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Everything posted by mrkstvns

  1. mrkstvns


    As our Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we should think about the meaning of Gratitude. We should think about how we find it, know it, and express it. When I think about the meaning of Gratitude, I am reminded of the story of Shukla. Long ago, in a long-forgotten land in Africa, there lived a tribal chief and his faithful servant, Shukla. The chief and Shukla developed a great friendship and Shukla was always by the chief's side in every event the tribe experienced. The chief loved nothing more than being in the woods, honing his woodcraft by hunting the many types of animals that lived there. One day in the deepest part of the forest, the chief took aim at an enormous deer, and shot it right between the eyes! "Shalabat!" exclaimed Shukla, which is the word for "Thank you, Oh Great One!" As the chief was removing the arrow from the deer, he sliced off the end of his finger. "Shalabat!", exclaimed Shukla. This made the chief very angry, and when they returned to their tribal lands, the chief had Shukla thrown in prison. A few days later, the chief went out hunting by himself and went even deeper in the woods than he had before. He was suddenly surrounded by a rival tribe and taken prisoner. The tribe were preparing to sacrifice the chief to the Gods when they noticed that the chief was missing part of a finger. "We can not give God a damaged human," they said, so they let the chief go. When the chief returned to town and told his tale, Shukla bowed profusely, saying, "Shalabat! Shalabat! Shalabat!" "Why are you so thankful?" the chief asked. "Because," Shukla replied, "If I had been with you, they would have sacrificed me."
  2. Evidently, the hot summer weather here in Texas is just too much for a fire-breathing dragon to handle!
  3. Have you ever looked at the differences between the Scouts program that serves youth in the UK? There's quite a few similarities, but there's also some differences. The Brits don't call them "merit badges" for starters, they're "activity badges", and there aren't quite as many of them as there are in BSA. Nonetheless, the Brits have some badges that are really cool and that, I think, are more adventurous than what the too-timid BSA allows. For example: Caver Dragon Boating Martial Arts Parascending (I think we would call this "parasailing") Source: https://www.scouts.org.uk/scouts/activity-badges/
  4. mrkstvns

    Restoring Camp woodlands with different species (MT)

    Reminds me of a personal story. Back in the 1960s, my grandfather was working as a land manager for a large paper company. The company had bought up thousands of acres on which they would plant a "forest". Rows, upon straight, even rows of uniformly spaced pine trees were planted as far as the eye could see. Pine grew fast and would provide pulp for the company in the 80s. Of course, few native birds, insects, or forbs would grow there and it became a macabre kind of place that never seemed to look, smell, sound, or feel like those pockets of natural forestland that reminded folks of how forests used to be...
  5. UK scouts at the "Explorer" level (ages 14-18) have some additional Activity Badges they can earn. One of the coolest is "Motor Sports". Looking at the requirements, I bet it's regarded as a fairly "hard" badge because it requires engaging in a motor sport for a period of 6-12 months. The requirements don't, however, specify any specific sports, nor does it restrict any sports as inappropriate or too risky. I assume that motorcycling, ATVs, stock cars, etc. would all be within bounds...
  6. mrkstvns

    Thanksgiving at Camp...

    Very cool! Though, I have to admit, it took me some effort to understand what your message meant, never having heard of "Bean Holes" or "Green Corn Ceremonies"...once I looked 'em up on Wikipedia, I gained a bit of educated appreciation. I had no idea that native Americans had such a wide-ranging tradition. Interesting that it not only reflects gratitude, but also forgiveness. Now if only I could figure out what those Native Americans might have been cooking over their campfires...
  7. Well, it's that time of year again. Time to dig out the cold weather sleeping bad and time to teach the kids about layering their clothes and staying warm no matter how low the mercury drops. Here's a simple tip that might help you out on your next winter camping trip.... Before you go to bed, turn your water containers upside down (assuming they don't leak). Water tends to freeze from the top down, and if you turn your water jug upside down, the layer of ice will form on the BOTTOM of your water jug, not at the top, so you'll still be able to get water out of it in the morning when you wake up and start fixing breakfast. Try it at home with a water bottle in your freezer....it works!
  8. mrkstvns

    Girl Scout program youth protection training

    My understanding is that GS leaders need to do a comprehensive safety course that includes awareness of sexual abuse situations, as well as things like cyber safety, being safe at fundraisers, etc. Yes, GS leaders are also mandated reporters (that is usually required by state laws, so mandated reporting will apply regardless of what kind of youth program you are dealing with).
  9. mrkstvns

