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Updated: 2 weeks 5 days ago

What is ranked-choice voting, and how can it revolutionize your next troop election?

Tue, 11/03/2020 - 9:00am

This Election Day, make your voice heard: Encourage your Scouts BSA troop, Venturing crew or Sea Scout ship to try ranked-choice voting.

When you switch to ranked-choice voting in the next election for senior patrol leader, Venturing crew president or Sea Scout ship boatswain, you’ll get the most-preferred candidate in the least time, teach young people a fascinating lesson about elections, and do something courteous and kind by sparing the feelings of Scouts who get few or no votes.

(Whatever election format you choose, be sure to check out our tips for running safe and efficient unit elections online.)

In ranked-choice voting, instead of selecting just one person to win, voters privately rank every candidate on the ballot. The ballots are then tabulated round by round without the need for runoffs. That’s why you’ll also see ranked-choice voting called “instant-runoff voting.”

In each round of tabulation, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Each voter who ranked that candidate at the top of their list has their vote reassigned to their next-highest pick. This process is repeated until one candidate has received a majority of the votes.

I find ranked-choice voting much easier to understand when I see a practical example.

Example 1: Troop 123

Troop 123 has five candidates for senior patrol leader: Abigail, Chloe, Emma, Riley and Taylor. There are 19 Scouts at the troop meeting, meaning the winning candidate should be the Scout who receives a majority of votes — in this case 10.

Voters are asked to rank the candidates in order.

In the first round, Riley and Taylor each received seven first-preference votes. Abigail and Emma received two apiece. Chloe received one and is eliminated. The person who voted for Chloe has her vote reassigned to the second name on her list.

(In this example, even if you didn’t require the winning candidate to receive more than 50% of the vote, you’d still need a runoff to determine a winner.)

In the second round, we can tell that the person who listed Chloe as her first choice listed Riley as second. Riley adds that vote but still doesn’t have the 10 votes needed to win. The lowest vote-getter is again eliminated, but this time it’s a tie at the bottom. All voters who listed Abigail or Emma as their first preference have their votes reassigned to the next non-eliminated candidate on their list.

In the third round, we have a winner!

You might say: Why not just have a quick runoff between Riley and Taylor after the first round?

Two reasons: One, by holding a runoff, you broadcast to everyone in the room that Abigail, Emma and Chloe finished third, fourth and fifth in voting. That benefits nobody.

And two, it’s unnecessary. Each voter already told you whether she prefers Riley or Taylor by ranking the entire candidate pool. Whether a given voter rated Riley first and Taylor second or Riley fourth and Taylor fifth, we already, in effect, have their pick in a runoff.

Example 2: Troop 456

Troop 456 has four candidates for senior patrol leader.

There are 15 Scouts at the troop meeting, so the Scout who gets eight votes wins.

Ryan has the lead after the first round with five first-preference votes to Josh’s four. Evan and Logan tied for the fewest first-preference votes and are eliminated. Evan and Logan voters have their votes reassigned to their second choices.

In a come-from-behind twist, Josh is elected SPL. By looking at the numbers, we can tell that all six Evan and Logan voters preferred Josh to Ryan.

So what happened here? While Josh might not have been the most popular first choice for SPL, 10 of the 15 members of Troop 456 preferred him over Ryan.

This example shows how ranked-choice voting may result in a winner who is less polarizing. As it turns out, Ryan was the top choice of five Scouts but the last choice of 10. In a plurality system, he’d be the SPL even though two-thirds of the Scouts considered him the worst candidate. (No offense intended to Ryan, whom I made up for this example! I’m sure you would’ve made a good SPL if given a chance, Ryan!)

What happens if there’s still a tie?

If you have an even number of voters, you could still end up with a tie. Most ranked-choice voting systems break the tie by calculating the average preference across all voters.

Look back at the original ballots and see how each voter ranked the final two candidates. Assign 1 point for a first-preference vote, 2 points for a second-preference vote, and so on.

The candidate with the lowest point total is your winner.

Why shouldn’t units use ranked-choice voting?

Ranked-choice voting is unnecessary in elections with only two candidates.

It’s also not for you if your unit selects a winner based on plurality — meaning the person with the most votes wins, even if they didn’t receive more than half of all votes cast.

I recommend not using a plurality system because it doesn’t always represent the wishes of the majority of the members of your unit.

Why should units use ranked-choice voting?
  • It gives you a winner acceptable to the largest number of Scouts: See the Troop 456 example above.
  • It saves time: Ranked-choice voting eliminates the need for runoffs, meaning your unit election will be complete after a single round of voting. As exciting as unit elections can be, they shouldn’t take up an entire meeting.
  • It’s more courteous and kind: Let’s say you have 22 people voting for four candidates: Cade, Dylan, Jaden and Logan. You’ve opted not to use ranked-choice voting. The voters are tallied, and Cade, Jaden and Logan received seven votes each. Dylan got just one vote. You’re going to need a runoff, which means telling the entire troop that you had a tie and they need to vote for Cade, Jaden or Logan. Was it necessary to tell everyone that Dylan finished in last place? I’d say no. That’s not “teaching him a life lesson.” That’s just being unkind.
  • It’s a political experiment: Countries like Ireland use ranked-choice voting to elect public officials. Discuss with your Scouts the pros and cons of ranked-choice voting and how U.S. elections might look different if we used such a system. There are many resources online to explain ranked-choice voting to the Scouts in your troop. Here’s a quick, simple video from Minnesota Public Radio:

How to implement ranked-choice voting

The screenshots above were created using RankedVote, a site that offers a smart but simple way to host your ranked-choice elections in person or online.

If you have five or fewer candidates, the site is free and gives you an unlimited number of voters. If you have more than five candidates or want to activate some of the site’s fancier features, you’ll have to pony up $10 per election.

One note about the system: When you give the link to Scouts to have them vote, you can ask them to enter their last name or patrol name in the field marked “Your email (or unique ID).” They are not required to use their email address in that field.

Blast off for battleship-building fun with the Snap Ships fleet

Mon, 11/02/2020 - 4:00pm

It’s 2499, and humanity is locked in an epic battle for survival against an alien race. They have a secret weapon that your youth can construct to save the day: Snap Ships.

Scott Pease and Jeff Swenty created the toy-building system after years of designing video games. One popular aspect of today’s video games is customization. After partnering with manufacturer PlayMonster, the duo brought that concept to their toys with interchangeable pieces that allow for the builder to use their creativity and imagination to make super spaceships.

If you tuned into the BSA’s second installment of Family Fun Fest last September, you might’ve seen a Snap Ships building demonstration (you can re-watch it starting at the 44-minute mark).

One of the fun features of these toys is their durability. Once they’re built, you don’t need to carefully display them on a shelf — they’re battle-ready. Kids can free-play with them or follow the Snap Ships storyline via an action-packed, eight-episode video series.

The fleet Snap Ships Sabre XF-23 Interceptor

The Snap Ships fleet includes 11 ships; you can make two or three different ships from each kit — a total of 26 builds. Plus, you can combine pieces from different kits in “fusion builds,” expanding the possibilities for one-of-a-kind spaceships. This is possible thanks to Snap Ships’ unique design that allows pieces to snap into place from multiple angles.

If you want building tips and tricks, check out the company’s videos or download the app at the Apple Store or via Google Play. These digital instructions can help you in creating any ship, either in humanity’s The Forge fleet or the alien The Komplex fleet. If you want printable PDF instructions, they’re also available online. The app also provides an augmented reality function, so you can digitally see your ship come together in front of you.

A fun piece included in each kit is the mysterious UJU tech piece that can soup-up the ship with special powers.

The toys, designed primarily for kids ages 8 and up, are at a great price, too, at $9.99 to $39.99 depending on the kit.

PlayMonster’s Snap Ships is a finalist for the Toy Association’s Toy of the Year Awards, specifically the Sabre XF-23 Interceptor. You can vote for the Sabre XF-23 Interceptor as the Construction Toy of the Year here.

Online giveaway

Your Scout could win one of these cool Snap Ships during the five-week holiday giveaway. The contest begins Nov. 2 and ends Dec. 4 at 11:59 a.m. CST. One winner will be randomly selected at the end of each week to win a designated ship from the Snap Ships fleet. Increase your chances of winning by entering every 24 hours.

A surprise grand prize winner will be announced on the contest’s fifth week during a special #TrekAt2 Facebook Live, which will also feature an amazing guest and extra prizes.

Kindness during COVID: Five times Scouts stepped up for their communities

Mon, 11/02/2020 - 8:00am

If you’ve watched the national nightly news during the pandemic, you’re familiar with the formula.

They give you 29 minutes of stories about all the problems in the world, followed by a 60-second dose of positivity. (Like this CBS Evening News piece about an aspiring Eagle Scout or this NBC Nightly News story about a Scout bugler’s tribute to veterans.)

Today, let’s flip the script: all good news, all the time. Here are five stories of young people stepping up to help their communities.

California: Rallying a community to make face shields, face coverings

With apologies to Captains Marvel and America, Nethra Srinivasan prefers a different kind of superhero.

The 15-year-old is a Health Care Explorer in the BSA’s Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council, which means she gets hands-on experience that will prepare her for a future career.

Through the BSA’s Exploring program, Nethra sees how hard doctors and nurses work under normal circumstances. In these anything-but-normal times of the pandemic, she’s also seen these health care heroes become health care superheroes.

While she can’t suit up and help them inside hospitals — at least not yet — Nethra is doing what she can. After reading about shortages of the personal protective equipment necessary to keep doctors, nurses and others safe from the virus, Nethra stepped up.

”I feel that today’s youth have an obligation, especially during a crisis, to support our nation and our superheroes — the health care professionals providing the best care to the people,” she says. “It’s the least we can do while staying at home.”

In May, Nethra launched the “Make-A-Mask Challenge,” encouraging Scouts and Explorers in her council to make face shields, mask extenders and face coverings for health care workers and others in her community.

She figured that if each family made five pieces of PPE — and shared their effort on social media — word would spread and she’d reach her goal of 1,000 pieces.

