Shameless plug: Join me at Wood Badge this summer at Philmont


Wood Badge + Philmont = Happy Land

I interrupt my regular blog programming for this important Wood Badge Wednesdays announcement…

I’m staffing Wood Badge this summer at Philmont Scout Ranch, and there’s a spot on our course for you and your Scouting friends.

The course, officially called S2-571-13-3 but known here as Wood Badge 106, is held August 19 to 24 at Philmont. It’s hosted by Circle Ten Council but is open to Scouters from any council in the country.

When I took Wood Badge as a participant last summer, I had no idea the level of planning that the staffers underwent to make our week so life-changing. But now that I’m on staff and have attended two all-day staff-development sessions and a few evening meetings with my fellow troop guides, I’m seeing first-hand just how much work goes into a typical course.  Continue reading


Youth Protection Champions: Who they are, and why you should care

youth-protectionHave a Youth Protection question you’re not comfortable asking some stranger at the council or national level? Ever feel like Youth Protection is “too national” and doesn’t directly apply to your unit?

I hear you. And so does the BSA’s National Youth Protection committee.

Check out the new Youth Protection Champions program, debuting later this year. Starting with the unit-level Champion and going all the way down to the volunteer who chairs the national YP committee, the program is designed to keep Youth Protection on everyone’s mind by embedding key barriers to abuse into every aspect of the program and every unit in Scouting.

A unit-level Champion’s job is about more than just making sure everyone is Youth Protection trained. (By the way, if your training isn’t up-to-date, fix that immediately.) The Champions fill in that two-year gap between trainings to promote new initiatives, increase awareness, distribute materials, and monitor the unit’s Youth Protection strategy.

The timing’s perfect, because April is Youth Protection Month. Follow the jump for a first look at this important new program, including the Champion’s roles and how someone like you can become a Champion. Continue reading


Duchess proves that Scout training isn’t just for the commoners

If a pregnant Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, can do it, so can you.

I’m talking about getting trained, an important step for any Scout volunteer — whether a Cub Scout leader from California, a Scoutmaster from South Carolina, a Venturing advisor from Vermont, or, yes, even a member of the British royal family.

In January 2012, I blogged about the Duchess’ new role as volunteer with the U.K. Scout Association. And today, she did what every volunteer should: She got trained.

Her Royal Highness joined 24 other Scouters from across the United Kingdom to take part in an adult volunteer training event. The course took place at the snowy Great Tower Scout Activity Centre in northwest England.

As this article on the U.K. Scout Association website explains, she “braved the cold and took part in a number of activities, including lighting different types of fires and whipping up some delicious campfire treats. She passed on her Scouting skills to Cub Scouts from Manchester and Cumbria. She also chatted to volunteers about them helping Cub Scouts climb some of the large coniferous trees located around the campsite.”

But her impact goes way beyond campfire cooking skills. Continue reading


Spread the word: Help send Scouters to conferences at Philmont Training Center

philmont-ambassador-patchThere’s another side to Philmont where training, not trekking, takes center stage.

The Philmont Training Center, the BSA’s national volunteer education facility, hosts more than 5,000 Scouters and family members each summer for its signature weeklong courses. 

But even though everyone’s heard of Philmont — aka “Scouting paradise” — not everyone knows about the conferences designed to educate volunteers in all areas of the program, from Cub Scouts to Venturing.

That’s where the new Philmont Training Center Ambassador program steps up. This council-level volunteer is responsible for promoting PTC training opportunities within his or her council.

What’s in it for you? And how do you become your council’s PTC ambassador? Read on… Continue reading


This summer, it’s ‘Back to Gilwell’ for me

wood-badge-beads“Would you like to serve on Wood Badge staff?”

It was one of the easiest questions I’ve ever been asked.

It sounds sentimental, but the truth is I had never really left Wood Badge, at least in my mind. That made saying “yes” to Debbie Sullivan, course director for the upcoming Wood Badge course this August at Philmont, more of an involuntary reaction than anything else.

I’ll be a troop guide, which means I’ll work directly with a patrol of six or seven Scouters as I guide them through their Wood Badge journey. It’ll be a journey for me, too, as I get a new perspective on the course and see what happens behind the scenes to ensure a life-changing experience for participants.

We tell our Scouts that the best way to learn something is to teach it, and I’m betting that theory applies to Scouters, as well.

