Scouting News from the Internet

Come back to Gilwell by joining the American Wood Badge Alumni group

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It’s time for Owls to unite as a parliament, Antelopes to join the herd and Bears to form a sloth. (Yes, I looked it up, and that’s what a group of bears is called. I couldn’t believe it either.)

It’s time to remember, reconnect and rekindle. It’s time to come back to Gilwell.

The American Wood Badge Alumni group unites BSA volunteers across the country who have completed that transformative training experience called Wood Badge.

Think of American Wood Badge Alumni as a group within a group. In this case, the larger group is Scouting Alumni & Friends (formerly called the Scouting Alumni Association).

How to join American Wood Badge Alumni

Joining is easy.

First, you become a member Scouting Alumni & Friends at the free (Hiker) or $35 (Pathfinder) level.

Then you go under “My Scouting Information” and select your Wood Badge critter.

Then … you’re done! But those small steps go a long way.

OK, I’ve joined. What next?

In short, American Wood Badge Alumni is about rekindling the fire for all Wood Badgers.

And I do mean all Wood Badgers. That includes those who just completed their ticket last week and those whose Wood Badge experience was on the “old course” — the one used before the 2002 introduction of Wood Badge for the 21st Century.

In long, American Wood Badge Alumni works through local councils to help them connect with Wood Badgers who might want to give back to Wood Badge or Scouting in general.

The association has these five areas of focus:

  1. Membership. Assist and promote new courses and the recruitment of Scouters to experience Wood Badge training. The association will assist in the promotion of all Wood Badge courses in the council, the area and the region.
  2. Communications. Promote Wood Badge, the association and the awarding of Wood Badge scholarships.
  3. Alumni Events. Network through Gilwell reunions and other council alumni events.
  4. Service. Gather Wood Badgers to promote, organize and support service projects within the council, at camp properties and within the community.
  5. Recruitment. The association will assist in identifying and recruiting Scouters who have experienced Wood Badge training and are well suited for additional roles and responsibilities.
The timing is right

I spoke with Rick Bragga, chairman of American Wood Badge Alumni. He said the timing is right to introduce this new Scouting alumni group.

Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the first official Wood Badge course in the U.S. In 1948, two official BSA Wood Badge courses were held, one at Schiff Scout Reservation in New Jersey and one at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Scouting legend William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt served as Scoutmaster at both nine-day courses.

In 2019, the world will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first ever Wood Badge course, held at Gilwell Park in England.

But beyond the history, Bragga says, Wood Badge is a shared experience that shouldn’t be confined to those six days and a reunion or two.

“You can’t think about Wood Badge without people thinking about singing a song, sitting around a fire and having a cracker barrel,” he says. “We’re looking at that whole concept of re-engaging, reconnecting, rekindling the fire.”

But what about the patch?

I know, I know. Bragga tells me a patch and other merchandise featuring that awesome American Wood Badge Alumni logo seen below “is in the works.”

Stay tuned!

How to help members of our Scouting family affected by Hurricane Harvey

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When disaster strikes, the Scouting community rallies to help those in need.

This was true when an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast in 2012, and tornadoes tore through Texas and Oklahoma in 2013.

This week, Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh shared ways that members of the BSA family can help those affected by historic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Because the situation along the Texas coast is still developing, first responders aren’t requesting in-person volunteers at this time. So while your well-intentioned instincts might be to show up and offer support, it’s still too early for that.

Instead, the best way to help — for those willing and able — is by offering financial support.

How to offer help with food and shelter

To provide immediate support for food and shelter needs in the area, Surbaugh and the BSA encourage you to donate directly to the American Red Cross and/or Salvation Army:

  • American Red Cross: Donate online at redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
  • Salvation Army: Donate online at helpsalvationarmy.org; by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY; or via mail to: The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 1959, Atlanta GA 30301
How to help those affected within the BSA

You can give to a special BSA fund established to help those councils most affected by the flooding, including:

  • Sam Houston Area Council (based in Houston)
  • Three Rivers Council (Beaumont)
  • Bay Area Council (Galveston)
  • South Texas Council (Corpus Christi)
  • Alamo Area Council (San Antonio)
  • Capitol Area Council (Austin)

Donations can be designated for specific councils or shared among all affected councils. All donations will be used to help rebuild and restore BSA facilities and programs.

