A powerful case for electric-vehicle charging stations at BSA camps

If you believe the sci-fi novels, by the time our Scouts are ready to buy their first car, an all-electric vehicle may be their only option.

These vehicles don’t pollute, and they’re cheaper to drive than their gas or gas-electric hybrid counterparts.

But you don’t have to wait for the future to own one. Most major carmakers either have an all-electric model for sale now, or they’re developing one to put on the market soon.

The increasing prevalence of electric vehicles, or EVs, led two Scouters to make a case for adding EV charging stations at BSA camps and national high-adventure bases.

Bob Bruninga and Gary Wilson lay out their cases below.

I sent their arguments to Eric Hiser, the BSA volunteer who serves as National Standards Chair for the National Camp Accreditation Program. His response:

“I am intrigued by it, and we will certainly give it some consideration during the next standards revision or possibly as a stand-alone recommended practice revision.”

See the arguments for EV charging stations below, and share your thoughts in the comments. Continue reading

Why every Scout or Venturer needs to earn the Cyber Chip

cyber-chipIt’s been two years since I last blogged about the BSA’s Cyber Chip. In the online world, that’s like two lifetimes.

The importance of the Cyber Chip has only grown in the time since it was introduced. Now having a current Cyber Chip is the first requirement for Scouts earning the Digital Technology and Programming merit badges.

It’s not just for merit badge-earning Boy Scouts, though. There are different requirements for Scouts based on their grade: 1-3, 4-5, 6-8 and 9-12. That means Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturers, Varsity Scouts, Sea Scouts and Explorers should have an up-to-date Cyber Chip tailored to their unique online experience.

The Cyber Chip, developed in collaboration with NetSmartz, part of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, teaches Scouts and Venturers about cyberbullying, cell phone use, texting, blogging, gaming and identity theft.

Seeing as June is Internet Safety Month, now’s a great time to remind your Scouts and Venturers to earn (or update) their Cyber Chip. Learn more here, and watch this short explanatory video below: 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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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

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

Smartphones in Scouting: A curse or a cure?

Before you tell your Scouts and Venturers to power down their smartphones at the beginning of your next adventure, I have something you need to read.

The BSA’s Deputy Chief Scout Executive, Gary Butler, penned a guest blog post that offers his nuanced opinion on the place that iPhones, Androids and devices of their ilk have in our movement.

Does Gary think they add to or detract from the delivery of a great Scouting experience? Read on and find out.

Smartphones in Scouting: A curse or a cure?

By Gary Butler, BSA Deputy Chief Scout Executive and Chief Operating Officer

Gary ButlerI have heard lots of conversations recently on whether smartphones should be allowed during Scouting activities. One of our employees shared with me that when his son goes camping the leader takes all the phones away and returns them when the activity is over.

Does the use of a smartphone as part of Scouting’s activities disrupt the experience, or can it be a “cure” to make our current experiences more relevant to today’s youth? This comment really struck home and got me to thinking as to what is the right answer.

Sometimes to find the answer to these kind of debates on how to go forward, it takes a look backwards to find the answer. One of Baden-Powell’s most interesting quotes is, “A fisherman does not bait his hook with food he likes. He uses food the fish likes. So with boys.” Continue reading

BSA introduces Virtual Reality Scouting

VR-Scouting-deviceApril 2 Update: See an important message about VR Scouting at the end of the post.


Love Scouting but hate getting out in the fresh air?

You’re in luck! Today the Boy Scouts of America introduces Virtual Reality Scouting, a revolutionary alternative to regular Scouting that lets you experience all that the BSA has to offer without ever leaving the house.

The new program, debuting this fall, already has a catchy slogan: “Bring the Great Outdoors to the Great Indoors.”

To experience VR Scouting, families will want to purchase the Complete Home-Based Virtual Reality Scouting Starter System — or, simply, the CHBVRSSS (pronounced just like it’s spelled). It’ll go on sale this fall.

The CHBVRSSS will retail for only $1,999.95 — a bargain when you consider it’ll pay for itself after just six years of staying home while everyone else in your unit experiences outdoor Scouting adventures.

David Wilson, a Scouter from Michigan who got to test VR Scouting last month, said he’ll buy a device as soon as it goes on sale.

“I love going camping with my Scouts, but I’m not a fan of fresh air, warm mountain breezes or being outside in general,” he says. “So VR Scouting is perfect for me.”

I bet it’ll be perfect for you, too. Just imagine: Continue reading

How Facebook’s new privacy policy for teens affects your Scouts, Venturers

For your Scouts and Venturers on Facebook, the reminder to “think before you post” just got a lot more important.

Yesterday we learned that Facebook has changed its privacy policies for users age 13 to 17, a move with real implications for the social media users in your troop, post, ship, team or crew.

There are two changes you as a Scout leader should be aware of. Continue reading

Power struggle: Scouts, Scouters take different approaches to charging devices

At the jamboree, no power outlet remains empty for long.

Everywhere you look — using official AT&T charging stations, orange Summit Bechtel Reserve power arrays (not to be used when raining), outlets inside and outside of shower houses, and solar chargers hanging from backpacks — Scouts and Scouters grab every drop of power for their devices.

It’s no surprise, really, given the age in which we live and the fact the 2013 National Jamboree has lived up to its billing as the most-connected in history.

I found Ryan, an Atlanta Area Council Scout who works on the Aquatics staff, charging his Samsung phone with friends at an orange power station this morning. For Ryan, an empty battery means no way to stay connected with friends and family onsite and off. Continue reading

At the K2BSA tent, I go fox hunting with Scouts from N.C.

The beeping on Bram’s handheld radio intensified, and then: “I’m getting something!”

Like a trio of bloodhounds, three Scouts from Troop A120 out of Durham, N.C., were off to follow the digital scent.

Eight minutes later, they found their prize: a hidden radio transmitter.

Welcome to ARDF Fox Hunting at the 2013 jamboree’s K2BSA tent. Volunteers there made me an honorary member of the North Carolina team, though I did little more than get in the way.

In fox hunting — part geocaching, part orienteering — Scouts use radios and homemade antennas to locate a hidden “fox,” or transmitter. I can definitely see the appeal.

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