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MattR

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Everything posted by MattR

  1. MattR

    Changing Times & Demographics

    I think all of you are going to be pleasantly surprised in 2010 as the BSA rolls out some changes. They are going on offense with their message. They feel that their message was being written by everyone besides the BSA. I think Arrow Corps 5 was a way to focus attention on all the conservation work scouts do. I had a chance to ask people at national whether putting the outing back in scouting matched their goals and they said absolutely. As for Scoutreach, that's being replaced with something intended to bring all sorts of people that don't understand the scouting culture into scouts. My understanding is that scoutreach failed because it didn't bring Hispanics all the way in to a regular troop. For example, Scoutreach districts never had OA. There is also agreement that different troops have different issues. I talked to a few excellent scoutmasters and whereas I'm competing with band camp and soccer they're competing with meth labs and gangs. Flexibility and being nimble is a new push at national, but they are rock solid on keeping the core values of scouting. I'm optimistic, but it's going to take time.
  2. MattR

    better campout participation

    Here's something I noticed in my troop. The PLC came up with a calendar that they liked but few of them actually showed up at the campouts they picked. I think we were getting in a rut so we scrapped the calendar and started over. We're trying to work with the scouts on creating a better calendar. On our Spring camporee we told everyone to bring camo for capture the flag and also required every patrol to use a dutch oven for dinner. They said it was one of the better campouts they've had. The thing is they never would have come up with this on their own. We're trying to show them how to come up with more fun and to challenge themselves. They would not have voted for a dutch oven campout but I forced it and then had a meeting with a bunch of dutch oven recipes they could pick from. I've taken over the calendar for three months, after which I hope the scouts will be more willing to find and try different things. Your calendar looks great to me, but I've never done those things before. I'd ask yourself if you're doing the same things over and over. A completely different but related issue I've noticed is that motivating older scouts is not easy. Having fun is not enough. Adults want notoriety, challenge, power, success, etc, and older scouts are starting to need the same things. I've talked to a lot of Scoutmasters and many of them create a lot of PORs that are specific to each scout's desires. The standard troop has roughly 10% of the scouts in a position of responsibility and some troops have 40%. I think this is a way to let scouts excel at something so I'm going to move in that direction.
  3. MattR