    Restoring Camp woodlands with different species (MT)

    This is, indeed, a very interesting (and complicated) issue. Tree planting used to be a simple thing to do. If you find an area that's been de-forested, you plant whatever kinds of trees have historically thrived in that area. Global warming and the pervasive threats to habitat and native species make that a harder effort. Naturalists have been dealing with invasive insects decimating native species. Trees that once thrived in an area are often dying out. Naturalists are also observing that changing temperatures mean that tree bands in mountainous areas are changing. Lower elevations are becoming too hot for some plant species, and "moving up the mountain" isn't always naturally easy. Similarly, as lower latitudes become too warm or moist (or dry), the trees that once thrived are dying out because they can't naturally move north fast enough to avoid their own demise. When do a tree planting project, you can consult with a local expert (like a botanist at your local agricultural extension office). They may be able to suggest an alternative tree species for you, or may suggest an alternative location where your newly planted trees might have better odds of survival. Good luck!
  10. I looked at the Insignia Guidelines, but the only thing that jumps out at me as belonging under a right pocket is a Recruiter strip. Are there other types of patches that belong there? What would they be? I ask because I saw a picture of a scout working on a service project and he had a very complex set of patches with multiple rings placed under his right pocket. I hadn't seen that done before and had no idea what kind of patches they were. Thoughts? Pointers to "official" uniform practices?
  11. Winter opens up a wealth of outdoor activities for the adventurous outdoorsman. Snowshoeing, cross country skiing, ice fishing, and cold weather camping are all great opportunities to test our outdoor skill. They also challenge us to think about how we can stay true to our outdoor ethics while surviving and thriving in cold conditions. For each of the 7 Leave No Trace principles, I've gathered a few thoughts about special challenges that winter conditions present and some ideas for how scouts and scouters can integrate Leave No Trace into their winter activities. I'd love to hear more ideas and thoughts! 1. PLAN AHEAD AND PREPARE Winter weather can quickly change for the worse. Be prepared for it. Check local weather forecasts before you go and make sure that clothing and sleeping bags are going to be warm enough to handle the lowest expected temperature range. Pack an extra fleece blanket too, and remember to bring a sleeping pad. 2. TRAVEL AND CAMP ON DURABLE SURFACES Areas with melting ice or snowpack can be particularly vulnerable to impacts from hikers straying off the trail and forming new cutbacks or parallel tracks. Wear appropriate boots and walk down the middle of the established trail even if it's wet or muddy. In snow-covered areas, it's best to travel or camp in deeper snow where impacts on underlying vegetation are minimized. Snow and ice can be generally regarded as a "durable surface" --- it's okay to walk or camp in a snow-covered field. Don't try to clear away snow to make an area to setup a tent: just setup the tent on top of the snow (it's softer than the ground anyway). 3. DISPOSE OF WASTE PROPERLY Pack it out is the way to go during the winter. Do not bury any waste under snow. If you build snow shelters, break them down before you leave. 6. RESPECT WILDLIFE Remember that winter is a vulnerable time for many species. Be particularly careful to avoid damaging resources that might be needed for food, water, or shelter. 7. BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHER VISITORS Crowds are less likely to be a problem in winter than summer, but there's less vegetation to hide your activities and sounds tend to travel further in the winter. Be aware of it. ----------------- As you probably noticed, I skipped a couple LNT guidelines. That's because those seem to apply to winter camping or hiking pretty much the same as they would to summer camping or hiking. Of course, you might think of a wrinkle I overlooked. If so, shout it out!
  12. mrkstvns

    Outdoor Ethics for Winter Activities

    Nope. Not a new concept....but it might be a radical idea for scouters accustomed to warm weather camping in state parks with flush toilets and other luxuries. "Pack it out" is definitely the rule among climbers....and among whitewater rafters too where nobody really wants to go overboard in a river you've been dumping waste in. For weekend activities, I can "pack it out" using zip-loc plastic bags. Outdoor stores smell profits in human waste, so they offer lots of stuff you can buy, like disposal bottles, deodorizers, enzymes to break down waste, etc. REI sells a bunch of things with names like Biffy-Bag, Pocket Loo, etc. IMHO, a regular Zip-Loc works fine and costs far less. By the way, getting back to the winter-specific theme, enzymes don't break down bio-matter as quickly in cold weather as they do in warm weather. Just sayin'....
  13. Mt. Diablo Council in California teamed up with local vineyards to earn over $132,000 in a wine auction. Story: https://napavalleyregister.com/community/star/news/wine-auction-at-st-helena-s-charles-krug-winery-benefits/article_f253dce9-736b-5cb7-9936-e254cf4d56ca.html
  14. mrkstvns

