Film showcases the power of Scouting but doesn’t sugarcoat it

troop-491-posterI mean no disrespect to Follow Me, Boys!, an an American classic. But that 1966 film doesn’t speak to most of today’s 30-something parents in need of a character-building organization for their son or daughter.

It especially doesn’t resonate with those parents in America’s inner cities who desperately want a way to steer their children away from violence and crime.

That’s why anyone considering Scouting needs to see Troop 491: The Adventures of the Muddy Lions.

It’s available on DVD this month.

The film from Praphetic Praductions is a work of fiction, but the premise is all too real:

A middle-schooler named Tristan lives in the inner city. His mom, wanting to keep him off the streets, signs him up for Scouting. Soon after, Tristan witnesses a murder, and the local thug demands his silence. He’s left with the choice between Scouting’s values and the code of the streets. He learns, with the help of his Scout friends, that doing the right thing isn’t easy.

Watch the trailer below, and you’ll want to see this powerful film that encapsulates the power of Scouting but does so in a way that’s gritty and avoids sentimentalism. Learn more and pre-order the DVD at the film’s official website.

The Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, in its writeup about the movie, reveals that the film’s writer and director grew up in Scouting in Richmond. He “attributes much of his core values to the time he spent with his troop: leadership, achieving goals and helping others,” according to the story.

The Boy Scouts “is a counter to gang culture,” Patrick Ricks told the newspaper. “The acute need for it is still there.”

I should warn you that there is some strong language in the film — not unlike what actual Scout-age children would hear on the streets. I’d encourage you to watch it yourself before screening it for older Scouts.

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Help make the 2015 Journey to Excellence scorecards even better

jte-goldHow do you know whether your unit offers the best possible experience for the Scouts and Venturers you serve?

You keep score.

Scouting’s Journey to Excellence (JTE) gives you specific, measurable ways to track success based on a number of key factors like camping, service, advancement, training and retention.

Those packs, troops, crews, ships, teams and posts that really shine earn either bronze, silver or gold JTE status for the year. Those that don’t learn from other units and benefit from an early warning system that gives them plenty of time to make corrections.

But just like no Scout unit can improve by standing still, the JTE scorecards themselves are under constant assessment and reinvention.

That process is underway now for standards at the unit, district and council levels for the 2015 versions of the scorecards, and you can have your say.

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Why change Cub Scouting? The latest CubCast has your answer

cubcast-logoCub Scouting is the greatest program out there for kids, so why would the Boy Scouts of America feel the need to change it?

To make it better, of course.

The new Cub Scout Adventure Program, debuting in May 2015, is better for everyone involved. It’s more fun and active for boys. It’s simpler and more rewarding for leaders.

I’m not the expert on why these changes were made, how they were developed and when they’re rolling out. But I know who is.

It’s Bob Scott, Cub Scout Experience Manager at the BSA. He served as an advisor to the 100-plus volunteers who helped create the updated program.

In the June 2014 edition of CubCast, the monthly Cub Scouting podcast, Scott shares more insight into Cub Scouting’s 2015 upgrade.

Boy Scout leaders, there’s a podcast for you, too.

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New BSA President Gates: ‘Time for blunt talk’ in Scouting

Robert M. Gates, the former defense secretary, will prioritize transparency, marketing, retention and recruitment, and continued program innovation during his two-year term as the 35th president of the Boy Scouts of America.

In his first speech to Scouters and Scouts since the 2010 jamboree, the Distinguished Eagle Scout and past president of the National Eagle Scout Association also expressed his support for last year’s membership vote.

Furthermore, he said he’ll oppose any effort to reopen debate on the issue during his term.

During his 27-minute speech at the BSA’s National Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn., Gates outlined his vision for the movement. A movement, he said, that has improved dramatically in the eight years since Gates was last involved as a volunteer.

“My bluntness may disturb some of you, but it’s part of the package,” he said. “And maybe it’s time for blunt talk.”

Case in point: He said that during his time as president of NESA and member of the board until 2006, “I was harshly critical of the way this organization was run. … Everything seemed scripted, and the volunteer leaders seemed to me to be largely figureheads.”

But since he returned to Scouting in February of this year, Gates said he has noticed a dramatic change in how the organization is run.

“I believe the volunteer leadership has assumed its proper role as the guiding hand of this movement. There is still room for improvement, but as someone who has not been involved for the past eight years, the difference between then and now is like night and day.”

I encourage you to read the transcript and watch the video of Gates’ full speech at Scouting Newsroom.

I’ve also selected some quotes from Gates on some issues of interest to Scouters like you, including transparency, marketing, recruitment and the membership policy.

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21 photos from the first-ever Scouting 500 in Kansas City

More than 12,000 Scouts turned up at Kansas Speedway last weekend for the inaugural Scouting 500. The final results: Everyone in attendance had a high-octane weekend they’ll never forget.

As this positive story in the Kansas City Star explained, Scouts could have “ridden a zip line, raced go-karts, flown remote-control helicopters, climbed rock walls and learned about welding, carpentry, archery and more.”

