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Posts posted by mrkstvns

  1. Parents don't always "get it" when it comes to buying Christmas gifts.  Mom and Dad seem stuck on this idea that clothing makes good Christmas gifts.  Kids of all ages know that's a sure sign of geezing.  Clothing is a TERRIBLE gift!!  Good gifts are things you don't NEED, but rather things you WANT.  Toys are great gifts!  Sweaters are lame gifts.

    Scouting age kids would rather have outdoor gear than boring school clothes wrapped up in colorful paper to disguise their lame-itude.

    Good gift ideas for the scout...

    • Backpack:($150 to $300)
      Chances are that your scout already has a backpack.  If he's 13 or 14 years old, it might be time to move him up to a larger pack that's lighter in weight and more durable than what he's got right now.  After all, he's probably got his eye on some of those summertime High Adventure trips, and the old basic 40L pack isn't quite going to cut the salami when you get out on those 12-day Philmont treks. A good 65L pack will probably run you at least $150, but shop the sales, and read the advice on the Equipment Reviews & Discussion forum here.
    • Tent ($100 to $300)
      A young scout may be happy using a troop tent and sleeping with the guys in his patrol, but as a kid gets into his teens, he might be looking for more adventure and wanting to do more backpacking. A nice, lightweight 1-man or 2-man tent could be a perfect fit under your tree this year!  
    • Mountain Bike ($100 to $1000)
      Rugged kids like rugged bikes. Bikes they can ride in the woods. Bikes they can ride through muddy creeks.  Bikes they can ride up and down hills.  
    • Backpacking Stove ($50 to $100)
      A nice stocking stuffer item might be a very compact, lightweight, single burner backpacking stove.  REI sells the MSR PocketRocket for $44.  If you backpack in dense woodlands, a small woodburner might make more sense for you. A small Solo woodburner sells for about $70.
    • Kayak ($300 to $1000)
      What kid doesn't like getting out on the rivers and lakes for a fun day of paddling?  As the kids get a bit older, they like taking their game up a notch and being the master of their own vessel. A kayak is perfect for them!  
    • Snowshoes ($80 to $300)
      Live in a cold weather climate?  A great outdoor activity when snow and ice cover the ground is to strap on a pair of snowshoes and trek through the woods like Jack London might have done. Snowshoes today though are nothing like the string and bent wood frames of bygone eras. Today, they are as high tech as any other piece of sporting equipment: composite fiber frames, metal ice grips, synthetic fiber straps.  Great for younger scouts too!  A snowshoe trek would be a fun weekend trip for Cubs or Webelos.

    What do y'all think?  Got some better ideas for Christmas gifts for our scouts?  Pass on the tips!

  2. On 12/6/2019 at 2:07 PM, SSScout said:

    Coding?  Enigma? Pigpen cipher? Oh wait...

    WITRAN,  FORTRAN,  COBOL, BASIC, those don't count anymore ?

    Worlds on top of worlds.....

    You're showing your grey hairs there, Grandpa.

    Today, programming skills are more vital than ever. While those languages you named are still around in time-tested legacy code, today's languages focus on small devices and big data. Everything is optimized for a world where data and resources are remote (or more often, unknown, out there in the nebulous "cloud").

    Languages like Java or .Net enable many web-based applications, languages like Python are common for interpreted scripting, and languages like R are the choice for many data analytics jobs. 

    We used to introduce kids to basic programming concepts with languages like BASIC, but today, it's more likely they'll use some kind of visual editor to create code with Scratch, Blockly or some other instruction-oriented language.

    To those of you interested in things like this, the "HOUR OF CODE" events are happening this week (Dec 9-15).  Find out more at hourofcode.com

  3. Do any of y'all do any kind of marketing of your unit during Scout Sabbath activities?   (Scout Sabbath / Scout Sunday is the weekend of February 7/8 in 2020 )

    Seems to me like it would be a natural opportunity for a little outreach within the CO.  Let folks see what their unit does and invite kids who aren't in the program to come on out and see what it's all about.

    I don't think any kind of intrusive effort would be appropriate, but maybe just have some flyers on a table near the front door....or a small contingent outside the church before or after services to greet parishioners and answer questions (and handout flyers). I think the flyers should clearly tell people their kids are INVITED to come visit a meeting and join the troop.

    I'd like to call out the importance of specifically making sure that scouts and adults in the troop present a welcoming demeanor and INVITE the kids and parents to the troop  (in a survey done by Toastmasters International, the number one reason that prospects said they didn't join a local club is because NOBODY ASKED THEM TO.  Such a simple thing, yet too often overlooked.   I think this happens in troops too. We get boys coming to visit, but do our boys tell the visiting boys that they WANT them to join?  Do the adults hobnob with visiting parents and specifically TELL the visitors they would be welcome in the troop, and how to apply?) 

    Anyway, back to Scout Sabbath.....do you leverage the event as a way to recruit members of your church or temple community?  Any tips or tricks to make it work effectively but with an overriding reverence towards the faith?

  4. 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:

  5. 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!

  6. 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.


  7. 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.

  8. 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:

    • Upvote 1
  9. "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.

  10. 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:


  11. 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 

    • Like 1
  12. 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:


  13. 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.

    • Upvote 1
  14. 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...


  15. 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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  16. 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. 

    • Thanks 1
  17. 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?

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