Adult Education

Assisting Special Needs Scouts

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If you ever have issues with scouts who need special attention or special requirements, it pays to know something about how the BSA handles those issues. Here’s an article that introduces some of the ideas.

Sugar Creek Merit Badge Counselor Training

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Merit Badge Counselor Training – May 18th, from 7:00 to 9:00 – Lebanon Branch of Church of Jesus Christ LDS – 2291 Witt Rd, Lebanon, IN

We have an important training opportunity for all scouters, parents of new scouts who want to contribute to the program, and adults who have the skill sets needed to be a merit badge counselor. Please make sure that all your merit badge counselors, and potential merit badge counselors, know about this training and strongly encourage them attend.  The training will be held at the Lebanon LDS Church building on Thursday, May 18th, from 7:00 to 9:00.  The trainer from the council will be Roger Schumacher.

As a merit badge counselor, your mission is to join fun with learning. You are both a teacher and mentor to the Scout as he works on a merit badge and learns by doing. By presenting opportunities for growth by way of engaging activities such as designing a Web page (Computers), performing an ollie and a wheelie (Snowboarding), or fabricating rope (Pioneering), you can pique a young man’s interest in the merit badge subject. Just think: Your hands-on involvement could inspire a Scout to develop a lifelong hobby, pursue a career, become an independent, self-supporting adult, and help the Scout advance toward becoming an Eagle Scout. By serving as a merit badge counselor, you offer your time, knowledge, and other resources so that Scouts can explore a topic of interest.

David Hovde

Sugar Creek District Training Chair

Noah at Voyageur?

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Will Noah bring his canoe and animals to Voyageur second weekend next weekend?

What does a Chartered Organization Representative do?

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An organization sponsoring one or more scout units is a Chartered Organization. This is an organization who has entered into an agreement with Crossroads of America Council to follow the BSA system. Part of that agreement requires the Chartered Organization to appoint a member of the organization or a staff member of the organization to serve as the Chartered Organization Representative.

So that begs the question: what is a supposed a Chartered Organization Representative do?

A Chartered Organization Representative is supposed to serve as the chief scouting officer of the Chartered Organization. The COR makes sure that the scout units at the chartered organization have sufficient adult leaders as committee members, scoutmasters or cubmasters, and den leaders. The COR serves as a liaison between three organizations: (1) Crossroads of America Council as a voting member at the council annual meeting and as a voting member of North Star District, (2) the Chartered Organization, and (3) the scout unit.

Healthy scout units have active CORs. CORs visit unit meetings often enough to be aware of the unit’s needs and strengths but is not necessarily an active unit leader day-to-day. (CORs can serve concurrently as unit chairs, but not cubmaster or scoutmaster.) Active CORs have a specific role at the District level, so that the unit is providing resources to district and the district is responsive to a unit’s needs.

If your COR is not able to fulfill those duties personally, you should inquire whether a new COR is the best practice. If the Chartered Organization has a limited of persons who are eligible to serve as COR, you should work with your Unit Commissioner on finding the optimal solution for your COR.

Remember that the Chartered Organization has entered into a contract to appoint a COR who is able fulfill those duties. With that in mind along with “A scout is trustworthy [and] helpful . . .,” all CORs should be considering what their passion is that would make a meaningful contribution to District.

Please prepare your COR to expect to be asked to do some work for District. This can be specific tasks, such as serving as Camporee staff for a day or two a year or serving as an event staff for 500 Festival Parade activities of units. This can also be to accept a district committee position.

Since past practices ignored the proper role for CORs, there is a wide-spread reluctance to ask the COR to actively serve scouting. As a District, we are moving to Best Practices in many different ways. Asking CORs to actively serve, having the Chartered Organization to appoint new CORs, or having the Chartered Organization work with their Unit Commissioner to find a solution is one of those steps toward Best Practices.

Since “A scout is . . . help, friendly, [and] courteous . . .,” we are asking for your help to the implementation of this Best Practice as painless as possible. We understand that change can induce stress. This is a start of a process that will last for an indefinite period of time.  The vision is clear and simple: have contributing CORs at the unit- and district-levels. The path to the vision is more obscure. Your input on how to make it successful is most welcome. Thank you in advance for your constructive input to make the path toward Best Practice less obscure.

Building Healthy Units: Oasis Teams

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As the academic year winds down, many scouting units are thinking about leadership transitions and upgrades.

