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
Scoutmastercg.com — 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 Scouting.com - Job Descriptions
LDSScouting.org - Great FAQs page
LDSScouts.org - 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
SummitPost.org - 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 UtahPeakbagging.com)

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. LDSScouting.org - excellent "Methods" essay; look through the FAQs for great answers to many questions.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The First Two Syllables are “Commit”

“The bishopric organizes ward Scouting committees to ensure that Scouting functions properly as a supporting activity for Aaronic Priesthood quorums. The bishopric calls several capable adults (including fathers and mothers of boys and young men) to serve as committee members…Qualified adults, whether members of the Church or not, may serve on these committees.”1

As stated above, moms and dads of enrolled boys should be part of the committee (and I’ll go out on a limb here and say they ought to volunteer rather than wait to be called), but who else serves on it? Well, the Primary Presidency, for one (see page three of the LDS Scouting Handbook, below). The challenge here is to overcome the tendency to fall into a, "if I wasn’t called, it’s Someone Else’s Job" mentality. A committee consists of at least three members, one of whom serves as Chair2. According to the 2008 Advancement Guide, at least three troop committee members are required in order to convene a board of review3. And here’s an important point about Scoutmasters and the Committee: Scoutmasters are not committee members, and therefore they do not sit on Boards of Review (neither do parents sit on their own son’s board4). I’ll talk more in depth about the BOR at a later date.

So, what does the committee do? “The troop committee…supports the troop's adult and youth leaders in delivering a quality program to the troop's Scouts.5” “Scouting committees should (1) meet as needed to discuss Scouting in the ward and receive assignments from the committee chair, (2) support and assist Scouting activities by providing needed services, and (3) see that the Scout units operate in accordance with Church and BSA policies and standards.6” In short, the troop, or the pack, committee takes care of the administrivia so that the Scoutmaster can focus on working with the boys without getting bogged down in minutiae.

Examples of committee member functions include advancement, funds, logistics, transportation, etc. For more examples of Committee responsibilities, follow the meritbadge.org link. My opinion is that if someone has a son in any aspect of Scouts, they are automatically a committee member, and should register as such. Yes, there is a marginal cost involved with registration, but if something (like pinewood derby) is to happen, the committee needs to make it happen. Think of it as sustaining the Scout- or Cubmaster.

I know that this idea represents a sea-change from "how we've always done it", but "how we've always done it" is not the Scout way. It is often said in General Conferences, and in scripture, that culture and incorrect traditions supplanted or in other ways prevented people from living up to their covenants. Just because we have a tradition of being wrong doesn't mean we need to persist in that tradition. I have been saying for a while now that we need to decide that this is worth doing the right way; if by some other way, it is not Scouts, merely the form of Scoutliness. It's a matter of education and a willingness to do follow established policies. I noticed that the new 2011 Scouting Handbook frequently refers back to BSA policies. I wonder if that’s significant…

In other words, there are a lot of sacred cows, and it's time to grill up some brisket.

Pack Committee
Troop Committee
The LDS Scout Committee
Startup Guides with job descriptions
The BSA Troop Committee Guidebook #34505B is available at your local Scout Shop

1. 2011 Scouting Handbook, p2 (LDS.org), emphasis added
2. 2008 Advancement Guide, p29 (BSA)
3. http://meritbadge.org/wiki/index.php/Troop_Committee
4. 2008 Advancement Guide, p29 (BSA)
5. USSSP Troop Committee Training Module
6. 2011 Scouting Handbook, p3 (LDS.org), emphasis added

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Patrol Meeting and Camp Out Info

A note to Parents:

Hello, all, a few quick quick reminders:

Patrol Meeting tonight at 6:30.  We will be finalizing plans for this weekend's camp out at Bountiful Peak and going to either Dick's or Wal-Mart to purchase the food. 

For the camp out, boys need to come to my house at 3 on Friday with their gear packed. Let them pack their own stuff using the packing lists provided in their handbooks; if they don't know where the list is, the book is conveniently provided with both a table of contents and an index;)  It's ok if they don't pack as efficiently as we would, that's how they learn to do it better next time.