“We are working with the leadership teams of these local councils to make sure their staffs and families are safe,” Surbaugh said in a letter to BSA employees. “We are also getting input on property damage at council offices and camps. As the storms continue in the area, we will continuously evaluate the needs of our people and facilities.”

BSA camps adding healthier options at dining halls, trading posts

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At Bashore Scout Reservation in Pennsylvania, the campaign to keep Scouts physically strong starts at the dining hall.

Starting last year, Scouts who attend summer camp at Bashore are served meals with more whole grains, leaner proteins, and increased fruits and veggies. At the trading post, sugar-laden offerings have decreased, replaced by healthier alternatives like yogurt and applesauce. And each week, Scouts are given pedometers to track their steps as part of a campwide competition to see which troop is the most active.

What started at Bashore in 2016 expanded to six more camps in 2017. But this is only the beginning. Thanks to the generosity of two Scouting donors, this healthier-camps program is free and available to any BSA council willing to implement it.

It’s another way the BSA is doing its part to combat a widening problem in this country: childhood obesity. And what a problem it has become: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five school-aged children (ages 6 to 19) has obesity. These children are more likely to be bullied, have chronic health problems and suffer from low self esteem.

Can one week at summer camp make a difference? According to the American Camp Association, the answer is yes.

“Memorable camp experiences change lives, and these changes carry over into the future,” the association writes in a post on its website. “Policies and systems can be encouraged within camps and across the camp community to prevent and reduce obesity. Identifying good ideas and best practices can facilitate the adoption of these practices now and for the future.”

Jeanne Arnold spoke about healthier camps at the BSA’s Top Hands conference in Dallas. (Photo by Roger Morgan) Leading the charge

Jeanne Arnold has spent her life uniting organizations behind the common goal of improving the lives of children and families. Arnold and her husband, Ed, are among Scouting’s most generous donors. Both are recipients of the Silver Buffalo Award, the BSA’s highest honor for adult volunteers.

Jeanne Arnold chairs the BSA’s Obesity Prevention Task Force. The BSA has empowered young people to keep themselves physically strong for more than 100 years, and the task force is the latest example of this effort.

“The work being done on the front line with the Boy Scouts of America shows the Boy Scouts as thought leaders,” she said.

What worked at Bashore

At Bashore, which is in Jeanne Arnold’s home council, a registered dietitian developed a new dining hall menu that decreased the amount of sugar, salt and fat without sacrificing kid-friendly taste.

“We got excellent comments back about the food being good and the Scouts wanting to come back,” she said.

In other words, you might say it’s Scout-tested, parent-approved food.

At the trading post, the new approach meant changes to both product placement and product cost. Healthier options became more visible and less expensive.

“These good-for-you foods were priced lower than candy, slushes and soda, which were still available for purchase,” Jeanne Arnold said. “They just weren’t the first thing you saw.”

The results: plate waste decreased at the dining hall, meaning Scouts ate every bit of those healthier meals. And trading post sales? They actually increased by an average of $6 per Scout.

Bashore’s Step-Up challenge was a hit, too. With the motivation to get more steps than fellow troops, Scouts moved more each day.

Average daily step counts increased as the week went on — from 14,251 on Monday to 17,550 on Thursday.

Beyond Bashore

For Summer 2017, the BSA’s push to make camps healthier expanded to seven council camps across the country. The program is available to any camp in any BSA local council.

Best part of this whole effort: it costs nothing to councils or Scouting families, thanks to the generosity of Ed and Jeanne Arnold. The Arnolds have put financial support behind this effort to improve menus and enhance education through nutritional science.

Many Scouts, though, don’t need convincing. They’re used to better-for-you food at home.

“Many of these kids are already eating healthier snacks at home because of their millennial moms,” Jeanne Arnold said. “Hopefully this will increase recruitment as parents know the health and safety of their kids is supported in Scouting.”

Healthier young people can be more active in Scouting and have more fun participating in this life-changing movement.

And while a Scout’s time spent at camp might be less than seven days, Jeanne Arnold says that’s enough to make a difference.

“Summer camp is only one week out of the year,” she said, “but through research it is well established that that immersive experience can change behaviors.”

How to accept credit cards for popcorn, pack dues and pretty much anything else

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Don’t let a cashless customer walk away that easily.

