patrol-box

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

Digital-Technology-teaser

Just for clicks: First look at the Digital Technology merit badge patch and cover

Digital-TechnologyTo borrow a phrase from a certain smartphone maker: The next big thing is almost here.

Digital Technology merit badge, set to debut in mid-April 2014, will guide Scouts through the exciting, complex, ever-changing world of smartphone apps, computer software and tech-focused careers.

It’s the Boy Scouts of America’s latest in a growing roster of STEM-focused merit badges that help upgrade a Scout’s skills for today’s digitally focused workplaces.

As I mentioned in January, Digital Technology merit badge is debuting as Computers merit badge nears retirement. Computers MB came online in 1967 — long before anyone could’ve dreamed of a palm-size computer that also makes phone calls.

Scouts have until Dec. 31, 2014, to earn Computers merit badge. And yes, a Scout can earn and wear both Computers and Digital Technology merit badges. See more details about the phase-in and phase-out process at this link.

As for Digital Technology MB,

Continue reading

merit-badge-sash

Everything you ever wanted to know about merit badge sashes

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?A merit badge sash is like a trophy case you can wear.

Each tiny circle represents one of the 136 interest areas a Boy Scout has conquered.

But what restrictions are placed on merit badge sashes? In what order should they be sewn on? Is there a minimum or maximum number of merit badges a Scout may wear on a sash? Can a Scout with a ton of merit badges wear two sashes? What about wearing a sash folded over a belt? And can anyone help mom or dad sew these things on?

I’ve got the answers — well, to all but that last question.

These answers come from the expert, Christopher Hunt, head of the BSA’s advancement team.

Continue reading

ConnorStottsCitizenHonors

Eagle Scout Connor Stotts receives 2014 Citizen Honors award

On July 31, 2011, Eagle Scout Connor Stotts singlehandedly saved the lives of three swimmers caught in a dangerous riptide near Oceanside Beach, Calif.

Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation

This bravery earned Connor the BSA’s Honor Medal With Crossed Palms, as well as the Carnegie Medal (which came with a $5,000 reward). But the college sophomore now has another award to add to his collection: a 2014 Citizen Honors award.

Selected by living recipients of the Medal of Honor — the highest award bestowed upon military heroes for acts of wartime valor — the Citizen Honors awards recognize three civilian American heroes for acts of bravery in their daily lives. Connor’s actions certainly fit the bill.

(Read on to learn more about Connor and find out how you can watch the Citizen Honors Ceremony March 25 at Arlington National Cemetery.)

Continue reading

train-depot-troop-1

This Minnesota troop’s Scout hut is a former train depot

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of a Scout hut.

That’s the term for a standalone building whose sole purpose is hosting Scout meetings and storing Scout stuff.

Growing up, my troop met every Sunday in a large conference room on the second floor of the city municipal building where my dad worked. We were lucky to have such a large, well-appointed, easily accessible space for our meetings. But it’s impossible to make such a space feel like your own when it’ll be used the next day for government business.

That’s where Scout huts like the one owned by Troop 228 of New London, Minn., really shine. Their building once was the train depot in the town that sits two hours west of Minneapolis.

Some old buildings get a second life as a Scout hut, while others are built strictly for that purpose. Some Scout huts, like this unique one in the basement of a Buffalo, N.Y., church, are part of larger buildings. Many of our Sea Scouting friends, meanwhile, have floating Scout huts. They meet aboard the same ships they use for excursions.

Troop 228 got its Scout hut in an interesting way — and for a price you won’t believe. Continue reading

sunset

Spirit of the Eagle Award honors the Scouts we lost too soon

spirit-of-the-eagleIt’s a tragic reality that some Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturers are taken from us before their time.

These young people who die in an untimely accident or illness leave behind two grieving families: their actual family and their Scouting one.

To help bring these families a small bit of comfort, the Boy Scouts of America created the posthumous Spirit of the Eagle Award. It memorializes the contributions to Scouting these young people made during their time with us.

A recent, devastating example came out of the Sandy Hook school shooting in December 2012. Two of the victims, Chase Kowalski and Benjamin Wheeler, were Tiger Cubs, and the BSA’s Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock personally presented the families with the Spirit of the Eagle Award. It was a touching gesture that helped these families heal.

Continue reading

mining

Future Mining in Society MB counselors can get trained for free online

miningMining in Society merit badge counselors, here’s your chance to sharpen your skills before teaching the BSA’s newest merit badge to Scouts.

The Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration will offer two free online trainings for Mining in Society MB counselors. The class takes an hour, and you can complete it from the comfort of your home computer.

Anyone is welcome to attend, but seats are limited.

Register for the class at this link. Though they’re listed as “Training I” and “Training II,” the courses are identical. So pick whichever time is more convenient for you.

The first training time is this Thursday, March 20, at 7:30 p.m. Eastern (6:30 p.m. Central, 5:30 p.m. Mountain, 4:30 p.m. Pacific).

The second is set for Wednesday, April 30, at 9 p.m. Eastern (8 p.m. Central, 7 p.m. Mountain, 6 p.m. Pacific).

To help you get in the Mining in Society spirit, check out these resources.

antarctica-hiking

An Eagle Scout in Antarctica: Icebergs, penguins and unbelievable views

On the bottom of the world right now, Eagle Scout Alex Houston is having an experience that tops all others.

I already introduced you to Alex and told you about his time in Ushuaia, Argentina, as he prepared for the journey by boat to Antarctica. As a reminder, he’s the Eagle Scout selected to join an expedition called 2041 that’s exploring the Antarctic Peninsula to research its ecology, wildlife and the importance of renewable energy in shaping the future of Antarctica. When they return, Alex and the expedition founder will share their findings with the BSA at the 2014 Sustainability Summit.

Alex and the explorers arrived safely to Antarctica and got their satellite uplink working, meaning we get our first chance to hear from the Lawrence, Kan., Eagle Scout about his first few days in the world’s most-remote continent.

Despite an environment that seems practically unlivable, Alex had some fascinating encounters with wildlife, including humpback whales, leopard seals and Gentoo penguins, which were “considerably louder and smellier than one would imagine.”

He even got the chance to take some incredible hikes, and on one his group was the first to reach the summit — no big surprise for a Scout.

Read Alex’s latest report and see more photos after the jump.  Continue reading

jamboree-football

Adopt these 3 steps for healthier meetings, earn the Healthy Unit Patch

healthy-kids-patch

Get one of these for everyone in your unit by completing three easy steps.

Drink Right, Move More, Snack Smart.

Those six small words hold big power. Power to make your unit, and therefore your Scouts, healthier.

Changes you employ today could have positive rewards that last Scouts a lifetime. And speaking of rewards, if you make three health-conscious changes over the next three months, you’ll earn a special patch for everyone in your unit. Now do I have your attention?

There’s more than a patch at stake, though. For the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents.

Sure, mom and dad play a vital role in their children’s diet and exercise habits. But Scout leaders can make a difference, too. After all, you’re with these kids one night a week and one weekend a month, typically. What you do at unit meetings and campouts matters.

Ask yourself: How active are your meetings? What snacks do you serve? What do Scouts drink?

The Boy Scouts of America has partnered with Healthy Kids Out of School to offer an incentive to reconsider your answers to those three questions.

Say hello to the Healthy Unit Patch, which encourages units to follow the BSA’s SCOUTStrong recommendations at meetings, events and excursions.

Adopt the three healthy principles below by completing the 3–6–9 challenge, and you’ll earn patches for every Scout in your unit. It’s easy and fun. Here’s how: Continue reading

flags-marching

Which side does the American flag go on when marching or at ceremonies?

The American flag isn’t rare, and it’s not made of precious materials. You can buy a nice one for $10.

But still we treat it with reverence and care normally reserved for historic artifacts or priceless works of art. We make sure it’s properly displayed, we fold it neatly and we never let it touch the ground.

Why? Because while its materials are cheap, what it represents is not. The flag’s more than a flag. It’s a symbol of our country’s ideals. It’s a rallying cry for patriotism. It’s a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifice of the men and women who fought and died to protect the flag and the people who pledge their allegiance to it.

So, yeah, it deserves to be treated well.

Scouts and Scouters know that. We’re some of the most patriotic people you’ll find. We wear the American flag on our uniforms, and “duty to country” is in our Scout Oath.

It’s this reputation for patriotism that explains why packs, troops, teams, posts, ships and crews are often asked to serve as the color guard at community events. Making sure we respect the flag’s traditions is our obligation.

That’s why JayR Seymour with Pack 24 from Bradford, Mass., contacted me. His pack was asked to serve on the color guard for a Harlem Globetrotters game in a week or so. Here’s what he wrote: Continue reading