Thursday, December 29, 2011

You can't read it here...

A big thanks to the folks at LDS Scouter who asked me to write a blog post all about the 11-year-old Scout patrol.  You can read it here.

Archived html file of this post.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

of Dungeons Deep and Caverns Old

I can't resist. And if you're wondering what The Hobbit has to do with Scouting, talk about your Character, Fitness and Citizenship, not to mention Outdoor Activities, Personal Growth, Leadership Development, Patrols, Adult Associations and Ideals (Advancement and Uniforms not so much):

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wild Life

One thing I've really enjoyed about my involvement with Scouting is the chance to get out with my camera - I wouldn't get any opportunities like this otherwise.

On Saturday, we went to the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area near my home (only 5 miles away!) to see what we could see. What a great place to find evidence of ten wild animals, or ten native plant species (2C#6 adn 1C#6). I didn't know this resource existed until a few weeks ago. What hidden gems have you discovered within just a few miles of your front door? Here's what we saw during about three hours in the cold:  Several bird species, including hawks, owls (a pellet, anyway) meadowlarks, ducks, pheasants and a raven, a magpie, finches, plus plenty of small birds whose names I just don't know; lots of tracks in the snow of raccoons, skunk, fox, feral cat, and rodents, and the piéce de résistance, three or four American Bald Eagles. I need to invest in a good long telephoto.

Eagles and other stuff
Shot on my Pentax K7 DSLR with a Sigma 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 lens.

That's it - I'm taking a Scouting Break until January. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Four Ts

With an emphasis on Training 

What tools has the Church given Primary and Young Men leaders to mold our sons?  They include Duty to God, Faith in God, For the Strength of Youth, Preach My Gospel and other manuals, and Scouting. Do you know how to use the tools you've been given?

Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone said, "There are four things that are absolutely essential in a great Scout leader. I call them the four T's:
  1. "Testimony — that they have a testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, His Atonement, and that this Church is God's Church.
  2. "Trained — they need to be trained, not only by the Church, but as well by Boy Scouts of America within the districts and council (the focus of this training module)
  3. "Time — they need to have time to be a leader of boys.
  4. "Tenure — short tenure if they don't enjoy the work and are not willing to put in the time necessary, and long tenure if they love the young men and want to serve them with all their hearts and souls." (spelled Ten-Year)
  5. The Fifth T, Truck, is not essential, but very useful (goes with the 9th method, Git-r-dun)
So, then, Who needs to be trained?
"The Church teaches, 'Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence' (D&C 107:99). Carried out, this suggests that members serving in Church assignments—including Scouting—will learn the responsibilities of their calling and then fulfill them to the best of their ability."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Setting Goals

Two of the First-year boys have completed First Class, so it was a great opportunity to set them up for success.  So, at last night's patrol meeting we discussed making SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) goals to help the boys break down their advancement requirements into manageable pieces, and also help each boy set his own timeline to complete his next rank. We introduced the concept and let it percolate a bit while they wrote down their thoughts - their goals will need further defining and refining, but they know that flexibility is the key, and to plan on their plans changing. Here are the five rules I gave them for making goals, starting with and adapted from the Scoutmaster Musings blog:
  1. Make a plan - look over what's required and set smaller milestones of how to reach the goal.

  2. Remember that no plan is ever followed exactly - things will come up, things won't go right, people will let you down, you will make mistakes. As long as you modify and adapt rather than get discouraged, no setback in Scouting will be big enough to stop you from reaching your goal.

  3. Get informed - Read your handbook and merit badge pamphlets.  Learn what the responsibilities are for your Patrol position. Ask questions when you need more information.

  4. Keep good records - Use your handbook to record dates and everything else you need to document, like merit badges, service hours, camping nights, hiking miles, Scoutmaster approvals,  completion dates...  

  5. The only time limit is your eighteenth birthday, but at the same time, it takes a minimum of sixteen months to go from First Class to Eagle.  Your plan needs to take this into account.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Two Arms
Brad Harris, in Trails to Testimony, cites the oft-repeated “Activity Arm of the Aaronic Priesthood” metaphor and clarifies it by comparing it to a push-up. Now, I can do a handful of one-arm push-ups, but I’d much rather use two of ‘em. It’s easier, and more effective to do so. Eyes front, knuckles down, back straight, up, drop, repeat 50 times. In growing our LDS boys and young men into responsible adults, we (in the United States, anyway) have two arms: the left arm, Scouting, and the right one, Duty to God. (DTG is flexible enough, however, to be adapted to those regions where Scouting is not part of the Church’s YM program.)

On My Honor medal
There’s an award that actually recognizes this two-armed approach: the On My Honor award. To earn it, young men must (1) complete the requirements for the Duty to God certificate for deacons (or for another Duty to God certificate) and (2) achieve the Scout rank of Star in the United States, or equivalent Scouting award in other countries.

Let’s explore it a bit.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Frodo and the One Ring

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
- Gandalf the Grey

- JRR Tolkein, The Fellowship of the Ring

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quote - Progress

Never discourage anyone...who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.
- Plato

Beginning Boy Scouts - Book Review

Having lived in the aviation world, I learned the value of checklists for performing both critical and mundane tasks. I wouldn’t get on an airplane today if the pilot thought he didn’t need his checklist or have to understand and follow established procedures.

So, you just volunteered (or were just volun-told) to be a Scoutmaster, or your son just joined (or had an 11th birthday) and became a Boy Scout. What do you do now? Wouldn’t it be great if there were a checklist so you knew how to get started or what he (and you) are getting into? Beginning Boy Scouts: an Unofficial, Practical Guide to Boy Scouting for Parents and New Leaders, written and self-published by Jeremy C. and Heather R. Reed through Reed Media Services, is just such a checklist. At 139 pages, it’s a quick read and shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to get through. Think of it as an abridged Boy Scout Handbook with an emphasis on procedure rather than skills.

