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An Eagle Scout in Antarctica: Days 1 & 2

Well, he made it. After enduring the 30-hour, 6,680-mile, three-flight trip from Lawrence, Kan., to Ushuaia, Argentina, Eagle Scout Alex Houston already has plenty of stories to tell.

I introduced you to Alex last week. He’s the Eagle Scout selected to join an expedition called 2041 that will explore the Antarctic Peninsula to research its ecology, wildlife and the importance of renewable energy in shaping the future of Antarctica. When they return, Alex and the expedition founder will share their findings with the BSA at the 2014 Sustainability Summit.

Alex will travel by icebreaker to Antarctica next, but first he spends a few days in Ushuaia, considered the southernmost city in the world.

I’m sure you, like me, wish you could join Alex on this adventure of a lifetime. Instead, we’ll settle for the next-best thing: stories from Alex himself.

As his Internet connection and schedule allow, Alex will send me updates from his trip. This may get more difficult once he arrives at Earth’s most-remote continent, but for now let’s enjoy his first dispatch, which recaps Days 1 and 2 in which he saw new sights, tried new food and made new friends: Continue reading

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Ask the Expert: What if my Scout can’t complete the First Class swim test?

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Forget about cooking, lashing or orienteering. For three Scouts in Jeff’s troop, the toughest of any of the 14 requirements for First Class is 9B: the swim test.

The three boys have a fear of jumping into water over their heads, and the Scoutmaster from Kentucky is worried it will prevent them from advancing past Second Class.

He wrote me last week looking for guidance:

Bryan,

I have a question on the swimming requirement for First Class. I have at least three boys who are unable to complete the BSA swimmer test as one of the First Class requirements. They have a fear of jumping into the water over their heads. It is not just at the lake during summer camp but also at a swimming pool. I’ve reviewed the Guide to Advancement but don’t really see anything about this. Since they really don’t have a disability, there are no alternate requirements that fit the situation. Are they doomed to remain a Second Class Scout?

Thanks, Jeff. Here’s what the subject-matter expert, National Advancement Team leader Chris Hunt, had to say: Continue reading

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Seriously cool: Kansas Eagle Scout leaves for Antarctica today

Alex-HoustonAlex, you’re not in Kansas anymore.

Alex Houston, an Eagle Scout from Lawrence, Kan., is leaving today on an international expedition to Antarctica. He was selected from among several Eagle Scout applicants to represent the BSA on this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

The 30-hour trip to Ushuaia, Argentina, begins today. From there he’ll take an icebreaker to Antarctica for a two-week expedition.

Alex and his fellow team members are there to do more than just take photos and gawk at glaciers. The expedition, called 2041, will explore the Antarctic Peninsula to research its ecology, wildlife and the importance of renewable energy in shaping the future of Antarctica.

The trip’s leader is the British explorer Robert Swan, the first person to walk to both poles. Swan and Alex will present their findings this fall at the BSA’s 2014 Sustainability Summit, held in West Virginia.

Getting to Ushuaia — let alone Antarctica — from eastern Kansas won’t be easy. Ushuaia is considered the southernmost city in the world, and it’s 6,680 miles (as the crow flies) from Lawrence. Alex will fly from Kansas City, Mo., to Atlanta. That’s a two-hour flight. After a layover he’ll hop a plane for the 10-hour trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Another layover, then it’s a three-and-a-half-hour flight to Ushuaia. I’m exhausted just typing all that.

The team will explore Ushuaia for a couple of days before taking an icebreaker through the Drake Passage to Antarctica.

In an interview on KLWN-AM radio in Lawrence, Continue reading

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2013 Eagles: Don’t miss your chance to be in the ‘Eagle Scout Yearbook’

Yearbooks are priceless windows into the past, and the Eagle Scout Yearbook, Class of 2013 will be no exception.

To make it happen, though, the National Eagle Scout Association needs your help to fill the yearbook’s pages with the stories of the 56,841 young men who earned Eagle last year.

If you or a young man you know earned the Eagle Scout rank in 2013, make sure you don’t miss out on the chance to be a part of this momentous opportunity. The yearbook is an exciting new tradition started last year (and something I wish was around when I earned my Eagle Scout award in 1999).

We normally associate yearbooks with high school, but the journey toward Scouting’s highest honor has a lot in common with the journey toward graduation.

“We see getting the Eagle Scout rank as on par with getting a high school diploma,” says Ryan Larson, associate director of NESA. “A yearbook lets these Eagle Scouts track this moment in history. They can look back 30 or 40 years from now at those memories.”

If they haven’t already, members of the 2013 Eagle Scout class will soon hear from the company that NESA commissioned to make the book, Publishing Concepts (PCI).

Dallas-based PCI publishes directories for educational institutions, fraternities, sororities and military organizations across the nation. They’ve been around for 30 years, so they know what they’re doing.

