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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Cub Scout lesson may have prevented abduction of two 8-year-old boys

yp-patchA Cub Scout lesson on the potential danger of strangers may have saved two boys from abduction.

Two 8-year-olds from Ogden, Utah, were waiting for a ride home from a Cub Scout meeting when a stranger approached in his truck. The man got out and said, “Your mom told me to come and get you. I’m supposed to take you home.”

One of the boys said, “No, you’re not. What’s the password?” The man pushed that boy to the ground and moved on to the second boy, who also asked for the password. When the stranger didn’t know the right secret word, both boys ran back to the church where adults were waiting.

This is no overstatement: Lessons these boys learned in Cub Scouting may have saved their lives.

As this Deseret News article explains, police are crediting the boys’ Cub Scout training with saving them from potential abduction.

“You gotta love the Scout program because the Scout program teaches that,” Ogden Police Lt. Danielle Croyle told the newspaper.  Continue reading

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

Say hey to Ethan, your boys’ new guide through Cub Scouting

ethan 2Next year, your Cub Scout pack will grow in size by one cool kid.

Ethan, the newest member of the Cub Scout team, will be a part of each adventure in your boys’ new Cub Scout handbooks.

He’ll always be a year older and one rank ahead of your Cub Scout readers, meaning he’ll speak to them like a friend. He’ll share encouragement, tips, anecdotes and even a few mistakes he made along the way — along with what he learned, of course.

When the volunteer-led Cub Adventure Team solicited illustration samples for Ethan, one submission stood out above the others. His uniform was perfect with everything in the right place. It’s almost as if the illustrator had Scouting experience.

He does. He’s an Eagle Scout. Continue reading

About the Cub Scouters behind the Cub Scout program updates

Ken KingThe folks behind next year’s fun-focused changes to Cub Scouting aren’t high-paid consultants. They aren’t people who have never run a den meeting in their lives. They’re not even BSA professionals.

In truth, they’re volunteers — dedicated Cub Scouters just like you. There were more than 100 volunteer leaders on the 411 Steering Committee, chaired by Russ Hunsaker. They come from across the country.

These volunteers, with the help of some staff advisors, contributed to the analysis of the current program and made recommendations for the Cub Scout program being unveiled here at the 2014 National Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn. (Read all about the new program on the BSA’s Program Updates page.)

Everyone on the Cub Adventure Team is an experienced Cub Scout leader. They’ve been at it for a while, helping on other Cub Scout programs materials like BALOO training, the Cub Scout Outdoor Adventure Award, the former Theme Task Force and Cub Scout National Camping School curriculum.

It’s not just their volunteer Scouting experience that makes them qualified. They also have professional expertise in curriculum design and/or youth development.

Take Eagle Scout Ken King, pictured above. Continue reading

Tiger Cub becomes just Tiger and gets new image next year

Amid all the excitement around the new adventure loops and adventure pins announced today, you might have missed a smaller but still significant change to Cub Scouting for next year.

When the new Cub Scout program becomes official on May 2015, Tiger Cubs becomes simply Tiger and gets a new tiger image to go along with it.

Why? I’m told parents felt the current Tiger Cub image was infantile. And adding the word “Cubs” to the name, parents told the BSA, made Tiger Cubs feel like a lesser rank than Wolf or Bear. (We don’t call those Wolf Cubs or Bear Cubs, after all.)

Besides, switching to a single name puts Tiger in line with the other single-name animals: Wolf and Bear.

Also changing is the Tiger image. The new emblem incorporates a more mature-looking Tiger, again bringing the rank in line with Wolf and Bear.

Here’s the old image: Continue reading

Looping you in on the Cub Scout 2015 updates

Update, 4:44 p.m. May 21: Read about the volunteers responsible for these changes. And learn about Tiger Cubs becoming just Tigers.

Let me get this out of the way first: Belt loops and pins aren’t going anywhere when Cub Scouting gets an exciting refresh in May 2015.

In fact, belt loops — now called adventure loops — and pins (adventure pins) will get even better than before with the new updates.

Boys will receive an adventure loop for their Cub Scout belt for completing adventures at the Tiger, Wolf and Bear level. Boys working on Webelos and Arrow of Light ranks will receive adventure pins when each adventure is completed. The pins have been redesigned for the new program. (I’ve posted some photos of them below.)

And good news for Scouters and Scouts who liked the soon-to-depart Academics and Sports program belt loops: Many of the activities that were popular in that program were integrated into the new Cub Scout adventure program.

What are the requirements? Who wrote them? How do I transition my den and pack into the new program? Your source for that kind of information is the Program Updates page on The page was just updated today, which is the opening day of the 2014 National Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

They’re you’ll find:

  • Samplers of new youth handbooks
  • Samplers of the den leader guides for adult Scouters
  • FAQs answered by the program developers
  • Adventure requirements and insignia
  • An introduction to Ethan, the new cartoon character that will guide Cub Scouts through the program
  • A transition guide

Rather than posting all those PDFs here, it’s best if you go to the Program Updates page directly. The team has been very diligent about keeping that page updated and current, so it deserves a spot on your bookmarks bar.

That said, because many readers have been asking about the adventure loops and adventure pins, I’ve pasted answers to those questions below: 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