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Posts posted by mrkstvns

  1. Here's another quick tip for winter camping....

    Take care of your batteries for lights or emergency cell phones.

    Just like there's frosty cold days when your car battery won't have enough juice to get you going, if your flashlight batteries get too cold, or your cell phone batteries get to cold, they can lose their pizazz.  

    • Charge batteries before you go
    • Lithium batteries hold their charge better than carbon batteries
    • Keeping the flashlight in your sleeping bag with you means you'll have light when nature calls in the middle of the night
    • Don't trust the time on electronic devices when you wake up ---- they have a tendency to lose time as the battery gets cold
  2. 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?

  3. On 9/23/2019 at 8:17 AM, RookieScouter said:

    ...We have a scout night next month. I like the idea of a video showing all the things we do. I tend to take too many pictures at events. Lol.... When I put posters together it's hard to just choose a few pictures. 

    Regardless of whether you're putting together a flier, a web site, a video, a pamphlet....whatever, remember the first commandment of effective graphic design:  LESS IS MORE

    If it's hard to just choose a few pictures, ask your son to pick out the *ONE* most exciting picture.  Then pick ONE word (or at most a short phrase).  Now you've got your whole poster:...Your poster is the really cool picture of a kid rapelling down a cliff --- blown up to fill all the available space, and just the word "ADVENTURE" laid over the top of it, set in 300 point type, bolded, and made red.  Now stick a small QR code in the bottom corner (the code can jump to your landing page....but I'll save that discussion for another day).

    Let the collage of photos and the 2,000 word text bore somebody else....not the new kid you want to attract.

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  4. 9 minutes ago, SteveMM said:

    There's a strong push going on right now, led by me and another Committee Member, to limit our troop's participation in merit badge weekends to one per year.  In previous years, we've gone to as many as three or even four in a calendar year.  It's part of the reason we have some Scouts with merit badges wrapping all around their sash, but don't remember half of what they learned.  Our goal is to replace those merit badge weekends with more traditional hiking, fishing, and camping trips.  So far we're winning.  Merit badge weekends are NOT needed.  My son got his Eagle in early August at the age of 15 while splitting his free time with competitive travel soccer.  He has attended exactly one merit badge weekend in his Scouting career.

    I like hearing about troops that provide in-house opportunities to help their youth --- after all, we're taught the importance of "servant leadership" so we need to do what the boys need.

    I like that you're not participating in more than one MB weekend per year, but I would be cautious about going overboard by making such a thing a "rule" or a "policy".  Scout leaders should always remember to "remove barriers and open doors". If you implement a rule, you're doing a disservice to the scout who has a right to expect that you are following the "Guide to Advancement" and not just making up unnecessary rules that treat your own scouts differently from scouts in other troops. 


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  5. 15 minutes ago, desertrat77 said:

    There are acceptable group settings to earn MBs at summer camp.  Historically, these used to be primarily outdoor focused (rifle/shotgun/lifesaving/etc.).  Many units didn't access to properties or equipment during the course of the year, so it was standard practice at camp. 

    Quite right.

    The core outdoor-focused merit badges being offered at summer camp are great.  They give scouts access to resources (rifle ranges, canoes, etc.) and to trained, certified people (lifeguards, rifle instructors, etc.) that few troops have. Summer camp is the time-honored way for scouts to do the outdoor activities they've been promised but that troops back in town just can't be expected to provide.

    On the other hand, why on earth should summer camps offer classroom-focused classes like Citizenship in the Community or Family Life which are FAR better done back home in the troop or in the community. Having those classes at camp just gives scouts a poor merit badge experience and discourages scouts from getting outdoors and having fun at camp.

  6. 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!


  7. 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:

    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."


  8. 41 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

    I saw this with my son.  He was in a den for two years of 12+ scouts.  It was awful.  Then he went to a den of 3.  It kinda worked, but not that well.  One kid would miss a meeting and it was then two.  We eventually got to 4, and it was OK.  6 would have been a lot more fun.


