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Practicing Wilderness Survival with the ‘Survivormen’ of the Rockies

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 3:09pm

A patrol hikes to a Survivorman Challenge station, where they will be tested on their wilderness survival knowledge.

Your flight home turned into a disaster. The plane crashed in a dense forest during a storm. Fortunately, you survived, but now you’re cold, wet, thirsty and lost.

You scour through the plane wreckage and find a bottle of water. You guzzle down the refreshing drink and then start to move on. But wait — don’t throw away that bottle!

You can place your thumbs over part of the bottle cap’s underside and blow, creating a makeshift emergency whistle.

This is wilderness survival. It’s using your wits to make the most of what’s available to help you get home safely.

It’s what the Scouts in Troop 16 of Parker, Colorado, practice every year in their Survivorman Challenge.


For nearly a decade, Troop 16 has held an annual wilderness survival campout at Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch, south of Denver. Since it’s springtime, the Scouts have a large part of the camp to themselves, including about 1,000 acres of undeveloped land. Each year, leaders plan a new theme — the Hunger Games, a military rescue mission, an ATV trip gone wrong. This time, it’s a plane crash.

Also this time around, survival expert Les Stroud will be there. He created the hit television series Survivorman, a show in which he survives for a week alone in remote places all over the world, sharing survival skills and how important it is to Be Prepared.

Survivorman Les Stroud shares some orienteering tips with Scouts.

“Survival has never been about recreation; survival is about real-life skills,” Stroud says. “There are many skills to learn, and the Boy Scouts of America [is] touching on them all: navigation, how to set up a fire, shelter construction, first aid … ”

This campout, named in honor of Stroud’s show, is a competition; each patrol will earn or lose points based on its members’ skills and decisions. But the bigger prize is Scouts enhancing their knowledge of what to do should this be a real emergency.


While first-year Scouts stayed at base camp, older Scouts ventured into the backcountry, allowed to carry very little for their weekend in the woods. No tent. No sleeping bag. No mess kit. This wasn’t going to be comfortable.

“It was a little cold because we didn’t get a sleeping bag or a sleeping pad,” says Ian Baldwin, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout.

Maybe they could light a fire to stay warm? Sorry; the county was under a fire ban. It’s important to follow local laws. You’ve got to adapt to different situations.

Scouts work on a shelter using sticks and plastic they collected.

So instead of worrying about not having a fire, the Scouts focused on building lean-to shelters out of tree branches and crawled inside for the night.

“You have to make sure your shelter is good,” 14-year-old Life Scout Josh Hilgartner says.

“Otherwise, if it rains, you’re going to get wet, and you don’t want that to happen.”

The next morning, the first-year Scouts set out to navigate a 5-mile orienteering course and practice knot tying, plant identification and first-aid skills as part of their challenge. Meanwhile, the older Scouts hiked to a fake plane crash site, where a couple of “injured” Scouts lie awaiting help. The Scouts quickly assess the area and move in to treat the — whoa! Is that a blood-covered bone sticking out of his arm?

Scouts assess the scene of a “plane crash,” where “injured” Scouts await their help.

It sure looks like it. But it’s a fake bone and blood. Even though it looks gross, you’ve got to be brave; these Scouts need your help.

Calm the victims, stop the bleeding, treat for shock. First aid is a top priority in wilderness survival.


After the victims are bandaged up, the Scouts discover a note with coordinates indicating where the plane was headed. This could be helpful, considering that the plane was flying toward civilization. To get their bearings, the Scouts create a compass by magnetizing a sewing needle and floating it in water.

They head the right way and come across more plane wreckage they can use: a tarp for shelter, CDs for signaling, a few bottles of water and granola bars.

“The teamwork of my group surprised me; I thought we weren’t going to work super well as a team, but we got together and did it,” says Travis Payne, an 11-year-old Tenderfoot Scout.

Adult leaders score Scouts on how well they know their stuff.

As part of the competition, the adult leaders keep score and reward the patrols when Scouts demonstrated proper survival techniques at various checkpoints. Identify edible plants, like dandelions and wild onion, and they’d win some spices to add flavor to their provided rabbit dinner. Tie a strong lashing at the knot-tying station, and they might get paracord to stabilize their shelter for the night. Explain how to start a fire with a 9-volt battery and steel wool, and they’d get a backpacking stove to cook the quail eggs they found.

Patrols also received points for reflecting sunlight with their CDs to signal adult Eagle Scout Trevor See, who piloted a Cessna 172 single-engine plane above the camp.

“We were about 600 feet above the ground; honestly, you could see the signals from 2,000 or 3,000 feet,” See says.


Scout Keaton Milerowski, 12, considers the Survivorman Challenge to be his favorite campout of the year other than summer camp.

“The challenges were fun because it was preparing you,” Keaton says. “It’s going to be useful in the future when you actually need it.”

Les Stroud poses for a portrait with members of Venturing Crew 16.

Part of the challenge involved teamwork and maintaining a positive attitude. Those skills will prove extremely useful, not only in the wilderness, but in life.

“The first time I ever got a fire going just from the bush, my confidence level went through the roof,” Stroud says. “That is the magic of wilderness survival. It lends itself to building confidence within you for all the other things you’ll face in life.”


Inside the March 2019 Issue

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 4:53pm

Here’s what you’ll find inside the March 2019 issue of Boys’ Life magazine. Remember, many articles are only available to subscribers and are not available online.

Please visit to subscribe to the print or digital editions of Boys’ Life magazine.


The ‘Survivormen’ of the Rockies

It might be a made-up contest, but what Scouts learn in the Colorado wilderness could prove vital in a real survival situation.

