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The official blog of Scouting magazine, a publication of the Boy Scouts of America.
Updated: 2 days 18 hours ago

Rechecks of criminal backgrounds explained

Mon, 10/14/2019 - 5:00pm

You might have seen an email announcing that the Boy Scouts of America will be performing periodic rechecks of criminal backgrounds of all volunteers.

Without dedicated volunteers, Scouting wouldn’t be the great, life-changing program it is today. You help make Scouting happen. You can also help make Scouting a safe place for our Scouts.

The BSA is committed to youth safety, so before your 2020 annual registration can be processed, you’ve got to review the disclosure documentation and sign a background check authorization as detailed in the email.

To get some additional clarity on the topic, we talked to Steve McGowan, General Counsel for the Boy Scouts of America.

“We recognize this requires some extra steps for all of us who are volunteers, but it’s one more way we are committed to putting youth safety first,” McGowan says.

He also mentioned that the organization had received some questions about this initiative, so he has helped put together this FAQ so volunteers could get answers to their questions.

FAQs on background checks

1. Is the BSA doing credit checks on volunteers?

No. The BSA will only use these signed authorization forms for approval to obtain a criminal background check. State and federal laws regulating background checks also regulate consumer credit checks. Both items are mentioned on the form in order to be compliant with these laws that regulate both types of checks. Again, the BSA is only using this form for authorization to obtain a criminal background check.

2. Why is this being done now?

Starting in 2020, rechecks will be performed every five years, but it will take several years to recheck all leaders. Unfortunately, technical limitations and changes in the law over the last five years prevent us from using existing authorizations from older applications. As such, new disclosure had to be sent and new signed authorization forms obtained. Rechartering provides the best window to collect and verify they have been received before the council processes the recharter application.

3. What about volunteers that are not registered with units?

All currently registered adults and employees who have not had a criminal background check in the last five years will be rechecked after their next registration renewal. Council registrars will individually track district and council registered employees and leaders to be sure an authorization is in hand before renewing any council or district registration in 2020. (That should also include merit badge counselors).  Those registered only at the National Council level will receive instructions on where to submit their authorization forms.

4. What about those who did not get the forms by e-mail?

Scout executives were provided with advance instructions on how to ensure every volunteer receives this information. They have the forms, which should be printed and passed out at roundtables or other meetings. It is important that each volunteer receives both the disclosure form as well as the authorization form. However, only the authorization must be turned in with the charter renewal form for units. District and council volunteers should submit the authorization to the council service center unless the council issues other instructions.

5. What about those with multiple registrations?

Only one authorization form per person needs to be collected and retained by the council.

6. What happens if a unit leader does not provide an authorization?

Leaders who do not provide new authorization will not be able to renew their registration. Council registrars should be instructed not to renew any adult without first confirming that a new signed authorization form is on file at the council service center.

7. Why can’t the volunteer just reply to the original e-mail and attach their signed authorization form?

The best way for us to ensure compliance is to require that the council registrar verify that a signed authorization form is physically in hand before processing a unit’s recharter. This removes much of the potential error and associated penalties that could result from other methods. We recommend that the registrar retains background check authorizations forms in a separate straight alphabetical file separate from your current background authorization file. This will facilitate the process of ensuring that a current form is on file at the council service center before posting their registration.

8. Are there different forms for different states?

Federal and state laws prescribe what must be in the disclosures and how they are to be provided. A form compliant with federal and various state laws was sent to all volunteer leaders except those in California. Leaders with a California home address or whose council territory includes California received California-specific forms due to the specific requirements of California law.

9. Can the council accept a faxed copy or scanned copy sent via email of the signed authorization?

Yes, so long as it is legible and is sent by the individual who signed it. It must be printed and saved the same as an original.

10. Can the council accept an electronic signature?

Digital signatures from third-party providers are acceptable. They must be printed and stored the same as the original. E-mail confirmations, permissions or typed names on the form are not acceptable substitutes for wet signatures.

11. What about unit renewals that have already been processed or will not recharter until after January 1?

For unit renewals that have already been posted because the unit renewal date was prior to the email notification or the unit renewal date is after January 1, authorization forms still need to be collected as soon as possible. Recognizing the potential logistical issues with units who will not recharter until sometime in 2020, the authorizations from leaders in those units can be turned in at rechartering and background rechecks will not be performed until after the unit recharters.

12. Can the council require the forms be collected at the unit level?

Yes. The council can require the forms be collected at the unit level or by a designated unit representative.

From literal poster child for the BSA to Eagle Scout: 11 years, countless memories

Mon, 10/14/2019 - 9:00am

Jonathan Andersen never let a little fame get to his head. But he did let it serve as extra motivation along his Scouting trail.

Jonathan and his dad, Bruce, were photographed together in 2008 for a Boy Scouts of America recruiting campaign. More than a decade later, Jonathan is now an Eagle Scout.

“The first time I saw the poster, it was on a telephone pole in West Philadelphia,” Jonathan says. “I was a little embarrassed. Looking at it now, it shows how much I’ve grown and learned.”

Jonathan’s parents framed the poster and displayed it in the entryway of their home. It’s still hanging there today.

“I don’t know if it inspired me to become an Eagle, but it didn’t let me forget,” Jonathan says.

But Jonathan’s story isn’t about the destination. It’s not really about that auspicious starting point, either. It’s about one young man’s incredible Scouting journey and what he learned along the way.

“I enjoyed the adventure of Scouting,” Jonathan says. “I got to meet a lot of people that I would not have otherwise met. I met friends I will have for a long time.”

Saying yes to opportunity

Scouters are notorious for saying “yes.” Yes, I’ll bring snacks to the den meeting. Yes, I’ll serve on the troop committee. Yes, I can make that campout.

Bruce Andersen is no different.

In the spring of 2008, Chuck Eaton, a BSA professional who at the time served in the Cradle of Liberty Council (he’s now Scout Executive of the Spirit of Adventure Council) put out a call. He was looking for Scouts and adult leaders who could show up for a BSA photo shoot.

Bruce said yes.

The photos were used for the BSA’s “Be A Scout” campaign. Several Scouts and their parents, including Bruce and his two sons, were featured in the resulting calendars, billboards and posters.

Jonathan’s journey

So what happened between the recruiting poster photo and the second photo seen at the top of this post (which Jonathan and his dad re-created for this blog post)?

A decade of memories.

Jonathan joined Cub Scouts as a Tiger in 2007 and eventually earned the Arrow of Light. He moved to Troop 33 in Takoma Park, Md., where he was a member for more than seven years. He earned 30 merit badges, registered more than 100 nights of camping, attended the 2017 National Jamboree and served his troop as senior patrol leader.

“The thing I enjoyed the most was summer camp — both as a camper and as camp staff,” Jonathan says. “I feel like I was part of a large family. I got a lot out of teaching the Webelos. I feel like we gave them a great week and an introduction to Scouting.”

Jonathan says Philmont was another highlight, and he calls a trek at the high-adventure base in New Mexico “something every Scout should do.”

“Not only was it an adventure, but it showed what we could do as leaders,” he says. “It pushed our limits and challenged us.”

In a way, that 2008 recruiting campaign challenged Jonathan, too. It’s a challenge he met with a big, happy smile.

Scouts Then and Now

For more uplifting stories like this, visit our Scouts Then and Now series.

Man earns Eagle Scout rank at age 39, showing how Scouting opens doors

Fri, 10/11/2019 - 9:00am

Nathan Flowers and David Taylor began their Scouting careers together more than a quarter-century ago.

They were in the same Cub Scout pack and then moved together into Troop 475 of Florence, S.C. Flowers earned Eagle in 1997, and David was there at his court of honor.

So it’s only fitting that Flowers, who currently serves as an assistant Scoutmaster in Troop 475, was in attendance at David’s Eagle Scout court of honor last month.

David, 39, was given extended time to complete his Eagle Scout journey because of developmental disabilities. An abnormality in David’s 12th chromosome has slowed his growth.