The chapters cover topics such as uniforms, patrols (in my opinion, the most important method), advancement, camping, meetings and more, and even explains, step-by-step, how a boy should work through the Eagle paperwork and project processes. "What, there are procedures for these things? Who knew? I thought we were all just supposed to wing it!"

A Poem about Perseverance

Melinda Mae
by Shel Silvestein

Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
Who ate a monstrous whale?
She thought she could,
She said she would,
So she started in right at the tail.

And everyone said,"You're much too small,"
But that didn't bother Melinda at all,
She took little bites and she chewed very slow,
Just like a little girl should...

...and in eighty-nine years she ate that whale
Because she said she would!!!

Poem and art originally published in  
Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bilbo Baggins' Walking Song

"[Bilbo] used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,' he used to say. 'You step onto the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'"
The Road goes ever on and on 
Down from the door where it began. 
Now far ahead the Road has gone, 
And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet, 
Until it joins some larger way 
Where many paths and errands meet. 

And whither then?
I cannot say.

– JRR Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings

Speaking of great books, KSL TV in Salt Lake City published a list of  five books your teenage boy will actually read. Also, the website is dedicated to boys' literacy (though L Ron Hubbard seems to be over-represented). I'd add John Christopher, Lloyd Alexander and several others to these lists, but no list can be truly comprehensive.

For younger Scouts, or Cubs, why not read a chapter around the campfire? (We actually read Poe's The Telltale Heart once, but I think it was way beyond the eleven-year-olds' comprehension. I don't remember why we went there.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Court of Honor

I skipped the COH last night. My daughter had a choir performance, so we went there, including my son, who completed his First Class. We'll get it to him next week at Patrol Meeting.  Family first.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quote of the Day

I'd rather be happy than right.
- Slartibartfast,
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Monday, November 28, 2011

Scoutmaster Minute - Dogs

This was the motto in my middle school. Pretty sure it didn't originate in Richmond, Utah, though:

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Ninth Method of Scouting

I had a discussion with my Wood Badge Troop Guide, and he put in the most concise, eloquent way I've ever read the idea that we (leaders and parents) are not grinding boys through a badge mill just as fast as we possibly can: "In the Church we are culturally married to the idea that successful Scouting means 'Eagle by age 14'. It takes time as well as effort to alter this perception."

I've thought of another term for it, the Ninth Method of Scouting: Git-r-dun.

Scout Direct

Looking for a great way to outfit a boy or a troop? Check out ScoutDirect and register yourself and troop. Then take a look through Alps Mountaineering's website for their entire product line.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Committee Training Item 1.5

Scout Committee Training Module 1.5, Methods: Personal Growth and Leadership Development.

The troop and patrol leaders are those Scouts who have been elected/appointed to a leadership position, but even more so, are those Scouts who have learned a skill and can teach it to others. Larry Geiger teaches that a troop’s leaders are those Scouts who have achieved First Class rank. Their responsibility is to ‘lead, train and inspire other Scouts to achieve First Class. In other words, the boys are responsible for each other, the whole troop, especially younger, inexperienced Scouts. It is a system in which boys are encouraged to take an active interest in each other. So what's our role as adults? To train boy leaders. That’s in your Scoutmaster’s handbook.

One of the ways we can empower boys to lead others is by teaching them how to use the EDGE method: Explain, Demonstrate, Guide and Enable a boy in learning and teaching a skill.

So then, what is an Eagle Scout? A scout who has led, trained and inspired others to achieve First Class! For example, “While a Life Scout…give leadership to others…”

Boys are presented many growth opportunities in these formative years. Football and wrestling teams, student councils, band and orchestra, drama club, employment opportunities, time management; in all of these, scout troops and priesthood quorums included, they will confront good and bad influences. I think our role as adult leaders, both in a Scouting perspective and ecclesiastically, is to help them understand how the Oath and Law apply in everything they do; that they aren't just for 3 hours on Sunday and another hour on Wednesday. They are entirely consistent with the mission of the Aaronic Priesthood.

How does Scouting contribute to a boy’s growth in the priesthood? One way is through setting goals (this works for Grown-ups, too). SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) actually force you to build a plan of action while defining the goal itself. They answer the "6 Ws" of the objective (Who, What, When, Where, Why, hoW). Instead of "Dad, I need  fifty bucks for summer camp," it becomes, "I will earn $50.00 for summer camp by mowing lawns at $___ a lawn for ____ weeks."

Fishgutts has a great summary of EDGE training and SMART goals on his blog, which I stole and made part of the handout.

Answering the call

So, yesterday in Priesthood Meeting, a call went out for volunteers to ref the upcoming church basketball games.  Predictably, hands were few and far between.  I turned to the guy behind me and remarked that it's ok, just like anything else we do, you don't have to be qualified for that job, either.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What a difference a plan makes!

We had a great patrol meeting last night. It was one boy’s last, and another’s first, in the EYOS patrol. We had a PL election, resulting in a tie vote (very easy when there are four boys), two Scoutmaster conferences (2Class and Scout), boy-led instruction and practice with lashings, and most importantly, we went outside to race around with the A-frame they built to demonstrate why your lashings (and the other things you do, whether school, football, band…) need to be done right. On Saturday, they'll build a water balloon catapult and see just how mad their lashing skillz are. It would not have happened so well without the Troop Meeting Plan worksheet*. I filled it in at work that afternoon (this job will transfer to the new PL soon enough) with events, supplies, &ct., followed it, and easily met all the meeting’s objectives.

We started off the meeting talking about planning, and I told them about one of my favorite Air Force aphorisms: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” (I didn't use a more colorful example from The Hunt for Red October). The meeting ended with a Scoutmaster’s Minute using Chesterton's dragon quote. It was a very successful hour and a half. And everyone got home on time.

