planning

Backpack Cooking

As most of you know I am Troop Guide for Wood Badge Course W1-492-11.  One of my Might Buffalo patrol members needed some help with his ticket.  One of his items is to introduce his Troop to the many different ways of preparing meals while camping.  So he called me up and asked if I could do a presentation on Backpack cooking.  Well, one thing led to another and we just could not get dates that worked for me, him, and his Troop.. So I thought.. the next best thing to being there is video.  So my son and I shot this video on Backpack cooking.  It was an excuse to get out a bunch of gear and a way that John could break in his new GoPro camera.
Hope you enjoy.. I did.. got to eat some good chow at the end!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Trust and Confidence

Man oh man, its been a while since I was on the blog posting.  Sorry about that, no excuses, just lots going on especially with all the new scouts that we have in the troop.
This post I want to share a little about the last camp out.  It was planned by the PLC as a new Scout “Trail to First Class” camp as well as some shot-gun shooting.  Then a few weeks before the camp the C.O.P.E course came available as well as 3 more C.O.P.E certified leaders in the troop.  So there was time left, so we threw that in also.
Saturday morning started as planned.  There was a select group of older Scouts designated to teach the TFC events.  They went well.  Flag etiquette, fire building, and Totin’ Chip classes kept the new Scouts moving and learning skills.  They also learned how to break down meals, plan menus, and pack their packs.  They were walked through a model camp site and told what we expected in them and how they camped.
Then it was time for the groups to rotate and the new guys set off to the Shot gun range and the older guys moved to the C.O.P.E course.  It was a fantastic opportunity for the older guys to have some fun without the pressure of having the young guys to watch.
The new Scouts had a great time at the range and got back earlier than expected.  So the SPL talked with the C.O.P.E. director (one of the ASMs of the Troop) to see if there was something that the First year guys could do.  We were the only Troop on the course, so he said they could all do the zip line which is the final event.  The whole troop lined up got on harnesses and did the Zip line.  It was a blast.
Here is the important part.  We had a couple of the new guys that had never camped without Mom and Dad, fired a shot gun, or climbed 32 feet in the air and flew down a zip line.  It was a weekend in which just about every Scout in the Troop stepped out of their comfort zone in one way or another and tested themselves.  Whether it was teaching classes. shooting, or going through the C.O.P.E. course.
Saturday night the Scouts put on a great camp fire program.  One of the brand new Scouts, the one that climbed up to the platform and could not bring himself to go… he stood up there for 20 minutes mustering the confidence to step off.  He finally went and afterward told me that “knowing what I know.. I would have went right away”.. he needed to develop trust.  And he did.. trust and confidence.  So anyway, Saturday night.. he stepped up in front of the whole Troop led a song at the camp fire.  High Fives all around for the boys of the Troop.
It was one of those camp outs when everything comes together and the boys show me that all they need is support and a pat on the back and they will do great things.
Scouting teach self-reliance and to live the Scout Oath and Law.  They get it in the class room that Baden Powell set up.
Well, better get busy on the next podcast.. I will get more posts out.. things are now leveling off with the new guys..
Have a Great Scouting Day!

SMMPodcast # 103 – Talking with Bob

In this show I have a lengthy chat with a fellow Scoutmaster and great Friend Bob Pierce.    Join us as we talk a little bit about everything.  Jamboree, Dutch oven cooking, Troop Guides, JLT, Anuual planning, Parents and Philmont just to cover some of the bases.  It’s what happens Scoutmasters get together and shoot the breeze.  The show was recorded on location at the Annual rendezvous of the Order of the Arrow at Camp Meriwether, so the crashing of waves and other camp sounds fill the background of this nice talk with my buddy Bob.
Hope you enjoy the show.
Please leave some feedback, drop us an email, or leave a comment in the comments section.  Thanks for listening.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Direct Download

New Tour and Activity Plan to Be Unveiled

From our Friends at the BSA Internal Communications via Scout Wire:
Dateline February 29, 2012

The new online tour and activity plan has been developed and will soon be ready for use.

When compared to the former tour permit process, the new plan will no longer require signatures or approvals. Rather, as the plan is completed online, the required prerequisites for that type of trip or activity will be displayed.