In just a month, she nearly quintupled that total. While maintaining social distancing, Nethra delivered 4,772 pieces of PPE to seven locations across Santa Clara County.

”We are all in this together, so no matter your age or background, you can always step up to help your community,” she says. “Explorers are encouraged to give back and improve the world around them. Through this program, I knew that helping others through health care was something that I wanted to do.”

Clarkston United Methodist Church let the troop use one of its outbuildings to store the cans and bottles collected from residents. Michigan: Collecting bottles and cans for cash

Michigan is one of 10 states that give residents cash for returning bottles and cans. The state offers a dime for each eligible item returned as part of a program aimed at reducing littering and increasing recycling.

All that was put on hold during the pandemic when the state determined deposit centers were not essential businesses. To slow the spread of the virus, bottle and can collection stopped for 11 weeks.

Before long, garages and basements began to fill with bags of redeemables. That is, until the Scouts stepped in.

Troop 189 of Clarkston, Mich. (Michigan Crossroads Council), invited members of their community to donate those bottles and cans. The Scouts promised to redeem the items once centers reopened and donate the proceeds to local charities.

A Scout is trustworthy, and so Troop 189 did just that. They collected exactly 27,630 bottles and cans. At 10 cents apiece, that’s $2,763.

Troop 189 split that money evenly across a trio of charities: Independence Township Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels program; Clarkston Blessings in a Backpack, which helps kids overcome food insecurity; and the food pantry at Clarkston United Methodist Church.

“Scout Troop 189 is proud to be a member of the Clarkston community, grateful to those who donated their returnables to our service project, and thankful for this opportunity to help others during these trying times,” Assistant Scoutmaster Dennis Weaver told The Clarkston News.

Missouri: Inventing a hands-free hand-washing station

Cayden Sinquefield Dodds, a Star Scout from Troop 6 of Columbia, Mo. (Great Rivers Council), and his grandmother, Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield, a retired investment adviser and longtime Scouting supporter, invented a Hands-Free Hand-Washing Station that’s perfect for families or small groups.

It’s a portable, easy-to-build device that allows hand-washing anywhere at any time. The device has foot controls so users can dispense soap and water without needing to touch anything.

Cayden says completing the project with his dad (an assistant Scoutmaster) and grandmother “felt really great knowing that we had just accomplished something good.”

He encourages fellow Scouts who see a problem “to keep thinking about the answer, think outside of the box, and don’t give up on it.”

The family built several Hands-Free Hand-Washing Stations for the Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation in Gravois Mills, Mo.

They also shared the plans with troop leaders, Scout camp rangers, farmers and day care directors across the country. They even sent the plans to Tanzania, where officials in the East African country plan to build the stations at schools and construction sites.

David (left) and Thomas Byrne stand by as workers prepare to retire by incineration thousands of torn and tattered flags. (Photo courtesy of Prince William County Solid Waste Division) Virginia: Retiring American flags with dignity

At the recycling center and landfill in Prince William County, Va., they’ll safely dispose of pretty much anything you can haul in: from tree branches and textiles to car batteries and cardboard.

They’ll even take your tattered American flags. But to properly retire those important symbols of our country, the county calls in reinforcements.

Prince William County partners with Prince William District (National Capital Area Council) to respectfully retire American flags that are no longer fit to be flown. Citizens can deposit their flags into flag retirement boxes created as Eagle Scout service projects. The program started in 2014 and has retired more than 20,000 flags to date.

Many of the cotton and polyester flags are presented to Scout units who have agreed to properly retire them.

But nylon flags, which emit toxic fumes when burned, require a separate process. The county and Scout district send those nylon flags to a company called Covanta that has the equipment to safely incinerate them.

While Scouts don’t participate directly, they are present to ensure the dignity of the ceremony — even during the pandemic. Scouts stand a safe distance away to pay their respects before the flags are loaded into an elevator that takes them to the incinerator.

On Sept. 11, 2020, Scouts were there as workers retired an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 flags, according to a release from the county.

Scouter David Byrne and his two sons, Jake and Thomas, watched it all unfold.

“The gentlemen that assist loading the flags are always respectful and professional in their efforts to maintain a dignified process for retiring the flags,” David Byrne said in the release.

Jonas Siebert and his team of 30 volunteers created an outdoor classroom — a new necessity during our COVID-19 reality. (Photo courtesy of Natasha Siebert) Wisconsin: Creating a learning space outdoors

The pandemic has introduced schools to a lesson that Scouts have known for more than 100 years: the outdoors can be an outstanding classroom.

Many school districts, following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have moved some classrooms outside this fall.

But there’s only so much space available on picnic benches, and playgrounds make for distracting classrooms.

Jonas Siebert wanted to help. For his Eagle Scout service project, the Life Scout from Troop 23 of Brookfield, Wis. (Potawatomi Area Council), created an outdoor classroom.

The classroom has a whiteboard stand and desk for the teacher, a canopy for shade and 21 socially distanced tree stumps for seating.

“All that was here was this grassy area,” Jonas told WITI-TV in Milwaukee. “I’m very proud with how it turned out.”

2021-2022 preview: Philmont Scout Ranch

Fri, 10/30/2020 - 10:00am

The COVID-19 pandemic closed Philmont Scout Ranch this past summer, but the high-adventure base is ready for its biggest season in 2021 with new construction of trail camps, trails, staffed program areas and other infrastructure, which will allow Philmont to enhance its already mitigated environmental impact practices to an even higher level.

The base is best known for 7- and 12-day treks that challenge participants mentally and physically. Treks include stops at several of Philmont’s staffed backcountry camps, where staffers offer experiences Scouts will remember all their lives.

Philmont hopes to reopen itinerary options that include both Baldy Mountain and the Tooth of Time. A route through “the back” (Ute Park Fire burn scar) is being scouted for potential use in 2021.

Here’s what you need to know about planning a trip to this legendary Scouting destination.

Philmont trek registration and lottery info

Philmont Scout Ranch will be a part of the joint-registration effort by all high-adventure bases as registrations opened October 27. Having all information in one place only makes it easier for crews to “shop” and choose the adventure that will serve them best.

Philmont added 9-day Itineraries into its offerings. Participants coming on an expedition can now choose between the 7, 9 and 12-day variants. The hope with the 9-day itineraries is that more adult advisors will find it easier to secure time away from jobs and other responsibilities to join their troop’s contingent at Philmont.

You can log on to the BSA’s new Find Your Adventure info portal to register.

Individual opportunities

Did you know that youth members can come to Philmont without a full crew? There are several options for Scouts with different interests to trek at Philmont with peers from around the country. Advanced backpacking skills, STEM, conservation and Order of the Arrow are just a few of the themes around these treks.

Individual opportunities are available for Scouts and Venturers ages 14-20. Varying trek durations and lower price points can make these an attractive option for a Scout who’s been to Philmont and looking for a different type of challenge, or for a Scout whose troop may not be registering a crew for the 2021 or 2022 seasons.

Registration for these treks is open for summer of 2021.

BSA Family Adventure Camp

Open to all registered members of the BSA and their families, you will have the chance to visit Philmont and participate in exciting programs with Family Adventure Camp. Activities include hiking, rock climbing, fishing, craft center, shooting sports, horseback riding and so much more. Together, you’re sure to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Other Philmont news you need
  • There are many options for fun and adventure at Philmont. Check out this list of treks, some of which are offered in the autumn and winter.
  • Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? Look no further than the Tooth of Time Traders. They offer a great selection of belts, buckles, gifts and gear.
  • The National Scouting Museum is open year round. Learn more about visiting and scheduling tours of one of Philmont’s other museums.

2021-2022 preview: Paul R. Christen High Adventure Base at Summit Bechtel Reserve

Thu, 10/29/2020 - 9:45am

Skateboarding, whitewater rafting, shooting sports, rock climbing — you can do it all at the Paul R. Christen National High Adventure Base at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

Scouts can select world-class action sports or take a trek in and around the majestic New River Gorge National River. The 2022 year will prove to be another banner year for the Summit Bechtel Reserve. In 2021, the high-adventure base will pilot a new backpacking program.

Spaces are still available for 2021 programs at both the high-adventure base and the Scouts BSA resident camp, James C. Justice National Scout Camp.

Here’s what else you need to know about planning a trip to this action-packed Scouting playground.

What to expect for 2022
  • Paul R. Christen National High Adventure experiences:
    • New River Experience: This is a 50-mile paddle trek on the New River. Scouts will navigate the upper portion of the river in inflatable kayaks through Class I to III rapids. The final whitewater day in the Lower Canyon is a rafting experience and includes Class III to IV+ rapids. Crews camp along the river through the New River Gorge.
    • Polaris ATV Experience: This is 60-plus miles with five days of travel on ATVs. Stops along the way include epic vistas, exciting side programs and natural STEM education moments. Everyone will especially love the mudhole training. 2021 treks are full.
    • Bike-packing Experience: This is 50-plus miles of backpacking style travel on bikes, “bikepacking.” Trails will include a mixture of single-track, double-track and a small amount of gravel or paved road. Vertical climbs are mostly 600-feet or less with two challenging climbs of around 1,000 vertical feet. Stops along the way, such as the town of Thurmond, provide an opportunity to delve into the history of the New River Gorge.
    • Backpacking Experience: This new experience is built around exploring both the backcountry of the Summit Bechtel Reserve along with the surrounding New River Gorge National River. Hiking through the mountains of southern West Virginia and experiencing some of the best whitewater in the country, this trip has it all.
    • Summit Experience: Not sure which activity best suits you? Try them all with the Summit Experience program. It is the only program that lets you try all the Summit’s high-adventure activities: BMX, skateboarding, mountain biking, zip lines, canopy tours, challenge courses, climbing, shooting sports and more in one setting.
  • James C. Justice National Scout Camp
    • The Justice Scout Camp is a weeklong resident camp for Scout troops and Venturing crews that are looking for challenging advancement opportunities, activity exploration and Scouting traditions. This program is intended to build upon and supplement unit and local resident camp experiences and includes merit badge/ranger elective classes, open activity time, training courses and camp-wide events.

