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What’s the scoop on a white-on-red Order of the Arrow sash?

expertlogo1As if you needed another reason to attend NOAC next summer.

You know the National Order of the Arrow Conference is the OA’s signature event. You know 2015 is the Order of the Arrow’s 100th Anniversary. Right there you’ve got two incredible reasons to attend on Aug. 3-8, 2015, at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich.

Here’s reason No. 3 (of about 10,000): Each NOAC participant will get a special-edition red sash. That’s a sash with a white arrow on a red band— or the reverse of what Arrowmen typically wear (seen above).

Scouter Craig Fosburg heard rumors about this sash and contacted me for details. I passed his question along to the expert. Matthew Dukeman, associate director of the Order of the Arrow, provided the official response: Continue reading

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Ask the Expert: Who approves the Eagle Scout Project Final Plan?

expertlogo1Trevor, a Life Scout, recently got his Eagle Scout Project Proposal OK’d by his unit leader, unit committee, the project beneficiary and his council or district.

With that complete, next up in the process is filling out a Final Plan, which the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook says is a tool for the Scout’s use only. Nobody approves it, though it’s recommended Trevor share it with his project coach.

Here’s where a little bit of tension arises.

Trevor (not his real name) asks his Scout leader whether he can simply begin work on the project and complete the Final Plan section of his Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook after the project is completed. In other words, he’d essentially be creating an after-action report rather than a plan.

Eagle Scout Service Project Final PlanHe wants to take a “wing-it-as-I go” approach to planning the project and write down what he does as he does it.

His Scout leader — we’ll call him Paul — isn’t sure how to respond. There are no Scout leader approvals required at this stage. So he coaches the Scout to encourage him to develop a plan before beginning the project.

It works, and Trevor agrees to complete the Final Plan.

However, because Paul’s approval isn’t required, Paul wonders what would have happened if Trevor refused to complete his Final Plan in advance of beginning work on the project. Trevor, Paul tells me, tends to challenge authority and might have said, “it says I don’t need your approval, so I’m going to do it my way.”

So Paul wrote me asking, “Is there any mechanism in place that requires a Scout to complete the Final Plan of the Eagle Project Workbook before beginning work on his project?”

Michael Lo Vecchio of the BSA’s Content Management Team helped me find the answer, which you can find after the jump. Continue reading

paintball-jamboree

Don’t shoot! Why paintball’s outlawed in Scouting (and the one exception)

expertlogo1This is a rule so obvious it shouldn’t need to be said: Shooting at one another is an unauthorized activity in Scouting.

But what about paintball? Participants in that popular activity shoot at each other, but they do so using nonlethal capsules of colored dye. How do the BSA’s health and safety experts qualify this activity that seems to be in a gray area?

That’s what Bill B., a Scouter who emailed me earlier this week, wanted to know.

He writes, simply:

Does BSA have any guidelines on paintball competitions as a troop activity?

Thanks,

Bill

For the answer, I went to the BSA’s experts: Health and Safety head Richard Bourlon and Insurance and Risk Management leader Mark Dama.

Here’s what they said: Continue reading

eagle-palms-features

How many Eagle Scouts earned Eagle palms in 2013?

expertlogo1Not content at the 21 merit badges required for Eagle, some Scouts go beyond and earn additional merit badges, making them eligible to receive Eagle Scout palms.

An Eagle Scout who earns five merit badges beyond the minimum amount (and meets other requirements) will receive a Bronze Palm. He’ll get a Gold Palm for 10 extra merit badges and a Silver Palm for 15. He can wear multiple palms if he gets to 20, 25, 30, etc.

And now, for the first time ever, the BSA’s National Council knows exactly how many Eagle Scout palms were earned in the previous year. Last year was the first year National BSA started tracking the numbers it receives from local councils.

Before I reveal the numbers, a few caveats:

  1. These numbers are from 2013 only, which, as I mentioned above, is the first and only year for which numbers are available.
  2. There is no way to determine whether a palm earned by a Scout was his first, second, or third Bronze palm; first, second, or third Gold palm; or first, second, or third Silver palm. That’s not the way the database is set up.

(By the way: Yes, Bronze, Gold and Silver is the correct order. Read more about why.)

These numbers are courtesy of Michael Lo Vecchio, program assistant in the BSA’s content management team. Without further ado, here’s the grand total of Eagle palms earned in 2013:

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Ask the Expert: The who, when and why of Scout permission slips

expertlogo1Permission slips are like seat belts. They’re simple to use, and they’re for your own protection in case of emergency.

The Boy Scouts of America’s permission slip, officially called the Activity Consent Form and Approval by Parents or Legal Guardian, is a bilingual document that provides parental emergency contact info and releases the “Boy Scouts of America, the local council, the activity coordinators, and all employees, volunteers, related parties, or other organizations associated with the activity from any and all claims or liability arising out of this participation.”

