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Everything posted by mrkstvns

  1. The importance of coding skills can not be overestimated in a world where AI, robotics, and big data dominate conversations about the future of work and whether traditional career paths are likely to become obsolete as technology advances accelerate. BSA has some relevant merit badges in these subjects (obviously "Programming", but also "Digital Technology" and "Robotics"), and has some new Nova awards (like "Hello World", "Cub Scouts Can Code", and "Execute") that can be earned by scouts at all levels. For these awards, scouts need to learn the basics of machine logic and how to implement algorithms in 1 or more programming languages. Schools don't usually teach programming skills in adequate depth for today's world, and BSA might be well positioned to fill the gap for those scouts who are curious about a career path that is likely to remain viable in decades to come. Scouters who might not have parents with appropriate skills in coding can sometimes leverage events held at local colleges or companies. I read an interesting article about how Capitol Area Council was leveraging a local event from the "Hour of Code" initiative to encourage their scouts to learn a bit about coding. These events are held throughout the country, so Scoutmasters, Merit Badge Counselors and Nova Counselors could do similar initiatives in a lot of areas. Here's the story: https://www.kvue.com/article/tech/scouts-hour-of-code/269-388972df-0ae2-4321-a669-79228a424b0d
  2. A Boy Scout in the UK drew the unwanted attention of local police investigating online weapons purchases. The scout had ordered 3 "flick knives" from a Chinese web site, all too happy to ship to the UK. Story: https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/scout-illegal-knives-police-trafford-17350475
  3. This past weekend was BSA's annual Jamboree on the Air (JOTA). Did any of y'all participate? Story about this year's JOTA: https://www.ksby.com/news/local-news/northern-slo-county-boy-scouts-connect-with-scouts-overseas-via-radio-for-jota-joti-jamboree
  4. mrkstvns

    Jamboree on the Air

    I tend to view "reports" with a looming fear of impending boredom caused by figures, charts, and tables full of useless mumbo jumbo. The report you cited was nothing like that! It was entertaining and informative, full of real-life stories that showed how to make JOTA participation work in different scenarios. Useful stuff!
  5. Boy Scouts do service projects. They put in time for most of their rank advancements, and when they get to Eagle, they are expected to come up with a good project on their own and lead other scouts in getting it done. Hornaday awards also require big projects --- most are even more involved than Eagle projects. The Hornaday projects focus on environmental problems. Many troops also do service projects simply because its part of the scouting DNA. I thought it might be nice to put together a few pointers to media articles that cover some of these service projects. They help put scouting in a positive light, and I think they could help younger scouts get a few ideas for what's possible and maybe help them think about what kinds of service projects they might come up with when it's their turn to lead a project. Do you know of good scout projects? Got comments about any of these?
  6. mrkstvns

    Did BSA "Abandon" LDS?

    As everyone here knows by now, the LDS church is discontinuing their participation in the Scouting program as they roll out their own youth development program. Motives for the LDS leaving scouting have revolved around whether policy changes in BSA motivated the change, or whether it was simply time for the church to have a program they controlled that was more tightly focused on their core values. Now a prominent church leader is speaking out, saying that "BSA abandoned us..." https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2019/11/15/lds-church-leader-we/
  7. There's a document out on scouting.org that seems to discourage many of the common practices that enable merit badge events (like fairs, universities, etc.) and that also seems to discourage bad practices that are very common in almost all merit badge summer camps and winter camps. I wonder if this will indicate a trend away from the current merit badge mills that prevail across the country... The document is "Merit Badge Group Instruction Guide" and is available here: https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/512-066_WEB.pdf Some interesting points that appear there... "Group instruction should be focused on those scenarios where the benefits are compelling" "The focus must on the quality of the Scout's counseling experience, and not on the number of Scouts who can take a class or complete a badge." "Simply taking notes, completing a workbook, or listening during a group instruction session does not constitute completing a requirement" "For many badges---perhaps even most of them---partial completion is not only acceptable but expected from a merit badge event." "most classes should be small" "Group tasks do not fulfill requirements..." "...completing a worksheet does not constitute completing a requirement." Thoughts?
  8. mrkstvns