Paul R. Christen registration

You can check out availability at both Paul R. Christen and James C. Justice here.

You can log on to the BSA’s new Find Your Adventure info portal to register. Different from the previous ways to register, you will be required to log in with your My.Scouting credentials.

Registering for a life-changing high-adventure base expedition is an exciting and sometimes competitive experience. To Be Prepared for the best possible experience on registration day, see more information here and this checklist for making sure your My.Scouting account is up-to-date.

Other Paul R. Christen news you need
  • The New River Gorge treks — on bike or boat — qualify participants for the coveted 50-Miler Award.
  • Troops/crews can add a half-day whitewater rafting trip to any program (except the New River Trek, of course) for an additional fee.
  • These are the closest airports to SBR:
    • Charleston, W.Va.: 1 hour
    • Charlotte, N.C., and Pittsburgh: About 4 hours
    • Washington, D.C.: About 5 hours
  • SBR provides all program equipment and personal protective equipment like helmets, pads, PFDs, etc. SBR provides tents as well as cots. For trek programs, participants should bring a sleeping pad for the trail or river as they don’t use cots while out on the trek. Find more details on equipment and links to a planning guide for each program here.

2021-2022 preview: Northern Tier National High Adventure

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 10:30am

Nearly 100 years ago, Scouts made their first treks into the wilderness on the Minnesota-Canada border. You can register for special Northern Tier High Adventure treks in 2022, celebrating the Minnesota base’s 100th anniversary.

Canoeing and fishing is a major part of the Northern Tier National High Adventure program during the summer, while Scouts can enjoy snowshoeing, ice fishing, skiing and dogsledding in the winter.

Summer adventures offer the opportunity to explore millions of acres of lakes, waterfalls, forests and wetlands in northern Minnesota, northwest Ontario and northeast Manitoba. In the winter, Scouts and Venturers can travel across frozen lakes and sleep in the snow as part of the Okpik program.

The 2021 summer and winter treks are already nearly full. You can check for availability by clicking here.

Northern Tier registration 

Registration for 2022 summer Northern Tier treks opens October 29; winter program registration for 2021-2022 opens January 19.

Registering for future treks will be easier, thanks to a new, streamlined process. Crews will choose between two trip options depending on the base they are attending:

You can log on to the BSA’s new Find Your Adventure info portal to register. Different from the previous ways to register, you will be required to log in with your My.Scouting credentials.

Registering for a life-changing high adventure base expedition is an exciting and sometimes competitive experience. To Be Prepared for the best possible experience on registration day, see more information here and this checklist for making sure your My.Scouting account is up-to-date.

Check out what summer and winter treks look like in the videos below:

The 100th anniversary

Scouts can work to earn a special award for Northern Tier’s 100th anniversary: the Paul Bunyan Award. This award is a reconstitution of the original participation award. It will be available during the 2022 and 2023 summer canoeing seasons to crews and individuals from the current councils that make up what was once Region 10 or crews participating in specialty programs during those seasons. The specialty programs include:

  • The Charles L. Sommers Trek – A trip honoring the first chairman of Region 10, Charles L. Sommers, and the Eagle Scout trips of the 1920s and 1930s. Limited trips will be available, based on permits. Crews will need to book a 7-night trip out of Ely and then when permit applications become available, this trip will be a choice in permitting.
  • The Paul R. Christen Trek – A trip honoring the final chairman of Region 10, Paul R. Christen, and the namesake of BSA’s fourth high-adventure base at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve. Limited trips are available and will be reserved through the base’s individual programs system.
  • Any 2022 or 2023 Northern Tier summer canoeing crew that completes 100 miles of canoeing and portaging (as verified by their interpreter and advisor upon completion).

Other Northern Tier news you need
  • Participants must be 14 or have completed eighth grade at the time of attendance.
  • All summer participants must wear boots that have full ankle coverage, a rugged stitched or vulcanized sole, and drainage at the instep. Boots should not be waterproof. (Read why here.) Crews arriving with inadequate footwear can purchase boots in the trading post prior to their departure on the water.
  • Northern Tier can fully outfit you and your crew for winter programs. You will need to provide your own base layer, and Northern Tier will provide the rest. This means you won’t have to invest in lots of expensive winter gear you may never use again.
  • Northern Tier makes special accommodations for Scouts with special needs. The bases have specialized equipment to serve Scouts with physical disabilities.
  • Participants can work with a staff member to plan a route through the wilderness that works for their abilities and interests.

2021-2022 preview: Florida National High Adventure Sea Base

Tue, 10/27/2020 - 9:45am

Ahoy! Adventures await at the Sea Base.

Sea Base, stationed in the Florida Keys, operates 19 different programs in the Bahamas, Dry Tortugas, Florida Keys and U.S. Virgin Islands. Scouts can choose to camp, paddle, sail, scuba-dive or participate in multi-adventure or a STEM adventure.

You can select a specialized program that interests your Scouts, whether they’re greenhorns or experienced seafarers. Adventures provide opportunities to explore historic seaports and state parks, kayak on the ocean, complete service projects at a national park and observe the rich biodiversity of saltwater ecosystems.

If you enjoy the water, the Sea Base is the place to be. Multiple winter, spring and summer 2021 dates are still available.

Sea Base registration

Reservations are immediate and first-come, first-serve. There is no lottery. Reservations for 2022 are open starting October 28. Reservations for 2021 are still available; check this page. To complete a reservation, units will need to pay $250 per reservation using either a credit card or online check. All subsequent payments must be made by online check.

You can log on to the BSA’s new Find Your Adventure info portal to register. Different from the previous ways to register, you will be required to log in with your My.Scouting credentials.

Registering for a life-changing high adventure base expedition is an exciting and sometimes competitive experience. To Be Prepared for the best possible experience on registration day, see more information here and this checklist for making sure your My.Scouting account is up-to-date.

Other Florida Sea Base news you need
  • Bahamas sailing: Fly directly into Abaco, Marsh Harbour, Bahamas. Board your vessel and set sail on the Sea of Abaco, visit historic settlements, snorkel and fish. Crew sizes for Bahamas Sea Base Adventures are up to 8, 12 or 18 Scouts. No overnight sailing experience required.
  • Order of the Arrow Ocean Adventure, Dry Tortugas: Meet at BSA Camp Sawyer and then embark aboard an ocean-going vessel to Dry Tortugas National Park. Accessible only by vessel or sea plane, Order of the Arrow participants seek adventure, complete service projects and camp at Historic Fort Jefferson.
  • Brinton Environmental Center: Located just outside of historic Key West on Summerland Key, the environmental center offers ocean adventures including: Keys Adventure up to 8 Scouts, Florida Fishing Adventure up to 8 Scouts, Out Island Adventure up to 8 Scouts and the Marine STEM Adventure up to 8 Scouts. It’s home to the World Organization of Scouting Movement’s lone threatened/endangered coral nursery. All programs offered are multi-adventures and include elements of service and conservation. No prior experience required.
  • Florida Keys sailing: Arrive at the Florida Keys, board your vessel and set sail in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Units sail, fish and snorkel the United States’ lone barrier reef. Florida Keys sailing programs include: Coral Reef Sailing up to 8 Scouts, STEM Eco-Sailing up to 12 Scouts, Key West Sailing Adventure up to 8 Scouts and Sea Exploring Sailing Adventure up to 20 Scouts. No overnight sailing experience required.
  • Florida Keys scuba: Travel to Florida Sea Base in Islamorada, meet your professional dive instructor or dive masters and embark on an adventure of underwater discovery. Not only do Scouts scuba-dive, they participate in service projects such as coral conservation, marine debris removal, fish counts and more. Florida Keys Scuba programs include: Scuba Adventure up to 8 Scouts (must be certified divers), Scuba Certification up to 8 Scouts and Scuba Live Aboard up to 12 Scouts (must be certified divers). All scuba participants must meet BSA Scuba Policy restrictions and be approved by the Sea Base medical director.
  • U.S. Virgin Islands: Fly directly into the U.S. Virgin Islands. Board your vessel and set sail upon the Caribbean Ocean, hike U.S. Virgin Islands National Park trails, visit settlements and beaches, snorkel beautiful reefs and complete service projects. No overnight sailing experience required.

New high-adventure base ‘Find Your Adventure’ portal launches

Mon, 10/26/2020 - 10:00am

The BSA’s Outdoor Adventures team is gearing up to welcome Scouts and Scouters to high-adventure bases for the 2021-2022 seasons. To help you manage registering for these life-changing experiences, you can log on to a new Find Your Adventure info portal.

Registration for 2022 opens during the last week of October at Philmont Scout Ranch, Florida Sea Base, Northern Tier and the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

Through the new portal, you can review and register for any of the BSA’s high-adventure bases all from one site. Different from the previous system, you will be required to log in with your My.Scouting credentials.

Reservations are finalized in the order they are received, so log in to your My.Scouting account to confirm your username and password, and that all your information is current. Your reservation will be populated from the information in your My.Scouting account. To help you Be Prepared, review this checklist.

By confirming you can log in, or resetting your information if needed ahead of time, you will have a smoother registration process. If you need help resetting your password, check out these instructions.

Stay tuned for “High-Adventure Week” this week when Bryan on Scouting delves into the new, exciting programs and treks offered at the high-adventure bases for 2022.

Still looking for a 2021 adventure? Individual treks are still available at Philmont Scout Ranch and crew slots are still available at the other three bases.

Eagle Scout on the front lines of fight against Western wildfires

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 8:00am

Sometimes the Philmont belt buckle makes it obvious. Other times, Mike Huneke casually brings up Scouting in conversation only to hear someone say, “I’m an Eagle Scout, too.”

No matter how it happens, it pretty much always happens: Huneke discovers that at least one member of his wildland firefighting crew has a Scouting background.

“I frequently encounter Scouters and Scouting alumni in fire camps and on the firelines across the country,” he says. “The Scouting program develops skills in youth that are uniquely suited to developing wildland firefighters — skills like orienteering, hiking, first aid, camping, emergency preparedness, outdoor ethics, leadership and self-reliance.”

