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Questions and answers for parents and leaders new to Scouting.

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  • LATEST POSTS

    • Short answer: BSA doesn't offer much in guidelines for a reason: it's a big country. Everything you mentioned is an activity. Certainly helping their fellow scouts do Eagle projects is an activity. Studying in school is not an activity. Going to church is not an activity. But ... Maybe a patrol decides to take a special class at school, or speak at an assembly about scouting, or the troop visits a church and participates in the service in uniform. They may throw on their uniforms and pay respects at the funeral of a departed scouter. Those would be troop/patrol activities. Now, you could split hairs. If the course is over a few weeks (e.g. swimming lessons every Wednesday) does that count as one or multiple activities? My suggestion: ask the scouts what they think. Whatever you do, don't take your cues from strangers on the internet.
    • @willray, I would not be so dismissive of Bryan's Blog, it is very much intended to be an official mouthpiece of the BSA, and Michael LoVecchio is no slouch. On the flip side, I agree that not everything in those blogs is signed off by every executive and council president. It's goal is to report from trusted sources. But, trusted sources don't know your scouts. And if you're the SM you're tracking so many things, you might be biased one way or the other towards a particular scouts unique experience. But, that's what MB counselors are for. They put some time in with the boys, read the requirements together, asks what they think about a particular log. (I'm a firm believer that a boy should present his own recollection of his camping career, and not depend on a troop database.) After dealing with lots of scouts, a counselor can be objective about these things and invest more time in an enriching discussion. For example, go down the list and ask the scout what he learned at each activity, what was the most challenging, which one he wouldn't ever do again, etc ... And I think that's the point of the requirement ... to have a number of diverse experiences of preparing, implementing, stowing gear, repeat so that the scout has something to draw on.
    • I was talking to two nearly-18 Life scouts that are busting their rears to get everything done on time. As I was talking to them it hit me that a lot of requirements really don't make you a better scout. It seems to me that when I was a scout we honestly needed to know all the first class requirements in order to be good scouts. We needed axe and fire skills if we wanted to make a fire to cook our food. We used knots because we'd cut down trees and make stuff. Map and compass, absolutely. First aid, while not used every campout, was used. The tracking probably wasn't needed and while the plant and animal identification is nice, it's not really a core skill. For the most part it was all useful and we used it most campouts. That was a big part of the motivation to get things signed off. It made you a better scout. You were more useful to your patrol if you had those skills. Now, you don't need knots or fire or an axe for most campouts. Clips and stoves have replaced them. Map and compass is useful but in many places people aren't allowed off a trail and you don't have to go for a hike other than a few requirements. First aid is still good. On the whole, it seems to be a bit obsolete. Or at least less relevant than it used to be. Rank doesn't necessarily mean more useful to your patrol. It just means you have more things signed off. I thought back to @Kudu's comment about Free Range Kids and the pros and cons of lone patrols and "troops." The FRK idea is the parents train their kids to do something on their own and then the kids go do it, on their own. Would parents that want their kids to go off and do adventures consider First Class to be useful training? What skills would make a scout more adventurous? Here's my random list: How to make or fix your own gear (i.e., Macgyver skills). Making a backpacking wood stove. Taking care of cast iron cookware. Cooking a meal for 8 on your own with no help and from only simple ingredients (and buying the food on your own). Moving all of Orienteering MB into First Class. Making a survival shelter. Taking your patrol on a campout with the requisite planning and approval. Making a fire in a down poring rain. Making fire starters. Make a knife blade from 1/8" steel plate. Kill and clean a chicken, part it and then cook it (I haven't done all of these last two but it sure would be fun to learn). Or even just how to part a whole chicken. I would think that if a First Class scout could do these types of things they would have more confidence at being adventurous and trying new things. No describe and discuss, just do things that are beyond the usual plop camping and "plop cooking" (pre made meals). The goal would no longer be skills you can learn in a year. Rather, skills that would make your patrol more independent. Granted, there's no way the requirements will change but it's just a thought. Unless someone knows how to incorporate these ideas into their troops.
    • Thread necromancy here, just to point something out should anyone be searching for clarity in the future: The guidance is in a magazine.  It is one person's opinion, it is not policy.  Policy is in the merit badge book and requirements, and satisfaction of them is to be negotiated by the scout and MBC to the best of their ability. Personally, I think the guidance in scoutingmagazine is wrong, or at least incomplete.  I believe the intent of the requirement is to say "we want you to go camping a lot, not just a couple long camping trips".  I believe it is also trying to capture "typical long trips like summer-camp are a different kind of camping, and we don't want more than one of those counted".  I strongly suspect the intent of the "50 milers are long-term camping" guidance, is addressing the "we want you to go on many different camping adventures", NOT the "summer camp isn't like real camping" aspect of the requirement. The way the guidance is written, if a scout went on a week-long camping trip every other week, every week of the year, every year that they were in scouting (not completely impossible, for a home-schooled kid, and I actually know some semi-nomadic craftsperson families where they actually come close to this), the "guidance" would result in them only having credit for 6 nights of camping.  I really don't think the requirements were intended to tell that scout "really, you should camp less". Don't use the vagueness of the requirement to let a scout do less than the requirement intended, but don't punish a scout for doing more than the requirements either.
    • This is actually an interesting theory I have thought about too, but in a different way. I think one of the big reasons we are seeing the rise of "Mega Councils" (ie. Chicago, Michigan, St. Louis, Indy) is to create a larger corporate structure of Professionals to offset the lack of Volunteers in the BSA now.  In a lot of places, DE's are just trying to keep afloat sinking Districts. 
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