For any prerequisites that have not been met (for example, not having someone on a trip who has Hazardous Weather training where this training is required), and before being allowed to submit the form, the person completing the form will have to certify that all prerequisites will be met prior to conducting the trip or activity. Once submitted, an email notification will be sent to your council, chartered organization, committee chair, unit leader, and emergency contact to let them know that a plan has been submitted. Receivers of this notification can log in to MyScouting and review the plan.

Other tour and activity plan enhancements include the following:

  • Because email notifications will be sent once a plan has been submitted, it is important to maintain current leadership information in the system.
  • Links are provided to current program-required training and education.
  • System prompts and warnings are included.
  • You will be able to review and fix any deficiencies flagged by the system prior to submitting the plan.
  • You can store, retrieve, copy, and reuse completed tour and activity plans.
  • Files such as trekking plans and flight plans may be uploaded.
  • Unit volunteers who currently have access to the tour and activity plan will be able to view and update all plans submitted for their unit up to the day before the scheduled tour date.
  • There will be leader certification of the plan prior to submission.

For those who do not have Internet access or simply prefer paper over an electronic version, a PDF version can be found on the tour and activity plan FAQ page.

Tour and Activity Plan Demo

Before implementation to unit volunteers, we are providing a demo to familiarize you and your employees with this new tool. The demo will be accessible to councils on MyBSA until April 30. You will have the ability to create, edit, copy, or print a plan, but not submit one. On May 1, the new tour and activity plan will be activated for authorized unit volunteers to access in MyScouting. We encourage your employees to show the demo to key volunteers, but due to the need to protect the personal information of the membership, this must be done via MyBSA.

The demo may be accessed online. When the MyBSA login screen appears, enter your current MyBSA user name and password. It will take you to the tour and activity plan home page, where you can begin and create a new plan.

A training video has been developed that guides you through the application process and can also be shared with your unit volunteers.