Then I replaced my failing water heater with my father-in-law’s help. Successfully, too. I had a hot shower this morning!

*A note on the meeting plan: I didn't make this one, it's just the one I use, and then only as a rough guide to stay on track and ensure I've thought everything through and gathered my supplies. I won't fill in every line item. Another AF aphorism is "flexibility is the key to air power."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

We can easily

...forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
– Plato

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

See first

...that the design is wise and just: that ascertained, pursue it resolutely; do not for one repulse forego the purpose that you resolved to effect.
– Wm. Shakespeare

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

At thier own pace

In the last few days I've held two scoutmaster conferences for Second Class. One for a boy whose 12th birthday is later this month, the other is probably going to make Star before his own 12th birthday next spring. (In LDS units, there's a patrol for eleven-year-old boys, and once they turn 12, they don't associate with that patrol anymore.) Both have been owned by their football coaches since August.  Is there a difference between the boys? Other than age? Well, apart from one playing defensive tackle and the other running back, not really.

This is a fantastic example of boys progressing at their own rate. Who said that all boys MUST earn First Class in the first year? Where is that written? If that is the only measuring stick, then the boys and I have failed. And that's just silly. Granted, it's one of my goals to give them the opportunity to get there, but I decided I won't get heartburn over it. (And yes, I know all about the rationale of how getting to that point is an indicator of finishing.) It's not about what I want, it's about their individual development, and that is independent of rank advancement.

You have until you're 18 to complete Eagle, (or Denali, or 21 in the case of Venturing Silver) unless your parents impose some draconian driver license stipulation (which I disagree with, but that's their decision to make). What I tried to make clear to both the speed-demon and the soon-to-be 12-year-old is that they have plenty of time to accomplish their goals (Scouting and otherwise) and to enjoy the ride; that it's about finishing what you started,  just like playing your heart out for a full 60 minutes. If you enjoy it, advancement will happen. If you race through it, checking off boxes as fast as possible just for the sake of finishing, you'll wind up like Nemo's tank-mates, bobbing in the ocean in plastic bags and wondering, "Now what?".

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My religion

...consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.
– Albert Einstein

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fairy tales

Smaug, by Alan Lee
...are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

– GK Chesterton


I did my first bridging ceremony last night for a boy whose birthday is next week.  I found out at 4:30 that Pack meeting was at 6:30, found a bridge and recruited three Scouts (one my son, two had brothers in the pack) to welcome the new Scout. It was simple, but fulfilled its function of publicly recognizing that he's moving on, and may be the first step in  turning a corner.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Knotty Situation

I have been known to have said that my only job is to provide the opportunities that my boys need to learn and grow into First Class Scouts. By providing good meetings and monthly activities, I feel that I have done everything I really can to do so. Some boys take advantage of that, some don’t; for some, Scouting is their world, for others, it’s just another thing on their weekly schedule, including school, homework, football, theater, band, etc.

Yesterday I had a Scoutmaster Conference with one of the latter type. He’s a dedicated Scout who has been owned by his football coach since August. As a result, he hasn’t been to very many patrol meetings in the last little while. We had a good discussion about the Scout Law, (“Let’s try for something a little more meaningful than ‘Trustworthy means doesn’t lie.’”) and I tried to convey that a Scout can be a Scout at football practice, because the Scout Law is universal, it applies to everything we do. It’s not the meetings, it’s the man-in-training.

That said, it makes it harder to learn the required skills if you don’t go to the meetings. Last night, we did knots and lashings in anticipation of building a catapult later this month. We (there are two of us “Eleven-year-old Scout Leaders” because I made a fuss about two-deep leadership and all that) had one boy in attendance, so we helped him review basic knots, showed him a couple of new ones and worked through square and diagonal lashings. He is also on notice that he’s the instructor next time when we have a new boy assimilate into the group.

This morning it occurred to me that in addition to providing opportunity, we are in effect the boys’ Troop Guides. This is, of course, a direct result of the quorum-centered compartmentalization that pretty much segregates 11YO boys from their 12-and-up peers (i.e., last week's team mates). That’s OK. I like working with them on these fun, new skills. It gives me a chance to remember what I loved as a kid, learn a whole lot more about the world, and hopefully pass along an appreciation for all of it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Feast or Famine

I’m at that point where all the boys in my patrol are having birthdays.  I took seven boys to summer camp in June, now I’m down to three.  We need to hold a Patrol Leader election before we’re down to two and an electoral impasse. 

It’s weird how things work out. One year, you’ll have a bumper crop of boys, the next nearly none.  Next summer we’ll have a patrol of one.  It will be fun trying to sell “we need to work with others to make this worthwhile.” 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Leader Training 1.4 - Patrols and Uniforms

Fourth in a series of Ward Scout Leader training sessions.

I'd like to revise a previous statement of mine about one method not being more important than another, by saying that if the patrol method is properly implemented, the other methods will take care of themselves.

What, then do we mean by, "a Scout is trustworthy"? It goes beyond they don't lie and steal to, we trust them to be responsible. For being honest, and also for keeping their commitments to each other and themselves.

