Climbing

Back to the Future… The Outdoor Program

If you build it they will come pt.4, The Annual PlanBoys join Scouts for the Outdoors.. they join for the adventure and fun times that they are promised.  Parents sign them up for Character development, life skills, and the values of the program.  The outdoor program is the heart of Scouting.  It is the place where the Scout learns, practices skills, develops friendships and a love for the wilderness and has fun.
I am sure by now that you have tore through the Aides to Scoutmastership… this has been a fun couple of days pouring through the writing of our founder.  The more I dig in to the book, the more I know that the organization that BP was forming was centered on the boy and that his first and foremost goal was developing them to be good men.  In the early years of the 20th century, England was a different place and boys were not allowed to just be boys.  There are so many problems with suppressing the will and spirit of the boy and BP saw the destruction of  boyhood and the effects that it has on manliness.  I fear that this is happening again and its high time to take get it back.
The outdoor program of the Boy Scouts is how we do just that.

“In spite of teachers and parents, boys remain loyal to their own world.  They obey their own code, although it is quite a different code to the one that is taught to them at home and in the schoolroom. They gladly suffer martyrdom at the hands of uncomprehending adults, rather than be false to their own code.  “The code of the teacher, for instance, is in favor of silence and safety and decorum. The code of the boys is diametrically opposite. It is in favor of noise and risk and excitement. “Fun, fighting, and feeding! These are the  three indispensable elements of the boy’s world. These are basic. They are what boys are in earnest about; and they are not associated with teachers nor schoolbooks. “According to public opinion in Boydom, to sit for four hours a day at a desk indoors is a wretched  waste of time and daylight. Did anyone ever know a boy-a normal healthy boy, who begged his father to buy him a desk? Or did anyone ever know a boy, who was running about outdoors, go and plead with his mother to be allowed to sit down in the drawing room?
“Certainly not. A boy is not a desk animal. He is not a sitting-down animal. Neither is he a pacifist nor a believer in safety first,’ nor a book-worm, nor a philosopher.
Remember that the boy, on joining, wants to begin scouting right away; so don’t dull his keenness by too much preliminary explanation at first. Meet his wants by games and Scouting practices, and instill elementary details bit by bit afterwards as you go. “He is a boy-God bless him-full to the brim of fun and fight and hunger and daring mischief and noise and observation and excitement. If he is not, he is abnormal.”

I have made it pretty clear in writing this blog what my feelings are regarding how I think Scouting should be.  I am a believer that Scouting is done in the outdoors.  I know that there is a place and need for the merit badge program, but feel that it is over emphasized  especially the “Filler badges” like fingerprinting and skating and those types of badges.  Again, I know that there is a place and need… but sometimes I think they, and other non outdoor focused activities distract from the Scouting program.
Having said all of that…
The outdoor program provides adventure and opportunities that allow the Scout to develop skills that make them self reliant.  The Scouts classroom is in the outdoors.  That is were Scouting should happen.  Scouts plan their adventures and carry them out in the outdoors.  In short.. the outdoors is the center of the Scouting program.
The outdoor program is the fix for the boys and to Scouting.  It is where we teach our Scouts the skills and an appreciation for the outdoors and adventure.  It is were we let them play the game with a purpose and watch as they grow in leadership and we achieve the aims of Scouting.  It is in the outdoors that boys develop character and practice citizenship and fitness.
As the Boy Scouts of America states; “Learning by doing is a hallmark of outdoor education.  Unit meetings offer information and knowledge used on outdoor adventures each month throughout the year. A leader may describe and demonstrate a Scouting skill at a meeting, but the way Scouts truly learn outdoor skills is to do them themselves on a troop outing.”
There are many ways that the outdoor program can be executed.  The key is to just get outside and do it.  Make a commitment with the Patrol Leaders Council  to add high adventure activities to the Troop plan.  Make sure that every month has an outdoor overnight experience.  NEVER Cancel an outdoor activity.  Shame on the adults if they are the cause for failure of the outdoor program.  The outdoors is a must for Scouting to happen.  It is a must for the Scout to grow and meet the goals that Scouting has promised him.
Get out and play!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Just do something…

