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Posts posted by mrkstvns

  1. Did your troop do anything special to recognize Veterans Day?

    A small group of boys from our troop participated in setting out wreaths at a nearby National Cemetery.  I heard of another troop that would clean the headstones of military veterans.

    What does your unit do?

  2. 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."

  3. 43 minutes ago, qwazse said:

    The old Arbor day projects were generally aimed at instant gratification and the notion of forest progression from field to pines to hardwoods. My brother planted firs and spruce in part of our property, and they loomed large in a decade. But there was no plan to bring up maple, oak and sassafras behind it.

    Hardwood plantings are challenging. Deer love rubbing those saplings!

    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...

  4. 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...

  5. 1 hour ago, le Voyageur said:

    Yes...but with Bean Holes.  However, I've plans to introduce into our MM program the Green Corn Ceremony which predates our Thanksgiving holiday....

    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...

  6. 16 hours ago, PACAN said:

    Pardon my lack of knowledge but does the GS have a required YPT course like the BSA does?  And are GS leaders mandated reporters?  Thanks.

    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).

  7. 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!

  8. 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?

  9. Have you ever tried cooking a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner at camp?  Dutch oven turkey?  Stuffing?  Potatoes?  Yams?  

    I can imagine that back in the days of the Pilgrims, everything was cooked over an open fire.  It doesn't seem like much a stretch then to adapt our favorite holiday recipes to an outdoor kitchen.

    Bryan on Scouting has an article about doing exactly that. Evidently some troops have an annual tradition of cooking a Thanksgiving dinner outdoors.  I know of one troop in our district that has set up big propane burners to deep-fry whole turkeys in peanut oil.  Got any ideas of your own for cooking Thanksgiving favorites outdoors?

    Story:  https://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2019/11/05/its-time-for-campsgiving-a-great-outdoor-thanksgiving-tradition/ 


  10. 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'....

  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!

    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.

    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). 

    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.

    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. 

    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. 46 minutes ago, yknot said:

    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).




  13. 9 minutes ago, ParkMan said:


    One big mistake that we make in "BSA" Scouting is that we don't differentiate well between the two very different age levels in Scouts BSA.  Scouts 11-14 are often quite different than those 15-18.  In my mind, I see four distinct age ranges:

    • Lions/Tigers/Wolves
    • Bears/Webelos
    • Scouts BSA 11-14
    • Scouts BSA 15-18

    So yes, while I agree with your point I'd suggest our approach needs to be tailored to each age range.  I think you're saying much the same thing.  

    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.



    • Like 1
  14. 2 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

    In many walks of life there is a tendency to look at something we don't think is going well and arrive at the conclusion that it a can't be done well.  My sense is that's happening here.  We all have stories of bad summer camp merit badge classes and badge merit badge college classes.


    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.

    • Upvote 1
  15. 13 hours ago, MattR said:

    I think everyone should mention their definition of cold weather camping. For us, the 20's are considered cool for September, but not that unusual. Cold is below 0.

    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.

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