The patrol is the basic unit of Scouting, not the troop, not the committee. It is in the patrol (including Varsity squads and Venturing crews) that the work and play of Scouting happens. Baden-Powell has said that the patrol method is not a method, it is the only method. So, then, whose patrol is it? In short, it’s the boys’ patrol; they are the members and they are the leaders. From the Scoutmaster Handbook, “Patrol members share the responsibility of making the patrol a success.”1 They also define what success looks like.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

LDS-BSA Relations redesign

The LDS-BSA Relations website was recently redesigned. It's now an easily navigable site with prominent tabs for finding stuff quickly, the most useful of which are Resources, Newsletters and the Shop.  Ever wonder what the Church position is on some aspect of Scouting? This page - an official LDS publication - will give it to you. Sometimes (more often than not) the official position is simply a link to the appropriate BSA resource.  There is also information about changes to both the Faith in God and On My Honor awards. (OMH is awarded to a boy who completes one of the three Duty to God modules and the Star rank.) Lots of good stuff, much better website, I wish were as simple to use and find stuff in.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Scouting Safety

I pull in a lot of Scouting RSS feeds throughout the day and read them when I get a chance.  Here's a blog post regarding training and the safety implications of failing to get trained.  It's hard to verify, but I often see this statistic repeated:

19% (or 21%) of registered Scouts belong to LDS-affiliated troops. However, ~70% of fatalities across the BSA (that's Cubs through Ventures, 8-18, nationwide) come from that same 19% of troops. In other words, Mormon Scouts are disproportionately over-represented in Scouting accident statistics.

This is generally attributed to inappropriate activities, poor supervision and inadequate safety precautions. In short, it's due to not being familiar with and following the rules. We can't effectively serve the boys (and girls) under our stewardships if we don't take the time to learn how. The new Green Book, 2011 edition, expressly states that part of our callings is to get BSA-trained. The Church itself doesn't do this; it defers training to an outside organization (BSA) because the Church doesn't govern Scouting, BSA does. The Green Book doesn't replace official Scouting policies, it supplements them with Church-specific ones, and we are responsible to adhere to both.

Frankly, I don't want to have to look any parents in the eye and tell them their son got hurt, or worse, because I failed to learn my responsibility, and teach the boys theirs. Scouting resources - safety and other training, and policies.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Training item 1.3: Advancement

Hold on tight, this is a big one. This is the third of twelve Leader Training Modules.

Scouting is a Game with a Purpose. Advancement (Arrow of Light, Eagle, Merit Badges…) is part of the game, but is only one piece of the puzzle. It is one of the most visible aspects of the whole program, and it is through the process of advancement, the learning and development of knowledge, skills and abilities, that a boy learns and acquires the Aims of Scouting, and by extension acquires the qualities of a worthy Aaronic Priesthood holder.

Our job as leaders is to look at the big picture, and put it all together; to know the rules of the game. The big picture is summarized in the BSA Aims, Mission and Vision and AP Mission. The intent of this training module is to familiarize you with the rules and processes of the advancement game and will cover the following:
  1. Four Parts/Five Principles of Advancement
  2. Ranks
  3. Merit Badges
  4. Boards of Review
  5. Courts of Honor/Pack Meetings
  6. Proposals
There are four parts of Advancement:  

1. A Scout learns. A Scout learns by doing. As he learns, he grows in ability to do his part as a member of the patrol and the troop. As he develops knowledge and skill, he is asked to teach others; and in this way he begins to develop leadership.  

2. A Scout is tested. A Scout may be tested on rank requirements by his patrol leader, Scoutmaster, assistant Scoutmaster, a troop committee member, or a member of his troop. The Scoutmaster maintains a list of those qualified to give tests and to pass candidates. The Scout’s merit badge counselor teaches and tests on the requirements for merit badges.  

3. A Scout is reviewed. After a Scout has completed all requirements for a rank, he has a board of review. For Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle Palms, the review is conducted by members of the troop committee. The Eagle Scout board of review is conducted in accordance with local council procedures.  

4. A Scout is recognized. When the board of review has certified a boy’s advancement, he deserves to receive recognition as soon as possible. This should be done at a ceremony at the next troop meeting. The certificate for his new rank may be presented later at a formal court of honor.  

Five Principles of Advancement:
  1. Personal Growth is the prime consideration
  2. Learning by doing
  3. Each youth progresses at his own rate
  4. A badge is recognition of ability, not merely a reward for he has done
  5. Advancement encourages Scouting ideals
    • Scouting Ideals reinforce Church and Aaronic Priesthood Standards

ON the other hand

Here's a great story about what Scouting is all about: setting and achieving goals, and pushing yourself farther than you thought you could go. One Utah Scout has completed all 132 merit badges, including last year's centennial badges. Looks like he's sporting an Eagle award, too.

Ooo-rah, Nate!

Yes, all of them.

Here is a link to a heartbreaking story and dramatic (not to mention infuriating) illustration about why knowing the rules is actually important.  We need to know the rules and procedures. We owe it to the boys we serve to know what we're doing, so that a situation like this doesn't happen. Ever. We also have to be able to speak authoritatively about the consequences of certain (in)actions.  There is no excuse for this situation having gotten to the point it did, not with all the resources available.  It's symptomatic of voluntoldusdontgivadamitis.  Also, it's symptomatic of the If-You-Don't-Get-Your-Eagle-You're-An-Inferior-Mormon mentality we often see.

Broken Eagle

On a related note, over at Scoutmaster CG's podcast and blog, Clarke discusses and posts a list from Scouts Australia on How (not) to Kill a Scout Troop.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Building Bridges

I try not to get into the personal on this blog, as "I did this, and I did that" statements would detract from my purpose - I'd end up just grousing instead of helping. That, and I tend to get a little snarky. That said...

Glen Canyon Dam bridge, from wikipedia/commons. Public Domain
My son turned eleven early this year, and joined the Scout troop and the 11YO "Coyote" patrol . He had earned the Arrow of Light a few months before his birthday, and got the traditional, overused face-paint ceremony at that time. Unfortunately, by earning his AoL well in advance of his birthday, he threw the Pack leaders a curve ball. There’s no tradition of holding crossover ceremonies in his pack/troop, so instead of publicly marking his graduation from Cubs and transition to Scouts, he simply had a birthday and didn't show up at the next den meeting.