    As always though....your mileage may vary.

    My son was also in a den with over 12 scouts. It's a lot, but the boys were already friends since all were in the same grade in the same elementary school. The den hung together all the way through AoL. The den had a very strong Den Leader (Eagle scout) who had committed to stay with the boy for the 4-5 years it would take to get to AoL ---- and he did. He also had a good Den Chief and supportive parents to back him up.  12+ may not be ideal in most packs, but it worked great in this case.

  9. 15 minutes ago, 69RoadRunner said:


    Our secret ingredient was cranberries.  I made 3 things, chili, fresh cranberry applesauce and since the favorite Philmont meal is stuffing with chicken and cranberries, I made it to demo for the scouts who didn't do Philmont.


    That Stuffing with chicken and cranberries sounds like a real winner!   You wouldn't happen to have a recipe you could share?

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  10. 18 hours ago, le Voyageur said:

    The Mountain Man program at BRMC has been running now for over 20 years and was an off shoot of their High Knoll program. It's more of an enrichment program instead of high adventure, blending the Eastern long hunter era with the Mountain Man era.  There are You Tube videos of the program, but those are dated and poorly done.  

    Well, maybe the BRMC needs to hire somebody a bit more creative about promoting their camps and programs. Sounds to me like they've put a lot of work into creating a strong Mountain Man program but are just shooting themselves in the foot with a poor web site and poor videos.

  11. 1 hour ago, qwazse said:

    ... I do agree with @ParkMan in that I want the scouts to be intentional about how they present themselves. So, I try to bring up deviations from the Insignia Guide -- including my own -- in a kind and courteous manner. I want the scouts to know there's a balance between a uniform that tells your scouting story and one that distracts from tasks at hand.

    I like the idea that a uniform tells a scouting story.

    Quite true...

    In the Bryan on Scouting post about Congressman Elijah Cummings, there's a bit about how he grew up in a working poor family that could ill-afford to pay for "official" BSA uniforms.  The article says...


    None of the Cub Scouts in Elijah Cummings’ pack could afford a full uniform. So, in true Scouting fashion, they improvised — cobbling together uniform pieces at bargain shops and the local Salvation Army. Some boys bought unofficial iron-on patches and cut out the numbers to iron onto their left sleeves.

    The picture above “shows the only thing I was able to find, which was a belt,” Cummings told the BET in 2014. “As a matter of fact, that’s a Boy Scout belt, and even though I was in the Cub Scouts then, I was so proud of that belt. As you can see, I wasn’t a fashion guru, but we did the best we could with what we had.”


    IMHO, many of us can learn a lesson in humility from this.

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  12. 14 minutes ago, qwazse said:

    We had the first-class scouts and the patrol leaders sit in the circle, and asked them what we should expect from a person who signed off in their book to have seen:

    • An argument that they did this here or that there was not enough.
    • A display of paperwork was not enough.
    • If you saw the scout demonstrate the skill in a "kinda sorta" way they day he was taught, that's not enough. If he did it partly (e.g., found 2 out of 8 controls on a one mile compass course) that's not enough.
    • Some time after he had been taught, if you saw the scout demonstrate the skill completely, smoothly and confidently, then you could sign off.
    • A signature in a book isn't just a check mark, it's a reminder for years to come of all the scouts who walked with that scout on his trail to first class.

    What I like about this is that it shows you are enabling your scouts to succeed. You aren't just saying, "OK, these kinds of scouts can sign off."  You're giving them some guidance on HOW to do it and what to consider.  That's what mentoring is all about.

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  13. 32 minutes ago, JasonG172 said:

    Understood.  But you just never know what's going to happen, You also don't know if someone might run out (or spill theirs).  

    Sigh. It never ceases to amaze me how many excuses a scouter can make for turning "Be Prepared" into "Pack So Freakin' Heavy You Need a Semi to Carry Everything".