PCI will contact 2013 Eagle Scouts Continue reading

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14 fascinating facts about Scouting in Alaska in the 1950s and 1960s

alaska-history-2“Amid the furor of adding a new star to the flag,” the BSA professional wrote, “people want to know what Alaska is like, and Scouters are asking about Scouting in Alaska.”

For those of us who have never visited the state, Alaska is still a largely unknown frontier. But 55 years ago, the Land of the Midnight Sun was even more of a mystery.

Interest in the former Territory of Alaska reached a fever pitch in 1959 when Alaska officially became our country’s 49th state. Scouting had been around since the 1920s there, but Scouters in the Lower 48 had new questions about what Scouting looked like in somewhere so vastly different from what they were used to.

Questions included: How do people live in Alaska? How do Scouts camp? And how do they gather for meetings in a land so spread out that “each person can have almost three square miles to himself”?

To find out, Ray W. Sweazey, the BSA’s director of interracial service (a title we don’t use today, thankfully), visited this “state of extremes and violent contrasts” in late 1958. He wanted to take the temperature of Scouting in our country’s newest state.

His story appeared in the January 1959 edition of Scouting magazine. Eight years later, Scouting magazine published another interesting account of “Scouting Under the Midnight Sun.”

You can read both stories in their entirety below. But first, I’ve picked out 14 of my favorite facts from the article. Some are specifically about about Scouting in Alaska, while others cover general life there during the late 1950s and 1960s. Because, as Sweazey wrote, “you can’t know about Scouting there without learning something about Alaska first.”

Continue reading

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The Summit looks beautiful under a blanket of snow and ice

Start a fire or grab a blanket before viewing these stunning new images of the Summit Bechtel Reserve in winter.

The fields where 30,000 jamboree participants camped seven months ago are now coated with snow. Lakes where Scouts and Venturers tried paddleboarding, dragon boats and “Water Reality” last July are iced over. The AT&T Summit Stadium, where tens of thousands gathered to hear Mike Rowe, 3 Doors Down and the King of Sweden, looks more suited for downhill skiing than a show.

The gorgeous aerial photographs are the work of Gary Hartley, director of community and government relations at the BSA’s newest national high-adventure base.

They prove that the Summit holds magic in any season. But the base really shines in the summer. Don’t miss what they have planned for your Scouts and Venturers during their first season as a high-adventure base.

And see the cool winter photos after the jump. Continue reading

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Here are the most- and least-popular merit badges of 2013 and of all time

The reign of First Aid merit badge continues.

More Boy Scouts earned this Eagle-required merit badge in 2013 than any other. And it wasn’t event close.

Not only was it the most-earned merit badge in 2013, it also topped the list in 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 … you get the idea.

In all, 6.9 million Scouts have earned First Aid merit badge since its debut in 1911. Yep, you guessed it; that’s more than any other in history.

Which other merit badges made the Top 10 last year? What was 2013′s most-earned merit badge that isn’t on the Eagle-required list? And which merit badges were in the Bottom 10 (or “the rarest,” as I like to call them)? Let’s find out …  Continue reading

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BSA health forms, now as easy as A, B, C

Deciding which version of the BSA’s Annual Health and Medical Record you need shouldn’t raise your blood pressure.

And starting today, you’re getting a streamlined version of the BSA health forms and an easier-to-use website to accompany them. The site is the result of several BSA teams (professionals and volunteers) joining forces to make this process a painless one for you and other Scouters.

The Annual Health and Medical Record (hereafter AHMR) comes in several flavors, and until now some Scouters and parents found it a little difficult to determine which version of the AHMR they or their Scout/Venturer needed.

Taking your Cub Scouts on a local tour or your Boy Scouts on a two-night camping trip? The forms you’ll need are different from those required on a camping trip lasting more than 72 hours.

Visiting the Florida Sea Base, Northern Tier, Philmont or the Summit? Be sure to print off some additional information to give your doctor.

It’s all spelled out for you on the new site. Figuring out which forms you need is a snap thanks to logos, clear language and so-big-you-can’t-miss-’em buttons you’ll click to download the proper form.

Speaking of, you’ll know you’re using the right form if it says “2014 Printing” in the lower right corner.

If you’ve already gotten your physical using the old form, though, don’t fret. Continue reading

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Dennis Pitta, Eagle Scout and Baltimore tight end, gets 5-year deal

pitta-standingThey say once you’re an Eagle Scout, you’re one for life.

For Eagle Scout Dennis Pitta, the same may be true about being a Baltimore Raven.

The Super Bowl-winning tight end just signed a five-year deal worth $32 million, according to the Baltimore Sun. Not a bad payday for this Brigham Young University graduate who made time for both Scouting and sports growing up.

After helping his team win Super Bowl XLVII, he chatted with Boys’ Life for the magazine’s Heads Up blog. He said how being an Eagle Scout influenced him.

“From an early age, it teaches you a lot,” he said. “It teaches you about discipline, it teaches you about hard work and being independent and you learn a lot of like skills in that program. It’s helped me throughout my whole career.” Continue reading