For Dads accompanying sons, there are a few things to keep in mind:
  1. Camp Site: We're going to a Forest Service fee area/campground. There is limited space and parking. Please plan on carpooling and sharing tents; I have room for 6 in my van.
  2. Tents and YPT: The troop recently purchased two six-man tents that we will be taking. I don't have a final count of boys attending yet, but this will definitely be sufficient for them. I will also bring a third large tent, so lodging is covered for everyone. Additionally, there is a BSA policy (part of Youth Protection guidelines) about no adults in boys' tents and vice-versa. The only exceptions are emergencies, or if a boy and his dad (and no one else) share the tent.
  3. Patrol Method: We're going to let the Patrol do its own thing, they'll cook and clean up their own meals, pitch their own tents, etc. Now that they've had some practice, we want to see how well they can operate with limited adult input. The Patrol Leader (KN) is in charge, not any adult.  In this way, we use the Patrol Method and let the boys lead each other. Yes, they will make mistakes and won't do it as well as if we're holding their hands, but there is much more to be gained in doing it this way.
  4. Adults are responsible for their own food. We can grill some burgers if you like, or throw something in a Dutch oven.  Please call me if you have a preference, otherwise, K. and I will make something up for the grown-ups, most likely tin-foil dinners and oatmeal/fruit for breakfast. Please pitch in a few bucks to cover costs.
  5. Timeframe: We will come home Saturday after lunch.  This is to fulfill First Class cooking requirements 4a/b/c/d/e (plan and cook three meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner).
  6. Instruction: K. and I will have instruction on day/night land navigation, and a few other odds and ends. We will also be having scoutmaster conferences for those who need them.  At night, we'll do some stargazing and learning about constellations, so if you have a pair of binoculars, bring them.They are much easier to use than a telescope in this situation. Hopefully the back side of the mountain is dark enough and far enough removed from the city to see things like the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way.
  7. Program: We will have a short campfire before lights out. Plan to sing a couple patriotic songs, and wax spiritual.
  8. It's for the boys: Please remember that Scout camps are not intended to be father/son camps; there are specific objectives for the boys to meet and most involve our standing back and letting them work through challenges. We're there if needed, but we need to avoid the impulse to step in and correct, unless there is a real safety issue involved. The outdoors is the lab where they put into practice those things K. and I have been teaching them all year, from building a fire to leadership.
  9. Finally, as far as the dads-have-to-go-camping-with-11YOS rule, in my opinion even if you can't come until 9:30 and have to leave at 6:30, that's ok.  It meets the standard, and still allows your son to have a great experience.
There will be Boards of Review this Sunday after church. Every Scout is ready to finish Tenderfoot, and so should plan on attending IN UNIFORM; some are ready to finish Second Class as well. BORs begin at 4:00, so they'll have to run home, change and run back.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Merit Badge Counselor: More than a Signature

http://kswptim.wordpress.comThe other day my EYOS Patrol Leader came over and asked for some Merit Badge Applications (blue cards).  He said he'd already done the requirements and just needed to get them "passed off."

Any Scout can earn any merit badge at any time. And he can complete any badge up to his eighteenth birthday, regardless of when he started it. Completing a Merit Badge consists of two parts:
  1. The study and work of learning and doing the requirements
  2. Working with a merit badge counselor
Thus the merit badge program incorporates at least three Methods: Personal Growth, Advancement and Adult Association. Often the Methods of Leadership Development and Outdoor Activities are incorporated as well. If, however, the Merit Badge Counselor is reduced to the formality of a signature, or if the Scouts’ adult leaders or parents “sign off” all or most of his merit badges, he’s missing 50% of the value of earning that badge. That value lies in meeting, working with and gleaning the insight and knowledge of experts. These individuals signed up to be counselors because they have a passion and/or expertise for the field, whether it be professional, personal or both. They also have a desire to share their knowledge and experience with others, hence the term, “Counselor”.

The first thing a Scout should do when starting a merit badge is to get the name of a qualified Merit Badge Counselor from his Scoutmaster and go see that counselor! Often times in LDS troops, this will conveniently be someone in his own ward. Next, talk to the MBC to find out a few things: what he or she knows about the subject, best practices, choke points and how to navigate them, and other useful bits of information. Hopefully, the MBC has worked with enough Scouts to know these and more. The point is, that the Scout is working with an expert guide on something he’s either very interested in, or simply has to do (Personal Management, anyone?) If the Scout (or the Scoutmaster or the parents) think of the MBC as only a signature, the Scout may read the book and fill in the blanks but he may not be getting any expert, personalized instruction.

Now, about that ward MBC list…take the time to check it over and vet it with your local council. Odds are it’s way out of date like mine is. Many times well-intentioned people will sign up, but no one tells them that they have to actually register with the BSA and get trained as a Counselor, and comply with YPT rules, &tc. I checked my ward’s list and found that of about 30 counselors, one was duly registered.  I’m not faulting MBCs or anyone else, I attribute it to a general ignorance of what an MBC’s role is. Now, at the same time, just because your ward doesn’t have a MBC for the _____ Merit Badge doesn’t mean that a Scout can’t complete it. I’ve told my Scouts’ parents that if Grandma in Des Moines is a registered Counselor for Indian Lore, she can sign his blue card (but don’t expect her to cut him any slack just because he’s the favorite grandson). It’s ok to go outside the ward! Gosh, it kind of reflects the adult world, doesn’t it?

If a Scout simply reads the book and fills in the blanks on those (admittedly very useful) worksheets at MeritBadge.org or BoyScoutTrail.com, is he really learning the concepts embodied in the requirements? Is he really getting everything he could be if he’s not working with an expert who can answer his questions? When my son asks me a question about a requirement, I ask him back, what did your counselor say? I’m certainly not qualified to answer questions about robotics, coin collecting or agriculture. Most parents and Scoutmasters aren’t experts in each of over 120 fields of interest. If he isn't using the resource of the MBC and getting advice from experts is he doing his best to learn and expand his horizons? Or is he just, as we said in the Air Force, filling squares?