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It has been an interesting week or so and the blog once again, while always on my mind took a back seat to the daily working of being a Scoutmaster.  As we prepared for the camp out and then went out on another winter adventure the Scouts of Troop 664 kept me busy
and looking for new ways to reach our Scouts and peak their interest.
On our way home from our camp out yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with the Senior Patrol Leader of our Troop.  We were talking about the morning and some of the challenges that we encountered.  Taking advantage of a good teaching and learning opportunity we shifted the conversation to what we could have done different.  James talked about how he could have been a better example in that he should have got packed up before the young guys allowing him to be more available to assist were needed and he could have worked better as a team with the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders.  I told him that he was right, a leader needs to always set the expectation by being a good example and that pretty much goes for everything.  We talked about some of the decision-making of the group this weekend and why some Scouts seem to get it and others don’t.  It comes down to decision-making and common sense.  We agreed that common sense is not as common as we would like and then talked more about decision-making.

When it comes to making decisions, especially in a cold weather camping environment, there is a simple rule in that for every action there is a positive or negative reaction.  The worst thing that a leader can do is nothing.
A Scouts skills is the knowledge base that his decisions are formulated and made from.  The Scout can choose to do the right thing, or he can choose to do nothing.  What we have seen from our Scouts is that when the make the choice to do nothing, they are cold, wet, and tired.  In short, they do not have a good time.  We have watched as Scouts that do not have fun on camp outs tend not to camp as much and lose interest in Scouting.  There are a few arguments for and against.  I have been told on one hand that it is my job to make sure that the Scouts have fun.  I have also been told to stay the course.  Now, before anyone jumps down my throat about this, let me tell you that we are not weeding kids out by camping in the snow and maintaining our Troop camping as backpackers.  Every Scout that joins our Troop knows how we camp and see the calendar so they know when, where, and how we are camping, climbing, and find adventure.  They make a choice at that time to join us or find another troop.  As long as our Patrol leaders council wants to head down that trail, we will.  We do a great job in training up our Scouts to be successful.  But we require that they make a choice.  They need to make a choice to learn or not to learn.  That is up to them.  Like I have explained over and over again, it is the jobs of the Scoutmaster and the Assistant Scoutmasters to assist Scouts in making it to First Class.  I am not to interested in Eagle Scouts, that will come with hard work, determination, and developing as a young man.  the skills learned and habits formed on the trail to First Class is the foundation of the making a man.  Camping Skills, Citizenship, Fitness, and Character are all elements of the trail to First Class.  But the first step on that trail is a choice.
So as I talked with the Senior Patrol Leader on the way home from the camp out we discussed possible reasons why the Scouts we have now are less mentally tough and unwilling to push themselves.  Why can they not take what they have learned and apply it?  Why have they not made the choice?  Is it a lack of training?  Is it a lack of want to?  Is it something that we have done or failed to do?  We could not put our finger on it.  Whats different in the Scouts we have this year opposed to the Scouts we crossed over 4 years ago or even 2 years ago?  We don’t really know.  They all come from good homes, great parents, and none of them have learning disabilities… so they all have the ability to learn and make sound choices.  So what is it?  We will find out I guess.
In the mean time, what does this mean for the Troop?  Tonight the PLC met and started getting ready for the next camp out.  Next month we will head into the woods to develop our Wilderness Survival Skills.  The plan won’t change and I am sure that some of the Scouts that have not been having a great time, well, they won’t go camping.  I asked the PLC what they thought about that.. they said that it was fine, at least they won’t have to have bad attitudes on the camp out.  I think the boys get tired of dealing with it too.  It’s that “one bad apple” thing and the majority of the Scouts really would rather camp with the guys that want to be there and have a good time.So what?  I think it is great the SPL is aware enough to have this talk.  I am encouraged by a PLC that is willing to stay the course and take a part in having a Troop that they want to belong to, that they want to lead, and that they want to share with their friends.
We will have to see where this takes us.  For now, we just get ready for the next outing and keep working with the young men that want to be there.  These last few months have been challenging for the Scouts of our Troop, some are stronger for it, some developed better leadership skills because of it, and some have made a choice not to camp in the winter.  I am ok with all of it.
What do you think?  I think that things will be just fine.  I think that the Troop will be fine and that we will continue to have great adventures in the future.  I think that while some of the Scouts choose to turn away from challenges, most boys want to be challenged and want to see just how far they push themselves.  I think this is the way boys are no matter how hard we try to be over protective and keep them in a bubble.  Some how.. some way.. boys need to be boys and Scouts gives them that outlet when we provide the program and allow them to make a choice.  That’s what I think.  I am curious to see what your thoughts are.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Over the Edge