Huneke, a Distinguished Eagle Scout, is the deputy chief of staff for fire and aviation management for the U.S. Forest Service. He’s part of the team that works to prevent and suppress fires on the Forest Service’s 193 million acres of land.

And with fires raging across the West this year, this has been one of Huneke’s busiest years yet.

When we first talked, Huneke had just arrived at his hotel in Wyoming to fight the Mullen Fire, which continues to burn in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado.

For this fire, burning in the Medicine Bow National Forest, Huneke served as a division supervisor, meaning he directed and implemented suppression activities across a 12-mile section of the fire’s perimeter.

“Division supervisors work on the fire line, supervising the firefighting resources assigned to the division and ensuring their safety, welfare and productivity,” Huneke says. “I think it’s one of the most challenging and rewarding positions on the fire.”

The Mullen Fire in Wyoming. Photo by Mike Huneke 16-hour days for 14 days

Huneke’s deployment to the Mullen Fire lasted 14 days — not including travel time from his home base in Washington, D.C., to the fire near Laramie, Wyo.

Each day started before 6 a.m. and ended after 9 p.m. — 16-hour shifts that resulted in some “cumulative fatigue,” Huneke says.

The days began with an operations briefing where Huneke and the other division supervisors compared notes, shared the radio frequencies for the day and, when necessary, bartered with each other for equipment. (Which crew needs the bulldozer today?)

“You have to coordinate with everything else going on in the entire fire, because there’s limited resources,” Huneke says.

At an elevation over 8,000 feet, overnight temperatures got as low as 14 degrees, so Huneke’s team also had to check pumps and hoses to make sure they hadn’t frozen overnight. Yes, even amid the heat of a massive wildfire, things can freeze.

The Mullen Fire. Photo by Mike Huneke Safety, welfare, wildfires

After briefing his team of 60 firefighters, the day’s work began. Huneke saw his primary role as ensuring the safety of his team. After that, he made sure the crew was well fed, hydrated and had a comfortable place to spend each night — however short those nights might have been.

Only after both safety and welfare were taken care of did Huneke start thinking about fighting the fire.

He tells me there are two ways to battle a blaze like this.

You can try a direct attack, working right on the perimeter of the fire and fighting flames head on.

Or you can use the approach Huneke’s team used for the Mullen Fire: an indirect attack. For this method, firefighters position themselves several days ahead of the fire’s expected path and identify a place to stop it. They might set up along a road or river or rock wall — some natural or man-made break that creates a barrier where they can make their stand.

This tactic gave Huneke and his team time to prepare their attack. When they were ready, the team intentionally started a blaze on the fire side of the line, directing the flames toward the encroaching fire. When these two fires met, the intersecting blazes used up the available fuel and extinguished one another.

“It’s much more complicated than putting water on it,” Huneke says.

When his two-week stint was over, Huneke and his team had successfully contained 8 miles of the 12-mile perimeter assigned to Alpha Division. The other 4 miles were prepped and ready for the next team.

Mike Huneke and his son, Jacob, on a Philmont shakedown hike. Photo by Rick Garriques Service to Scouting

Huneke’s other job is as Scoutmaster of Troop 123, a 100-Scout troop in Carney, Md., part of the Baltimore Area Council.

That’s the troop where Huneke himself became an Eagle Scout as a young man.

“Being Scoutmaster of the troop I was a member of as a youth, as my son developed into an Eagle Scout, has been the most rewarding position I have ever held,” he says.

Like so many Scouting volunteers, Huneke serves in more than one role. He’s a subject matter expert and writer for the BSA’s National Conservation Committee, a council board member, and was director of the conservation program for the 2013 National Jamboree, 2017 National Jamboree and 2019 World Scout Jamboree.

Huneke carves out time for Scouting because he’s seen how the program led him to appreciate the outdoors and pursue a career in forestry. He remembers the “amazing, life-changing experiences.” He recalls connecting with nature during a magical trek through Philmont Scout Ranch in 1988 — an occasion made even more special because he was there during the ranch’s 50th anniversary.

Huneke says he’d love to see the BSA add a merit badge for wildland fire management, and he’s even written some proposed requirements for such a badge.

He says there’s a lot more science that goes into fighting a wildfire than people might think. And the techniques used to battle a structural blaze like a house or apartment fire are completely different from those his team uses in a forest.

Wildland firefighters don’t just consider whether an area is burning but the severity of the burn. A wildfire traveling downhill, for example, will leave less of an impact than one traveling uphill because the latter kind of fire will have to consume more fuel as it travels.

“We want to put the fire out in a way that causes the least amount of harm to the environment — not just the easiest way,” he says. “Little things like that are all about preserving the resource and the soils and the watershed.”

Further reading

Curious about how firefighters and their support teams get organized to battle wildfires? Open the October 2020 issue of Boys’ Life for a fascinating story about the coordinated effort to keep us safe and protect our lands.

Read it for free in the Boys’ Life app.

Thanks to Andrew Miller for the tip.

‘Be Prepared to Vote’ with these Election Day Ten Essentials

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 8:00am
Liberty Bell doorknob hangers from 1952.

In 1952, an army of Scouts — all too young to vote themselves — launched an unprecedented campaign to get out the vote.

They added crepe-paper streamers and homemade “Vote” signs to their bicycles.

They went block by block delivering 30 million Liberty Bell-shaped doorknob hangers that read “Today’s Youth Counts on You. Use Your Freedom to Vote.”

They pestered their parents to vote, offered to babysit neighbors’ children so moms and dads could head to the polls, and formed mock picket lines in crowded shopping areas — all in an effort to fight what Scouting magazine called “political indifference — the arch-enemy of free democracy.”

“Never before in the history of our nation has any organization been in position to deliver so vital a message to every household in the land,” Scouting magazine wrote in 1952.

Sixty-eight years later, the BSA’s duty to country hasn’t changed. And neither has our message: “Vote as you think. Think when you vote. But VOTE!”

That slogan from 1952 is a reminder that the BSA has no political affiliation — no preference for one candidate or party over another. The Scouting movement is loyal to America, and as Scout volunteers, we prepare young people to be good citizens in their communities. That includes empowering young men and young women to participate in their democracy.

This year, as millions of Americans start the process of voting, we’re continuing our tradition of helping others “Be Prepared to Vote.”

Here’s how.

Election Day Ten Essentials

When you pack for a Scouting adventure — a hike, paddle or weekend camping trip — you always pack the Ten Essentials.

You wouldn’t leave without a flashlight, rain gear, and map and compass.

This year, if you choose to vote in person, that ultimate act of patriotism could be its own kind of adventure. It might be cold or rainy. You could get hungry. The line might be long. All that, plus you’ll want to limit any potential exposure to the virus.

And so we’re helping you “Be Prepared to Vote” with the Election Day Ten Essentials.

You might already have most of the items around your house. If you don’t, we’ve provided some helpful links where you could get these items and show off your Scouting pride at the same time.

  1. State-approved identification or any other documentation your precinct requires for you to vote
  2. Your face covering, which you can make yourself from a neckerchief by following these steps from Boys’ Life
  3. Hand sanitizer
  4. Water bottle or hydration pack so you can stay hydrated without having to leave the line (Advice: Many locations have deactivated their water fountains during the pandemic, so you’ll want to bring your own water. If you choose a hydration reservoir with a drinking tube, you can sip without having to remove your face covering.)
  5. Sun protection, including a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, if you’ll be waiting outside
  6. Poncho or rain jacket in case of foul weather
  7. Flashlight/lantern if you’re heading to the polls after dark (Remember: Daylight saving time ends two days before Election Day, so it’ll get dark earlier.)
  8. Folding stool for take-anywhere seating that can easily be packed away once you get to the front of the line (or you can go for total comfort with this folding rocking chair.)
  9. Portable charger to keep your device’s battery in the green all day
  10. Protein bars or other snacks you can open and eat without touching the food with your hands

Back to that 1952 election

While Scouts can’t claim credit for every vote on Election Day 1952, the numbers are pretty convincing.

Since 1908, no presidential election has had a higher voter turnout than that one, according to The American Presidency Project. The 63.3% turnout far exceeds the percentages from recent elections (55.7% in 2016, 54.9% in 2012).

Today, the BSA is helping voters “Be Prepared to Vote” in a different way — continuing a tradition that dates back generations.

The impact is no less significant. By encouraging young people to take an interest in the political process now, we’re preparing them to exercise their right to vote in the future.

Or, in the words of Scouting magazine from 1952, we’re making it so “it will not be easy for these young people, when they come of age, to ignore the most precious right, the right to vote.”

It’s the Great Pumpkin #TrekAt2: Get carving and tune in October 30!

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 8:00am

You’re invited to the #TrekAt2 Halloween and pumpkin-carving party Friday, October 30, at 2 p.m. Central.

Attending is easy. Just head to at the time of the party and tune in via Facebook Live.

Pumpkin-carving expert John Points will join us live to demonstrate how to create jack-o’-lanterns like a pro! He’ll even show off his incredible skills and coolest creations.

On top of this pumpkin-carving extravaganza, expect other Halloween fun and surprises. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s in store and how to make the most of this event:

  • If your kids have Halloween costumes, they can wear them and share photos with us on Instagram using #GreatScoutPumpkin. We will show viewer photos during the show. This is a great chance to allow your kids to get festive during a year when so many social events can’t happen as usual.
  • Expect fall jokes and special guests (including a spooky but not-too-spooky monster you can chat with live).
  • In true Scout fashion, learn a few ways to make the most of the often-discarded parts of your pumpkin (Think: seeds and the stringy insides).
  • Enter your own carved pumpkin in our Great Pumpkin contest. Read on to learn how to enter!
How to enter the Great Pumpkin contest

Starting now until 2:30 p.m. Central on October 30, enter your carved pumpkin on Instagram by posting a picture of your masterpiece using #GreatScoutPumpkin. We’ll show your photos live during the show and select a few pumpkins to score their carvers cool outdoor gear.

Looking for more opportunities to keep your family members’ minds active?

Each week, #TrekAt2 keeps kids, parents and leaders engaged with timely Scouting stories, current event updates and incredible guests.

