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Smartphones in Scouting: A curse or a cure?

Before you tell your Scouts and Venturers to power down their smartphones at the beginning of your next adventure, I have something you need to read.

The BSA’s Deputy Chief Scout Executive, Gary Butler, penned a guest blog post that offers his nuanced opinion on the place that iPhones, Androids and devices of their ilk have in our movement.

Does Gary think they add to or detract from the delivery of a great Scouting experience? Read on and find out.

Smartphones in Scouting: A curse or a cure?

By Gary Butler, BSA Deputy Chief Scout Executive and Chief Operating Officer

Gary ButlerI have heard lots of conversations recently on whether smartphones should be allowed during Scouting activities. One of our employees shared with me that when his son goes camping the leader takes all the phones away and returns them when the activity is over.

Does the use of a smartphone as part of Scouting’s activities disrupt the experience, or can it be a “cure” to make our current experiences more relevant to today’s youth? This comment really struck home and got me to thinking as to what is the right answer.

Sometimes to find the answer to these kind of debates on how to go forward, it takes a look backwards to find the answer. One of Baden-Powell’s most interesting quotes is, “A fisherman does not bait his hook with food he likes. He uses food the fish likes. So with boys.” Continue reading

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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

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New Venturing award names announced

venturers-at-jambo2013The all-new Venturing awards program just got a lot more real.

Today the Boy Scouts of America announced the names for the new Venturing awards that will replace the current Bronze, Gold and Silver awards.

Say hello to the Venturing, Discovery, Pathfinder and Summit awards. I’ve listed them in order from the first award Venturers will earn upon joining, appropriately named the Venturing Award, to the program’s new top honor, also given a fitting name: the Summit Award.

As I first announced in May of last year, the 16-year-old Venturing program is undergoing major changes that put the focus on “progressive experiences in the focus areas of Adventure, Leadership, Service and Personal Growth.”

Venturing, a high-adventure program for young men and women who are at least 14 (or 13 and finished with the eighth grade) and younger than 21, has seen just 0.66 percent of Venturers earn any awards during its history.

That explains the need for fresh, new awards, which were “developed and tested among youth participants in the program, adult volunteers, human resource recruiters and college admissions counselors, using focus groups and quantitative research,” according to a news release the BSA shared this morning (PDF).

Venturers may begin using the new awards in May 2014; the exact date is undetermined, but it will be around the time of the BSA’s National Annual Meeting, held May 21-23.

Consider May 2014 to Dec. 31, 2014, a transition period during which Venturers may use either the old or new awards. Here’s how that will work: Continue reading

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Let’s get a Boy Scout or Venturer on FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council

fema-applicationScouts worldwide have lived the “Be Prepared” motto since 1907.

So who better than a Boy Scout or Venturer to serve on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Youth Preparedness Council?

Right now FEMA’s seeking out “youth leaders who are dedicated to public service, who are making a difference in their communities and who want to expand their impact as national advocates for youth disaster preparedness.”

Let’s encourage preparedness-focused Scouts we know to apply. Having a Scout selected to serve would be some great positive publicity for Scouting and further strengthen our “Be Prepared” ties.

Applicants must be between 12 and 17 years old and Continue reading

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One-stop shopping for news on what’s changing in the BSA and when

New Cub Scout handbooks are just part of the story.

New Cub Scout handbooks are just part of the story.

Keeping up with one BSA program change after another (after another) can feel a little like drinking from a fire hose.

It doesn’t have to.

Just consider scouting.org/programupdates your one-stop shop for promotional fliers, training information and the latest news about changes coming in 2014, 2015 and 2016 in Venturing, Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting.

The fliers are especially useful for leaders who want something tangible to distribute to educate parents about changes to BSA programs.

I’ll continue to share and analyze the latest BSA news right here on Bryan on Scouting, but the BSA’s official Program Updates page is an important tool that belongs in your Scouting toolbox — and in your browser’s bookmarks folder.

Merit Badge counselors, there’s a related resource for you. Continue reading

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Greatest hits: Counting down my 13 most-read blog posts of 2013

Where did 2013 go?

For Scouts and Scouters, it went to new merit badges, Eagle Scout journeys, the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, a nationally televised TV show about Boy Scouts, a family discussion on our membership policy, endless Cub Scout fun and so much more.

It was a great year for Scouting. And for Bryan on Scouting.

I’m so humbled that my blog recorded roughly 2 million page views in 2013, more than double the previous record of 850,000 from 2012. Thanks for making this a place you trust for Scouting news and conversation.

