If you play a game that has a desired outcome or purpose it is important that you first know what that purpose is and then have some way of knowing if you achieved the results you were looking for.
By and large that is the reason we have an Eagle Scout Board of Review. We can assess and determine though the interview with the Scout whether or not the program is delivering the promise of Scouting and achieving its goals of helping make young people of character, good citizens, that are physically fit. Along with all of that, do they make ethical choices and does it look like they will do the same in the future.
Reflection is an important part of every thing that we do in Scouting. It allows us to take a look back and see if we achieved the outcomes we want in playing our game.
Reflection comes in many forms, we can do it as a group or take time in silent reflection. But no activity is complete until the reflection is done.
This last weekend our Troop went camping. First winter camp out of the year and we went caving on Saturday exploring the largest Lava tube cave in the US. It is adventurous and challenging and our Scouts love to test themselves. As with most outings or activities a theme develops throughout the weekend. This weekend the theme quickly became “Rising to the Challenge”. Overcoming hardship, attitudes, and things that make you uncomfortable were some of the behaviors that we noticed in our Scouts as they went through the weekend.
For some of the Scouts it was the first time they would camp in sub freezing temperatures. For some it was their first time in a cave. For others it was a leadership challenge as they learned that as a leader there were Scouts that depended on them to just get through the weekend. Cold weather, challenging experiences, and doing something new and difficult.
These young men learned and practiced great leadership. I was pleased to watch as members of the Patrol Leaders Council made their way through camp checking on the younger Scouts. Instructing them on how to get through the night. Reassuring younger Scouts that they will be ok and that if they do what they are taught, they will be warmer in the morning and will be able to have a better experience in winter camping.
I walked through camp Saturday night around 10:30 and found gear properly stored, tents pitched with all the tie outs in place and the sounds of tired happy Scouts sitting in their tents, the gentle glow of a headlamp lighting the green nylon of a tent fly.
Sunday morning leadership was once again challenged as cold fingers attempted to pack even colder nylon tents and sleeping bags. Our departure time was supposed to be 9:00 AM. We missed it by 20 minutes, but the reason was acceptable to me. The Troop was in Patrol lines taking a few minutes to share a few things they learned over the weekend. Patrol leaders talking with their patrols about the challenges they faced over the weekend and how they all rose to the challenge. Before we loaded up I shared with them my pride in them and how they are great young men. I shared with them the fact that they needed to reflect on the weekend and see just how much they learned about skills, their attitude, and how they grew because of the experience. The final question that I asked them to reflect on was this, Is there any place you would rather be?
When we got back to the hall and parents started arriving to pick up their Scouts, many of the Scouts came to me and shared the answer to that last question. Each and every one of them say “NO WHERE ELSE”.
So reflecting back on this weekend I would say Promise Delivered and Program solid.
It is important to reflect. You may not always get the answer you want, that is your opportunity to learn and grow doing better next time. If things are going well… keep it that way! Don’t let it slip.
Make sure that reflection time is a part of your program. Have the Scouts take time to reflect and have serious reflection on how they are doing in the Scouting program. It is a game with a purpose, without reflection, you will not know if that purpose is being met.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Posts Tagged With: Adventure
If you play a game that has a desired outcome or purpose it is important that you first know what that purpose is and then have some way of knowing if you achieved the results you were looking for.
We often focus on membership when it comes to the retention and recruiting issue. This is absolutely a header in the discussion. However a better indication of unit health is your participation percentages. That is how many of your registered Scouts are participating in your activities. This number can tell you many things about your unit. First, it reflects your annual plan. Do the Scouts want to be there and do the things the plan that the Patrol Leaders Council came up with (using Guided Discovery)? Second, is that plan a plan that compels the Scouts to come and be with their patrol mates. And third, does that plan conflict with other events. School, Sports, Council and District events and family plans. These three areas are the top three that I have seen and discussed with committees to find out why and what the issues are in solving the participation problem.
The Scoutmaster plays a big role in the planning of the Scout year. Teaching the Patrol Leaders Council how to look at the calendars and get the right program in place to meet the goals of the unit. Polling the unit to get a feel for what they want to do. And adding elements of the National Program into the plan, Jamborees, High Adventure Bases, and other National opportunities are all critical in giving the Scouts a reason to want to participate.
Here are a couple of tips that have helped us have a successful annual program and increase that participation percentage.
1. Start early. Establish what the range or start and finish of your “Scout year”. Most units use the School year as their beginning and end. Have your annual plan published before the beginning of the planned year. Allow time for budgeting and family planning. My unit uses October as the start of our Scouting year. We do this for a few reasons. First, it falls on a month with a “Non Negotiable” event. Webelos Woods in our District is always in October. This event is a fantastic opportunity to recruit for the unit as well as stand up against the rest of the District allowing our program to be showcased.