Preaching to the Choir

During this last years recharter we had an extremely disappointing turn in of the Journey to Excellence form.  As a District committee we chalked this up to a couple of things.. perhaps it was that many people were not aware of the change in program.  Maybe some Scouters did not receive proper or inadequate training on the subject.  It could have been that the program was not communicated effectively.  Another reason may have been that some Scouters just don’t care enough to fill it out.  Then again, it may have just been that there are units out there that really are not delivering the promise and would not fill out the form for any reason.
I will go on record and say that the answer is All of the Above. (In my opinion).
So rather than simply complain about it.. I figured that the right thing to do, because I love Scouting and believe in the program, would be to tackle the issues and start with training.
So I volunteered to teach about the JTE program and give out all the tools that would make a unit successful in at least getting the 2012 form in with their charter in November.
So back in January, I announced that we would hold a JTE session at the February Round table.  I made arrangements with the Round Table commissioner and we decided that this would be a great class.  We could have all levels of Scouting attend and present the information in a clear and easy to use format.
I made copies of all of the materials and even used my own Troop as an example.  I made copies of our spreadsheet JTE tracker and our goals for this year.  A sample budget was included as well as the Pack, Troop, and Crew requirements for 2012.
Last night at Round table, the room was set and I prepared to teach this subject of which I have developed a passion for.  7 people showed up for the training.  7.  2 of them were Assistant Scoutmasters from my Troop, 1 was a Scoutmaster of a high performance troop that is using the JTE tools and is delivering the promise of Scouting.  2 were Cub Scout leaders that I assume got a lot out of the class.  They had great questions and seemed to be very interested in getting this ball rolling within their Packs.  1 was an Assistant Scoutmaster of another Troop that is always in the hunt for Troop of the Year, and finally a committee member from on of the LDS units in our District.  She had never heard of JTE and took lots of notes.  She informed me that she thought that this was all done at the Stake level.. but wanted to know more so she could get the program started with the Troops she worked with.
7 Scouters.
85 units did not bother to fill out and turn in the form during the last recharter process. 
So essentially last night I preached to the choir… again.
As I drove home from Round table last night my mind was filled with disappointment which of course drove me to thinking about the other areas in which we fall short in our District, Council, and of course the BSA.
Mostly I think it comes down to training.  We do a fantastic job of getting people to help.  Just look at the numbers.
1.1 Million volunteers currently serve the youth of Scouting.  1.1 Million.  Now I am no fool, and I know that in any population you will never get 100 % of the folks to do anything, but we need to try right?
So we have lots of Scouts that deserve the best, and we have lots of volunteers that have at some level made a commitment to give their best, and yet we don’t.
Lets assume that my District (which I consider a real great district) is representative of most if not all districts in the BSA.  First, lets throw out some numbers again… bear with me here.  Remember that I said 85 units in my district did not bother to turn in the JTE form.  My district has 129 units in it.
In 2010 the BSA reported that there were 47,259 Cub Scout Packs, 40,099 Boy Scout Troops, 8,539 Varsity teams, and 18,856 Venture Crews.  That would be a total (in 2010) of 114,753 units in the BSA.
So assuming everything is equal, 40,000 units within the BSA did not turn the JTE form this last year.  Now I do not know this to be true.. I am just looking for a solution.  IF that big a population within an organization that makes it its business to deliver the promise of Scouting to the 2 million (plus) Scouts that come to us allows this to happen.. then I think it is worth a review.  Not a change in the Journey to Excellence program.  It is rock solid.. after all its all about making every unit the best.  It follows the methods and places its focus on what is important.. serving Youth!.  No, it does not need to change.  What needs to change is how we present, train, and work with units to ensure that the program (both the Scouting program and the JTE) are being followed.  Units that are in need of help need to get it.
I think this is where the commissioner service comes in… and there again.. we are preaching to the choir… assuming again that your district is like mine.. where are all the commissioners?  We are in need of good commissioners that are dedicated to making every unit a great one.
There are many ways that we need to attack this.  I think that we have a huge disconnect here and it will not get better as long as we keep preaching to the choir.  The choir is fine and is singing loud and clear.  It is the folks that don’t want to sing that we need to reach.  It is the people we never see, it is the countless applications that come through the council that never get a hand shake or a visit.  It is the volunteers that are not reached by hands on training or a friendly invite to Round table.
As much as I am a big fan of computer based training.. I think we may have lost some of the contact by going away from class room training.  We need to connect with the 1.1 million volunteers, or what ever that number is in your District and not only fix this JTE problem, but get more leaders trained, active, and taking on rolls that complement their skills, attitudes, and level of committment within the District.  We need commissioners that actually pay visits to their units.  Commissioners that do not wear multiple hats in Scouting.  Commissioners that can take the time to work with and mentor unit leaders.
We need to get a bigger choir!  I’ll have more to say on this later… I am curious to hear what you have to say about all this… leave a comment!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

