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 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! 

Categories: Advancement, blog, comments, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, planning, Scouting, technology, training | 9 Comments

The Pulk Project

This year our troop has decided to expand our winter camping skills by making a piece of gear that will assist in a better cold weather camping experience.  We are building Pulk Sleds.
A Pulk sled is a sled that is used to haul gear, tools, wood, whatever in the snow.  There are many designs out there and many price ranges.  We thought we could make them a lot cheaper and get more out of it in the long run.  So the search began for a sled that would work.  We did not want to break the bank on the sleds.  I saw a few YouTube videos of people making Pulk sleds out of ordinary kids plastic sleds.  We figured.. this would work for us.
But I wanted one for me that would last longer and be sturdy enough to take my load.  I purchased the Jet Sled Jr. from Shappell. Jet Sled Jr.  It is a sled designed for ice fishing and conversion to a Pulk sled.  The cost was $29.99, so that’s not to bad.  But for the sleds for the Troop a bit to much for our budget.  Back to the kids sleds.   I found a good sturdy sled at Big 5 Sports for $15.  Then we took the design that would stay within our budget and meet the needs of the Pulk sled.
So here is the list of materials needed to build the sled.Flexable Flyer
1 Sled.  We bought the Flexible Flyer Winter Lightning sled – $15.00
100 Feet of synthetic rope (100 feet will make about 4 sleds)- $8.00 ($2 per sled)
6 snap links -$5.88 for all 6
1 10 ft. length of 1/2 inch PVC – $1.68
Total cost of the materials – $25.00
Start by cutting the PVC pipe in half.  Run a length of rope through the PVC and tie off each end with a loop.  Run a snap link through each loop.
Drill holes at lengths where you want to have tie downs.  Run the rope over and under, tieing a knot so the loops maintain their shape.
Tie loops at the front.. connect the PVC arms and you are finished.
A $25 Pulk sled.
The Scouts of the Troop will be making 2 per Patrol, and if they want to go out and make their own, like I am.. they are welcome to.  This is a great project that is extremely simple but will add to our winter camping experience.
I will do a video on the making of my Pulk sled, and will more than likely shoot some video of the Scouts making their sleds.  And of course you will see them in action in January.
Here are the pictures of the “Prototype” sled that I made to show the Scouts what we are talking about.

So there it is… A pulk sled!  A fun project.. can’t wait to get it in the snow.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Skills, technology | 4 Comments

HalfEagle Answers

Many of you that hit this blog are aware if not very aware of Gregg Hilferding’s site.  It is a great place to keep up with Scouting web sites and whats going on in the online Scouting community.
Gregg wrote me the other day saying;

If you’ve spent much time on some of the popular Scouting message boards, forums or mailing lists, you’ve probably been amazed by how quickly discussions can spiral into heated debates. I think that the way these sites are set up are fundamentally flawed and I’ve made a site that I hope will provide the desired service to it’s members (sharing knowledge with fellow Scouters) while also demonstrating Scouting values.
 This community model has already proven itself in programming communities — I hope it will do as well in the Scouting community.

I have been toying around at the new HalfEagle Answers site, and I think that once this site gets out there and some of the “regulars” start asking and answering some questions this too will be a great Scout related site on the net.

I encourage you all to check our HalfEagle Answers.  Contribute and see what you think.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, technology | Leave a comment

Monitor the net

The internet, I think you all agree is a great thing.  Right?  It has opened up the Scouting World literally.  I mean, think about it, when I was a Scout I can remember thinking how great it was to participate in Jamboree on the Air.  Going to our meeting hall where one of our Assistant Scoutmasters had set up his HAM Radio.  We dialed in and talked to Scouts from about 6 other country’s that day.  It was the coolest.
But now we just hop online and open up Skype or a chat window, and our Scouting world closes in and through our head phones or speakers we are talking with Scouters all over the place.
I spent the better part of an hour last night chatting with a Scoutmaster in Wisconsin.. I am sure you know who that is.
The other day while we taught our Social Media class we stressed the point that the internet and social media is here to stay, we don’t what form it is going to take next year, but right now we have Blogs, Podcasts, Google +, Facebook and Twitter, just to name a few.  In our units we use combinations of some or all of these tools to communicate within and outside of our unit.  The important thing to remember, especially when we are talking about our Scouts using these outlets, is to monitor it.
Set up permissions.  Only allow your unit to access some things on the Troop web site.
Restrict passwords.  Give them out, but change them as large groups of people rotate in and out of the unit.
Keep your eye out for spam, rude comments, and un solicited visitors.  This is important.  It’s ok to shut out some ones opinion on YOUR site.
Be honest and transparent in your communications.  Tell Scouting’s Story in a positive light.  Leave your negative comments in a journal under your bed.  You may have had a bad experience, but don’t share it with the rest of the world… it’s not good for Scouting.
Watch the youth of your unit and how they use the media.  They are good at it and they use it a lot more than us.  That’s a good thing, but monitor it.  The Scouting stuff  should always reinforce the values of the Scout Oath and Law and should never be taken out of the context of Scouting.
The internet is a great thing, but like everything, needs to be watched.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Ideals, Oath and Law, podcast, technology | Leave a comment