9 Things to Know About Wilderness First Aid

Here’s how to Be Prepared to treat injuries and ailments in the backcountry.

Learn about wilderness first aid

To Infinity and Beyond

The New Horizons spaceship flew to the edge of our solar system … and then kept going.

BL How To Make It: DIY Survival Kit

This 2-pound kit could save your life for at least three days in the wild.

How to make a DIY survival kit


Scouting Around: Stay on Target

Archery is more than a fun way to pass the time at Scout camp. It’s a popular sport with all kinds of different competition formats.

Visit the Scouting Around blog

Best Week Ever

Summer’s just around the corner. Make plans for fun with our guide to eight amazing Scout camps.

Check out 8 cool summer camps

Don’t Panic!

The key to surviving if you’re lost in the wild? Managing your fear.


Let’s Look at Pyramids

Read it! Color it! Get it all in this special Cub Scout section.

Welcome to Earth!

Alien invasion? Don’t worry. These Cub Scouts learned just what to do.


Look for the regular score of comics, jokes, games, Scouts in Action, Tradin’ Post and more! Only in the March 2019 issue of Boys’ Life!

The Wacky Adventures of Pedro
Pee Wee Harris
Tales From the Campfire
Scouts in Action
More S.I.A.

15 Funny St. Patrick’s Day Jokes and Comics

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 1:01am

Even if you remember to wear green on March 17, you’ll still get a “pinch” of humor from these funny St. Patrick’s Day jokes submitted by Boys’ Life readers.

Do you know a funny St. Patrick’s Day joke? Click here to send your joke to us.

Tom: What do you get when you cross a four-leaf clover with poison ivy?
Pee Wee: I don’t know.
Tom: A rash of good luck on St. Patrick’s Day.

Joke submitted by Tommy F., Aberdeen, Md.
Comic by Daryll Collins

Seth: What do you call a fake Irish stone?
Spencer: What?
Seth: A shamrock!

Joke submitted by Seth F., Frederick, Colo.

Comic by Scott Nickel

David: Mom, I met an Irish boy on St. Patrick’s Day.
Mom: Oh, really?
David: No, O’Reilly!

Joke submitted by David K., Shelby Township, Mich.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Joe: Why shouldn’t you iron a four-leaf clover?
Bob: Tell me.
Joe: You might press your luck!

Joke submitted by Eric H., San Diego, Calif.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Jack: On what musical instrument did the showoff musician play his St. Patrick’s Day tunes?
Ally: I have no idea.
Jack: On his brag-pipes.

Joke submitted by Jacqueline S., Moline, Ill.

Keenan: What do you call leprechauns who collect aluminum cans, used newspapers and plastic bottles?
Liam: What?
Keenan: “Wee-cyclers!”

Joke submitted by Jacqueline S., Moline, Ill.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Ian: Where do leprechauns buy their groceries?
Colin: I don’t know.
Ian: Rainbow Foods!

Joke submitted by Ian C., Minneapolis, Minn.

Comic by Daryll Collins

Peyton: What did the leprechaun say on March 17?
Cody: I dunno.
Peyton: “Irish you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!”

Joke submitted by Andy K., Perkasie, Pa.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Carrot: Knock, knock.
Potato: Who’s there?
Carrot: Irish stew.
Potato: Irish stew, who?
Carrot: Irish stew in the name of the law.

Joke submitted by J.S., Hayward, Calif.

Comic by Daryll Collins

Evan: What’s Irish and stays out all night?
Steffan: What?
Evan: Paddy O’Furniture.

Joke submitted by Evan R., Wylie, Tex.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Do you know a funny St. Patrick’s Day joke? Click here to send your joke to us.

9 Things to Know About Wilderness First Aid

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 3:00pm

Here’s how to Be Prepared to treat injuries and ailments in the backcountry.

During a wilderness first-aid course, instructors will present participants with mystery injuries. It’s up to the participants to figure out what to do next.

What Is Wilderness First Aid?

If your unit is planning a remote adventure, you need wilderness first aid.

If you’d like to Be Prepared to help out your community after a major disaster, you need wilderness first aid.

The BSA’s wilderness first aid (WFA) curriculum focuses on prevention, assessment and treatment for an ill or injured person in an environment where professional medical care is an hour or more away.

“You could easily be three hours away from professional medical help,” says Luke Brewster from Troop 325 in Grand Rapids, Ohio. “Now you can do what you need to do to help.”

At Camp Lazarus in Delaware, Ohio, Luke and other members of Troop 325 took a WFA course offered by the Simon Kenton Council that follows the BSA curriculum. The troop had a high-adventure trip coming up on its calendar, and the Scouts wanted to be ready for anything.

Rescuers prepare a plan to help an instructor who’s pretending to have slipped and fallen.

First, Size Up the Scene

If you come across an injured person, take a few moments to stand back, survey the scene and do a safety check. Are there clues suggesting what happened? Is it safe for you to approach the victim?

Try to gather information from the patient. Ask something like, “Can you tell me who you are and what happened?” How was the patient injured?

During the Simon Kenton WFA course, students are presented scenes of “actors” with fake injuries.

“They put us in a scenario with many different ‘victims’ to see how we would handle it,” says Blake Litz, 16, also from Troop 325. “We had to piece together what happened.”

Scouts prepare to perform first aid on an instructor who is pretending to be injured.

Then, Do an Initial Assessment and Than a Hands-on Exam

An initial assessment checks for urgent medical issues, like severe bleeding or breathing problems. Treatment for issues like these requires immediate care.

Don’t forget to protect yourself from infectious diseases by donning personal protective equipment like disposable gloves, goggles, etc.

