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The official blog of Scouting magazine, a publication of the Boy Scouts of America.
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Scouts honor 75th anniversary of D-Day at Normandy Camporee 2019

22 min 29 sec ago

The moment Jed Stahlback arrived on the beaches of Normandy, the 11-year-old Star Scout was struck by how peaceful everything seemed.

“Climbing through flowers and grass growing in the remains of bomb craters seems crazy,” Jed says.

As they stared in silence at a sea of American graves, brothers Andrew and Chris Forbes marveled at the diversity they saw.

“There were Stars of David and crosses,” Andrew says. “Thousands of people from all over America fought on the beaches of Normandy and were buried there.”

This chance to witness a place so vital to world history is exactly what brought Jed, Andrew, Chris and thousands of other Scouts to France for the Normandy Camporee 2019.

The Normandy Camporee offered everything cool about at a council camporee: campfire, cracker barrel and plenty of activities where Scouts can interact with members of other units. But this one had the added hook of being at Normandy.

You can read about World War II in history class or watch an hourlong special on the History Channel. But these Scouts and Scouters were able to experience it using all five of their senses.

“I cant believe how cold it was with the ocean winds,” Chris says. “Just imagine how hard it was to fight in that weather.”

The Normandy Camporee

Organizers estimated that more than 3,500 Scouts participated in this year’s Normandy Camporee.

That number mostly included members of the Transatlantic Council, a Boy Scouts of America council based in Brussels that serves American families living in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Mid-Asia. The council delivers Scouting to 6,100 youth and 2,750 volunteers in 200 Scouting units.

The Normandy Camporee, held from April 12 to 14, marked the ninth time the Transatlantic Council has hosted the event. They hold it every three years, but this year’s edition took on extra significance because it fell on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, the Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy and changed the tide of the war.

In addition to their fellow Scouts from the Transatlantic Council, a few Scouts from the U.S. mainland made the trip, including Jed, Andrew and Chris — all from Minnesota.

Members of Scoutisme Français, Scouts Canada and the U.K. Scout Association attended, too.

A moment of silence

The mood turned reverential as everyone participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

It was an important reminder that 9,388 U.S. service members, including four women, are buried there.

“What a herculean task the soldiers had to overcome and the sacrifices made to take back France for the Allies,” says Darwin Stahlback, who co-led the Minnesota contingent with Geoff Forbes.

Geoff Forbes says everyone he met welcomed BSA members warmly.

“We were very happy to experience the kindness and the gratitude of the locals there,” he says. “It’s clear that the people of that part of France love Americans. They have not forgotten the sacrifices that were made.”

Assistant Scoutmaster Dan Peterson agreed.

“Sure, there were cultural and language differences, but when I stepped outside in the morning, it felt more like I was stepping out of my door,” he says.

Jed meets a World War II veteran who stormed the beaches at Normandy. Scouting honors

The three Scouts from Minnesota received their Star rank badges during the event. Something tells me they won’t ever forget that court of honor ceremony.

Same goes for the young men who participated in a special Eagle Scout court of honor on Omaha Beach.

But the highlight, for many of the Scouts, was the chance to meet one of the few remaining survivors of the D-Day invasion.

“I actually got to shake hands with and take a picture with one of the last survivors still around,” Chris Forbes says.

This was a camporee, so there was plenty of time for patch trading, too. A great Good Turn

Let’s also hear it for the group of 18 Scouters representing the BSA’s Baltimore Area Council.

These volunteers traveled, at their own expense, to the Normandy Camporee. While there, they helped set up the temporary Scout shop, checked in Scouts and Scouters, and placed more than 100 wreaths at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

Thanks to Matt Lamas and all of these outstanding volunteers for your Scouting service.

From left: Scouter Geoff Forbes, Transatlantic Council Scout Executive Tom Jansen and Scouter Darwin Stahlback. The Scouts met Dr. Robert Schloesser, a Vietnam Veteran and Distinguished Eagle Scout. “I love Scouting. It was always good to me,” he said in 2015.

Eagle Scout receives congratulatory letter from … wait for it … Lin-Manuel Miranda

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 8:00am

This proud Scouting mom was not throwing away her shot.

Jennifer Smyke knows how much her son, Carter, loves the musical Hamilton.

So when Carter finished the requirements for the Eagle Scout award, Scouting’s highest honor, Jennifer took a chance and contacted Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created the wildly popular show.

Much to her surprise, the gamble paid off. The Pulitzer-, Tony-, Grammy- and Emmy-winning Miranda responded with a hand-written note.

“It is a tremendous achievement and you should be so proud of all your hard work and dedication,” Miranda wrote. “Here’s wishing you a bright, successful future. Go Troop 280!”

Jennifer later surprised Carter with the letter.

The Eagle Scout from Troop 280 of the Cleveland-based Lake Erie Council struggled to find words.

“I can’t even begin to describe how excited I was,” Carter tells me. “It was the most unbelievable thing to happen.”

The letter from Lin-Manuel Miranda is just the latest example of high-profile figures sending congratulatory letters to Eagle Scouts. Other Eagle Scouts have received responses from Stephen Colbert, LeBron James, Chris Hemsworth and many more.

The reason why it happened

Like many of us, Jennifer and Carter listened to the Hamilton cast album on repeat for years.

They saw the musical when it stopped in Cleveland in summer 2018.

When Carter worked on his Eagle project — building picnic tables at the Painesville Township Park — Hamilton played in the background.

Jennifer found a contact for Miranda online and reached out.

“Getting my Eagle award was the greatest achievement of my life — that was only enhanced by receiving the letter from Mr. Miranda,” Carter says.

Some Twitter positivity

Jennifer didn’t hesitate to post a picture of the note on Twitter, tagging Miranda in the post.

“You made my son’s year with this note!!” she wrote. “Thank you so much for taking the time to send this to him.”

A few hours later, Miranda “liked” the tweet. That action ensured Jennifer’s tweet would be seen by more Twitter users than if Miranda hadn’t “liked” it.

A HUGE thank you to @Lin_Manuel !! You made my son’s year with this note!! Thank you so much for taking the time to send this to him.

— Jennifer Smyke (@JenSmyke) May 9, 2019

Comments on the tweet were overwhelmingly positive.

