Summer Camp

The STEM Push

stemThe 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!

Finding the Arrow

Plus 6I 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.
OA1The 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. 

Scoutbook.com

scoutbookEvery unit has a method of tracking their Scouts.  Advancement, activities, special awards etc.  There are software programs and online resources for tracking, even an Excel spreadsheet can be used.  But I want to introduce you to a real cool way of tracking your unit.  Scoutbook.com.
Before I go any further, I should say in full disclosure that my unit does not use Scoutbook.com…. yet.  I was made aware of Scoutbook.com recently and thought I would review it and let you all know about some of the great features it has.  I should also say that as a Scoutmaster, I rarely get involved in any of this, but with Scoutbook.com your committee will be very happy to have such an awesome tool at their finger tips.
At first look I love the interface.  The ease of the program.  It is clean and requires no hunting to find what you are looking for.
tysonadvancement270Second thing that you notice right away is that the Scout has some responsibility for his advancement in this program.  Just like their Scout handbook, the Scout himself now has the ability to track and maintain parts of his record keeping.  Yes, he still needs to get the work done and Yes, he still needs to see the Scoutmaster or who ever signs the book.  But with Scoutbook.com, he has everything at his fingertips electronically.
I remember Former Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzucca reminding us to take Scouting where the Scouts are.  Well, 78% of our teens have cell phones, and not just cell phones, but smart phones.  So put this tool in their hands and see if they get excited about this part of Scouting.
I love that Scoutbook.com is on “The Cloud”.  Pretty much the world that we live in.  The ability to have data on your tablet, phone, computer or other device is critical these days.
Ok, So the Committee has a role in this, the Scout has a role in this, and the leaders all have roles in this.  It is a total package deal.  Constantly updated to meet all of the BSA requirements, linked to ScoutNet, and easy to use.
As a leader, you can track and maintain your training records.  I am sure that the Training chair on your committee would love for your help on that.mytraining280
Printing Blue cards is a snap also.. right from your device.
Merit Badge counselors can track the Scout and report percentages of complete to the committee in real-time.
For the leader, you can track multiple Scouts with just a few clicks.  Monitoring those first year Scouts sometimes can be chore.  But using the tools in Scoutbook.com they have been made easy and right at your finger tips.
Troop Committees can print beautiful reports and even the 34403 form to purchasing awards and advancement for your next Court of Honor.
Scoutbook.com is 100% secure and allows the unit to decide who gets what access.  The Scout, the Leaders, Merit Badge Counselors, and the Committee all have functions suited to them.
There are many features of Scoutbook.com that I can’t write about here, it would take pages on the blog.
If you are currently using other tracking software or online programs you may be able to transfer your data, but before you do, check out Scoutbook.com and see all of this for yourself.  It is worth a look.
And here is something cool about Scoutbook.com… You can have it for a year free because you read my blog.
The first 3 readers that send me an email (tbirdironchef@gmail.com) and ask for the subscription will get an annual subscription to Scoutbook.com.  You need to check out the website to see all of the benefits that come with this cool program.
I think it is a resource that you and your unit need to look into.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Using Evernote ™ for Scouting

