Latest Event Updates

Sox Report: Week 6

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IMG_1323We have nearly 150 Firecrafter candidates popping sparks at Camp Ransburg.  I am going visiting to Camp Krickenstein next week. Maybe we can get them added to to the count, too.

Don’t forget tomorrow’s Mid-Summer Ritual!


This Thursday: Roundtable and Chartered Org Rep Training

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District Commissioner Jeff Heck encourages all units to send adult leaders to Roundtable. Former Cubmaster for Pack 105 and current Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 358 Tom Sugar will be leading a discussion on Cub recruitment.

Cub Scout logoTom was instrumental in recruiting in Pack 105 when it started a few years ago. Tom put a heavy dose of outdoor experiences into his Cub programming. As a result, he used the outdoor experiences as part of the Pack’s marketing.

Come be a part of the conversation about Cub and Scout recruiting. Learn how to tell your story about what you do in a way that is interesting and persuasive to both boys and parents.

After the 6:30 p.m. general session for open conversations, Tom will start with his discussions.Chartered Organization Representative patch

Also, Chartered Organization Representative Training (#D72) will be held after the general session. (Estimated start time 7:00 p.m.) This training is required for all Chartered Org. Reps. Please makes sure that your Chartered Org Rep is aware of this session and either has plans to attend or has contacted the District Commissioner to let the Commissioner Service know your Chartered Org Rep’s availability for another training session.

Chartered Org Reps have not been actively participating in the North Star District for the last few years. Our theory is that part of this low participation is that our units and the District have not made a concerted effort to train them on what the position’s responsibilities are. This training will help to begin remedying this problem.

The Chartered Org Rep is supposed to supervise all scouting activities for the chartered organization. The Chartered Org Rep is sometimes jokingly referred to as the Chief Scouting Officer of the Chartered Organization. The Rep should be supervising the units and actively participating in appointing a unit chair. The Rep should be attending District Committee meetings as the Chartered Organization’s representative to District and to Council.

Please help us encourage our Chartered Org Reps know how important training is for the health of your unit and your chartered organization.trained patch

Training Report Updates

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Over the last several years, our District’s training records have not been kept at the highest quality. Consequently, many scouters have reported to me that their records are incomplete.

Please make sure to login in to the new to review your training record’s completeness. If you have training completed that is not reflected in the record, please contact your unit commissioner listed on the same website. If you are not sure who the unit commissioner is after reviewing the website, contact District Commissioner Jeff Heck for a referral.

We are still beta testing the extent of our ability to update the records without the Council Registrar’s intervention. However, if we are aware of the specific problems that you are having, it is much easier to figure what we can do for you.

For us to be able to make any updates, we will need some documentation to support the training being completed. Most instructors issue the required Certificate of Completion. We can accept those. If you do not have such a certificate and you attended University of Scouting or the old Cub Scout Pow-Wows, you can give us a transcript of those classes taken.

Please be especially attentive if you have taken Wood Badge, position-specific training for the position you now hold, your current Youth Protection Training class, and the Train-the-Trainer class called Trainer’s Edge.

These training records are important for facilitating Rechartering and maintaining a quality experience for the youth in our district.

Troop Committee and All Pack Training Now Online

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Remember the old days (like last month), where Pack Committee Chairs had to tell new parents that to be “Trained” as a scout leader, they needed to go to a class to obtain their Position-Specific Training? Isn’t it nice that we don’t have to do that anymore?

What you didn’t know that?Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 11.41.58 AM

Yeah, at the end of June 2015, now offers online Position-Specific Training. This isn’t just limited to Fast Start Training anymore (which is still available).

Now your Pack can be fully entitled to wear the “Trained” patch from online training. All major positions are included: Cubmaster, Committee Members, Pack Trainer, and Den Leaders of all types. They are even available in Spanish.

District will be asking all Chartered Organization to make a special emphasis on having newly recruited leaders attend training during the first week of September. However, this online offering will have nearly identical content.