    Campfire Beef Stew

    Nothing is quite as warming or smells quite as tempting as a slow simmering beef stew. Here's a classic recipe that gives you the basics. You can tweak it as you like. I always add turnips or rutabagas, but kids today aren't familiar with those classic winter veggies, so feel free to stick to the core veggies of potatoes, carrots and onion, if that's what you prefer. INGREDIENTS 1-1/2 pouinds beef cubes 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup flour 1/2 teaspoon paprika 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 4-ounce can tomato paste 2 teaspoons herbes de provence seasoning (or make your own from savory spices such as marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano) 2 diced garlic cloves (or 2 teaspoons chopped garlic from jar) 1 15-ounce or 16-ounce can of beef broth 1-1/2 teaspoon rosemary 2 bay leaves 3 cups cubed peeled potatos 3 cups chopped onion 2 cups sliced carrots 1 cup frozen peas 2 tablespoons water 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional for adults, add 1/4 cup sherry or red wine) DIRECTIONS Measure flour, salt, and paprika into a paper lunch bag 9r gallon size Zip-Loc bag. Add beef cubes and shake. Heat vegetable oil in large pot or dutch oven, and add coated beef cubes. Brown beef cubes. Add tomato paste, herbes de provence, and garlic. Stir and cook about 5 minutes. Add beef broth, rosemary and bay leaves. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer about 1 hour. Add potatoes, onions, and carrots. Cover and simmer about 45 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered until stew thickens to desired consistency. I like to serve this with a big round loaf of some type of artesanal bread.
  9. mrkstvns

    Troop Recruiting Ideas and Help

    I'm not sure you're really making a valid point. When I look around town at all those "other" youth groups, it seems that they're focused on "fun" things like sports, STEM, karate (mostly sports though). It's really camping, hiking, paddling and high adventure outdoor activities that separate scouting from everything else. Sure, the church youth group does camping once a year as part of their retreat ---- but it's never their focus. Sports teams? They NEVER camp. Ditto with all the activities that center around school-related things like STEM or theatre. Camping etc. *IS* the "different kind of appeal" that troops (or packs or crews) can leverage to differentiate themselves.
  10. mrkstvns

    Cubs Make Toys for da Birds (AK)

    Birds today just aren't playing with toys like they did when I was a kid. Today's birds just want to send out Tweets.
  11. mrkstvns

    Troop Recruiting Ideas and Help

    Another strategy that might work for you is some kind of DEMO event. The key to making that work is to focus on something FUN and adventurous. Don't hand out your tired old flyers that have a gazillion words saying nothing....just SHOW a sample campsite. Or have a public campfire in a local park, cooking smores for the kids....something like that. There is a great discussion in Bryan on Scouting about Scouting Show and Tell, especially related to holidays. See the article: https://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2019/12/03/scouting-show-and-tell-holiday-decor/
  12. mrkstvns

    Troop Recruiting Ideas and Help

    "Networking" is the buzzword you hear in marketing circles. Parents probably already have a "network" of fellow parents that they've built up over the years from play dates, little league, soccer camps, school friends, etc. Constantly talking up scouts in a friendly, casual, non-threatening way is a great way to let your friends and neighbors know that you care about scouting and that scouts is fun. Scouts inviting their friends to a scouting event is a classic way to get new members (and is expected as part of First Class requirement 10). An excellent way of leveraging "networking" is to encourage your scouts to take Den Chief positions in local Cub Scout packs. This can be used towards their Position of Responsibility requirements for rank advancement, but from a marketing perspective, it lets you have a troop representative in the pack as a role model and as ambassador for the troop. I know it doesn't seem as sexy as coming up with a new flyer or a special event, but understanding and using networking strategically can pay dividends.
  13. 25,000 Boy Scouts were forced to evacuate their Jamboree due to the impending typhoon Tisoy. Story: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1197543/25000-boy-scouts-evacuated-in-zambales-due-to-tisoy More: https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/1834677
  14. mrkstvns

    Boy Scout Service Projects

    Kudos for creativity! A California scout invented his own board game to help teach people about the problems that marine mammals are facing in today's fast-changing environment. I like this project because it is VERY different from the typical Eagle project of "build" something (be it park benches, bookshelves, or whatever). His project shows initiative, involved research, and addresses significant problems. Here's the story: https://www.ocregister.com/2019/12/02/boy-scout-creates-roll-playing-game-to-teach-youth-about-threats-to-marine-mammals/
  15. mrkstvns