But seeing, as they say, is believing. So check out 21 photos from the event, courtesy of Heart of America Council Marketing Director Matthew Armstrong.

I gotta say, it looks like these Scouts had a life-changing experience that reminds them why they joined Scouting. Continue reading

Merit Badge team serves up some reminders about Cooking merit badge

Cooking-EagleAvid readers of this blog have been hearing about changes to Cooking merit badge since October 2012.

But new Scouters or new blog readers might not know about the exciting, important changes to this now-Eagle-required merit badge.

The basic facts are these:

  • Cooking merit badge became required to earn the Eagle Scout Award on Jan. 1, 2014.
  • A revised Cooking merit badge pamphlet and new requirements were released last year. A Scout may use either the old or the new requirements in 2014. Whichever one he chooses will count toward Eagle.
  • Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, Scouts who have not started working on the Cooking merit badge must use the new requirements and supporting pamphlet.

Here are more details and reminders, courtesy of Frank Ramirez and the Merit Badge Maintenance Team. Continue reading

Swimming merit badge revised in time for summer camp

SwimmingSwimming merit badge, that Eagle-required summer camp staple, has been upgraded and revised just in time for the 2014 summer camp season.

The new requirements focus more on teaching Scouts correct stroke mechanics while continuing to emphasize basic water skills. Previous requirements like snorkeling, competitive swimming and CPR (which Scouts learn more fully in other merit badges anyway) have been removed.

With the new requirements, the goal is to teach Scouts to swim with greater ease and efficiency, as well as keep them safe in and around the water.

Scouts may use either the old or new requirements in 2014 — it’s their choice. On Jan. 1, 2015, they’ll become official, and only Scouts who have already started working with the old requirements may use the old ones.

As you know, Swimming’s an important merit badge because to earn the Eagle Scout Award, a Scout must earn either Swimming, Cycling or Hiking MB.

A revised Swimming merit badge pamphlet, with new color illustrations, will be available soon for purchase at local Scout Shops and through

Most summer camps will want to use the latest requirements for Swimming merit badge this summer. So the BSA decided to release those new requirements early. I’ve pasted them below.

That said, Scouts may choose to work using the old requirements, which were published earlier this year in the 2014 Boy Scout Requirements Book. Here’s how the transition will work:

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N.J. police and National Guard camporee is one of 2014’s largest Scouting events

nj-camporeeLater today, 10,000 Boy Scouts will converge in New Jersey for what organizers are calling the year’s largest Scouting event (though organizers of the Scouting 500 event this weekend in Kansas City expect 12,000).

This weekend’s New Jersey State Police and New Jersey National Guard Camporee will gather 300 troops from all over New Jersey and from parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and Connecticut at the National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt, N.J.

Looks like they’re in for a “you-won’t-believe-what-I-did-last-weekend” weekend.

They’ll watch jaw-dropping police and National Guard demonstrations, participate in interactive displays and work on merit badges.

It’s a highlight for the Scouts in attendance and for the members of the New Jersey State Police and New Jersey National Guard who get to meet with Scouts and share some of their cool toys.

The state police will have a number of vehicles on display, including an underwater operations truck, helicopter and Arson Unit truck with robots. The National Guard will bring two helicopters, a Humvee and a security vehicle. Scouts can also check out a Howitzer, MK19 grenade launcher and sniper rifle (but no live fire, of course).

Other highlights: Continue reading

How do you decide which movies are appropriate for your Scouts, Venturers?

Parents decide which movies are OK for their children and which contain too much violence, bad language or sexual content.

But what happens when that guardianship temporarily transfers to you, the Scout leader? How do you decide whether it’s OK to watch that PG movie on a Cub Scout overnight or a PG-13 movie with your Venturers?

That becomes even more complicated when you realize that 12 parents may have a dozen different definitions of inappropriate movie content.

Side note: Watching movies isn’t a common Scouting activity, of course. We Scouts and Scouters prefer to have most of our fun outside. But there are times during camporees, summer camps, training courses or unit trips when I think they’re perfectly fine.

I have fond memories of seeing a movie with my Philmont crew on the way back from New Mexico. After hiking in the backcountry for 10 days, we felt we earned a couple of mindless hours at the movie theater. Continue reading

5 ways to enjoy 2014 Kids to Parks Day

Kids-to-Parks-day-2014-logo-2Imagine Scouting in a world without local, state and national parks.

It’s not a pretty sight: Tents pitched in mall parking lots, s’mores cooked over an open tire fire, fishing in repurposed swimming pools.

Thank goodness for agencies like the National Park Trust, which helps preserve America’s local, state and national parks for future generations.

One of their big events each year is Kids to Parks Day, set for Saturday, May 17, 2014. Show them your support by registering your plans to explore parks and public lands that day.

The Boy Scouts of America — along with the National Park Service, NFL Players Association, American Hiking Society and others — is a prominent collaborator on Kids to Parks Day.

The National Park Trust estimates that more than 500,000 people will attend park events planned in 47 states and Washington, D.C., in what they’re calling “America’s national day of play.”

Here are five ways to get involved:

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