By adding a cheap credit card reader, your pack, troop or crew will be equipped to accept plastic for popcorn sales and other in-person, show-and-sell-type fundraisers. With a few taps, the money can be deposited into your unit’s bank account in a day or two.

Units that add these readers see an instant increase in sales. I’ve heard from packs and troops that have enjoyed a jump of 10 to 20 percent once they started taking credit cards.

There are downsides to these readers. First, there’s an up-front cost for the newer readers that accept chip cards. (I’ll tell you why a chip-enabled reader is a necessity later in the post.)

Then there’s the fee. The companies behind the readers charge a fee per swipe or chip read. The fee can be up to 2.75 percent. That’s not nothing, but sacrificing 82.5 cents on a $30 bag of caramel corn is better than missing out on the sale entirely.

What’s new in credit card readers?

I first blogged about accepting credit cards for popcorn sales in 2012. Five years later, the three readers I mentioned back then — from Square, PayPal and Intuit/QuickBooks — remain the three best options.

But many other aspects of credit card readers have changed.

For one, the companion apps that pair with the physical readers have improved greatly.

Now you can email receipts to customers with ease, accept tips and give access to multiple people. That means, for example, you could allow a parent to process sales but leave refund power to a handful of registered leaders.

What’s new in credit cards?

Credit card technology has changed, too. Credit and debit cards now come with built-in chips meant to make the card information harder to steal.

Having a card reader that can accept chips isn’t just a good idea; it could reduce your liability in fraud cases. As of Oct. 1 2015, sellers — not credit card issuers — are on the hook for fraudulent charges when the customer has a chip card but the seller swipes instead.

Also new: contactless payment options like Apple Pay and Android Pay that use near-field communication (NFC) to process payments.

What are the best options for card readers?

Most Scouters I’ve heard from use one of these three readers:

Name Square Chip Card Reader PayPal Here Chip Card Reader QuickBooks GoPayment EMV Card Reader Price for reader $29.00 $79.00 $30 EMV/chip reader Yes Yes Yes Contactless (Apple Pay, NFC) No (but available in $49 version) Yes No iOS compatible Yes Yes Yes Android compatible Yes Yes Yes Commission 2.75% 2.70% 2.40% + 25 cents per transaction Free version? Yes (lacks chip reader) Yes (lacks chip reader) No Website Here. Here. Here. Photo

Note: Many of these readers plug into your phone or tablet’s headphone jack. If you have a device like an iPhone 7 that lacks a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack, you can use Apple’s $9 Lightning-to-headphone adapter. Or just use another device, like an iPad, older iPhone, or Android phone or tablet.

Accepting dues and other unit payments

Now that you have the card reader and account set up, why not use it to accept other unit-related payments? This could include dues, camp fees and more. It’s all about convenience for our Scouting families.

Once again, don’t forget about the processing fee. Some units, including the troop of which I’m a member, pass that fee along to the Scout or Scouter. For example, a troop whose yearly dues are $100 would charge $102.75 to those using credit cards.

What else should I consider when using these?
  • Read the fine print for additional fees. Some of these companies charge for things like manually keyed-in card numbers.
  • Remember that these readers work best when the phone is connected to the internet. Some units have used an old iPhone, set it up on a prepaid plan — $40 or so for 1 GB of data, which is plenty — and set up the phones so the only icons visible are the chip-reader app and the calculator app. “The extra sales more than made up for the expense of the cellular plan and the service charge for taking cards,” one leader said.
  • Use the built-in memo field within the app to categorize each transaction. This will help you know whether that random $75 was for popcorn sales or winter camp.
  • Units already using PayPal for things like rechartering fees or camps should probably go with the PayPal reader. It will work with your existing PayPal account.
  • Take time to add your product line into the sales system. This means each transaction is just a matter of tapping which product was being purchased and processing payment.

This is the best way to show your Cub Scouting pride on Facebook

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Share your Cub Scouting pride with friends, family members and that classmate from high school you’ve been meaning to get back in touch with.

With these new Facebook profile picture frames, you can show that you’re a proud Cub Scout mom or Cub Scout dad or part of a proud Cub Scout family.

The fine folks on the BSA’s Cub Scouts team created these frames, and you can add them to your Facebook profile photo in seconds.

The frames serve two equally awesome purposes: one, they tell the world that you’re a big part of this incredible movement called Scouting, and two, they invite your Facebook friends to ask you for more information about joining your Cub Scout pack.