And second, October is a good month to launch the program year. Everyone has been in School for a solid month, the holidays are just around the corner and it allows for time in summer to get the plan in place. Starting in June and July, the Patrol Leaders Council meets with the patrols polling them for prospective activities for the coming year. This includes location for Summer camp. Starting early in the summer allows for plenty of time to look at all the calendars that effect the unit and by the end of August a solid plan is in place and the committee can start the budgeting process
2. Stay away from the same old stuff. Pretty much camping is camping. Try new locations or different activities at favorite places. Ensure that opportunities for National experiences are a part of the plan. This in large part is the responsibility of the Scoutmaster and the Committee to provide the resources that introduce these opportunities. In my Troop we look at the time spent in the Troop of the average Scout. That seems to be about 7 years. Over the course of those seven years we want the Scout to have the opportunity to get the very most out of his Scouting experience. Local Council camps, out of Council opportunities, National Jamborees, National Order of the Arrow Conferences, and High Adventure Bases. So we, along with the Patrol Leaders Council established a matrix that plugs these type of activities into the annual plan. If a Scout takes advantage the plan, he will have a well rounded and extremely active time in Scouting. When a Scout joins the unit he and his family can pick those High adventure trips, Jamborees and the like that he will go to well in advance. This takes the burden away from fund raising plans and family vacations etc. Families that have more time to plan will facilitate their sons Scouting experience.
Staying away from the same old stuff gives the Scouts of the Troop something to look forward to. It shows that planning is important and that their experience is important to the life of the Troop.
3. Possibly the most important, make sure the plan comes from the Scouts of the Troop. The Patrol Leaders Council owns the plan, it is theirs and the success of the plan with rest with them. They will be guided and coached along the way, but in the end, they will be happy or not with their plan. Now before you jump off the blog now, keep reading… this is a process that will not happen in one year. We use guided discovery in Scouting. Mistakes can be made as long as the Scouts learn from them. The key for the Scoutmaster in this regard is breaking the Patrol Leaders Council from always taking the path of least resistance. Give them permission to think big and out of the box. If they want to go to Disneyland for Summer camp.. let them. We had a troop recently go to Hawaii for summer camp. Lots of planning and coordination went into it, but it was that kind of out of the box thinking that raised their participation percentage. But its all about their plan. As adults in the program we should support it and do what it takes to make it a success.
4. And the final advice for today, Keep it fun. Scouts are in School all day, they last thing they want is more School at meetings and on weekend camp outs. Give them a reason to want to be a participant. Each outing should be fun and adventurous. When the Scouts know how much fun they are going to have they want to be there. Here is the rub,. Define fun. Fun for one patrol may not be fun for others. Find a balance within the Troop. A great place to start is by establishing Troop Traditions. Fun, silly, and things that build up the team. A tradition of fun camp fires on each outing for example is a neat way of bringing together the Troop while having lots of fun. A mascot can bring the Troop together also. It gives them something to rally behind. In our Troop we do and have both of those and we came up with a necklace that tells their Scouting story. We took our mascot, a Gnome, and had totems made. Each outing and activities has a bead that represents it. At each Court of Honor, the Scout is presented with the beads for the activities he has attended. At first it did not seem like that big of a deal, then the Scouts really took to it. We make a real big deal about presenting the beads and wearing our totem. This is a fun way of making the outings important and creating a reason to be a part of it. We have had a Gnome as our mascot since our first summer camp in 2004. This quickly became a Troop Tradition. Now that we are a backpacking Troop we have inflatable Gnomes that the Senior Patrol Leader carries on each outing. The Scouts love to show off the Gnome. Allow the Scouts to define fun, but remember Guided Discovery, keep the fundamentals and methods of Scouting at the forefront of the program. The Scouts may not need to know the exact purpose of the game, just make sure that the game is played fair and fun.
The participation problem is one that can be solved by a great plan, building in adventure, making sure the Scouts own the plan, and keeping it fun. Traditions, and sticking to the methods of Scouting will assist in building a program that Scouts want to be a part of. This will go along way in solving the problems with Scouts not participating fully in their Troop.
What are some things that your unit does to solve the Participation problem? Share them with us. May be a big help for someone struggling.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Hey gang.. Been awhile.. certainly got away from my blogging goals over the last couple weeks.
No real excuse other than to say other things have taken priority.
