The 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!
The 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.
As 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.
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!
Yesterday I was listening to some talk radio and over the course of the day the recurring theme of child raising came up. I heard a fantastic quote on one of the programs that I thought needed to be shared here.
“We are not raising our children to be good children, we are raising them to be good adults.”
Yes, we are. I think that much too often we focus on keeping our kids children and not looking to the future and what kind of adults they are going to be.
There is a balance there. A balance between keeping our kids in a safety bubble and letting them run wild. Finding the middle ground and ensuring we teach them the right skills to negotiate life is where we will develop them to be those good adults that we wish them to be.
It is for this reason that we focus on Citizenship, Character, and Fitness in Scouting and not cranking out Eagle Scouts. While there are certain rewards for earning the rank of Eagle Scout is far more important that we see in our Scouts that development of Character. An Eagle Scout without Character does himself and Scouting a disservice.
I am not sure when things went wrong and I certainly do not want to sound like those folks did when we were growing up, you know… walking to School in the snow up hill.. both ways… Life was not rough when I grew up, and life is no rougher now. The difference was in our parents then I think. We stayed out till the street lights came on, we played outside all the time, bumps and bruises were part of life. Now we did have a lot less distractions then. We did not have 700 channels on TV, there was no such thing as the internet or cell phones, and once you mastered Pong on the Atari it was time to get back outside.
Our parents may have worried about us, but knew that we would be home when it was time to come home, or when we got hungry.. which ever came first.
I think our parents understood balance. They understood that we needed to have quiet time and we needed to have loud time. We did not sit in time out… we got spanked and it was over. We learned lessons and moved on.
Fighting and making up was a part of being friends. No drama, just growing up.
Our bikes were made of parts and I don’t think you could find two of the same color. We made tree forts and fell out of them more times than I can count. But my mom did not put me in a bubble and make every bad thing in the world disappear.
Balance. We can place our sons in a bubble and protect them, or we can let them learn about the world by living in it. I prefer living, knowing boundaries, and getting out there in life’s great adventure. That is how we raised our kids and they all turned out to be good adults.
We are not raising children to be children, we have enough adults in the world that act that way. This is why we have adults in the world that still wait for a hand out. That is why we have adults that are immature and live for the drama of a teenager. Just look at Facebook at what adults do on it.
We need to raise our young men to be men.
Finding a good balance and watching them develop.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Monday night our Troop held its annual Order of the Arrow election and its six month youth leadership election. Our Troop elections are like most Troops in that we hold the elections for youth leadership. We may differ in this aspect, we only elect the “assistants”. When we hold our elections every six months we elect the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Assistant Patrol Leaders. The idea here is that now the Assistant has six months to learn how to do the job, then he is more successful when it comes his turn to serve as the ‘Leader’. At the six month mark, the Assistant automatically becomes the leader and we elect new Assistants.
It’s pretty simple and works very well.
The OA elections are held just like everyone elects members into the Order of the Arrow. We do not announce the candidates until they are called out at Camporee.
After the meeting on Monday night a group of Scouts and I were talking about leadership issues and the OA. I shared a story about how my ordeal went when I was a youth compared to how they do them now. There are some differences for sure, but the spirit of the ordeal is pretty much the same. A couple of the Scouts mentioned that they wish that the ordeal was still like it was when I was a Scout. Now to be sure, I know that there is some form of “it’s cool if the Scoutmaster says it’s cool” going on here. Rest assured I am not saying this to stroke my ego, and there will be a point here I promise.
We talked about how sometimes it seems that some Scouts take things like the ordeal serious, while others do it to get a sash and pocket flap. I asked why they think that is. The overwhelming response was that it is cool to be in the OA, but members should be “worthy” to be in it. If they do not want to participate, they should not be in it.
I agree, but understand that to some the OA may be just another thing in Scouting and it certainly looks great on the Scouting resume.
One of the Scouts chimed in that he viewed it kind of like the different Troops we see at Camporee. Some take the wearing of the Scout uniform serious, while other look like slobs (his words not mine, although I agree). Some like to build the gateways, while others would rather hang out in camp around the campfire. I am not sure that there is a right or wrong answer here other than when we discuss methods, like wearing the uniform, but what I suggested to these Scouts was that it comes down to their unit’s culture.
And how is that formed? Well, I think that somewhere along the way we form our culture by the activities we do, the way we develop traditions, and our attitudes toward how delivering the promise of Scouting should look. The Troop’s program has a lot to do with that also in that it becomes the style of the Troop.
So in the case of my Troop we have Traditions that passed on as the Scouts move through the unit. New Traditions meet the older ones and it helps shape our culture. Our Troop’s annual program goes along way in the shaping of that culture. Being a backpacking Troop, we do things a bit different and the Scouts of the Troop view themselves as adventurous and skilled. This adventurous spirit and skills are the personality of the Troop. They like the idea that they are different from most Troops, especially at Camporee and summer camp. They like to show up with nothing but their packs. This attitude is a big part of our culture. It is not right or wrong, it’s who we are.