First, see what the frames look like. Then read how to add one to your photo.

Cub Scout profile picture frames: three options

I’m already starting to see these frames pop up on Facebook, which is awesome.

How to add a Cub Scout profile picture frame on Facebook
  1. Head to https://www.facebook.com/profilepicframes
  2. Search for one of the following depending on the type of frame you’d like to add:
    • “Scout Fam Profile Picture Frame”
    • “Scout Mom Profile Picture Frame”
    • “Scout Dad Profile Picture Frame”
  3. Select your desired frame and scale your profile photo as needed. This way you can avoid blocking key parts of your photo with the additional graphics. You also have the option to swap in another photo by selecting “Change Picture.”
  4. Select “Use as Profile Picture,” at the bottom of the page to make your changes final. You can set a timeline for how long you’d like to keep this frame on your profile, as well.
  5. Be Prepared for your friends and family to be in awe of your photo’s cool, new look.

On opposite sides of barbed-wire fence, an enduring friendship formed in Scouting

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Norman Mineta was a proud 10-year-old Cub Scout in 1942 when the U.S. government began imprisoning Japanese-Americans. Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor months earlier, and Mineta and his family became six of the 120,000 people of Japanese descent interned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Mineta and his parents, two sisters and brother were moved from San Jose, Calif., to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Cody, Wyo.

The camp opened 75 years ago this month.

There were no schools for the children at Heart Mountain, so the adults decided to form Boy Scout troops to occupy and educate the kids. Mineta told Boys’ Life in 2002 that the young people played games, read the Boy Scout Handbook and worked on merit badges. (Read the BL story in its entirety at the end of this post.)

As a member of the Heart Mountain Boy Scout troop, Mineta met Alan Simpson, a Boy Scout who lived in Cody. The Cody Scouts traveled to Heart Mountain for a jamboree held inside the camp’s barbed-wire fencing.

Mineta and Simpson became fast friends, bonding over their shared love of comics, silly stories and Scouting.

A year later, when the Minetas were allowed to leave Heart Mountain, Mineta and Simpson remained friends.

Thirty years later, when Mineta was a Democratic representative from California and Simpson a Republican senator from Wyoming, the two remained friends. (Simpson served as a senator for 18 years, and Mineta later became secretary of transportation under President George W. Bush.)

Seven decades after they met, Mineta and Simpson — now both 85 — remain friends. As reported in The Washington Post, the pair returned to Heart Mountain this month to speak out against the racism that led to the camp’s opening.

In his Cub Scout uniform

Long before the days of internment camps, Scouting had deep roots in the Japanese-American community. These families saw Scouting as an American tradition that would teach their children values like citizenship, loyalty and service.

Mineta told Boys’ Life that he wore his Cub Scout uniform when his family boarded that first train headed for the internment camps.

“I was wearing my uniform because the government told all Scouts riding the train to do so,” he told BL. “Only Scouts could move from one car to another. Some families were in separate cars, so we ran notes back and forth as messengers.”

At Heart Mountain, Scout leaders inside the camp wanted to offer the young people some new Scouting experiences. So they contacted Boy Scout troops in the surrounding towns, inviting these local Scouts to join them for a jamboree — a weekend of fellowship and fun we now would call a camporee.

Almost all of them refused, fearful of the unfamiliar faces inside. But Simpson’s leader — “a Scoutmaster ahead of his time,” Simpson said — said yes.

The Scoutmaster, Glenn Livingston, told his guys that the young men inside Heart Mountain camp were just like them. They were Scouts. Simpson, a tad reluctant at first, quickly realized Mr. Livingston was right.

“You knew these were Americans, especially when you met the Scouts,” Simpson told The Washington Post. “They didn’t even know where Japan was.”

As told to Boys’ Life

Read the February 2002 story about Norman Mineta and Alan Simpson below.

And find more content from the Boys’ Life archives in the BL app. Download it by searching “Boys’ Life magazine” in your device’s app store.

 

Home once owned by BSA founder William D. Boyce can be yours for just $700,000

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The home was built in 1860 and sits on 7.78 acres of perfectly manicured grass. It includes eight bedrooms, nine bathrooms and a full-size tennis court.

But what makes this piece of real estate, now on the market for $699,900, so special isn’t its new roof and windows, or its 12-foot ceilings and two elegant parlors. It’s the fact it was once owned by William D. Boyce, one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America.