“All of the sudden I want to be an Eagle Scout,” one poster wrote.

“I cant get over the fact that there is a human being out there who puts out a little time and effort to praise the conquers of kids THIS IS JUST SO AMAZING,” another tweeted.

Share your letter

Have you or your Scout received an Eagle letter from someone famous? Email us with the photo and story.

Eagle Scout’s tennis ball recycling Hornaday project is a smashing success

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 9:00am

Logan Hine loves playing tennis and is on his high school’s varsity team. But the Eagle Scout with Troop 64 in Maugansville, Md., soon realized something about the sport.

“Tennis is an extremely wasteful sport,” Logan says. “Some balls are used for less than an hour and then thrown away. Most balls are not played with more than one time.”

Millions of these discarded rubber balls end up in landfills every year. So, Logan partnered with Recycle Balls, a non-profit organization that specializes in recycling tennis balls.

The group places bins by tennis courts across the country, which are then shipped to a recycling facility in Vermont. The balls are ground up and incorporated into material for new tennis courts and other rubber products. Recycle Balls has collected 1.4 million balls since 2017 — about 1,000 of which Logan has donated.

Logan’s efforts are part of a BSA award he’s working on: the William T. Hornaday Award.

Hornaday Awards

Conservationist Dr. William Temple Hornaday established the Wildlife Protection Medal to inspire Americans to save this country’s animals. After his death in 1937, the medal was named after him and became a BSA award.

Today, it can be earned as a badge, medal or certificate. Some require doing multiple environmentally-focused projects. To learn more about the Hornaday Awards and how you, your unit or your Scout can earn one, click here.

So far, Logan has done two service projects for the award: removing an invasive species along the Appalachian Trail and installing a 16-foot-tall nesting tower for a threatened migratory bird.

The tennis ball recycling project has taken two months of work thus far. Logan has recruited his school district and a school district in the neighboring county to sign on with the ball-recycling program. He did the same at tennis clubs in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and got a bin to put around the popular public courts in his hometown.

He will work on the recycling project all this year.

Read why they’re calling this ‘Scouting’s best family vacation’

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 8:00am

Watch your daughter reel in her first rainbow trout. Join your son on horseback and mosey around like New Mexico cowboys. Hike with your entire family to the site of a Tyrannosaurus rex footprint — one of only two such tracks in the world.

This summer, pack up the minivan or SUV and head to Cimarron, N.M., for Philmont Family Adventure Camp. It’s a choose-your-own-adventures experience sure to bring your family closer together.

Philmont Family Adventure Camp debuted last year, and it was so popular that Philmont doubled the number of weeks it’s offered in 2019. This summer, families can choose from four full-week or eight half-week options.

When you leave, you’ll know why Philmont bills its Family Adventure Camp as “Scouting’s best family vacation.”

Photo by Jessica McClelland The best activities

Nobody knows your family like you do, so Philmont lets you customize the week that’s best for you. Sit down with your family before you head to Philmont and decide how you’ll fill all those morning and afternoon activity blocks.

Make planning for Philmont Family Adventure Camp an event in itself. It’ll make your week at Philmont fun and stress-free. Besides, I’ve always found that planning for a vacation is half the fun!

Will you hike to Lovers Leap? Visit the new National Scouting Museum? Make a craft to bring home as a souvenir? Take the afternoon off to just relax by the Cantina?

Or maybe you’ll opt for the newest adventure activity — added just this year: a hike to the top of Philmont’s iconic Tooth of Time. This hike, considered “very strenuous,” is only for full-week participants age 6 or older.

Photo by Nick Castelli The best value

Compare the prices below to a week at the beach or a theme park. You’ll see Philmont has them beat.

A family of four — two adults and two children ages 0 to 17 — could spend the whole week at Philmont Family Adventure Camp for $1,000.

That includes food, tent housing, and program activities throughout the day and evening.

The tents are very nice; I’ve stayed in them on many occasions. They have actual beds, wood floors and electricity for charging your devices. Restrooms are private, meaning you get a sink, toilet and shower — all behind a locking door.

Watch this video for a look at what to expect when making Philmont your vacation home for a week.

For an additional fee, families can upgrade to roofed housing or deluxe tents. Both options are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, so you should email right away if you want to check availability. The deluxe tents, new for 2019, feature two rooms for parents and kids and can house up to six people.

Full week:

  • $350 Adults (Age 18+)
  • $150 Youth (Ages 0-17)

Half week:

  • $215 Adults (Age 18+)
  • $100 Youth (Ages 0-17)
The best weather

Being at 6,600 feet of elevation sure has its perks.

Philmont’s warm days (highs in the 70s and 80s) are balanced out by cool nights (lows in the 30s to 50s).

You’ll want to pack a fleece.

Philmont Family Adventure Camp dates

Full-week options

  • June 23–29
  • June 30–July 6
  • July 28–Aug. 3
  • Aug. 4–10

Half-week options

  • June 23–26
  • June 26–29
  • June 30–July 3
  • July 3–6
  • July 28–31
  • July 31–Aug. 3
  • Aug. 4–7
  • Aug. 7–10
Learn more

The Philmont Family Adventure Camp guidebook should answer any question you might have.

Be sure to check out the narrative itinerary on page 9, where you’ll get an excellent idea of how each day of your time at Philmont Family Adventure Camp will unfold.

Ready to register? Go here.

Scouts Then and Now, Chapter 14

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 9:00am

Welcome to Scouts Then and Now, a Bryan on Scouting blog series. The premise is simple. We share two photos of the same Scout or Venturer: once in his or her early Scouting years (Cub Scout, younger Scout, younger Venturer) and again in his or her later Scouting years (Life Scout, Eagle Scout, older Venturer).

Find Chapter 14 below. And click here to learn how to submit your photos.

Ben, Sammy, Trevin, Jackson and Ryan from California

Jarod from Virginia Zackary from Florida

Connor from Illinois Stuart from New York Nick from Missouri

Fox from California

Andrew and John from Kansas

William from Texas Hunter from Virginia

Samuel from Utah Send in your photos and see more

Click here to send in your photos. Click here to see more in this series.