Once these concerns have been either resolved or are determined not to be a problem, a hands-on exam is the next step in determining what is wrong with the patient. It involves checking the patient from head to toe. Ask where it hurts and if it hurts when touched. Be aware of unusual behavior, such as coughing.

A patient’s vital signs can tell you how they are doing. Changes over time are indicators of changes in the condition of your patient. Check things like heart rate and respiratory rate — and keep checking regularly.

Write down the time and the results so you can track any changes. And while you’re doing all this, remember to stay calm.

“You have to focus on what’s at hand,” says Logan Smith, 14, from Troop 417 in Columbus, Ohio. “Just focus on what you’re performing.”

A Scout assesses the status of his father, who is pretending to be injured.

Treating Chest Injuries

Any significant injury to the chest might lead to difficulty breathing, a potentially serious and life-threatening problem. Pain is usually present, and the patient might complain of pain when taking a deep breath.

Increased difficulty in breathing usually indicates the injury is becoming worse. Any patient who has sustained a chest injury associated with increasing difficulty in breathing must be evacuated quickly.

How to Handle Shock and Heart Attack

Shock is a condition in which the patient’s brain and body aren’t getting enough oxygen. It can occur from a great variety of injuries and illnesses, but the signs and symptoms are similar.

Patients in shock might appear anxious, have a rapid and weak heart rate, take rapid and shallow breaths, and appear pale with cool and clammy skin.

Shock can kill, so it’s important to treat it quickly. Keep the patient warm, calm and lying down. Raise their feet up to 12 inches as long as the patient doesn’t have any spinal, pelvic or leg injuries. Don’t do it if it causes the patient any pain.

Heart attack patients might complain of heaviness; crushing or squeezing pain in the chest; pain radiating to the left arm, shoulder, back or jaw; nausea or vomiting; shortness of breath; severe sweating (without exertion); lightheadedness or dizziness. If any of these symptoms appear and a heart attack is suspected, Be Prepared to perform CPR. Give them an aspirin to chew unless they are allergic or there is any other reason not to.

A Scout treats an “injured” hiker.

Treating Head and Spine Injuries

A period of unconsciousness during which the patient does not respond to aggressive stimulation might indicate serious brain damage.

It’s important to establish and maintain an airway in all unconscious patients.

Moving a spine-injured patient must only be performed when absolutely necessary, and proper planning must be in place to decrease unnecessary movements.

Bone and Joint Injuries

Muscle and joint injuries can range from mildly annoying to debilitating. They are indicated by pain — and sometimes by swelling and bruising — in the area of the injury.

Immobilization may lessen pain. Applying ice or a cold pack can help reduce swelling and ease pain. Elevate the injured area above heart level to reduce swelling, and always make sure there is a thin layer of fabric between the ice pack and the skin.

A broken bone might be obvious. If it isn’t, take a look at the site of the injury. Is there discoloration and swelling? Does the patient move the injured area easily or prevent motion? Compare the injured side to the uninjured side. Does it look different?

A splint can restrict movement of the broken bone, which might prevent further injury and help the patient be more comfortable until a medical facility can be reached.

During a WFA training course, you might have to question an “injured” person to determine the best treatment.

“Some people would be lying on the ground, and they would tell us their injuries, and we would treat them with the materials we had on us,” says Toby Dush, 15, from Troop 16 in Columbus.

The injuries might look bad, but it’s really just makeup used at the Simon Kenton Council training course.

Wounds and Wound Infection

The best method for cleaning a wound is irrigation. It involves directing a stream of disinfected water — or at least drinkable water — into the wound to wash it out.

You can use a water bottle or punch a pinhole in a clean plastic bag. Wounds that are large, deep or very dirty, such as an animal bite, will need immediate advanced medical care after initial treatment.

A dressing is the primary covering of a wound.

Allergies and Anaphylaxis

Allergic reactions can come from foods, drugs, pollen, bugs and plant oils. A severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis, is a true emergency. Swelling of the face,
lips and tongue is common. Anaphylaxis can lead to extreme difficulty breathing and death if not immediately treated.

Anaphylaxis is reversible only by an immediate injection of epinephrine. Injectable epinephrine is available by prescription only in spring-loaded syringes that are pressed into the thigh.

All of this can be intimidating to the untrained Scout. One of the most important aspects of providing first aid is keeping your cool despite the situation in front of you.

“If something occurs, hopefully I’ll be able to stay calm,” says Will Ray, 14, from Troop 474 in Columbus. “Now that I know what to do, I can go into more depth in helping.”

Where Do I Sign Up?

Adults and youth 14 years and older can become BSA wilderness first-aid certified. Upon completion, the certification is good for two years. By participating in classes, participants will learn how to assess, treat and — when possible — keep emergencies under control within the scope of their training.

Contact your local council for WFA training near you. There are also courses available through the American Red Cross and the Emergency Care & Safety Institute (ECSI) that follow the BSA WFA curriculum.

Learn more at

Have the Best Week Ever at One of These Chill Summer Camps

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 12:43pm

Summer’s just around the corner. Make plans for fun with our guide to eight amazing Scout camps.

Click here to see more Scout Camps featured in previous years

Camp Morrison

Ore-Ida Council

McCall, Idaho

DIVE IN: There are waterfronts — and then there’s the waterfront at Camp Morrison, located high in the Rocky Mountains. The clear glacial waters of Payette Lake offer the ultimate swimming, sailing and snorkeling experience.

LOOK AROUND: As you walk to merit badge class, keep your eyes open for deer, foxes and eagles. You might spot a black bear, too, which is a good reminder to keep food out of your tent.

CLIMB ON: Here, you don’t get the Climbing merit badge; you earn it. Instead of climbing an artificial wall, challenge yourself on natural rock. Learn advanced techniques and how to stay safe while having fun.