    better campout participation

    Eagle732, You say only 25% of your scouts are going on the bike hike. Have you done bike hikes before? (We haven't and it sounds like fun.) If it's not a new idea, is this to a new place or have you already been there before? I really would like the answers to these questions. Since I first started this thread I've added a new requirement for every campout. It has to be memorable. New place, new skill, or new theme. One campout was to the Air Force Academy (canceled because of bad weather, so we'll keep it for next time). At Spring Camporee we told them to bring camo and they played capture the flag (in the fog) and we also required the use of a dutch oven for dinner. We gave them a list of a dozen dutch oven recipes to try from to make it easier. We got half the troop to show up and considering it was end of school, prom, etc this is the best showing we've had in a while. It was a success. When I say "we" I mean myself, another adult, the SPL, and the ASPLs. It seems like coming up with unique ideas is a skill that needs to be developed. Right now the adults are doing most of it and I want to move it towards the scouts, but it's going to take time.
  4. Hi Kudu, Interesting comments. With the PLs picking the SPL it sounds like a parliamentary system as opposed to a democracy. I guess it has its pros and cons. However, I would really like a book with 400 pages of ideas for having fun. That should be reprinted. We used to have something more along the lines of what you're talking about. The patrol leaders picked weeks to plan and they were responsible for those weeks. From what I can tell that's the way it's described. The problem was that the PLs spent so much time organizing meetings they didn't have time to do anything else. Troop meetings were great but patrols were just collections of scouts. There was no cohesion. The PL had no time for his patrol. As often as we told them to delegate some of the planning it didn't work. The problem as I see it is there aren't enough scouts taking on responsibility. Something like 10% of the troop was responsible for organizing events and it needs to be somewhere around 25%. I'm not talking about helping. Most of the scouts help. I'm talking about organizing something. They, like the adults, are time poor so I'm trying to get more scouts to help. We also ask every family to help in some way, too, but that's another story. To spread the responsibility I said the PLs are responsible for their patrols and the SPL and ASPLs will ask other, older scouts to help organize troop level events. If you're star or above you're expected to help. The SPL and ASPLs are also responsible for training and mentoring all the other responsibility positions. The PLC still picks the calendar and maybe it should help pick other scouts to help organize troop level events. It may not be elegant and I appreciate your comments and what the PLC is supposed to do, but just like the adults, we can't depend on a small number of people doing most of the work. I was told the BSA needs to adapt to two things, time poor people and changing demographics. That's what I'm seeing.
  5. In my troop Patrol leaders are only responsible for their patrols so troop meetings are organized by the SPL and ASPLs. That would be severe burnout on the part of the SPL if he didn't have help as every meeting is different. There's a main theme/skill/demo as well as a game. They will occasionally ask some of the older scouts in patrols to help with these things and that means keeping them in focus and getting things done. There's also communication and training. My mantra seems to be: "You're the leader and you have a lot of responsibility but you don't have to do all of it. Get people to help. That's leadership." The other one is: Everyone has a job (and this includes adults). So our ASPLs are busy.
  6. What's the best way to use drums at a campfire? It just seems like the kind of music that would fit in. I could see 40 scouts playing drums around a campfire together would really get the blood going. Japanese Taiko, Indian drum circles, or Nalgene bottles and pots. If anyone has experience I'd like to hear about it.
  7. MattR

    When is it to cold to tent camp?

    As far as I know Okpik is a Camp Tahosa thing. I'm sure you could call up the Denver Area Council and start asking questions. Someone else might be doing something similar.
  8. MattR

    When is it to cold to tent camp?

    GernBlansten, that's why we camp on the other side of the divide; more snow and colder. The cold is a challenge but the snow is fun.
  9. MattR

    When is it to cold to tent camp?

    acco40, to keep your water from freezing you can bury it in the snow. Dig a hole down to the ground, put your water bottles in the hole, and bury it in snow. Snow is a good insulator and the ground will generate just a bit of heat. You have to go all the way to the ground. For us, -15 is typical and -25 is miserable. We only end up with a little bit of ice in our jugs. There are many tricks including eating like a horse. We feed our scouts dinner at 4pm and then give them a night time meal (chili or similar) before they go to bed. A nalgene with boiling water stuffed inside a wool sock stuffed inside your bag by your knees will keep you warm all night. To learn much more, the Denver Area Council has a program called Okpik that teaches a lot of winter camping skills including making quinzees (kind of like a snow cave).
  10. MattR

    better campout participation

    Thanks for the ideas. I feel more comfortable about starting over with the calendar. We have a lot of adults with ideas and I think I'll use those to get the scouts thinking. Mafaking also has a point. I don't think the parents understand how important the comraderie is to scouting and it's primarily from the campouts. And I never really thought of this until just now, so thanks. Another question: How much of your meetings are spent preparing for a campout? As I said before, the campouts aren't the focus of the meetings. We just figure out menus. We could be doing skits. We could Be Prepared for whatever new activity is going to happen. Our scouts spend so much time organizing other activities besides campouts that the campouts are not important. I think half of our meetings should be getting ready for the campouts; menus, skits, skills. Gwd-scouter, I should rephrase my comment about enthusiasm and success. In order to have success there needs to be some failure. Figuring out how to deal with the frozen pancake batter is success, even if it's going hungry. If they came up with a good idea like creating a double boiler and got to eat then that's even better because they solved their problem. In either case they'll remember this because it's a challenge. If nature creates enough challenges and new situations then I don't need to add anymore, but I'm wondering if the scouts need to add challenges like breakfast is to be cooked on a stick. Last question: How do you require a certain level of participation? If helping them come up with a better program is the carrot. Do I need a stick? I tell my older scouts that To Help Other People At All Times implies teaching the younger scouts skills. When I first started this I got blow back from everyone, but now the older scouts have decided they actually like it. Is there a similar thing I can do for the camping?
  11. MattR