The Troop obviously, Staffing Wood Badge once again, and of course family life. Other Scouting opportunities have been popping up in the world of training also. I have recently taught Train the Trainer for our Council and Trainers EDGE over the last month or so.. so lots going on and I have not really had time to sit down and bang away at the computer.
In the mean time I got some new gear and I am super excited about my new Backpack. I ordered it direct from Osprey back in January, but due to the striking long shore men the pack just got here yesterday. Ah well.. it is what it is..
So I will be doing a thorough review and video on it in the near future, but today (after painting the living room and hall) my wife said I could play with my new toy.
I thought I would share my initial thoughts on the Pack with you and like I said, I will get into the weeds with it soon.
First of all I now have the Osprey Aether 60. I went with the Aether 60 pack as that volume seems to be the sweet spot for my backpacking gear, style, and they way I pack.
I have tried to go smaller, but find that I struggle with loading the pack and having my gear accessible while on the trail. Any bigger on the other hand, and I find that I want to fill it. Unneeded gear and extras that I can do without.
So I went with the 63 liter pack. The Osprey Aether series packs come in various sizes ranging from 55 liters to 85 liters. The 55 is just a hair to small for me. I have been using my Mountain Hardwear Koa 55 this past year and have really been unhappy with the way I have to fight it. The 85 liter packs are designed for expeditions and does not fit my needs. Again, when choosing your next pack, know your sweet spot.
The Osprey Aether 60 also comes in 3 different sizes Small which is 3478 cubic inches of space or 57 liters, Medium which is 3661 cubic inches or 60 liters, and Large which comes in at 3844 cubic inches or 63 liters or space. Again, I went with the Large or 63 as it meets my needs and fit my frame.
Which brings me to sizing. It is important to size your pack. I went to my local REI and met with a sales rep. He is trained in sizing for the custom fit of the Osprey packs. Using the Osprey measuring tool at the store we determined that I needed a medium pack to fit my torso.
The nice thing about the Osprey packs are that they are custom. You can mix and match pack components. The Shoulder straps, hip bet, and Frame are all interchangeable.
The hip belt can be custom molded to your hips. This is highly recommended, but if you do not have an authorized retailer with the hip belt oven near you, just wearing the hip belt as you hike will heat it enough to mold it to your hips.
So why did I pick this pack over others? After all I have carried a good Kelty External Frame pack, the Mountain Hardwear pack, a Granite Gear light pack, and the ULA Ohm over the last couple of years. Well, it came down to fitting my needs and my style of backpacking.
Since we have been back from Philmont (2012) I have been toying the idea of getting a new pack. I carried the Granite Gear pack at Philmont and it was not big enough to handle the gear we carried as a crew.. namely all the water. The ULA pack, while I loved how comfortable it is did not fit my needs for winter camping and I found myself worried about its durability.
An Assistant Scoutmaster in our Troop had been carrying the Osprey pack and after our big backpacking trip in the Olympics last summer I started looking at his pack and how it may fit my needs. After doing my homework.. I came to conclusion that the Osprey Aether 60 was for me.
Here are the specifics:
The pack weighs in at 4 lbs 11 ounces. A bit heavier that I would like in a pack, but I had to make a compromise somewhere. With my overall gear getting lighter I am ok with the base pack weight being a little heavier.
The Aether is made of 210D and 75D Stretch woven ripstop nylon and 500D plain weave nylon oxford. I got the Arroyo Red pack. It also comes in a Blue and Green.
Features of the pack that I drew me to it; A nice removable top pouch that can become a Lumbar pack for day trips. I like the separate sleeping bag compartment at the bottom and I love the Airscape Suspension (back panel). It breaths well and is super comfortable.
With this pack it is the little details that I really love. All of the zipper pulls are fantastic. They are a molded plastic covered pull, comfortable to pull and usable with gloves.
There are plenty of ways to compress the pack for a custom fit.
Finally the outside back panel is a huge stretch pocket. Great for storing all of those need to get to fast items.
The pack is a top loader, but it also has front panel access.
Ok.. so am starting to get a little to far into the weeds with this. I will be doing a good video review soon. In the mean time, here is a short video put out by Osprey. It will give you an introduction to my new pack.
My first impression is that I like it a lot. I love the ease of access, the design, and the over all detail in the features.
Stay tuned for a full review.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Like most units, our Troop has a new Scout Patrol that has started their Scouting adventure in earnest. They crossed over in February, like most Webelos and went on their first camp out with the Troop that following week. The Troop went to Camp Meriwether to do some Shot Gun Shooting and start working their Trail to First Class. The older guys shot and spent time either teaching the new Scouts or hanging out on the beach.