Here’s how new Scouts BSA members can request an Eagle Scout extension

Mon, 05/13/2019 - 8:00am

A young person doesn’t have to become an Eagle Scout to have a life-changing experience in Scouting.

But you can bet some Scouts in your troop will set their sights on that shiny Eagle medal.

And chances are some of those Eagle hopefuls will join your Scouts BSA troop this year as 16- or 17-year-olds — meaning they traditionally might not have enough time to earn Eagle before their 18th birthday. (Completing the Eagle requirements takes at least 19 to 20 months.)

That’s less-than-ideal timing for the 16- or 17-year-old girls who were previously not eligible to join Scouts BSA — the Boy Scouts of America program previously known as Boy Scouting.

(And join they have. In less than three months since Scouts BSA launched on Feb. 1, 2019, more than 15,000 girls have registered in 2,049 Scouts BSA troops across the country!)

It’s also not ideal for the 16- or 17-year-old boys who registered in a Scouts BSA troop on or after Feb. 1, 2019. Perhaps some boys waited to join until their sisters were eligible to join their own troop.

All of that explains why the BSA’s volunteer-led National Executive Committee is offering a one-time, limited exception to the BSA’s age requirements for the Eagle Scout award. (We first announced this move on the blog in January. We also shared some insight into the rationale behind the decision.)

Those who apply for the extension will have just 24 months from the initial date of registration to complete all requirements for the Eagle Scout award.

Do you have a young person who is asking for this extension? Here’s the process.

How a Scout requests this limited, one-time Eagle Scout extension 1. The Scout informs an adult leader of his or her request.

Like everything in Scouts BSA, this process is youth-led.

The Scout, who is a new member of a Scouts BSA troop, informs one or more of the following adults that he or she is requesting an extension:

  • Scoutmaster
  • Unit committee chair
  • Chartered organization representative
  • Unit advancement chair
  • District advancement chair
2. The adult leader checks the eligibility requirements.
  • To be eligible, the young man or young woman must be at least 16 but not yet 18 on Feb. 1, 2019.
    • What about those under 16 on Feb. 1, 2019? They’ll have adequate time to earn their Eagle before turning 18 and don’t need an extension.
    • What about those over 18 on Feb. 1, 2019? They’re considered adults and aren’t eligible to join Scouts BSA. (But should absolutely join Venturing or Sea Scouts!)
  • Also, to be eligible, the young man or young woman must register as a member of Scouts BSA on or before Dec. 31, 2019. He or she must also make the request for an extension by Dec. 31, 2019.
    • In the interest of fairness, these temporary transition rules apply to all youth joining Scouts BSA during 2019 — both girls and first-time-joining boys.
    • Boys who were members of a Boy Scout troop before Feb. 1, 2019, aren’t considered first-time-joining boys and therefore are not eligible for the extension.
3. The adult leader logs into my.Scouting to make the request.

The adult leader will log into his or her My.Scouting account, select the appropriate unit (if they are affiliated with more than one unit), navigate to the troop roster and select the youth’s member profile.

Once there, the unit leader will click the edit profile icon to see where the extension request can be selected.

The amount of time a Scout will be granted for the Eagle extension will be based on the Scout’s joining date and date of birth.

4. The BSA notifies the Scout by email.

The BSA will inform the Scout by email of how long he or she will receive for an extension. The maximum amount of extension time will be 24 months.

The Scout’s parent, unit leader and the local council Scout executive will be copied on the email.

5. The Scout continues his or her progress toward Eagle.

The Scout continues working toward Eagle, following the standard process and completing the requirements as written in the Guide to Advancement.

6. The Eagle board of review is scheduled after the OK from the council and National Service Center.

Boards of review must not occur until after the local council and the National Service Center have verified the Scout’s Eagle application.

For the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts, all boards of review will take place between Oct. 1 and Oct. 31, 2020. All boards of review for this inaugural class will be dated Oct. 31, 2020.

That means any girl in this inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts will have that date as the date she officially earned Scouting’s highest honor.

Note: This inaugural class is not just for girls who have requested and been granted the extension. This class is open to any girl who passes her board of review between Oct. 1 and Oct. 31, 2020, and has submitted her postmarked Eagle application to the National Service Center no later than Nov. 2, 2020. That means, for example, that a 15-year-old girl who completes the requirements and passes her board of review by Oct. 31, 2020, will be included in the inaugural class.

7. The Scout waits for his or her Eagle credentials.

Waiting’s tough, but these young people earned it.

Eagle credentials will continue to be sent by mail.

For female Eagle Scouts in the inaugural Eagle class, these credentials, which include the Eagle certificate and wallet card, will be mailed starting December 2020.

Boys’ Life honored with prestigious publishing award

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 10:00am

Scouts know every issue of Boys’ Life is full of fascinating features. Publishing industry leaders recognize that, too.

Boys’ Life won a Maggie Award and was named a finalist in three other award categories.

The annual Maggie Awards, presented by the Western Publishing Association and B2B Media, are the country’s longest reigning awards program in the publishing and media industries. This year marked the 67th installment of the awards, which are judged by industry peers and publishing executives. Some of the other 500 brands competing for awards included Variety, Sierra and PCWorld.

Senior Editor Aaron Derr’s story “It’s Our Duty to Help Others” in the March 2018 issue of Boys’ Life earned a Maggie Award as the best magazine news story of the year. The story featured Scouts doing their part to rebuild their communities after three devastating hurricanes in 2017. Read the award-winning story here.

“When disasters like this strike, it’s an opportunity for Scouts to make a real impact in their community,” Derr says. “I had the honor of speaking with dozens of youth and adults who could have been doing a million other things, but instead decided to spend their time picking up trash, serving food, collecting items, and otherwise spending time with their fellow citizens who had lost so much. Just talking to them was personally very inspiring.”

That issue also was a finalist in the “Best Publication” category.

The August 2018 issue was nominated in the “Best Special Issue” category. That issue specialized in summer reading featuring “The Gentleman and the Tiger,” “And So Then I...,” “The Nebula Secret,” “Buffalo Smoke” and “Danny’s Big Win.” You can read and listen to these stories and more great fiction here. Boys’ Life helps start your youth on the path to becoming lifelong readers.

