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.

Continue reading


Tuesday Talkback: How do you get more dads involved in Cub Scouting?

Tuesday-TalkbackMoms do Cub Scouting, and dads do Boy Scouting.

For the longest time, that was mostly true. Just look at the now-defunct position of Den Mother (there was no “Den Father”) for proof.

Fortunately, times have changed.

At roundtables and camporees these days, you’ll see dads wearing blue epaulets and moms wearing green ones. And that’s a good thing.

But there are still some dads out there, many of them Eagle Scouts, who prefer to wait until their son crosses over into Boy Scouting before getting involved.

“I was one of those Eagle Scouts,” former Scoutmaster M.K. says. “I was waiting for my sons to enter Boy Scouting so we could do the ‘real’ stuff. But my smarter-than-me wife reminded me that if my boys did not enjoy Cub Scouting, they probably would not become Boy Scouts. … I became a den leader, Webelos leader, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster and father of two Eagle Scouts”

For today’s Tuesday Talkback, Continue reading


Tuesday Talkback: Balancing too much adult involvement with too little

Tuesday-TalkbackThis much we know: A unit where Scouts/Venturers do everything without feedback or coaching from adult leaders is taking the “youth-led” concept too far. And a unit where adult leaders plan trips and lead meetings isn’t taking the concept far enough.

So where’s the line?

That’s what Scouter Michael Dulle wondered in an email to me. He writes:

There is a fine line for a good balance of a boy-led Scout unit vs. a hands-on, adult-led unit. I am totally in favor of the boy-led unit. However, there can be too much boy leadership in a unit, especially when the Scoutmaster abdicates his leadership role.

The troop of which I am member of is closer to a good balance than I’ve seen in other units I have witnessed. How do you create and maintain good, balanced unit leadership?

Great question, Michael. Cub Scouting, where adult leaders must take on an active leadership role, doesn’t deal with this problem, of course. But Michael’s question gets at a real dilemma in Boy Scout troops and Venturing crews.

Share how it works in your troop or crew, and consider these questions when responding in the comments below: Continue reading


Tuesday Talkback: Who should use the Scout handshake?

Tuesday-TalkbackSave your right-handed handshakes for boardrooms and networking luncheons. Scouts do things a little differently.

The Scout handshake, offered around the world as a token of friendship, uses the left hand, which is the one closest to the heart.

Page 20 of the Boy Scout Handbook offers this two-sentence description: “Extend your left hand to another Scout and firmly grasp his left hand. Made with the hand nearest your heart, the Scout handshake signifies friendship.”

The Scout handshake uses no interlocking fingers; it’s just a normal left-handed handshake. Other programs within Scouting, including the Order of the Arrow and Cub Scouting, have handshake variants that you’ll learn about upon joining those programs.

But last week a Scout mom asked me whether the Scout handshake is for her. And it raised the question of who should use this left-handed clasp and who shouldn’t. Here’s her email: Continue reading


Tuesday Talkback: How do you keep travel costs down on long Scout trips?

Tuesday-TalkbackUnless you live within a 10-hour drive from one of the BSA’s high-adventure bases, you’re in for a minimum two-day trip.

And staying overnight at a motel or state park increases everyone’s share of the travel costs.

Enter Zack, a Scout from Houston who contacted me last week. Zack’s troop must drive at least 12 hours to get to any one of what he calls the BSA’s “top-tier camps” but you and I call Philmont, the Summit, the Florida Sea Base and Northern Tier.

The concern among his troopmates, he writes, is that transportation costs threaten to be the biggest expense as his troop plans a visit to one of the BSA’s top national destinations next summer. Houston, we have a problem. Continue reading


Tuesday Talkback: 3 big questions to ask before your next pinewood derby

Tuesday-TalkbackEven the most finely tuned pinewood derby event needs an occasional tune-up.

So before your pack waves the green flag this year, ask yourself three questions to make sure your derby doesn’t have any red flags.

With each question, I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below. After all, I don’t call it Tuesday Talkback for nothing.

Question 1: Who really made that pinewood derby car?

pinewood-derby-2In Cub Scouter Stephen K.‘s pack, “there are some Scouts who do not see their car until race time.” Ken D. said he “actually had a Scout who couldn’t tell me which car was his to take home after the derby!”

Not good. An 8-year-old boy shouldn’t carve and paint the car by himself, but neither should Mom or Dad. The point is to make it a fun, collaborative process that ends with a boy who takes ownership in his work.

Does a dad who built the car from start to finish get much joy out of seeing his son’s car take first place? He shouldn’t.