Boyce purchased the 5,300-square-foot home and 60 surrounding acres in 1894. The Chicago publisher used the property as his summer home.

The property in Marshall, Mich., is now called The Butler-Boyce House, and it’s a registered Michigan historic site.

Who was William D. Boyce?

Members of the W. D. Boyce Council in central Illinois certainly know his name. As do Scouters who receive the William D. Boyce New-Unit Organizer Award and matching square knot.

But who was William D. Boyce?

As told in Scouting magazine’s 2010 coverage of the BSA’s 100th anniversary, Boyce was in London in 1909 “when he got lost in a pea-soup fog — or perhaps simply turned around (accounts differ). In any event, a ‘little lad of 12’ appeared and guided him safely across the street. When Boyce offered a tip, the boy declined, explaining that he was just doing his Good Turn as a Scout.”

Impressed, Boyce returned home with pamphlets, badges and a uniform. Six months later, on Feb. 8, 1910, he incorporated the Boy Scouts of America.

Thanks to Axel Anderson for the story idea.

Build this Pinewood Derby display case with your Cub Scouts

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When the Pinewood Derby race is done, the cars remain as priceless artifacts of history.

Like all those irreplaceable items from childhood, these shouldn’t be relegated to a dusty drawer.

Those cars belong in something like this handsome homemade Pinewood Derby display case. Build it, and preserve those memories forever.

The case includes five shelves for five cars — one for each year of Cub Scouting.

The plans are courtesy of Neil Fern, a Scouter in the Northeast Illinois Council. He made them as part of his Wood Badge ticket and agreed to let me post the plans here.

Neil designed the kit and cut several unassembled versions. He gave those unassembled kits to the boys in his Webelos den, leaving the sanding, assembling and painting to the boys.

Pinewood Derby display case plans

Click here for Neil’s plans, courtesy of the Cub Hub blog, which is where Neil’s story was first posted.

Top 10 links to share with new Cub Scout families to get them up to speed

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New Cub Scout families might not know a den leader from a den chief or a Wolf from a Webelos.

And you know what? That’s perfectly fine.

But you can help them get them acquainted with this life-changing program for boys by sending them some or all of the links below.

Post them on your pack’s Facebook page, email them to your pack parents (one a week or all at once), or repost them to your pack website.

The point is this: there are some great resources out there, and seasoned Scouters like you can share the wealth. The links may have you thinking, “I wish I had access to these resources when I was a newbie Cub Scout leader.”

And you know what? That’s perfectly fine, too. Expert Scouters like you can help others learn what you’ve known for years — or, in some cases, decades. Why not share the wealth?

1. What are the basics to know before starting Cub Scouts this fall?

If a new Cub Scout parents reads just one post, make it this one that shares three Cub Scout must-knows.

2. Why do Cub Scouts meet with their packs and dens each week?

This post covers why Cub Scouts have meetings and what they do at them.

3. What is a blue and gold banquet?

At some point this fall, the Cubmaster is going to start talking about the blue and gold banquet. Here’s what that is.

4. Are Cub Scouts part of Boy Scouts?

Yes, Cub Scouts are part of the Boy Scouts of America, but they have their own awesome program. Read more about the difference.

5. What is the order of Cub Scout ranks?

Informed Cub Scout parents will want to know the definitive order of Cub Scout ranks.

6. What is the Arrow of Light?

Short answer: the Arrow of Light is the pinnacle of Cub Scouting. For the longer answer, go here.

7. What is Boys’ Life magazine?

Short answer: If it’s in a boy’s life, it’s in Boys’ Life magazine. Slightly longer answer: Boys’ Life is a monthly magazine for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturers. It includes Scouting stories, science facts, fun jokes and games, stories of Scouting heroism, previews of the latest books and movies for guys, and much more. For Scouts, the cost is just $12 a year ($1 an issue).

Contact your local council or unit leader for details.

8. What is the Pinewood Derby?

The Pinewood Derby, a racing event using cars Cub Scouts build with their parents or guardians, is a Cub Scouting tradition. Read tips for planning the best Pinewood Derby ever, and tips for helping your Cub Scout build a faster car.

9. How do I help my Cub Scout get ready to camp?

Read these four suggestions for getting your pack’s camping program into high gear.