Learn more here!

Camp V-Bar

Southeast Louisiana Council

Perkinston, Mississippi

COOL IT: Wild Water Wednesday offers a break from merit badge instruction and a chance to take advantage of open aquatics areas — especially the 40-foot slip-n-slide by the lake!

STAY LATE: The V-Bar fun doesn’t stop when supper ends. Each evening features something special. We’re told the Watermelon Bash, ice-cream social and Friday night closing campfire are not to be missed.

GO GUMBO: They’re called “gumbo troops,” and they’re made up of individual Scouts who, for whatever reason, couldn’t attend summer camp with their troop. Now everyone can experience summer camp and make new buddies.

Learn more here!

Camp Raven Knob

Old Hickory Council

Mount Airy, North Carolina

JUMP RIGHT IN: The docks at Lake John Sobotta give you multiple jumping-off points into aquatics awesomeness. Earn a merit badge (or three) — or just have fun kayaking, rowing, sailing or getting your lifeguard certification.

SHINE ON: At 9 p.m. each Tuesday, the nature staff invites you to a “frog hunt,” where you’ll search for nighttime wildlife. It’s required for Scouts earning the Reptile and Amphibian Study merit badge but open to all.

GET CRAFTY: Head to the handicrafts area to tie-dye a T-shirt or braid your own paracord survival bracelet. You can also finish up requirements for merit badges like Art, Basketry and Wood Carving.

Learn more here!

Camp Buffalo Bill

Central Wyoming Council

Cody, Wyoming

FIRE IT UP: Bring long pants and sturdy shoes if you want to earn Metalwork, one of the camp’s most popular merit badges. Learn to manipulate red-hot metal that was heated in a handcranked coal forge.

GET OUT THERE: Venture into Yellowstone for an unforgettable experience at the country’s first national park. Choose from a menu of five-day backpacking, kayaking, rafting or climbing adventures.

JOIN THE CAST: The fast-flowing North Fork of the Shoshone River is one of the nation’s best fly-fishing spots. Lucky for you, Camp Buffalo Bill is right on the river, giving you a shot at catching trout all week long.

Learn more here!

Great Lakes Sailing Adventure

Michigan Crossroads Council

Mackinaw City, Michigan

For vessels more than 20 feet in length, like the one pictured, life jackets need not be worn when the qualified supervisor determines that it is prudent to abide by less restrictive regulations concerning the use and storage of life jackets.

SET SAIL: Step aboard the Retriever, a sailboat that’s your home for a week of crisscrossing the northern Great

Lakes. The 52-foot Retriever has room for up to 12 participants — usually 10 youth and two adults.

LEARN ON THE JOB: No sailing experience? No problem. A seasoned sailor will teach you the basics of sailboat handling, navigation and marine safety — plus the right way to cook, sleep and live on a boat.

DROP ANCHOR: Pick which ports you’ll visit on Lake Huron or Lake Michigan. Sample that famous Mackinac Island fudge, hike the trails of Beaver Island or fill your camera roll with photos of lighthouses.

Learn more here!

Fire Mountain Scout Camp

Mount Baker Council

Mount Vernon, Washington

GAIN ELEVATION: Climb, jump, balance and swing at the Fire Mountain COPE course. COPE, or challenging outdoor personal experience, takes teamwork and confidence-building to new heights.

STAY COOL: Want a break from the summer heat? Average summer temperatures at Fire Mountain are in the upper 70s, and the camp’s huge evergreen trees offer plenty of shade. Bonus: The bug population is low.

TAKE THE PLUNGE: Fire Mountain’s lake features a swim beach complete with palm trees and sand. Head to Sea Dog Marina to try sailing, rowing, canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.

Learn more here!

Camp Chawanakee

Sequoia Council

Shaver Lake, California

PICK A SPOT: Find Chawanakee on the banks of Shaver Lake, a popular recreation destination in the Sierra National Forest. One look and you’ll see why vacationers visit to water-ski, fish for trout and camp among the pines.

MAKE A SPLASH: Head to Boy Scout Cove on Shaver Lake to earn your Canoeing, Kayaking, Lifesaving, Rowing, Small Boat Sailing or Swimming merit badge in a setting that belongs on a postcard.

SAY ALOHA: Celebrate Hawaii on the mainland during Aloha Friday. Wear your Hawaiian shirt to the luau-style barbecue in the afternoon. That night, head to the Point Campfire Bowl for an unforgettable closing show where troops show off their best skits and songs.

Learn more here!

Massawepie Scout Camps

Seneca Waterways Council

 Tupper Lake, New York

BREATHE IT IN: The camp’s location in the Adirondacks means cool temperatures at night and the call of loons in the morning. But don’t sleep in! With nine ponds and lakes on property, there’s more climbing, kayaking, biking, swimming and log rolling than you could fit in a week.

SWITCH IT UP: For something different, try the Mountain Fox program for older youth. Leave your troop after breakfast to enjoy daylong outings to climb a mountain, conquer Class IV rapids and more — while still making it back for dinner!

GO FOR IT: Massawepie is the launch point for three- and six-day backpacking, canoeing or fishing treks through the Adirondack Mountains. Choose one of 12 predesigned treks — or customize your own.

Learn more here!

Where are you headed this summer? Whether it’s one of these camps or another, let us know below.

Love getting the scoop on all things fun to do? We’ve got insider tips just for subscribers. Get a year’s worth of the best and funnest and most interesting things you need to know for $12.

How to Make a DIY Wilderness Survival Kit

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 5:34pm

This 2-pound do-it-yourself wilderness survival kit could save your life for at least three days in the wild.


We suggest storing these items in a single zip-close bag.