“He is currently and always has been much smaller than others, so the boys in the troop would look out for him and make certain he was fully involved in whatever was going on,” Flowers says. “This still happens even today. On the trail, however, David is a beast. Over the years, we have found that he is much faster than me and our other Scoutmasters.”

The Eagle extension was approved by David’s local council (the Pee Dee Area Council) and the BSA’s National Service Center in Texas. There’s actually a whole section in the Guide to Advancement about registering members beyond the traditional Scouts BSA cutoff of 18.

“Scouting opens the doors for everyone to excel,” says Pee Dee Area Council Scout Executive Michael Hesbach. “I am proud that our policies allow a Scout like David to have the opportunity to achieve his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout.”

Putting others first

Harrell Docherty first met David when Docherty took over as Scoutmaster of Troop 475 in 2002.

For a while, Docherty and Flowers weren’t aware that David could continue working toward the Eagle Scout rank. Besides, they observed that David was more interested in helping younger Scouts excel than in completing requirements for himself.

“He was one of our assistant leaders, helping new Scouts get to First Class, keeping up with progress, getting older Scouts to help teach skills,” Docherty says. “But as the troop worked on merit badges, I would have David work on them also.”

During that process, Docherty and Flowers learned that David could receive credit for the badges he had earned. They worked with Hesbach to gather the necessary documentation, including proof that David had been continuously registered for the past 21 years.

“When David discovered that he was still eligible to earn his Eagle, he was pumped,” Docherty says. “He figured which badges he still needed to work on, got other boys that needed the same ones and got to work. He came up with a very good service project and got the whole troop involved.”

For his Eagle Scout service project, David constructed a knot board at Lynches River County Park. The board teaches the public how to tie some essential knots.

David Taylor (third from right) and Crew 612-J-02 prepared to climb Baldy Mountain at Philmont Scout Ranch in 2017. A journey to celebrate

Scouting has been good to David, and he’s been good to Scouting.

Over the past three decades, David has served with generations of Scouts as a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster.

He has built friendships that have extended beyond Scouting. When he was in school, David’s fellow Scouts took him under their wings.

“Kids don’t know how to respond to folks that are different. The usual response is to avoid,” Docherty says. “With David, the boys in the troop would have him sit with them at lunch, pep rallies, games.”

That connection became even more apparent at Philmont Scout Ranch, where David completed treks in 2012 and 2017.

“We were summiting Baldy Mountain, and the boys were standing 15 yards from the top. Just standing there,” Docherty remembers. “I asked, ‘What are y’all doing? The top is right there.’ Their response was, ‘We are waiting for David, so we can go up together.’”

Flowers’ favorite memory of David comes from that same Philmont trip in 2012. On top of Baldy, Flowers, David and the Scouts were looking around at the scenery.

“David was taking pictures of Eagle Nest Lake, when he walked over and sat down next to me and Harrell [Docherty]. I looked over at him and said, ‘Well David, you did it.’ He didn’t really look at me. Instead, he looked off in the distance for a second then said, ‘Yeah I did it. I never thought I could, but then I did it.’

“That has really stuck with me over the years, and that persistence has served him well in completing his Eagle Scout requirements,” Flowers says. “I really look up to him.”

Since 2002, David has helped 17 boys get their Eagle Award. Most of those made it back to see David awarded his Eagle.

“It is such an honor to get this far and to this point,” David said at his Eagle court of honor. “Becoming an Eagle Scout means the world to me.”

Here’s how to complete a square lashing in half the time

Thu, 10/10/2019 - 9:00am

Making tight wraps and fraps when tying a square lashing can take some time, but not with this method.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some camp hacks that the BSA’s national camping subcommittee has shared with us. This week, we’ll show you a quick and easy way to tie the most commonly used lashing at camp. Special thanks to Larry Green for the tips and text below.

The most common and frequently used lashing is the square lashing, which gets its name from the fact the wraps are “square” to the poles. Square lashings bind poles that are in contact and cross each other at any angle from 45-degrees to 90-degrees. There are various types of square lashings, and when tied tightly and correctly, they all do the job.

Most commonly used in the pioneering area at our national jamborees is the Mark II Square Lashing, which has been widely adopted for its simplicity, speed and efficiency.

  1. Begin by placing the poles in the desired position. Fold your lashing rope in half. The midpoint of the rope is placed around the vertical pole and just under the crossing pole.
  2. Now work both ends of the rope at the same time to make three wraps around the poles.
  3. After completing the three wraps, bring the two ends down between the poles in opposite directions to make two frapping turns around the wraps.
  4. Pull the frapping turns tight and complete the lashing by tying the two ends with a square knot. It’s that simple.

Scouts introduced to this method of forming a square lashing respond enthusiastically that it’s much easier to tie, and indeed a whole lot faster. The natural outcome of learning the Mark II Square Lashing is the increased ability to have fun building more things using ropes and poles.

Watch the video of this technique below.

What is the sport of cyclocross, and why is this Eagle Scout so excellent at it?

Wed, 10/09/2019 - 8:00am

A challenging journey peppered with obstacles. A road you ultimately travel alone, even though others will be there to cheer you on. Adrenaline-packed adventures in unpredictable weather.

Take a look at cyclocross, and you’ll see this fascinating sport has a whole lot in common with the journey to becoming an Eagle Scout.

And as proven by 16-year-old Michael Mason, Eagle Scout and 2018 Virginia Cyclocross Series champion, a young person can do both.

He’s an Eagle Scout from Troop 710 of the Heart of Virginia Council. And he dominated the 2018 Virginia Cyclocross Series for riders age 15 to 18. That means he’ll wear the champion’s white jersey when the 2019 season resumes this year.

Michael is the latest example that there’s time for school, Scouting and sports — whether that sport is basketball, kayaking, swimming, football … or cyclocross.

So, what is cyclocross?

Cyclocross is a type of bike racing typically contested in the fall and winter on a looping course featuring a mix of pavement, grass, sand, dirt, mud or snow. In most races, riders will encounter obstacles too difficult to bike through, forcing them to carry their bikes like a canoeist completing a portage.

Cyclocross riders are tough. On rainy, windy, snowy or haily days when most cyclists would switch to a stationary bike, cyclocross riders say, “bring it on.”

That’s another thing they have in common with Scouts. As long as it’s safe to do so, Scouts camp in conditions others avoid.

Michael, who started Scouting as a Tiger Scout, says the program has taught him toughness and the desire to identify and reach his goals.

Those traits have come in handy as Michael has raced past his competitors to become the best junior cyclocross rider in his state.

“The desire to reach Eagle is like the desire to reach the podium,” he says. “It’s about working toward your goals one requirement at a time. Sometimes you just have to get into the work and do it.”

What’s next for Michael?

Michael is continuing his climb through the sport of cyclocross this fall.

He’s a rising senior attending the Miller School of Albemarle, which offers world-class academics and a top-ranked development program for junior riders.

And he’ll continue to participate in Scouting as his competition schedule allows. He already earned the Cycling merit badge — no surprise there — but wants to continue giving back to the troop that has given him so much.

But even when he’s not at a troop event, Michael says his Scouting lessons will come along for the ride.

“Things that I have learned from Scouts have not only helped me along my journey to Eagle, but they have also helped me in everyday life,” he says. “All of the work needed to complete merit badges and to acquire a higher rank has helped me work harder while still having a balanced life.”

Help your Scout discover their future by checking out these scholarships, offers

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 10:00am

In the unsullied areas of the Yellowstone National Park wilderness, away from the tourist spots, Eagle Scouts Benjamin Alva and Cody Clements looked for clues that could lead to other-worldly discoveries.

They collected samples from 200-plus-degree hot springs, preparing them for analysis of their nitrogen compounds, which are critical for sustaining life. Scientists have found possible ancient hot springs on Mars. The Yellowstone research could help scientists identify possible evidence of life in the former springs during future missions to the “Red Planet.”

