REMINDER: Change to District Committee Meetings

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Just a quick reminder that the District Committee Meeting for January will take place THIS THURSDAY at 7:00 pm, as part of our new schedule of meetings. The meeting will take over our Roundtable time and location at Second Presbyterian.

The District Commissioner’s Staff will meet at 6 pm before the District Committee meeting. Same location.

The roundtable will be next week.


Additional December Eagles

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Here is the latest from Jerry Simon:

The following scouts passed their BOR on December 21, 2015. This will be their Date-of-Rank but will not be official until CAC receives approval from National which should happen in 2 to 4 Weeks.

Lars Conard – Troop 56

Richard Logan Witt – Troop 358

Changes to District Calendar for 2016

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Over the past calendar year, North Star District has experimented with changing the District Committee and Roundtables’ times to increase attendance. It is now time to declare the experiment closed.

The new schedule will have District Committee meetings the first week of the month at 7:00 pm at Second Presbyterian Church (room was already scheduled for roundtables). The July meeting will be determined at a later date. The April meeting will be held regardless of Spring Break conflicts.

The District Commissioner’s Staff will meet at Second Presbyterian at 6:00 pm immediately before the Committee Meeting. It will be limited to one hour. This will cut down on the number meeting nights for several people.

The District Roundtable will be the second week of the month at 7:00 pm at St Luke’s United Methodist Church (change of location, too; scheduling confirmation pending).

The District Eagle Boards of Review will continue to be on the second Wednesday of each month.

Why the change?

In recent Council meetings, the basic monthly scheduling scheme was explained. Our 2015 district meetings conflict with that scheme.

Specifically, Council reserves the first two weeks of the month for district operations meetings. They do this by minimizing the number of council meetings in this time period. The last two weeks of the month are reserved for council meetings, with the implicit understanding that the number of district meeting should be kept to a minimum.

This reduces the risk of conflicts and allows a more predictable flow of information.

Council then uses the last two weeks of each month to prepare the necessary information and material for the coming district functions.

The expectation is that the district committees will meet the first week of the month, so committee information is given to the District Executives and Directors to be prepared for that week. The expectation is that Roundtables will be held the following week, because any district committee and council plans will be ready to go.

Failing to follow this schedule has caused information and material dissemination to be difficult for our District Executive Con Sullivan. As an example, he did not have access to supplies of rockets for membership drives at the right time, which required more effort from him and the receiving units.


Thank you to 2015 Chair

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With the excitement of a new election and new officers comes a moment to pause and thank our immediate past Chair for 2015, Steve James.

Steve James played an instrumental part in reorganizing the North Star District. When the District was being threatened with drastic reforms from Council, Steve stepped up to serve as the District Chair. He made himself available as long as the District needed him.

Steve was persuasive in recruiting new participants to the District Committee. He was reliable in carrying out each promise that he made. He helped finish the year with Friends of Scouting so that the District was making its fair-share contribution to the costs of administering the District and Council.

As a long-time volunteer at the District, Steve had already served as District Commissioner and various other positions. Even so, he took it as a personal responsibility to make sure that District was served when crisis loomed.

Steve may be stepping down as District Chair, but he is not leaving District leadership. Steve was an important part of the Nominating Committee for the District. Steve has also agreed to serve as a Vice-Chair in the District for 2016.

Thank you to Steve James for his willingness to lead when times were difficult, and his continued participation in the District leadership team in the 2016 calendar year.

Congratulations to our New District Chair

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On Thursday, December 17, 2015, North Star District Nominating Committee, chaired by Scott Claybaugh, presented its slate of proposed district officers for the 2016 calendar year. The slate was passed unanimously. The slate was ratified by the Council’s Executive Board, too, at its December meeting.

Topping that list was John Wiebke (web’-key), as District Chair.

Congratulations to John on his elections. Thank you to him and his family for his service in 2016.

John is a life-long scouter with many unique positions on his scouting resume.

For this biography I am relying on my own memory, so please forgive any errors.

John was an Eagle Scout, whose troop regularly did summer camp at Scouts Canada’s Halliburton Scout Reserve in Ontario Province, part of the Greater Toronto Council. This led him to serving on staff at Philmont for two seasons. He followed this with two seasons on staff at the International Scout Centre in Kandersteg, Switzerland.

As John tells the story, he went to Switzerland with a back pack and a uniform. He returned home 13 years later with a wife, two kids, and a dog.

John met his future wife on his trip to Switzerland. She is Swedish by birth. Consequently, when they married, John moved to Sweden.

John remained active in scouting in Sweden. In fact, John earned his Wood Badge from the Swedish Scouting Association, where he was in the Tern Patrol. John explains that the patrols were all named for Swedish sea birds.