STAY SHARP: You should have a pocketknife during most outings, anyway, but never go into the wild without a dependable, easy-to-use blade.

TAKE COVER: Even in wilderness survival situations, you need a good shelter. A tube tent is a great lightweight option that’s easy to pack and very affordable.

SLEEP WARM: It’s not a long-term option, but an emergency sleeping bag will keep you warm and takes up only a few square inches of space.

FIRE SOURCE AND TINDER: Store fresh strike anywhere matches in a waterproof case to get a blaze going fast. Throw in a handful of dryer lint or petroleum-jelly-covered cotton balls as tinder.

SIGNALING: Get the attention of rescuers with a signal mirror and high-quality whistle.

INSECT CONTROL: A pack of insect-repellent towelettes takes up far less space than a spray bottle.

SHINE BRIGHTLY: A small LED flashlight will provide plenty of visibility in unknown environments. Don’t forget fresh batteries, too.

WRAP IT UP: We suggest wrapping a length of duct tape (a few feet) around your flashlight handle.

DRINK UP: Safe water is scarce in the wild. Make the water you do find safer to consume with a personal water filter and potable water tablets.

A survival kit does not replace the 10 Scout Outdoor Essentials. Learn more at

How Much Would You Weigh on Other Planets?

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 5:27pm

Gravity on the moon is about 17 percent of what it is on Earth. That means you can figure out what you’d weigh there by multiplying your weight by 0.165.

Use this calculator to find out what you’d weigh on the other planets in our solar system.

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Microsoft Just Released the World’s First Adaptive Controller

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 11:09am

Microsoft recently introduced a first-of-its-kind Xbox controller that adapts for gamers with limited mobility. The standard controller costs $100, and extensions personalized to each gamer’s specific needs can be purchased separately.

Check out the trailer above to see how the controller helps gamers of all abilities have fun and keep gaming.

Kingdom Hearts III Is One Epic Adventure

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 11:04am

Set in the Disney and Pixar universes, this epic game follows the journey of a young boy with mysterious powers as he attempts to stop an evil force called the Heartless. You’ll meet characters like Jack Sparrow, Donald Duck, Maleficent and many more along the way.

Kingdom Hearts III is available now for PS4 and Xbox One.

If You Were an Alien, Which Planet Would Be Home?

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 10:48am

Are you from Jupiter, too? Answer these questions to find out which planet you should call home.

Write a Funny Caption For This Photo

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 11:05am

What’s going on in this picture? What are those dogs saying, doing or thinking?

If you can think of a funny caption for this photo, just post it in the comment form at the bottom of this page. After we approve it, your funny caption will be on this page for everyone to read.

Click here to write captions for more funny photos.

Becca’s Blast-Off Pinball

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 3:17pm

See if you can beat the high score in our out-of-this-world pinball game.

See if you can beat the high score in our out-of-this-world pinball game.

Write a Funny Caption For This Photo

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 11:21am

What’s going on in this picture? What are those raccoons saying, doing or thinking?

If you can think of a funny caption for this photo, just post it in the comment form at the bottom of this page. After we approve it, your funny caption will be on this page for everyone to read.

Click here to write captions for more funny photos.

3 Fun Wintertime Projects When It’s Cold Outside

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 1:03am

When Old Man Winter bares his cold, sharp icicle fangs, don’t turn into an indoor flake. Bite back!

Here are three cold-weather projects to sink your teeth into during winter and walk away with a few cool souvenirs.


A tiny, one-of-a-kind snowflake lands on your coat sleeve. You look; you breathe; it’s gone. How can you make a flake stick around longer?

Try superglue. It can seep into small spaces, and trace amounts of water cause it to harden. Put these properties to work and make a lasting snow crystal “fossil.”

On a snowy day, pre-chill a tube of superglue (not the gel kind) and some glass slides and cover slips outside. Be sure to read the safety precautions on the glue’s label before you start.

Catch some snow on a dark surface. Find a crystal you like and move it to the middle of a glass slide. “Use a small paintbrush or a toothpick,” says snowflake expert Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht. “The crystals are delicate, and metal tweezers can conduct heat from your fingers.”

Cover the flake with a drop of superglue. Touching only its sides, gently place a cover slip over the glue. It can take as long as a week for the glue to completely set. Until then, protect the snow crystal by storing your slide in the freezer.

Later, view your snowflake “fossil” with or without a magnifying lens or microscope.


A blanket of snow covers the ground: It’s prime time for animal tracking. So why does your cast of that picture-perfect raccoon print look like it came from an eight-toed alien?

Don’t give up just yet. Making plaster casts of tracks in snow is tricky but not impossible.

Before you cast, reinforce the track so it can stand up to the weight of the plaster. If the snow is wet, dust it with some powdered plaster and let it set. If the snow is dry and powdery, spray a mist of water over the track and wait for it to freeze. You can also try using Snow Print Wax — crime-scene investigators use it to collect evidence.

Plaster gives off heat as it hardens. When casting in snow, mix the plaster to the thickness of half-melted ice cream, adding some snow to cool it down. Pour from a short distance to minimize damage to the track.

If the plaster freezes before it sets, turn the cast track-side up and bring it inside to thaw and finish setting.

New to tracking or just want to brush up? Check out these books:

  • “Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks” by Olaus J. Murie and Mark Elbroch (Houghton Mifflin, $19.95 softcover)
  • “Tom Brown’s Field Guide: Nature Observation and Tracking” by Tom Brown Jr. (Berkley Trade, $14 softcover)
  • “Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow” by Louise R. Forrest (Stackpole Books, $16.95 softcover)

For younger readers:

  • “Nature Detectives” by K.C. Kelley (A Boys’ Life DK Reader, DK Publishing, $3.99 softcover)


Feeling artistic? Team up with the cold and make some hoarfrost. These large, fragile ice crystals might look complex, but they are easy to grow.