Transitions occur when Cub Leaders leave their packs to follow their son(s) to a boy scout troop. They occur when Scoutmasters retire when their son(s) reach Eagle of 18 years old. They occur when a scout leader has health issues.

Leadership upgrades occur when a handful of scout leaders seek to fill the many vacancies in their unit’s committee. Upgrades occur when leaders switch roles to refresh their own excitement and engagement or move into positions better suited to their individual talents: a banker moves into a treasurer’s role, a teacher moves into a scoutmaster corps role.

Some units are in communities where there are few adult volunteers available or few scouts to recruit. We informally call these areas “scouting deserts.”

District is looking to build teams of experienced scouters who can help offset some of the problems with scouting deserts. These experienced scouters are being asked to serve as part of our new “oasis teams.”

In our ideal vision an oasis team would be a semi-permanent team of scouters who would work together for a year or so. In that period of time, they would work together to rebuild or refine existing units or serve as an organizational committee for new units. In the vision, the oasis team would consist of 4-6 members per team. They would serve as a temporary unit committee or supplementation to a beleaguered unit committee.

The oasis team would assure that the unit has an annual calendar of activities and meetings; a unit budget that identifies the cost of a year’s program to a scout’s family; a fund raising plan to make sure all scouts can afford scouting; and a succession plan for the unit’s families to take over full time management of the unit with 4-6 months.

The transition plan would have the annual calendar and budget done in the first 60 days with the Oasis Team taking the lead. The plan would have the Oasis Team identify successor for each key position in days 61 through 120 and implement a training plan to have those successors 100% trained by Day 120. The successors would shadow the oasis team member who is mentoring the new volunteer. From days 121 to 180, the oasis team would switch roles. The oasis team mentors would shadow the new volunteer’s first steps in the role. At the end of six months, the oasis team would be replaced with a New-Unit Commissioner to advise the entire unit.

Ideally, North Star could use three Oasis Teams right now. That means we would like 18 experienced scouters.

Please contact Jeff Heck if you know a candidate for serving in this role. We would love to build these teams and begin implementing them before the end of May 2017.

 

Is the Decline of Free Play Causing an Epidemic of Childhood Depression? 

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An article about free play time disappearing and its effect on kids makes an interesting starting point for a series of articles I am planning on posting.

People who meet with me about their Scouting unit often hear me recite the phrase, “If it is efficient, it is not scouting.” I know this often confuses some as they look at articles on this website. I’m also looking at best practices for improving the scouting experience. The question should arise in many people’s heads that best practices are often about efficiency; so, how can best practices in scouting not seek efficiency?

For me this is a very simple and obvious answer, we are not building a business to maximize profit. We are building young men of character. If it were simple to form a young man of character by a simple recipe, we would have no crime, we would have no conflict, and we would have figured out the system already.

Over the millennia, we know many different methods for raising young man of reliable character. In ancient Sparta, Young men were raised in very strict circumstances. They were taught to fight and to obey orders. At the same time, there was a strong structure of encouraging boys to break out from within the rules. If they wished to find a wife, they would often have to escape discipline and jump through windows in the dark of night to find their future betrothed. This mixture of discipline and self-reliance made Spartan warriors among the most flexible minded and deadly of any armies of their era.

In the Middle Ages boys of landed classes would serve as an apprentice to a knight, called a squire. The predecessor to modern trade unions, guilds, would take scout age boys in as apprentices and train them into journeymen. The guild apprentice system worked its way over to America with trades like blacksmiths, tanners (leatherwork), and coopers (barrel makers).

All of these training methods involved action and exposure to the real world.

The modern method of “classrooms solve everything” began in earnest around the turn of the 20th century. Part of the logic was parents were too dumb and ignorant to know how to properly teach children. It should be left to professionals.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect classroom education. I finished 19th grade (as I tell my Wolf Cub nephew. Want to see a head explode? “Seventeen more years?!”). From my many years in the classroom, though, I have concluded that Baden Powell had it right when he quoted a writer named Casson (of whom I know little else):

Judging from my own experience, I would say that boys have a world of their own — a world that they make for themselves; and neither the teacher nor the lessons are admitted to this world. A boy’s world has its own events and standards and code and gossip and public opinion.