In November’s issue, the “Breaking into Backpacking” story, written by Derr, highlighted a Venturing crew’s trek into the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. It was a finalist for “Best Feature Article.” You can read that story here.

If your boys or girls don’t subscribe to Boys’ Life, they’re missing out on a key part of the Scouting experience. Click here to use promo code DIGPRT12 to subscribe for half-price.

‘In many ways, Scouting gave me my start,’ says Eagle Scout liver surgeon

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 8:00am

As a liver surgeon at one of the nation’s top hospitals, Dr. Nicholas Nissen spends his day fixing problems.

But 37 years ago, when Nissen was a Life Scout, he had his own problem in need of fixing. Nissen hadn’t yet completed his Eagle Scout requirements when his northern Minnesota troop folded just a few months before his 18th birthday.

Nissen remained calm and proceeded with scalpel-like precision. He registered with the nearest troop, even though the nearest troop was in Minneapolis — some 100 miles south. He recruited friends and former troopmates to help with his Eagle project: building a barbecue and picnic area at a city park in Askov, Minn.

Nissen has shown that same determination to his patients over a 28-year medical career. He’s now the surgical director of liver transplants at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, a top 10-ranked hospital by U.S. News & World Report.

A Distinguished Eagle

In recognition of his contributions in medicine, Nissen has received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, the highest honor presented by the National Eagle Scout Association.

The award honors Eagle Scouts who have made major contributions in their professional fields. NESA accepts nominees once 25 years have passed since earning Eagle.

“In many ways, Scouting gave me my start,” Nissen said in a news release. “I wouldn’t be who I am or have done what I have done without the Boy Scouts.”

Dr. Andrew Klein, director of Cedars-Sinai’s Comprehensive Transplant Center, says Nissen is an ideal candidate for the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.

“They couldn’t have made a better choice,” Klein says. “He makes a difference in peoples’ lives every day, but he doesn’t stick around for the compliments because he’s off to operate on the next patient, fix the next problem.”

Elite company

Just over 2,200 Distinguished Eagle Scout Awards have been presented since 1969 — fewer than 50 per year.

As a Distinguished Eagle Scout, Nissen joins a list of DESA recipients that includes Eagle Scouts in the fields of politics (President Gerald Ford), business (former CEO of KOA Jim Rogers) entertainment (animator William Hanna of Hanna-Barbera) and sports (Pro Football Hall of Famer Tom Mack).

Matthew Thornton, Scout Executive of the Western Los Angeles County Council, says Nissen belongs in that elite company.

“It doesn’t surprise me when I hear of Dr. Nissen going out of his way to help others,” Thornton says. “He’s somebody you can always count on to make the world a little bit better.”

Nissen received the award at a special ceremony hosted by the Western Los Angeles County Council. Nissen was joined by his wife, Kathy Magliato, and their two sons. Both boys — 15-year-old Nicholas and 13-year-old Gabriel — are on their own path to Eagle.

Find instant refuge from pesky insects with SansBug nets

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 9:00am

Twilight’s coming and you know a swarm of biting insects will soon descend upon you and your Scouts. How do you prepare for the irritating pests?

All you need is a couple of seconds, and faster than you can say, “daddy long legs,” you can have a haven from insects thanks to SansBug. These nets can pop open with a simple toss — no strings, no knots, no weird angles — just an instant bug barrier. They work much better than any makeshift contraption made with mosquito netting and PVC pipe, plus the affordable SansBug nets are fully enclosed, preventing bugs from getting in underneath the netting or through the flooring.

Plenty of room and protection

The nets’ fine mesh stops the smallest critters from getting through, thus helping prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks. You won’t have to worry about any creepy-crawlies bothering you in the middle of the night. You and your Scouts can sleep in peace.

The nets fit on bunk beds or cots. When set up, the one-person SansBug nets allow for 6 feet of usable length, 39 inches wide of space and headroom of nearly 3 feet. If you want more room, the two-person net has 8 feet of usable length, 4.75 feet of width and an indoor height of 3.25 feet. The one-person net can fit perfectly in an A-frame canvas tent that are often the tents of choice at summer camp.

They come in two different floors: the tarp floor is more durable, but the polyester mesh floor can work on a pad and is less noisy than the crinkly tarp.

When it’s folded away into a 26-inch disc, a one-person net only weighs 2.2 pounds; the two-person weighs 3.5 pounds. The lightweight frame makes it easy and convenient to move to where you need it to be.

Recommendations from Scouters

Military, disaster response volunteers in Haiti and Puerto Rico, ecologists in Madagascar and doctors in the Amazon jungle have all used SansBug nets. Scouters and Scouts have used them, too, and here’s what they’ve said about the nets:

“I highly recommended it for those Scouts that do not bring their own tents. The ‘army style’ A-frame canvas tents at camp are terrible for bugs (spiders and mosquitoes) – and I think that your product is perfect for anyone sleeping in these types of tents (and other places).”

“[My son] has really enjoyed having his own protected ‘cocoon’ within the canvas tent – to the point that he prefers the A-tent at summer camp over bringing his own ‘sleep on the ground’ backpacking tent that he uses for Scout hikes.”

Is your district on this fascinating list of the BSA’s most popular district names?

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 8:00am

Perhaps your pack shines in the North Star or Polaris district. Or maybe your troop makes waves in a district known as Three Rivers, Two Rivers or even Twin Rivers.

A look at the nationwide list of Boy Scouts of America districts reveals a fascinating find: a number of districts share their names with districts in other councils.

The BSA’s most popular district name is Thunderbird. It’s used in 17 different councils across the country, such as the Cascade Pacific Council (Oregon), Three Fires Council (Illinois) and Capitol Area Council (Texas).

Seventeen other district names are used in at least five councils. Check out the complete rankings below, and shout out in the comments if your district is included.

But first, a quick refresher: The structure of the BSA is pretty straightforward: units (Cub Scout packs, Scouts BSA troops, Venturing crews and Sea Scout ships) are part of geographically defined districts. Several districts make up one council. Those 270 councils are part of the Boy Scouts of America.

You asked us; We asked the expert

The idea for this post comes from a volunteer named John Shotwell. He contacted us with the following question:

“What is the most popular name for a district in the BSA?” he wrote. “I was wondering if there were any district names that are used across councils that are the same.”