    OMIGOSH!  Somebody might spill their water. OMIGOSH!  What if I need to use the water to wash a car out there on the trail?  OMIGOSH! What if Global Warming suddenly hits us right in the middle of our hike?  OMIGOSH!  OMIGOSH!

    IMHO, overpacking is not "Be Prepared". It's more like "Poor Planning".

  14. On 9/5/2019 at 9:56 AM, qwazse said:

    If someone donates the materials, having the scouts build bird houses/feeders could be fun.

    That's a good idea!

    Building bird houses is fun, and it can be cheaper and easier than you might think.

    Last summer, I did an all-day Nature merit badge workshop. For requirement 4a, we built birdhouses.  The materials cost me about $1 per birdhouse. I used the following design, based around a fence picket. I could make 2 birdhouses out of a single 6-foot high picket. 


  15. 11 hours ago, Treflienne said:

    I'd like our troop to make the transition to youth doing the sign-offs.  The question is which scouts and how soon?

    None of our scouts are first class yet,  but different scouts have different skills.


    The key here is really to match up the people in the troop who have the most knowledge of an area with the requirements they know the most about so that you can bootstrap your way up to developing a reasonable level of competency among the future "older" scouts (i.e., your leadership corps). Since you have a younger troop with nobody who is yet up to First Class, that might take a while....but it will happen.


    Could the scout who did the Pioneering Merit Badge be approved to sign off on the knots?

    That sounds like a reasonable match. I might also enlist his help in actually teaching the knots and lashings.

    Could the scout who did the Lifesaving Merit Badge be approved to sign off on the swimming?

    Hmm.  I don't know about that one, chief. I think I'd do something like go down to the YMCA and ask if one of their lifeguards can administer the BSA Swim Test, then I'd have the SM or ASM sign off on SC-5b and FC-6a. The scout who did Lifesaving could then sign off on SC 5a, 5c, 5d.

    Could the scout who completed the LNT trainer course be approved to sign off the LNT-related requriments?

    You have one of those scouts?  That's pretty astounding since it's usually older, higher-rank scouts who get the training...most councils have a minimum age for LNT Trainer courses (formerly 16, now its often open to 14 year olds). If you have a scout with LNT Trainer certification, definitely use him.  I would have him teach LNT Awareness course to the adults, to your troop leadership corps, and to offer it to all interested scouts (perhaps together with the Outdoor Ethics Awareness Award and/or Outdoor Ethics Action Award.  I would also have him sign off on ALL Outdoor Ethics requirements because he knows more about TREAD and other BSA OE initiatives than all your adults combined, more about conservation, etc. Have him teach skills to others and let him sign off on: Scout-1e, TF-1c, SC-1b, FC-1b, FC-9b and 9c.

    Could scouts who have done the First Aid Merit Badge (or WRFA) be approved to sign off on the first aid requirements?

    Sounds reasonable.

    Could the patrol leader sign off on Scout Rank steps 1-5?

    Well, as SM, you can make that judgment call, but if you go that route, I would use this as an opportunity to build troop leadership, so advise/mentor your PL ahead of time and help him do a good job of it. 

    Or does this sound crazy, since none of these scouts are first class yet?

    I like that you want to enable your scouts, so I'd probably give it a try....but do mentor your scouts, help them understand how to teach skills and accept their responsibilities with a modicum of seriousness, and make adjustments based on how it pans out with your troop.  Once you get a good experience base, get scouts up into the higher ranks, and get scouts with experience in Positions of Responsibility, you might want to revisit the sign-off policies to make it simpler and better aligned with more typical BSA practices.

  16. Last week's news was full of articles about the passing of Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, an upstanding, ethical, highly respected legislator.

    Although I couldn't avoid seeing all the clips about his body lying in state in the US Capitol, or about the myriad accolades extolling his virtues, I did miss any mention of the fact that he was a former scout and a long-time advocate for BSA.  That perspective is in a recent Bryan on Scouting post...

    Now I feel sad. Scouting needs all the champions it can get these days...

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