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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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

At Scouting Newsroom, get BSA breaking news straight from the source

Admit it: You like to be the first to know what’s new in the Boy Scouts of America.

I’m with you. So I was excited this week to learn about Scouting Newsroom, the new, official site for BSA news, updates and information. The public-facing site has news releases, fact sheets, and an overview of topics important to Scouts, Scouters, the public, and the news media.

There’s even an “Email Updates” box where you can enter your email address and receive a message every time a new entry is posted. I subscribed right away.

Scouting Newsroom, like the official news sites of other major organizations, is your best bet for reading news directly from the source. It’s the BSA’s exact message, unfiltered.

That said, I’ll continue to cover breaking BSA news right here on Bryan on Scouting, with the goal of helping you understand how it affects you. With Bryan on Scouting and Scouting Newsroom, you’ll be the best-informed Scouter around.  Continue reading

Best Scouting apps for iPhone and Android, 2014 edition

Empty your backpack and leave everything behind. All you need on your next Scouting outing is your smartphone.

OK, so maybe that’s an exaggeration.

What is true, though, is that for the two-thirds of Americans who own smartphones, it’s now possible to fit reference books, a GPS device, a weather radio, a compass, a map, a camera, a field guide, a recipe book and more in your pocket.

But which apps are worthy of downloading (or even — gasp! — paying for) to enhance your Scouting experience? Your fellow Scouters helped me compile the ultimate list below.

First, though, a quick note on smartphones in Scouting. They’re here to stay; resistance is futile. When used properly, these technological tools can actually improve your Scout unit. The BSA’s Deputy Chief Scout Executive, Gary Butler, made a compelling case for viewing them as a cure, not a curse. Read his comments here.

With that out of the way, check out the best Scouting-related apps after the jump.

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Drink Right: Why now’s the time to replace soda and bug juice with water

healthy-kidsWhen Scout Executive Michael Riley made the choice to eliminate bug juice at the Cape Cod & Islands Council’s summer day camps, he braced for a revolt.

But no uprising came. Sugar-saturated bug juice was available one summer, and the next summer only water was served.

“Surprisingly, we got no pushback from the parents,” he told me. “They said, ‘That’s good; the Scouts don’t need that.’ And the kids? They just thought, ‘This is what we’ve got.'”

This positive step toward healthy living will go a long way toward preventing and reversing obesity in Scouts in Michael’s council. But it shouldn’t stop there.

Your pack, troop, team, crew, ship or post can be a part of this three-step approach to healthy living known as Drink Right, Move More, Snack Smart. The effort is the brainchild of Healthy Kids Out of School (with major funding from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation) and a Boy Scouts of America partner in the push for healthier Scouts.

Today we’ll look at Drink Right. I’ll cover the other two in future blog posts.

Consider this: Is it time to make the switch to serving only water at Scout meetings, on campouts and at summer camp? The statistics say yes:  Continue reading

When worlds collide: What are Scouts seeing on your Facebook page?

Your boss views your tailgating photos on Instagram, your Facebook friends see you complaining about your job or your Scouts read your tweets in favor of a politician.

You’ve just encountered context collapse. That’s the phrase for something intended for a specific audience that becomes seen by a much wider, unintended audience.

It happens in the real world, like if you run into a coworker, Scout or Scouter at church or a political rally. But it happens even more frequently online, where we can instantly share sometimes-controversial views with a few simple taps on the keyboard.

Eagle Scout Mark Ray, skilled author and regular contributor to both Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines, writes on his blog about this phenomenon:

Thanks to context collapse, your boss can see your vacation photos, your friends can see what you’re saying about work, and — most importantly for our purposes — your Scouts can see what you’re liking on Facebook, whether that’s Lolcats, a political cause or your favorite microbrewery.

We know that more than two-thirds (71 percent, to be exact) of online adults use Facebook, meaning chances are good you’re dealing with context collapse even if you don’t know it. So it’s a good idea to take a second to think about your online existence and who in your life sees what. That’s especially relevant when Scouts are involved.