10. How can I support a Scout with special needs?

There’s room for everyone in a Cub Scout pack or den, especially Cub Scouts with special needs. Here’s how to help them feel welcome.

Don’t forget the hashtag

When sharing one or more of these links via social media, why not use the #ShareScouting hashtag? It’ll help new Scouting families find other content applicable to them.

Expert Scouters, what would you add?

What other links do you share with new Cub Scout families? Leave a comment below.

Philmont staffer acted quickly when Scout arrived at cabin with serious cut on arm

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Guest post: This story of an Eagle Scout’s heroism at Philmont Scout Ranch was written by Jane Parikh, public relations manager for the Michigan Crossroads Council.

Josiah Bakker isn’t a doctor, but the Eagle Scout from Suttons Bay, Mich., knew exactly what to do when a Philmont hiker showed up on the front porch of his cabin with a life-threatening cut to his arm.

Bakker was at the staff cabin at Clark’s Fork, one of Philmont’s backcountry camps, when two Scouts came running up to say they needed help. One of the Scouts was peeling bark off a branch when his knife slipped, cutting two inches into his arm and slicing his radial artery.

“The injured Scout came up to the porch with one arm covered in blood,” Bakker said. “As he sat down, I took his hand off of his arm and blood squirted out. So it was pretty obvious to me that it was an artery that had been cut.

“I stuck my hand on his elbow to put pressure on the artery and directed other people to apply gauze and pressure on the wound, until the medics from base camp arrived.”

(Note from Bryan: In an ideal scenario, Bakker would have worn protective gloves. But medical emergencies rarely present ideal scenarios.)

A successful resolution

Bakker spent 15 minutes with the Scout while the medics made their way from base camp 9 miles away. That 15 minutes turned a potential tragedy into “just” a scary story.

“I honestly just kind of did it,” Bakker said. “I just kind of did what we had practiced.”

The injured Scout went to a local hospital. After a successful reconstructive surgery, he made a full recovery.

A proud mom

Lynn Bakker, Josiah’s mother, said her son did what he learned to do as a Scout. That started in Cub Scouts and continued through the Wilderness First Aid training he took in the spring.

Beyond that, Lynn Bakker said, it was just about being in the right place at the right time.

“He kept that pressure on the boy’s arm and kept talking to him and encouraging his friend to continue praying with him for more than 15 minutes until base camp medics got there,” Lynn Bakker said.

The days that followed

After his life-saving efforts, Josiah Bakker went back to being a Philmont staffer. He said he enjoyed helping younger Scouts grow and advance as they spent time at the New Mexico hiking destination.

Back home, the 20-year-old is an assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 131 and attends Northwestern Michigan College, majoring in engineering technology. He joined Scouting at age 7 and earned Eagle in 2010.

“I learned quite a bit about leadership. I was the senior patrol leader for Troop 131 back home and was the crew leader for my trek at Philmont,” Josiah Bakker said. “In Scouting you are with people you don’t know, and you learn how to make it work. A lot of it is overcoming barriers, and if you don’t think you can do something, you do it anyway and succeed.”

How many young men with the last name Eagle have become Eagle Scouts?

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The news this month that an Ohio 17-year-old with the last name Eagle became an Eagle Scout got us at the BSA thinking.

How many Eagle Scouts in history have had that auspicious surname?

So we queried the Eagle Scout database. It should be noted that the database includes most of the 2 million-plus Eagle Scouts in history. But because we’re talking about records going back to 1912, it’s not 100 percent perfect.

With that little caveat out of the way, let’s go.

How many Eagle Scouts have the last name Eagle?

There are 63 Eagle Scouts with the last name Eagle — from Alan to Zachary.

Not counted in that 63 are those whose last names merely start with Eagle.

This longer list includes men with family names like Eagleman, Eagles, Eagleson and — my favorite — Eagleburger.

Add in that group, and the total becomes 141.

Are there any Eagle Scouts with the first name Eagle?

Awesomely, yes. There are three Eagle Scouts whose given name is Eagle.

That means their parents basically predestined them to earn Scouting’s highest honor, and they delivered.

Two are recent Eagle Scouts — 2002 and 2011 — but one, a Mr. Eagle Wilson of Dearborn, Mich., became an Eagle Scout on Dec. 13, 1930.

What about other Scouting ranks as last names?