Anyone from any council can attend Wood Badge this summer at Philmont, and spots are still available. More information below, but first I wanted to catch you up on my Wood Badge journey.  Continue reading


Youth Protection: It really does begin with YOU

youth-protectionYou might not enjoy reading this.

But it could be the most important thing you’ll read today.

As stated in The Boy Scout Handbook, “Child abuse is a serious problem in our society, and unfortunately, it can occur anywhere, even in Scouting.  Youth safety is Scouting’s No. 1 concern.”

Child abusers are out there. They come in all shapes and sizes.

That’s not meant as a tabloid-style scare tactic. It’s just the truth.

The good news is that you’re not alone in your efforts to help identify, report, and, thus, prevent offenders from harming your kids.

The BSA has the tools and information you need. That’s why even though you only take the training once every two years, Youth Protection is a 24-7, 365-day-a-year operation. That’s as true for Scouters and Scout parents as it is for all of us who work for the Boy Scouts of America.

As a youth organization, the BSA isn’t alone in its efforts to help prevent abuse. Did you know that the Boy Scouts of America hosted the first-of-its-kind National Youth Protection Symposium in early November? I did, and I wanted to know more about what took place at this event.

So this week, I sat down with Michael Johnson, the BSA’s Youth Protection director, to talk about the symposium, discuss current and emerging threats to children, and learn what parents and Scouters can do to make the movement safe. Continue reading


In the loop: A guide to square knots, and how to wear them

You’ve been awarded a square knot. Congratulations! Now what?

If you’ve been honored with one of the 34 square knots currently available (see the full list below), waste no time in sewing that badge of honor to your uniform. Though they don’t tell the whole story of a Scouter’s impact, these tiny rectangles provide great evidence of a volunteer’s efforts.

But before you dust off the sewing machine, read these tips:

Location, location, location: Knots should go over the left pocket, as seen from the wearer’s perspective. Line them up in rows of three in any order you choose. Typically, the knot you deem most important is worn on the bottom row on your right, but that’s your call. If your knot total isn’t divisible by three — aka you have a row of one or two knots — you can either center them in the row or keep them aligned to your right. The latter method means you won’t have to re-sew those knots if you get a new one.

Count to nine: If you’ve been a Scouter for some time, those knots could really stack up. How high they go above your pocket is up to you, but the BSA recommends wearing no more than nine — or three rows of three.

Don’t flip out: Yes, square knots have a right-side-up. The chart above explains the process of determining which end goes where. This can be tricky on single-color knots, but if you squint really hard you can tell which loop on the knot is above the other.

Which knot is which?: Let’s hope you can identify the knots on your own uniform, but it’s likely you’ll see a knot or two out in the field that you don’t recognize. Here’s a handy chart (click to enlarge):  Continue reading


Wood Badge Wednesdays, Vol. 5: Leading to Make a Difference

It’s amazing how quickly a whisper turns into a roar.

Take Wood Badge tickets, for example. Each one leaves a lasting legacy, but 50, 500, or even 5,000? That kind of impact reverberates across the Scouting universe for generations.

At my Wood Badge course in August, 50 Scouters each crafted five tickets. That’s 250 boosts to Scouting in North Texas from our course alone.

Some of you might be wondering: What is a Wood Badge ticket? Well, after the six-day course ends, participants aren’t done. To earn those iconic beads, a Wood Badger must complete five projects, called tickets. The tickets allow Scouters to give back to the program and to “realize their personal vision of their role in Scouting.”

That focus on Leaving a Legacy is a huge part of the spirit of Wood Badge. And it’s the subject of today’s fifth and final Wood Badge Wednesdays post.

Continue reading


Wood Badge Wednesdays, Vol. 4: Tools of the Trade

In Scouting, as in life, change is inevitable.

You’ve got new merit badges, new locations for campouts, new roles in your unit, new health and safety regulations, and more.

That makes change the only fact of life guaranteed to never change. And these days, both in and out of Scouting, change happens at a faster rate than ever before. Resistance is futile, but how you respond to it is entirely up to you.

Let’s say change is a bucking bull; do you: (A) Jump off and run away, (B) Hold on and try to survive, or (C) Grab the horns and steer. In other words, do you resist change, accept it, or lead it?

At Wood Badge, we learned how and why to try the third approach. It’s one of many Tools of the Trade I took home from the course in August, and it’s the focus for this edition of Wood Badge Wednesdays. (If you want to catch up, please read Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.)

Consider this:
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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