When temperatures are below freezing, set out an open pot of water. Put it somewhere that’s wind-free, such as in an unheated shed or barn. Keep the water warm with a hotplate or other heat source. Position a tree branch or other object for the hoarfrost crystals to grow on a few feet above the water. Now wait patiently for at least a day.

The air temperature and amount of water vapor coming from your pot will affect how the hoarfrost crystals grow. You might end up with crystals that look scaly, feathery or needle-like.

Want to hold on to your natural masterpiece in warmer weather? Take a picture!

Make Your Own Homemade PVC Snowshoes

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 1:04am

Webelos Scouts in the Daniel Boone Council in North Carolina use plastic CPVC pipe to make homemade snowshoes for their winter outings. Here’s how they do it.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED (makes one pair)
  • 1 six-ounce can of CPVC clear cement
  • 2 pieces of ¾-inch hot/cold CPVC pipe, each 10 feet long
    (Although they look alike, CPVC piping will work better than PVC because CPVC tends to be a bit more flexible and less likely to crush. Schedule 80 is recommended.)
  • 4 ¾-inch CPVC pipe tees (they’re shaped like the letter “T”)
  • 20 45-degree-angle CPVC elbows (they’re shaped like elbows)
  • 200 feet of ¼-inch hollow braid poly rope
  • Bungee cords, rope, Velcro or other materials to hold snowshoe to foot.
  • Yard stick or measuring tape
  • Hand saw, hack saw or PVC pipe-cutting tool
  • File or sand paper
  • Clamp vise or an extra set of hands
  • Flat work surface

1. Cut the 10-foot-long pipes to the following lengths:

  • 2 pieces, each 4 inches long
  • 2 pieces, each 8 inches long
  • 4 pieces, each 6 inches long
  • 4 pieces, each 18 inches long
  • 6 pieces, each 1-1/4 inches long
  • 8 pieces, each 3 inches

You should end up with 26 cut pieces of pipe.

2. Using a file or sand paper, deburr — or smooth — the cut edges.

3. On a flat work surface, start building the front section of the shoes following these steps. The shoe is built in two halves; start with the front half and glue the pieces in place as you go.

Front Half

1. Put one 45-degree-angle piece of piping on each end of one 4-inch piece of pipe.

2. Put a 3-inch pipe into the open end of both angles.

3. Put another 45-degree angle on the open end of each 3-inch piece.

4. Put a 1 1/4 inch pipe into both angles.

5. Put 45-degree angle pieces onto the 1 1/4 inch pipes. Angle should face up slightly.

6. Put one 6-inch piece into each of the angles.

7. Put one T-angle joint onto the end of each 6-inch piece, then connect with 8-inch pipe.

8. Set this half aside so the glue can harden.

Remember to continue gluing the connections as you go!

Back Half

1. Put 45-degree angles on one end of each 18-inch pipe.

2. Put a 3-inch piece into each angle.

3. Put 45-degree angles onto both 3-inch pieces.

4. Connect the 45-degree angle pieces with a 1 1/2 piece of pipe.

5. Connect the back and front halves of the snowshoe together and let dry for 24 hours.

Lacing the Shoe

Use an eye splice to start and end all lacings. Weave the rope back and forth around the pipe in an over-under pattern to create lacings.

Keep the lacings in place by using CPVC cement where laces meet the pipe.

Attach to foot (boot or shoe) using bungee cords, rope, Velcro or other materials. For best results, attachment method will be similar to an ankle brace bandage.


Check out these photos of the completed project sent to us by Boys’ Life readers. If you have a photos of a BL Workshop project, please use the form below to send them to us.

How to Make a Classic Tangram Puzzle

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 1:01am

A tangram is a classic Chinese puzzle consisting of seven pieces that can be recombined into many different shapes and figures. Here’s how to make one.

  • 1⁄4″ x 8″ x 8″ square of smooth plywood. If your plywood is a little rough, sand it smooth. You can use other thin materials such as rigid foam or cardboard.
  • Fine-toothed saw, coping saw or fine-toothed keyhole saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Wood finish of your choice. The tangram can be one color, left natural or stained, or you can paint each piece a different color. It’s up to you.

Step 1: With the pencil and ruler, follow the diagram and lay out the square of plywood.

Step 2: Saw the plywood into the seven shapes shown. Sand the top, bottom and edges of each piece.

Step 3: Apply the finish of your choice. Put a mark on the bottom of each piece so you’ll know which side is the top. It can be confusing if you try to make shapes with the bottom of some pieces facing up.

Step 4: Your tangram is complete. Start creating, and have fun!


How to Make a Fast Pinewood Derby Car

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 4:23pm

Packs around the country are preparing to hold their annual Pinewood Derby. There are many ways to make your Pinewood Derby car go faster. Here are some of them.

Basic Guidelines for Pinewood Derby Car Design

The possibilities are endless when it comes to picking a shape for your Pinewood Derby car. Before you begin, consider the following general guidelines:

Avoid designs with a pointed nose. A pointed nose will make it difficult for your Pinewood Derby car to rest on the pin at the starting gate. It may also cause your Pinewood Derby car to get bumped around when the pin drops, and it can create problems for electronic timing systems.

Leave enough wood in the rear of the Pinewood Derby car so you can place additional weight there. You will end up placing most of the weight in the rear of the Pinewood Derby car.

Make the maximum weight. Your car should weigh as much as it’s allowed. In most races, a Pinewood Derby car’s weight is limited to 5 ounces. If your car weighs less than that, add coins or other weights.