Mark shares three strategies for dealing with context collapse and making sure you don’t reveal more about yourself than you’re comfortable sharing. Ranging from the most extreme to the simplest, they are: Continue reading

2014 Fieldbook: Your must-have user’s guide to the outdoors

Here’s one owner’s manual that’s actually worth reading.

It isn’t for your car, smartphone or new camp stove. The 2014 Fieldbook is a user’s guide for the entire outdoors, and it’s a must-own for everyone who spends time outside.

The fifth-edition Fieldbook: Scouting’s Manual of Basic and Advanced Skills for Outdoor Adventure is published by the Boy Scouts of America. It covers hiking, camping, canoeing, mountain travel, ultralight backpacking, wilderness navigation, whitewater kayaking and much more.

While Scouts and Scouters will find it indispensable before and during every outing, it’s a great tool for non-Scouts, as well.

“For more than a century, our organization has focused on teaching outdoor skills and leadership and providing opportunities for adventure and life-changing experiences,” said Wayne Brock, chief Scout executive of the BSA. “The Fieldbook isn’t just for our Scouts — we want to share these important lessons with anyone who seeks to explore, experience adventure and appreciate nature.”

Are you new to the outdoors? The Fieldbook has step-by-step guides to get you started. Or maybe you’re more of a seasoned outdoor adventurer? The Fieldbook will enhance your skill-set by helping you get farther, higher and deeper into the backcountry.

You can buy the 2014 Fieldbook today in your local Scout Shop or at ScoutStuff.org for $20 for the perfect-bound version or $27 for one that’s coil-bound.

Or, for the first time ever, you can buy it digitally. It’s available via Amazon for $20, and you can download it to read on a Kindle or any device that uses the Kindle app, including Androids, iPads and iPhones.

Find much more Fieldbook coverage, including a look at the contents pages, a bio of the Eagle Scout author and details about the history of the publication, all after the jump.  Continue reading

Camp Scout! app puts Scouting destinations at your fingertips

The annual practice of troops picking the perfect summer camp just got upgraded to the smartphone age.

Clear a spot on your home screen for Camp Scout!, a free iPhone app brought to you by Boys’ Life magazine and the BSA’s Outdoor Adventures team.

Let the iPhone detect your current location — or enter an address, place name or ZIP code — and Camp Scout! will show you the nearest BSA-owned properties.

Too many results? The “Things to Do” filter lets you see only camps with your unit’s favorite activities. Do your Scouts or Venturers fancy a place that offers boating, fishing and horseback riding? Tap all three activities, select “Find Camps” and voila!

Each camp’s page uses information supplied by the council. You’ll see a description, an activities list, driving directions, contact information and a link to learn more.

Roughly 500 camps are already in the app, and more are being added all the time.

In talking with Brian Gray, outdoor program coordinator for the BSA, I learned Continue reading

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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Tuesday Talkback: In search of a better patrol box

Tuesday-TalkbackIt sounds like an infomercial you’d see on QVC: “It’s a pantry, a spice rack, a utensils drawer and a portable kitchen. Yes, the Boy Scout patrol box does it all, and it can be yours for three easy payments … ”

But patrol boxes aren’t a gimmick. Patrol-based cooking is an important part of troop campouts, and many troops use patrol boxes to help keep cooking supplies and ingredients organized.

You don’t want Dragon patrol supplies fraternizing with items belonging to the Alligator or Rattlesnake patrols, do you?

Patrol boxes serve two purposes, as far as I see:

  • They teach responsibility. By assigning each patrol its own set of cooking supplies, you’re essentially giving them ownership and (hopefully) teaching them to take good care of what’s theirs. That’s better than everyone using (and abusing) community supplies where there’s no accountability.
  • They promote healthy competition. Many troops allow and encourage their patrols to paint and decorate their patrol boxes. Which patrol box looks the best? Which is the best organized? Bragging rights are on the line.

So we’re agreed that patrol boxes are a great idea. But what makes a great patrol box? That’s what Scoutmaster Bob M. asked last week, explaining that Troop 255’s patrol boxes are getting worn out.

“Our troop built the basic patrol boxes a number of years ago” he writes, “and they are showing their age. I was curious to find out if you’ve done an article or had any information on any lightweight options to the basic box design.”

I’ll share one resource, and then I’d love to hear from readers.

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