In spite of teachers and parents, boys remain loyal to their own world. They obey their own code, although it is quite a different code to the one that is taught to them at home and in the schoolroom. They gladly suffer martyrdom at the hands of uncomprehending adults, rather than be false to their own code.

The code of the teacher, for instance, is in favour of silence and safety and decorum. The code of the boys is diametrically opposite. It is in favour of noise and risk and excitement.

Fun, fighting, and feeding! These are the three indispensable elements of the boy’s world. These are basic. They are what boys are in earnest about; and they are not associated with teachers nor schoolbooks.

According to public opinion in Boydom, to sit for four hours a day at a desk indoors is a wretched waste of time and daylight. Did anyone ever know a boy — a normal healthy boy, who begged his father to buy him a desk? Or did anyone ever know a boy, who was running about outdoors, go and plead with his mother to be allowed to sit down in the drawing room?

Certainly not. A boy is not a desk animal. He is not a sitting-down animal. Neither is he a pacifist nor a believer in safety first; nor a book-worm, nor a philosopher.

I love that line, “A boy is not a desk animal. He is not a sitting-down animal.”

I have a nine-month old Golden Retriever puppy at home. She is not a sitting-down animal, either. Goldens are known for their expressiveness. When Goldens are happy, they are jubliant. When Goldens are sad, they look like their best friend died. Put a Golden in a kennel by herself all day, every day and watch depression set in. I see much the same behavior in younger scouts.

We have noted previous studies that suggested that being in nature was good for a person’s psychology. These studies are showing patterns that BP would have warned us against nearly a century ago.

Boys need to be active. They need to take risks. They need to “waste time” being boys. It is an inefficient process.

I am starting an intriguing book right now called Antifragile.* As part of the introductory chapter, author Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes,

 [Anti-fragility] is behind everything that has changed with time: evolution, culture, ideas, revolutions, political systems, technological innovation, cultural and economic success, corporate survival, good recipes (say, chicken soup or steak tartare with a drop of cognac), the rise of cities, cultures, legal systems, equatorial forests, bacterial resistance … even our own existence as a species on this planet.

He continues a bit later,

The antifragile loves randomness and uncertainty, which also means— crucially— a love of errors, a certain class of errors. Antifragility has a singular property of allowing us to deal with the unknown, to do things without understanding them— and do them well. Let me be more aggressive: we are largely better at doing than we are at thinking, thanks to antifragility. I’d rather be dumb and antifragile than extremely smart and fragile, any time. It is easy to see things

The paragraph that connects Taleb’s concept of “anti-fragile” to the study first noted above is wrapped up in this quote,

Crucially, if antifragility is the property of all those natural (and complex) systems that have survived, depriving these systems of volatility, randomness, and stressors will harm them. They will weaken, die, or blow up. We have been fragilizing the economy, our health, political life, education, almost everything … by suppressing randomness and volatility. Just as spending a month in bed (preferably with an unabridged version of War and Peace and access to The Sopranos’ entire eighty-six episodes) leads to muscle atrophy, complex systems are weakened, even killed, when deprived of stressors. Much of our modern, structured, world has been harming us with top-down policies and contraptions (dubbed “Soviet-Harvard delusions” in the book) which do precisely this: an insult to the antifragility of systems. This is the tragedy of modernity: as with neurotically overprotective parents, those trying to help are often hurting us the most.

Being inefficient in scouting is no inherently good. Many mistakes can be made by just allowing the boys to “just be boys.” They can spend all their time playing video games on their iPhones in their tents, the modern equivalent of lying in bed reading War and Peace or watching the Sopranos.Anti-Fragile cover

We don’t want to hurt those we are trying most to help. So we need a chance for the boys to figure out their situation in the face of stressors. They need to be exposed to randomness and volatility. They need to be able to act within the framework of life without “neurotically overprotective parents” hovering over the boys.

Every day it is becoming clearer that “risk management” driven by the insurance and legal industries is not all that it is cracked up to be. The much better form of risk management is the old innoculation method: expose the patient to very small doses of the harm. This small exposure to the risk creates more strength, adaptability, and resilience.

So when you are with your scouts, take your cup of coffee and sit down. Wait for the scouts to face a risk before intervening. (Intervene for frustration, confusion, or danger.) You will be silently teaching them the best lessons.

* Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Antifragile (Kindle Locations 342-345, 347-350, 366-373). (Random House Publishing Group, Kindle ed. 2016).