    Troop Trailer Stolen

    After a local Boy Scout troop had their trailer full of camping equipment stolen, an 8-year old girl Cub Scout took it upon herself to help the troop earn money to replace their equipment. She delivered $500 to the troop. Story: https://www.wfaa.com/article/life/heartwarming/8-year-old-dallas-girl-raises-money-to-help-duncanville-boy-scout-troop-replace-stolen-camping-equipment/287-bfc1975a-21d3-4f4b-ac5f-e085f434d6fb
  16. I love being a scouter, and one of the activities I most enjoy is being a merit badge counselor for subjects that I truly care about....especially Communications (which I regard as the single most important life skill for someone aspiring to a leadership role of any kind). In every class, we've written "letters to the editor" as part of requirement 7a. Normally, that's the end of it. After counseling more than 100 scouts on this MB, I can't recall hearing that the boys' letters actually got published --- or even got read by anybody outside the class. Now, I have an example to point to of an MB class that wrote a group letter to a newspaper, which actually published it on their website....cool! https://www.theolympian.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article237568074.html
  17. BSA has gotten embroiled in various discrimination issues over the past many years. Most of us remember the flap over whether gay scouts should be allowed. Then it was, well, how about gay adults? Then we had the gender flaps about girls in troops and whether a transgender was male or female or other.... We know how most of these have washed out. But the general questions still linger in the minds of many in the legal community, and among certain conservatives who regard the issues as "religious questions". I'm not taking any stand on any of these issues, but I find it interesting to learn about the reasoning that underlies the various arguments. That's why I enjoyed reading this article about whether or not BSA was within its rights as a private organization to set policies as to who it would or would not associate with. You may find it interesting as well... https://www.law.com/njlawjournal/2019/11/14/revisiting-boy-scouts-of-america-v-dale-and-the-right-to-discriminate/
  18. In yet another example of irresponsible overreaction, Girls Scouts USA is telling parents to back off on hugging this holiday season. "Hugs could be seen as signs of affection, friendship, and holiday good cheer," a spokeswoman for GSUSA said during a press conference. "We certainly don't want to promote innocent affection in our families." Here is the story: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/girl-scouts-dont-make-your-daughter-hug-relatives-this-holiday/ar-BBXnAfV
  19. mrkstvns

    No hugs, Aunt Sarah, we're GIRL SCOUTS!

    What I find saddest is that an organization like GSUSA actually thinks it is okay for them to intrude into family dynamics. They clearly don't think mom and dad are responsible enough to raise kids in a way that protects them and that also strengthens their family bonds. Sad.
  20. Saw the announcement on Scouting Newsroom. Not sure what kind of impact it may have on Sea Scout program other than, perhaps, to raise awareness within USCG Auxiliary. Any thoughts from Sea Scouters? https://www.scoutingnewsroom.org/press-releases/u-s-coast-guard-auxiliary-and-the-boy-scouts-of-america-announce-sea-scouts-as-the-auxiliarys-official-youth-program/
  21. mrkstvns

    Amtrak crash takes Scout family (FL)

    A very sad situation. While this article does a lot of finger-pointing at the RR and the government for not having gates, lights, etc., it should be noted that cars don't end up in the path of trains without the driver having abdicated their part of the responsibility equation: Stop, Look, Listen are still the basics that every driver needs to remember ALWAYS when approaching any railroad crossing. Just because there aren't gates or bells or whatever doesn't mean that a train might not be approaching, and in ANY contest between a car and a train, whoever in the car loses: even when it breaks our hearts to lose 2 young cub scouts.
  22. mrkstvns