Evernote_Icon_256One of my goals for this year and in particular in working on the blog is to use tools to be more successful.  There is nothing worse than a goal that is not attainable because of lack of want to or know how and sometimes tools can assist in making a goal more attainable.
A new years resolution to go to the gym only works while the motivation to work out is there.  Going to the gym and not working out because you don’ t know how only discourages you and you don’t go back.
I am one of “those people” that needs constant motivation to stay on track.  I do that by motivating myself and finding tools and resources that keep me focused and on task.
For example.  I am working on doing more to lift some of the burden of household chores from my wife.  She does and has done a fantastic job over the past 22 years and I know this is an area that I can do better at.  So I have picked up the responsibility to doing the grocery shopping.  I hate grocery shopping, but it is a task that I can do so I had to find motivation (other than just being more helpful).  So I dove into the task to find tools that would make grocery shopping more interesting for me and make me want to do it.  Enter an app for my phone.  I downloaded the Out of Milk app and started using it.  We make the grocery list on the computer and sync it with my phone.  Bingo.. we have a winner.  I am actually finding grocery shopping fun, walking up and down the isles scanning products and adding them to the shopping cart.
Apps and software have made much of what we do these days more tolerable.  They have also made managing tasks, lists, notes, and resources more accessible.  A few years back I started using an app called Evernote ™.  It was a cool way to take notes and have them available across different platforms.  My computer, phone, tablet etc.  Then I started using for Scouting.
Some of the cool things about Evernote ™ that I really like are the note taking and sharing of information I gather.  With Evernote ™ I can clip and save things right from the internet.  I can save PDF files for retrieval later and I can record voice notes.
Evernote ™ has all of this in one nice bundle.  I have many notebooks within Evernote ™.  This is nice to I stay organized and have everything right at the tip of my fingers.
evernotescreenshotOur Troop uses Troopmaster ™ to manage the Troop’s administrative functions.  But Troopmaster ™ does not have a corresponding app for my phone or a mobile way of accessing information from Troopmaster ™.  So I save the reports and most frequently used items from Troopmaster ™ as PDF files and drop them into Evernote ™.  I can’t tell you many times we have been at a Scout property and they need a roster with phone numbers, ages, etc.  I just open up Evernote ™ and there it is.  I can even print the roster from Evernote ™ if they have wireless printing available.  I had to do this last summer at summer camp.
Scoutmaster conferences are easily tracked and noted using Evernotes voice memo feature.  It is nice to talk with a Scout and then capture some of my thoughts right after we are finished without sitting a writing it all down.  Then once I get home I can transcribe the voice memo into a note for future reference.
Project planning is another great use for Evernote ™.  In 2012 I used Evernote ™ to plan and track our Philmont trek.  Everything from setting reminders to making checklists to ultimately making notes along the journey.  Adding pictures to remind me of tasks, people, places, and things we needed to do.
As most everything we get now electronically from the BSA comes in PDF format, dropping our reservations and other correspondence from Philmont was easy to save and retrieve.
I am still learning of new features and ways to use Evernote ™, but so far it is a great tool to make my Scouting life and my personal life more organized.  It is a way that I stay focused and on task and therefore more productive.
Some of the other ways in which I use Evernote ™:
workflowBuilding Packing list for Backpacking.  It is a nice way to make checklists and track weight and gear.
Lists for places I want to go.  Using the clip it feature on the web I can save maps, brochures, and information about places I want to go, in particular backpacking.
Saving ideas for future planning with the Patrol Leaders Council.
Recipes for Dutch oven or backpacking meals.
Using Evernote ™ Hello I save business card and meeting information.  That is really a neat feature and a fast and easy way to build and maintain contact lists.
That’s just a few.  I follow the Evernote Blog also.  It is amazing all of the different ideas shared there for use cases, tips, and what’s happening with Evernote ™.
Finding a good way to stay motivated and on task is important. It is critical if you are like me and have many irons in the fire and want to stay focused.  But like everything else if you don’t commit to using the tools then you as good as that new years resolution to go to the gym.
I hope that helps you find a tool that will help you manage your irons in whatever fire you place them.
Let me know what you use.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Scouting… Cool?