UPDATE 5/1/17: I just love this sentence, ibid. at 426.

We have the illusion that the world functions thanks to programmed design, university research, and bureaucratic funding, but there is compelling—very compelling—evidence to show that this is an illusion, the illusion I call lecturing birds how to fly.

Thoughts on Scout Discipline

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As we prepare to go to summer camp and the joys of summer high adventure, now is a good time to reflect on discipline in scouting. Discipline in scouting is easy: we don’t do it.

Is that so?

Well, let me be clearer. Dictionary.com offers this definition:

  1. training to act in accordance with rules; drill: military discipline.
  2. activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill;training: A daily stint at the typewriter is excellent discipline for a writer.
  3. punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.
  4. the rigor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc.: the harsh discipline of poverty.
  5. behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and ordermaintained by training and control:

Scouting clearly seeks to create a “disciplined” scout, in accordance with definitions 1, 2, 4, or 5. In these you can have the “discipline of scouting” as the rules and expectations of scouting.

Scouting does not do definition number 3. In this definition you get the sense of discipline as punishment. We don’t do punishment.

When you are faced with a scout who does not wish to comply with your unit’s expectations, what do you do?

I would recommend starting with an overview article by Clarke Green at ScoutmasterCG.com. With this quick overview, you can then dig into his larger analysis of expectation management and disciplines.

Discipline or punishment is handled by the parents. For other questions, Clarke clarifies many questions.

Camporee Training Reminder

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Please remember to sign up for Camporee Training for IOLS (required for Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters to recharter in the fall of 2017) and CPR/AED for Adults and Children, 2 sessions (required for some members of all high adventure crews; strongly recommended for youth crew members, since the adults are the most likely candidates to be the patient). (Scoutmaster Specific Training is required for rechartering, but is now available online as of this month. We will not offer it at Camporee as a result.)

Read this article for more details and sign-up links. We need your sign ups for CPR in advance the most, since we need to bring sufficient teach supplies.

SCOUTMASTERS: Remember staffing the camporee is higher priority than training. Plan accordingly.

Training at Camporee

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We will be offering two trainings at Spring Camporee.

In the last seven days, Scoutmaster Specific has been added online at my.scouting.org, so no face-to-face session will be offered for this.

1. IOLS and OWLS in one class

Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills (IOLS) concurrent with Outdoor Webelos Leadership Skills (OWLS) will be offered Friday and Saturday. Sign up is available here. IOLS is offered only face-to-face and is required for any Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster to recharter in that position in the Fall of 2017. Please note that the sign up looks like there are two separate classes, but these are, in fact, two sessions of the same class. Attendees must participate from Friday evening and all-day Saturday.

The same is true for OWLS of any Webelos Den Leader rechartering in the fall. Since Webelos now requires a heavier dose of patrol method training, this training is crucial to increase the quality of a Webelos Den experience.

Instructors will be Jeff Heck, District Commissioner; John Wiebke, District Chair; hopefully one scouter-extraordinaire to-be-named later; and Con Sullivan, District Executive. Other faculty are invited to teach modules, too. Contact Jeff Heck if you wish to teach module. The more, the merrier.

Ideal adult candidates for this training on future Scoutmasters, ASM’s, Webelos Den Leaders, and persons holding those positions now and wishing to recharter for 2018 in the same position. This session is useful for Junior Assistant Scoutmasters. Eagle Scouts since 2002 are automatically credited with completing this class because they lived the modern curriculum. Older Eagle Scouts are not grandfathered because of the significant advancement curriculum change in 2002.

2. CPR/AED for Adults and Children

We will also offer CPR/AED training courtesy of Kevin Neese from Troop 269. Sign up is available here for the morning or afternoon session. Please note that the afternoon session will not be held without a minimum of three participants or a full morning class.  This is required for at least one person to have on some scout outings under the Guide to Safe Scouting.

The curriculum will address resuscitating adults and children (not infants).

The class is open to adults and youth. To pass, all participants must demonstrate the ability to learn and retain the information and perform the physically demanding chest compressions. Sometimes sustaining adequate chest compressions are difficult for smaller youth because of the force production required.

IMPORTANT NOTE to Scoutmasters

Troops that do send participants to training still need to provide adequate adult or youth leaders to help staff the camporee. If your adults are participating in training, make sure you bring extra adults.

Staffing the camporee in order to serve our scouts will take priority over class participation.