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Everything posted by mrkstvns

  1. 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.
  2. 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...
  3. 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."
  4. "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?
  5. 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!
  6. mrkstvns

    Hair-Brained Idea du Jour...

    Love those videos that @TAHAWK posted!! I think he's on to something.....we should all be encouraging our scouts to play bagpipes!
  7. mrkstvns

    Outdoor Ethics for Winter Activities

    Nor should you even worry about doing so. That would be missing the point (rely on the "authority of the resource"). LNT practitioners generally regard snow as a "durable surface". Build those snow shelters! Stomp down a tent platform for the night! It's all good because the next snowfall is going to cover up your traces and when things thaw out, not a trace remains. The only reason to worry about knocking down snow structures is to minimize the aesthetic changes, purely as a courtesy to anyone else who might be passing through.
  8. 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!
  9. mrkstvns

    Winter Camping Quick Tip

    Oh, come now! You've seen pictures of snow.....it's that white stuff that covers the ground in the frozen tundra of northern climates....like Dallas.
  10. 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!
  11. Autistic scouts face a number of challenges as they progress through BSA's advancement program. For a scout who is unable to express himself verbally, some of the Eagle badges are particularly difficult because the scout must find ways to communicate without words. How does a non-verbal scout ever manage to earn Communication merit badge if they can not stand up and give a 5-minute speech, or emcee a Court of Honor? Well, here's a story about one young man with non-verbal autism who found ways to overcome any challenge the Eagle rank could throw his way... https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/21/us/ohio-eagle-scout-with-autism-trnd/index.html
  12. mrkstvns

    Outdoor Ethics for Winter Activities

    I would hope that most scouts on a winter camping trip would dismantle their snow shelters when breaking camp. Isn't this SOP for your guys?
  13. mrkstvns

    Hair-Brained Idea du Jour...

  14. mrkstvns

    Hair-Brained Idea du Jour...

    Yes. I'm a firm believer in learning to enjoy doing things badly. Like my dad used to tell me, "Son, if it's worth doing, it's worth having to do over again."
  15. mrkstvns

    Hair-Brained Idea du Jour...

    Some STEM is okay....but it needs to avoid conflicts with the core outdoor program. Nothing wrong with a kid being interested in science and going for a Chemistry merit badge and a NOVA award... Things go wonky when you take it too far. Like BSA did with the stupid "STEM Scout" program. (Or like *MANY* organizations do by watering down their STEM focus by stacking art on top of it and making it "STEAM" --- talk about a sure-fire way to guarantee that your program will be a failure!)
  16. IMHO, the NCAC practice you describe is an excellent demonstration of PITIFUL servant leadership. If the scouters in Council were GOOD leaders, they'd be checking "downstream" --- looking at the blue cards or electronic advancement records *WHEN THE SCOUT EARNS AN AWARD AND THE TROOP BUYS THE BADGE FOR HIM*. That way the scout has an opportunity to correct himself, and the troop can discover their sloppy advancement processes in time to nip future problems in the bud so they don't end up with a years-long procession of non-compliant sign-offs. Waiting until an Eagle BOR to verify that the person signing a blue card is actually a registered MBC is simply unacceptable. Sad.
  17. There might be ways to get partials done on those anyway. Our local council has a "Shooting Sports Fulfillment Weekend" where they open up the ranges at a nearby camp and provide certified instructors to help the boys --- any scout from any unit is welcome to come. The council also provides NRA and USA Archery instructor training periodically for adult scouters. We have several adults in our troop who have taken those classes and are now registered as MBCs. They provide qualified instruction for the troop as a group, but also work with individual scouts to complete merit badge requirements. The troop regularly has a "Shooting" campout at a council-run camp where we either use our own trained scouters, or arrange with council to have an RSO provided to us. Your troop might be able to do that too...depends on your council. ...and of course, the scout can ask the Scoutmaster or use Scoutbook to find a local counselor willing to work with him individually (the classic method of earning merit badges) Our scouts thus have multiple avenues open to them to finish any shooting sports merit badges. Check with your local council ---- I would not be surprised if there are more opportunities in your area than you might realize.
  18. mrkstvns

