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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

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Camp Scout! app puts Scouting destinations at your fingertips

The annual practice of troops picking the perfect summer camp just got upgraded to the smartphone age.

Clear a spot on your home screen for Camp Scout!, a free iPhone app brought to you by Boys’ Life magazine and the BSA’s Outdoor Adventures team.

Let the iPhone detect your current location — or enter an address, place name or ZIP code — and Camp Scout! will show you the nearest BSA-owned properties.

Too many results? The “Things to Do” filter lets you see only camps with your unit’s favorite activities. Do your Scouts or Venturers fancy a place that offers boating, fishing and horseback riding? Tap all three activities, select “Find Camps” and voila!

Each camp’s page uses information supplied by the council. You’ll see a description, an activities list, driving directions, contact information and a link to learn more.

Roughly 500 camps are already in the app, and more are being added all the time.

In talking with Brian Gray, outdoor program coordinator for the BSA, I learned Continue reading

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Smartphones in Scouting: A curse or a cure?

Before you tell your Scouts and Venturers to power down their smartphones at the beginning of your next adventure, I have something you need to read.

The BSA’s Deputy Chief Scout Executive, Gary Butler, penned a guest blog post that offers his nuanced opinion on the place that iPhones, Androids and devices of their ilk have in our movement.

Does Gary think they add to or detract from the delivery of a great Scouting experience? Read on and find out.

Smartphones in Scouting: A curse or a cure?

By Gary Butler, BSA Deputy Chief Scout Executive and Chief Operating Officer

Gary ButlerI have heard lots of conversations recently on whether smartphones should be allowed during Scouting activities. One of our employees shared with me that when his son goes camping the leader takes all the phones away and returns them when the activity is over.

Does the use of a smartphone as part of Scouting’s activities disrupt the experience, or can it be a “cure” to make our current experiences more relevant to today’s youth? This comment really struck home and got me to thinking as to what is the right answer.

Sometimes to find the answer to these kind of debates on how to go forward, it takes a look backwards to find the answer. One of Baden-Powell’s most interesting quotes is, “A fisherman does not bait his hook with food he likes. He uses food the fish likes. So with boys.” Continue reading