Ok, so before everyone gets completely tired of hearing about the Over the Edge fund Raiser.. let me do one or two more posts on it and then we will call it good.
Yesterday I went over the edge for Scouting.  So far the Council has about 125,000 in donations for this single event, that’s an unofficial number.. I am just doing the math that 50 of us went over the edge, and to do that you had to raise at least $2500.  That’s a pretty good chunk of change for a quick fund-raising effort.  The nice part, in my opinion, is that we did it without a ton of hype and with the effort of just a few.
That said… it was a good fund-raiser and I am happy that there is a cool incentive for raising the money.
When I ‘landed’ I was interviewed by some one with a camera looking very official.  He asked some questions about the event and what I felt about it.  I thought I might share some thoughts.
First.  As stated above, I think it was cool that relatively a few people raised this much money for our council.  50 people.  There were more people who participated in the fund-raiser, many Scouters made an attempt at getting to the edge, a lot came up short, but every penny counts.  Now just imagine if more people would have made the commitment to go over the edge.. We could have made a lot more for Scouting programs.  Just a thought.  I am taking a “that’s cool” approach to the few because I value their dedication to the effort.  I talked with one Edger.. he never thought that he would get to the Edge.  It was never his intent to go over the edge, he just wanted to raise some money for the council and call it good.  One thing led to another and here he was… getting in the harness to go over the edge.  So when I say 50, I am focusing only on the folks that went over the edge.
Now, for those folks to raise that kind of money a lot of people had to step up.  Each of those 50 people asked for donations.  That amounted to a large amount of participation from within the Scouting community as well as true friends of Scouts and Scouters.
I did a lot of “asking” via Twitter and got a great response.  Georgia, Maine, Canada, England, to name a few areas that responded, and from around my Council too.  Parents from my Jamboree Troop, Wood Badge Friends, Parents from my Troop all stepped up.  Leatherman’s headquarters is here in Portland and as luck would have it a Scout in my Troop has a Dad that works for Leatherman up in the big office.  Conversations leading to the Edge caught the attention of Jake Nichol the President and CEO of Leatherman.  He took interest in this effort and made a major contribution to my fund-raising goal.
Second.  Friends.  Yesterday was like many days at Scouting events.  Filled with laughter and friends.  Adam Cox and I were scheduled for 10:00 Am to go over the edge together.  But from the time I checked in to the time we drove away… it was friends all over the place.  I suppose that is the way it is everywhere in Scouting.  I saw so many Scouters that I had the pleasure of working with at Jamboree, Wood Badge, Order of the Arrow functions, Training classes and other Scouting Events.  The more active you are, the bigger your circle of friends is in Scouting.  I could not turn in any direction without seeing a friend.  And that made the whole event special.
Our Scout Executive went over the Edge right before Adam and I.  It was fun to joke around with him and encourage him all the way down.  He is an enthusiastic leader and sets a great example for not only his staff but Scouters in the Council also.
I was talking with my wife last night about how great it is to have so many great Scouting friends.  They are good people who really dedicate time and energy to Scouting.  And at the end of the day, when you look at the profile created by this great group of people.. it is all about serving others.  They all could have spent yesterday making money for themselves, or enjoying the time with their families or doing something other than being a part of this event.  But time and time again, we see the same folks, these same dedicated people giving of themselves to make Scouting better in our community, to make our council just that much stronger, to be among friends.
And finally, the event itself.  The fact that on Friday in June the Boy Scouts of America would be rappelling down the second tallest building in Portland.  Right in the heart of city.  The fact that all day long, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Scouters took turns going over the edge of the roof of the USBancorp Tower in view of the whole city.  That was cool.  It is no secret that the city of Portland does not maintain traditional values that are consistent with the Scout Oath and Law.  Why that is?  I don’t know.  It’s just the way it is.  But we have a very large Scouting community here.  There have now been two major events in the heart of Portland that I would never have thought I would see.  Hundreds of Scouts and Scouters marching in the Rose festival parade and this Over the Edge event.  I am glad that I have been able to not only see these events, but participate in them.  Maybe the more we put it out there.. the more the city will embrace Scouting and soon will take to our values.  That last one, I will wait for, it’s not going to happen any time soon.
But none of that will dampen the scouting spirit of those of us that love Scouting and are willing to put our bodies over the edge.
The Over the Edge event was very well-organized.  From the time we walked into the “Ready Room” the professionalism and enthusiasm was there.  The Council staff and the OTE staff were friendly and dedicated to making this the safest, funnest event ever.  And they did.  From the fitting of the harness and explanation of the process to the training on the roof and ultimately the hook up and decent from the top, the staff did a fantastic job.  At no time did I feel in danger, frightened, or uncomfortable about what I was doing.
It was great to go down the building with my friend Adam.  He had a bit of a challenge right at the edge, but it was great to see him conquer his fear and take the next step and go over.  We were talking on the roof that we were either Stupid or motivated.. or a bit of both.  But you know this is what it is.. we love Scouting!
Final thought.