Consequently, when your Unit Commissioners coming visiting in August, they will want to be sure that your current leaders have their training done, online if most convenient. Otherwise, they will ask that the existing leaders set a good example and attend the live training when it is scheduled for the first week of September.

All Packs should have a Pack Trainer. This person is responsible for doing live training (if necessary) and making sure that all Pack Leaders at all levels are properly trained and reported to the District Training Committee and the Council Registrar. When reporting live training, the Pack Trainer should use these Training reports.

For our Boy Scout Troop Leaders, only one position has the equivalent online training available at this time: Troop Committee Challenge. All other Troop Leaders must still do their training live with an instructor or make arrangements with an instructor to do self-study. Self-study consists of reviewing the material alone, then speaking to a qualified instructor to insure that the material was learned. The instructor still issues the certificate. Troop Leaders are discouraged from self-study except in the most dire of situations. The value of conversations and interactions are deemed to be an important part of the regular training practice. Leadership Training Committee Guide (#34169) pg. 12 (2010). Personal coaching with a qualified trainer is preferred over self-study.

This training is important for Rechartering.

Cub Dens Need Denners

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As I have talked to a few Cub Scout leaders, I have begun asking, “Do you or your Pack use the Denner system?” Most of the time, the only reply I receive is a scrunched up face of puzzlement. I could have just asked them how their mother was doing in Polish or Russian. They would have understood the question about as well.

What is a “Denner”?

The Denner and Assistant Denner.

The denner is a den member selected to be a boy leader for a short period of time— anywhere from one week to several months. It is a good practice for the den leader to rotate the position of denner throughout the den so that all boys have the opportunity to experience the leadership position. The den leader and den chief determine his denner-braidresponsibilities, which might include helping to set up and clean up the den meeting place; helping with games, ceremonies, tricks, and puzzles; leading a song; or acting as den cheerleader. The denner should be given meaningful responsibilities and recognition to help him learn how to be a leader. The denner wears a shoulder cord on the left shoulder. Some dens also have assistant denners who assist the denner and may move up to the denner position after his rotation.

Boy Scouts of America. Cub Scout Leader Book, Kindle Locations 855-862 (2015-05-10).

One of the biggest drawbacks of Denners for the novice Den Leader is the feeling of loss of control. Focusing the Den Leader’s attention on the Denner while the rest of the Cubs are at risk of running amock seems dangerously close to inviting chaos. These new Den Leaders believe the most important part of their job is control. For elementary school teachers turned Den Leaders this loss of control may be a life-threatening condition.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Cub Requirements for 2015-16

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If you are not aware, BSA has issued new requirements, handbooks, and leader guides for Cub Scouts. This is a major overhaul of the program.

This new set of requirements will affect everyone in scouting. The surprising part is how it affects Boy Scout Troops.

As we have linked before, BSA through Scouter magazine and Bryan on Scouting has given us some summaries of the changes. We, as leaders, need an overview that tells us more.

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Sox report week 5

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Sox is aiming for 120 sparks for the year come the end of this week.

To make a spark, we all know, takes work!


Arrow Tour 2015 at Belzer

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The Crossroads of America Council is excited to announce it will celebrate the Order of the Arrow’s centennial as an ArrowTour host. ArrowTour is an interactive event for Scouts (of all ages and regardless of OA membership), volunteers, and Scouting alumni that is traveling throughout the country during the summer of 2015. The tour will make a stop on July 14, 2015 from 4:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Camp Belzer at 6102 N Boy Scout Road, Indianapolis, IN 46226.

The purpose of the tour is to commemorate the Order of the Arrow’s 100th anniversary. During the event, participants will have the opportunity to learn about the Order of the Arrow, its story, and its future. Some of the program highlights include interactive exhibits, activities such as silk-screening and branding, and challenge games. Participants will have a chance to meet some of the Order’s national leaders, and alumni can learn about the Scouting Alumni Association and local alumni efforts to supporting Scouting in our area.