Where does that come from? Well, certainly I had a part to play. Introducing the Troop to backpacking, but then the Scouts took it because they liked it. As a Backpacking Troop it lends itself to adventures like Climbing, Kayaking and Canoeing, Glacier hiking, snow shoeing and lots of other adventurous activity. It is not for everyone and we have seen Scouts come and go because of who we are. And that is ok.
We decided awhile ago that we would deliver the promise of Scouting and this would be our delivery method. The Parents of our Scouts see that what we do works and those Scouts that stick around and take an active part in the program get a lot out of it.
We find a good balance of Youth leadership and Adult interaction through Coaching and Mentoring. When our youth cross over into the Troop they immediately learn who is in charge, the SPL and their Patrol leader. They never stop hearing it. The endless stream of Scouts seeking attention is more often time met with “Ask the SPL”. The culture of the youth led troop balanced with the ability to know when the Scout needs more than just the Senior Patrol leader.
The Scoutmaster conference is a big part of our culture. More times than not, it is not an open book and signing session. It is far more frequent for that Scoutmaster conference to deal with “Boy issues”. Stuff that they just need to talk about. To the outside eyes and ears that may sound a bit creepy, but in our unit Trust is high and sometimes there are just things you need to talk about with someone who you trust. I have built that trust with our Scouts and their parents.
That trust is a huge part of our culture and comes from an unwavering commitment to the Scout Oath and Law. Those are the rules of the Troop and those are the only rules.
I told you that there was a point here. Yes, our Troop is not for everyone and often times our Scouts look to be arrogant or have a swagger about them. That is true, however it is not arrogance, it is confidence. We pride ourselves on skills development and staying true to the goals of Scouting. We wrap all of that in our adventure and fun program. I believe like Baden-Powell asked us as Scoutmasters to the heart of the boy and to be their friend. That is why our Scouts would have that feeling that when I suggest it is cool.. it is. I am not always right and do not seek the worship of these young men. I will tell you quite honestly that I love it when they want to be adventurous. I love to see them push their boundaries and step out of their comfort zone. I love to see leadership in action, no matter how ugly it looks at times. This has become our culture, this is our Troop. I am sure that your Troop has its own culture and its own traditions and its own swagger.
Watch a Troop as it sings its Troop song or yell. That will give you a peek into that Troops Culture.
This all started with a couple of Scouts talking about how they wish things were different. My answer to them was simply this, If you want it to be different, change it. Know my guys.. they will.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
I 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.
The 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.
“Scouting is not an abstruse or difficult science: rather it is a jolly game if you take it in the right light. At the same time it is educative, and (like Mercy) it is apt to benefit him that giveth as well as him that receiveth.” Baden-Powell of Gilwell.
I have been digging into my copy of Aids to Scoutmastership once again. I find that the little book written by Baden-Powell in 1920 still holds water today. As BP makes clear in Aids to Scoutmastership, the book is not an instruction manual, rather it is a book outlining Why we do what we do in Scouting. And once we know why we are doing something it is easier to see the vision and achieve the goals or aims. I would encourage you to get a hard copy of this. Mine is full of notes and highlights.. a must for every Scoutmaster.
Seeing the vision and understanding the goals are an important part of the Scoutmasters job. I think that too many Scoutmasters get caught in the “game” that they lose focus on the goal. Now, “the game” may be different in each unit and dependent on the leader. Some pay particular attention to advancement, while others focus on the outings. In most cases there is a good balance, but there still is a missing piece. That piece is the Aims and the Why we are playing this game with a purpose.
It is nice to watch as a Scout becomes and Eagle Scout. As a Scoutmaster, I love to sit and talk with a young man who has earned the Eagle Award. Like the leader that misses the true goal of Scouting though a young man may only think that he has achieved the highest rank. He may thing that he is a the end of the journey because he is now an Eagle Scout. But that is not the case, he is far from done, he is just beginning.
In becoming an Eagle Scout he is starting to realize the vision and starting to grow in his manhood life long habits of good decision-making, life skills, leadership, and of course being a good citizen.
The other night I sat with a Scout in my troop for his Scoutmaster Conference. He has completed all of the requirements to earn his Eagle Award. Yes, he has completed all of the requirements, but he has actually become an Eagle Scout. In our discussion we talked more about the future and why he is going to be successful. He looked back at all of the challenges that got him to this point and I was happy to hear that instead of making them a negative thing, he looked back on them as learning points along his Scouting trail.
We talked about leadership. It has taken this Scout a little longer to develop into a leader, but he is there now and we talked about the different ways in which he developed those skills. It was important for me to remind him that in becoming an Eagle Scout he has demonstrated that he has what it takes to lead. The American public may not know much about Scouting other than helping old ladies across the street, but they all know that being an Eagle Scout is special. They look to Eagle Scouts to lead.