    better campout participation

    kenk, The scouts do pick the calendar and events. We have a whole campout just for the PLC to pick the calendar. We start a few weeks in advance collecting ideas from the troop. ON the campout we review the old calendar, set goals, generate ideas, vote on them, and fit them into a calendar. It's boy led. The problem is they have no idea what would really get them excited (that we can afford). They don't know what they don't know
  12. I was a DL and I was burned out. I didn't really have any good ideas of what to do, or a program to follow, or experienced adults to teach me, EDGE style. So when my son got to Boy Scouts I took a 6 month break, but went on all the campouts. Now I'm the SM and the only thing I ask of ex DLs is to come on campouts and participate. In August I'll hit them up for more. It takes about a year to get new parents involved. As for helping Webelos we started inviting them to join us, with their parents, to the Fall camporee. They had a great time. This year we're going to add a late summer campout and something fun in October. So they get to do scouting for August, September, and October. Then they just need to figure out November - February. When I told this to a Web 1 leader he thought that was the greatest idea since sliced bread. So, DLs have a tough job and need help.
  13. MattR

    Electronics use during Venturing functions

    I don't know of any rules about this and I hope there aren't any coming. For my troop, unless we go on a long trip (more than 4 hour drive) I don't allow personal electronics from the time we leave the parking lot. Everyone complains, at first. And then they realize they can play the mp3s in the car if everyone listens to the same thing. Then they start arguing and teasing each other about what songs they like. They end up having a new experience, believe it or not, that is listening to the same thing at the same time and talking about it. Once we're at our destination I don't allow electronics. Nature sounds pretty good. Yes, I'm getting old, but we leave behind the tv and the furnace and the big soft bed and lots of hot running water and all the other nice things for a reason. The scouts that can be cheerful when they only have what they need, as opposed to what they want, tend to be better scouts. When I get back from Klondike I really appreciate a warm house on a cold night. To the response that if the event isn't enjoyable enough then it's OK for scouts to "unplug" from their friends, I have a different view. Maybe the scouts need to learn how to make lemonade from lemons. My children would complain horribly when they were younger and I told them to turn off the tv, electronics, or whatever and go find something else to do. Five minutes later they'd come back and say they were bored. Too bad, I'd say. About a half hour later they were getting into something and having a great time. Imagination is a skill and it takes effort, but that's how problems are solved, so it's a worthwhile skill to learn.
  14. I had a scoutmaster meeting (with the ASMs) and we were talking about how the number of scouts going on campouts was dropping and one guy, that does a lot with the council, said this is a problem nation wide. Now, I happen to be violently against electronic toys of any type on campouts and someone said maybe we should think about having a video game campout. I gave him the look of death before I came up with a better idea. Scouts can figure out major, memory-for-life fun if they're put in the right environment. A hill full of snow, a snow skate, and some picnic tables (ski jump), a lake with some blow up rafts (king of the rafts), a hike along a river (water fight), a croquet set in the woods with impatient scouts (full contact croquet, no high sticking). The thing is the scouts don't have enough experience creating these types of situations and so the adults are trying to be creative and think of some. We're going to spend our next meeting coming up with more ideas. But the best fun is spontaneous so you can't really plan it out. It takes the right set of toys in the right environment with minimal goals or pressure to get something done. Then you just let the scouts go and magic occurs. Sometimes they need a hard goal but sometimes they just need time to have fun. Anyway, I'd like to hear more ideas of situations where your troop just had spontaneous fun.