Learn more about #TrekAt2 and tune in October 30 for a party that will have your kids saying, “Great pumpkin!”

Scouts fire up their 3D printers to help during the pandemic

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 9:48am

Ever since news circulated of Canadian Scout Quinn Callander’s idea to create “ear savers” to help doctors and nurses at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Scouts in the Boy Scouts of America have been emulating the effort in their communities.

Scouts use a 3D printer to make the “ear savers,” which are polymer pieces situated behind a person’s head and attached to face covering straps. They alleviate pressure to one’s ears, making the face covering more comfortable to wear for a long time. Computer-generated plans dictate to the 3D printer how to robotically print a digital design into physical form.

A 3D printer is not an inexpensive piece of equipment, usually running at least a couple hundred dollars. Some Scouts have borrowed the equipment or saved their birthday and Christmas money to buy one, like Life Scout Brantley O’Day II of Troop 265 in Gibsonville, N.C., did. Brantley has made hundreds of “ear savers” to donate to area hospitals, pediatric clinics and veterinarian offices.

Andrew Deeds, of Troop 8 in Monument, Colo., made more than 3,000, which he has shipped to first responders, schools and grocery stores around the country and even to Germany. Tenderfoot Scout Vishnu Moorthy of Troop 685 in San Diego, along with his sister Siri, created dozens of “ear savers” for doctors and nurses in their hometown.

Life Scout Christopher Blake of Troop 312 in Irmo, S.C., devoted his Eagle Scout project to making “ear savers.”

“The end goal of all this is to meet the local need for medical equipment,” he told CBS News 19 WLTX.

Eagle Scout Anthony Weinmann of Troop 44 in Cincinnati made hundreds of “ear savers” for healthcare workers, telling his local CBS affiliate news station Local 12 WKRC that “it feels great knowing that I’ve helped someone and helping other people that save lives at a hospital.”

The Swartz family, part of Cub Scout Pack 150 in Enterprise, Ala., has also been producing “ear savers” from their machine at home, running it every day, so they can make 500 in a week. First Class Scout Spencer Jacobs of Troop 64 in Hickman. Neb., has donated thousands of the devices, including some to mayors, state legislators and the Nebraska governor.

Share your Scout’s service

These are just a few examples of Scouts helping during the COVID-19 pandemic. Scouts have also been making face shields and face coverings, too.

You can share how your Scout or unit has been serving by visiting or sending an email to 

If your unit is planning on meeting in-person again, make sure to follow these guidelines for restarting Scouting. Make sure to follow CDC guidelines for wearing face coverings and follow local and state guidelines. For any outings your unit has scheduled, Boys’ Life magazine might want to cover it — you can send your plans here.

If your unit is continuing Scouting at home, check out these resources to help you plan.

How to find an alternative meeting location for your pack, troop, ship or crew

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 8:00am

If Scout campouts are the pizza toppings — cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms or whatever else you’re craving — then consider meetings the crispy crust and savory sauce.

Scout meetings hold everything together and provide a solid foundation to deliver the other ingredients of a successful Scouting experience.

Right now you’re probably wondering two things:

  1. Was the author hungry when writing the opening to this blog post? (Yes.)
  2. Can my unit still safely meet right now, during the pandemic? (It depends.)

We’ve heard from a number of unit leaders looking for an alternative meeting place for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Local or state COVID-19 regulations make it impossible to meet at your regular location.
  • Your chartered organization facility has chosen to remain closed or is otherwise unavailable right now.
  • You and your Scouts are experiencing “Zoom fatigue” and desperately want to find a way to safely meet in person.

If you fall into any of these categories, here’s a simple, five-step plan just for you. By following these guidelines, you’ll be back to holding in-person Scout meetings in 30 minutes or less … guaranteed.

Bad pizza metaphors aside, we know it’s been a difficult year, and we can’t thank you enough for all you’re doing to continue the Scouting adventure from home. As Scouts, we know that the best way to get through difficult moments is to do so together. Let’s get going!

5-step plan for finding an alternative meeting place Step 1: Check the Restart Scouting Checklist

You wouldn’t leave for Philmont, the Summit, Sea Base or Northern Tier without consulting a packing list. So don’t restart Scouting without consulting the Restart Scouting Checklist.

The checklist consists of “minimum guiding protocols that adult leaders/volunteers must consider while working with local and state health departments, local councils, chartered organizations and Scouting families on when and how to resume meetings, service projects, camping and all other official Scouting activities.”

The protocols cover what to do “before you gather” and “as you gather” to make sure you’re as safe as possible.

If you’re cleared to meet based on the guidelines in the checklist, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Talk to your chartered organization and/or local council

Chances are you’ve already been in contact with your chartered organization about alternative meeting locations. If not, now’s the time to get in touch.

They might have ideas like:

  • The parking lot of your chartered organization
  • A local park
  • A council camp facility
  • Other outdoor public locations like plazas, gardens, or state or national parks

Have your chartered organization sign off on your temporary alternative location.

Still out of ideas? Contact the helpful professionals at your local council for further advice.

Step 3: Conduct a safety check/walkthrough of your new meeting spot

Hopefully your unit committee members have been using the Meeting Place Inspection Checklist for years.

If not, now’s a great time to start. The checklist guides committee members through a comprehensive look at the meeting space, considering things like exits, fire protection and the existence of hand-washing facilities.

While the checklist was designed to be used with indoor spaces, it can easily apply to an inspection of your temporary alternative meeting location outdoors.

Step 4: Notify everyone about your new meeting location/time

A new location is news worth sharing with everyone in your unit, including Scouts/Venturers, parents, volunteers, unit committee members and your district executive.

If the new spot necessitates a change in meeting times (sunset isn’t getting any earlier!), share that information, too. Speaking of, we’ve heard from many units that have shifted their meetings to the weekend because there simply aren’t as many daylight hours available during the week. (When I was a Scout, Troop 1776 met on Sunday afternoons, and that worked really well!)

Whenever informing your pack, troop, ship or crew about something as important as meeting location and time, I find it best to use multiple methods. Consider the top three ways you communicate with families (email, text and Facebook, perhaps?) and use all three.

Step 5: Meet and adjust as necessary

At last, it’s time to meet!

As you (and your youth leaders) prepare for each meeting, remain mindful of what some consider the unofficial 13th point of the Scout Law: A Scout is flexible.

You might need to postpone a meeting at the last minute because of weather, a potential COVID outbreak in your community, or any other health or safety concern.

In fact, units might consider scheduling two dates for each meeting: a primary and an alternative. Families can keep both time slots on their calendars, so you’ll get better attendance when Mother Nature shows up unexpectedly.

And speaking of flexibility, consider scheduling meetings in blocks with staggered arrival and departure times. That’ll make it easier to manage social distancing and put concerned families at ease, since they might take comfort knowing that you are planning with social distancing in mind.

Final thoughts

You’re doing great! Remember that Scouting during a pandemic is a new experience for everyone else out there, too. It’s OK if you don’t have all the answers right now.

In fact, there’s a good reminder there.

Scouting, perhaps more than any other youth-serving organization out there, prepares young people to be resilient. It teaches grit. It teaches them to find an alternative route around life’s most ominous obstacles.

By following the steps above to resume in-person meetings at an alternative location, you’ll further demonstrate the hardiness of Scouting and restore a sense of normalcy for your Scouts — and for you.

Now who wants pizza?

How this Eagle Scout and award-winning principal can help you be a better Scouter

Fri, 10/16/2020 - 8:00am

You won’t find many Scouts clamoring for summer camp to be more like school.

But what if the opposite could be possible? What if school could more closely resemble the high-energy, hands-on fun that makes Scout camp the greatest week of summer?

If anyone can pull that off, it’s Eagle Scout Ben Domonkos. Domonkos worked 10 summers on staff at the BSA’s Camp Tamarack near the Michigan-Indiana border (part of the LaSalle Council). So he’s learned a thing or two about capturing — and keeping — the attention of young people.

He uses those skills every day as an elementary school principal in Indiana. And this year, Domonkos was named “Principal of the Year” by Whole Brain Teaching, an education reform group that aims to make learning more fun.

“The Scouting program was pivotal in my decision to become an educator,” Domonkos says. “Many Scouting skills and tactics are just as useful as ever. I still use attention-getters, songs, and stories I learned at camp in my classroom today.”

Ben with his dad, Steve Domonkos, in 2011. Five pieces of advice for Scout leaders

We asked Domonkos for five lessons he’s learned as an educator that might help Scouters be better merit badge counselors or mentors.

  1. Engage your Scouts. “While completing the requirements to earn a merit badge can be motivating enough, it is vital to ensure Scouts are engaged in what they are working on. Make it fun!”
  2. Make it meaningful. “The lessons we can teach that Scouts can use even after earning a merit badge are the most important. Ensure application!”
  3. Make it count. “Make sure that when Scouts earn it, they truly earn it.”
  4. Be a learner. “Always work to better your craft. Never stop learning the latest ways to be a great teacher.”
  5. Remember that they are kids. “They will make mistakes. They’ll make you repeat yourself. They’ll forget to bring their sleeping bag on a campout. But at the end of the day, they are looking to you to help them be the best they can be.”
What Scouters can learn from Whole Brain Teaching

Part of the appeal of the Whole Brain Teaching method is its videogame-like reward system.

Students get stars for completing challenges that stimulate multiple parts of their brain. As they complete lessons, they level up — moving higher and higher on a chart displayed in the classroom. They aren’t competing against each other but trying to improve themselves.

That’s just like Scouting. In Scouts BSA, young people earn merit badges and advance in rank at their own pace — picking up valuable life lessons along the way. (And with Scoutbook, advancement is even more fun and interactive.)

As Scouters, we can encourage our Scouts to continue earning merit badges, advancing and taking on challenges of increasing difficulty.

Whole Brain Teaching, like the Scouts BSA advancement trail, is not easy. But young people don’t want it to be, Domonkos says. Back to the videogame comparison, Domonkos tells WNDU-TV that no young person buys a game they can beat in the first night.

“They don’t want that. You want to lose. You want to fail. You want to keep working,” Domonkos told the news station. “And really, teaching them that grit is super important.”