This is wrong on so many levels. This is why I went to Wood Badge, and why I am maintaining this blog. This is volun-told inaction, the I-don’t-need-no-training mind-set. If we don’t make Scouting a Big Deal for them when they're young (both the boys and their families) we’ll fall into the trap of running a Scout troop merely because Salt Lake says we’re supposed to have a Scout Troop (kind of like building bypasses because they've got to be built*), but we won’t have the boys’ buy-in and we will lose them to other, better (in their minds) things. They may get badges for a while, but it will be because “boys are supposed to earn badges,” or “Brother Robinson is making me do this.” We’ll have the form of Scoutliness, but not the power inherent in it.

It starts in Cub Scouts. Cubmasters and Committee Chairs need to be committed to making it a memorable experience that looks forward to bigger and better things. There’s no shortage of resources on the web for holding imaginative, exciting and FUN Den and Pack Meetings. If recognition consists of barely more than ‘here’s your bag-o-badges, here’s a quick game, here’s a cookie, aaaaaaand we’re done, why bother? The Cub Scout handbooks promise adventure and excitement (both of which the Jedi craves not, but I digress). Are we delivering on the promise?

I learned in ROTC that you never bring a problem to the commander without having a solution (if not two or thee) in mind. Fortunately, I’m in a position to fix some things without too much bloodletting. There is a new Cubmaster, who just happens to have been the Webelos Leader. By taking part in Cub Committee Meetings I'll be in a position to make appropriate suggestions. At that point, it shouldn’t take too much to get him to sign on to making a Big Deal out of these seemingly insignificant things.

* Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (clip)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Scouting is ‘Spensive

There’s just no way around it, it takes a lot of dough to run a troop. Where does it come from? (Remember that this blog looks at Scouting in the LDS context, with all its attendant and sometimes seemingly bizarre policies.)

Well, let’s just bust a myth right here and now. Mormon Scouts (and other LDS youth groups) are allowed to raise funds for their annual Big Event, and separately for needed equipment. Too often we’re skittish about holding “fundraisers” for a Church group; I guess we’re afraid someone might get offended ( I’ll refer you to Elder Bednar’s 2006 talk about that being a choice), so we have fundraisers that aren’t really fundraisers, or “services” for which we “request a donation.” Let’s get one thing straight: a fundraiser by any other name is still a fundraiser.

If we understand the rules, there need not be any confusion.  So, what are the rules?

Quite simply, funding for LDS Scout activities (and all youth activities) should come from:
  1. The ward budget.
  2. IF that is insufficient, the participant and his family may be asked to pay for all or part (remember paper routes?);
  3. BUT it if that is still insufficient, One annual fundraiser may be authorized
Finally, a lack of funds should never prohibit someone from participating.

Again, that's (1) the ward budget, (2) the individual/family (3) then a fundraiser1.

1 and 3 above also apply to equipping a troop: a dedicated equipment fundraiser may be held if the ward budget is insufficient to procure adequate supplies. Those supplies are not to be used by individuals or families; they are for Church use.

By creatively renaming something which we need not worry about in the first place, or by not calling it what it is, what message are we sending the kids? That it’s ok to fudge a rule, if we call it something else? In reality, this creative renaming is a solution in search of a problem; we’ve created a situation that just doesn’t exist. But the impression is that we have to be sneaky to get things done.

Really, if done right, a fundraiser can be a huge learning opportunity about leadership, teamwork, goals, planning and execution, to name a few. It’s another opportunity to let the boys (and the girls) solve a problem with minimal adult involvement. The potential benefits and lessons learned far exceed just the monies obtained.

As for the disparity between funds allocated for boys' and girls' programs, I have two daughters. Don't get me started.

1. Handbook 2, sections 8.13.7, 13.2.8 and 13.6.8.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Scoutmaster's Minute: "One"

This is a Scoutmaster’s Minute I did at last night's Court of Honor. The inspiration for it comes from a letter from Eagle Scout Mike Rowe, Mr. Dirty Jobs himself. He wrote this in response to a father’s request that he write something to inspire the father’s son to finish his Eagle rank. Mike’s reply put the responsibility squarely on the boy, where it belongs.

Following is the text of the SMM; you can view or download the PowerPoint here:
Let’s talk about one:
  • One is the loneliest number. By itself. Alone.
  • A number times one remains unchanged.
  • One is the first whole number. It’s more than nothing. One is NOT Zero.
  • One is “on” in binary (computer) code.
  • It’s said that one bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  • One is perfection in baseball. One is the pitcher, or the point guard. One is the best.
  • One (hydrogen) is the most abundant chemical in the universe. It’s the stuff stars are made of. It’s pure power. It’s critical to our survival.
  • One is unity: e pluribus unum means, out of many, one.
  • One man dreamed of changing a country;
    One man’s vision sent other men to the moon;
    One redeemed mankind
  • One percent of boys become Eagle Scouts.

Mike Rowe, from Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, said this about reaching Eagle:
"The Eagle Award is not really meant for people who need to be dragged across the finish line. It’s meant for a select few… Only one out of a hundred Scouts make Eagle… doing something extraordinary can be very lonely, and most people simply aren’t cut out for it. Being an Eagle Scout requires you to be different than most everyone around you, and being different is really, really hard. That’s why the award is called “an accomplishment.”

Personally, and for whatever it’s worth, the best decisions I’ve made in my own life, are those decisions that put me on the outside of being cool. Singing in the Opera, working in home shopping, starring in the school play when the entire football team laughed at me, and especially earning my Eagle, were all choices that required sacrifice, hard work, and delayed gratification.

I have no idea … if you have the passion to follow the road less traveled. Only you get to decide that.” (
Looking around the room, I don’t see anyone who is part of the 99; all I see is the One (look around, look boys in the eye, call them by name, make it personal).