The busiest month for traffic on Bryan on Scouting was July, which was also my busiest month as I took you inside the 2013 National Jamboree, the first at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. A month later, I served on Wood Badge staff, which was an experience I’ll never forget.

I posted 275 times this year, covering anything I thought might be interesting and relevant with the goal of making your job as a Scouter easier. 

But forget what I found interesting; what matters is which posts you made the most popular. Let’s find out. Follow the jump for the 13 most-read blog posts of 2013…  Continue reading

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New details on the rollout of using One Oath and Law in all programs

Update, Jan. 27, 2014: Sea Scouts, see how this applies to you here.

It’s been more than a year since I blogged about the switch to the Scout Oath and Scout Law in all programs, a change that primarily affects Venturing and Cub Scouting.

The resolution, passed by the National Executive Board last year, means that soon every Scout of any age will use the Scout Oath and Law instead of reciting separate, program-specific sayings. Cub Scouts will recite the Scout Oath and Law instead of the Cub Scout Promise and Law of the Pack. Similarly, Venturers will no longer use the Venturing Oath and Venturing Code.

As I said in the October 2012 post, the changes weren’t immediate. And today, I have new details about the rollout.

The rollout is timed “with the release of youth handbooks and leader aids supporting this and other changes related to Strategic Plan Goal 411.”

That means for Venturing, the change will take place in May 2014. For Cub Scouts, it’s May 2015.

Follow the jump to learn how you can get a head start on finding out about the new program changes for Venturing and Cub Scouting.  Continue reading

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Robert M. Gates, former defense secretary, joins BSA national executive board, serves as national president-elect

Arena ShowRobert M. Gates, a Distinguished Eagle Scout and our nation’s 22nd secretary of defense, has been elected to the national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America. Gates will serve as a member of the executive committee and as the national president-elect.

This move means that upon approval of voting members of the National Council, Gates would begin a two-year term as the BSA national president in May 2014. The national president works alongside Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock and National Commissioner Tico Perez to form the National Key 3 that guides the organization. (Learn more about the National Key 3 in the sidebar at right.)

national-key-3-2013Gates’ appointment was made upon the recommendation of national volunteer and professional leaders, including the BSA national nominating committee. Following the National Council’s approval of Gates’ two-year term as the BSA national president beginning in May 2014, Randall Stephenson, chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T Inc., has agreed to serve as the president-elect of the BSA.

“There is no finer program for preparing American boys for citizenship and leadership than the Boy Scouts of America,” Gates said recently. “As an Eagle Scout, I know firsthand how impactful this program can be, and I believe its mission is more important today than ever before.”

Gates’ Scouting résumé is voluminous: Distinguished Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow, former president of the National Eagle Scout Association, past National Executive Board member and Silver Buffalo Award recipient. When it comes to the Scouting movement, Gates gets it.

“When I joined the CIA at age 22, I had no connections and didn’t know a soul,” he told the crowd at the opening arena show of the 2010 National Scout Jamboree. “The only thing in my life that led me to believe I could make it was my Eagle Scout badge. It was the only thing that distinguished me from most high school kids.”

Gates has a tremendous passion for Scouting but also a sense of humor when appropriate. In his 2010 jamboree speech, Gates described what happens when the director of the CIA goes camping with his Boy Scout troop.

“I think the edge gets taken off the wilderness experience when 100 yards away there are three large black vans, a satellite dish and armed security guards,” he told the crowd, drawing a big laugh. “It’s a challenge no Scoutmaster ever anticipated.”

Last year, Gates indicated a willingness to re-engage with the BSA, and because of his leadership capabilities and his long history of participation and service in Scouting, the BSA had the opportunity to take advantage of a unique moment to bring on board a truly great leader in Gates. He is one of our nation’s most respected public servants and a proven leader of the highest caliber.

“I am honored to take on this role and look forward to working on behalf of the millions of youth and adult members who make Scouting what it is today — an organization providing life-changing opportunities to today’s youth,” Gates said.

Video: Watch Gates discuss Scouting

Watch an excerpt from his speech at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree after the jump. Continue reading

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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

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How Facebook’s new privacy policy for teens affects your Scouts, Venturers

For your Scouts and Venturers on Facebook, the reminder to “think before you post” just got a lot more important.

Yesterday we learned that Facebook has changed its privacy policies for users age 13 to 17, a move with real implications for the social media users in your troop, post, ship, team or crew.

There are two changes you as a Scout leader should be aware of. Continue reading