For the answer, I checked with Christopher Macpherson, an analyst with the BSA’s Research and Strategy department. (Thanks, Christopher!)

Most popular BSA district names

The list includes any district name used in at least five BSA local councils.

Rank District name Number of districts with that name 1 Thunderbird 17 2 Three Rivers 15 3 (tie) Arrowhead 12 3 (tie) North Star 12 5 (tie) Cherokee 8 5 (tie) Frontier 8 5 (tie) Iron Horse 8 8 (tie) Seneca 7 8 (tie) Twin Rivers 7 10 (tie) Foothills 6 10 (tie) Pathfinder 6 10 (tie) Pioneer 6 10 (tie) Polaris 6 10 (tie) Shawnee 6 10 (tie) Two Rivers 6 16 (tie) Golden Eagle 5 16 (tie) Sequoyah 5 16 (tie) Trailblazer 5 Units, united

Knowing that districts share names across council lines underlines one of my favorite truths about the BSA: Scouts are part of something larger than their own pack, troop, crew or ship.

In districts, units share ideas with nearby units and join together in districtwide camporees.

In councils, members of different districts unite at summer camp and during councilwide events.

National events like the quadrennial National Jamboree bring together Scouts from every council in the country.

And at this summer’s 2019 World Scout Jamboree, Scouts from more than 150 different countries will gather for a global celebration of Scouting friendship.

Scouts may wear different unit numerals or council shoulder strips, but they’re united in the Scouting spirit.

#GetReadyforCamp: A week full of deals, contests and prizes no Scout should miss

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 9:00am

Scout Shop has huge surprises for shoppers next week.

To help you #GetReadyForCamp, it’s rolling out an epic lineup of incentives. (Pro tip: Read this entire post to find out how you can start taking advantage of all this event has to offer!)

From May 13 to 18, Scout Shops will have incredible deals both online and in store. We’re talking up to 20% off camping gear!

(This deal excludes gift cards and program literature.)

Plus, you have three ways to win prizes online and score in-store exclusives. Check them out below!

Upgrade Your #InvisibleHammock

Post a photo on Instagram that shows how you would lounge in a hammock… if only you had one! Get creative – from lounging on a desk to lying on a bale of hay, share your best hammock chill pose on Instagram using #InvisibleHammock and #BSAcontest (be sure your pose doesn’t conflict with The Guide to Safe Scouting). Boys’ Life will select a winner to score a hammock and a ton of other cool stuff (worth $250!). Post your pictures between May 6 and 16 to be entered to win. The winner will be announced March 17 on Instagram!

A Truly Scouty Scavenger Hunt

Head to between May 13 and 18 to join in the hunt for a hidden icon. The icon, seen in the photo directly below, is stashed on the site and could be anywhere – hiding in product details or on your favorite page. When you find it, click on it and it will take you to a page where you can enter to win a $150 gift card to Scout Shops (valid both online and in store). 

Tune Into Facebook For Daily Prizes and Gear Q&As

Monday, May 13, to Friday, May 18, at 11:30 a.m. Central, tune into daily Facebook Live discussions hosted by Boys’ Life to learn more about summer camp’s hottest topics (pun intended). Comment with your gear questions or “like” the Facebook Live post to be entered to win a prize every day.

Why You Should Head to Scout Shop on May 18

If you head into your local Scout Shop on Saturday, May 18, you can talk to gear experts, see cooking demos and pick up a summer camp packing list. Some Scout Shops will be open for extra hours so you can pack in tons of time gearing up for camp. You can check out the #GetReadyForCamp page for more info!

So what now? Get ready for contests, giveaways, sweet deals – and most of all, #GetReadyForCamp!

Let us know below what questions you have for Scouts Shop’s gear experts! You may see your questions answered during one of our Facebook Live Q&As!

Dog gone! The puppy ate this Scout’s merit badge, and wait till you hear which one

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 8:00am

Actually, you can make this stuff up.

We know that because it’s the same excuse fabricated by countless high schoolers who forgot to finish last night’s homework: “My dog ate it.”

Only, this time, in the case of Jacob Sorenson of Troop 230 from Ames, Iowa, the statement is 100% trustworthy: “My dog ate the merit badge.”

This true tale of canine consumption, shared with me by Jacob’s dad, Kevin, gets even better when you realize which merit badge Molly munched down.

A meal with merit

Last month’s Troop 230 court of honor was a cause for celebration in the Sorenson household.

Jacob received the eight merit badges he had earned over the past six months. His brother Bryce received seven.

About a week later, those 15 merit badges were sitting in a pile waiting to be sewn onto Jacob and Bryce’s merit badge sashes.

Apparently, that pile of badges and pocket certificates looked like a tower of tasty treats to Molly, the Sorensons’ Australian shepherd puppy.

By the time Jacob noticed Molly’s find, it was too late. She had chewed up and swallowed one of Jacob’s merit badges.

“I told him he was just going to have to watch the next couple of days to make sure she passed it, and that would be the end of it,” Kevin says.

It gets better

But that wasn’t the end of it.

“There is a funny part to this,” Jacob told his dad.

“How is there a funny part?” Kevin asked his son.

“She ate the Dog Care merit badge,” Jacob said.

Could it be a total coincidence that Molly devoured Dog Care instead of one of the 14 other merit badges in front of her?


But is it possible Molly knew exactly what she was doing?

Also yes.

A story for the scrapbook

The partially chewed blue card and pocket certificate for the Dog Care merit badge, which Jacob wrestled from Molly just in time, now has a permanent place in the Sorenson family scrapbook.

As for the badge itself, Kevin’s buying a replacement.

Jacob can wear the replacement proudly on his sash — a small emblem with a special, slobbery story.

In case you’re wondering: Jacob passed his Dog Care merit badge, and Molly passed hers.

Eagle Scouts among this year’s NFL draft class

Fri, 05/03/2019 - 9:00am

David Montgomery credits what he learned in Scouting with leading him to this year’s NFL draft. Last week, he was drafted by the Chicago Bears.

“To become an Eagle Scout was an experience I needed for me in my life that brought me here to this point and also influenced my mindset and the way that I carry myself every day,” Montgomery says in a recent interview in STACK, an athletic lifestyle magazine.

