permission-slip-featured

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

wood-badge-beads

Ask the Expert: Wood Badge course numbering, decoded

expertlogo1W2-590-14-8, C6-160-14-2, S4-83-14-2, N4-527-14.

Are those nuclear launch codes? A paranoid person’s computer password? Some sort of weird locker combination?

Nope. Those four sets of characters describe the numbers of actual Wood Badge courses being offered in 2014.

And in reality, the code — found on every modern Wood Badge course — isn’t that difficult to crack.

The letter represents your Scouting region — Western, Central, Southern or Northeast. The number is your area. Then comes your council number (which you can find here), followed by the two-digit year. (Notice that all four examples above have “14″ in common because they’re all held in 2014.)

The final number is added only if a council is offering multiple Wood Badge courses in a single calendar year. If so, they’re numbered chronologically. The first course in 2014 would get a 1 on the end, the second a 2 and so on.

Example time. Let’s take the Wood Badge course I staffed last summer: course No. S2-571-13-3.

That’s: S for Southern Region, 2 for Area 2, 571 for Circle Ten Council’s number, 13 for the year 2013 and 3 because the course was the third Circle Ten course of the calendar year.

Are you more of a visual person? Well here’s a handy chart for you: Continue reading

scouting-heritage-museum

Ask the Expert: How to complete Scouting Heritage MB Requirement 4B

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?If you have a Scout working on Scouting Heritage merit badge Requirement 4, Joe Connole’s your guy.

The programs coordinator and lead admissions clerk for the BSA’s National Scouting Museum in Irving, Tex., is in charge of answering letters and emails from Scouts working on that merit badge.

A Scout has three options for completing Requirement 4 of Scouting Heritage MB, each involving keeping a journal or writing a report:

A: Attend a BSA national jamboree, world Scout jamboree OR a national BSA high-adventure base.

B: Write or visit the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Tex.

C: Visit an exhibit of Scouting memorabilia or a local museum with a Scouting history gallery or visit with someone in your council who is recognized as a dedicated Scouting historian or memorabilia collector.

Scouts who choose to write the National Scouting Museum (4B), will need to contact Joe. If they do, they’ll get a response with a letter, a brochure, and — drumroll please — the awesome free patch seen below. To help Scouts taking this merit badge and counselors teaching it, Joe shared some details on how it works:

Continue reading

Troop-4's trailer (1 of 4)

Ask the Expert: How should Scouters handle insurance for troop trailers?

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Insurance: You don’t need it until you need it.

For units that own trailers, insurance, well, insures that both the trailer itself and its contents are covered in case they’re damaged or stolen.

Is this insurance part of a driver’s normal auto coverage, is it provided by the Boy Scouts of America or is it a separate expense?

That’s what Randall Cox, Troop 70 assistant Scoutmaster, asked me last week. He writes: Continue reading

service-star-featured

Pins with a point: How to properly wear BSA service stars

service-star-1Been involved in Scouting for more than a year? You get a gold star.

All youth or adult leaders who have reached one year of tenure with the Boy Scouts of America are eligible to begin wearing service stars. The stars are an underused outward symbol of how long you’ve been involved and a quick way for new Scouts, parents and leaders to see who has Scouting experience.

Anyone can simply walk into a Scout Shop (or go to scoutstuff.org) and purchase the pins and color background. There’s no application.

Scouters and Scouts are trustworthy, so the BSA trusts someone born in 1960, for example, not to purchase and wear a 60-year pin.

Stars start at one year and go up to an impressive 90 years (though you can combine multiple stars to send that number even higher). They’re worn with a specially colored backing that corresponds to the appropriate Scouting program.

But what if your Scouting tenure spans several programs, includes time spent in Scouting as a youth or has a gap of several years? That’s when things get a little trickier — but not much. I’ll answer those questions after the jump.

Continue reading

merit-badge-sash

Everything you ever wanted to know about merit badge sashes

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?A merit badge sash is like a trophy case you can wear.

Each tiny circle represents one of the 136 interest areas a Boy Scout has conquered.

But what restrictions are placed on merit badge sashes? In what order should they be sewn on? Is there a minimum or maximum number of merit badges a Scout may wear on a sash? Can a Scout with a ton of merit badges wear two sashes? What about wearing a sash folded over a belt? And can anyone help mom or dad sew these things on?

I’ve got the answers — well, to all but that last question.

These answers come from the expert, Christopher Hunt, head of the BSA’s advancement team.

Continue reading

camping-tent-setup

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

swimming-test

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

oa-sashes-three

Ask the Expert: When should Scouts and Scouters wear their OA sash?

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Updated Jan. 29

That bright red arrow atop a crisp white band is an unmistakeable symbol that the wearer is one of Scouting’s best.

The sash is an outward sign that the man or woman wearing it is a member of the Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s national honor society.

But when should Arrowmen wear the sash and when shouldn’t they? That question was on the mind of a crew advisor and Brotherhood OA member from Phoenix who contacted me last week. Here’s his email:

First off I know there is no hard set rule that I am aware of on when to wear your OA sash. Back in my day it was only for OA events or during tapouts at Scout camporees. I don’t want to sound like a “grumbler,” but it seems that rule has become very skewed in recent years. We currently have an adult and Scout who wear theirs to regular meetings.

Any clarification you could give would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for the question. In fact, there is a hard-set rule. To get it, I went to National OA Chairman Ray Capp. Ray also answers questions via the “Ask the Chairman” feature on OA’s newly redesigned website. Here’s what Ray said about wearing OA sashes:  Continue reading

car-camping

Ask the Expert: Can Scouts, Venturers drive themselves to/from events?

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?File this one under “sad but true”: Getting to and from Scouting events is by far more dangerous than participating in the program.

That’s why the Boy Scouts of America’s Guide to Safe Scouting offers specific guidelines to help adults transport Scouts safely.

But what about older Scouts and Venturers with driver’s licenses? Is it OK for them to drive themselves and others to meetings, weekend campouts, unit activities, area/regional/national events and more?

That’s what Scouter Matt from Eureka, Kan., wondered in an email to me last week. He writes:

I would like some clarification on Scout’s (youth) driving to and from events. The Guide to Safe Scouting seems to indicate that Scouts can drive themselves to regular troop meetings, but otherwise I’m not clear on any answers:

Can a Boy Scout drive to a troop overnighter?
Can a Boy Scout drive other Scouts to a troop overnighter?
Can a Boy Scout transport troop equipment?

I checked with Richard Bourlon, the BSA’s Health and Safety team leader, and Mark Dama, head of Insurance and Risk Management, for the answer. Find the explanation — which every leader with driving-age Scouts should read — after the jump. Continue reading