Be sure that it is very clear which end of your Pinewood Derby car is the front and which end is the back. In many races, the race officials —- not you -— will actually place each Pinewood Derby car on the track. Sometimes the officials put the Pinewood Derby car on the track backward because they can’t tell which end is which.

Choose a design that allows the air to move over and around the Pinewood Derby car body in a smooth manner. Pinewood Derby cars with aerodynamic profiles go faster.

Click here to see photo galleries of hundreds of Pinewood Derby car designs.

Designing and Building a Winning Pinewood Derby Car

You don’t have to strive for the fastest Pinewood Derby car to have fun competing in your Pinewood Derby. But if you and a helpful adult are willing to put in the extra time and effort, these tips are for you.

1. Bake the Block: Start with your block of wood, and before you do anything else, bake it in the oven at 250 degrees for around two hours to remove moisture and make it lighter. This will allow you to place more weight to the rear of the Pinewood Derby car where you actually want it.

2. Create the Design: Draw the outline of your Pinewood Derby car on a sheet of paper, cut it out and attach it to your block of wood.

Remember, a rectangular car is not an aerodynamic design. The most basic aerodynamic design is a simple wedge. If you don’t have time to design a complex car, a wedge will work just fine.

Click here to download a Pinewood Derby car template PDF to help you create your design.

3. Rough Cut the Design: Use a coping saw to cut out the rough shape of your Pinewood Derby car. You can also ask a responsible adult to make these cuts using a power tool.

4. Shape Your Car: Use sand paper to smooth your car’s edges and shape it to your design. An adult can also use a rotary tool or other tool to help you.

5. Sand and Paint the Pinewood Derby Car: Make it smooth to reduce friction and paint an awesome design to make it look great.

Click here for tips on painting your Pinewood Derby car to give it a shiny finish.

6. Install Axles and Wheels: Make sure they are aligned perfectly straight. You can test the alignment of your axles by pushing your car across a smooth floor or table. It should roll smoothly in a straight line.

— Make a Three-Wheeler: Raise one wheel about 1/16 inch higher so it never actually touches the track. Less friction = more speed. Rules vary from pack to pack, so make sure to check your pack’s Pinewood Derby rules to make sure three wheelers are allowed in your race.

— Extend the Wheelbase: The front and rear wheels should be as far apart as possible. Again, make sure this is allowed in your race.

Click here to learn about polishing Pinewood Derby axles and wheels to reduce friction.

7. Create Glue Holes: Glue the axles firmly in their holes to ensure that they stay perfectly placed, but make sure you don’t get glue on your wheels.

8. Add Weight: Remember to make your Pinewood Derby car as heavy as the rules allow. In general, it’s best to place weight to the rear of your car because a heavier rear increases speed.

Click here for scientific Pinewood Derby speed tips from a former NASA engineer

9. Lubricate the Wheel Well: Add graphite or another dry lubricant to reduce friction. The less friction between the body and wheel, the better.

And finally, remember the No. 1 rule of a Pinewood Derby is that it’s supposed to be fun. While you should always strive to do your best, don’t get caught up in winning or having the fastest car. Just enjoy the ride.

Adapted from the book “Pinewood Derby Speed Secrets,” DK Publishing, $12.95 softcover.

Use Science to Build the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 4:22pm
A former NASA engineer explains how you can use science to build a fast Pinewood Derby car.

For seven years, I worked at NASA on the Mars Curiosity rover. It is just like a Pinewood Derby car, except it has six wheels, it’s nuclear powered and it shoots lasers.

My Cub Scout son and I decided we would take the science principles I used while building stuff at NASA and apply them to making his Pinewood Derby car.

Take a look at some of those science principles in this video and check out my list of the most important steps for making fastest Pinewood Derby car possible.

Seven Steps for Making the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car

1. Max out your Pinewood Derby car’s weight at 5 ounces and make sure the heaviest part is about 1 inch in front of the rear axle. This is the most important step. Science shows if you do this correctly, you will beat a Pinewood Derby car built exactly the same — except with the weight toward its front — by 4.6 car lengths. It works because the farther back the weight is, the more potential energy you have because your center of mass is higher up on the track. (Don’t put it too far back, or your Pinewood Derby car will become unstable and pop a wheelie.)

2. Use lightweight wheels. This is illegal in some races, but if it’s not in yours, this is a must-do step that will give you a 2.1-car-length advantage at the finish line versus a car with normal wheels. It works because heavy wheels take away from the kinetic energy (the energy something has due to its motion), which makes the Pinewood Derby car slower.

3. Use bent polished axles. Bending your Pinewood Derby car axles with a bending tool will make the wheels ride up against the nailhead, which creates less friction than if the wheel is bouncing around and rubbing against the wooden Pinewood Derby car body. See video above for details.

4. Railride. Railriding means you steer your Pinewood Derby car into the center guide track just enough that you keep the car from bouncing around. This helps reduce friction and saves energy for speed. See video for details.

5. Create a Pinewood Derby car that is reasonably aerodynamic, meaning its design cuts down on drag caused by air. No need to get crazy here, but simply having a wedge-shaped Pinewood Derby car instead of the standard block out of the box will equal a 1.4-car advantage at the finish line.

6. Ride on three wheels by raising one wheel off the track. (Check your pack’s Pinewood Derby rules to make sure this is allowed in your race.) You will move faster if you have to get only three wheels rotating, giving you a 1.1-car advantage over an identical Pinewood Derby car riding on four wheels.

7. Use lots of graphite. There isn’t a big difference in types of graphite, so buy the cheap stuff and use as much as possible. Be sure to get plenty around each wheel and on the axle.