If the Over the Edge comes to your council.  DO IT!.   We will be doing it again next year.  It’s a great way to raise some money for your council and a fun way to do it!  Sure beats selling popcorn.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Somewhere between a Rock and Hard Place

That’s where you will find adventure and success.  Life is hard enough for an 11 year old with out standing on the edge of a cliff.  But that is where the Scouts of Troop 664 find themselves every year when we climb at Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon.
Here is what happens.  A young man gets ready, harness and helmet on.. he is looking for adventure and sees the older guys doing it.. it looks fun, but that is a long way down.  He’s been through the training, knows all the knots, the commands, and how he is going to lean out, get into a good “L” shape position, and start his decent.  He knows that he has all the skills necessary to go over the edge.  But then his brain asks him the question; “ARE YOU NUTS?” 
This is when it happens.. It?  What “it”?  This is where the Scout learns about himself and how far he is willing to go, but then when he reaches that point.. he takes just one one step.  He tests his courage, his inner strength, and his will to trust.
On this face of rock he will be tested by himself and come out victorious.  Every small step is huge victories.  The tears that run down a dirty cheek soon give way to smiles and high fives!  He has conquered a small part of his mind and now is more confident.  He walks just a bit taller on the way back to the truck even though he is tired and hungry.  He has an adventurous story to share.  Him and his patrol mates did something that their class mates won’t do.  Monday at school he will show pictures and tell of his great adventure.
So here is what I know for sure.  The old Scoutmaster handbooks talk about what makes a boy… Paraphrasing… He likes to be with his friends, he likes to feel important, he wants to share work and play hard, he wants to make decisions and but likes to know he is supported by his friends and adults.  He wants action and fun!  He wants to run, play, fight, and generally be on the move.  HE craves adventures and changes in his surroundings.  He wants to experience new things, feel the wind in his hair, the sun in his eyes, and is looking for that great escape for the everyday things in his life.  He wants to learn and see new things and have new experiences.  He looks up to somebody and has a vision of what he wants to be.
I paraphrased that from the 1965 Scoutmaster Handbook.  Everything applies today.  100%!  Get them outside and provide adventures that will test them, push them, make them think and grow and you will have done what the boy wants.  That is Scouting my friends.
This weekend my Troop spent 12 hours climbing, rappelling, and practicing rescue techniques at Smith Rock.  We camped on a ranch in Madras and had a ball.  I got to see a lot of growth this weekend.  And when the parents came to pick up the guys on Sunday, I wish you could have seen the young men, smiles from ear to ear anxious to tell the story to mom and dad.
The moral of the story… boys are boys.  From 1910 to 2011 the only thing that really has changed in their Scout uniform, what is inside is just as healthy and wanting as ever before.  Seek those adventures and somewhere between a rock and hard place they will  find themselves.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

CLIMB ON!

Gotta share it!!!
I’m pumped.. Completed the Climb Instructor Course this weekend.. and ready to hit the rocks with the boys!

I learned so much this weekend, I must say that outside of Wood Badge.. this was the best course I have taken in the BSA.

Topping out and the BSA standards ensure that the Scouts have a Safe and incredible experience! Climb on Safely is a great program for every Troop.

If you are not taking advantage of the high adventure the BSA offers.. you are missing out.

HAPPY SCOUTING!!! and CLIMB ON!