So, Troop 406, choose to be different. Choose to be that one percent. And be one.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I so have to get one of these shirts

For more information, click on the shirt, and visit MikeRoweWorks.

Busy Scouting Week

Last night I had two boys complete their water rescue techniques for 2 and 1 Class, said boys have BORs tonight for tomorrow's COH, where 6 11YOs should get 10 rank advancements and around 20 merit badges (I don't do MBs, that's all on their own - they've had a busy summer).  Follow that up with a planning session Thursday to finish out this year and set up the next and you can stick a fork in me and call me done!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Getting - and Keeping - the Parents Involved

Cub Scouting is supposed to be family-oriented, but too often it's just another "class" where boys disappear for an hour a week. In this model, families all too often don't do much more than attend a pack meeting.  This article in the Sept/Oct 2001 Scouting magazine discusses how to not only retain new boys, but their parents as well, because to keep the boys active, the parents need to be interested, too.  The author offers some great ideas for getting parents to take an active role in their sons' Cub Scouting. Of course this means planning something beyond the all-too-common half-hour "badges-in-a-baggie" Pack Meetings (look at LDS Scouter and Cub Scout Chronicles in the "More Links" at right for inspiration).

We all know that in spite of our having attended an overnight Webelos Woods back in 1986, today LDS Cubs aren't allowed to go on campouts as in the above article. But imagine a Pack picnic, hike or cookout in the woods. Whatever it is, it has to be make good on Scouting's promise of adventure. Parents and families are all invited.  Invite the PrimPres as well, to give it a bit more authority.

The Committee Chair and Cubmaster would talk with the parents while the kids work on achievements and play under the Den Leaders' watchful eyes.  Find out what they hope their sons get out of Cub Scouts, and invite them to be a part of making it happen by serving on the committee, in any capacity.  It's okay to go all "commitment pattern" and ask direct, 'will you?' questions, but remember, and be clear, that you're asking for a volunteer, not presenting a calling. (I personally believe there will be a higher level of commitment from a volunteer; that's the whole premise of this blog.)

Be prepared to resolve concerns by explaining the Aims, Mission and Vision; they likely have never thought about Cub Scouts beyond, "boys-go-to-Cub-Scouts-because-that's-where-they're-s'posed-to-go."  If this is a first-timer family, they probably don't have the slightest clue of what Cub Scouting is about, anyway.  But done right, they just might be willing to step up and be a part of it.

Here's a great blog post from LDS Scouter about involving parents: 
Some wards use the Primary's Baptism Preview to also introduce the activity programs for 8-11 year-olds. A Cub Scout leader and Activity Days leader are each invited to speak for a few minutes about the programs. This is a great opportunity to introduce the idea to parents that they are an important part of the program. Let them know that their own attitude and involvement will have a big influence on their son's experience. Show them the parent guide at the front of the Wolf book and let them know they can and should work on many of the achievements with their son. Let them know they are invited to Den Meetings and that the whole family should attend Pack Meetings. You may even want to quote Elder Oaks' "Good, Better, Best" talk and point out that Cub Scouting can actually provide them with more quality family time.

I know of one Wolf Leader who even visits personally with parents who cannot attend the Preview and tells them all the things she wishes someone had told her when her sons started Scouts.
The key here is that leaders, both Primary Presidencies and Cub Scout leaders, need to clearly lay out the expectations up front (this, of course, requires coordination and 'training' of the PrimPres); that parents understand it's not a weekly "class" for babysitting their little angels, but that it is a family-centered program of character development and spiritual preparation.  Bradley Harris has said, it's "hundreds of father/son, mother/son activities waiting to happen."

The same can be said for Activity days.  I have the same expectations for my daughters as for my sons, maybe without the uniform and patches, but I hope for the same outcome for each of them. That outcome is defined in the Aims of Scouting: individuals of good character, physical, emotional and spiritual fitness, and good citizens.

I've thought of a couple more resources to use for planning boys' and girls' activities- both promote adventure, learning, character and FUN!:

The Dangerous Book for BoysThe Daring Book for Girls

Friday, August 26, 2011

Scoutmaster Conference Ideas

The Scoutmaster Conference is a vital component of advancement and adult association. Through these informal interviews, a boy is able to talk candidly about things that he might not otherwise talk to anyone about. One of the keys is to avoid asking yes/no questions, and instead use open-ended questions that foster thoughtful responses. In addition to questions that assess his mastery of advancement requirements, using questions such as those listed below can help a Scoutmaster get to know his Scouts better:

  • What's your favorite book? Why do you like it?
  • What position do you play in (sport)? Why did you choose that? Why was it chosen for you?
  • Who is your favorite athlete, performer, musician, etc. and why?
  • How has Scouting benefited you and your family?
  • What do you (or don't you) like about school? about Church? about _________?
  • Why are you in Scouting? What do you hope to accomplish?
  • What are you doing to accomplish that?
  • What have you enjoyed most about Scouts? Least?
  • What would you do to make it better? How would you carry that out?
  • Let's set some goals for the next 3, 6 months, or whatever period of time.
  • Tell me about a time you were Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful...

The answers to these questions, or others like them, will naturally lead to more questions.  Be prepared to be surprised at what he has to say.  Most importantly, ask the question, and sit back to let him answer it.  It will probably take some time, as he's probably never fielded open-ended questions like this. But let him do most of the talking.  Listen actively.  Congratulate and don't condemn; just be a friend. 

Remember to always conduct every SMC in private, but in full view of others to comply with YPT principles.

I used this technique the other day in an over-ice-cream interview with my 8YO daughter.  We had a good talk, and I learned a few things about her I didn't know before.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Who Shoud Go To Wood Badge?