This last weekend, the new Scout Patrol (the Eagles) went on their second camp out as Boy Scouts. A 10 mile backpacking trip down the historic Barlow Trail. The trip was a perfect shake down trip getting these young Scouts ready for future adventures. We had everything. Rain, Snow, Sun, and perfect trail. Great camp sites and lots of fun.
The Eagles did fantastic. They were prepared and had a great time.
When we got home, I spoke with one of the parents of the new Scout patrol. He asked how the weekend went and I told him that the boys did great. He shared with me how excited his son is about being in the Troop and that this is what he wanted Boy Scouts to be like. He has friends that joined other Troops and are not getting the same level of adventure. I thanked him and told him that our Troop would have it no other way.
In our discussion we talked about why we can take first year Scouts out on these adventures immediately. It’s about our expectations. Scouts join our Troop expecting to go on great adventures and so we deliver on that expectation. There is also an expectation that the Scout participate and embrace the adventure.
We expect them to be prepared. We expect them to want to be there and be engaged. None of this is written down in a pamphlet or Code of Conduct. It just is.
We wear the full uniform. Again, not written down, just is. A new boy paying the Troop a visit immediately see’s the team dressed alike, acting alike, and preparing alike. It just is that way.
We have three rules in our Troop. #1, Have Fun. #2. Be Safe. And #3, Live the Scout Oath and Law. Everything else takes care of itself when those three rules are meet. It is expected.
Not every young man is willing to raise themselves to met these simple expectations. Most however look for ways to be a part of our team.
We do not let money, time, or social status hinder our expectations. Scouts are expected to pay their own way. They don’t have to sell pop corn or candy… they can mow lawns, shovel snow, collect cans, or whatever.. but they are expected to pay their way. There is no excuse not to go to Summer camp. Money is not an issue when you earn your way. Excuses do not get far in our troop.. just another expectation.
We expect the parents to be involved. They don’t have to go camping or become merit badge counselors, but they do have to take an interest in their son. We ask them to be drivers on occassion and show up to celebrate our Troops success.
Parents that are engaged in their Troop keep their sons engaged in the Troop and there is always help needed somewhere when you have an active Troop like ours.
So what of these expectations? Why?
Simply put, Units that have high expectations are better performers.
They have a better product and do better in every measurable area of the unit.
Retention, Advancement, Participation, and developing Leaders.
I recently heard a conversation recorded with General (Retired) Stanley A. McChrystal. Now, no matter how you feel about the military (which Scouting is not) you can not argue with Leadership and what makes an effective leader. Stanley McChrystal is a dynamic leader and has proven that at multiple levels. Now he owns a company that teaches leadership and develops corporate cultures to become high performance teams.
He states that raising the expectation level of an organization is key to building the High Performance team.
There was a study conducted by the US Army in the late 90’s. They took a soldier from a Super High performing unit and placed him in a under performing unit. The first couple months the soldier maintained his high level of performance, within 6 months, he began to adapt to the level of the unit. Within a year, this soldier no longer wanted to be in the Army. The opposite was also found to be true. They placed a soldier from an under performing unit into a super high performance. He had the basic skill sets and was qualified to be in that unit. He was an average soldier upon entry. Within months he had adapted to the rigorous physical training and skill level performance increased. Within a year he was completely entrenched in the unit and a super soldier.
It all came down to the expectations of the unit. In the Army a Ranger Battalion has the exact same configuration as any other Infantry Battalion. Yet the Rangers are elite and other Infantry units are not. Why? Expectations. They are indoctrinated in this culture of excellence from the day they arrive. They are all volunteers and are expected to meet and exceed the norms of the unit.
So what makes one Boy Scout Troop different from any other Boy Scout Troop? The Scout handbook and Field book are the same, the skills are the same, the configuration of Patrols, Committees, and Adult leaders are all the same. The Training is the same (National Syllabus). The Districts and Councils are all operating under the same rules and commitment to delivering the promise of Scouting. So what is different? Expectations.
We can see too why Scouts leave units. Scouting in that particular unit fails to meet the expectations of the boy and the parent and so they leave.
Units that take Scouting serious and make a solid commitment to delivering the promise of Scouting do. They do not make excuses and they do not compromise when it comes to delivering a great program.
They do not let money dictate their program. They do not allow failure to stop them from getting back up and trying again.
They are youth led and use the Patrol method. They do not make up their own rules, they use the program as designed. They understand Scouting and what it is designed to do. They have trained adults that care.