  15. Hi, I couldn't find a forum for ceremonies so here it goes. I want to build a recognition for all eagle scouts in my troop, past, present, and leave room for future. I'd like to have decades worth of Eagle scouts on it, long past the time I'm gone. I want to make a rather large walking stick representing the trail to Eagle, where each scout that makes it will have their name and the date of becoming eagle placed on a small brass-like plate and nailed to the stick. The stick will be 5' long and 3" in diameter. At the top will be a brass eagle. At the bottom will be a simple stand that will keep it upright. I'd like to add something at the top of the stick, below the eagle that would a) look nice, and b) indicate that this is for eagle scouts in our troop. This is where I need some ideas. I could add a brass plate but I wanted something that looked more rustic. So I was thinking of some leather lacing and beadwork. I thought it would be really nice if I could do some beadwork that somehow represented the eagle award. Has anyone done anything like this before? Anyone have bead patterns for the eagle award? My fear is that the resolution of beads is too coarse to get anything that looks right. Should I forget the beads and do this in leather? Should I do some of both? Simple beadwork around a leather square that has the award stamped into it? I'm open to ideas. BTW, this project is part of my Woodbadge ticket, so I have to do it.
  16. A gate keeper implies failure and I suppose it depends on what you mean by failure. We built a trebuchet for the local cub camp that uses a 200 lb counter weight and can throw a cabbage 350 feet. On our first attempt the arm, for lack of a better word, exploded. It wasn't failure, it was an opportunity to improve. The new arm is a much better design and is rock solid. That's how I treat a scoutmaster conference. If a scout doesn't know his stuff then we talk about what he needs to work on and we schedule another scoutmaster conference. All but one time the scout that "failed" the first conference passed with flying colors on the second. On the other time it took one more conference. If the scouts knew that I would never fail them then most of them would never learn the material, or live up to the ideals of scouting, or do anything I ask of them. Since they also know they eventually pass, I don't lose them. On the other hand I can see where the BSA is worried about scoutmasters that don't act in a scout-like manner and so they go to the lowest common denominator and say if you've had the boxes signed off then you're good to go. The Star scout thread that this thread came from is an example of where this comes from. Based on what I read, this scoutmaster isn't thinking about developing a scout. It's a really screwy troop. I think the basic issue is more about training of adults than scouts. There's an adult in my troop, that actually started the troop, and I learn more from him than anyone else. My job, as scoutmaster, is keeper of the flame. It's part understanding what scout spirit is and part understanding how to motivate adolescents to learn this. I'm no expert and I'm constantly wondering if I was too easy or too hard, too serious or too laid back. I'll be honest, scoutmaster specific training does not cover this. So where do scoutmasters learn this from? Mainly the people that came before them. It's also partly from talking to other adults. So, to answer your question, I think it depends on the adults involved. The scoutmaster, the committee, and the program that trains the scouts. My goal is to create a fun program so by the time the scout comes to the scoutmaster conference I don't have to even bother testing him because he knows everything.
  17. MattR

    Need ideas for Eagle Recognition

    I put some jpgs on a website: www.peakfive.com/eagle1.jpg www.peakfive.com/eagle2.jpg They're a bit dark and the name plates are not on in these pictures but you get the idea.
  18. MattR

    Eagle scouts

    Once upon a time there was a scoutmaster that had a scout that wanted to become Eagle. The scoutmaster sat down with the scout and said, "you're not ready, you don't participate and help out." The scout was devistated but the scoutmaster further said "I want you to spend the next 6 months working with the younger scouts. I want you to prove to me you understand what scout spirit is about." The scout did this, became Eagle, and was grateful to his scoutmaster. About a year later another scout wanted to become Eagle, the scoutmaster said "you're not ready, you're not very reliable, I want you to spend the next 5 months being in charge of organizing scouts before campouts." The scout was disappointed but put his heart into it and did a great job. He became Eagle, and was grateful. Another scout came by, wanting to be Eagle, and the scoutmaster just had to kick him in the rear to get him going. He, too, finally became Eagle. About 2 months later another scout wanted to become Eagle and the scoutmaster said, "you're not ready, you constantly complain about everything and get incredibly defensive whenever someone tries to help you improve. The idea of cheerful service is all you need to learn." The scoutmaster knew the boy was a good kid. He went on all the campouts. He also knew the boy didn't really have a group of friends or anything else besides scouting. The scout had a wall around him that the scoutmaster couldn't figure out how to get through. What else did the scoutmaster tell him?
  19. MattR