The Church teaches, "Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence" (D&C 107:99). Carried out, this suggests that members serving in Church assignments—including Scouting—will learn the responsibilities of their calling and then fulfill them to the best of their ability.  Scouting teaches that "Every boy deserves a trained leader." All Scouting leaders are required to complete specific basic training for their position.1
Wood Badge EmblemWood Badge is far and away beyond the basic training mentioned above.  It is the BSA's premier adult leadership training course. It rivals any similar program the corporate world can offer, and the food, company and reason for going are so much better.  Take a week and sing some silly songs, do some silly skits, play some silly games and learn a lot about leadership, what Scouting is all about and why we use it, and then take it all home to better serve the boys (and the girls and even the grown-ups) in your charge. Yes, it's a sacrifice to go. I blew through several days of vacation time this last May, just so I could spend the next 18 months working on difficult, self-imposed goals. Why? I heard it was worthwhile.

If we're to magnify our callings, and if we really want to receive the inspiration we need to carry out an effective program, we gotta know what we're doing in the first place. That means education and training.  And by the way, being a Scout when you were 13 and being a Scoutmaster at 35 are two very different animals. I have discussed before why I believe people are reluctant to get trained; I can think of a dozen excuses not to learn something new, too.  But, I learned in Cub Scouts 27 years ago that I'm supposed to Do My Best. In my mind, that means finding ways to better carry out my responsibilities.

Here's a starting list of those for whom Wood Badge is intended:
  • Stake Presidencies
  • Stake YM Presidencies
  • Stake Primary Presidencies
  • Bishoprics
  • Ward YM Presidencies
  • Ward Primary Presidencies
  • Scoutmasters
  • Assistant Scoutmasters
  • Merit Badge Counselors
  • Cubmasters
  • Den Leaders
  • Committee Members
  • (I would even venture (Ha! Venture, Get it?) to say that ward/stake YW presidencies ought to go)

Charles W. Dahlquist, former member of the General Young Men's Presidency and current president of the Great Salt Lake Council, had this to say about Wood Badge training:
If we are really intent in touching the lives of our young men, in building, as Elder Ballard has challenged, “the greatest generation of missionaries this world has ever seen,” then we will do whatever is necessary to help us to accomplish that – including getting trained. For most of us, Wood Badge is life-changing because it has to do more with vision and understanding this great tool for strengthening young men of the Aaronic Priesthood than anything else.
Go to Wood Badge. It will change your life.

1.Church Scout Leader Training Philosophy

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mormon Battalion Trail Award

Mormon Battalion Trail Patch
Are you looking a way to combine Church history, American history and a great Scout activity?  Consider pursuing the Mormon Battalion trail award.  A little-known opportunity to explore the American pioneer spirit and heritage, this award consists of a unit certificate and individual patches. It's an effort to raise awareness of the sacrifice and contributions of this remarkable group of people to both the opening and settlement of the West, and to the success of the Church migration.  You can download an information booklet, requirements and award application from LDS-BSA Relations.
UPDATE 12/9/2016 - LDS-BSA Relations no longer manages this award. It is instead managed by the Mormon Battalion Association.
In July of 1846, on the banks of the Missouri River, approximately 550 Mormon refugees answered a call for volunteers to enlist in the US Army to serve in the Mexican-American War.  Their mission: to blaze a trail from Council Bluffs, Iowa to the California coast. This "hike" of around 2,000 miles through some of the most miserable territory imaginable served to secure a vast swath of land, from Texas to California, and from roughly the current US/Mexico border to southern Idaho. It also provided a much-needed infusion of cash into Church coffers, which aided in outfitting the rest of the Saints for their journey to what is now Utah (it was then Mexico). Later, Mormon Battalion veterans were among those who discovered gold at Sutter's Mill on the American River, initiating the California Gold Rush.

I (reluctantly) received this award as a kid, since my dad has been deeply involved with the USMB memorial organization, and has spent the better part of 40 years documenting burial sites and compiling journals. Because of his involvement, I spent a lot of time in the City of Rocks in southern Idaho, where a contingent of Battalion volunteers began cutting a wagon road back to Salt Lake City.  (Oddly enough, there is another City of Rocks in New Mexico, which the Battalion also passed near on their way to California.) The Salt Lake Cut-off bypassed Ft Hall, Idaho and saved days, even weeks of travel for California- and Oregon-bound travelers, who now stopped in Salt Lake City to replenish supplies before finishing the trek west.  The Battalion's trailblazing efforts were instrumental in making Manifest Destiny a reality. The City of Rocks, a fairyland of granite spires and monoliths, is still one of my favorite places in the world. It is now part of the National Park System, and a rock climbing mecca. Hey, sounds like a great place for an overnighter. Now, I wonder if there's a similar recognition program for the Pony Express trail...

BONUS! By earning this award, a Scout will also satisfy several American Heritage merit badge requirements, including 2a, 3c, 4b/e and 5a/b. Ask your counselor for more information.

Mormon Battalion routes, Wikimedia Commons

Prepared. | For Life.™

Links, Links, Links

My growing collection of Scouting and adventure links.