A few picks later, the Indianapolis Colts selected Bobby Okereke, a Stanford linebacker and Eagle Scout (Class of 2013) from Troop 243 in Santa Ana, Calif., at the 89th overall pick. Pat McAfee, a former Colts punter and now football analyst, colorfully announced the pick, referring to Okereke as a “future Hall of Famer.”

While in Scouting, Okereke attended the National Jamboree in 2010, completed National Youth Leadership Training and was elected to the Order of the Arrow.

On the field, in the classroom Bobby Okereke

Okereke, a fifth-year senior at Stanford, speaks just as highly about his academic endeavors as his achievements on the football field. In 2014, he received the Watkins Award as the nation’s top African-American high school player for academic and athletic excellence.

He did two internships in college, one with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, helping with a program for underprivileged children. His major — management science and engineering with a concentration in finance and decision analysis — prepares him for a career in private investments after his playing days, he says. He’s also working on a master’s degree.

Analysts predict he could be a quality NFL player, citing his football intelligence, speed and range as strengths. He served as a team captain for the Stanford Cardinal as he led the team in tackles with 96 last season. The Cardinal went on to win the Sun Bowl.

Okereke has 162 career tackles, nine sacks and four interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. He helped his squad win the 2016 Sun Bowl and 2015 Rose Bowl titles as well.

Rushing for success

Montgomery, a junior Iowa State running back and Eagle Scout (Class of 2014) from Troop 772 in Cincinnati, Ohio, promised his mom she wouldn’t have to pay for his college education. He’d practice running drills in the front yard and in the street.

David Montgomery

“I was pretty driven at a young age,” he says in STACK.

He was ranked as the 67th-best high school running back in the country and recruited by Iowa State, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana and Marshall.

He chose Iowa State and finished his collegiate career with 2,925 rushing yards (6th in school history), 26 rushing touchdowns (8th in school history), 15 100-yard rushing games (3rd in school history) and 3,507 all-purpose yards (6th in school history). He helped the Cyclones win the Liberty Bowl in 2017.

Analysts spoke highly of Montgomery’s vision and leadership on the field, saying he would be a good fit in the Bears’ lineup. He was taken in the third round as the 73rd overall pick.

The same topic came up in all four of this Eagle Scout’s interviews for West Point

Thu, 05/02/2019 - 8:00am

There’s a reason only about 10% of applicants get accepted into West Point each year.

The U.S. Military Academy takes only the best of the best: men and women who are physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

That explains why Michael Norris, an Eagle Scout from Red Bank, S.C., will join the academy’s Class of 2023 later this year.

Norris, a product of Troop 518 of the Indian Waters Council, says the topic of Scouting came up in all four West Point interviews. But it wasn’t the “Eagle Scout” name that did it. It was what those 10 letters represent.

“At each interview, I was commended for being an Eagle Scout,” Norris tells me. “However, the recognition for being an Eagle Scout was not nearly as valuable as the skills that came with it.”

Naturally, Norris needed to be in excellent shape (physically strong), have good grades (mentally awake) and show impeccable character (morally straight) to earn a spot at West Point.

But he says Scouting added essential leadership skills, built his character and developed within him “an ability to stay cool under pressure.”

“In my opinion, the road to getting my Eagle Scout and what the award symbolized was the strongest point in my application to West Point,” he says.

Prepared for the outdoors

Scouting came through in other ways, too.

This summer, in the weeks before his first year at West Point, Norris will go through Cadet Basic Training. He and other cadets will learn skills like knot-tying, marksmanship and orienteering.

Norris learned those skills at Troop 518 meetings and campouts. He perfected them while hiking the rugged trails of Philmont Scout Ranch in 2017.

Prepared to lead

At Philmont, Norris learned which knot was best for tying up bear bags. (Philmont recommends the lark’s head.)

But as the Scout in charge of his crew, Norris learned an even more valuable lesson.

“I was able to work through complex and difficult situations with my crew,” he says. “I learned a great deal about leadership.”

The same was true for his Eagle Scout service project, where Norris led a crew of volunteers as they built an outdoor park for a senior center.

Prepared for West Point

Scouting provided a firm foundation for Norris as he enters the academy this fall, but he doesn’t expect anything about West Point to be easy.

The days will be long, the courses difficult and the military discipline rigorous. But he’s ready.

“It’s a chance to push myself to new heights,” he says. “I cannot wait to get started.”

Thanks to Steven Scheid, Director of Scouting Ministry for the General Commission on United Methodist Men, for the blog post idea.

What to do when a bakery tells you it won’t put a trademarked BSA logo on your cake

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 9:00am

Plans for the Eagle Scout court of honor were chugging along until the parents started looking for a bakery to prepare an Eagle Scout-themed cake for the big day.

Bakery after bakery told them they wouldn’t put any trademarked BSA logos on the cake.

It’s common for bakeries to take that approach with trademarked logos and insignia, requiring you to take additional steps before they’ll make a cake featuring an MLB team, Marvel character, the Coca-Cola logo and more.

That’s why the BSA developed a simple process so bakeries can make that BSA-themed cake for you. It’s completely free, but you’ll need to allow two or three days for the BSA to process your request.

Use the steps below for courts of honor, blue and gold banquets, district or council dinners, or any other Scouting celebration involving edible BSA-decorated or BSA-themed cakes.

I spoke with Greg Winters, team leader of licensing for the BSA, to uncover each layer of this sweet process.

Step 1: Plan ahead

The BSA gets a ton of requests, so Winters suggests allowing two to three business days for his team to process the cake release form.

That doesn’t include the several days’ notice the bakery will need to make the actual cake.

Step 2: Find your bakery

Select a bakery and make sure they’re able to produce the design you want for your special Scouting day.

The BSA does not provide artwork to bakeries, so make sure the bakery can create the sugary dessert themselves. For a visual guide, consult this repository of BSA logos.

Once you’ve found a suitable bakery, be sure to get the name of the bakery and the bakery’s mailing address. You’ll need that for step 3.

Step 3: Complete the form

Found the perfect bakery?

Next, complete the form found at

Filling out the form takes about three minutes. You’ll need the bakery’s name and address, the date of the event, and the name of your council.