JTE revisited


As with many of us we wear multiple hats in Scouting.  First and foremost we wear the Dad (or Mom) hat, then the hat appropriate to our unit, like Scoutmaster or Committee Chair.  Then there often times is some District level hat, whether that is part of the District Training team, a District event, or serving on the District committee.  Some are active within their Order of Arrow Chapters or Lodges, and so another hat is hung there.  And for some, and the numbers narrow here, the Council comes a callin’ and more hats are added to the hat rack of Scouting.  This is all well and good as long as the person wearing all of those hats can A.   balance and manage the time,  B.  give full attention to all the positions that he or she has volunteered for, and finally C.  Remember that this is Scouting and it is still a game with a purpose.
All of that to say… I am putting on my District hat right now for this post.
Thursday night at our District committee meeting I was asked to take on an additional responsibility, that of the District Committee Chair while we are looking to replace our retiring District Committee chairman.  I currently serve as the District Program Chairman, so this was not to far a stretch and so I accepted the interim role.
That is neither here nor there when it comes to the subject of this post, other than to say that in the role of both the District Committee Chairman and the Program Chairman one of the reports that our District Commissioner gave disturbed me to no end and I am looking for solutions.
That report was on the Journey to Excellence status of units within our District.  I’ll jump right in.
In November our Council wraps up it’s rechartering process.  This way all units are good to go heading into the new year.  If done right by the units, this is a nice way to end the year and start their Scouting calendar year off clean.  Maybe it’s because I do not know anything else, but this works well for me.
In November we also close out our now Journey to Excellence (Former Honor unit, Quality unit, Centennial Quality unit) report.  Now of all the programs listed in Parenthesis.. I like Journey to Excellence a lot.  It is a fair way to rank and rate your unit.  It is a good measure of how your program is delivering the promise of Scouting.  In the Thunderbird District we have 129 units that rechartered this November.. well 124 actually turned them in on time.. we are still waiting on 6 of them… which will add to my point here real quick.  Out of the 129 units only 35% of them turned in the paper work for their Journey to Excellence.   That’s only 45 units (Packs, Troops, and Crews).  45!
So the question has to be WHY?  The score card is easy to use, the goals are fair and offer a sliding scale from Bronze to Gold so that units have a way of stepping up their programs with rewards for small and large success’s.  But why would only 45 out of 129 units report how they are offereing up the program?
Is it a lack of knowledge?  A lack of training?  A lack of buy in?  Or does this tell us that the 84 units that did not report are not providing quality programs and do not want to tell that to the District and Council?  I sincerely hope that this is not the case.  I know that there are great Scouters out there in our District and I see the units around doing activities, service projects, and outings.  So why not report.
My thoughts went back to the Good turn for America program.  Our District struggled in getting units to report there also.  We asked a volunteer to chase down units and assist with their reporting.. read.. do it for them.  And amazingly, or not, the numbers went sky rocketing.  Now I am not suggesting that this is all about numbers.  I certainly am not, what I am hoping is that the Promise of Scouting is being delivered in the 84 units that have made the choice not to fill out the form.
In talking with one Scouter, I came to the conclusion that he just did not know how the process worked.  So a lack of training on his part led him to not being able to go through this with his unit.  I call BS on this to a certain degree.  The program is not that tough to just figure out.  He asked about tools that could be used to help with the process.  I told him to go to Scouting.org and look up the Journey to Excellence.  There he would find an easy way to set the goals of the unit, track the progress of the unit, and print the final report.  Along with definitions, Frequently Asked questions, and support.  I also reminded him that the number one function of the District is to support units and he could always call us.
Here is what I like about the JTE program.  If you use the tracker, and I mean break it out monthly and see how you are, as a unit progressing through your program based on your goals.  You will achieve success.  The tracker allows the unit to see potential problems or short falls before they happen.  It allows Troop committees to make adjustments, it is a nice tool for the Patrol Leaders Council to stay on track with their program.  After all the main emphasis of the JTE is in program and participation.  Most of us have a competitive gene in us.  Our Scouts certainly do.  So the Journey to Excellence plays on this part of the game.   There are incentives within the unit to continuously improve.  Better Performance means better Scouting for youth!  Better Performance can earn a higher level of Recognition, and Key requirements are tracked and improvement can be quickly identified so they can see where they are on the field.  It’s kind of like being in a 3rd and long and waiting to punt or 3rd and short and know you can score!
I also like that each year the requirements will change.  Each year,  the requirements will be reconsidered to reflect the improved performance by units.  This is why it is important that ALL units report.  Right now in my District 45 units will set the performance measurement for the rest of the District.  New standards for 2012 are already out.  You can see the Troop score card here.   
So I am looking for solutions to this problem.  If you have any ideas, please leave a comment or drop an email.
Share your Journey to Excellence success’s also in the comments section of this post.
Like I said.  I know that there are good Scouters out there doing the right thing.  But the Journey to Excellence program will help make Scouting better.  Better for the main thing… Scouts.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Skill and Gear

