smartphones-in-scouting

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

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Tuesday Talkback: In search of a better patrol box

Tuesday-TalkbackIt sounds like an infomercial you’d see on QVC: “It’s a pantry, a spice rack, a utensils drawer and a portable kitchen. Yes, the Boy Scout patrol box does it all, and it can be yours for three easy payments … “

But patrol boxes aren’t a gimmick. Patrol-based cooking is an important part of troop campouts, and many troops use patrol boxes to help keep cooking supplies and ingredients organized.

You don’t want Dragon patrol supplies fraternizing with items belonging to the Alligator or Rattlesnake patrols, do you?

Patrol boxes serve two purposes, as far as I see:

  • They teach responsibility. By assigning each patrol its own set of cooking supplies, you’re essentially giving them ownership and (hopefully) teaching them to take good care of what’s theirs. That’s better than everyone using (and abusing) community supplies where there’s no accountability.
  • They promote healthy competition. Many troops allow and encourage their patrols to paint and decorate their patrol boxes. Which patrol box looks the best? Which is the best organized? Bragging rights are on the line.

So we’re agreed that patrol boxes are a great idea. But what makes a great patrol box? That’s what Scoutmaster Bob M. asked last week, explaining that Troop 255′s patrol boxes are getting worn out.

“Our troop built the basic patrol boxes a number of years ago” he writes, “and they are showing their age. I was curious to find out if you’ve done an article or had any information on any lightweight options to the basic box design.”

I’ll share one resource, and then I’d love to hear from readers.

Continue reading

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This Minnesota troop’s Scout hut is a former train depot

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of a Scout hut.

That’s the term for a standalone building whose sole purpose is hosting Scout meetings and storing Scout stuff.

Growing up, my troop met every Sunday in a large conference room on the second floor of the city municipal building where my dad worked. We were lucky to have such a large, well-appointed, easily accessible space for our meetings. But it’s impossible to make such a space feel like your own when it’ll be used the next day for government business.

That’s where Scout huts like the one owned by Troop 228 of New London, Minn., really shine. Their building once was the train depot in the town that sits two hours west of Minneapolis.

Some old buildings get a second life as a Scout hut, while others are built strictly for that purpose. Some Scout huts, like this unique one in the basement of a Buffalo, N.Y., church, are part of larger buildings. Many of our Sea Scouting friends, meanwhile, have floating Scout huts. They meet aboard the same ships they use for excursions.

Troop 228 got its Scout hut in an interesting way — and for a price you won’t believe. 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

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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

balancing-adult

Tuesday Talkback: Balancing too much adult involvement with too little

Tuesday-TalkbackThis much we know: A unit where Scouts/Venturers do everything without feedback or coaching from adult leaders is taking the “youth-led” concept too far. And a unit where adult leaders plan trips and lead meetings isn’t taking the concept far enough.

So where’s the line?

That’s what Scouter Michael Dulle wondered in an email to me. He writes:

There is a fine line for a good balance of a boy-led Scout unit vs. a hands-on, adult-led unit. I am totally in favor of the boy-led unit. However, there can be too much boy leadership in a unit, especially when the Scoutmaster abdicates his leadership role.

The troop of which I am member of is closer to a good balance than I’ve seen in other units I have witnessed. How do you create and maintain good, balanced unit leadership?

Great question, Michael. Cub Scouting, where adult leaders must take on an active leadership role, doesn’t deal with this problem, of course. But Michael’s question gets at a real dilemma in Boy Scout troops and Venturing crews.

Share how it works in your troop or crew, and consider these questions when responding in the comments below: Continue reading

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When ‘thanks’ just isn’t enough: 13 ways to recognize retiring Scoutmasters

Scoutmasters can retire or move away, but their legacy lives on.

You’ll find this imprint in the troop’s traditions, in signature meals and in frequently visited camping destinations. And it remains even after every Scout who was there during the Scoutmaster’s tenure has grown up.

This week, a Scouter from Pennsylvania told me his troop’s longtime Scoutmaster is retiring soon. He’s looking for meaningful and memorable ways to say thanks to the man who led his troop for more than 20 years.

Find 13 ideas, and add your own, after the jump. Continue reading

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Show of faith: Ideas for how to honor Scout Sunday and Scout Sabbath

scout-sunday-programSunday will be a big day at churches across the country. And no, I don’t mean Broncos and Seahawks fans stopping by to say a prayer for their teams.

I’m talking about Scout Sunday, a chance for faith-based chartered organizations to celebrate and recognize Scouting and for Scout units to show their appreciation for the religious institution that supports their unit.

This Sunday (Feb. 2), at churches nationwide, you’ll see Scouts and Scouters in uniform greeting the congregation, participating in worship services, earning religious awards and conducting service projects to benefit their place of worship.

By official BSA designation, Scout Sunday is always the Sunday that falls before Feb. 8, Scouting Anniversary Day. In years when Feb. 8 falls on a Sunday, such as 2015, the BSA’s birthday and Scout Sunday are combined into one glorious day.

Scout Sabbath, for Jewish Scout units, is always the Saturday after Scout Sunday. This year, it falls on Feb. 8, 2014, meaning Jewish Scout units get their special day on the BSA’s actual birthday.

All of that said, chartered organizations may choose any Sunday to celebrate Scout Sunday or any Saturday to recognize Scout Sabbath. The United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA), for example, celebrate Scout Sunday on the second Sunday of February.

At the most recent count, religious organizations make up 65 percent of chartered organizations using the traditional Scouting program. As those units know, chartered organizations provide much more than a place to meet and store gear. Scout Sunday is our chance to say thanks.

But how? For tips, I asked our Facebook friends. Here’s what they said: Continue reading

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In Scoutmaster patch poem, an ode to the men who wore it well

A troop’s tradition of passing the same position patch from one Scoutmaster to the next has been forever encapsulated in a beautifully written poem.

The piece, from the pen of Troop 159 Assistant Scoutmaster Nick Dorosheff, ponders the Scouting magic stored in that “small circle of tan cloth.”

I’ve become a believer in the power of poetry over the past few years as my wife completed her MFA in writing, and so this submission comes at the perfect time.

Thanks to Nick for agreeing to let me post his piece and to Troop 159 Activity Chairwoman Karen Browning for sending it to me in the first place.

Enough prose from me. It’s Nick’s poetry you should read, after the jump. Enjoy. Continue reading

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Let’s get a Boy Scout or Venturer on FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council

fema-applicationScouts worldwide have lived the “Be Prepared” motto since 1907.

So who better than a Boy Scout or Venturer to serve on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Youth Preparedness Council?

Right now FEMA’s seeking out “youth leaders who are dedicated to public service, who are making a difference in their communities and who want to expand their impact as national advocates for youth disaster preparedness.”

Let’s encourage preparedness-focused Scouts we know to apply. Having a Scout selected to serve would be some great positive publicity for Scouting and further strengthen our “Be Prepared” ties.

Applicants must be between 12 and 17 years old and Continue reading