Step 4: Wait for the form and take it to your bakery

Within two to three business days after the form has been submitted, the BSA will send you an electronic document you can take directly to the bakery so they can get started on your order.

Step 5: Pick up the cake; eat the cake

Go ahead and grab an extra piece. You earned it.

Oh, and be sure to send a picture of the cake to Scouting magazine.

What’s your go-to indoor game for Scouting meetings?

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 9:00am

Following tonight’s troop meeting program, the senior patrol leader had a game of capture the flag on the agenda. However, with strong thunderstorms rolling through the area, the SPL is at a loss for an impromptu fun indoor alternative.

So, our question is this: what are some good indoor games you’ve seen Scouts enjoy in a pinch?

What game might you recommend for this SPL? A board game? Card game? A knot-tying contest?

The Scouts could work on the Chess merit badge, which can include having a tournament. They could also design their own game, fulfilling a requirement for the Game Design merit badge.

And what if a den leader was faced with this scenario? What are some good indoor games for Cub Scouts?

Creating a game is a part of a Webelos elective adventure; Bears can play a challenge or initiative game and then reflect on it; playing a game and showing good sportsmanship counts in a Wolf adventure, and games make up several Lion and Tiger adventures.

Ideas from the archives

Here a few game ideas from the Scouting archives:

From the September 1948 issue: “Hike Equipment”

Equipment: Large sheets of paper and a pencil for each patrol.

Method: Number each sheet of paper. Patrols line up, facing the papers. On the signal “go,” the first player runs up and writes one item that patrol would take on an all-day hike — compass, first aid kit, matches, etc. Player runs back and touches player No. 2, who runs up, and so on.

Scoring: When a patrol has listed all the items numbered on the paper, the game is stopped. Papers are collected and each patrol’s work is judged. Players have a chance to defend their selections. Patrol with the best, most complete list wins.

(My note: This game is a fun way to go over the Scout Essentials.)

From the November 1951 issue: “Art Gallery”

Equipment: 15 to 20 pictures of well-known people. A paper and pencil for each Scout.

Method: Pictured are numbered and tacked to the wall. Scouts number their paper and go around the room, trying to identify the people and writing their names opposite the numbers on their paper.

Scoring: Score a point for each picture correctly identified. Most points wins.

(My note: This game doesn’t have to feature celebrities. The issue also suggests pictures of cars. You can also try photos of plants, animals, knots, famous Scouters, just about anything.)

From the January 1952 issue: “Morse Spelling Bee”

Equipment: A buzzer for Morse Code, and for each patrol a set of cards with letters from the alphabet.

Method: Scouts have cards with letters of the alphabet printed on them. Game leader signals a word. As the letters are signaled, Scouts place the proper cards on the floor in front of the patrol so that the word is spelled out. The game is played in absolute silence. Any noise detected eliminates that patrol from the game.

Scoring: Five points for each correct letter. Five points more if whole word is correct. Five points off for each incorrect letter.

(My note: This game is great if you’re working on the Signs, Signals and Codes merit badge.)

What to play?

What ideas do you have for a den of four or five Scouts? How about a troop of 40 to 50 Scouts? What are some fun games to play in a tent or under a rainfly on a campout or on the road heading to a campout?

Service project idea: Teach senior citizens how to use their smartphones

Mon, 04/29/2019 - 8:15am

If you want to feel old, spent a few minutes watching teenagers use their phones.

They tap out messages, swipe through alerts and share selfies while the rest of us are still stuck on our lock screens.

Earlier this month, Scouts from Troop 1 of Dover, Mass., part of the Spirit of Adventure Council, put that smartphone savvy to good use.

As part of an Eagle Scout service project led by Jack Ringel, the Scouts taught senior citizens how to use their smartphones.

“A lot of the projects people do are more physical, like building a bench or something like that,” Jack told the Dover-Sherborn Hometown Weekly. “I wanted to do something different, something a little more technical.”

Jack’s project offers the latest reminder that Eagle Scout projects don’t have to include construction work. Scouts can make a permanent impact even if there’s nothing permanent left behind.

Teaching tech

The day started with a group lesson at the Dover library. Using an iPhone connected wirelessly to an Apple TV, the Scouts mirrored the phone’s image onto a large screen.

That allowed the senior citizens to watch as Scout Dylan Rogers tapped through various apps on his phone.

He showed them how to check the Red Sox score using the MLB app, book flights through the United Airlines app and find their way using the built-in digital compass.

Next, Jack paired each Scout with a senior citizen for some one-on-one help. Using the EDGE method, each Scout explained, demonstrated, guided and enabled these new smartphone users.

Try it in your troop

Jack divided the day into three basic lessons in how to use smartphones. Your Scouts BSA troop or Venturing crew could do the same.

Topics to discuss

  1. Understanding and configuring a smartphone’s settings
  2. Downloading and using apps
  3. Using a smartphone to call, text and video chat with friends and family

Questions to answer in the presentation

  • How do you tell which apps are free and which cost money?
  • How do you delete an unwanted app?
  • How do you connect to free Wi-Fi networks and determine which are trustworthy?
  • How can technology help safely store passwords?
  • What should you do if you lose your phone?

Major props to Jack and Troop 1 for devising a clever service project idea and executing it well.

Scouts can learn a lot from their elders. Jack and Troop 1 proved that the opposite can also be true.

Extreme Makeovers, Round 27: Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos

Fri, 04/26/2019 - 9:00am

Note: This is the 27th in an occasional series where I share Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos. See the complete collection here and submit your own here.

To fully understand the impact Eagle Scout projects have on communities, you need to see to believe. That’s why I asked to see Eagle Scout project before-and-after photos — the same photos prospective Eagles are asked to include with their post-project report.

This week’s batch of 12 projects includes a band tower, an outdoor amphitheater with seating for 50, a nesting tower for chimney swifts, and a structure to protect residents’ mail from the elements — and a suspected mail thief.

What’s great is that you can multiply each individual act of stupendous service by more than 50,000. That’s how many Eagle Scout projects get completed every single year.

TIP: Click or tap and drag the slider below each image to see the change.

Shreyush from Texas

Who: Shreyush, Troop 159, Austin, Texas

What: Shreyush and his helpers built a playhouse with sensory toys on the walls. They also built a chair; painted the benches, decks and fence; and prevented erosion caused by rain.