An exclusive ArrowTour Trading Post will carry ArrowTour and OA centennial merchandise. The Order of the Arrow will split the trading post proceeds with the Crossroads of America Council.

The program will conclude with a special show that recognizes the Order’s rich history and empowers participants to help shape the organization’s future. The Order of the Arrow is creating a truly unique and interactive experience for all Scouts, volunteers, and Scouting alumni.

The tour will open at 4:00 PM and will conclude at 8:30 PM.

You can find more information about the ArrowTour routes and program on the web at You can also keep up with the tour as it makes its way around the country by following @ArrowTour on Twitter.

For Webelos interested in attending, if they attend with a Boy Scout Troop or Patrol, this event can count for Arrow of Light Requirements 3D and 4.

Why the Patrol System Teaches Empathy

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We, as scouters, are all familiar with the emotional growth that scouts obtain from being involved in outdoor activities. How do you describe why it works? Often scouters struggle to explain what they have witnessed to be true. We need to be able to describe why this works if we are to be able to persuade new families to join. Let’s take a look at what types of activities promote personal emotional growth.

Ultimately, well-run scout units are boys-at-play not boys-at-school-outdoors. If that is so, may be this explains why scouting works:

Closely related to the increased pressure to achieve is the decline in play. [] Over the past several decades, we have witnessed a continuous and, overall, dramatic decline in children’s freedom and opportunities to play with other children, undirected by adults. In other essays I have linked this decline to the well-documented rise in depression and anxiety among children and adolescents (here) and to the recently documented decline in creativity (here). Free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their own lives, solve their own problems, and deal effectively with fear and anger—and thereby protect themselves from prolonged anxiety and depression. Free play is also the primary means by which children maintain and expand upon their creative potentials. Now, I suggest, free social play—that is, play with other kids, undirected by adults–is also the primary means by which children overcome narcissism and build up their capacity for empathy.

Play, by definition, is always voluntary, and that means that players are always free to quit. If you can’t quit, it’s not play. All normal children have a strong biological drive to play with other children. That’s part of human child nature—an extraordinarily important part of it. In such play, every child knows that the others can quit at any time and will quit if they are not happy. Therefore, to keep the fun going, each child is motivated to keep the other children happy. To do that, children must listen to one another, read into what they are saying, and, in general, get into one another’s mind so as to know what the other wants and doesn’t want. If a child fails at that and consistently bullies others or doesn’t take their views into account, the others will quit, leaving the offending child alone. This is powerful punishment that leads the offender to try harder next time to see from others’ points of view. Thus, in their social play, children continuously practice and build upon their abilities to empathize, negotiate, and cooperate.

Moreover, children, unlike adults, are rarely effusive in their praise of one another. They have little tolerance for anyone who thinks that he or she is “special,” or is in some way above the rules, or is a natural leader who should get his or her way all the time. Playmates are often highly skilled in deflating one another’s egos, through such means as humor and insults, or through outright rejection if those means fail.

Consistent with this view, correlational studies have revealed that children who engage in more social play with other children demonstrate more empathy, and more ability to understand the perspective of others, than do children who engage in less such play.[6] Moreover, several short-term experiments conducted in preschools have shown that when some children are provided with extra opportunities to engage in social play, those in the extra-play groups later exhibit higher performance on various measures of social perspective-taking and ability to get along with others than do those in the control groups.[7]

Boys setting up their own terms of play provide emotional development benefits because they have an incentive to adapt. The incentive is the desire to keep others involved. They don’t seek out or give effusive praise — often quite the opposite. Yet, these unstructured opportunities provide real opportunities to foster empathy and understanding.