cropped-rockwellphilmont.jpgFirst off.. if you are a Scout or Scouter read this post with caution.  You may not agree with some of what I am going to say.  Know that I love the Boy Scouts of America.  I am always trying to tell our story in the best light of Scouting.  I think it is the greatest youth program around.  But in the discussion of membership it is fair that we take a look at ourselves and ask the question, Why is it Not cool to be a Scout?  Please, if you disagree, read to the end and then leave a comment.
One of the most common things that I hear as a Scoutmaster during conferences is that sometimes our youth don’t feel that it is cool to be a Scout.  Peer pressure at School and in their neighborhoods, comments made, and the fact that in most cases the uniform causes a boy to shy away from the program and certainly not invite his friends to join something that is not cool.
So why is that?
In my opinion one of the reasons is that we and the National Council do a terrible job at telling Scouting’s story.  In our focus to deliver the “Main thing” we have lost sight on what Scouting has traditionally been about.
When I was a Scout, and I cringe at starting a sentence that way, but none the less, when I was a Scout I joined the Boy Scouts because it looked cool.  I was drawn to the adventure.  I was longing for to be in a group that Norman Rockwell painted climbing to the Tooth of Time or heading out for a weekend of canoeing.  I watched as older boys embraced leadership and taught me skills in the outdoors.  Older guys that played on the high school football team that we all looked up to but were not afraid to lead a song or skit at camp.  Members of the Order of the Arrow that dressed like plains Indians and stood in canoes with torches blazing, landing on the shore and presenting dramatic ceremonies that left me wanting to be a part of their group.
While I am a believer that we need to take Scouting where the Scouts are… I am also a believer that we can take the Scout on an adventure that will challenge him and leave him wanting more.  Instead, the Scouting story is that of catering to the lowest common denominator.  We dumb things down because of parents that are over protective and do not understand Scouting.
We take away from the challenge and make it “Accessible”.  I want every boy to have the opportunity to be a Scout, but I want every boy to accept the challenges that lead to self-reliance, life long skills, good character, and being fit.  There is plenty in Scouting for all, but we have made it so restrictive that leaders no longer feel that they can seek and provide adventures in their units.
THE PRESS.
Bad press is the only press.  That’s the story we get.  It does not impact our youth that much, but it keeps Mom and Dad from bringing their son to us.  When all we see is bad press, we judge the program based on it.  Suddenly all Scout leaders are fat bone heads that push over billion year old rock formations.  We are all looking to abuse youth.  We are all.. well you get the point.
But what of good press.  National does nothing.  No ads on TV.  Yes, I know that costs money, but what does the BSA waste each year fighting in the courts?  How much does the BSA waste in preaching to the choir?  They target the membership campaigns to those who are already in Scouting and fail to tell our story to those that need to hear it.
We have been systematically removed from the Schools, the Churches are bailing, and parents see this as an organization that can’t keep it’s poop in a group.  It’s all bad press and yet we do nothing to turn the tide of the bad publicity.
We tend to circle our wagons and rally the troops from within the organization, but that’s it.
I watched a great video the other day on YouTube.  Rex Tillerson, the former BSA President talking at the National Meetings of the BSA about the new changes that are taking effect.  Of course I am talking about the new Non discrimination policy.  What Rex had to say was fantastic, but you know, I bet only Scouters saw it.  Why was it not on TV?  Why did the BSA not contact the major media outlets and networks and have that 10 minute video or parts of it in the main stream media?  10,358 views on Youtube.. and I bet they are all Scout people.  A google search produced hits on the video all associated with Scouting websites, blogs, and of course the National office.
NERDS.
Scouting is for nerds.  Just ask your Scouts.  That’s what they will tell you their classmates think.  I recently sat with one of my Scouts at his Eagle Board of Review.  One of the board members asked him if he thought Scouting was not cool.  He answered that he thought it was cool, but it was not cool to those guys at his high School.  The discussion kept going, “Why do you think that?” the Board member asked.  “Because of what they think we do in Scouts” the Eagle candidate answered.  “What do they think we do?”  “Well, for the most part they think we go camping, but it’s mostly about crafts and artsy stuff.”
Crafts and artsy stuff.  Yep, that is what we have become.
As a Cub Scout I remember doing craftsy stuff.  Soap box derby races, pinewood derby and rockets led the list of cool things that we did as a den.  The craftsy stuff when we got to Boy Scouts was Monkey bridges that actually crossed water.  Signal towers that you could actually climb.  Earning the Paul Bunyan Ax man award and actually chopping down trees.
But that’s all gone now.  In the name of Safety?  Really?  No, in the name of insurance fear.  I am not advocating getting Scouts hurt, but we didn’t then so what’s changed.  We moved away from adventure and got wrapped up in the lowest impact don’t let Tommy Tenderfoot get dirty family camp.
Look at our merit badge program.  Last summer at camp we had more Scouts earn the finger printing merit badge than the canoeing merit badge.  It is what we have become.
We as parents have forgotten that our boys need to be boys.  We as parents have forgotten that getting dirty is part of childhood.  Playing in the woods and coming home when the street lights come on is part of the adventure of being a boy.
We are so afraid that every boy is a victim.  Every boy is fragile and a broken bone is the end of the world.  I once broke two bones in my arm when I was 10.  What was I doing?  Trying to fly.  Not smart, but you know what, I am no worse for ware.
I watched a Patrol mate burn his eye brows off blowing on a camp fire.  A great laugh and no harm done.  I can remember coming home from camp outs and my mom not letting me in the house till I first took all my clothing off and hosed down in the backyard.  I learned, I grew, and I am a better person for it.
I never earned Basketry or the Art merit badge, and if it were around in 1980 I would not have earned the game design merit badge.  game-designI did earn Backpacking, hiking, first aid, wilderness survival and those badges.  Heck I joined Scouts for fun and adventure.. not more School work.
OUR STORY.
The Boy Scouts of America has a rich tradition and yes it has undergone many changes since 1910, but our story is the same.  Our Story is still about Character building and Citizenship.  Our Story is still about challenge and finding our limits and growing from experience.  Our Story is still about great outdoor programs.  Our Story is still about adventure and life long learning.  Our Story is cool.  But we don’t tell our story the way we want it heard.  We don’t take the opportunity not to be just another YMCA or after school program, but to be the Boy Scouts of America full of the cool stuff that boys want and need.
We tell the story of numbers and membership, but forget that not everyone wants to be or should be a Scout.  We tell the story of abuse and scandal without telling the story of the million great things going on every week at meetings and on monthly camp outs.
We get excited when we have a mediocre district event and wonder why our Scouts are not better recruiters.  We miss out on telling our story in the media when things are going good.  We miss the boat on getting ahead of bad press and showing the Boy Scouts for what we really are.  We are cool, we are making a difference, we are what we say we are.  But, for a group that prides itself of spinning a great campfire yarn, we don’t do a great job of telling our story.
Some thoughts.  We clean up and get ourselves right.  When we have guests come to our house, we straighten up, vacuum, and maybe even light a candle to make the place smell good.
Scouting needs to do that.  We need to get our leaders to wear their uniform right and agree to deliver the promise of Scouting using the methods.  Leaders need to be trained.
We need to get our Scouts in full uniforms out in the community doing something other than selling popcorn or marching in a parade.  We need to show Scouts doing service and other cool stuff that really makes a difference.
We need to budget for local advertising.  We need to get in the media in a positive light every opportunity we can.
We need to sell adventure… Not just another chess club.  (I have nothing against chess, but we are talking adventure here) Boys want and need adventure.
We need to get with current outdoor practices and try new methods of camping.  It is fun for the boys and increases the challenge for the whole unit.
We need to develop better relationships with the Forest service and Park Rangers.  They are a great resource for Scouting.
Do you want Scouting to be cool?  Then you need to act cool.  You need to be cool.  You need to look cool.  Hey, we are cool… right?
I am tired of the BSA getting beat up for nonsense.  I see so much potential in how we can move ahead to tell our story so we can change the perception of Scouting.  And then, our numbers will go up, boys will stay longer, and we will be cool, not just to us, but to everyone.
Your thoughts?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Dance of the Blue Card