“I know nothing about astrobiology, but I love biology,” Clements says. “I learned so much in less than two weeks; it was the most influential thing I did that summer.”

The Eagle Scouts’ research in 2018 was part of the National Eagle Scout Association World Explorer program, which connects Eagle Scouts with scientists doing groundbreaking work.

Your Scouts can apply for future expeditions by clicking here; the application deadline is at the end of this month. The BSA Scholarships page also features college scholarships for Scouts from universities and organizations. Others come from BSA associations, teams and committees, like the NESA STEM scholarship.

Other offers

Jakob Ryan Palmer, an Eagle Scout from Troop 230 of Saint Joseph, Mo., is the most recent NESA STEM Scholarship recipient. He earned 124 merit badges, some of which ignited his passion for a career in technology and research.

Listen to how Scouting impacted him and how the scholarship will help fund his career goals in the video below.

The scholarships on the BSA Scholarships page are not only for Eagle Scouts, some are available for Explorers, Venturers, Sea Scouts, High Adventure Base staff, Order of the Arrow members and those who were involved in Cub Scouts. The award amounts range from $500 to more than $50,000. Due dates to apply span the entire calendar year, check the page for updates and deadlines.

The scholarships and programs listed on the page can help Scouts pursue their careers. Dakotah Henn, an Eagle Scout with Troop 167 of Huntley, Ill., just finished his World Explorer expedition in Ecuador this summer, where he studied the wildlife of the Amazon rainforest. It was a perfect program for his endeavors to become a zoologist.

Dakotah Hinn

Alva, who worked with Clements and Dr. Nancy Hinman, a professor at the University of Montana, in Yellowstone, is interested in space exploration and plans to apply for jobs in that field. The World Explorers program combined his career interests with Scouting fun.

In between the time of collecting hot springs samples, the team saw buffalo herds, a grizzly bear and witnessed a rare double eruption of the Grand Geyser. They also enjoyed “S’mOreos” — s’mores, but used Oreo cookies instead of graham crackers.

“It was like a long Scouting event, doing this important research,” Alva says.

Remind your Scouts to combat bullying by showing kindness to their classmates

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 9:00am

A Scout is Kind and prepared to help others in need.

We know that, but perhaps your Scouts’ classmates don’t. According to new BSA data, kids age 6-17 believe the biggest issue facing Generation Z is bullying. In a recent survey, 86% of youth polled said not being bullied is a daily priority.

The Boy Scouts of America is asking Scouts to wear their uniform to school on Oct. 16, so they can show their classmates that they have an ally among them — someone who is friendly, helpful, brave and kind. By wearing their uniform, Scouts identify themselves to their peers as people who are there for them.

Parents are leaders are asked to encourage Scouts in their family, pack, troop, ship or crew to participate in this call to action. One easy way to do this is to share this graphic on your social media pages. Feel free to also link to this blog post and Scouting’s bullying prevention resources.

On Oct. 16, Scouters and Scouts (with parental permission) can also share inspirational stories of kindness on social media by using the hashtag #AScoutIsKind.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a time for schools, communities and organizations to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying.

How to stop bullying

For tips on how you and your Scouts can take on bullying, check out the following links:

Which merit badges are the toughest? We asked two brothers who earned them all

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 9:00am

Ask 12 Scouts to select the toughest merit badge they’ve earned, and you might get a dozen different answers.

But ask two brothers, each of whom earned all 137 of the BSA’s available merit badges? You’ll get two sets of answers that underline the brilliance of the BSA’s merit badge program.

Joseph and Richard Mercado are Eagle Scouts and members of Troop 1439 of the BSA’s Pathway to Adventure Council, based in Chicago.

In their pursuit of every available merit badge, the brothers explored existing interests, discovered new hobbies and enjoyed a firsthand look at potential future careers.

That’s what I love about the merit badge program. Whether a Scout earns one merit badge or every single one, they walk away with a deep appreciation for a specific subject and learn which areas simply aren’t for them.

That’s not to say that Joseph and Richard’s toughest merit badges are ones they disliked. In fact, some of the most meaningful and memorable badges are the ones that challenge Scouts the most.

Four merit badges appear on both brothers’ lists. Each brother included exactly two Eagle-required merit badges on his list — but not the same two.

Joseph works on the Whitewater merit badge. Joseph Mercado’s Top 10 Toughest Merit Badges 10. Traffic Safety

“There was a lot of information, including rules and regulations,” Joseph says.

But once he was old enough to work toward a license, Joseph says the badge “definitely helped build the foundation for driving classes.”

See the requirements

9. Small-Boat Sailing

A windy lake (remember, this is Chicago) can test a sailor’s perseverance. Joseph learned this — and how to overcome it.

“We flipped the sailboat multiple times,” Joseph says. “This was not supposed to happen.”

See the requirements

8. Swimming*

Joseph says the requirement to bring an object up from the bottom of the pool was a good lesson — but a tricky one.

“It was challenging to get the brick at the bottom,” he says.

See the requirements

7. Backpacking

Joseph’s pack seemed to get heavier mile after mile as he felt every ounce of his gear. But he learned how to reduce the discomfort.

“Proper posture and leg strength were key factors,” he says.

See the requirements

6. Water Sports

As a first-time water skier, Joseph “had difficulty trying to balance on the skis.”

But the first time he got up on the skis? That made it all worthwhile.

See the requirements

5. Cycling*

A 50-mile bike ride requires more than endurance.

“You need to be mentally and physically prepared,” Joseph says.

See the requirements

4. Skating

“Balance and practice are key factors” when skating, Joseph says.

This merit badge placed high on Joseph’s list because, as he was skating backward for one of the requirements, he lost his balance and broke his ankle. Good thing he was wearing a helmet.

See the requirements

3. Bugling

“I could never forget this merit badge,” Joseph says.

He says it took him an entire year of guidance, practice and patience to finally learn the instrument well enough to complete the requirements.

Bugling’s difficulty may be one reason why it’s regularly one of the least-earned merit badges.

See the requirements

2. Whitewater

For Joseph, the Whitewater merit badge was a fun way to reinforce the skills he learned while earning the Canoeing merit badge.

“You need to be both physically and mentally ready for the challenges of Mother Nature,” he says.

See the requirements

1. Scuba Diving

When Joseph worked on the Scuba Diving merit badge, he was dealing with some lingering effects of a cold, making it difficult to equalize his ears. The visibility that day was low, making navigation tricky.

But in spite of all that, Joseph loved every minute.

“I most definitely would consider it as a lifetime hobby or possible profession,” he says.

See the requirements

*Eagle required.

Richard completes requirements for the Horsemanship merit badge. Richard Mercado’s Top 10 Toughest Merit Badges 10. Scuba Diving

For Richard, it was the temperature of the freshwater lake that made scuba diving tough.

“The deeper I went, the colder I got,” he says.

But like his brother, Richard enjoyed the experience and freedom of scuba diving.

“I hope one day to scuba in warm saltwater,” he says.

See the requirements

9. Horsemanship

“You never realize how much time is involved in taking care of your horse,” Richard says. “Proper cleaning of their hooves. Grooming. Feeding.”

And learning the proper way to put on a saddle.

“I became an instant stuntman when I fell off,” he says. “Lesson learned: Make sure it’s put on properly before climbing on.”

See the requirements

8. Collections

Part of the difficulty in the Collections merit badge was Richard’s own doing. He decided to collect police stars.

“It was challenging trying to find the old ones,” he says.

But that same freedom to collect whatever you want (other than stamps or coins) is what makes this merit badge so customizable and cool.

See the requirements

7. Personal Management*

Creating a budget and thinking deliberately about money aren’t normal behaviors for teenagers. That’s exactly why this merit badge is so critically important.

Because this skill isn’t covered elsewhere, this merit badge is often cited by Scouts as one of the toughest.

“I had to keep track of my money,” Richard says. Enough said.