This last weekend our Scout Troop headed up to Trout Lake, Washington to venture into the longest Lave Tube cave in North America, called Dead Horse cave.  We tried to get up to the cave last year, but with record snow fall we could not get to the entrance.  So the PLC put it on the calender again for this year and in a month that the snow should not be that bad, if there at all.
The temps have been dropping and with the Dead Horse cave being pretty much at the base of Mt. Adams we kept an eye on the weather and told the PLC to be prepared for cold temps.  The 10 day forecast called for around 21*.  We conducted a shake down on Monday night before the trip and found that some of the guys were carrying too much and in appropriate gear for cold weather.
We pride ourselves on learning from mistakes, but more importantly being a self-proclaimed expert when it comes to cold weather camping.  I have spent a great deal of time teaching both the ASMs and the Scouts about cold weather camping, and so it troubles me when we teach and take great care in instructing the Scouts to be better prepared for their outdoor adventures and they choose not to listen or act on the instruction.  What I will tell you though is that with experience comes knowledge and we all learn from mistakes and our lack of preparedness.
So what I have summed up in our first cold weather experience for this year is simply its all about Skill and Gear.
Camping in the cold and extreme cold requires a different skill set than you typical 3 season adventure.  It requires thinking and constant awareness.  This raises a challenge when we are doing this with younger Scouts.  I am going to make a sweeping generalization, but the young Scouts do not always think before they act.  They take the path of least resistance, they make choices based on what seems to be fun and not what is right based on conditions.  For example, they see snow.  Snow equals snow balls and snow angels.  Fun, yes, but the right thing to do when you need to be able to sustain in the cold for three days, No.  So much of the skill we talk about with our young men is staying dry.  We stay dry with Skill and Gear.  Wearing clothing that will keep us dry and staying out of the snow.  Simple things like using your pack cover to kneel or sit on when setting up your tent or cooking rather than plopping down in the snow.  Or staying on the path rather than breaking trail if you don’t need to.
So we teach them before we head out and then stay on top of them during the trip and hope that it starts to sink in.
<START RANT>
ATTN:  SHOE COMPANIES.  I don’t care about fashion and style!  You have assisted in the creation of a generation that can not and will not tie their shoes.  I BLAME YOU for laziness.
<END RANT>
I can not tell you how many Scouts have trouble tying their shoes and keeping them tied.  This is a major issue in the cold.  This weekend I could not believe how many of the new Scouts would rather allow their boots to fill with snow than tie their boots up.  GEAR.  It is so important to keep your feet dry and warm.  A good pair of boots and a set of Gaiters is extremely important in keeping your feet and lower legs warm and dry.
Ok, so I can go on and on, the point here is that just like when you are building something, the right tools are required to do the job right, and with the right skill set and the right gear camping in the cold is fun and exciting.
It’s all about developing in these Scouts those skills.  There are Scouts today that are more than likely not happy with the way I assisted them this weekend.  I was nice, I am not a yeller, but because of the way that they have been taught to be lazy and have things done for them, they had a little more of me than they wanted.
PLAN OF ACTION.
Saturday night, the ASMs and I sat around the camp fire after the Scouts went to bed.  We talked about the challenges we had and how we were going to fix it.
First.  Gear.  We are putting together a list of recommended gear and must have gear.  We will distribute that list to the parents at a mandatory parent meeting.  It will be made clear that if a parent does not attend the Scout will not camp with us in the winter.  That simple.
At that meeting we are going to show the parents what kind of gear we want to see the Scouts have.  We are offering solutions for the lack of gear that some of the Scouts have.  Between myself and the other Assistant Scoutmasters we have a lot of gear.  We are all willing to loan gear until the Scout can get his own.  We want ever Scout to have this experience, but we can not have a Scouts go unprepared.
Prepared for cold weather camping requires the right Skill and the right Gear.  I can not make exceptions when it comes to the safety of our Scouts.
Second part of the plan is to change the shake down plan.  We currently do them the meeting before the camp out.  We talked with the PLC and we are going to start doing the night of the camp out.  We will not leave the meeting hall till the gear is right.  A parent will have to stick around to either make adjustments or take the Scout home when he does not meet the conditions for the camp out.
The Scout will not go with us if he is not prepared.
And finally.  We will make sure that our older Scouts are prepared and able to assist with the training.  Our troop has become every young in the last year, with as many new Scouts as we have brought in there is a need to go back and retrain everyone and ensure that we all are on the same page when it comes these skills.  In the long run we will have a better trained and ready group on our next winter adventures… which by the way is in January.  So the time line is short and the urgency of matter is there.  We start tonight.
Skills and Gear equal success in the winter.
Have a Great Scouting Day!