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Posts 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:

  2. 22 hours ago, RememberSchiff said:

    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!

  3. 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.


    • 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)


    1. Measure flour, salt, and paprika into a paper lunch bag 9r gallon size Zip-Loc bag. Add beef cubes and shake.
    2. Heat vegetable oil in large pot or dutch oven, and add coated beef cubes. Brown beef cubes.
    3. 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.
    4. Add potatoes, onions, and carrots. Cover and simmer about 45 minutes. 
    5. 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.


  4. 15 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

    If all you are offering are fun activities (camping, making s'mores, high adventure trips), then you are competing with every other fun activity available to boys in your town.  (It looks like you don't have a girls troop.)  You have to have a different kind of appeal.  ...

    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.

  5. 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:

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  6. "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.

  7. 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:


  8. 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.


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  9. 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:


  10. 16 hours ago, RememberSchiff said:

    A grandmother driving her two Cub grandsons to a state conservation area, a railroad crossing without gates or flashing lights or stop sign...


    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.

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  11. 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...


  12. 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!



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  13. 13 hours ago, MattR said:

    And think about it. We walk into an area with 3' of pristine snow and create tracks and caves and tent slots all over the place. There's no way we can leave it the way it was.

    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. 

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  14. 22 hours ago, TAHAWK said:

    Snow shelters are "human impact" that reduces the experience for others.  Otherwise, Spring solves that problem - stacked up H²O - nicely where there is Spring weather.

    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?

  15. 3 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

    BSA's Soccer and Scouting initiative has been around for a while.  The idea was to use soccer to introduce Scouting into the Hispanic community.  


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  16. 10 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

    The problem with the Soccer and Scouting idea, in my view, is the notion that you can make Scouting more appealing by watering it down and making it look like something it isn't.  I'd put STEM Scouting in that same category.  Soccer is great, and maybe BSA should get into the soccer business, but don't call it Scouting.  STEM is great, and BSA has gotten into the STEM business, but don't call it Scouting.  

    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!)


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  17. 43 minutes ago, SSScout said:

    Here in the NCAC, White Oak District,  MBCounselors must be registered with the District MBDean, who lists them with the Council.  Council has taken to checking MBC names and dates on Eagle Applications before the Scout may proceed to the Eagle BoR . There has been gnashing of teeth, to be Biblical,  about this.  


    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.

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