PTC and not the Podcast…

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be a trainer at our Councils Program and Training Conference.. PTC.  I was asked to help teach a class on using Social Media and Websites with my Wood Badge buddy Adam.  Then Jackie this years Coordinator asked if I would want to teach something else.  I taught two sessions on the Scoutmaster Conference.  A subject that I am not only familiar with, but passionate about.  My good friend Larry helped me out with that, in all honesty, all I did was the talking.  He did a great job getting the material from the National syllabus and putting it all together in a Powerpoint presentation. 
Both of the classes went real well and were very well received.  The social media class went a lot better than I thought.  It seems that as we discussed the options out there and how we use social media the audience seemed to warm up to the idea that social media and electronic communication is here to stay.
When it comes to social media and electronic communication I always go back to what Bob Mazzuca, our Chief Scout Executive said, ” We have to take Scouting where the Scouts are.”  And they are on the internet, on their smart phones, and communicating rather effectively with other media outlets.
Our media class centered on communication to and within the unit.  It was nice that Adam is a Cub Scouter and so he brought the Pack perspective to the discussion.  I on the other hand represented Boy leadership and how the Scouts use social media in the daily function of the Troop.
We talked about the Do’s and Don’ts of using Web sites, Twitter, Google + and Facebook focusing a lot of attention on who should and should not use these outlets.  Most of this discussion came down to permissions and monitoring of the communications being sent at every level.
We did two sessions of this class and in both, the participants had great questions and moved the discussion along with enthusiasm and interest.  It was nice to see the diversity of the groups meaning, participants from every level of Scouting, ages, and genders.  I hope that we made everyone comfortable with social media and how it can be used in Scouting to not only communicate to each other, but to tell Scouting’s Story in a positive light.

The class on the Scoutmaster Conference was equally received.  A lot of interest among the Scoutmasters and soon to be Scoutmasters that attended.  I recorded one of the sessions, so I will see how that turned out and post it as a podcast.
So until I get that cleaned up and ready, I think I will leave that subject for another post.

All in all I had a great time at the PTC this year and will be an instructor again next year.  It was really great to see all my Wood Badge friends… almost like going to a family reunion.  We had dinner together last night and my head still hurts from laughing so much.
I like the idea of combining the Cub Scout Pow Wow and the Advancement extravaganza.  I don’t know what the turn out in numbers was yesterday, but at a glance it seemed as if there were at least 400 participants yesterday.  As this program grows I can see the numbers go up also.  It is a great venue for training, fun, seeing program ideas, and fellowship.
Good job Cascade Pacific council!  We’ll do it again next year!
You can read another perspective on this at Scouter Adams Blog.  He’s my Troop Guide buddy and we had a ball yesterday together teaching fellow Scouters!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Scoutmaster conference, technology, training | 1 Comment

Electronics and Scouting

There are many out there that feel that there is no place for electronics in Scouting.. no phones, ipods, or gps units.  Well I tend to disagree with those folks, but with this caveat, training, skills, and appropriate time and place.
Training.  IF you are going to use a gps unit you need to know how to read a map and compass.  Goecaching has made gps very popular and has taken away some of the map and compass skills that we use in the field.  The game of geocaching on the other hand has gotten lots of folks out in the woods and hiking from point to point.  I love this idea, but… add the map and compass skill to your list when hunting for your next treasure.  Total reliance on the gps may leave you stranded when the batteries die.  the compass and map will never fail you.  So map and compass training is a must.
Training in basic camping (outdoor) skills are a must.  Knot tying, First aid, and setting camp, cooking, and the principles of leave no trace are all must have skills.  Your iPhone can help in those endeavors.  There are great apps out there that teach skills.  The Boy Scout handbook is a nice tool on the iPhone to take Scouting where the Scout is… on his phone.
In my troop we do not discourage the use of electronics.  Game units, gps, iPhones, etc are all welcome.  We do not have a written policy or a guidebook on how and when to use these items, it is understood however that there is an appropriate time and place.  Once a Scout understands the when and where and the fact that we welcome technology the instances of abuse are rare.  It is a matter of teaching, trusting, and letting them lead in the use of their electronics.
I think that there is a place for electronics in Scouting… and Scouting thinks so too.  If you trust your Scouts to do the right thing, train them in the proper use, and then establish the appropriate time and place that it all can be used, it will naturally find its place in your unit.
There recently was a good article in Backpacker magazine about skills and the iPhone.. check it out here.
Let me know what you think.  Leave a comment or drop me an email.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, gear, Scoutmaster minute, technology | 3 Comments

Pod casting

A recent improvement to the Scouting program using today’s technology is the Pod Cast.
Now for those of you that don’t know, the Pod Cast is a way to present information, typically from an Internet host. You can download these presentations or listen to them right on your computer.
Many people say, “Well I don’t have an Ipod!” The good news is you don’t have to own an Ipod. Any program or device that plays MP3 files will do.

These presentations are like listening to talk radio shows, good for us, we have some Scouters out there that have found there way to our MP3 Players, and the message they are sending is good.

Here are a few examples of Scouting Pod Cast sites:

The Cascade Pacific Council is trying their hand at it. You can find them here.
This is another great site that really suites me. CLICK HERE.
If you are interested in the Order of the Arrow and Patch collecting than you want to check out the Cloth Talk site.
For those of you that are still active in the Cub Scout program check out this neat site that will make your MP3 Scout friendly! And I love the Title An hour a week!”
Staying with the Cubbies… The Boy Scouts of America have this site for you.

Here is a one “Pod cast” from the BSA PODCAST Website. I am not sure if this is an “Official” site of the BSA, but they have some good programs. Take a listen, and take it with you.

You gotta love Technology!

Happy Scouting!

Categories: technology | Leave a comment

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