Ben (seated, left) and the Camp Tamarack Aquatics staff in 2012. Lessons from summer camp

Domonkos became an Eagle Scout in 2005 as a member of Troop 111 from South Bend, Ind., part of the BSA’s LaSalle Council.

He comes from a proud Scouting family. His dad, Steve, was his Scoutmaster and is still active in Troop 111. And his brothers, Sam and Jake, are both Eagle Scouts.

Domonkos was 15 when he spent his first summer on staff at Camp Tamarack. Those six weeks changed his life.

“As I returned to camp year after year, my role changed from an adolescent trainee to a strong, influential leader,” he says. “The values instilled in me throughout the years spent at Camp Tamarack have remained with me and have served as a driving force behind the evolution of my teaching craft.”

It hasn’t been just the values that have persisted. He’s also used a few tricks of the summer camp trade. For example:

  • Showmanship. “Whether it’s a schoolwide assembly, the cafeteria, recess or a staff meeting, it is so vital to be prepared with your audience.”
  • Perseverance. “Camp was always described as long days and short weeks. At camp you are always on. When you wake up, eat meals, enjoy recreation time or teach a merit badge class, you are never not a camp counselor. The same goes for being a principal. Servant leadership is always on. The only difference from a camp counselor is we didn’t have to keep up with email over the weekend.”
It started in Scouting

The young man who, for his Eagle Scout service project, led a massive effort to restore two pipe organ chambers at his church, has become an award-winning principal.

As his time as a youth in Scouting grows more distant each year, Domonkos says there’s something that never seems to fade.

“The Scout Law,” he says. “While we may not use the same names of the points, those values and virtues are not only what drive me to be a good team member, administrator, teacher, friend, spouse and father. They also are many of the values and virtues we instill in our students.”

How to pick your perfect tent

Thu, 10/15/2020 - 10:09am

There’s a total abundance of choice when it comes to tents. While that is amazing if you are an experienced camper so you can shop for very specific things, sometimes it can be a little overwhelming when you are starting out. It’s a big investment, and you want to know you are spending your money on the “right” thing!

The biggest factor on choosing a tent is deciding how you’re going to use it.

Car camping

If you are “car camping,” meaning that you basically are setting up your tent within a stone’s throw of your vehicle, then you can give yourself a little more space. It is really nice to be able to move around your tent without stepping on another person or to have the space to stow some of your gear.

Larger tents are great for family camping with Cub Scouts, too.

Backcountry camping

Designed to be a lot lighter, backpacking tents are small enough to pack away without taking up an overabundance of room or weighing a lot. Every ounce counts when you are backpacking, and the last thing you want is to carry a heavy tent.

To pick the perfect backpacking tent, you need to get really specific on the weight and dimensions. These tents are designed to fit only one or two people.

Check out the latest Boys’ Life tent buying guide here to see some top picks for both car camping and backcountry camping. To see tents the Scout Shop offers, click here. This month, you can save up to 20% on camping gear through the Scout Shop’s Family Camping 101 promotion, which includes giveaways and live videos on social media.  Click here for a family camping gear checklist.


The next thing to think about is your climate. If you will mainly be camping in hot weather, look at tents’ air flow and ventilation. In temperate weather, a typical 3-season tent will work. If you are going to camp in the snow, then a 4-season tent might be the way to go. These tents are stronger and warmer, but usually are more expensive.

Tent care

To help make your investment last, it is really important to take care of your tent properly. After camping, make sure to air your tent out so it’s fully dry before storing it. After each season, you should clean your tent thoroughly as well. You can use a simple mixture of a half-cup of liquid dish detergent with 1 gallon of lukewarm water.

Can being an Eagle Scout help you get into college? Here’s what 17 schools told us

Wed, 10/14/2020 - 8:00am

We tell our Scouts that their experiences in Scouting will help them get into college.

And it certainly makes sense. Through engaging, immersive activities, Scouts learn how to manage their time, research a subject, communicate with others and work in a group — skills sure to impress any college admissions officer.

But when a Scout sends off a college application, the response comes back “yes” or “no.” There’s no further explanation about what exactly did the trick or where the application fell short.

Today, we’re hoping to shed some light on that mystery.

Bryan on Scouting contacted dozens of colleges and universities across the U.S. — everything from large public schools to small liberal arts colleges.

The question was simple: “What kind of effect does being an Eagle Scout have on a prospective student’s application to your school?”

We received a handful of boilerplate responses encouraging applicants to pursue whatever extracurricular activities interest them. But we also received a number of thoughtful answers from the decision-makers themselves: college admissions professionals.

We’re sharing 17 of them below. The common thread: being an Eagle Scout won’t get you into your dream school on its own. But when combined with strong grades, a quality essay, solid test scores (if the colleges on your list still require them) and impressive letters of recommendation, that Eagle Scout Award can give you the extra edge you need.

“As an Eagle Scout myself, I remember how many years it takes to acquire the necessary merit badges and then the time and effort to go through your Eagle Scout project and the board of review for approval,” says Kevin Mathes, a Class of 2000 Eagle Scout and dean of admissions at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. “I feel the words ‘Eagle Scout’ indicate to an admissions reader that the student spent considerable time and energy on something that is meaningful to them.”

Jeff Schiffman, director of admission at Tulane University in New Orleans, agrees.

“A lot of applicants will do something once or twice, but to be an Eagle Scout requires years of commitment and dedication, and our admission committee is keenly aware of the time needed to achieve this rank,” he says. “It’s definitely one of those few extracurricular activities that can help an applicant stand out.”

How to include ‘Eagle Scout’ on an application

We know that applicants should include their Eagle Scout Award on a college application, but what’s the best place for that information?

Admissions professionals say you have several options, including your résumé, application or personal essay. The bottom line is this: Don’t just include the words “Earned Eagle Scout in 2019.” Provide the context, too.

“We recommend that Eagle Scouts not simply list the achievement on the application,” says Mark Cortez, director of outreach and recruitment at The Ohio State University. “For example, their project management, organization and leadership development could be highlighted in their activity description or in their essay.”

When doing so, remember that application readers might not know Scouting terminology like “senior patrol leader” or “Eagle project.” Include the context there, too.

You might want to do one or more of the following:

  • Briefly outline the process for earning the Eagle Scout Award
  • Share how many hours of volunteer time you completed as a Scout
  • Explain the leadership opportunities you experienced (“As the top elected youth member of my Scout troop, I led 30 Scouts over the course of six months.”)
  • Talk about how you planned, developed and gave leadership to others for your Eagle project
  • Describe a memorable Scouting trip, especially one where you overcame difficult circumstances to have an enjoyable experience
Bucknell University

Lewisburg, Pa.

“Being an Eagle Scout shows the admissions office that the student has a great deal of dedication and perseverance. … We know that students who work hard to reach their goals will thrive at Bucknell. The words “Eagle Scout” indicate to an admissions reader that the student spent considerable time and energy on something that is meaningful to them. It also elicits an interest in the outdoors, developing leadership skills and the potential to make a positive impact on the world.”

Florida State University

Tallahassee, Fla.

“When we see that a student is highly involved outside the classroom and in their community, it is always a positive factor. I know that earning the title of Eagle Scout comes at no easy task. In the eyes of an application reader, it shows exemplary commitment and dedication, which is a title that an applicant should be very proud of putting on a résumé.”

Georgia Tech University

Atlanta, Ga.

“While we cannot make specific comments about a particular activity, we always place emphasis on a student’s impact and involvement. Boy Scouts of America is one of many ways that a student can articulate their contribution to community.”

Hamilton College

Clinton, N.Y.

“Hamilton considers all applicants within the context of ‘how did they challenge themselves in light of opportunities they experienced.’ We know that earning the rank of Eagle Scout requires years of dedication, pursuit of merit badges, community activism and leadership, which means that the candidate has challenged themselves and achieved recognition. I would say it is a favorable indicator, as it helps us understand the applicant’s values and willingness to commit to challenging themselves.”

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, Md.

“When we review an application, we look for three things: academic character, impact and initiative, and personal contributions. Anything a student does to make a difference through service, leadership, or innovation — from participating in the Boy Scouts, to caring for family members, or participating in a school club — is considered as we try to get a sense of who they are and what impacts they’re making on the community around them.”

The Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio

“We recognize that Eagle Scouts adhere to a number of commitments, including civic duty to their communities, team building and duty to other people. At Ohio State, we value these commitments as they reflect similar values of our university. It will be important for Eagle Scouts to include these elements, and others not mentioned, in their application so that all application readers can have a full understanding of their commitments as well as their trail to becoming an Eagle Scout. Our readers evaluate over 50,000 applications each year so the individual nature of an Eagle Scout’s journey is one way that they can distinguish themselves.”

Pomona College

Claremont, Calif.

“At Pomona, we value leadership, and we know that becoming an Eagle Scout requires initiative, effort and problem-solving skills, all of which are at the heart of leadership development. When I see ‘Eagle Scout’ on an application, I know that the student has achieved something special. Perhaps they have completed a significant project for their community, solved a challenging problem for a local organization, or contributed something real and long-lasting to their neighborhood. This dedication to service is always viewed positively in our process.”

Purdue University

West Lafayette, Ind.

“We receive a significant number of applications from students that have participated or completed the Eagle Scouts program. We tend to think these student excel in areas of leadership, perseverance, time management and teamwork. … Essentially Eagle Scout is most often associated with positive attributes of an applicant.”

Texas A&M University

College Station, Texas

“While identifying oneself as an Eagle Scout is important, it is also critical to provide detailed information about awards/recognitions, leadership opportunities, volunteer hours and employment/internship opportunities. These are often areas in which we see Eagle Scouts excel. The essay also provides another platform for Eagle Scouts to share any unique experiences they’ve had through Scouting.”

Texas Tech University

Lubbock, Texas

“Achieving Eagle Scout status would indicate to a reader that the applicant exhibits many of the qualities that we are looking for in the review of the file. Knowing what it takes to achieve this status says a great deal about a student’s ability to persist and finish their degree. It is looked at very highly in the review process. This alone would not necessary guarantee admission, as admission to the university is holistic in nature. But it is looked at favorably.”