See the requirements

6. Coin Collecting

A needle in a haystack? Try looking for a specific state quarter out in the world.

“It was time consuming trying to find some of the coins,” Richard says.

But that makes the discovery even sweeter.

See the requirements

5. Skating

Nathan Chen and Bradie Tennell make it look so easy.

But skating — ice, inline or roller — can be tough, as Richard learned while earning the Skating merit badge.

“I had a hard time trying to turn around,” he says. “But once I figured it out, roller skating became a new favorite of mine.”

See the requirements

4. Small-Boat Sailing

Merit badges let Scouts fail in a safe, controlled environment. That way they’re ready when life just comes along and … well, I’ll let Richard tell it.

“I kept getting smacked in the head with the sail pole,” he says.

Lesson learned.

See the requirements

3. Citizenship in the Community*

Richard says researching the history of his community wasn’t easy. He took photos, interviewed citizens and spent time at the library.

“It was time consuming,” he says.

But the journey gave him a greater appreciation for his community and its rich history.

See the requirements

2. Water Sports

The struggle was real — at least at first. Like his brother, Richard had trouble “learning how to balance on water skis.”

But once he got up on the skis, it was like floating on the water. And that’s a feeling you can’t describe.

See the requirements

1. Radio

Learning the art of radio isn’t about memorizing which station plays classic rock.

“I had to learn different wave frequencies,” Richard says.

Understanding the electromagnetic spectrum and how radio waves carry information connects Scouts to something that’s both invisible and vitally important.

See the requirements

*Eagle required.

But what are the hardest requirements for each merit badge?

That’s a topic so good it got its own post.

Thanks to the Pathway to Adventure Council’s Allison Dietz for the tip.

In this Texas troop’s trip to Wyoming for summer camp, there’s a lesson for us all

Fri, 10/04/2019 - 9:00am

As the Scouts in Troop 1776 of Plano, Texas, get older, their interest in traditional summer camp activities starts to wane. They want to challenge themselves further, to venture deeper into nature’s mysteries.

They want high adventure.

A year ago, with that in mind, Scoutmaster David Wille approached the patrol leaders’ council with a suggestion. He encouraged the Scouts to select a summer camp destination that met two basic requirements:

  1. The camp had to be near a national park.
  2. The camp had to offer a high-adventure program for older Scouts.

“Rather than simply heading straight to camp, the troop would go a few days early and spend a few days exploring the national park,” Wille says. “This would give a taste of high adventure to the younger Scouts while still appealing to older Scouts.”

And the second requirement?

“Choosing summer camps with a high-adventure program for older Scouts would entice them to go to summer camp,” he says. “The younger Scouts would get to witness those older Scouts engaging in a high-adventure trip and immediately get to hear their stories of what happened on the trip.”

The Scouts took their Scoutmaster’s advice and ran with it. And that’s how Troop 1776 ended up at the Greater Wyoming Council’s Camp Buffalo Bill, a beautiful property near Yellowstone National Park.

In their story, we learn an important lesson: For many troops, high adventure leads to high retention.

Led by youth, mentored by adults

Troop 1776, like all great troops, is led by the Scouts. They decide where to camp. They plan the meals, set the itinerary and select the activities.

You’ll find the adults in the back of the room, providing mentorship and guidance when needed but generally staying out of the way.

I should know. I was a member of Troop 1776 from age 11 to 18 and went to summer camp each year. I was lucky enough to attend two Philmont treks and serve as senior patrol leader for six months.

A youth-led troop is exactly what Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, had in mind all those years ago. He wanted Scouts to have the freedom to fail, because that’s where learning happens. The role of the adult is that of a mentor, challenging Scouts and provide a safety net when needed.

Notice that when Scoutmaster Wille suggested the idea of an epic summer camp trip, it was just that: a suggestion. But it was a suggestion based on reason.

“I wanted to address two problems,” he says. “Our troop was losing Scouts before they reached eighth grade and could go to BSA high-adventure bases. A second problem was that virtually no Scout of high school age wanted to go to summer camp.”

A super solution

Troop 1776 policy says that Scoutmasters serve for three years and then step aside for someone else to take over. During his tenure, Wille wanted his Scouts to experience all that Scouting has to offer. And he wanted older Scouts to stick around. After all, one could argue that Scouting only gets more fun as Scouts get older and can enjoy more extreme activities.

That’s how Wille came up with those two suggestions. He wanted to encourage his Scouts to think beyond traditional Scouting trips and unlock new paths to high adventure — even if it might mean a little more fundraising to pay for it all.

“Troop 1776 enthusiastically embraced this proposal,” Wille says.

As it turns out, many BSA camps fit Wille’s requirements. There are lots of properties near a national park and with high-adventure programs.

“The BSA is blessed with many great summer camps, many of which are near some of our most cherished national parks,” Wille says. “A troop wanting to pursue a similar program should find many options to explore.”

For 2019, the Scouts selected Camp Buffalo Bill, a wonderful property 8 miles east of Yellowstone National Park.

‘Bears, moose and elk everywhere’

This past summer, an impressive 63 members of Troop 1776 traveled to summer camp. Twenty-one of the Scouts were in high school, meaning Wille’s plan to retain older Scouts was working.

They started with three days in Yellowstone, staying at Old Faithful Lodge and taking day hikes in Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

Then they traveled to the camp, where the younger Scouts enjoyed a traditional summer camp experience while the older Scouts went to the camp’s Yellowstone High Adventure Outpost. There, they could chose from five-day backpacking, kayaking or rafting trips.

The Scouts chose backpacking and had an unbelievably great time.

“There were bears, moose and elk everywhere you looked,” says Ian K.

Colin M. liked learning to catch fish with flies he tied himself, while Chad M. liked seeing the Grand Prismatic Spring, one of Yellowstone’s most recognizable features.

From the adults’ perspective, everything flowed seamlessly because the Greater Wyoming Council made it so easy. They were especially complimentary of Andrew Allgeier, camp director.

“We began planning our trip in June 2018, and Andrew was extremely helpful to us in making the trip happen,” Wille says. “He went out of his way to help us make the trip happen.”

Assistant Scoutmaster Ron Maples agrees.

“The staff was just terrific,” he says.

And then came perhaps the biggest praise a person can give at Scout camp: “The food was the best camp food I can remember.”

It’s time to gear up to go camping with your family

Fri, 10/04/2019 - 8:30am

You might need a new tent for an upcoming family campout. Or perhaps your son or daughter wants a new backpack — and needs to fill it with some upgraded camping gear. Maybe you know a family new to Scouting and they need some direction on how to prepare for outdoor adventures.

What should you get? What gear do you recommend for new Scouting families? Wouldn’t it be nice to ask an expert or see a demonstration of a product before you buy?

Well then, you should check out your local Scout Shop on Oct. 5 or Oct. 12 for “Family Camping 101” in-store events. Experts will be sharing product and cooking demonstrations, camp tips and backpack fittings. Click here to see when your store is having an event. During the weeklong promotion between those two dates, you can save 20% on camping gear when you spend $100 or more either online or in-store.

Next week, go on the Scout Shop’s Facebook page for expert advice and gear giveaways. Broadcasts will be Oct. 9, 10 and 11, each with a different topic: Family Camping Checklist, Camp Comfort and Tips for Camping with Kids. You can also go online for the Scout Shop’s Family Camping Sweepstakes, and possibly win a prize bundle for your ultimate campsite valued at nearly $400.

Need ideas?

Check your camping checklist. It might be time to upgrade your gear or get something that’s perfect for your next adventure. Here are some ideas of what to look for during “Family Camping 101.”

Here’s a tip to help your Scouts remember how to tie a clove hitch

Thu, 10/03/2019 - 9:00am

Did you know a clove hitch is essentially two simple knots? When your Scout is tying lashings, all they need to know to create a clove hitch is how to tie a half-hitch.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some camp hacks that the BSA’s national camping subcommittee has shared with us. This week, we’re showing you how to tie a clove hitch, which is used to begin and end many lashings. Special thanks to Larry Green for the tips and text below.