Logan from Maryland

Who: Logan, Troop 64 Maugansville, Md.

What: Logan and his helpers built a chimney swift nesting tower at the Cool Spring Preserve in Charles Town, W.Va.


Zane from California

Who: Zane, Troop 872, San Clemente, Calif.

What: Zane and his helpers rebuilt garden box frames and cages for Shorecliffs Middle School, allowing the learning garden to become useable again.


Garrett from Missouri

Who: Garrett, Troop 603, Wildwood, Mo.

What: Garrett and his helpers renovated a structure at the Wildwood Historical Society that houses antiques and artifacts waiting to be displayed in their museum.


Jason from Minnesota

Who: Jason, Troop 3206, Orono, Minn.

What: Jason and his helpers built a dog agility obstacle course at the Susan E. Lurton Nature and Off Leash Dog Park in Orono. Above, Jason poses with Orono Mayor Denny Walsh.


Andrew from Ohio

Who: Andrew, Troop 501, Caldwell, Ohio

What: Andrew and his helpers removed his high school’s condemned band tower and built a new and improved one.


Nate from Alabama

Who: Nate, Troop 47, Fairhope, Ala.

What: Nate and his helpers completely renovated the flagpole area at Volanta Park, a local sports park in Fairhope.


Bennett from Ohio

Who: Bennett, Troop 149, Cincinnati, Ohio

What: Bennett and his helpers built an outdoor classroom at his junior high, including benches, a lectern and stone paths.


Wil from Georgia

Who: Wil, Troop 79, Tyrone, Ga.

What: Wil and his helpers built an outdoor amphitheater and education venue used by the nearby church and local schools. It includes a stage, bench seating for 50, a trash receptacle made entirely of recycled materials, signage and marked trails. Wil named it the Hopewell Butler (HB) Amphitheater after the local church and his Scoutmaster.


Thomas from New York

Who: Thomas, Troop 83, Conklin, N.Y.

What: Thomas and his helpers repaired, repainted and organized a community museum. Some items date back to the Civil War.


Jesse from West Virginia

Who: Jesse, Troop 83, Winfield, W.Va.

What: Jesse and his helpers replaced the picnic tables at an outdoor learning area at Lakewood Elementary in St. Albans, W.Va. They also built two benches near the flagpole area.


Gage from Montana

Who: Gage, Troop 212, Helena, Mont.

What: Gage and his helpers moved and built a mailbox structure to a safer location that included lock-boxes, free-standing mailboxes, and newspaper boxes. Everything was covered so it would be protected from the elements — and from an apparent mail thief who kept stealing the community’s letters and packages.

About the Eagle Before and After series

Like these? See more here.

How to submit your photos

Have before-and-after Eagle photos I can use in future posts? Go here to learn how to send them to me.

About the Adams award for outstanding Eagle projects

The Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award honors outstanding Eagle projects like those included above.

An Eagle Scout, their parents, or any registered BSA volunteer (with the Eagle Scout’s permission) may submit the Eagle Scout service project for consideration by filling out the nomination form found here.

Visit the Boys’ Life Eagle Project Showcase

For even more great Eagle projects, check out the Boys’ Life Eagle Project Showcase.

Be Prepared to earn awards this summer

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 10:00am

You and your Scout might already be looking forward to summertime fun. It’s a great time to get outdoors, earn some awards a little more conducive to the season and make lifelong memories. But to ensure maximum enjoyment, you should make sure you’re in shape to accomplish your goals.

As Scouting magazine columnist Jeff Csatari points out in the latest issue, now is the time to get physically fit for the summer. His column on the Mile Swim BSA award breaks down how you can gradually train for the challenging award. The Boy Scouts of America offers many awards, some perfect to do during the summer, like hiking, conservation and, especially, aquatics. Some of these are physically demanding; here are tips for preparing for these activities:

If you need a little inspiration, check out this story of a Scouter who lost 150 pounds in less than nine months so he could go on a Philmont trek with his son.

Awards to work on

Did you know there are some awards you can earn with your Scout? Here are a few summer-conducive honors you might want to look at:

For Cub Scouts:

For Scouts BSA, Venturers, Sea Scouts or Explorers:

For adults:

After Arkansas family lost three in tornado, Scouting helped them rebuild

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 9:00am

On April 27, 2014, an EF4 tornado — the second highest on the scale — struck the Tittle family’s house in Ferndale, Ark.

The tornado leveled the home, killing three members of the Tittle family: Rob, the dad; Tori, 20; and Rebekah, 14.

“Everything went black, dark and we saw trees, 40- to 50-foot trees, just laying down,” Kerry Tittle, Rob’s wife, told KTHV-TV of Little Rock, Ark. “So immediately, everyone just ran to the center hall of the home.”

Kerry and seven of her children survived by taking shelter under a stairwell. Moments later, the storm ripped the house from its foundation.

Left to raise her children alone, Kerry searched for help. She knew nobody could replace Rob but desperately wanted to find positive male role models for her three sons.

She found them in Scouting.

“I cannot begin to express my appreciation to the adults in Troop 99 who have mentored my son over these past five years,” Kerry said in an interview with the Quapaw Area Council. “No matter how much time I spend with him working in the yard or building something, I can never provide the kind of male influence that a young man needs.”

Remembering his dad

Five years after the tornado, Noah Tittle, now 14, completed his Eagle Scout service project.

In addition to beautifying the Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area, Noah and his helpers built a memorial bench Noah dedicated to his dad and two sisters.

Kerry says that watching her son lead the Eagle project has been a healing experience for the family. When the project was completed, all the Tittles gathered to plant flowers at the bench. They unveiled a small memorial plate that bears the names of the three Tittles they lost that day: Rob, Tori and Rebekah.

Noah was just 9 when he lost three members of his family. Now 14, he’s grown into an impressive young man and role model to his young brothers, both in Cub Scouts.

“To see him grow from the boy who joined Cub Scouts to the young man and leader that he has become is something that I know only God could do,” Kerry told her council. “But He has used Scouts as a big part of doing it.”

Thanks to Butch Walker, development director of the Quapaw Area Council, for the tip.