Tulane University

New Orleans, La.

“We love seeing Eagle Scouts on an application because we see a lot of value in long-lasting extracurricular activities. A lot of applicants will do something once or twice, but to be an Eagle Scout requires years of commitment and dedication, and our admission committee is keenly aware of the time needed to achieve this rank. It’s definitely one of those few extracurricular activities that can help an applicant stand out.”

University of California Los Angeles

Los Angeles, Calif.

“We do not consider any one kind of extracurricular activity inherently ‘better’ than another. What is important is that students select activities that are truly meaningful to them and that they really get involved with them. We look for long-standing dedication and significant time commitment to an activity, and we notice students’ progression to positions of leadership or recognition of achievement. … With this in mind, students should include Eagle Scout in their application if they believe this particular extracurricular activity meets the criteria above.”

University of Illinois

Urbana-Champaign, Ill.

“In the UIUC application, we do have a place for applicants to list their extracurricular activities. This will be a great place for Eagle Scouts to list their activities and accomplishments. These activities, along with their grades, course rigor, test scores (optional this year) and essay, are all a part of our holistic application review. Students that are Eagle Scouts indicate that they are dedicated and involved toward a goal and/or activity.”

University of Missouri

Columbia, Mo.

“We’re looking holistically. As all Eagle Scouts know, there is a large amount of work that has to be done from the very beginning. Certainly the Eagle Scout rank is going to be noticed and would be factored into the decision alongside GPA, class rank, test scores and more.”

University of North Carolina

Chapel Hill, N.C.

“We appreciate the service and dedication required to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. Within the extracurricular portion of the application, students have the opportunity to tell us more about their experiences and accomplishments outside the classroom. This is where we would hope to hear from students, in their own words, about what makes their Scouting experience meaningful to them and their community. Hearing personally from students gives us a deeper and more nuanced appreciation for any activity or award.”

University of Washington

Seattle, Wash.

“Applicants who have participated in Boy Scouts and have earned an Eagle Scout Award should list these activities under their Activities/Experience and/or Honors & Distinctions sections of the Coalition Application. Seeing a applicant who has earned an Eagle Scout indicates to us that they have committed a significant amount of time to the Boy Scouts and have worked hard to earn this achievement. We recognize that earning an Eagle Scout takes years of dedication and commitment to service.”

University of Wisconsin

Madison, Wis.

“At UW-Madison, we know how much time is dedicated to becoming an Eagle Scout and the commitment to projects that support the community. Being an Eagle Scout aligns well with the Wisconsin Idea, as it shows that a student is engaged and passionate about making a difference in the world. We value this experience in our holistic review and encourage Eagle Scouts to list this on their activities, and also to write about their final projects in their application. This way, our reviewers might learn more about their project and why they chose it.”

Let’s hear from you

How do you feel being an Eagle Scout prepares a young person for college? And how do you recommend Scouts include their Scouting experience on a college application?

Meet the 15-year-old ground-breaking Eagle Scout debate champion

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 9:00am

Christian Flournoy likes to stay busy.

In addition to being an active member of Troop 197 in Atlanta, Christian plays football, runs track and is a member of a local debate club.

In fact, this summer, Christian won an international debate tournament hosted by the Harvard University Debate Council, scoring a perfect 5-0 ballot in the final round.

How does he balance it all with school and other day-to-day chores?

He learned that in Scouting.

“I took working on my Eagle project as yes, I have to manage my time,” he says. “At first it was maybe a little hard, but as time went on it just helped me create a sense of organization in my life that I still use now.

“Like when I’m at school and I look at my classes, I make schedules and I make sure that I’m doing this at this time, and I get this work done in a certain time, because organization is key.”

The Great Debaters

Christian, along with debate partner Madison Webb, competed in the Harvard event as part of Atlanta’s Great Debaters team. Christian became the youngest Black male to ever win the competition, while Madison became the first Black female to win.

It’s a significant accomplishment that was years in the making.

For Christian, it started in seventh grade, when a teacher recommended that he audition for the Harvard Diversity Project, an Atlanta-based program that recruits and trains Black youth for an elite summer residency at Harvard University.

Another milestone was when he earned the Public Speaking merit badge.

“One thing that they taught us was how to command the room and grab their attention,” he says. “It made me confident that if I have a message that I want to put out there, I’m confident in my ability to do so. I went from doing the Public Speaking merit badge to winning a Harvard debate competition. That just speaks volumes for what you can do when you work hard and when you have the opportunities and when you prepare.”

Juggling it all

To earn his spot on the debate team, Christian had to go through a series of interviews, each one tougher than the last. When he showed up for what he thought was his final interview, it turned out he had already made the team.

“I was trying to get my head in the game and think about what questions do I need to ask and what do I need to be answering,” he says. “And then I get up on the stage and we’re watching this video and then I turn around and they’re like, ‘You’re in the class of 2020!’ I was so excited because I had never really thought that I could do this.”

In his “free” time, Christian remained active in Troop 197, leading the installation of a gaga ball pit at his school for his Eagle service project.

“One thing I’m always passionate about is helping people,” he says. “Scouts really encompasses that. To help people out … Do a Good Turn Daily …

“Like being a patrol leader or a senior patrol leader on a campout, you’re able to help out all the people on the campout and you’re able to lead different things with the troop.”

An inspiration

Christian says his favorite Scouting activity is camping. He says he loves the food they eat on their campouts, and he also loves getting away from it all every once in a while.

“I love the whole aspect of camping that you’re going outdoors away from electronics and all of that, and you just look up at the stars and it’s amazing,” he says. “There’s just so many great things about the outdoors.”

A typical debate competition can be very much like a sporting event. One person has a few minutes to talk about a topic. Then the other team takes their allotted time.

There are ups and downs. Your team scores, then the other team scores. And at the end, the winning team celebrates together like crazy.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the most recent Harvard competition was held virtually. For Christian, it made the process more challenging, but it didn’t make the victory any less sweet.

“I hope that it can be an inspiration to other young Black and brown boys that they can do whatever they want,” he says. “It was a lot of hard work. And being the youngest to do it just means that there’s no age barrier for what’s stopping you from what you can do.

“I really just hope that it can be inspirational.”

Scout offers inspiring reminder that we need Eagle projects now more than ever

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 8:00am

You could see the pandemic as a dark cloud over your best Eagle Scout service project ideas.

Or you could follow the lead of Lucas Davis and see this pandemic as a chance to help the less fortunate weather the storm.

Lucas, a Life Scout from Troop 17 of Millburn, N.J. (Northern New Jersey Council), built mobile screens and a custom-designed plastic door shield to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at a nonprofit working to end homelessness in his region of New Jersey.

In doing so, Lucas proved there’s no shortage of Eagle project ideas during the pandemic. In fact, places like homeless shelters and food banks need help now more than ever.

Lucas has been volunteering at the Elizabeth Coalition through his church for years. He’s well aware of the nonprofit’s mission: eliminate poverty and homelessness in Union County, N.J. So completing an Eagle project there was a natural way to rally fellow Scouts to a cause Lucas cares about.

“My advice to Scouts planning project during this pandemic would be to reach out to not only places in need but places that you have connections with and are impactful to your life,” Lucas says. “An Eagle Scout project is supposed to mean something to you — not just another service project but helping a place that leaves you feeling like you have made a real difference.”

Left: Lucas’ plans for his Eagle project. Right: Lucas assembles a free-standing shield. How he did it

A month or two into the pandemic, Lucas started thinking about what businesses and organizations will look like when they reopen. How will these places adapt to operate safely? And how will nonprofits be able to pay for these necessary but costly changes?

That was going through Lucas’ mind when he contacted the Elizabeth Coalition.

“I reached out to them to find out what they would need to provide a safe environment for their social workers and the people they serve,” Lucas says.

Lucas discovered that the nonprofit had two primary needs:

  1. Free-standing plexiglass shields that could be moved as needed to protect workers and clients.
  2. A custom-built plexiglass shield that would cover the top half of a “Dutch door” but still allow papers to pass through a small open section at the bottom.

These two changes would help the Elizabeth Coalition serve the community while keeping its volunteers, employees and clients safe.

“I’m glad to say that my Eagle Scout project was a success in that everyone working at the Elizabeth Coalition will be able to use what I built, and I was able to help address an urgent need,” Lucas says.

Lucas enlisted the help of his cousin Nathan, seen here working on the shield and frame for the Dutch door. How he did it safely

When planning, developing and giving leadership to their Eagle project, Life Scouts must consider safety. That’s been true since the first formal Eagle projects were completed beginning in 1965.

This isn’t just smart leadership practice. It’s part of the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook every prospective Eagle must complete.

Addressing safety issues takes on additional significance during a pandemic. For Lucas, this meant reducing the number of volunteers working at the project site, requiring face coverings for all volunteers and keeping everyone at least 6 feet apart at all times.

“Most of the work was done off-site, meaning we had the space and time to do work while taking proper safety precautions,” Lucas says. “This proved to be much easier than working on-site.”

Lucas and his volunteers combined to put in 70 hours of work on the project. At the current value of volunteer time rate of $27.20, that’s $1,904 in service to the community.

But Lucas says he’s equally proud of the fact that his project helped some of his fellow Scouts complete the service hours they needed to advance to the next rank in Scouts BSA.

The actual installation of the plexiglass shield for the Dutch door couldn’t be completed from home. To install it at the nonprofit’s office, Lucas chose to use only volunteers in his pandemic cohort — which means members of his own family.

Lucas got that familial help from his cousin Nathan, a First Class Scout with Troop 84 of Somerville, N.J. (Patriot’s Path Council).

“Working alongside a family member who you’ll spend time with regardless is a good way to be socially responsible,” says Nathan’s dad and Lucas’ uncle, Matt Davis.

How he paid for it

Lucas budgeted $1,150 for all the materials he’d need for the project. He ended up raising more than $1,400 from 22 different donors.

“Thank you, Lucas, for being a doer in helping others to cope and survive during this pandemic,” one donor wrote.