I’m glad you asked! There are nine Eagle Scouts whose last name is Life. Life, of course, is the Boy Scout rank right before Eagle.

What about the rank before Life? There are eight Eagle Scouts with the last name Star (and 375 more who spell it with an additional r: Starr).

As for Eagle Scouts with the last name Tenderfoot, Second Class or First Class, my search for those turned up empty. But there were five with the last name Scout.

And finally, how’s this for overachieving? Sixty-one Eagle Scouts have the last name Palm.

In ‘SOS: How to Survive’ on The Weather Channel, Eagle Scout shares camp hacks that could save your life

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It started with the Wilderness Survival merit badge, earned at Maumee Scout Reservation in Indiana.

Then there was the 2-inch ad in the back of Boys’ Life magazine promising “amazing hidden secrets about rugged wilderness survival” to anyone who sent $1 for postage and handling.

Beginning Sunday, Eagle Scout Creek Stewart’s quest to become the ultimate survivalist takes him back to prime-time television.

In SOS: How to Survive on The Weather Channel, Creek recaps real-life survival situations and gives his take on what the individuals did right or wrong when fighting for their lives.

Some of his coolest tips include ways to repurpose everyday objects — using a camera lens to start a fire, for example — when survival is at stake.

“There’s so much to learn, not only from what they went through but also, maybe, what they could’ve done,” Creek says in a promo for the show.

Set your DVR now because SOS: How to Survive premieres at 8 p.m. ET Sunday on The Weather Channel.

Creek is back

Fans of Creek (or this blog) know that SOS: How to Survive isn’t Creek’s first foray into television.

In 2014 and 2015, Creek hosted Fat Guys in the Woods, also on The Weather Channel.

Each week on Fat Guys in the Woods, Creek joined three average Joes on a trip into the wilderness with limited supplies. Creek helped them work through challenges and learn the art and science of outdoor survival while battling the threats of Mother Nature.

SOS: How to Survive takes the stakes even higher. This time, the survival scenarios are completely real. Creek, with the benefit of hindsight, tells what the potential victims could’ve done better.

In the premiere, a young couple leaves the trail for a photo and can’t find their way back. This begins a three-day attempt to hike down extreme mountainous terrain that leads them into a dead-end canyon.

I got a sneak peek at the premiere, and I’m in. In the hourlong episode, Creek offers actual tips that may save your life. He even discusses the mental survival skills needed to keep your head right when the going gets tough.

Future episodes will deal with surviving extreme cold, extreme heat, injuries in the wilderness and hurricanes.

A true friend of Scouting

Creek, a recipient of the NESA Outstanding Eagle Scout Award, has been a supporter of Scouting all his life.

He addressed 15,000 Arrowmen at the 2015 National Order of the Arrow Conference and more than twice that many Boy Scouts, Venturers and adults at the 2017 National Jamboree.

His message to Jamboree participants: Do what you love — even if it doesn’t pay the most money.

Creek’s ad in Boys’ Life

Creek’s survival prowess has only grown since the ad below appeared in the February 1998 issue of Boys’ Life.

Out of Eden walk essay contest deadline for Jamboree, Philmont participants is Sept. 1

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National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek’s 21,000-mile walk around the world is about slowing down to appreciate what’s around you.

But if you want to join Salopek, don’t slow down just yet. Any Scouts or Venturers who want to walk alongside Salopek in Asia for a few days of his journey have until Sept. 1 to enter the 2017 Out of Eden Walk essay contest.

All Boy Scouts or Venturers who attended the 2017 National Jamboree or a 2017 summer program at Philmont Scout Ranch are eligible to write an essay and be considered for the top prize. Remember those cool Passport Journals Scouts and Venturers received at Philmont or the Jamboree? These essays will incorporate observations recorded there.

The big prize: Two lucky winners will join Salopek in Asia for a leg of his trip. (And, yes, Youth Protection rules of two-deep leadership and no one-on-one contact will be followed each step of the way.)

This Out of Eden walk is the same opportunity I first told you about back in December.

Hurry to this site for 2017 National Jamboree participants or this site for 2017 Philmont Scout Ranch participants to learn more.

A young person’s passport to intentionality

Scouts or Venturers who attended the Jamboree or Philmont received Passport Journals. The journals, covered in this National Geographic story, encourage young people to reflect on these once-in-a-lifetime experiences through a practice Salopek calls “slow journalism.”