    Eagle scouts

    To make a long story short, I put the hammer down. The scout was angry, his parents were angry, half the district was angry. I found another adult to play good cop to my bad cop. Well, the adult mediated between myself and the rest of the world. The scout worked at camp. He came back. He smiled. He had fun. He became Eagle. He finally had his COH. He sent me a thank you letter. He said he learned something and he appreciated what I did for him. Maybe I'll be Scoutmaster for another year.
  20. MattR

    Need ideas for Eagle Recognition

    It only took 18 months but I finished our Eagle recognition. It's a 5' long walnut pole 3" in diameter with a silver eagle on top, a silver nickel molding of an Eagle award set into the wood, leather work around the award (so the award looks like an oval plate you see on walking sticks), and the names of each scout on oval name plates below. There's room for 75 names. I wish I could put a jpg here. It looks real nice.
  21. MattR

    Eagle scouts

    Yes, making him successful at something is key so he can see it himself. Making it something that other scouts would appreciate would also be good. Positive peer preassure would be fantastic. Thanks for the ideas. But how do you get through a really thick shell? If you ask a scout to do something and he doesn't see a need for it, he won't do it. So, this is like bringing a horse to water but it won't drink. I've talked to him several times, sometimes on camping trips, with no luck. If I tell him a scout is cheerful, even when things are tough, I get a smart alec response about putting on a fake smile just for me. Anyway, a few days ago I seemed to have gotten through to him by putting the hammer down and saying there won't be a Scoutmaster Conference until we find a way to solve this problem. He went through several stages of grief the next day(denial, anger, depression) and hopefully is starting in on acceptance. There's an ASM that's taking on the job of good cop. We're setting up a specific set of goals for him to achieve and it's going to be very clear what everyone has to do. This is the same thing I did with the other scouts. At this point I have his attention, I think he'll be fine, and he'll do a good job. But getting to this has been brutal on everyone. He's somewhat fragile right now and I don't like putting kids in this position because there's a risk of things getting worse and not better. How have other people dealt with this kind of problem without the threat of holding up Eagle?
  22. MattR

    Eagle scouts

    No, I'm the scoutmaster and I'm trying to figure out what to do.
  23. MattR

    Need ideas for Eagle Recognition

    Thanks to everyone for their ideas and encouragement. I like the idea of the wood carving. I also like the idea of simple. I look at the scout emblem and the Eagle emblem and they both have a lot of detail and look hard to do even for someone with skill at this. How do you simplify it?
  24. MattR

    Need ideas for Eagle Recognition

    Trevorum, yes, the eagle will be the top and will be the focal point from a distance. The reason I'm thinking of the walking stick motif is partially due to the fact that we really don't have a place to put a plaque that would hang on a wall. Also, during COHs it would be nice for the scouts to see it, and think about it, and wish their name was on it. I want it to look old and wise. This will make up for the fact that I'm just old
  25. I know of a scout group, not mine, that has made a fundraiser out of teaching scout skills. So, older scouts charge money to teach scouts in other troops skills like going on hikes or canoeing. This seems all wrong to me as it goes against the grain of scouting, of helping out and volunteering. I've created a bunch of bad blood by mentioning this, I don't like that, and I'm trying to figure out what to do. Does anyone else do this type of fund raiser? Am I going too far by saying this is not appropriate? Thanks, Matt
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