John Thurman, the Camp Chief at Gilwell Park in England for more than 25 years, wrote, “The first and everlasting thing to remember about the clove hitch is that it is composed of two half-hitches.”

  1. If you make one half-hitch…
  2. and then an identical half-hitch…
  3. and bring them together, you form a clove hitch.
  4. The identical half-hitches can be formed in any direction. This is a good thing, because many lashings need to be finished from either one direction or the other.
  5. First half-hitch (finishing a shear lashing).
  6. Second half-hitch.
  7. Both half-hitches are brought together.

When a clove hitch is formed in this manner, snugging it right against the wraps to finish a lashing is easy.

Watch the video of this technique below.

Scouting Show and Tell: Merit Badges with a Twist

Wed, 10/02/2019 - 9:30am

Sure, your Scout can complete many merit badge requirements in a classroom setting. But where’s the fun in that?

It’s time for Show and Tell, where Scouters show their favorite photos and tell the story behind them. This time, we want you to share how you or another counselor taught merit badge curriculum in a fun, unique way. Or you can show us a cool way your Scout earned a badge.

To earn the Hiking merit badge, Kendalyn and Ashley Bybee of girls’ Troop 219 in Kennewick, Wash., didn’t settle for day hikes too close to home — they ventured into the scenic wilderness.

They trekked five miles from Multnomah Falls to Wahkeena Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, 12 miles roundtrip up and down Mount St. Helens in Washington, 12 miles along the Twin Pillars Trail in Oregon’s Ochoco National Forest, 15 miles roundtrip to southeast Idaho’s Upper and Lower Palisades Lakes, 15 miles roundtrip to Washington’s Rachel and Rampart Lakes and 23 miles to the Lakes Basin in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness Area. It took them this whole last summer to complete the hikes.

Just visit go.scoutingmagazine.org/showandtell to share with us. You can also email us at scoutingmag@gmail.com, leave a comment below or share via social media using #ScoutingShowandTell.

You could be featured in an upcoming issue of Scouting magazine. For more Scouting Show and Tell topics, click here. For more tips on merit badges, click here.

We also want to see other ways you make Scouting great, so if you have a funny skit, cool activity uniform or neat neckerchief slide, send them our way as well. What you share could inspire others, giving them ideas for their units.

Assistant Scoutmaster honored for saving 20 people during 2017 Las Vegas shooting

Tue, 10/01/2019 - 9:00am

On Oct. 1, 2017, Marty Heffernan and his wife, Jeannie, had plans to celebrate Marty’s 56th birthday with a concert in Las Vegas.

But when gunshots erupted during the Route 91 Harvest festival, celebration turned to chaos. In the panic that followed, Heffernan showed disregard for his own safety, running into the line of fire to help get his wife and 20 strangers to cover under a set of bleachers.

After about 10 minutes of shooting, there was a break in the gunfire. Quickly, Heffernan led the group to an even safer position where they were behind a wall and could run to safety.

“No matter the amount or type of training, be it military, first responder or workplace, you truly don’t know how you are going to respond or react until, God forbid, it actually happens,” Heffernan tells me.

Stories of heroism can help bring some measure of comfort after an unspeakable tragedy. We heard many such stories in the aftermath of the shooting that left 58 people dead and more than 400 injured. These heroes include Bailey Thompson, a Law Enforcement Explorer who ran toward the gunfire to pick up victims and drive them to the hospital.

But on the second anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, we’re hearing about Heffernan’s story for the first time.

For taking lifesaving actions despite extreme risk to himself, Heffernan was awarded the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms in August. It is the BSA’s highest award for bravery. Heffernan becomes the 313th person to be awarded the medal in its 96-year history.

To learn more, I contacted Heffernan, an assistant Scoutmaster and father of two Eagle Scouts. He’s currently a volunteer with Troop 801 of Brea, Calif., part of the BSA’s Orange County Council.

Marty Heffernan is credited with getting 20 people to safety. (Photo by Warren Collier, Troop 801 treasurer) Running toward danger

Martin J. Heffernan Jr. joined Scouting in 1973. His dad was in the shipping industry, so the family moved quite a bit. He was a member of troops in East Windsor, N.J.; Mount Pleasant, S.C.; New Orleans; and Severna Park, Md.

“By the time my Scouting records caught up with me, I was too close to my 18th birthday” to earn Eagle, Heffernan says.

But he quickly — and proudly — points out that his two sons, Eric and Ian, are Eagle Scouts.

In his late teens and early 20s, Heffernan was a volunteer firefighter. He then joined the U.S. Coast Guard.

“I’ve never been one to run from away from an emergency,” he says. “I’ve always run toward it.”

That’s still true in Heffernan’s current job at a container facility.

“If there is an accident, chemical spill or intruder incident, I’m normally one of the first ones there,” he says.

The Route 91 Harvest festival

“I recognized the sounds of gunfire and started screaming for everyone to get down,” Heffernan wrote in an account of the events he sent to his council in 2018. “My first instinct was to get Jeannie and other people under cover.”

Heffernan and other witnesses report that Heffernan grabbed 20 people and hurried them under the bleachers.

“What hurts me the most is the thought of almost losing Jeannie, and the sight of a woman running towards us, 20 feet away, as I watched her go down,” Heffernan writes. “I couldn’t help her because we started taking heavy fire. I could hear the ricochets hitting the ground as close as 5 feet away.”

During a pause in the shooting, perhaps for the shooter to reload, Heffernan made a break for it. He led the group, some of them clutching onto his belt as they ran, out of the shooter’s range and into the Tropicana Hotel.

Heffernan tells me he was hesitant to share his story for the longest time after. Eventually, enough adults from his troop, district and council encouraged him to tell others what happened.

“I’m not one that seeks the limelight,” he says. “I had no idea that it would go as far as it did. I was very surprised and humbled by the news.”

Looking back

The passage of time hasn’t made things much easier for Heffernan, who thinks back on the day with a range of emotions.

“There are points to where I sit and cry, get angry, or ask myself did I do enough to help? Could I have saved more people?” Heffernan says. “I still have images of what I saw that night running through my mind.”

He’s a member of a few survivors’ groups on Facebook, offering an outlet for Heffernan and others to share what happened and help one another.

At the ceremony to present Heffernan with his medal, James Crabb, Troop 801 committee chairman, shared his thoughts with those who gathered.

“There is no telling how many lives he saved that day,” Crabb said. “Or how many lives he will impact through his actions which allow us to now recognize and honor him.”

Scouts show incredible kindness to fellow hiker in need; ‘It’s what we do,’ they say

Mon, 09/30/2019 - 8:00am

Jamie Bone calls it her “escape from Guadalupe Peak.”

While her life wasn’t in danger, Bone’s wind-whipped, rain-soaked experience in this West Texas national park was plenty harrowing.

In March, Bone had planned to climb to the highest point in Texas and spend the night about a mile from the summit. But when bad turned to worse, this solo hiker from Kansas relied on the kindness of strangers.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending, due in large part to one simple fact: These strangers were a bunch of Scouts.

“Over and over, I thanked these gentlemen for their kindness and support of their fellow hiker,” Bone says. “They simply responded, ‘It’s what we do.’”

Today, we’ll hear from Bone and the heroes themselves. I tracked down Todd Boyles, assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 615 of Arlington, Texas, for his take on what happened.

”The boys’ interaction with Jamie showed the importance of being kind and friendly to others — as the Scout Law dictates,” Boyles says.

Jamie Bone stands victorious on the summit of Guadalupe Peak. Meet the hiker

Jamie Bone had scoped out the perfect spring break location: a backcountry campsite 1 mile from the summit of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas.

“I’d hike to the site, set up camp, and see the sunrise at the summit the next morning,” Bone says. “But Mother Nature, as usual, would have different plans.”