    Hard Merit Badges

    Are any merit badges really hard? Flipping through my handy dandy "Requirements 2019" book, it sure doesn't appear that way to me, but scouts tell me otherwise. I asked my son if any of them were hard, and he told me no, but some took a long time because they required logs to be kept over time. He also told me that a couple of them were challenging just because he couldn't find a local counselor to help him. There've been a couple of articles about this subject in "Scouting" magazine. An interview with two scouts who'd earned every merit badge had some agreements and some disparities over which were really the 10 "hardest" merit badges. One scout said his hardest was "Scuba", the other picked "Radio". I can kind of see "Scuba" being a hard merit badge because a scout needs to complete an open water certification. I'm surprised that neither scout picked "Bugling", which is perennially at the bottom of lists of most-earned merit badges. It's kind of hard because it requires learning quite a few esoteric bugling calls that few scouts have ever heard before. So what do y'all think? Which merit badges are the hardest to earn? Are there really any requirements that are tough for a scout to master? Related Link: https://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2019/10/07/which-merit-badges-are-the-toughest-we-asked-two-brothers-who-earned-them-all/
  19. mrkstvns

    Hard Merit Badges

    You'er telling me that belt loops are harder than merit badges?
  20. Better than no feedback, but no....not great. The problem is that the report goes to the scoutmaster, who has 20 or 30 scouts in his care. He scans through the report, and hopefully, big problems like a scout only getting one requirement signed off, will jump out at him so he can raise a question. But there's a lot of socuts in a unit....and most of 'em are trying to earn 4 or more badges during the week....so there will still be problems that fall through the cracks. As TAHAWK says, in many camps, the "counselors" are actually scouts and the camp or council just "cheat" by pretending that a counselor back in the city is "supervising" the camp merit badge classes. Of course they aren't, which is why camps really need to get rid of all the BAD quality classes in their program. One camp my son's troop went to boasted they offered "over 60 merit badges". Sad...they would be a better camp if they would just do 20 outdoor-focused badges really WELL.
  21. mrkstvns

    Advice for a new wood badger

    The great thing about scouting is that it's a very rich program, full of opportunities for people of diverse interests. If Wood Badge isn't the kind of training you want, maybe Powder Horn will be more up your alley. Or maybe take an NRA class and become a shooting sports guru....or one of the American Canoe Association (ACA) instructor classes ---- there's never enough adults in the troop who really know how to teach paddle sports! I've heard that BSA is rolling out an Angler Instructor certification class....maybe that would be of more interest.
  22. If you live in an area where woods and fireplaces are commonplace, you might be able to have your troop prepare and sell firewood to raise some $$$ for the troop. Be aware of any G2SS guidelines that might apply regarding age-appropriate activities and use of chainsaws or other power tools. A troop in Michigan has been successful doing this....at least until recently, when thieves stole the troop's log splitter.... https://www.wilx.com/content/news/Thieves-steal-Spring-Arbor-Boy-Scout-troops-wood-splitter-565113052.html
  23. Stick to your guns, you've got it right! If the scout does not complete everything with the camp's counselor, then he needs to find another Merit Badge Counselor to complete the requirements. The only people authorized to sign off on Merit Badge requirements are those who register with District/Council as a Merit Badge Counselor - position 42 (MBC is not a unit position) and counselors need to be approved for each badge they will counsel. Some badges require specific training --- for example, Rifle Shooting MBCs must have NRA Instructor training, Archer MBCs must have USAArchery instructor training, Scuba MBCs must have PADI instructor training, etc. If your Life scout argues about it, just point him to BSA's Guide to Advancement. The rule is clear.
  24. mrkstvns

    Frugal Backcountry Cleanliness

    Very interesting. I've always sought out the leaves of sycamore trees because they have a soft, velvety feel. Sycamore leaves are like Charmin Ultra compared to the rougher, thinner leaves of other trees.
  25. mrkstvns

    Bikes in Camp?

    Is it common for scouts to bring their bikes to summer camp? Do summer camps usually allow that? I heard about a summer camp that I will not identify at this time that lets scouts bring their bikes to camp and to use them to ride between their sites and the various program areas. I have not seen bikes in camp before (other than in program areas, like mountain biking, BMX, etc.) Thoughts? Experiences?