scouting-apps

Best Scouting apps for iPhone and Android, 2014 edition

Empty your backpack and leave everything behind. All you need on your next Scouting outing is your smartphone.

OK, so maybe that’s an exaggeration.

What is true, though, is that for the two-thirds of Americans who own smartphones, it’s now possible to fit reference books, a GPS device, a weather radio, a compass, a map, a camera, a field guide, a recipe book and more in your pocket.

But which apps are worthy of downloading (or even — gasp! — paying for) to enhance your Scouting experience? Your fellow Scouters helped me compile the ultimate list below.

First, though, a quick note on smartphones in Scouting. They’re here to stay; resistance is futile. When used properly, these technological tools can actually improve your Scout unit. The BSA’s Deputy Chief Scout Executive, Gary Butler, made a compelling case for viewing them as a cure, not a curse. Read his comments here.

With that out of the way, check out the best Scouting-related apps after the jump.

Continue reading

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Drink Right: Why now’s the time to replace soda and bug juice with water

healthy-kidsWhen Scout Executive Michael Riley made the choice to eliminate bug juice at the Cape Cod & Islands Council’s summer day camps, he braced for a revolt.

But no uprising came. Sugar-saturated bug juice was available one summer, and the next summer only water was served.

“Surprisingly, we got no pushback from the parents,” he told me. “They said, ‘That’s good; the Scouts don’t need that.’ And the kids? They just thought, ‘This is what we’ve got.’”

This positive step toward healthy living will go a long way toward preventing and reversing obesity in Scouts in Michael’s council. But it shouldn’t stop there.

Your pack, troop, team, crew, ship or post can be a part of this three-step approach to healthy living known as Drink Right, Move More, Snack Smart. The effort is the brainchild of Healthy Kids Out of School (with major funding from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation) and a Boy Scouts of America partner in the push for healthier Scouts.

Today we’ll look at Drink Right. I’ll cover the other two in future blog posts.

Consider this: Is it time to make the switch to serving only water at Scout meetings, on campouts and at summer camp? The statistics say yes:  Continue reading

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Venturer visualizes her wonderful web of Scouting connections

Character-driven TV shows like Lost slowly reveal the ways in which these seemingly disparate people have actually been connected all along.

And as Rachel Eddowes (third from the right in the photo above) recently discovered, the same is true in Scouting.

Perhaps the person with whom you taught a merit badge class served on Wood Badge staff with someone you know from volunteering at an OA ordeal weekend. The possibilities are endless.

Rachel, a supremely active Venturer, five-time National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NAYLE) staffer and student at George Mason University recently decided to illustrate how the Scouting “characters” in her life know one another.

(Case in point: Though I’ve never met Rachel, my dad knows her from NAYLE.)

“Creating such a map was something I had wanted to do anyway — not with TV show characters, but with people I have met over the years through Scouting,” Rachel says. “I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to staff four NAYLE courses out at Philmont Scout Ranch (plus one at Sea Base). In addition to teaching and learning about leadership, I enjoyed making friends from across the country.”

With each additional staffing experience, Rachel reunited with friends or made new ones. Usually some would know of other friends she had made or people she knew through other Scouting experiences. The links continued on and on like a Scouting version of that Kevin Bacon game.

“Eventually a web of connections began to emerge with each ‘Do you know so-and-so?’ ‘Yeah! I know them!’ conversation,” she says.

On first glance, Rachel’s wonderful web looks like a haphazard jumble of lines. But follow a few of those lines, and you’ll see just how connected the characters in her Scouting world are. Check it out (click to enlarge): Continue reading

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Digital Technology merit badge requirements released

Digital-TechnologyThe latest and greatest in tech isn’t a new smartphone, tablet or game console.

It’s a new merit badge. Today the Boy Scouts of America welcomes Digital Technology merit badge to its ever-growing arsenal of merit badges focused on careers, hobbies and activities Scouts enjoy doing.

Digital Technology MB becomes the BSA’s 135th current merit badge. That list of merit badges will be reduced by one when Computers merit badge is discontinued on Dec. 31, 2014.

(Read more about the phasing-out of Computers here, and know that Scouts may earn and wear both Digital Technology MB and Computers MB, provided they begin work on Computers by the end of 2014.)

But today’s all about Digital Technology merit badge, which covers the Internet, smartphones, content creation on digital devices and much more.

See the full list of requirements and a merit badge workbook after the jump. Continue reading

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When worlds collide: What are Scouts seeing on your Facebook page?

Your boss views your tailgating photos on Instagram, your Facebook friends see you complaining about your job or your Scouts read your tweets in favor of a politician.

You’ve just encountered context collapse. That’s the phrase for something intended for a specific audience that becomes seen by a much wider, unintended audience.

It happens in the real world, like if you run into a coworker, Scout or Scouter at church or a political rally. But it happens even more frequently online, where we can instantly share sometimes-controversial views with a few simple taps on the keyboard.

Eagle Scout Mark Ray, skilled author and regular contributor to both Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines, writes on his blog about this phenomenon:

Thanks to context collapse, your boss can see your vacation photos, your friends can see what you’re saying about work, and — most importantly for our purposes — your Scouts can see what you’re liking on Facebook, whether that’s Lolcats, a political cause or your favorite microbrewery.

We know that more than two-thirds (71 percent, to be exact) of online adults use Facebook, meaning chances are good you’re dealing with context collapse even if you don’t know it. So it’s a good idea to take a second to think about your online existence and who in your life sees what. That’s especially relevant when Scouts are involved.