“There is such a great need for supporting the homeless in our world today,” another wrote. “Very important work you have chosen for your project, Lucas.”

In the end, Lucas needed just $700 of the money he raised. The Elizabeth Coalition will use the extra money to purchase an air purifier and additional protective equipment for its workers and volunteers.

What he learned

2020 has been the year of things not going according to plan. Lucas’ Eagle project was no exception.

Design plans changed, equipment didn’t work out perfectly and volunteers had to reschedule. But Lucas adapted.

“As much as I tried to plan ahead, a lot of the time there were things that had to be adjusted,” Lucas says.

There might be no better lesson to prepare Lucas for life, a career and a family: change is inevitable.

But that’s a lesson Scouts shouldn’t hear from adults like me. Scouting works because it enables young people to experience life lessons for themselves.

“One thing that I learned about myself during my project was that I am able to make major changes on the spot,” Lucas says. “This is obviously very helpful in real world situations where things never go exactly to plan.”

Top 5 merit badges to help you celebrate Halloween at home

Fri, 10/09/2020 - 8:00am

Maybe your Halloween plans this year include pumpkin decorating, virtual costume contests or other lower-risk ways to celebrate this fun family holiday. Or perhaps you, like me, are just planning a sugar binge until you crash at the crack of 9:30 p.m.

Either way, allow me to suggest a Scouty addition to your spooky season schedule: earn one of the merit badges on the list below during the month of October.

Adding a little something extra to a merit badge by connecting it to a holiday or other major event isn’t mandatory. But neither is finishing off the entire bag of candy corn, and yet here we are.

Frank DeBonis/iStock/Getty Images Gardening

Celebrate Halloween without carving a jack-o’-lantern? You must be out of your gourd.

But first, you’ll need that key ingredient. You could get a pumpkin from the store or mask up for a trip to the pumpkin patch, but it’s more fun to grow one yourself. (Note: If you’re reading this in October, the first step in growing a pumpkin in time for Halloween is inventing a time machine that can transport you back to July.)

Scouts who earn the Gardening merit badge know all about things like seed germination and plant maturation. They also know that requirement 2A — “grow six vegetables, three from seeds and three from seedlings, through harvest” — technically can’t be met using a pumpkin.

After all, a pumpkin is not a vegetable but a fruit. It’s even the state fruit of New Hampshire.

OK, so which Gardening requirement can be earned with everyone’s favorite Cucurbita? Try requirement 3C, which asks Scouts to “give the nutritional value … of three fruits,” and then rest easy knowing a pumpkin is low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals.

ranplett/iStock/Getty Images Insect Study

As long as we’re clearing up common misconceptions, any Scout who has earned the Insect Study merit badge (requirement 2) can tell you that spiders aren’t insects. They’re arachnids.

But even though Halloween’s most famous creepy crawly isn’t part of the Insect Study merit badge, there are still plenty of flying, biting, skittering insects to give the holiday its requisite scares.

In fact, did you know that there are 200 million insects for each human on the planet, according to the Smithsonian? Sleep well tonight!

Scouts who earn the Insect Study merit badge will get a closer look at 20 of the estimated 900,000 species of insects out there, studying each live insect in its natural habitat. They’ll make a scrapbook containing photos, sketches, illustrations and observations about each one (requirement 5) and share that scrapbook with their counselor.

As a fun Halloween twist, Scouts could also share those insect photos with other members of their family by placing insect images in surprising places. Sweet dreams!

photoschmidt/iStock/Getty Images Moviemaking

“The Zoom call … it’s coming from inside the house!”

No matter how you like your scary movies — totally terrifying, somewhat spooky or playing in the other room while you do literally anything else — there’s no denying that Halloween goes great with horror.

But enjoying a scary movie doesn’t always have to mean grabbing the remote. For Scouts working on the Moviemaking merit badge, it means grabbing a camera.

For requirement 2, Scouts get to create a short film, following a trimmed-down version of the process used by Hollywood directors. They start by writing a treatment that tells the story in three or four paragraphs. Then they prepare a storyboard, practice filmmaking techniques and then shoot the actual film.

When they’re done, the Scouts even hold their own movie premiere and show the film to their troop — a requirement that could be easily completed over Zoom, if necessary.

Moviemaking seems like the perfect merit badge to complete while staying safe at home. And a scary movie seems like the perfect excuse to cast Mom as a ravenous zombie whose only weakness is Fun Size M&M’s or Dad as a weird space creature who loves Reese’s Pieces.

Wait, didn’t a famous Eagle Scout already do that last one?

BrilliantEye/iStock/Getty Images Weather

OK but, like, why was it a dark and stormy night?

Scouts who earn the Weather merit badge gain the skills needed to measure, understand and even predict the weather.

Weather can be downright scary (see: TwisterThe MistSharknado), but some of that fear is of the unknown.

Scouts who earn this merit badge learn to identify dangerous weather-related conditions so they can cut through the fog and make a plan for what to do when encountering severe weather.

Sorry, Dr. Frankenstein, but lightning is a little less scary when you know how it’s formed (requirement 4). And its accompanying dark clouds seem less ominous when you can name each variety (requirement 5).

Imgorthand/E+/Getty Images Theater

Without his costume and makeup, Frankenstein’s monster is just another tall dude who walks funny.

Costumes allow us to transform, however temporarily, into a different character — someone heroic or villainous, silly or scary.

They’re fun to wear but even more fun to create yourself or with your family.

My best Halloween costume to date was the year my mom transformed me into a stop light. I walked around in a kid-size yellow box, shining a flashlight through holes covered in red, yellow and green cellophane. You could say my costume stopped traffic.

Hiding inside the requirements for the Theater merit badge you’ll find this showstopper (requirement 3E): “Show skill in hair and makeup design. Make up yourself or a friend as a historical figure, a clown, an extraterrestrial or a monster.”

Whether they create an extraterrestrial, a monster or something really scary like a clown, Scouts could use their skills in costume and makeup design to make a truly Instagram-worthy Halloween costume.

Do I hear boo-ing?

Disagreements about this list are welcome. If you have a merit badge that screams Halloween more than one above, leave a comment below.

But remember the rule: this is a list of five, not six or seven. If you suggest one to include, you must tell which one you’d remove.

Carve out some more time

Click here for more “Top 5 merit badges” fun.

Scouter shows her mettle in History Channel’s metalwork show

Thu, 10/08/2020 - 9:30am

A couple of years ago, graphic artist Rita Thurman’s company offered its employees five paid days to creatively pursue a passion. She and her friend decided to try blacksmithing, something she had always wanted to do. So, they visited a local living history museum to learn.

“We spent the day making hooks,” Thurman says. “It took me several hours to make my first hook; it was a huge waste of coal.”

Fast forward to last spring and viewers of Forged in Fire, a metalwork competition show on the History Channel, saw Thurman, dressed in a BSA field uniform and now adept in the craft, win the televised contest by skillfully creating historical weapons, including a sodegarami, a pole weapon used by Japanese samurai.

Forged in Scouting

Around the same time Thurman began learning blacksmithing, she also became a Scouter.

“All my life I had heard friends talk about the cool experiences they had with the Boy Scouts. I always really wanted to be in the Boy Scouts, but that just wasn’t a thing girls did,” she says. “So when my daughter came home from school and said that girls could be Boy Scouts and asked if she could join, I figured we would go and check it out.”

They visited a Cub Scout pack meeting, and the family was hooked.

“It sounded like all the fun things we wanted to do all in one place,” Thurman says. “I let the leadership know that I didn’t like to just sit around and play with my phone, and if I was going to be there, I wanted something to do. They suggested all sorts of things I could do to help, but having no experience in Scouting, I had no idea what any of those things meant.”

After taking online training, she became the den leader of her daughter’s Bears den. The Cub Scouts learned skills and served their community, and when they advanced into Webelos, they went camping at Theodore Naish Scout Reservation.

Meanwhile, Thurman decided to audition to be on a couple of survival TV shows — it might be fun, but those applications didn’t pan out. However, a TV production group recommended she apply for Forged in Fire.

“I let them know I was a beginner and still had a lot to learn,” she says. “But always up for an adventure, I filled it out.”

She worked on her metalwork portfolio by buying an anvil and equipment so she could practice at home instead of once a month at the living history museum. The girls crossed over into Scouts BSA, joining Troop 374 of Liberty, Mo., continuing their camping adventures. Then, the History Channel called.

Rita Thurman, a member of the Beaver patrol, during her Wood Badge course. Welding warrior

Going to Connecticut to begin filming a samurai-themed episode of Forged in Fire meant Thurman would have to miss a campout. That’s OK — older youth take more ownership of their Scouting adventures.

“I have found that the best way to stay out of my Scouts’ way is to volunteer to help in other ways,” she says. “And to show the Scouts that if it can be done, they can do it.”

She definitely showed them as well as the show’s judges. The metalcraft machines she could use for the TV show were top-notch.

“Everything you would ever want to make the perfect knife was there,” she says. “Now remember, I learned to make knives on a coal forge with a big bellows and ground them on a stone wheel; we didn’t even have electricity in there. So I had been practicing with historical equipment.”

The four competitors were challenged with creating Japanese weapons; the winner of the contest would take home a $10,000 cash prize.

“I decided I would like to wear my field uniform on the show as a fun shoutout to my Scouts,” she says. “It is the perfect thing for any adventure. The other leaders accuse me of sleeping in it.”

Metalwork is a merit badge that Scouts can earn by learning about metal, related careers and making objects from metal; they aren’t to make weapons though.

Rita Thurman on set of Forged in Fire.

Thurman advanced to the final round where she had four days to forge a sodegarami — a long spiked pole weapon. All four days each required 10 hours of work with a half-hour break for lunch, Thurman says. She finished it, and her weapon held up as the judges bludgeoned dummies and ice blocks with her creation. She won after her opponent’s entry broke during the final test.

The episode aired last April; you can watch Thurman on the show here

“I have heard from many leaders who have Scouts who would like to learn about smithing and knife-making,” Thurman says. “I was so happy that they edited so much of my message to my Scouts into the footage.”