What lessons do we learn as scouters? In the last post, I suggested that adult-guided activities, especially in sports, have a much higher incidence of injury, requiring medical attention, including orthopedic surgeries. Now we see that emotional growth is greater where youth-led activities are allowed, including juvenile insults. The more time for unstructured interaction is allowed, the greater opportunity for growth.

While many of the points in the excerpt above focus on “free-play” for young children, the lessons for emotional growth are the same as children become teen-agers. They need time to face challenges together and have arguments where they face the risk of the other kids giving them the ultimate juvenile punishment: non-participation. If a patrol leader is overly controlling and lack in empathy, his patrol will find anything else to do than follow the patrol leader’s instructions. The patrol leader may or may not learn quickly, but he has the opportunity to learn that dictatorial methods fail.

The patrol leader who leads by example will learn to be a better leader. When the duty roster is made, the good patrol leader will give himself the least desirable job first: latrine or KP duty or the patrol’s least favorite. The patrol learns that he has more credibility when he can say, “I understand it is not fun. I did it yesterday. Come. I’ll help you figure out how to do it faster.” His patrol will get tasks done.

So what is going to give your scouts the greatest opportunity for growth? A weekend campout that appears to be completely chaotic and unstructured? A high-adventure trip led by adults and planned down to the minute?

With these tools in mind, how would you explain that the patrol system is the reason that a prospective scouting parent should have their son join Scouts?

Risky Play: Scouts and Sports

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Experts in child development are learning that “risky play” is less risky than parents believe and important to proper emotional development. In today’s world, many parents are trying to prevent their kids from under taking risks. They supervise the children and all of their activities. They select and organize activities to avoid any risks. So the criteria they seem to be using is that they want no risk of injury to their children. So what is it they do to give their children activity and avoid all of these risks? In many situations it’s organized sports. For others it’s allowing them to play video games all day.

So if the criteria is to avoid injury, how successful have parents been in achieving their goals? Are children safer in adult-controlled activities than activities where the children choose for themselves? We’ll skip questions of which activities help the children develop into self-reliant individuals or help them achieve educational goals better. It simply focuses on questions of safety.

Based on some summaries of Center for Disease Control studies, the evidence suggests the kids that define and decide the type of play in which they engage are less likely to be injured. Less than what? Less than organized activities, especially sports, where parents or unrelated adults are deciding what types of risks should be undertaken. Some summaries suggest that over 60% activity-related injuries to kids requiring medical treatment are from organized sports. That leads to two interesting insights related to scouting.

But before we look at the insights, why would these things be true? This increased tendency to injury seems a strange results until you think about the type of coaching that is often given. “Play through the pain” is the old coach’s refrain that has been abolished. Yet the injuries continue. Some of the reasons for this are that the kids are doing the same activity repeatedly. They are also specializing in the position or type of motion that is likely to cause injuries. Studies on baseball suggest that large pluralities of kids play with sore arms. Rotator cuff surgeries and other orthopedic sports surgeries are increasing rapidly among the young. They end up many repeated-stress injuries. So the very activities that the parents look for their children to avoid risk of harm actually is incurring ever higher rates of injury. So what risks are the parents seeking to avoid?

If  scoutmasters would report as many injuries on the scout outings, troops would be shut down too harmful. Yet these same boys who do scouting, too, are more likely to be injured in sports than scouting. So what we see is the perceived risks of Scouting are far less than the actual risks of sports.

One of the other insights from the CDC studies is that kids who play sports and choose their own activities tend to be injured less than in organized sports. Part of it is natural avoidance. If they feel any soreness, they change their behavior. The second is  changing positions and responsibilities regularly which avoids some of the soreness and trauma that leads to later medical correction. This leads to the second insight.  Scouting allows the boys to determine what level of risk they’re willing to undertake. This self-determination is actually one of the best ways to minimize risk and resulting injury. Boy leadership increases safety rather than reduces it. It is the adult tendency to press forward with risk, discomfort, or pain that is harmful to youth.

Scouting is statistically much safer for youth than adult-organized sports.