Where am I going with this?
We often lose the forest for the trees as they say. We make sure to teach camping skills and encourage Scouts to earn all the merit badges they can… but what of the Aims? What about the purpose of Scouting? I think that is what BP was reminding those leaders back in 1920 and he continues to remind us today… Stay focused on why we play this game with a purpose. It is not about Eagle Scouts. It is about Citizens of Character that are fit. The BSA reminds us in the mission statement that we are to teach young people to make ethical choices over their lifetimes. This is why we go camping, do service projects, earn merit badges and become Eagle Scouts.
I love digging in that old book. It gets me refocused on what is important.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Today marks the 104th Anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America! And the BSA is going strong! As I thought about today’s anniversary in preparation for our unit’s Red and Green celebration tomorrow I could not help but think about why the Boy Scouts of America is so strong.
It grows its strength not from the National Office. It does get gain its strength from Council Executives or Professionals down at your local Scout office. The strength of the BSA is not in District committee’s or Commissioners. The strength of Scouting comes from its Scouts and the volunteers at the unit level. Packs, Troops, and Crews are the strength of Scouting. It is for them that everything else drives it’s purpose. It is adventure found in Scouting that invites young men to join. It is fun in the unit that makes them stay. It is the learning that is discovered that one day shows itself and causes the Scout to reflect.
The Boy Scouts of America has found that strength for 104 years. There have been rocky times and times of great celebration. The BSA has been there in peace and in war and through it all, the membership, the strength shines through.
Controversy and differing opinion has not stopped Scouting and it never will as long as units stay alive and continue to deliver the promise.
Politics and Religion can not stand in the way of great program. In an organization where everyone is welcome and everyone’s ideas and opinions are valid and heard. An organization with a firm foundation built on strong values.. the values of the strength, the members that believe in being Trustworthy and Kind, Loyal and Obedient, Helpful and Friendly, Courteous and Brave, Thrifty and Clean, and of course Reverent. We have these values that support a promise that we.. the strength of the organization… live out in our daily lives. That is why it has lasted 104 years and will continue to last.
Scouting’s strength is in all of us. From the Chief Scout Executive to the brand new Tiger Cub. We are the organization that is a game with a purpose.
We know that when we follow the Vision of the organization great things happen. There are no other youth groups like it. Not in size, scope, or program. This is Scouting and this year we celebrate 104 years.
I had the pleasure of celebrating the 100th Anniversary at the National Jamboree! I am so glad that my son’s and I got to be at that extra special event. The night of the big arena program left a lasting impact on me as a Scouter. When we lit the candles and about 80 thousand Scouts and Scouters all pledged to live the Oath together I was moved. Then in a flash, we blew out the candles on a great event, but the dawning of the next 100 years of Scouting in America. The candles extinguished ushered in a fire works display that was so big it reminded me of just how big and great Scouting is. And the fun can not be matched.
Lots of thoughts today about 104 years of Scouting in America… not one of those 110 or 125 type celebrations, but very significant given the climate of the country we are in. The Boy Scouts of America is still the values based organization that teaches young people to be great adults. Character, Citizenship, and fit for our future.
Happy Anniversary to the Boy Scouts of America!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Well, 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.
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!
It 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!
Initiative is really what makes leadership work. Those leaders that understand their Patrols [the make up of the guys, how they are motivated, and their skill levels], know what right looks like, and have an idea of the plan, should be able to get anything done.
But the one thing that can not be purchased or taught is initiative.
Initiative comes from an understanding that “I am a leader, and I know what needs to be done”.
No matter what the situation, in the absence of other leaders and specific instruction, this get done by leaders that demonstrate initiative.
A leader should never have to wait till he is told to do something when it is clear that it needs to be done. We all know that the first thing we do when we get to camp is set up the tents. Patrols leaders should not wait for the SPL to tell them to do the task, they should take initiative and get it done. The same can be said for any and all the tasks that make up our Scouting experience.
In order for a leader to develop initiative, he must know the plan and have the skills. Knowing the plan is key. This means that a Patrol leader should be at the PLC meeting. This way he ensures that he knows what is coming up. He can then prepare himself and his Patrol.
A leader should never wait to begin working on the plan.
Say the Troop is going on a 25 mile Backpack trip. Right away the Patrol leaders knows 3 things. 1. We need to eat.. so lets plan a menu. 2. We will be carrying our gear.. so lets find out what we need and divide the gear up. 3. Finally, who’s going? and do we need to shake down before we go?
This is initiative, doing what needs to be done without instruction or direction.
The initiative that a leader demonstrates can be the difference between a task done well and a task incomplete.
We all know what right looks like and have the skills needed to be good patrols. Initiative is the difference.
Have a Great Scouting Day!