bluecardThe application for Merit Badge AKA the “Blue Card, is a little piece of paper that will get even the most level-headed Scouts doing the dance of the blue card.
Just sit back and watch as a Scout realizes that he’ll be 18 in a few months.  The line dance for a visit with the Troop secretary is reminiscent of scene from Urban Cowboy.
I was recently asked about the process of the Blue Card and how we do it in our Troop.  The reader has asked to remain nameless, but I am glad that this question came up.  I can not tell you how times I have had conversations about such a simple thing, but something that is sometimes more confusing than a rubics cube.
Our reader asks;  “Anyway would you share how your Troop handles Blue Cards, from the time the Scout asks to start a merit badge and is give the Blue Card through completion and where the Blue Card goes and who handles what.”
So here it goes… I’ll let you behind the curtain of how Troop 664 does the Blue card dance.  There are actually two ways that we do this.  I will explain the regular way that we do it and then how we do it for summer camp.
First.  The Scout expresses interest in a merit badge… He picks the merit badge and goes to the Troop Secretary and asks for a blue card.
Then, the Scout fills out the Blue card.  He fills out the whole front of the card leaving only my signature space blank.  He fills out the back of the card with his name and the name of the merit badge he is going to work.  He can leave the name of the counselor blank.
The Scout then brings me the blue card and I sign the front of the blue card.  This allows the Scout to start working on the merit badge.  It also gives me an opportunity to talk with the Scout about the badge and answer any questions that he may have.  If I know who the counselor for that merit badge is, I give the Scout the information, if I don’t I have the Scout return to the Troop secretary and she will look up the counselor and give the Scout the information, phone number etc.
The Scout then works the merit badge.  The counselor fills out the card and confirms that the Scout met all of the requirements.  Once the merit badge is complete, the counselor signs and dates it and gives it back to the Scout.
The Scout will then bring the completed blue card back to me.  I then sign the card and have the Scout give the blue card to the Troop secretary.  She records the completion date and merit badge into the Troop master software and takes the first part of the card and files it with the Troop records.  The Scout gets the remainder of the card.  Most counselors do not retain their copy.
The Applicants record is stapled to the merit badge certificate as is the actual merit badge.  The Scout is presented the merit badge at the next court of honor.
That completes the Dance of the Blue card.
The only difference in this process for summer camp is this.  I will pre sign a bunch of blue cards.  I then hand them out on day 1 of summer camp.  The Scout takes the blue card and fills it out and takes it to the first session of the merit badge class.
At the completion of summer camp, the blue cards are returned from the summer camp staff to the Scoutmasters.  I sign all the completed merit badges and make a note of the partials.
During summer camp, I track the merit badges being worked daily.  I keep a chart in my notebook of who is working what badge at what time.  Then I follow-up daily at the “Scoutmaster cabin”.  The camps in our council all make daily progress reports available.  If by Wednesday, it does not look like progress is being made, I have a little chat with the Scout.  It is the Scouts decision to work the badges and I will not force or push the Scout to complete the badges at camp.  I do “Highly encourage” them to get them finished, but at the end of the week.. it will be up to him.
When we get home, I turn over all of the blue cards to the Troop Secretary and she records and goes through the same process as stated above.
So there it is.. The Dance of the Blue Card… I sure hope that helps.
Leave your questions, comments, and suggestions here on the blog or feel free to drop me an email.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The ‘Camp’ Speech