Carl B. says you can tell who did the majority of the work by seeing who carries the car to the check-in table. “There seems to be a strong correlation between who built the car, a parent or the Cub Scout, depending on who was carrying the car into the pinewood derby area.”

So how do you strike the perfect parent-son balance?  Continue reading


Tuesday Talkback: Getting more Scouts to attend Order of the Arrow events

Tuesday-TalkbackThe Order of the Arrow is not a secret society, but in some troops it might as well be.

These troops go through the first steps of getting Scouts elected into Scouting’s national honor society and through their Ordeal.

But after that, these new Arrowmen become ghosts, never seen at a lodge meeting, dance event, section conclave, National Order of the Arrow Conference or any other OA function.

Too bad, because Order of the Arrow members have tons of fun and experience the brotherhood of cheerful service that can enhance the Scouting experience, especially for older boys who may feel like they’ve seen all Scouting has to offer at the troop level.

So here’s the Tuesday Talkback topic for today: How would you characterize the level of OA participation in your troop? How can you, as a Scouter, increase your Scouts’ involvement in the Order of the Arrow?

You know what to do: Leave your responses in the comments section below. Continue reading


Tuesday Talkback: How do you organize belt loops, pins, other recognition items?

Tuesday-TalkbackWhen Cubmaster Lee inherited the position earlier this year, he was pumped to make an even bigger difference in the lives of youth.

That is, until he saw the shape of his pack’s advancement and award collection.

“I inherited multiple plastic bags full of belt loops and pins in no particular order,” he writes. “I’d love to know if others have found some great organizational folders, cabinets, etc. to keep things together.”

Great question, Lee, and it’s one that applies to Boy Scout leaders, as well. Certainly there’s a better solution than a mess of zip-top bags.

Today’s Tuesday Talkback topic is a simple one: How do you store and organize awards and advancement items before presenting them to Scouts? Leave your thoughts on this topic below. If you have ideas for future Tuesday Talkback questions, send them directly to me. Continue reading


Tuesday Talkback: How do you get Scouts to settle down at meetings?

Tuesday-TalkbackAfter loading them up with snacks and sugary drinks at the beginning of the meeting, it’s no wonder your Cub Scouts are bouncing off the walls right when you want them to settle down for a serious activity.

Boy Scouts, too, have endless energy, and getting them to focus on planning patrol menus for this weekend’s campout won’t be easy after they just came inside from 20 minutes of a high-energy game like capture the flag.

A young person’s energy level is a tricky thing to tame, but it can be done with proper planning.

You can start by creating a better meeting schedule — or, for Boy Scout troops, having your youth leaders do it. Does it make more sense for snacks to be at the beginning of the meeting or the end? What about high-energy games?

Once the schedule’s perfect, you’re still not done. Writing a den or troop code of conduct puts enforceable rules in writing. Even better if you have the boys create it themselves. Ask questions like, “What are some of the things you are not allowed to do in your home?” As boys respond, have them adapt home rules for the den; as they agree on rules, write them on the piece of paper. When they agree on the entire list, post it at all of your den meetings.

I remember my den growing up had a conduct candle. An adult lit a large candle at the beginning of the meeting and put it out at the end. If someone misbehaved, though, it was extinguished early. Once the candle fully melted away (usually after a few months of meetings), we got a pizza party or field trip or some other kind of treat.

It was a visual reminder to the boys that breaking the rules ruins things for everyone.

For today’s Tuesday Talkback, I’m interested in your experience with conduct at meetings. Specifically: How do you get Scouts to settle down? Leave some ideas below. Continue reading


Tuesday Talkback: When parents see Cub Scouts as low-cost babysitting

Tuesday-Talkback“The pack meeting lasts 90 minutes, so that’s plenty of time to do some Christmas shopping, grab a bite and pick up my prescription for crazy pills.”

It’s crazy but true: A few parents out there see Cub Scouting (and Boy Scouting) as a low-cost babysitting option for their son. They’ll drop their son off for meetings or outings and go catch a movie or swing by Home Depot while their child experiences Scouting without them.

While it’s true that Scouting is a more enriching, engaging and affordable alternative to leaving a child at home to watch movies with the next-door neighbor, remember that BSA doesn’t stand for Baby Sitters of America.

Families get the most out of Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting when everyone is involved. But what’s a Cub Scouter to do when parents peels out of the parking lot before you can ask them to help out at the next blue and gold?

That’s today’s Tuesday Talkback question: How do you get parents more involved in Cub Scouting? How do you remind them that you and other dedicated Scouters aren’t babysitters? Is this a problem in your pack? Share your thoughts and experiences below. Continue reading