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 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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Adopt a Highway and Scouting: How to do it right and stay safe

adopt a highwayCongratulations on the newest addition to your Scouting family!

This new member is two miles long, four lanes wide and could use a little TLC.

Scout units that participate in their state’s Adopt-a-Highway program have found a public way to give back to the community. They agree to maintain a stretch of highway, usually for a minimum commitment of two years, and in exchange get service hours and public recognition in the form of their unit number on a prominent road sign.

That said, running an effective Adopt-a-Highway program in your troop or crew involves more than just picking up McDonald’s wrappers, hubcaps and empty cans of Dr Pepper.

It takes planning to make sure enough Scouts or Venturers participate and — most importantly — that they stay safe.

First let’s take a look at some Adopt-a-Highway safety tips, including recommended minimum ages. Then we’ll see how other Scouters made the most of their adopted stretch of road. Find it by following signs for the jump. Continue reading


What is a Scouter? The ‘by the book’ answer and your definitions

For those of us who have been in Scouting for the majority of our lives, the answer seems obvious.

But recently I got an email from a Cub Scout parent who shall remain nameless, asking, “What is a Scouter? I see this word all the time but am unclear about what exactly you’re referring to.”

I realized we use this word all the time in Scouting magazine, on my blog and on social media. And I suppose we just assume that all those new adult leaders out there know the word through some type of magic.

Let’s fix that today. First, the simple definition. The BSA’s Language of Scouting defines this noun as “A registered adult member of the Boy Scouts of America who serves in a volunteer or professional capacity.”

That’s the by-the-book definition, but we can do better. So I asked our Facebook friends to weigh in on the subject. I’ll share two of my favorite answers and then present a word cloud I created from the responses, all after the jump.  Continue reading


What did the troop affected by explosion in West, Texas, do with extra money?

The Scouts and Scouters in West, Texas, have taken “to help other people at all times” to a new level of awesome.

First, let me recap. On April 17, 2013, a deadly explosion at West Fertilizer Company left a tight-knit community in pain. Fifteen people died and more than 150 buildings were damaged.

A vital part of the West community is found in the families of Troop 494. Shortly after the explosion, the larger, national Scouting community came through with donations of money and essential survival items like water, toothpaste and baby formula. It was another fine example of the Scouting Spirit in action.

Though, thankfully, no Scouts lost their lives in the explosion, four troop families lost their homes. And so the money donated helped relieve a little of that pain by funding a trip to the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas, and paying for the balance of the troop’s summer camp fees at Worth Ranch in Palo Pinto, Texas.

Those of you who donated to Troop 494 played a big part in the community’s healing process, and you deserve infinite praise.

But last week I learned that not all the money the Longhorn Council received on behalf of Troop 494 was spent. Exactly $1,778.06 remained, Scout Executive John Coyle told me. What happened to that money is a story I had to share.  Continue reading


After jamboree, Connecticut Scouter returned to his car to find this…

jamboree-garys-windowConnecticut Scouter Gary had just finished a “wonderful week serving on the national jamboree staff” when he returned to the mall parking lot where his car had lived for the past two weeks.

But when he spotted his car, his heart sank.

Here’s how Gary described what happened in an email sent over the weekend:

The bus had dropped me off at Crossroads Mall, a short walk to my car. As I got closer to my automobile, I noticed that a plastic garbage bag was duct taped to my passenger side front window. A depressed feeling came over me.

Had someone smashed my window, and will I need to call the police? I decided to unlock my car, sit down and gather my thoughts. Continue reading


Jamboree jazz band plays the lights out in Charleston

When people think of Scouts doing service, they usually picture Scouts holding hammers and shovels, not trombones and trumpets.

George Pinchock wants to change that. The band director for the 2013 National Jamboree Jazz Band brought his 57-member group off the Summit property to perform two shows in nearby West Virginia cities on Friday.

“The jamboree brought people down here to do service, and this is how we do service,” Pinchock said. “We could be clearing brush, but instead we do what musicians can do. We perform. We bring Scouting to the community through our music.”

Today I met up with the band in Charleston, the charming West Virginia capital city, to check out their performance at Live on the Levee, a neat venue right on the banks of the Kanawha River. Continue reading


Venturers from Hawaii, Colo. complete day of service with a smile

Creating and maintaining the Summit Bechtel Reserve brought jobs and money to West Virginia, a state ranked 47th in per-capita personal income last year.

But now that the Summit is built, that positive impact on the community will only continue to grow thanks to initiatives like the Messengers of Peace Day of Service, which launched today.

I spent most of the day today tagging along with Crew F206, a jamboree unit that combines Venturers from the Maui County Council in Hawaii and the Denver Area Council in Colorado.

Joined by two outstanding Arrowmen from the Order of the Arrow, the group spent four hours creating hiking and biking trails near Raleigh County Memorial Airport in Beckley, W.Va., about 30 minutes from the Summit.

Theirs is just one of hundreds of similar projects that jamboree participants will complete over the next several days. Messengers of Peace Day of Service (or MOPDOS) organizers expect 250,000 man-hours of service during the jamboree.

I know; it’s easy to gloss over that 250,000 number. Yes, it’s clearly a lot, but to really understand the effect of each individual hour, you need to look closer at units like Crew F206. So I did. Continue reading


Story of Scouts riding across the country inspires Michigan Scouter to think big

lucky13-logoHere’s more proof that in Scouting, we’re all just one big family.

Two weeks ago, I blogged about Lucky 13, the group of Scouts from Troop 845 in Chapel Hill, N.C., who are riding their bikes across the U.S. to raise money for the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

When Chad Mitchem, Eagle Scout and Cubmaster of Pack 3049 in Holland, Mich., read my post and looked at the Scouts’ planned route, he noticed “that they planned on getting really close to my hometown,” Chad writes in an email to me. “I had to contact them!”

He did more than just contact them. Chad will host the group in his backyard tomorrow.

“They graciously accepted my invite, Continue reading


Photo finishes: Before-and-after shots of 25 Eagle Scout projects

With apologies to the ubiquitous convenience store chain, more Eagle Scout projects went up last year alone than the total number of 7-Elevens currently open worldwide.

Yes, the number of 2012 Eagle Scout projects bested the number of worldwide 7-Elevens by a score of 57,976 to 50,250.

I bring up this incongruous comparison to remind you that there’s an Eagle Scout project on every corner. There’s probably one within walking distance from you right now. Think about the scale of this for a second: Some 50,000 new Eagle Scout projects are completed each year. That’s roughly 137 significant improvements to the community every day, improvements created by the best, brightest, and most-prepared leaders around.

The Eagle Scout Service Project is a remarkably powerful force that’s transforming our country for the better each time a city park, church, or school gets repaired and beautified.

Let’s celebrate this transformation by looking at 25 great Eagle Scout projects. And like any good makeover, the best way to appreciate the change is through before-and-after photos. Enjoy, and congrats to these young men.  Continue reading


Extreme makeovers: Send me before-and-after pics of Eagle Scout projects

Before: Indian cemetery makeover

Before: Indian cemetery makeover

The journey to Eagle benefits more than just the young man who earns the award.

He leaves his community a better place, most visibly through his Eagle Scout Service Project.

I’ve blogged about how to find Eagle Scout project ideas, explained that blood drives and other drives are acceptable projects, and showcased some top-notch Eagle project videos.

Now I’m interested in the before-and-after photos each Eagle Scout is required to include with his final project.

I’d like you to email your best ones to me. But first, these requirements:  Continue reading