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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

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

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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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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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After losing their son, family delivers plea for helmet use while sledding

Holly and Ron Miller never want another parent or Scout leader to suffer like they have.

On Jan. 16, 2010, their 12-year-old son Ian Joshua Miller was on a Scout trip to a north-central Pennsylvania ski area. He became separated from the group and was taking his final sledding run of the evening when his sled went out of control. Ian hit a ski lift pole, and the blow to his head killed him instantly.

The website for a charity Ian’s parents have established in his name says Ian loved being a Scout, attending weekend and summer Bible camps, cooking, playing goalie for his soccer team, scuba diving, and designing roller coasters on his computer.

Ian’s life ended too soon, and Holly and Ron say a $40 ski helmet would likely have prevented this tragedy. This doesn’t just apply to Ian. The Millers cite studies documenting 20,000 sledding injuries each year, with head injuries being the most common.

“If convincing other people to protect their children with helmets and a life can be saved, or a severe head injury can be avoided, then the effort we are putting into education about helmets while sledding will be worth it,” Ron says.

“We do not want to see another Scout, or any other child, suffer a head injury from sledding,” Holly adds. “We don’t want any other parent to feel the loss of a child in this way when it is so easy to have them wear a helmet.”

The BSA’s health and safety leader Richard Bourlon says Continue reading

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What’s that age again? A complete guide to when Scouts can do what

MPAA ratings — G, PG, PG-13, R — take the guesswork out of deciding which movies are appropriate for your son or daughter.

Fortunately, deciding which Scouting activities are age-appropriate is just as easy, thanks to this Age-Appropriate Guidelines for Scouting Activities PDF.

The BSA’s Health and Safety team developed the age- and rank-appropriate guidelines based on the mental, physical, emotional and social maturity of Boy Scouts of America youth members. The guidelines apply to Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops, Varsity Scout teams and Venturing crews.

Should Bear Cub Scouts build campfires? Can Webelos Scouts use bow saws? Can Boy Scouts go scuba diving? Can Venturers ride all-terrain vehicles (ATVs)?

The answers: Continue reading

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These 20 easy-to-memorize Scout mnemonics could save a life

Lightning_Safety_SignIn a life-threatening situation outdoors, a Scout’s skills are only as good as his memory.

That’s why mnemonic devices — popular for schoolchildren memorizing the order of the planets, the metric system, or the colors of the rainbow — are also useful when the pressure’s on you to react to a health or safety emergency.

Boost your emergency preparedness with the 20 mnemonics below. Most come courtesy of Scouting magazine’s friends on Facebook and Twitter. Have one we missed? Leave a comment at the end of the post.  Continue reading

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Here’s one swimming record you could actually break

Can’t swim the 100-meter butterfly in less than 50 seconds?

That’s OK — nobody but Michael Phelps can. But I did just hear about a swimming record you and your Scouts do have a chance to break.

Register now to participate in the Guinness World Record attempt for The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson, held at pools and lakes around the world at 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday, June 18.  Continue reading

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Take the pledge: Help Scouts drink right, move more, and snack smart

healthy-kidsFor anyone who’s seen a Boy Scout patrol return from grocery shopping with six family size bags of sour-cream-and-onion potato chips.

For anyone who has set out snacks for a Cub Scout den and seen the boys eat everything but the carrots and celery sticks.

Or for anyone who’s watched a Venturer finish two 32-ounce bottles of Gatorade during a three-mile hike.

For all those Scouters and more, the Healthy Kids Hub is for you.

In 2010, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So if the statistics hold up, one out of every three Scouts in your pack, troop, team, or crew has this common health problem, which could mean immediate and long-term effects on his or her well-being.

But it’s not all bad news. The BSA is one of nine extracurricular organizations that have joined up with Healthy Kids Out of School to develop guiding principles for turning this country’s worsening childhood obesity epidemic around.

What’s in it for you? The Healthy Kids Hub, which launched today. The Hub is a gold mine of resources developed by leading universities, after-school organizations, and nonprofits designed to be used by adults who work directly with kids.

These aren’t dull academic journal articles about obesity; these are graphically rich tools you can use right away.

The resources include easy-to-digest information on a wide range of topics, such as ideas to encourage kids to drink water instead of sugary sports drinks, suggestions for outdoor and indoor games, and low-cost, healthy snack ideas.

It’s all based around the three Healthy Kids Out of School guiding principles:  Continue reading

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In an edgy decision, the BSA sets limit on knife-blade length

(Update, April 2, 2013) Please read a special message at the end of the post.


Knives. They may be the source of the most confusion within Scouting circles.

I’ve heard people tell me sheath knives are banned in Scouting (they’re not), that Scouts can only carry one knife (not true), or that blades can’t be longer than five inches (wrong again).

Today, though, BSA Health and Safety team lead Richard Bourlon announced a new knife policy that changes things a bit. For the first time in the organization’s history, the BSA is mandating a maximum blade length for knives used within Scouting.

The magic number:

Continue reading

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From an unthinkable tragedy, a lesson for your teenage drivers

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Max Keevill soon after crossing over into Boy Scouts.

Max Keevill had it all — and did it all.

The 16-year-old was a straight-A student, a member of the National Honor Society, a violist for his high school’s orchestra, a soccer player, and a Life Scout just a few months away from earning Eagle.

After Cub Scouts, Max’s Scouting career really blossomed. He liked the weekly meetings — for the most part — but what really captured his heart was camping, hiking and sitting around the campfire with his friends. His Scouting highlight was a trek at Philmont.

After high school, he hoped to attend college to study biotechnology and help the world. The plan after college was to marry his high school sweetheart, a fellow member of the orchestra and student council.

Tragically, all that ended on Jan. 15, 2011.  Continue reading