During her hike up the “seemingly infinite switchbacks” on the way to her campsite, Bone met the Scouts from Troop 615. They were completing a practice hike for a Philmont trek later in the year.

Bone learned that they’d be campsite neighbors once everyone reached their destination.

“We got to know each other as we passed each other back and forth on the trail,” Bone says. “After hours of switchbacks, I asked them, gasping for air, ‘How far away is this blasted campsite?’ Todd grinned and said, ‘It’s just around the corner.’ I smirked at Todd’s apparent sense of humor.”

Continuing the climb

When she arrived at the campsite at last, Bone set up her tent despite a “violent wind that was blowing tents and gear in every direction.”

With her stuff secured in the tent, Bone placed heavy rocks over each tent stake and set back out on the trail. Just one more mile and she’d be at the summit.

On her climb up, Bone again encountered the Scouts. They had already reached the summit and were headed down.

”We saw that Jamie was still heading to the summit and we told her that we would see her at camp,” Boyles says. “Shortly after seeing Jamie, the wind really started picking up, and it began to rain.”

Bone took her victory photo at the summit and hiked back to camp.

“Obviously the winds were ridiculous,” Jamie Bone says. Back at the campsite

As she neared the campsite, Bone saw something that concerned her. The Scouts and leaders were waiting for her.

“Was this a courtesy?“ Bone remembers thinking. “Much more likely, something had gone wrong.”

Indeed it had.

“When we reached camp, we saw that two of the other campers at the site’s tents had blown down,” Boyles says. “One of which was Jamie’s. We secured their tents to prevent any damage to them from the high winds.”

“They helped me move the tent to a more sheltered location and restake it,” Bone says. “Unfortunately, during the collapse, my sleeping bag had gotten soaked in the rain.”

The Scouts helped hang Bone’s sleeping bag to dry, and one of the leaders loaned Bone his sleeping bag liner.

Learning from each other

The Scouts invited Bone to join them for dinner.

Bone taught the Scouts about cold-soaking food when backpacking. That’s the process of adding cold water to a dehydrated meal and letting it sit for 30 minutes or more while you hike or do something else. It’s passive cooking with no heat required.

“The boys and I were impressed by the ease of cold-soaking food,” Boyles says. “Cooking while you hike is a great idea.”

Next, they shared stories about their backgrounds. The Scouts learned that Bone is a pianist from Lawrence, Kan., who loves to hike and travel. Bone learned that Todd is an engineer and his fellow leader, Kirk Larson, is a nurse anesthetist.

“But on their time off, they’re Scout leaders, and I’d rate their skills a 10 of 10,” Bone says.

The next day

The next morning brought a pretty nasty storm. Waiting out the storm gave Bone time to reflect on her trip.

“I realized how much more fearful I’d be if I’d been there alone instead of with a troop of Scouts and their leaders,” she says.

After two hours, the storm passed. The Scouts shared their breakfast with Bone — Pop-Tarts! — before packing up and making their descent.

She met up with them one more time at the trailhead, where they exchanged high-fives.

“Over and over, I was inspired by these Scouts and their leaders,” Bone says. “They showed true altruistic instincts to a fellow hiker in need. I’ll be sure to use them as role models on my hikes from now on.”

Bone also told me how she wished she could’ve been in the BSA as a girl.

”I fully support the Boy Scouts of America becoming coed,” she says. “If this opportunity had been offered to me as a youth, I could have learned a lot of my outdoor skills from leaders such as Todd and Kirk instead of the internet.”

Some great Scouts

Let’s hear it for the Scouts on this trip, who showed remarkable kindness and courtesy to a stranger.

The Scouts were:

  • Michael B., 15, Star Scout
  • Brian L., 14, Life Scout
  • Chad L., 14, Life Scout
  • Andy Z., 14, Star Scout
  • Tim N., 14, Second Class
  • Affan H., 14, Second Class
  • Keegan V., 14, Life Scout

Boyles says he was grateful to have met Jamie and incredibly proud of his Scouts.

”I think the boys impressed Jamie since the oldest boy that was on the trek just turned 15,” Boyles says. “They showed her that preparation and not panicking will make your mountain hikes fun — even when the weather doesn’t cooperate.”

Eagle Scout, Navy veteran completes back-to-back treks at Philmont, Northern Tier

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 8:00am

It started, as great ideas sometimes do, as a joke.

Back in March, Chris Mahn was sitting at a troop committee meeting with fellow volunteers from Troop 26 of Wilmington, N.C., part of the BSA’s Cape Fear Council.

The leaders started to discuss the troop’s epic summer calendar, where two separate groups of Troop 26 Scouts planned to take treks at two of the BSA’s four national high-adventure bases.

The first group would hike through the rugged Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. As that trip was ending, the second group would begin a canoe trek at Northern Tier, the pristine paddling paradise in Minnesota and Canada.

At the March meeting, someone joked that it would be possible, theoretically, for someone to finish the Philmont trek, hop on a plane, and meet the Minnesota group as they began their Northern Tier trek.

“While everyone sort of laughed it off as a cool yet too-hard-to-pull-off idea, I thought that it might be neat to see if I could actually make it happen,” Mahn says. “Knowing it would be a pretty significant accomplishment, I decided to go for it.”

And so that’s how this Eagle Scout, Scouting volunteer and U.S. Navy veteran set out on a seemingly impossible 23-day journey by foot, train, car, plane and canoe to see just how far Scouting can take people.

“Hopefully, it will inspire Scouts to be adventurous and to go out and take advantage of the opportunities Scouting has to offer,” Mahn says. “It was worth all of the sweat and soreness to see the things I saw, including the Scouts and other leaders accomplishing things they might’ve thought they couldn’t.”

Ready to roam

Mahn grew up in Troop 26 and earned the Eagle Scout award. He then left to serve in the U.S. Navy for four years.

“When he got back, he jumped right in as a leader,” says Troop 26 Assistant Scoutmaster Chris Woolard. “We’re very proud of him.”

Serving in the Navy meant Mahn was “cooped up on a ship for months on end,” he says. Hence his eagerness to roam through the wide-open spaces of Philmont and Northern Tier.

His time in the Navy also meant Mahn had no debt and enough savings to pay for both trips and the required transportation costs.

“Growing up, I was never a very adventurous person,” Mahn says. “But after I got out of the Navy, I wanted to do something big.”

Back-to-back high-adventure treks certainly qualifies as “something big.” But as the departure date neared, Mahn came up with another apt phrase for his trip: “a logistical nightmare.”

Thankfully, he had the right attitude — and plenty of help from staffers at both high-adventure bases.

Mahn’s time in the Navy also meant he had the right physical condition to complete two strenuous adventures in a row. That’s a good reminder that proper training and preparation is a must for one high-adventue trek — let alone two.

The Philmont leg

Mahn left home on July 20, flying on a three-leg journey from Wilmington, N.C., to Charlotte, N.C., to Dallas and then to Albuquerque, N.M.

He stayed the night in Albuquerque and boarded a train the next day to Raton, N.M. At last, he took the shuttle to Cimarron, N.M., home to Philmont.

“I had never seen anything like it,” he says. “The base camp lies in a valley of sorts where you can spot the Tooth of Time — a large rock formation atop a ridge. The sounds of the closing campfire for homebound crews were echoing throughout the camp, which was a nice thing to relax to after two days of traveling.”

The Scouts and other adult leaders from Troop 26 arrived the next day, and they all set out on their Philmont adventure.

Over the course of the trek, Mahn and the Scouts hiked through valleys, over ridges and to the tops of majestic mountains.

“The terrain was rugged but beautiful,” he says. “It was very different from what I’m used to on the East Coast.”

But it wasn’t just the hiking and the views that made Philmont memorable for Mahn and the Troop 26 Scouts.

“The manned backcountry camps, where you could partake in activities such as shotgun shooting, tomahawk throwing and blacksmithing, just added to the experience,” he says. “Not to mention the enthusiasm and professionalism of the staff who worked the camps.”