    Substance Abuse training from pharmacy university (IL)

    If the material is targeted towards youth in 5th through 8th grade, it might be good for scouts working on Second Class. Requirement 7c is for them to take part in a program about the dangers of drugs.
  15. mrkstvns

    Older Tiger Cub Immediate Recognition Kit

    I'm scratchin' my head wondering what exactly it is that you're looking for.... Care to explain?
  16. 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?
  17. mrkstvns

    Scouter.com Slogan Contest

    Adult scouters need a buddy system too.
  18. This past weekend I was at University of Scouting and there was a guy there talking about BSA's "Certified Angling Instructor" certification. There is evidently a weekend-long course available that teaches scouters how to teach young scouts to fish and how to counsel Fishing, Fly Fishing, and Fish and Wildlife Mgmt merit badges. Have any of y'all done this course? If so, do you find it helps you out in your unit?
  19. mrkstvns

    Certified Angling Instructor

    Sounds like a great opportunity to tap into some deep knowledge and passion! Scouters who want to build up their fishing and teaching skills might also find support from their local parks or natural resources department. In my area, there are "How to Teach Fishing" workshops that are completely free of charge, put on by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. (They specifically target scout leaders, teachers and camp staff among their audience). https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_br_k0700_1009.pdf
  20. mrkstvns

    What are the BSA priorities??

    Those age breaks are reflected in the scouting program as delivered in other countries. For example, Cambridgeskip recently pointed out that UK activity badges vary by age group (11-14 vs. 15-18). In Cambridgeskip's part of the world, the scouting groups are: - Beavers (6-8) - Cub (8-10) - Scouts (10-14) - Explorers (14-18) In Canada, the age-based programs are: - Beavers (5-7) - Cub (8-10) - Scout (11-14) - Venturer (15-17) - Rover (18-26) Compared to BSA, the age gradations are more narrow, giving a better fit at each level.
  21. Your post is well taken. There are, indeed, good merit badge classes. We should encourage the experienced, knowledgable counselors to keep doing those. The problem is that there are also many merit badge events that are NOT good. They take short cuts. When there are multiple options to meet a requirement, the bad merit badge class always picks the easiest and simplest, not the one that delivers a meaningful experience. The bad merit badge class tries to condense 8 hours worth of requirements into a 2-hour lecture with no real activities and no testing. The document pointed to in the OP identifies many of the bad practices that permeate merit badge events. Discussions like this are good so that scouters realize that we don't have to put up with the really bad merit badge events. We can complain about the bad ones to council and district scouters, we can discourage scouts from participating in the rubber-stamp events or in camps that stuff too many badges into far too little time, we can try to educate our parents that "more and faster is not better". We can also put together better quality merit badge "experiences" that have more hands-on, less classroom, more time, and frankly, are just plain more fun. Do that and the demand for el-lame-O merit badge events will decline. National standards banning too-short classes would be a good first step (except for Fingerprinting, which is really the only merit badge that can be adequately covered in 2 hours). What I would like to see is GOOD merit badge events being the only ones that are supported, encouraged and promoted by scouters.
  22. mrkstvns

    Certified Angling Instructor

    If y'all want to find out more about what a BSA Certified Angling Instructor does and how to find training for the position, you can check out their web site: http://bsacai.org/
  23. mrkstvns

    Troop Trailer Stolen

    In Indianapolis, another troop had their trailer broken into, stuff stolen....but the trailer itself was left behind. Story: https://www.theindychannel.com/news/local-news/crime/thieves-steal-tents-and-other-supplies-from-indy-boy-scout-troop
  24. mrkstvns

    Winter Camping Quick Tip

    For most of my life, I'd have considered cold weather camping to be nights in the teens. Today, I'm working with scouts in Texas where many of the sports stores sell bags that don't even get you down into the 40s. Our scouts will tell you that 40 is cold and lower than that is INSANE.
  25. mrkstvns

    Winter Camping Quick Tip

    YES!! Keep an empty bottle handy so you don't HAVE to go out in the night.