Looks like instruction is needed all around, starting with Patrol Meeting tomorrow.

Thanks to Ask Andy over at USSSP for the good info. Here are some resources:

Youth Protection Training
Merit Badge Counselor Training Guide
Blue Card

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Stuff! New Stuff!

Working with the youth is tough.  There's so much to learn, so many policies. If you're not careful, you'll be like Homer Simpson's neighbor Ned Flanders who, when tragedy struck,  said something to the effect of, "I did everything the Bible said to do, even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff."  If you work with Scouts, you actually serve two masters. Have you ever said to yourself, "I wish the Church would provide easy access to all the training and other resources I need in order to perform well in this job they asked me to do?"

Well, wish no more!  LDS Scouter alerted me to this development: the Church has posted a brand new Scouting resources page, including this BRAND NEW "GREEN BOOK." It's only 9 pages now (really only 6-1/3 pages of text), and a full page-and-a-half focuses on Scouting in the Primary.  Do you wonder what training you need as a leader? It's there! Do you want easy access to BSA Safety policies? They have it! The site even goes a step further by hosting many of these documents on the Church servers, so you don't even have go "outside" the Church system to get them.

All the Scouting Families are represented (Venturing, what the smeg is that?) which to me emphasizes that yes, Scouting will be part of the Church program for a long time to come.

So much for that rumor.


In my mind, having the BSA publications on LDS.org is tacit approval of those pubs, and implies that knowing and following these policies (yes, all of them) is actually part of the calling.  It is incumbent on us to get Scout-educated so that we know what we're doing, and why. At that point, the Spirit can inspire us, but we gotta study it out, etc.  And if you need even more resources, just hit the "Leader Resources" button on the left side of the page. It will take you to Mutual Activities, Aaronic Priesthood stuff and Duty to God resources, including the hard-to-find Parental and Medical Release form!

Gosh, it's like they already built the wheel so it doesn't have to be re-invented every time someone says, "yes."

Monday, August 1, 2011

How Scouting can Infuse a YW Program with Meaning and Purpose

Training adult leaders is where we most fall short. In spite of available resources, our volun-told army either doesn't take advantage of them, or isn't aware of them.  I had a discussion with a co-worker who works in the YW program of her ward, and this is the result of that discussion:
Our discussion got me thinking about some things, and I thought I’d pass it along. Like I said, there’s plenty of overlap in how these two programs run. If the goal is simply to have girls mark time until they get proposed to at the Y, then why bother at all? If the goal is to produce women of character who are capable leaders, then these principles apply just as much to them as to the boys.

Following are the basic elements of Scouting, adaptable to just about any situation. Many of the methods overlap one another, but none is more important than the other. (unless you ask a parent who demands that his son ‘get’ his Eagle before he can drive, which is symptomatic of not seeing the forest for the trees.) If Eagle were the goal of Scouting, then a statistic I read means that the program fails ~95% of boys nationwide, since only about 5% earn it. Eagle, or PP is just a highly visible aspect of all this, but when done right, represents a holistic approach to youth development.

Aims of Scouting: Men (and women) of:
  • Character,
  • Fitness (physical, moral, spiritual) and
  • Citizenship
Mission: To prepare young people to make ethical choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.

Vision: The Boy Scouts of America will prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law.

Methods for achieving the aims:
  1. Ideals (Scout Oath, Law, Motto & Slogan) Words to live by
  2. Patrol/Squad (Class) – a group who plans, works, plays and solves problems together. A cohesive unit
  3. Adult Association – a variety of adults of good character and knowledge – Mentors
  4. Leadership Development
  5. Personal Growth
  6. Outdoor Activities – the lab where lessons are practiced and internalized
  7. Advancement (Eagle/Duty to God – Personal Progress - achieving goals, learning skills, developing good habits)
  8. Uniform
Scout Oath
On my honor, I will do my best to:
Do my duty to God and my Country, and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

Scout Law: A Scout is:
  • Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly,
    Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful,
    Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent
Scout Motto: Be Prepared; and Slogan: Do a good turn daily

Apart from the uniform, I see no reason why these principles cannot be incorporated into a ward's YW programs, as they seem to be universal. Girls need adventure, too, and they need to be trained to be leaders. After all, they, and the boys, will replace us in the not-too-distant future.
These are powerful tools and strategies for shaping youth into responsible adults. Don't ignore them simply because they are titled "Boy Scouts".  I'll admit, I'm disappointed that my daughters won't have the same opportunities as my sons, as they crave adventure and excitement just as much as anyone.  They deserve more than just another four-generation chart and craft nights.  Why can't they plan and carry out a group overnight camping trip? Why not learn about astronomy or plumbing? I'm probably selling someone short here, as my daughters aren't in that age-group yet, but I sure hope that when they are, their leaders have a vision for them that goes beyond age 18.