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.

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.

Continue reading

Leave your feedback on these Venturing award prototypes

Now that the requirements for the new Venturing awards have been released, attention turns to what the awards themselves will look like.

Will they be medals? Badges? A combination of the two?

Turns out you and other Venturers or Venturing advisors can have a say in the final decision. But you need to leave your feedback soon.

Most Venturers I’ve talked to want awards that look unique to Venturing — something nobody else has. No matter what ends up being used to represent the Venturing, Discovery, Pathfinder and Summit awards, the new requirements show me that these awards will help Venturers get even more out of an already awesome program.

The volunteer-led team behind the changes to Venturing is looking for constructive feedback based on the pictures I’ve posted below. As we learned in Wood Badge, feedback is a gift and will be treated as such.

The collection of sticky notes you see is from volunteers and professionals who left their feedback in person at the National Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn., this week. But you have a voice, too, so be heard by leaving a comment.

Time is of the essence here, so please share your feedback by Wednesday, May 28.

Continue reading

Here are the requirements for the new Venturing awards

Venturing changes 1Heads up, Venturers and Venturing advisors. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for.

The requirements for the Venturing, Discovery, Pathfinder and Summit Awards were released today at the 2014 National Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

Venturers may begin earning them June 1, 2014. They have until the end of the year to finish up work on the rarely earned and soon-to-be-retired Bronze, Gold and Silver awards.

The new awards blend adventure, leadership, personal development and service to give Venturers a structure for developing their own personal vision into manageable goals. That’ll translate into recognition by peers, mentors and the larger community.

After looking over the requirements, I see awards that let Venturers have fun while challenging them to become better leaders. My only complaint is that I’m too old to earn them myself. But any Venturer, regardless of his or her crew’s specialty, will find the awards fit their program.

Each award has a focus. For the Venturing award, it’s joining; for Discovery, it’s participation; for Pathfinder, it’s leadership; and for the Summit award, it’s mentoring.

The requirements were posted this morning on the Program Updates page on Venturers and Venturing Advisors will want to bookmark that page to keep up with this and other changes to their program. Click here for the direct link to the PDF including the requirements.

Many Venturers and advisors have wondered how the transition from the Bronze, Gold and Silver awards will work. Here’s what you need to know: 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:

Continue reading

Peyton Manning: We need Boy Scouts more today than ever

peyton-manning-boy-scoutPeyton Manning was never a Boy Scout himself, but the five-time MVP-winning quarterback can’t help but be connected to Scouting.

He’s reminded of the Boy Scouts of America’s strength within the Denver area and across the country every time he opens the mailbox.

“I get quite a bit of fan mail from mostly parents wanting me to send a congratulatory picture or autograph to their son on becoming an Eagle Scout,” he told a crowd of more than 1,200 on April 16 at the 38th annual Boy Scouts of America Sports Breakfast, benefiting the Denver Area Council.

“I bet it’s a third of the fan mail that I get,” Manning said.

The Super Bowl XLI champion was the keynote speaker at the event, held at the Pepsi Center, which is home to the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.

Celebrities often collect a fee for these kinds of appearances. So how much did Manning charge the Boy Scouts to show up?  Continue reading

Venturer visualizes her wonderful web of Scouting connections

Character-driven TV shows like Lost slowly reveal the ways in which these seemingly disparate people have actually been connected all along.

And as Rachel Eddowes (third from the right in the photo above) recently discovered, the same is true in Scouting.

Perhaps the person with whom you taught a merit badge class served on Wood Badge staff with someone you know from volunteering at an OA ordeal weekend. The possibilities are endless.

Rachel, a supremely active Venturer, five-time National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NAYLE) staffer and student at George Mason University recently decided to illustrate how the Scouting “characters” in her life know one another.

(Case in point: Though I’ve never met Rachel, my dad knows her from NAYLE.)

“Creating such a map was something I had wanted to do anyway — not with TV show characters, but with people I have met over the years through Scouting,” Rachel says. “I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to staff four NAYLE courses out at Philmont Scout Ranch (plus one at Sea Base). In addition to teaching and learning about leadership, I enjoyed making friends from across the country.”

With each additional staffing experience, Rachel reunited with friends or made new ones. Usually some would know of other friends she had made or people she knew through other Scouting experiences. The links continued on and on like a Scouting version of that Kevin Bacon game.

“Eventually a web of connections began to emerge with each ‘Do you know so-and-so?’ ‘Yeah! I know them!’ conversation,” she says.

On first glance, Rachel’s wonderful web looks like a haphazard jumble of lines. But follow a few of those lines, and you’ll see just how connected the characters in her Scouting world are. Check it out (click to enlarge): 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

Tuesday Talkback: Balancing too much adult involvement with too little

Tuesday-TalkbackThis much we know: A unit where Scouts/Venturers do everything without feedback or coaching from adult leaders is taking the “youth-led” concept too far. And a unit where adult leaders plan trips and lead meetings isn’t taking the concept far enough.

So where’s the line?

That’s what Scouter Michael Dulle wondered in an email to me. He writes:

There is a fine line for a good balance of a boy-led Scout unit vs. a hands-on, adult-led unit. I am totally in favor of the boy-led unit. However, there can be too much boy leadership in a unit, especially when the Scoutmaster abdicates his leadership role.

The troop of which I am member of is closer to a good balance than I’ve seen in other units I have witnessed. How do you create and maintain good, balanced unit leadership?

Great question, Michael. Cub Scouting, where adult leaders must take on an active leadership role, doesn’t deal with this problem, of course. But Michael’s question gets at a real dilemma in Boy Scout troops and Venturing crews.

Share how it works in your troop or crew, and consider these questions when responding in the comments below: Continue reading