You use a new permission slip for each unit trip, expedition or activity.

There are times when they’re recommended, especially when your chartered organization does not have something like it already in place, and times when they’re required, such as on basic or advanced orientation flights.

But recently Steve Sellers, Scoutmaster of Mount Holly, N.J., Troop 36, learned that some troops use an annual permission slip instead of one for each activity. He writes: Continue reading

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Ask the Expert: Wood Badge course numbering, decoded

expertlogo1W2-590-14-8, C6-160-14-2, S4-83-14-2, N4-527-14.

Are those nuclear launch codes? A paranoid person’s computer password? Some sort of weird locker combination?

Nope. Those four sets of characters describe the numbers of actual Wood Badge courses being offered in 2014.

And in reality, the code — found on every modern Wood Badge course — isn’t that difficult to crack.

The letter represents your Scouting region — Western, Central, Southern or Northeast. The number is your area. Then comes your council number (which you can find here), followed by the two-digit year. (Notice that all four examples above have “14” in common because they’re all held in 2014.)

The final number is added only if a council is offering multiple Wood Badge courses in a single calendar year. If so, they’re numbered chronologically. The first course in 2014 would get a 1 on the end, the second a 2 and so on.

Example time. Let’s take the Wood Badge course I staffed last summer: course No. S2-571-13-3.

That’s: S for Southern Region, 2 for Area 2, 571 for Circle Ten Council’s number, 13 for the year 2013 and 3 because the course was the third Circle Ten course of the calendar year.

Are you more of a visual person? Well here’s a handy chart for you: Continue reading

scouting-heritage-museum

Ask the Expert: How to complete Scouting Heritage MB Requirement 4B

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?If you have a Scout working on Scouting Heritage merit badge Requirement 4, Joe Connole’s your guy.

The programs coordinator and lead admissions clerk for the BSA’s National Scouting Museum in Irving, Tex., is in charge of answering letters and emails from Scouts working on that merit badge.

A Scout has three options for completing Requirement 4 of Scouting Heritage MB, each involving keeping a journal or writing a report:

A: Attend a BSA national jamboree, world Scout jamboree OR a national BSA high-adventure base.

B: Write or visit the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Tex.

C: Visit an exhibit of Scouting memorabilia or a local museum with a Scouting history gallery or visit with someone in your council who is recognized as a dedicated Scouting historian or memorabilia collector.

Scouts who choose to write the National Scouting Museum (4B), will need to contact Joe. If they do, they’ll get a response with a letter, a brochure, and — drumroll please — the awesome free patch seen below. To help Scouts taking this merit badge and counselors teaching it, Joe shared some details on how it works:

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Ask the Expert: How should Scouters handle insurance for troop trailers?

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Insurance: You don’t need it until you need it.

For units that own trailers, insurance, well, insures that both the trailer itself and its contents are covered in case they’re damaged or stolen.

Is this insurance part of a driver’s normal auto coverage, is it provided by the Boy Scouts of America or is it a separate expense?

That’s what Randall Cox, Troop 70 assistant Scoutmaster, asked me last week. He writes: Continue reading

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Pins with a point: How to properly wear BSA service stars

service-star-1Been involved in Scouting for more than a year? You get a gold star.

All youth or adult leaders who have reached one year of tenure with the Boy Scouts of America are eligible to begin wearing service stars. The stars are an underused outward symbol of how long you’ve been involved and a quick way for new Scouts, parents and leaders to see who has Scouting experience.

Anyone can simply walk into a Scout Shop (or go to scoutstuff.org) and purchase the pins and color background. There’s no application.

Scouters and Scouts are trustworthy, so the BSA trusts someone born in 1960, for example, not to purchase and wear a 60-year pin.

Stars start at one year and go up to an impressive 90 years (though you can combine multiple stars to send that number even higher). They’re worn with a specially colored backing that corresponds to the appropriate Scouting program.

But what if your Scouting tenure spans several programs, includes time spent in Scouting as a youth or has a gap of several years? That’s when things get a little trickier — but not much. I’ll answer those questions after the jump.

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merit-badge-sash

Everything you ever wanted to know about merit badge sashes

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?A merit badge sash is like a trophy case you can wear.

Each tiny circle represents one of the 136 interest areas a Boy Scout has conquered.

But what restrictions are placed on merit badge sashes? In what order should they be sewn on? Is there a minimum or maximum number of merit badges a Scout may wear on a sash? Can a Scout with a ton of merit badges wear two sashes? What about wearing a sash folded over a belt? And can anyone help mom or dad sew these things on?

I’ve got the answers — well, to all but that last question.

These answers come from the expert, Christopher Hunt, head of the BSA’s advancement team.

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