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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

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Tuesday Talkback: How do you get more dads involved in Cub Scouting?

Tuesday-TalkbackMoms do Cub Scouting, and dads do Boy Scouting.

For the longest time, that was mostly true. Just look at the now-defunct position of Den Mother (there was no “Den Father”) for proof.

Fortunately, times have changed.

At roundtables and camporees these days, you’ll see dads wearing blue epaulets and moms wearing green ones. And that’s a good thing.

But there are still some dads out there, many of them Eagle Scouts, who prefer to wait until their son crosses over into Boy Scouting before getting involved.

“I was one of those Eagle Scouts,” former Scoutmaster M.K. says. “I was waiting for my sons to enter Boy Scouting so we could do the ‘real’ stuff. But my smarter-than-me wife reminded me that if my boys did not enjoy Cub Scouting, they probably would not become Boy Scouts. … I became a den leader, Webelos leader, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster and father of two Eagle Scouts”

For today’s Tuesday Talkback, Continue reading

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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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Watch Cub Scout Thomas Brown deliver the Super Bowl game ball

Updated, Feb. 5

Even with about 100 million people watching, Cub Scout Thomas Brown didn’t fumble.

The 9-year-old from Pack 14 of Virginia Beach, Va., ran onto the field and handed the game ball to head referee Terry McAulay moments before kickoff of yesterday’s Super Bowl XLVIII. As he ran off, he saluted both sides of MetLife Stadium and seemed to pause for a second to soak it all in before making it to the sidelines.

The moment — which you can watch below — lasted about 19 seconds, but the memories will last a lifetime.

The game-ball delivery wasn’t the only air time for Thomas on Super Bowl Sunday. 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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Tuesday Talkback: 3 big questions to ask before your next pinewood derby

Tuesday-TalkbackEven the most finely tuned pinewood derby event needs an occasional tune-up.

So before your pack waves the green flag this year, ask yourself three questions to make sure your derby doesn’t have any red flags.

With each question, I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below. After all, I don’t call it Tuesday Talkback for nothing.

Question 1: Who really made that pinewood derby car?

pinewood-derby-2In Cub Scouter Stephen K.‘s pack, “there are some Scouts who do not see their car until race time.” Ken D. said he “actually had a Scout who couldn’t tell me which car was his to take home after the derby!”

Not good. An 8-year-old boy shouldn’t carve and paint the car by himself, but neither should Mom or Dad. The point is to make it a fun, collaborative process that ends with a boy who takes ownership in his work.

Does a dad who built the car from start to finish get much joy out of seeing his son’s car take first place? He shouldn’t.

Carl B. says you can tell who did the majority of the work by seeing who carries the car to the check-in table. “There seems to be a strong correlation between who built the car, a parent or the Cub Scout, depending on who was carrying the car into the pinewood derby area.”

So how do you strike the perfect parent-son balance?  Continue reading

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One-stop shopping for news on what’s changing in the BSA and when

New Cub Scout handbooks are just part of the story.

New Cub Scout handbooks are just part of the story.

Keeping up with one BSA program change after another (after another) can feel a little like drinking from a fire hose.

It doesn’t have to.

Just consider scouting.org/programupdates your one-stop shop for promotional fliers, training information and the latest news about changes coming in 2014, 2015 and 2016 in Venturing, Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting.

The fliers are especially useful for leaders who want something tangible to distribute to educate parents about changes to BSA programs.

I’ll continue to share and analyze the latest BSA news right here on Bryan on Scouting, but the BSA’s official Program Updates page is an important tool that belongs in your Scouting toolbox — and in your browser’s bookmarks folder.

Merit Badge counselors, there’s a related resource for you. Continue reading

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Better activities, simplified advancement coming to Cub Scouting in 2015

Improved activities, easier-to-understand advancement and some sweet-looking handbooks — yes, Cub Scouting is about to get even better than before.

After finding that current achievements are overly passive in nature, activities lack connection to the missions of Scouting and the advancement model is too complicated, the Boy Scouts of America’s volunteer task force created a new and improved Cub Scout program that will debut in May 2015.

By the 2015-2016 Scouting year (which, for most packs, begins in August or September 2015), all packs will use the new requirements.

The new requirements coincide with the retiring of the Cub Scout Promise and Law of the Pack. As part of the One Oath, One Law initiative I first told you about in 2012, all packs will switch to the Scout Oath and Scout Law beginning in May 2015. Cub Scouting will keep its current Cub Scout motto, sign, salute and handshake.

Not everything is changing. Follow the jump to see what will and won’t change come May 2015 (and thanks to Bob Scott, Russ Hunsaker and Debbie Sullivan for the info). Continue reading

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Greatest hits: Counting down my 13 most-read blog posts of 2013

Where did 2013 go?

For Scouts and Scouters, it went to new merit badges, Eagle Scout journeys, the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, a nationally televised TV show about Boy Scouts, a family discussion on our membership policy, endless Cub Scout fun and so much more.

It was a great year for Scouting. And for Bryan on Scouting.

I’m so humbled that my blog recorded roughly 2 million page views in 2013, more than double the previous record of 850,000 from 2012. Thanks for making this a place you trust for Scouting news and conversation.

The busiest month for traffic on Bryan on Scouting was July, which was also my busiest month as I took you inside the 2013 National Jamboree, the first at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. A month later, I served on Wood Badge staff, which was an experience I’ll never forget.

I posted 275 times this year, covering anything I thought might be interesting and relevant with the goal of making your job as a Scouter easier. 

But forget what I found interesting; what matters is which posts you made the most popular. Let’s find out. Follow the jump for the 13 most-read blog posts of 2013…  Continue reading

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Tuesday Talkback: When parents see Cub Scouts as low-cost babysitting

Tuesday-Talkback“The pack meeting lasts 90 minutes, so that’s plenty of time to do some Christmas shopping, grab a bite and pick up my prescription for crazy pills.”

It’s crazy but true: A few parents out there see Cub Scouting (and Boy Scouting) as a low-cost babysitting option for their son. They’ll drop their son off for meetings or outings and go catch a movie or swing by Home Depot while their child experiences Scouting without them.

While it’s true that Scouting is a more enriching, engaging and affordable alternative to leaving a child at home to watch movies with the next-door neighbor, remember that BSA doesn’t stand for Baby Sitters of America.

Families get the most out of Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting when everyone is involved. But what’s a Cub Scouter to do when parents peels out of the parking lot before you can ask them to help out at the next blue and gold?

That’s today’s Tuesday Talkback question: How do you get parents more involved in Cub Scouting? How do you remind them that you and other dedicated Scouters aren’t babysitters? Is this a problem in your pack? Share your thoughts and experiences below. Continue reading