The new Scout Dad that I was talking with on Sunday asked what the little beads I was wearing meant. I told them they are the Wood Badge and it is for completing Wood Badge training. He asked if Wood Badge was mandatory in Scouting. I told him no, but it should be. He said that the reason he asked was because he noticed all of the Adult leaders in the Troop wear them. I said it was because they believe in giving our Scouts the very best.
It is not mandatory, but clearly has become one of those unwritten expectations of our unit. It is one of the things that makes us different, better, a High performance team.
What do you expect from Scouting? What do your parents expect from the unit? Do you have big expectations or is mediocre fine for you and your unit?
Have a Great Scouting Day!
I am often critical of how our boys are being, or seem to be being led down a path that is removing them from adventure, fun, and testing their ability to grow into men.
I am talking about how we hypocritically rail on about how things were when we were kids.. you know, drinking from a hose, climbing trees, mud clod fights, staying out till the street lights came on, loading up our packs and getting on our bikes and heading out for over nighters… You know, that stuff that made our childhood and for many of us our Scouting experience fun and exciting.
We talk about the good old days with fondness and make it a point to tell those stories to our kids and our Scouts, but no way in hell are we going to allow our kids to do that great stuff… No way in hell.
We are so afraid of lawyers and our kids getting a little hurt that we have placed them in a bubble.
For the record, I am not one of those.
My boys climbed trees and we made it a point to allow adventures. The first time I ever took my two sons backpacking we hiked about 2 1/2 miles up to a little lake. They were 5 and 7 years old respectively. The weather was not the best, but it was time to get out. Hey if you live in Oregon you can’t be a fair weather camper. I will never forget that outing. After I showed them how to use a MSR Whisperlite stove, we cooked dinner and the temperature started to drop. We climbed into the tent. It started to snow. We made up stories and ate dehydrated ice cream sandwiches.
Why do have to change things? The answer is that we don’t.
I am a collector of Scouting literature. I have a nice collection of all of the Boy Scout Field Books. The worst of which is the current edition.
Looking back at some of the older Field Books, especially the Field Book from when I was a Scout, they are full of skills and adventure. They open the doors for boys to develop self reliance and skills that help them both in the outdoors and in their daily lives.
Cooking fish over an open fire, building shelters, heading out into the woods to hang out with your buddies. Pioneering that could actually be used for something other than demonstrations. The picture in this post.. God for bid we actually build a bridge today over real water.
So why? Lawyers? Really? It’s not the lawyers… it’s the parents. After all, who is calling the lawyer. Lawyers don’t hang out in the woods waiting for you to allow a Scout to climb a tree. Lawyers are not there when you head to a lake and take a swim. Lawyers are not there to say no.. we say it because we are afraid that a parent would not approve of her little darling be let out of the protective bubble.
I was talking to a group of new parents (to Boy Scouts) the other night. When we presented the annual plan to them, I could see on their faces that they were not to comfortable with some of the high adventure activities that we do. Backpacking, canoeing, shooting sports, you know.. scouting. Seeing this look, I asked what concerns they have. It turns out that they are just concerned about their son being able to do all of this without them.
That, I told them, will be just fine. The boys do well without their parent hovering over them. I went on to explain that we don’t just drop off their son in the woods and pick them back up on Sunday. We have qualified adults that are there to teach them, coach them, and mentor them. Not do it for them, but prepare them to do it alone or with their patrol. I told them that it will ultimately come down to trust.
You either trust that we doing Scouting right or you don’t. If you do, your son will have an awesome time in Scouting. If you don’t, he will not be able to participate because you won’t let him. If that is the case, you should find another activity for him.
Building that Trust is up to the unit leaders. Assembling the right group of adult leaders that are willing to go the extra mile to be trained and seek additional training for the type of activities your unit does. It is easy to be a STEM troop. You just take your Scouts to the Science museum and pick them up in an hour. Having skilled , trained leaders to execute a Scouting program is important. I have mentioned this before but it is not our job to tell the Scouts no. If they want to put something on their calendar that is adventurous, find a way to do it. In our Troop we never say no. And we find a way to facilitate their adventures. Among the Assistant Scoutmasters and I we have thousands of miles on the trail. Hundreds of hours climbing, canoeing, kayaking, and winter camping. If we can’t find an expert, we become on. I can not tell you how much money has been spent to get extra training and gear just so we could do a great outing. We are not afraid to share that resume with the parents, it is all about building their trust and confidence in us so they will let their boy out of the bubble.
I don’t blame society on this. Nothing has changed. The water is still wet, the trees still grow, and night falls about the same times as it did when we were kids. The BB gun stings just like it did when I was kid, and fish still taste better than ever over an open fire. What was fun for us is just as fun for our kids today. Let them be boys.