Mark shares three strategies for dealing with context collapse and making sure you don’t reveal more about yourself than you’re comfortable sharing. Ranging from the most extreme to the simplest, they are: Continue reading

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2014 Fieldbook: Your must-have user’s guide to the outdoors

Here’s one owner’s manual that’s actually worth reading.

It isn’t for your car, smartphone or new camp stove. The 2014 Fieldbook is a user’s guide for the entire outdoors, and it’s a must-own for everyone who spends time outside.

The fifth-edition Fieldbook: Scouting’s Manual of Basic and Advanced Skills for Outdoor Adventure is published by the Boy Scouts of America. It covers hiking, camping, canoeing, mountain travel, ultralight backpacking, wilderness navigation, whitewater kayaking and much more.

While Scouts and Scouters will find it indispensable before and during every outing, it’s a great tool for non-Scouts, as well.

“For more than a century, our organization has focused on teaching outdoor skills and leadership and providing opportunities for adventure and life-changing experiences,” said Wayne Brock, chief Scout executive of the BSA. “The Fieldbook isn’t just for our Scouts — we want to share these important lessons with anyone who seeks to explore, experience adventure and appreciate nature.”

Are you new to the outdoors? The Fieldbook has step-by-step guides to get you started. Or maybe you’re more of a seasoned outdoor adventurer? The Fieldbook will enhance your skill-set by helping you get farther, higher and deeper into the backcountry.

You can buy the 2014 Fieldbook today in your local Scout Shop or at ScoutStuff.org for $20 for the perfect-bound version or $27 for one that’s coil-bound.

Or, for the first time ever, you can buy it digitally. It’s available via Amazon for $20, and you can download it to read on a Kindle or any device that uses the Kindle app, including Androids, iPads and iPhones.

Find much more Fieldbook coverage, including a look at the contents pages, a bio of the Eagle Scout author and details about the history of the publication, all after the jump.  Continue reading

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This summer, Eagle Scouts will bicycle across America to prove a point

eagle-scouts-across-america patchIt sounds like the trailer for a summer blockbuster:

In a world saturated by television, smartphones and video games, one group of Scouts dares to step outside and show the world they still value the outdoors, exercise and self-discipline.

But this is better than a Hollywood movie.

As first reported on the Boys’ Life Scouting Around blog, a group of Eagle Scouts from Troop 165 out of Fredericksburg, Va., have a point to prove: Motivated young men still exist in this world, and many of them developed their character in Scouting.

How will they prove it? As you probably guessed by the headline, they’ll ride their bikes from San Francisco to Virginia Beach, Va. That’s 3,770 miles in 63 days, including some rest days.

“Our mission is to demonstrate how motivated young men, committed to the values of exercise and healthy living, practice the 12 points of the Boy Scout Law while challenging themselves to reach new heights,” according to a statement on the trip’s website.

The journey, which begins June 8, will take them through California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Virginia.

Are you an Eagle Scout living along that route? Continue reading

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Victim in Kansas City-area Jewish center shooting was a Life Scout

reat-griffin-underwoodUpdated April 15, 2014, with information on where to send donations and condolences. See end of this post.


A senseless act of violence has taken a young Boy Scout from us too soon.

Reat Griffin Underwood, a 14-year-old Life Scout who was working toward Eagle, was one of three victims in Sunday’s shootings at Jewish community centers in Kansas. The alleged gunman is in custody and is scheduled to appear in court today.

I’d ask our Scouting family to please keep Reat’s family and troopmates in your thoughts and prayers during this tough time.

Reat, a high school freshman, loved camping with his grandfather, father and brother. His grandfather was also killed in the attack.

According to a family statement, Reat “participated in debate, theater and had a beautiful voice. Reat had a passion for life and touched so many people in his young age.” He was a big supporter of the University of Oklahoma and its sports teams.

To help bring his family and troop a small bit of comfort, I would encourage them to apply through their local council for the Spirit of the Eagle Award, meant to honor the life of a Scout taken from us before his time. Continue reading

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Scouting family takes pilgrimage to Baden-Powell’s grave in Kenya

Tracing the life of Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell takes you not only to his birthplace in London but also to Kenya, where he spent the last few years of his life.

My recent trip to London and Gilwell Park, provenance of the Wood Badge training course, inspired Idaho Scouter Steve Jung to share photos and stories from a similar Scouting pilgrimage.

And I’m sure glad he shared.

The Jung family traveled to Kenya, the East African nation where B-P died on Jan. 8, 1941, at age 83. His grave is now a national monument.

Steve, along with his wife, Becky, and daughter, Anna, visited B-P’s final resting place, the cemetery museum and his home in Nyeri, Kenya.

“Our trip to Kenya was a most memorable one,” Steve says. “We did some backcountry hiking and a lot of touring. We went caving and places most public  people don’t go or know about. Just a terrific trip.”

See Steve’s stories and photos after the jump. Continue reading

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Ask the Expert: The who, when and why of Scout permission slips

expertlogo1Permission slips are like seat belts. They’re simple to use, and they’re for your own protection in case of emergency.

The Boy Scouts of America’s permission slip, officially called the Activity Consent Form and Approval by Parents or Legal Guardian, is a bilingual document that provides parental emergency contact info and releases the “Boy Scouts of America, the local council, the activity coordinators, and all employees, volunteers, related parties, or other organizations associated with the activity from any and all claims or liability arising out of this participation.”

You use a new permission slip for each unit trip, expedition or activity.

There are times when they’re recommended, especially when your chartered organization does not have something like it already in place, and times when they’re required, such as on basic or advanced orientation flights.

But recently Steve Sellers, Scoutmaster of Mount Holly, N.J., Troop 36, learned that some troops use an annual permission slip instead of one for each activity. He writes: Continue reading