Scouters and potential Scout parents and Scouts are.  We need to evangelize the word of Scouting.  Everyone at our meeting concluded that this was a major part of growing Scouting.  But who’s it gonna be?  Who’s going to be the Evangelist for Scouting?  I suggested that everyone in the room was responsible for preaching the word of Scouting.  Further, Scoutmasters.  You play a big role in this plan.  Develop relationships with Cub Scout Packs in your area.  Think outside of the traditional “Territorial” box and create choices for Cub Scouts crossing over.  Just because they go to a certain church or school does not mean they must attend that Pack or Troop.  Boys stay in Scouting when they are having fun.  The right Troop that offers they right program for that individual Scout is the answer.
Scoutmasters.  Create contacts with prospective Chartering partners.  You have been around longer than most Cubmasters and Den leaders… help them out by setting up prospects and visits.  You know the Scouting program and can sell Scouting to new Chartering partners.
Scoutmasters, you need to become evangilists for Scouting.  Pay a visit to a Pack in your area and talk to parents about the value of Scouting. Invite Webelos to camp with you and encourage them to attend resident camps.  Ask Packs if you can help them with their next join night. Bring Scouts with you.
Committee members.  You need to be evangelists for Scouting.  You are resource people.  You have contacts and ways of getting things done in Scouting.  Do not sit idly by and let Scouting happen.  Get in the mix and help grow Scouting.  You can arrange visits, parent meetings, and use your contacts to find new Chartering partners.
Get trained.  EVERYONE!  What I know for sure is that “You don’t know what you don’t know”.  One of the reasons Cub Scout leaders fail to grow their units is that they do not understand the value of Scouting and/or they do not know what lay ahead for the Scouts in their Packs.  Den Leaders and Cubmaster across the Nation need to get trained.  In our Council only 43% of all direct contact leaders are trained!  They don’t know what they don’t know.  Training opens the program up and sets Scouters on a course to make their units successful.  There’s that choir again.. and we keep preaching to the same old folks.
With training comes confidence and direction.  As soon as leaders are trained, they get excited about delivering the promise.  So who’s it gonna be?  Who’s willing to step up and be the evangelists for Scouting?  The answer to all of our problems is in the answer to that question.
Who’s it gonna be?
Have a Great Scouting day!