Bob Mazzucca once said that we need to take Scouting where the boys are. So we have taken them to the zoo, to the museum, and to all the safe places that parents have pushed the boy into the bubble. Boys used to be outside and looking for adventure, and that is where we need to take them. Taking Scouting to where the boys are used to mean something a bit different. I don’t want to take Scouting where they are right now. Scouting belongs outside not behind a computer or in the lab. Yes, before I get beat up by all the STEM guys.. there is a time and place for that, but Scouting is Scouting.. just take a look at what it is in the old field books.
Flipping through those pages I find that there is nothing in them that we can not do today. We just won’t because it is to comfortable in the bubble.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
I have been digging through my collection of Troop Pictures and wanted to find some good annual pictures of our Troop, you know, the Summer camp shots that show what a great year of Scouting we had.
As I dug through my collection I looked back on all of those young men that have enjoyed a great program at our Troop. I think about all of the young men that have come and gone. Some stuck it out to the end, some are still active with the Troop.
It has been fun to look at the guys and think about the funny stories that come with each of these pictures.
In light of current discussions on growth and membership, when I look at these pictures I see our program and why it works. I see great kids that want to play the game with a purpose. I see those adults that give a ton to the program. I see the place we have been and things that we have done and it makes me want to give more to these incredible young men that join looking for the adventure of a life time.
As I look back on these pictures I can’t help but remember those years when membership was booming and activities never seemed to end. I think back on our transition from a “Patrol Box Troop” to a “Backpacking Troop” and how that changed our adventure. It also changed our membership. It made us a bit smaller, not every young man wants that kind of adventure. I think about all the Scouts that we talked with on join nights and Troop visits that we suggested different Troops to. Those young guys that had that look that they did not want to join our Troop, but for us them staying in Scouting was more important. I often run into some of those young men and am glad that they stayed in Scouting. Even though we did not ‘get them’ Scoutingwon and so did the Scout. A look at the pictures bring back memories of attacking raccoon’s and awesome dutch oven cook offs. They tell a story of our Troop and the fun that we have had.
Doing an independent camp out in Eastern Oregon was a great adventure. A staff made up of our parents and Scout leaders. Trips to historical sites and learning to catch bee’s. Water skiing, horseback riding, and launching rockets. Hanging out in the stream and paddling rubber rafts across the pond with our hands. Catching fish and having an amazing fish fry, for some the first time they ever had Trout.
Leaving an Order of the Arrow Sash at Chief Josephs grave marker was a special day and raising the flag on the flag pole we cut, shaved, and placed on the ranch property leaving the owner speechless with a tear in his eye is a memory I will never forget. Troop 664 shined that summer and did something that I never thought we could pull off. 5 hours from home and one of the best summer camp experiences we have ever had.
In 2010 13 members of Troop 664 went to the National Jamboree with Contingent Troop 720. I had the pleasure of being the Scoutmaster for that Troop and Rob, one of Troop 664’s Assistant Scoutmasters was an Assistant Scoutmaster in 720 also. The rest of the Troop went to Camp Baldwin that year and I do not have a picture of that group.
If you have never been to a National Jamboree you need to go. It is said that the National Jamboree is a once in a life time experience. Well, not really, you can go to as many as you want. But 2010 was a special year. Being the 100th Anniversary of Scouting in America, the Jamboree in 2010 was very special. It was very cool that I was selected to be a Scoutmaster. It was extremely special that my two sons were in my Troop. It was the only National Jamboree that the three of us would every be able to go to together. The young men of that Troop were very special and bonded quickly. Those bonds remain. That group will forever have a special place in my heart.
As you all know, Philmont has a special place in my heart also. I love Philmont. In 2012 our Troop put together two Crews and made the journey to Scouting’s Paradise.
It was a life changing event for many of the Scouts of our Troop. That group of Scouts that made the trek in the Sange DeCristo Mountains came home different. The other day we were talking about the guys that went to Philmont Scout Ranch. Of that group all but three stayed in Scouting. 5 are or will be in the very near future Eagle Scouts. The rest are still active in the Troop. One completely turned himself around and became our Scout of the Year last year. Philmont made a lasting impression on the life of Troop 664. Last Monday I sat with a Scout, he was my Crew leader at Philmont, for his Scoutmaster Conference for the Eagle award. We talked about Philmont and his impression of the experience. He shared with me that at first he was not to excited because he was the crew leader and was afraid that he would be to busy leading that he would miss the experience. On the contrary. It was his leadership and the way our Crew bonded that made the Philmont experience a special one. We talked about his experiences in the Troop and his growth. He talked about Jamboree, Philmont, and all the cool camping trips. Troop 664 delivered the promise to him and continues to provide the adventure of Scouting to the young men that keep showing up.