    Cyber Chip Sign off

    I know this thread is kind of crusty and musty, but I had a thought about how to approach the question of which Cyber Chip level is "right" for what kind of scout. This is my opinion, not scripture, and it's based on having taught the Cyber Chip to scouts as a group activity several times over several years. In general, I think the decision becomes more clear when you look at the program overall. There is an obvious progression in what's being taught at each grade/age level and there are differences in the language used in the requirements that kind of clues you in to what ages should be using which level. The Grades 4-5 program (roughly ages 8-10), focuses on a couple of concepts that are useful for youngsters to understand: * passwords * trust ("trusted adults") Note the language used in requirements for this module: "den", "pack".....and more importantly, the content is conceptually basic. The Grades 6-8 program (roughly ages 11-14), focuses on different concepts, and is flexible enough to accommodate some adaptation if the instructor/scouts/parents choose): * trust (extends this to identifying imposters, "Friends or Fakes") * appropriate use Note language changes to "patrol", "unit leader", etc., these concepts are more suited to ANY new scout in a BSA unit, regardless of whether they are still in 5th grade or not The Grades 9-12 program (roughly ages 15-18) introduces challenges more likely to be faced by teenagers with their own devices --- regardless of age. Topics include: * reputation (via, "Real Life Stories" --- look at requirement 4) * social media (take a look at requirement 3) * expectation of privacy Note again that different, more complex, risks are being discussed. Regardless of whether you could meet the letter of the requirements by letting a scout who repeated 5th grade continue satisfying the Cyber Chip requirements by repeating the same material he did as a cub is not really relevant. If you are a scouter who believes in "servant leadership", you'll do what's best for the scout, and that's not necessarily letting him skate on a technicality by just doing the same thing over again. Hopefully, you're the kind of scouter who will mix it up a bit, and challenge the scout to grow....hopefully you'll have had him do the Grade 6-8 material for Scout rank and maybe even do the Grade 9-12 program for Star rank. Not because you couldn't skate on by using the same Cyber Chip materials the kid did as Cub, but because that would be boring old hat that's not useful to building a genuine awareness that cyber security is a complex subject and there are a lot of risks we should be aware of as we grow up and become more active on more platforms. I say let the kid grow and don't keep him forever at the level of a 4th grader. That's no "service" to the scout. BTW: I did a previous post here that discusses some more ideas around Cyber Chip. You may find it useful...
  23. It's only silly if you haven't bothered to educate yourself about what companies like Facebook and Google are actually doing and if you do not care at all about your own personal privacy. Speak for yourself. There are many of us who do *NOT* use Facebook precisely because we do not agree with their socially irresponsible terms and conditions. Instead, we advocate for government to step up and enact RESPONSIBLE privacy laws and date security laws. In the EU, baby steps in the right direction have taken place, and companies and software professionals talk about how they will respect new laws like the GDPR (except Facebook, which likes to break the law and just pay the multi-billion euro fines out of petty cash). If you actually take a little time to investigate and find out what Facebook is REALLY doing with your data (and how much of it they have collected without your knowledge and consent), you might change your tune. Let's remember the immortal words of Emil Faber, "Knowledge is good."
  24. "A scout is ... CLEAN" - Scout Law "Dispose of waste Properly" - Leave No Trace Principles Wander around in any outdoor store and you'll find plenty of "environmentally responsible" solutions to the perennial problem of staying clean in the backcountry. Of course we want to keep the weight low so we're not lugging a whole bathroom with us, but we also want to maintain some modicum of hygiene. We don't want to spread germs and we don't want to smell bad. But we're well aware that conservation and outdoor ethics are keystones of the scouting program, so we like finding solutions that not only keep us clean, but that are clean for the environment and that are courteous to other outdoor afficianados. Cheapskates, like me, especially like doing that on the cheap. So here are three thoughts on how I can better embrace Leave No Trace while staying clean and staying cheap... 1. Wipes are nice. My favorite "no trace" solution is not to bring any soaps, sanitizers, or waste products at all. Instead, I can pack any brand of baby wipe, body wipe, or anti-bac wipe that I want in a plastic Zip-Loc bag. I wipe myself off when I'm dirty, or I wipe down my dishes after I eat, and then I put the used wipes in the Zip_loc to pack out with me. No fuss, no muss, no trash, no liquids, no expensive specialty products. 2. 200 feet is 30 steps If you must bring liquid soaps, remember that LNT guidelines say to stay away from lakes, rivers, streams, and other water sources by at least 200 feet. Most of us are aware that distance applies to any cat holes we might dig, but it also means we don't throw used dish water close (or in) to a stream. It's easy to know when you're an appropriate distance because 200 feet is approximately 30 paces for a teenager or an adult. 3. Specialty soaps sure do cost a lot! Several brands of "camp soap" can be bought. They're often marketed as "biodegradable", and they don't always appear too expensive at first glance because some brands cost as little as $3. What makes them expensive is that the bottles are small --- often as little as an ounce. Great for backpacking, right? Well, not when I can buy an off-the-shelf soap at any grocery or department store and put it into a small bottle myself. To be "biodegradable", a soap should be free of phosphates, surfactants, and anti-bacterial agents. Dawn Plus is my favorite for outdoor use because it's more environmentally responsible than most "grocery store" brands, yet I can buy it at my local Target or Food City. Do any of y'all have any other tips for being conservation minded, the clean and cheap way?
  25. I heard that Rainbow Council is thinking about rolling out a program that combines soccer with scouting in the same unit. Instead of scout uniforms, kids wear soccer uniforms. Instead of learning first aid, they learn to roll around on the ground moaning like prima donas. Here's the story: https://patch.com/illinois/homerglen-lockport/new-boy-scout-program-will-combine-soccer-scouting Since Rainbow Council is clearly on the cutting edge of combinatorial youth activities, here are some more ideas for them: Combine karate classes with scouting: kids don't need to chop wood to build fires, they can karate chop those logs! And if woods tools really ARE called for, they can always use a samurai sword in place of a hatchet (but only if the scout has a Totn Chip). Combine scouting with marching bands. A bugler playing taps is sooooo "OK Boomer"....let's have 50 kids play reveille with booming bass drums and a few slide trombones! Modern parents like to make up sorry excuses for not going outdoors, pretending that it's the kids who want to stay inside. So let's combine scouting with therapy sessions! Yeah! We'll sit around in a circle, holding hands, spouting all kinds of PC BS about feelings and our own personal self worth while doing absolutely nothing of any value to anybody in society. Then we'll have a big group hug instead of a flag ceremony. What fun!