The Northern Tier leg

Tired and sore from his Philmont adventure — but ready to push himself further — Mahn traveled back to Albuquerque for part two of his journey.

After a series of flight delays, he landed in Minneapolis where he met his crew at the airport. They drove to Ely, Minn., where they’d stay overnight at the International Wolf Center (a must-do stop for any troops headed to Northern Tier!).

The next morning, they arrived at Northern Tier and met their Interpreter — the staff guide who would join them for their 75-mile trek through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

They learned how to pack their canoes, navigate the lakes and waterways, and prepare their gear to portage from lake to lake.

Mahn says the days were the right kind of tough — making “sitting around at camp at the end of the day so much better.“

One day, the Scouts fashioned a sail out of a tarp tied to a canoe paddle, harnessing the power of the wind to give their arms a rest.

“I sat in the rear using my paddle as a rudder,” Mahn says.

Looking back on that leg of his journey, Mahn says he was struck by how peaceful our country can be — if you know where to find it.

“There’s really nothing quite like it — being separated from the noise and stress of civilization for a while, living primitively, just like the frontiersmen and voyageurs of old,” he says. “It was a trip that I’ll tell my children and grandchildren about.“

A rare feat indeed

This is the first time I’ve heard of someone completing two high-adventure experiences with virtually no time between them.

Woolard, the Troop 26 assistant Scoutmaster, agrees.

“Several of our leaders are blown away by the next-level coolness of this opportunity and thought that it would be great to have Chris’ story highlighted in a bigger way,” he tells me. “We’re thinking that, surely it hasn’t happened many times, if ever before.”

If you or someone you know indeed has completed something like this, share your story in the comments. This is a case of “the more the merrier.”

Indeed Mahn hopes his story will encourage other Scouters to follow in his footsteps and paddle tracks.

“If I had the chance, I would absolutely do it again,” he says. “And I encourage everyone who reads this to do the same, should they ever have the opportunity.”

Always tie a square knot correctly with this tip

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 9:00am

Tying a square knot might be confusing for Scouts. “Right-over-left” or was it “left-over-right?”

For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some camp hacks that the BSA’s national camping subcommittee has shared with us. This week’s tip involves a technique to tying a square knot correctly every time. Special thanks to Larry Green for the tips and text below.

The square knot, also known as the reef knot, is first and foremost a binding knot. Its primary function is to secure a line tightly up against an object as when tying a bandage, a package or the flaps of a wall tent at camp.

When it’s time to tie a square knot, there’s a surefire way to always tie it right, and all you need to do is use your eyes.

  1. Tie the first half-knot.
  2. Position the ends so the blue end projects down on one side, and the red end extends up on the other side. It’s as if each end has its own area — like each is in their own “zone.” That’s where they need to stay.
  3. When the ends are brought together to form the second half-knot, they don’t enter the other “zone” by crossing behind the other end. They just meet in the middle. The knot is finished by carrying either end over and around the other.
  4. It makes no difference how the first half-knot is tied (over-under or under-over, right-over-left or left-over-right).
  5. When bringing the ends together to form the second half-knot, keep them in their own “zones.” Don’t cross over into the other end’s area.
  6. This way, you’ll always tie a square knot, and never a granny knot.

Tying a square knot from this visual perspective comes in handy, because often Scouts will lose track of whether they went over-under or under-over, or right-over-left or left-over-right. Once they get the knack of seeing how each end stays in its own “zone,” this approach is fool-proof.

Watch the video of this technique below.

Everything you need to know about the New Member Coordinator position

Wed, 09/25/2019 - 9:00am
The official logo for the New Member Coordinator position.

Joining a new Scout unit can be a little overwhelming at first. You’re presented with a calendar full of fun upcoming activities, but all the new people, places and things can seem like a lot to digest.

Fortunately there’s help. It comes in the form of a volunteer whose job is all about making new members feel right at home.

It’s called the New Member Coordinator, and it’s a position invented by volunteers in 2017 to help welcome new Scouting families to our life-changing, adventure-packed program.

In the Scouting spirit of friendliness and helpfulness, we kindly recommend that every Scout unit identify one or more volunteers to serve in this vital role.

At what levels can New Member Coordinators serve?

There are New Member Coordinators at the unit level and — new in 2019 and beyond — at the district and council level, too.

What does a unit-level New Member Coordinator do?

The unit-level New Member Coordinator forms a connection with new members and their families. They are appointed by and report to the Unit Committee Chair.

Each unit should have one — or, ideally, more than one — New Member Coordinator.

In general, all unit-level New Member Coordinators:

  • Serve as welcoming ambassadors for the unit.
  • Work with the unit committee in developing and implementing the Unit Membership Plan.
  • Participate in New Member Coordinator training and collaborate with the district membership team.

“New Member Coordinators can be a game-changer for membership retention as well as recruitment,” says Linda Baker, chairwoman of the New Member Coordinator Task Force. “Having one or more NMCs in a unit can make everything easier and more fun.”

What does a New Member Coordinator wear?

In most cases, New Member Coordinators do not wear the Scout field uniform (unofficially known as the “Class A”). In an effort to make new Scouting families feel as comfortable as possible, New Member Coordinators dress like new members — not like longtime Scouting veterans. It makes sense.

But that doesn’t mean the New Member Coordinator should attend meetings incognito.

The Scout Shop offers an array of New Member Coordinator gear, including neckerchiefs, pins, hats, polos and T-shirts.

How can someone register as a New Member Coordinator?

The easiest time to register someone as a New Member Coordinator is when your pack, troop or crew recharters.

The New Member Coordinator, which uses the registration code “NM,” is a member of the unit committee.

This role replaced the roles of Unit Membership Chair and Parent Coordinator, which are no longer available.

What about the district-level New Member Coordinator?

In 2019, the BSA added a district-level New Member Coordinator.

This volunteer, appointed by the District Membership Chair, serves on the District Membership Committee.

Responsibilities include:

  • Serving as advocates, promoters, ambassadors, mentors, supporters, colleagues, champions and cheerleaders for unit-level New Member Coordinators.
  • Sharing the New Member Coordinator concept, ensuring widespread awareness of the benefits of
    units’ having one or more New Member Coordinators.
  • Shaping the role of New Member Coordinators in the district so that the district and units benefit from
    NMC engagement and so that New Member Coordinators are welcomed, trained and supported.

Interested in stepping up and serving in this role? Contact your District Membership Chair or District Executive.

What about the council-level New Member Coordinator?

This position was added in 2019, as well.

The council-level New Member Coordinator is appointed by and reports to the Council Membership Vice President. They receive additional guidance and support from the Council Executive staff.

Responsibilities include:

  • Serving as advocates, promoters, ambassadors, mentors, supporters, colleagues, champions and cheerleaders for district- and unit-level New Member Coordinators.
  • Leading the council’s team effort to strengthen membership in the council through collaboration with New Member Coordinators at all levels.
  • Sharing the New Member Coordinator concept, ensuring councilwide awareness of the benefits of units’ having one or more New Member Coordinators
  • Shaping the role of New Member Coordinators in the council so that the district and units benefit from NMC engagement and so that New Member Coordinators are welcomed, trained and supported.

Think you have what it takes for this role? Contact your Council Membership Vice President or council office for more information.

What other resources are available for New Member Coordinators?

Make this site your first stop.

You’ll find training information, forms, printable brochures, videos, logos and much more.

Remember to protect yourself from mosquitoes

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 9:00am

From 2009 to 2018, the state of Michigan reported seven total human cases of Eastern equine encephalitis, a mosquito-borne virus that can cause brain infections. However, this year, Michigan has already reported seven cases, including three that were fatal.

Infections have also been reported in Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The uptick in this rare disease is a reminder to protect you and your Scouts from mosquitoes, especially during dawn and dusk when the insects are most active. Although Eastern equine encephalitis (or EEE) primarily affects eastern and Gulf Coast states, mosquitoes in other parts of the country can carry dangerous diseases, too, such as West Nile and Zika.