After returning to the states with his family, John went on to serve in various scouting positions,

John in his Swedish scout uniform, teaching at Fall 2015 Wood Badge.
John in his Swedish scout uniform, teaching at Fall 2015 Wood Badge.

including a three-year stint as scoutmaster of Troop 358 at Zionsville’s St. Alphonsius Roman Catholic Church. (He introduced Troop 358 to Halliburton Scout Reserve, which has become a biannual tradition for the troop.) He has served the past year or so as the Scout Roundtable Commissioner. For Wood Badge Course #C6-160-15-2, he served admirably on staff. As a result the Wood Badge song had an added verse for his Tern Patrol.

Most importantly, John has passed his passion on to his sons. His son Jesper passed his Eagle Board of Review on December 9, 2015! Congratulations to Jesper, his family, and his proud papa, our new District Chair John Wiebke.

In his professional life, John is the Controller at Baker Hill, formerly of Experian.

Filling a High Adventure Contingent

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High adventure (loosely defined) is one of the most important parts of retaining older scouts along with true youth leadership of the troop through use of the Patrol Method. If the older scout feels he is needed and wanted while having fun and challenging himself, his biggest enemy to continued scouting is his 18th birthday.

Many troops and crews struggle to run effective high adventure programs. There are many impediments: youth participants’ interest, adult participants’ availability, costs, logistics, program availability, etc.

For troops and crews that do make it through the planning stages and schedule a high adventure trip, they sometimes struggle to fill a contingent (that is the group that will do the high adventure activity together, usually 6-12 scouts depending on the activity). Some of our troops field multiple contingents on any one trip. This offers many savings in economies of scale, especially with travel and lodging.

For others, the biggest problem is having enough scouts to fill out a complete contingent.

The District is making an effort to help fill contingents. We already have several troops with plans for 2016. If all goes well, all scheduled scouts will attend. However, life happens and vacancies may occur for a variety of reasons. The trip is most likely to achieve its goals of adventure and citizenship development if the contingents are full. To help overcome obstacles, the District is working as a clearing house at Roundtables to discuss where units have vacancies on existing contingents that already have scheduled departure dates.

If your troop or crew has a known vacancy or is willing to accept names for a waiting list, please contact District Commissioner Jeff Heck or your assigned Unit Commissioner. Similarly if your unit has an eager scout who wants to go but cannot find the right trip for him, contact the Commissioners so that we can help place your scout(s).

In a future article we will look at some opportunities for District to offer high adventure trips, including Order of the Arrow contingents, that might help units who have struggled to make high adventure a part of their program.

Eagle awards

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At the district meeting, we discussed council awards for new Eagles. The link is here

Part-time Patrol Method

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Bobwhite Blather blog has a great article about scout troops that believe they are running a successful patrol method.

Frank questions whether this is truly an example of running a successful patrol method.

This is especially a waste of great learning opportunities when there are so many resources for improving the patrol method. Clarke Green has an entire section of his website dedicated to this one question and its philosophical reasons. He even has written a book about the process of implementing the patrol system from the scoutmaster’s perspective.

The recent Eagle Scout turned blogger Enoch Heise has a wonderful post on the real basics and purpose of the patrol. Not too many months ago (from an adult’s perspective), Enoch was an SPL. Now as newly minted adult scouter he uses his practical lessons to teach other adults.

There are even books on the subject. Here is one from the British Scout Association in 1943. Here is one of more recent vintage, that I can only find in paperback. I have read it. It has great stuff.

Read more about the patrol method. Become a believer.

New Duty to God Requirements: Are we a religious organization?

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As many scoutmasters have learned, January 1, 2016 brings new boy scout rank advancement requirements. The moving of requirements among the ranks is not getting much attention. Neither is the specificity of the type of service hours now required: specific conservation requirements.

The scout’s demonstration of observing his religious duties is getting attention.

The great Bobwhite Blather blog addresses the question of whether this demonstrates that the BSA is or is not a “religious organization.” His analysis is well worth a considered read.’s Clarke Green contributed to this analysis, last June, when he took a look at how Baden Powell thought a Scout’s Own service should be managed. Clarke goes further in critiquing some of the current interpretations and inconsistencies in the current BSA definitions of Duty to God.

Clarke’s analysis clearly in another article demonstrates that encouraging a scout to examine his religious beliefs within the religious emblem program gives a scoutmaster the ability to avoid entering a debate on the subject of “what constitutes an acceptable religion” and still upholds the principles of Duty to God.

No matter how a scout answers the question for himself, the most important part is for his scoutmaster to encourage the scout to enter the realm of seeking answers to questions about his own beliefs. This seeking process can be either through his own self-study or with his own house of worship.

Scouting is an active process of learning. We put scouts in the position of making moral and ethical choices on a campout by deciding how to treat his patrol well, especially when things don’t always go smoothly. The Duty to God is supposed to put these questions into a realm of questions that rise about the current moment. A momentary conflict between patrol members can and should turn into a moment of learning about life outside of the patrol.

Having a working mental vocabulary of his own beliefs creates a tool for self-improvement. His actions and self-reflections within a larger context cause those self-discoveries to come faster and to have a greater impact.

These new requirements encourage religious self-exploration and not any mandatory conclusions, other than the scout is part of a larger world than just himself. He needs to figure out how he is a small part of a larger world.