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An Eagle Scout in Antarctica: Icebergs, penguins and unbelievable views

On the bottom of the world right now, Eagle Scout Alex Houston is having an experience that tops all others.

I already introduced you to Alex and told you about his time in Ushuaia, Argentina, as he prepared for the journey by boat to Antarctica. As a reminder, he’s the Eagle Scout selected to join an expedition called 2041 that’s exploring 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 and the explorers arrived safely to Antarctica and got their satellite uplink working, meaning we get our first chance to hear from the Lawrence, Kan., Eagle Scout about his first few days in the world’s most-remote continent.

Despite an environment that seems practically unlivable, Alex had some fascinating encounters with wildlife, including humpback whales, leopard seals and Gentoo penguins, which were “considerably louder and smellier than one would imagine.”

He even got the chance to take some incredible hikes, and on one his group was the first to reach the summit — no big surprise for a Scout.

Read Alex’s latest report and see more photos after the jump.  Continue reading

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Adopt these 3 steps for healthier meetings, earn the Healthy Unit Patch

healthy-kids-patch

Get one of these for everyone in your unit by completing three easy steps.

Drink Right, Move More, Snack Smart.

Those six small words hold big power. Power to make your unit, and therefore your Scouts, healthier.

Changes you employ today could have positive rewards that last Scouts a lifetime. And speaking of rewards, if you make three health-conscious changes over the next three months, you’ll earn a special patch for everyone in your unit. Now do I have your attention?

There’s more than a patch at stake, though. For the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents.

Sure, mom and dad play a vital role in their children’s diet and exercise habits. But Scout leaders can make a difference, too. After all, you’re with these kids one night a week and one weekend a month, typically. What you do at unit meetings and campouts matters.

Ask yourself: How active are your meetings? What snacks do you serve? What do Scouts drink?

The Boy Scouts of America has partnered with Healthy Kids Out of School to offer an incentive to reconsider your answers to those three questions.

Say hello to the Healthy Unit Patch, which encourages units to follow the BSA’s SCOUTStrong recommendations at meetings, events and excursions.

Adopt the three healthy principles below by completing the 3–6–9 challenge, and you’ll earn patches for every Scout in your unit. It’s easy and fun. Here’s how: Continue reading

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Which side does the American flag go on when marching or at ceremonies?

The American flag isn’t rare, and it’s not made of precious materials. You can buy a nice one for $10.

But still we treat it with reverence and care normally reserved for historic artifacts or priceless works of art. We make sure it’s properly displayed, we fold it neatly and we never let it touch the ground.

Why? Because while its materials are cheap, what it represents is not. The flag’s more than a flag. It’s a symbol of our country’s ideals. It’s a rallying cry for patriotism. It’s a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifice of the men and women who fought and died to protect the flag and the people who pledge their allegiance to it.

So, yeah, it deserves to be treated well.

Scouts and Scouters know that. We’re some of the most patriotic people you’ll find. We wear the American flag on our uniforms, and “duty to country” is in our Scout Oath.

It’s this reputation for patriotism that explains why packs, troops, teams, posts, ships and crews are often asked to serve as the color guard at community events. Making sure we respect the flag’s traditions is our obligation.

That’s why JayR Seymour with Pack 24 from Bradford, Mass., contacted me. His pack was asked to serve on the color guard for a Harlem Globetrotters game in a week or so. Here’s what he wrote: Continue reading

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Interpreting ‘under the auspices’ in National Outdoor Awards requirements

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Two perfectly reasonable people can read the same phrase and have drastically different interpretations. Just ask the U.S. Supreme Court.

That happened recently in a troop in eastern Washington. The phrase in question relates to the National Outdoor Awards, and a Scouter contacted me looking for guidance.

But before I get to his question and the expert’s response, let me put in a quick plug for the National Outdoor Awards, which I first told you about in 2010. The awards are earned by Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts who demonstrate knowledge and experience in the outdoors. There are five segments: Camping, Hiking, Aquatics, Riding and Adventure. They’re a ton of fun to earn, and they reward Scouts for doing things they love to do anyway.

Scouts who go above and beyond can earn National Outdoor Award Devices and even the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement. See the full list of requirements here.

But back to our eastern Washington Scouter’s question. He noted that each of the five segments’ requirements uses the phrase “under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America.”

For example, take this requirement from the Hiking segment:

“Complete 100 miles of hiking or backpacking under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America … “

We know “auspices” means “endorsement and guidance,” but what exactly qualifies as “under the auspices of the BSA”? Here’s what the Scouter said in his email:

The National Outdoor Awards use the word “auspices” to describe qualifying activities. The question is what “auspices” means? Some people believe that this means that the requirements must be completed as part of organized unit activities and that any activity performed as an individual Scout, even if performed with the intent of earning the award, does not qualify.

Here’s the clarification from Eric Hiser, member of the Camping Task Force who was also the designer and developer for the award. In other words, he knows of what he speaks. Continue reading

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Adopt a Highway and Scouting: How to do it right and stay safe

adopt a highwayCongratulations on the newest addition to your Scouting family!

This new member is two miles long, four lanes wide and could use a little TLC.

Scout units that participate in their state’s Adopt-a-Highway program have found a public way to give back to the community. They agree to maintain a stretch of highway, usually for a minimum commitment of two years, and in exchange get service hours and public recognition in the form of their unit number on a prominent road sign.

That said, running an effective Adopt-a-Highway program in your troop or crew involves more than just picking up McDonald’s wrappers, hubcaps and empty cans of Dr Pepper.

It takes planning to make sure enough Scouts or Venturers participate and — most importantly — that they stay safe.

First let’s take a look at some Adopt-a-Highway safety tips, including recommended minimum ages. Then we’ll see how other Scouters made the most of their adopted stretch of road. Find it by following signs for the jump. Continue reading

antarctica-days-1-2

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

antarctica

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

eagle-yearbook

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