Ask the Expert: Wood Badge course numbering, decoded

expertlogo1W2-590-14-8, C6-160-14-2, S4-83-14-2, N4-527-14.

Are those nuclear launch codes? A paranoid person’s computer password? Some sort of weird locker combination?

Nope. Those four sets of characters describe the numbers of actual Wood Badge courses being offered in 2014.

And in reality, the code — found on every modern Wood Badge course — isn’t that difficult to crack.

The letter represents your Scouting region — Western, Central, Southern or Northeast. The number is your area. Then comes your council number (which you can find here), followed by the two-digit year. (Notice that all four examples above have “14″ in common because they’re all held in 2014.)

The final number is added only if a council is offering multiple Wood Badge courses in a single calendar year. If so, they’re numbered chronologically. The first course in 2014 would get a 1 on the end, the second a 2 and so on.

Example time. Let’s take the Wood Badge course I staffed last summer: course No. S2-571-13-3.

That’s: S for Southern Region, 2 for Area 2, 571 for Circle Ten Council’s number, 13 for the year 2013 and 3 because the course was the third Circle Ten course of the calendar year.

Are you more of a visual person? Well here’s a handy chart for you: Continue reading


Utah’s Wood Badge course for both deaf and hearing Scouters leaves nobody out

Every Scout deserves a trained leader, and every leader deserves an opportunity for high-quality training.

Well, there’s no better training for adults than Wood Badge, and that philosophy of “No Scouter untrained” led Utah’s Great Salt Lake Council to create a Wood Badge course tailored for both deaf and hearing Scouters.

Though the course does use American Sign Language, it’s actually an inclusion course, meaning all are welcome. What a great way for hearing Scouters to have their eyes opened to the unique perspectives of Scouters who communicate using ASL.

The first course in 2012 was eye-opening. It was sanctioned by the National Council, which sent an observer to watch the proceedings. You can see a terrific video from that course at the end of this post.

The 2013 course last May had 57 registered, including 21 deaf participants and 11 Scouters who are bilingual, meaning they can communicate using both ASL and English. That’s a nice mix.

This is Great Salt Lake Council’s  Continue reading


A visit to the original Gilwell Park, the happy land where it all began

gilwell-visit-2Honestly, the original Gilwell Park in London looks no different from any other field. Sure, the grass is green, the trees towering and the air clean. But put a normal civilian here, and they won’t see anything special.

Wood Badgers, though, aren’t normal civilians. They know Gilwell is no ordinary park. Even though most haven’t visited this particular spot in England, they’ve been back to Gilwell time and again.

The U.K. Scout Association’s Gilwell Park is where the first Wood Badge course was held in September 1919, and every course since has created its own Gilwell as a gathering place for adult leaders getting trained.

Last week my dad, a former Wood Badge course director, and I, a former Wood Badge troop guide, visited Gilwell Park as part of a weeklong personal vacation to England. (Personal meaning I paid for it, not BSA.)

Yesterday I told you about my visit with an editor who works for the U.K. version of Scouting magazine. Today, join me as I visit the original Gilwell Park and see Baden-Powell’s Wood Badge beads (which I’m holding above) and kudu horn. The best part is you don’t have to be a magazine editor or blogger to see these pieces of Scouting history.

Photos and lots more after the jump.

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10 things I learned staffing Wood Badge at Philmont

Just like your favorite film, Wood Badge is even better the second time around.

Last month, I served as a Troop Guide for Wood Badge course S2-571-13-3, known within the Dallas-based Circle Ten Council simply as Wood Badge 106.

Loyal blog readers will remember I had a mountaintop experience as a participant of Wood Badge 102 last summer at Philmont Scout Ranch. (Read my five-part recap here, and send to those who haven’t yet taken Wood Badge but should.)

But this time I was a Wood Badge staffer, again at a course held at Philmont. And this time I learned even more. Staffing Wood Badge is like having a backstage pass. From that new vantage point, you know what’s going to happen, how it happens and why it happens at that exact moment. That new perspective comes with a greater appreciation for why this is Scouting’s top training course for leaders.

I learned a lot more than I could put into one blog post, but I thought I’d share 10 lessons I learned staffing Wood Badge. If you’ve staffed, please share your own takeaways by leaving a comment.  Continue reading


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


Wood Badge Wednesdays: Puerto Rico edition

Sandra says Wood Badge was the "most exciting and incredible experience of my life."

Sandra says Wood Badge was the “most exciting and incredible experience” ever.

Wood Badge builds lifelong memories, regardless of the setting.

So whether you’re at Philmont Scout Ranch (where I’ll be staffing a course this summer), a council camp in the midwest, or even an island in the Caribbean, you’re getting the same great course.

But from the looks of things, you could do much worse than taking Wood Badge in beautiful Puerto Rico. That’s where Sandra Vallejo Dávila recently finished her course at Guajataka Camp, in the city of San Sebastián. It’s the main spot for Boy Scout training on the island.

Sandra, a “very proud Bobwhite,” sent me this email earlier this month:

Hi Bryan, I emailed you in November to tell you how much I enjoyed your Wood Badge Wednesdays blogs and that I myself was taking my course this year. Well, I did and it has been the most exciting and incredible experience of my life! Here are some pictures for you.


Get an inside look at Sandra’s Wood Badge course, with pictures and captions, after the jump. 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


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.

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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