scouting-apps

Best Scouting apps for iPhone and Android, 2014 edition

Empty your backpack and leave everything behind. All you need on your next Scouting outing is your smartphone.

OK, so maybe that’s an exaggeration.

What is true, though, is that for the two-thirds of Americans who own smartphones, it’s now possible to fit reference books, a GPS device, a weather radio, a compass, a map, a camera, a field guide, a recipe book and more in your pocket.

But which apps are worthy of downloading (or even — gasp! — paying for) to enhance your Scouting experience? Your fellow Scouters helped me compile the ultimate list below.

First, though, a quick note on smartphones in Scouting. They’re here to stay; resistance is futile. When used properly, these technological tools can actually improve your Scout unit. The BSA’s Deputy Chief Scout Executive, Gary Butler, made a compelling case for viewing them as a cure, not a curse. Read his comments here.

With that out of the way, check out the best Scouting-related apps after the jump.

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drink-right

Drink Right: Why now’s the time to replace soda and bug juice with water

healthy-kidsWhen Scout Executive Michael Riley made the choice to eliminate bug juice at the Cape Cod & Islands Council’s summer day camps, he braced for a revolt.

But no uprising came. Sugar-saturated bug juice was available one summer, and the next summer only water was served.

“Surprisingly, we got no pushback from the parents,” he told me. “They said, ‘That’s good; the Scouts don’t need that.’ And the kids? They just thought, ‘This is what we’ve got.’”

This positive step toward healthy living will go a long way toward preventing and reversing obesity in Scouts in Michael’s council. But it shouldn’t stop there.

Your pack, troop, team, crew, ship or post can be a part of this three-step approach to healthy living known as Drink Right, Move More, Snack Smart. The effort is the brainchild of Healthy Kids Out of School (with major funding from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation) and a Boy Scouts of America partner in the push for healthier Scouts.

Today we’ll look at Drink Right. I’ll cover the other two in future blog posts.

Consider this: Is it time to make the switch to serving only water at Scout meetings, on campouts and at summer camp? The statistics say yes:  Continue reading

dominos-falling

When worlds collide: What are Scouts seeing on your Facebook page?

Your boss views your tailgating photos on Instagram, your Facebook friends see you complaining about your job or your Scouts read your tweets in favor of a politician.

You’ve just encountered context collapse. That’s the phrase for something intended for a specific audience that becomes seen by a much wider, unintended audience.

It happens in the real world, like if you run into a coworker, Scout or Scouter at church or a political rally. But it happens even more frequently online, where we can instantly share sometimes-controversial views with a few simple taps on the keyboard.

Eagle Scout Mark Ray, skilled author and regular contributor to both Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines, writes on his blog about this phenomenon:

Thanks to context collapse, your boss can see your vacation photos, your friends can see what you’re saying about work, and — most importantly for our purposes — your Scouts can see what you’re liking on Facebook, whether that’s Lolcats, a political cause or your favorite microbrewery.

We know that more than two-thirds (71 percent, to be exact) of online adults use Facebook, meaning chances are good you’re dealing with context collapse even if you don’t know it. So it’s a good idea to take a second to think about your online existence and who in your life sees what. That’s especially relevant when Scouts are involved.

Mark shares three strategies for dealing with context collapse and making sure you don’t reveal more about yourself than you’re comfortable sharing. Ranging from the most extreme to the simplest, they are: Continue reading

fieldbook-2014

2014 Fieldbook: Your must-have user’s guide to the outdoors

Here’s one owner’s manual that’s actually worth reading.

It isn’t for your car, smartphone or new camp stove. The 2014 Fieldbook is a user’s guide for the entire outdoors, and it’s a must-own for everyone who spends time outside.

The fifth-edition Fieldbook: Scouting’s Manual of Basic and Advanced Skills for Outdoor Adventure is published by the Boy Scouts of America. It covers hiking, camping, canoeing, mountain travel, ultralight backpacking, wilderness navigation, whitewater kayaking and much more.

While Scouts and Scouters will find it indispensable before and during every outing, it’s a great tool for non-Scouts, as well.

“For more than a century, our organization has focused on teaching outdoor skills and leadership and providing opportunities for adventure and life-changing experiences,” said Wayne Brock, chief Scout executive of the BSA. “The Fieldbook isn’t just for our Scouts — we want to share these important lessons with anyone who seeks to explore, experience adventure and appreciate nature.”

Are you new to the outdoors? The Fieldbook has step-by-step guides to get you started. Or maybe you’re more of a seasoned outdoor adventurer? The Fieldbook will enhance your skill-set by helping you get farther, higher and deeper into the backcountry.

You can buy the 2014 Fieldbook today in your local Scout Shop or at ScoutStuff.org for $20 for the perfect-bound version or $27 for one that’s coil-bound.

Or, for the first time ever, you can buy it digitally. It’s available via Amazon for $20, and you can download it to read on a Kindle or any device that uses the Kindle app, including Androids, iPads and iPhones.

Find much more Fieldbook coverage, including a look at the contents pages, a bio of the Eagle Scout author and details about the history of the publication, all after the jump.  Continue reading

camp-scout-1

Camp Scout! app puts Scouting destinations at your fingertips

The annual practice of troops picking the perfect summer camp just got upgraded to the smartphone age.

Clear a spot on your home screen for Camp Scout!, a free iPhone app brought to you by Boys’ Life magazine and the BSA’s Outdoor Adventures team.

Let the iPhone detect your current location — or enter an address, place name or ZIP code — and Camp Scout! will show you the nearest BSA-owned properties.

Too many results? The “Things to Do” filter lets you see only camps with your unit’s favorite activities. Do your Scouts or Venturers fancy a place that offers boating, fishing and horseback riding? Tap all three activities, select “Find Camps” and voila!

Each camp’s page uses information supplied by the council. You’ll see a description, an activities list, driving directions, contact information and a link to learn more.

Roughly 500 camps are already in the app, and more are being added all the time.

In talking with Brian Gray, outdoor program coordinator for the BSA, I learned 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.

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patrol-box

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.

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jamboree-football

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

flags-marching

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

district-executives

The BSA’s looking for a few good men and women to be professional Scouters

As a Scout, I had no idea they paid people to work for the Boy Scouts of America.

I just thought the district executives I saw at Scouting events were just really active volunteers who got to wear cool silver shoulder loops.

Now, of course, I realize district executives and other Scouting professionals are a vital part of the team that supports adult volunteers like you. They’re there to lay a stable foundation on which you can build a successful pack, troop, team or crew.

Oh, and they’re paid to do so.

Just like you can never have enough quality volunteers, the BSA continually searches for potential career employees who want a profession with a meaningful, rewarding purpose.

In other words: We’re hiring. Career opportunities for district executives span 25 different states, including Alabama, Wisconsin, Illinois, Connecticut, Ohio, California and New York.

What’s the job like? Let’s just say if you want a cubicle job where you fill out spreadsheets all day, look elsewhere.

This is the kind of career where you break free from the desk and get out in the community. You meet people, make new relationships and spread the word of Scouting.

Unlike other jobs, the final goal isn’t to make the company you work for rich. Your underlying goal is to bring the incredible Scouting movement to as many youth as possible.

While I’ve never been a district executive myself, I have met hundreds of these enthusiastic professional Scouters when they visit the BSA’s headquarters as part of their District Operations Basic training. They describe their job as anything but typical.

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