Official BSA Sites
Great Salt Lake Council
LDS-BSA Relationships
Guide to Safe Scouting
Scouting Forms
Boy Scout Handbook
Boy Scout Field Book
Boys' Life – the magazine for boys
Scouting Magazine – the magazine for adult leaders
Trapper Trails Council
Utah National Parks Council

Official LDS Scouting Pages
LDS Scouting resources - The "Green Book" has been retired.
Scouting in Primary (11YO and Cub Scout resources)
"Faith in God & Cub Scouting" Presentation

Unofficial, but more useful sites
Ask Andy the online commissioner
Green Bar Web Site

U.S. Scouting Service Project – Perhaps the best resource on the web 

Blogs and Other Scouter Sites
Adventures and Accidents - Venturing Blog
America Jane
An Hour A Week (left over after Scouting)
Bobwhite Blather - a blog for Troop Committees
Boy Scout Trail - Great resource for skits, ceremonies and more
Bryan on Scouting - the Scouting Magazine blog
Colorado Scouter
Free-range Kids - not Scouting, more about how to reclaim childhood for children
John Scout 2.0
LDS Scouter - for Cub Leaders
Mike Rowe's Scouting blog (Host of Dirty Jobs)
My Scout Stuff blog  

Scouter Mom
Scouting Liahona blog — Inspiration, information and ideas for Scout leaders from a long-serving, veteran scoutmaster
The Scoutmaster Minute blog
Steve's Scouting Pages - a CA Stake YMP resource
Varsity Team Coach Huddle - Varsity Scouting blog

Resources for Starting Out
Trails to Testimony - You absolutely, positively MUST read this book.
Mormon - Job Descriptions - Great FAQs page - Excellent 11YOS resources

Scouting Supplies and Fun Stuff
ALPS Mountaineering and Hiker Direct - You really need to register with this site
Boy Scout Store - Boy Scout Collectibles, Memorabilia, Gifts and Gags
Campmor outdoor gear
The Dangerous Book for Boys
The Wooden Periodic Table Table, just because it's cool
TOPO! Explorer — Home, custom trail maps and more
TrainingTrax Spreadsheets
Utah DNR Map & Bookstore

Outdoor Activity Resources
BLM Utah Home Page
Don Bain’s Virtual Guidebooks
Hike Light - tips for shedding pounds off your pack
Local Hikes - Detailed hike information all over the country
National Park Service - Utah
National Parks of the American Southwest
Reserve America – Reserve Camp sites in national and state parks, national forests, etc.
Salt Lake Tribune Hikes of the Week
Section Hiker - Climbing, Hiking & Mountaineering
Trail and Freezer Bag cooking
U.S. Geological Survey for topographical maps
Utah Geological Survey
Utah Scenic Byways
Utah State Parks
Utah Travel Center – Your Guide to Utah Travel, Activities, and More
Utah Travel
Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Wild Utah – great resource for wildlife, plants, & other resource
Will Hite Web (formerly

Monday, August 22, 2011

Training Item 1.2: the Methods of Scouting

With an emphasis on the Ideals and Adult Association

This is the second of twelve ward Scout Leader Training installments that I am doing as part of my Wood Badge ticket.

The previous training session was all about the Aims, Mission and Vision of Scouting. There are eight methods that the BSA uses to accomplish these aims. (Well, depending on the age of the boy, there are 7-9, but they are all variations on a theme.) They are: the Ideals, Patrols, Adult Association, Advancement, Outdoor Activities, Leadership Development, Personal Growth and Uniforms. These methods are very interrelated; within a working patrol, you’ll see personal growth, advancement, uniforms, leadership, and outdoor activities. Advancement will encompass patrols, adult association, outdoor activities, leadership, growth, etc. One method is not more important than another. To quote another LDS Scouter, “…advancement is one small part of the entire picture…
“We need to make sure that we are running our Scouting programs as they are outlined in the Scouting literature… We should feel compelled to help our young men advance. We should feel just as compelled to provide an environment where the young men are empowered to run their own program--gaining leadership experience by planning successful activities, making decisions, conducting meetings, leading outdoor excursions, etc. We should feel just as compelled to have our young men wear Scout uniforms. We should feel just as compelled to be having regular "Scoutmaster" Conferences with our young men to help them in their personal growth, to help them set and work towards meaningful goals. We should feel just as compelled to make sure that service activities are planned and run by the young men. There are a lot of things we should feel just as strongly about making happen [as completing one’s Eagle rank].” 1
The Ideals are embodied in the Scout Oath, Law, Motto and Slogan. These are principles and promises made – regularly and in public – that a boy says he will live up to. The BSA mission and vision are that every boy will be empowered to make good choices throughout his life based on living up to the Oath and Law. The Oath starts small, and adapts and grows with him. The Cub Scout Promise is really just an age-appropriate Scout Oath. Venturing builds on the Oath by having the Venturer look much farther beyond himself than he has likely ever done before. The Ideals are the correct principles that we as leaders should be teaching, and exemplifying, to the boys in our charge.Critics will accuse us of teaching boys to repeat a slew of empty words; of rote and meaningless memorization. The counter to such a hollow and ignorant charge is (after telling myself, “just because YOU couldn’t internalize these simple-but-lofty ideals and can’t handle living a higher standard”) that throughout his experience, a Scout is questioned on what it means, and how he is living up to it. And his responses are usually surprisingly astute.

Throughout his Scouting adventure, a boy should have multiple opportunities to interact with adults who can be mentors, role models and teachers. These include Scoutmasters, ecclesiastical leaders, teachers, family members, merit badge counselors and so on. This is a holistic approach, giving each boy the opportunity to work with many quality adults from whom to learn good behavior and habits. In this way, his Scoutmaster conferences and other interactions will gradually grow from the simple answers given as an 11-year-old to more thoughtful, complete statements of belief and character as a priest-age young man.  It gives him a diversity of opinions and experiences to draw from in forming his own identity, and just might prepare him to work with, understand and empathize with people from Guatemala, Botswana, Croatia, Latvia, Japan or any other strange and exotic place, like Kansas City, as a missionary. It teaches them to communicate as adult to adult.

The Methods exist to accomplish the Aims. Each is as important as the others, and done right, they go hand in hand (in hand in hand in hand...) toward molding tomorrow's leaders.

Methods handout
LDS-BSA relations newsletter, May 2011, the first page is full of examples of great of Adult Associations
1. - excellent "Methods" essay; look through the FAQs for great answers to many questions.