It works! After my research, my son and I wanted to do one final test to prove that this is a good list. So we built a simple Pinewood Derby car using this list in 45 minutes, and we beat the fastest Pinewood Derby car in our local race by two car lengths. Turns out, science works!

Meet Mark Rober

Mark Rober worked as a mechanical engineer at NASA for nine years. During this time, he worked on Curiosity, a car-sized robot that left Earth in 2011, landed on Mars in 2012, and has been exploring, conducting experiments and sending back pictures ever since. Now Mark makes high-tech Halloween costumes.

How to Polish Your Pinewood Derby Car’s Axles and Wheels

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 1:01am

The quality of your Pinewood Derby car’s axles and wheels may be the most important factor in building a fast car. Here’s how to choose and polish your car’s axles and wheels.

Polishing Pinewood Derby Axles

1. Start with a set of raw axles.

2. Can you tell the difference between the axles in the top row and the ones on the bottom? The ones on the bottom aren’t straight and will slow your car.

3. To tell which are straight and which aren’t, mark each axle with a marker about 1/2 inch from the pointed end.

4. Have an adult clamp a power drill into a vise, a device that will hold it perfectly still.

5. Have an adult help you insert each axle into the drill at the location you marked in Step 3. Have the adult turn on the drill.

6. Bent axles will wobble as they turn in the drill. Straight axles will hardly wobble at all. Pick the ones that wobble least.

7. Once you’ve selected the four straightest axles, use a file or fine-grit sandpaper to remove small burrs and mold marks that can cause friction and slow a car. These imperfections should be removed from both the axles and the wheels. Watch this video to learn one way to do this.

8. Use polishing compound from the auto supply store to polish the wheels and axles. One easy way to do this is to clamp the axles back in the drill and let the drill spin the axle while you polish it.

9. When you install the axles and wheels, make sure they are aligned perfectly straight. You can test the alignment of your axles by pushing your car across a smooth floor or table. It should roll in a straight line.

10. Don’t forget to add graphite or another dry lubricant to your wheels and axles.

Tips for Getting an Eagle Scout Service Project Done Right

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 4:15pm

Earning the rank of Eagle Scout isn’t supposed to be easy. If it were, everyone would do it.

The fact that it’s difficult is what makes it so great.

In addition to continuing to live the Scout Oath and Scout Law, before you earn the rank of Eagle, you must be active in your troop for at least six months as a Life Scout. You have to explain how your understanding of the Scout Oath and Scout Law will guide your life in the future.

You have to earn a total of 21 merit badges (10 more than required for the Life rank), including 13 Eagle-required and eight optional. And you have to serve actively in your troop for a minimum of six months in one or more positions of responsibility.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff. And we haven’t even gotten to the part where you have to plan, develop and lead others in a service project helpful to any school, any religious institution or your community.

Don’t worry. You’ve got this. We’re here to show you the way.

Here are the most important steps in completing the most challenging — and rewarding — part of Scouting: the Eagle Scout service project.


First things first. While there’s no harm in talking at any time with a parent, Scoutmaster or other trusted adult about what might make a good project, we suggest you focus on the present. The first four words of the Eagle Scout service project requirement stated in The Boy Scout Handbook, Boy Scout Requirements book and section in the BSA’s Guide to Advancement read: “While a Life Scout … ”


Check out the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook and the Guide to Advancement topics — It’s a lot of reading, but there’s tons of valuable information in there — and knowing this stuff in advance will keep you from wasting your time working on a project that doesn’t even qualify.


Get with your unit or district’s Life-to-Eagle Coordinator (or similarly named adult leader) and avoid these common mistakes:

• Eagle Scout projects can’t be fundraisers. You can raise funds necessary to execute your project, but you can’t stage an effort that primarily collects money, even if it’s for the worthiest charity of all time.

• Your project must benefit an organization other than the Boy Scouts of America. So don’t worry about doing anything for your local council, district, unit or camp. Focus on something like your unit’s chartered organization or another worthy organization.

• Wait for your project to be approved before you start. The form for preparing a proposal appears in the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, No. 512-927. Again: Don’t waste your time raising funds and recruiting volunteers for a project that might not even be approved. It happens. It stinks. Don’t be that person.


Does your house of worship mean the world to you? Maybe there’s a project there. Talk to your religious leader about what they need. Are you a sports fan? Maybe your local youth sports leagues need some help with their facility. Do you have fond memories of a particular park or playground in your neighborhood? Talk to local officials about what can be done to improve it. Love to read? Visit your local library and see what it needs. Were you ever under advanced medical care? Did you ever need physical therapy? Health-care-related places would be excellent beneficiaries of an Eagle Scout project.


Volunteering at a blood drive that’s already been organized would not be an Eagle Scout project. Organizing a blood drive using a set of instructions from the blood bank would not be an Eagle Scout project. However, creating a blood drive from scratch — with your own marketing plan and everything — could meet the requirements.


An Eagle Scout project should not be so simple that you can do it on your own. You need to give leadership to at least two other people. The helpers can be of any age appropriate for the work, and they don’t have to be already involved in Scouting.


An Eagle Scout project is an official Scouting activity. Everything in the Guide to Safe Scouting applies. You don’t have to read the whole thing, but you can search for terms such as “tools” or “helmets” in the online guide. Additionally, projects are considered part of the troop’s program and are treated as such with regard to policies, procedures and requirements regarding Youth Protection, two-deep leadership, etc. Your troop’s adult leadership has the same responsibility to ensure safety in conducting a project as with any other unit activity.


Completing an Eagle Scout project is a lot of work. It will also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Take a deep breath and do your best. It’s something you’ll remember forever.