Last night at our Troop meeting I gave my annual Summer Camp talk with the Scouts.  This is never a popular talk with the parents because I kind of go against the grain when it comes to conventional wisdom regarding “Camp”.
The rub comes when I tell the Scouts that the number priority of Summer camp (aside from being safe) is to have as much fun as you possible can.  Do not worry about merit badges.  Take a few and have fun.
I harken back to my Scouting days and the memories I have of Summer camp.  1978 at Camp Freedom was the best time I can remember.  The fun we had purposely falling out of our canoes, shooting bows and arrows and never earning the merit badge, time spent with my best buddies swimming and goofing around at the water front.  Fishing at the lake, singing songs in the dinning hall and just having a great summer camp experience.  That’s what it is all about.
Taking away from camp a life time of memories is more valuable than any merit badge.  Parents often times view summer camp as an advancement opportunity, and it is certainly there for the taking, but cranking out merit badges without having fun is a waste of summer camp.
I encourage the Scouts to take a merit badge or two, participate fully in the evening programs, make new friends, and emerse themselves in the camp experience.
Our younger Scouts are heading off to camp this Sunday.  The older guys hit the Trail at Philmont next week.  Both of the trips offer great life time experiences that needs to be taken advantage of.  Getting wrapped up in what I get out of it by way of cloth is not the focus and when it becomes the sole purpose you miss out on the wonderful Scouting experiences that are part of camp!
Have a Great Scouting Day!