Last year our Troop went North to the Chief Seattle Council to Camp Pigott. It was the second time we have been there and the experience was once again fantastic. The camp is great, the staff is wonderful and the experience is always one that the Scouts talk about for year. In all of this, as I look back though, it’s not the camp, it’s not the staff, it’s not the time of year. It’s the Troop that makes these pictures come alive. It’s the Troop that as it grows and passes along traditions, stories, leadership, and fun creates the wonderful adventure of Scouting. That is the common theme that has run through the adventure of Troop 664 for the last 10 years and I am certain it will continue for the next 10… and beyond.
Finding that adventure in where we go and what we do. In our young men and the dedication of the adults that go along for the journey. As I look back at these pictures I can’t help but think that we are doing it right. The proof, they keep coming back. They learn, they grow, they become men of Character. All of that wrapped up in this game we play.
Delivering the Promise is a unit thing. Every unit needs to wrap itself in that promise and provide endless adventures for the young men of tomorrow. I look forward to seeing more and more pictures of Troop 664. I need to find the rest. It is fun to watch the growth of the Troop.
How’s your adventure?
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!
This is sort of a follow up to yesterdays post.
As some of you know I collect Scouting Literature and memorabilia. I often like to look back at the old Scoutmaster handbooks and see how things are different. The one thing that I have seen that is constant is “the boy”.
I am going to quote extensively from the 1953 Handbook for Scoutmasters in the this post. I know that it is not cool to use so much material like that. But I really need the BSA’s help (from 1953) here to make my point.
On what a boy wants:
He wants to stand on his own two feet, to make decisions, to show his independence and initiative. He dreams of being a leader.
I see that in today’s boys. The problem is that they don’t know what they don’t know and so we need to teach them.
He wants action and fun. He wants to be in the thick of things, to run and fight, to be on the move.
But today we don’t want him running, he might get hurt. But today’s boy still wants to run, just watch him. Most of what we call ADD today is pent-up energy. We need to let the boy let it out.
He craves adventure, a change of surroundings. He want to experience new things in new ways, to feel the wind in his hair, the sun in his eyes. He wants to escape, to get away from his everyday life.
Boy, that sounds good does it not? Sounds like all the reasons we joined Scouts when I was a kid. Sounds like the reason a lot of still do Scouting. Why not let the boys do that to.
In 1953 the Handbook for Scoutmasters shared “We must take him as we find him, and help him grow into the man he hopes to be.” Sounds familiar. Bob Mazzucca told us this just a few years ago. The handbook reminds us also that we in Scouting do not have the sole responsibility for helping the boy become a man. “Most of it, as a matter of fact rests within his home, his Church, his School.” The 1953 handbook goes on to say; Then in our own work with the boy, let us strive to do well the things that we know that Scouting can do- and can do better than any other agency… He comes to us because he wants to become a Scout- he wants to Scout!
The book goes on to talk about the fact that boys do not come to Scouts to get more School (paraphrasing), but for the Outdoor thrills of hikes and camp. I will wrap up my last quote from the handbook with this.
That’s what he comes for. And that’s what we must give him: THE SCOUTING ADVENTURE HE EXPECTS!
By giving him pure unadulterated Scouting, we come closest to reaching our goal.
Now I don’t know about you, but in my opinion boys have not changed. It is the parents that have changed and as a result, they are taking the boyhood out of the boy.
A quick look back at not so long ago gives a peek into a world that allowed boys to be boys. I contend that nothing today precludes us from still letting that happen.
I am curious to see where you stand on this. Leave us a comment, lets talk about this. I want our boys back!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
First 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.
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.
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. I did earn Backpacking, hiking, first aid, wilderness survival and those badges. Heck I joined Scouts for fun and adventure.. not more School work.
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.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Those of you that have followed the blog for a while know that I am a fan and collector of Scouting literature. I don’t just collect the books, magazines, and other literature, I love to get into them and see how Scouting was, how Green Bar Bill wrote and what the program looked like over the decades.
A common phrase I hear often from “older” Scouters is how things were “Back when I was a Scout”. It seems that things were so much better back when we were Scouts. But then I got to digging in to the literature and what I have found is that the more things change.. the more they really do stay the same.
Yes, before I get hate mail… Scouting has changed a lot over time, but really, it has stayed the same.
In the 1959 edition of the Boy Scout Handbook the Boy Scouts of America talks about YOU, the American Boy.