Here are some strategies to prevent mosquito bites and infection:

  • If possible, avoid areas known to be home to mosquitoes. Avoid camping downwind from a forest.
  • Wear long pants, socks and light-colored long-sleeved shirts. Add a hat, netting or other head covering.
  • You can treat your tent and clothing with permethrin. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or one of several other active ingredients. The BSA recommends DEET register at a 30 percent concentration and picaridin register at 20 percent.

For more tips and gear recommendations to protect you, see these articles:

You can also get more information on repellents here and tips for preventing bites here.

Three new resources to make Cub Scout leaders stand up and do a cheer

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 9:00am

An awesome array of new resources for Cub Scout leaders is designed to help you welcome new families to your pack, learn more about the Cub Scout program and recruit new leaders.

Regularly refreshing resources is just one way the BSA has your back as you deliver an amazing program to your Cub Scouts.

Here’s what’s new:

1. New welcome tools for families

In their excitement about joining your pack, new Scouting families often have lots of questions. As a Cub Scout leader, how you answer those questions matters.

You could overload them with information, plunking a packet in front of them and saying, “just read this.”

Or you could try one of these new brochures, created by the BSA. The brochures cover the basics of the program and can be used at sign-up events or when a new family joins your pack.

The brochures are suitable for printing and look great. But in the interest of the environment, consider downloading them and sharing electronically.

2. New online resources for families researching Cub Scouting

Shouldn’t researching Cub Scouting be as easy as shopping for a new pair of shoes?

Now it is. When prospective Cub Scouting families are ready to take a deeper dive into this transformative program, send them to scouting.org/programs/cub-scouts.

There, in plain language, families can explore how the program works and why it works that way.

More experienced leaders will find plenty to interest them, as well. Look for information on the new Cub Scout Preview Adventures, as well as resources for den leaders, Cubmasters and members of the pack committee.

3. New resources for recruiting Cub Scout leaders

Don’t try to tackle everything yourself. By recruiting more adults to serve as leaders in your pack or den, you’ll ease the burden on yourself while also broadening the experience for your Cub Scouts.

At this site of resources, look for the PDF titled “Selecting Cub Scout Leadership.” Inside this free document, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to finding the best person for each position in your pack.

The process focuses on matching the skills of adults in your pack with the skills needed for each vacant position. Before you know it, your pack will have all the help it needs to continue delivering an exceptional program.

And that’s truly something to celebrate. With s’mores, of course.

‘Small Business Revolution’ TV series taps BSA expert to help revitalize small town

Fri, 09/20/2019 - 8:00am

If you’re looking for an expert in running an efficient, fun and safe climbing facility, look to the Boy Scouts of America.

That’s precisely what happened when a popular reality TV series needed someone to help a nonprofit climbing gym reach new heights of success.

Kathryn Wyatt, a climbing and outdoors expert from the Boy Scouts of America, will be featured in the latest season of Small Business Revolution – Main Street, a Deluxe Corp. show that invests $500,000 to revitalize an American small town.

All episodes of the show begin streaming Oct. 8 on Hulu and Amazon Prime.

Wyatt, who began her BSA career as a climbing director 16 years ago, will be featured prominently in an episode about Zion Climbing Center, a nonprofit gym in Searcy, Ark. While we can’t spoil the specifics, we can say she gives guidance on things like management, pricing, marketing and creating a mission/vision.

It’s clear that the showrunners picked the right person in Wyatt. She currently serves as director of Base Camp, an innovative urban adventure facility in Fort Snelling, Minn., that serves 35,000 climbers a year.

“My time working for the BSA has given me tremendous experience,” Wyatt says. “We all know that the BSA has over 100 years’ experience in all things outdoor skills, experiential education and leadership training. Whenever you ask someone from the Scouts for advice in these areas, it’s obvious right away that we know what we’re talking about. I hope that will shine through on the show.”

Wyatt poses with Ty Pennington (center) and Northern Star Council Marketing Director Kent York. About ‘Small Business Revolution’

Small Business Revolution, now in its fourth season, selects one lucky town each season to shower with support.

The show has been to Wabash, Ind.; Bristol Borough, Pa.; and Alton, Ill. This time, Searcy gets the spotlight.

Knowing that small businesses are the lifeblood of a small town, the showrunners identify six businesses that could use a little help. They pair these businesses with subject matter experts who offer invaluable guidance to help these businesses thrive.

That’s where Wyatt comes in.

I should mention that Wyatt isn’t the only celebrity on the show. She’s joined by Ty Pennington, who is a co-host alongside marketing expert Amanda Brinkman. You’ll recognize Pennington from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the show that inspired the similarly named Bryan on Scouting series.

Wyatt stands with the owners of Zion Climbing Center. Q&A with Kathryn Wyatt

To learn more about the show and Wyatt’s experiences during filming, I caught up with Wyatt for the scoop.

Here are some edited excerpts from our conversation.

Bryan on Scouting: How did you get selected for this opportunity?

Kathryn Wyatt: Deluxe Corp., which creates and produces the show, is located in Minnesota. This season was the first time they included a nonprofit in the mix of businesses that receives help from the show. The nonprofit is a climbing gym, and the team from Deluxe wanted to find a local expert who knew about nonprofits and climbing. Deluxe’s public relations agency, Fast Horse Inc., recently had a teambuilding event at our Base Camp facility using our indoor climbing wall. They thought, “hey, the director of this place probably knows a lot about climbing. Let’s see if she’s available!”

What is really cool about this whole story is that Northern Star Scouting created Base Camp to serve the community and connect us to the greater community. So before filming even started, this connection was a super cool example of our vision for the property coming to life.

BOS: What was the most memorable part of the process?

KW: I’d say two things. First, meeting and working with Deluxe’s Small Business Revolution team. There’s an army of people out there actually helping and caring for the people in Searcy. The whole process reminded me of how summer camp runs — there’s a big goal, a tight timeline, and everyone knows their role and makes things happen.

And second, I learned to trust my experience and own where I am in my career. I’ve worked for the BSA professionally for 14 years, but it doesn’t always feel that long to me. Being called by others an “expert” in running and managing camping and recreation facilities was out of my comfort zone. The whole process did make me look at my experiences and knowledge from a different viewpoint and realize that I do know what I’m talking about … most of the time!

BOS: What was your goal in participating?

KW: Well, my first goal was to help this climbing gym. Zion is an important place for their community, and being a Scout, I truly hope that I offered them help that will make them more successful.

The second goal was to, hopefully, highlight how good Scouting is at climbing, team-building, and serving youth with outdoor and experiential activities. Everyone in Scouting knows this to be true. Sharing our knowledge with other people in the communities we serve can only help our brand.

BOS: What tips did you share with the climbing gym that might help councils with climbing facilities? Is there maybe a top five you can share with us?

KW: I think you’ll see on the show that Zion needed more help than just around their climbing operations. I had to dig into experiences from almost every aspect of running and planning a camp operation.

Here’s the advice:

  1. In order to run any facility or program, you need to have a clear vision of your purpose.
  2. You must set goals. How will you hold your program accountable? What are the actual tactics you’ll use to reach your goals?
  3. Delegate. One person is never going to have all the skills. A good leader surrounds themselves with a team that complements their own strengths. A good leader is able to recognize their shortcomings and look for help that fills those gaps.
  4. Procedures and standards of operation are not the most exciting part of running a facility, but they’re very important.
  5. Focus on smart pricing and cost structures. Very often nonprofits get caught up in being free or cheap, and because of that, they don’t cover their expenses. The reality is that running a climbing gym has a cost, and all offerings need to at least cover those costs. In order to grow, you need to value what you offer at a cost that allows growth.
How to watch

Check out Season 4 of Small Business Revolution beginning Oct. 8 on Hulu or Amazon Prime.

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