Wood Badge Wednesdays, Vol. 3: Models for Success

As Models for Success go, it’s tough to top course Scoutmaster John Stone (left) and Senior Patrol Leader Bill Hemenway.

As anyone who’s watched Survivor can attest, grouping a bunch of people together and giving them a name doesn’t make them an effective team.

No, if you want to morph a collection of individuals into a cohesive group, you’ll need good leadership, willing teammates, and ample time.

That was certainly the case for the Owl patrol at the Wood Badge course I took in August at Philmont.

We arrived as strangers and left as lifelong friends.

I know, I know. I could’ve taken that line right out of a Hallmark card. But Wood Badge veterans know this is true: The course offers a better firsthand lesson in effective team development than anything else out there.

That’s the concept behind my third installment of Wood Badge Wednesdays: Models for Success. (If you want to catch up, please read Part 1 and Part 2.)

Wood Badge allows Scouters to experience Baden-Powell’s vision for a perfect, youth-led Scout troop. Participants don’t just read about how Scouting should be run — we eat, sleep, and drink it for six full days.

By the end of the course, each leader walks away with practical skills that instantly apply back home. But that concept of “strangers to teammates” only describes the beginning and end. What happens in the middle? Well, let’s just say it’s no cake walk. Continue reading


Should you compete against other units for Scouts? If so, how?

You’re walking through the church lobby after your Scout meeting one night when you spot something new on the bulletin board.


“But wait,” you say, “this church is where my pack, Pack 456, meets!”

It happened to Sandy, a Scouter who e-mailed me and asked that her full name and hometown not be used. And it could happen to you.

It’s a sticky situation. Yes, we’re all in the business of serving as many Scouts as possible, so we should be happy when any young person finds a pack, troop, team, ship, crew, or post to call home — even if that home belongs to a different unit.

On the other hand, each Scouter out there wants his or her unit to reach its full potential, and losing members restricts that.

How do you walk this line? And when, if ever, is it appropriate to compete against other units for members? I turned to our Facebook friends to find out:  Continue reading


Lowe’s nails it! Helps pay for Eagle Scout service projects

Update July 17, 2013: The grants have returned for click here for details.

Consider it giving back to those who give back.

Lowe’s, the home-improvement giant with more than 1,700 stores, has teamed up with the BSA and local Scout councils to give selected Eagle Scout candidates a $100 prepaid gift card to be used toward their service projects.

Any Life Scout still in the planning phases of a construction-based Eagle Scout service project is eligible. In other words, if the Scout’s project requires supplies from, say, Lowe’s, it’s eligible.

Your local councils will actually award the money, and councils will get a certain number of awards based on a percentage of their three-year average for Eagle Scout Awards earned.

Here’s what you need to know:  Continue reading


Who’s your one-stop shopping spot for healthy living?

One study says chocolate is good for you, while another swears it’ll kill you.

When it comes to information about nutrition and health, cutting through the fat to get to the good stuff online isn’t easy.

Enter the BSA’s new SCOUTStrong site. The news aggregator collects Scout-approved, health-related news articles, podcasts, and videos in one spot for easy viewing. The goal: making Scouts and Scouters physically strong, mentally awake, and completely prepared for the jamboree and other BSA adventures ahead.

After spending a few minutes on the site, any adult — leader, volunteer, parent — should feel empowered to pass on the lessons learned to their Scouts.  Continue reading


Wood Badge Wednesdays, Vol. 1: Living the Values

Growing up, one thing always perplexed me about our home: What’s with all the owls?

We lived in an owlery, it seemed. Owls in every room. I saw owl belt buckles, owl clocks, owl paperweights, owl postcards, plush owl toys — pretty much everything short of a real bird in a cage.

My dad’s overt owl obsession made no sense to me — until last month.

After completing a weeklong Wood Badge course at Philmont Scout Ranch, I get it now.

My dad was — well, is — a member of the Owl patrol. And now that I’m a fellow Owl, I see how Wood Badge changes you. The values and lessons embedded in you during those six days stay with you long after the closing ceremony.

So in an effort to share the magic of Wood Badge — and preserve some of my favorite memories — I’m starting Wood Badge Wednesdays. My goal with this five-part series is to explore some of the takeaways from my course and help you see how Wood Badge can help strengthen your ability to work with your pack, troop, team, ship, crew, or post.

Never heard of Wood Badge? Considering attending soon? Already wear two, three, or four Wood Badge beads? No matter where you are in the spectrum, I hope you’ll find value in this five-part, in-depth look at Wood Badge.

Today, I’ll discuss the importance of Living the Values and how my patrolmates embody the Scout Law.  Continue reading


Troop calendar planning conferences: What works, what doesn’t?

A troop without an activity calendar is like a car without a steering wheel: It lacks direction.

In the Boy Scouts, creating a troop calendar for the next six to 12 months doesn’t happen by itself. It takes dedication from a well-trained Patrol Leaders’ Council — and the right amount of guidance from adult leaders like you.

But how much guidance is too much? What works — and what doesn’t — at a troop planning conference?

I asked Scouters on Facebook and Twitter, and they shared these ideas: Continue reading


Help reimagine the next generation of Cubcast

Call it a temporary role reversal.

The team behind Cubcast — which Cub Scout leaders listen to every month for practical tips — is now listening to you.

I told you all about the monthly, BSA-produced podcast when I previewed the July and August editions. It’s already excellent.

But the folks behind Cubcast aren’t resting on their laurels. They’re taking the admirable “if you’re not moving forward you’re moving backward” approach and will start from scratch to make Cubcast an even better tool for Cub Scout leaders.

A tool sort of “like your favorite hammer or kitchen spatula,” says Caryl Lombardi, BSA multimedia producer. Listening directly to the leaders? I think she hit the nail on the head with that one.

Here are some of the questions they’re looking to you to answer:  Continue reading


The Ultimate List of Scouting Apps

Once upon a time, we used maps printed on paper to find our way. We studied laminated sky charts to identify constellations. We counted seconds after thunder strikes to locate storms.

What were we thinking?

Today, thanks to the ubiquitous smartphone, we can do all that and more with a few taps.

As Scout leaders, we can now carry a library, GPS, weather radio, compass, map, camera, and field guide in our pocket. But which apps are worth downloading or — in some cases — paying for?

I tapped our Facebook friends to find out.  Continue reading


Are you safe when driving Scouts around? Take the quiz and find out

Parents in your troop expect you’ll help mold their boys into better young men.

They also have another, equally important expectation: that you’ll keep Scouts safe while doing so.

Before you drive Scouts to your unit’s next campout or other event, ask yourself: Am I safe behind the wheel?

Your life — and the lives of your Scouts — may depend on it.  Continue reading


Popcorn-selling secrets heat up August Cubcast

When someone down the hall makes popcorn, the enticing aroma makes me drop everything and find the source.

If only selling Scout popcorn were as easy, right? Turns out it is.

That’s thanks to the August 2012 edition of Cubcast, the excellent audio podcast for Cub Scout leaders that I told you about earlier this month.

Part 2 of the latest episode explains why units sell popcorn, some secrets for how to sell more, and info about some tasty new flavors.  Continue reading