Before I get into this, I was listening to a podcast the other day. The host of the podcast was talking about kids today and some of the things that they have lost over time. Some of the heritage of America has not been adequately passed down to our kids. I remember when I was a kid that we played like we were on the wild frontier of America. I was Daniel Boone and some of my friends would play the roles of Davy Crockett and Kit Carson, and Wild Bill Hickok. We would fight the battle of the Alamo, build rafts and float down the “Missouri”. We built forts and tried to live the legends of American History. I once met Daniel Boone at Frontier land in Disneyland. It was a great day, you would have thought Daniel Boone came back just for me to meet him.
I think everyone I knew could sing every word of Davy Crockett. You remember.. he was the “King of the wild Frontier”.
I think watching the tv shows, seeing our hero’s at Disneyland, and learning about them in Scouting, School, and out in the woods shaped how we played the game with a purpose then.
Who are the hero’s today? Who are those Davy Crockett’s that the kids today run through the woods acting like?
The 1959 handbook talks about the American boy…
“Have you ever dreamed of hiking the wilderness trails that were worn down under moccasins hundreds of years ago? Do you hear in your imagination the almost soundless dip-dip of Indian canoe paddles or the ring of the axe of an early pioneer hewing a home out of the American wilderness? Have you followed with your mind’s eye the covered wagons on the trek across our continent? Have you thought of the men and women who built our country by their determination and devotion? You are the descendant of those people. You are the guardian of what they built. You are the American on whom the future of our wonderful country depends.”
Great writing. It inspired Scouts for years to learn about our heritage and not feel ashamed of being an American boy. It valued the spirit of the pioneer, the frontiersman, the explorer an encouraged the Scout to seek that adventure and become a part of the American Narrative.
We have lost that kind of writing in our current handbooks. Now the handbook gets the Scout to the next rank. But the more they change, the more they are the same. Where we have lost it is in us. We have stopped teaching them. We have stopped allowing them to be American boys.
“Today you are an American boy. Before long you will be an American man.” The ’59 handbook continues. “It is important to America that you become a citizen of fine character, physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” We all agree that there is no change there. The handbook, as in today’s handbook sets the course for the Scout to begin a life of values and adventure. “Yes, it’s fun to be a Boy Scout! It’s fun to go hiking and camping with your best friends… to swim, to dive, to paddle a canoe, to wield and axe… to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers who led the way through the wilderness…to stare into the glowing embers of a campfire and dream of the wonders of the life that is in store for you.” Do we make that promise to our boys today? Why not? Nothing has changed there. The world is not that much different.
I always tell our new Scouts as we sit around the campfire to watch the older boys as they join us in the circle. There is a magic in the campfire. It is a magic that no matter who you are or what your job is in the troop, it plays true every time. That magic is in the embers. It forces one to stare and quietly be a part of it. And sure enough, someone will join us in the circle and their eyes will immediately move to glow of the fire. Where once a loud noise came is now silent and engaged in the magic of Scouting. It is for us to not allow things to change. Scouting is rich in tradition, values, adventure, and spirit. The more things change, the more that will always stay the same. If we want it to.
I think that we need to go back and take a look at old handbooks. Look at the writing of William Hillcourt and how he could draw the imagination of the boys of America. Look how he engaged them to being a part of the rich heritage and adventurous spirit of Americans before them.
We have lost that spirit and way that pull the boys of America into this great adventure. It will be gone if we don’t share it. If we don’t allow them to be American boys.
Building rafts like Huck Finn and standing atop the Alamo defending an ideal. Hanging out in a tree house and hiking off into the wilderness in search of new land. We hold them back in the name of protection, we kill their spirit of adventure and call it safety. I cringe at the thought of not passing on our American spirit to this generation of boys.
They want it.. they just don’t know what it is.
The more things change.. the more the American boy is the same.. Let him be one!
“When you are a Scout, forest and field, rivers and lakes, are your playground. You are completely at home in God’s great outdoors. You learn to notice every sound, to observe every track. Birds and animals become your friends. You master the skills of walking noiselessly through the woods, of stalking close to a grazing deer without being noticed, of bringing a bird to you by intimating it’s call. You learn to find your way cross country by map and compass, to make a meal when you are hungry, to take a safe swim when you are hot, to make yourself comfortable for the night in a tent or under the stars. You become a true outdoorsman.” Boy just like when I was a kid acting like Daniel Boone.. the king of the wild frontier. This was Scouting when I was a boy… and it is Scouting now. We just need to remember that things really have not changed that much.. it is us that changed. The wilderness still calls, adventure still yells for our boys to come. Are you going to let them?
Have a Great Scouting Day!