Slow journalism is about taking time to observe what’s around you. It’s about paying attention to the little details of life. It’s about appreciating everyday interactions.

Salopek is looking for Scouts or Venturers who have become familiar with the concept of “slow journalism.” He invites them to write a 500-word essay (about one page) that reflects on their National Jamboree, Philmont and/or Scouting experiences.

Here’s a little more, from the Jamboree opening show:

And the video shown to Philmont participants at the opening campfire:

Last year’s winner

In 2016, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting held its first Out of Eden Walk essay contest.

The winner: Nick Fahy of Milton, Mass., who joined Salopek in Uzbekistan in September.

In his winning essay, Fahy made a comparison between the affluent neighborhood of Milton and the less prosperous Mattapan just to its north. He discussed the atmosphere of the neighborhood, which has seen growth in past years but is still struggling economically.

“[My essay] presented this image of two different Mattapans: one that is growing and one that is stuck in the past,” Fahy said.

His experience in Mattapan carried him to Uzbekistan, where he observed a culture vastly different from his own.

Here is Fahy’s winning essay.

The Old Man and the Seafood

By Nick Fahy

In the trash pail by the side of the road two lottery tickets and a pair of cigarettes slowly disintegrate. The strip to its side seems a wasteland in shades of black and gray, and but for the heat, nothing in the street would tell the season. In the half hour walk down the strip I count five barber shops but not a supermarket in sight, and the only general store is a Dollar Store, graffiti staining the glass windows.

The trash pail itself is a rusting three gallon module of the community of Mattapan in which it lies. The community has in recent years fought a protracted battle against its problems with addiction and dependence, and it manifests itself here, in the twin lottery tickets the consumer who purchased them doubtless could not afford. Across the way, observing the sparse nutritional options, another conclusion comes to mind: this is a community whose children will struggle to grow up healthy if their parents shop for dinner from a drugstore.

It is important — critically important — that slow journalism be active here and in other impoverished communities. Rather than sensationalize, as oftentimes is the goal of the 24-hour news cycle, the goal of slow journalism is to create awareness of the problems in our society, and as such inspire change. When slow journalists report on their findings, the public, informed and inspired by this demographic of journalists, can act to solve society’s biggest problems.

An hour’s walk from the trash pail, a man sits on the ledge of a building twenty years condemned smoking a cigarette. He goes only by his last name, Bay, and he’s just finished the rehab workout his doctor prescribed to recover from his recent knee-replacement surgery. I sit, and we talk, and he tells me he doesn’t know whether Mattapan is changing for the better. “For Mattapan to change, the people have to want to change,” he tells me. Do they want to change? “That’s the thing. I don’t think so.”

The situation looked bleak from the condemned building that afternoon. But as I walked home later that day, I smelled something different from the gasoline and pot smoke common to the strip : seafood. A new restaurant with a small paper sign in the window reading Mattapan Fish Market had just opened across from the new health center. A young child in a red vest stood outside, inhaling the smell of fresh fish. So perhaps, amidst all this desolation, there was hope.

The biggest hope for towns like Mattapan caught in the vicious cycle of poverty is simple : opportunities for children. It means investing in education in impoverished areas, providing healthy food for kids, and ensuring Mattapan’s newest generation has the resources necessary to resist gang violence and addiction. Perhaps that is the core lesson of slow journalism – that to break the patterns of a place that doesn’t want to change, we should invest in our future.

Read some of the runners-up here.

Update your BeAScout pin today, so future Scouting families can find you tomorrow

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Today’s parents can do it all online. With a few taps on their tablet, they can buy school supplies, sign up for soccer or hire a babysitter.

And, more and more these days, they’re finding out about Scouting online, too. Today’s parents want, and expect, to learn more about the BSA through a simple-to-use, nicely designed website.

BeAScout.org is that website. It is the first thing many prospective Scouting families see about the BSA, and it tells them what Scouting is, why it’s a good fit for their family and where they can find a pack, troop, crew or ship near them.

That last part — the where — is where you come in. It’s time to update your unit’s listing on BeAScout.org, and I’ll tell you why.

You see, when moms and dads visit BeAScout.org, they can enter their ZIP code to find all the Scout units near them.

These results show up as pins, with each representing a pack, troop or crew nearby.

If your unit is one of those pins, you want that prospective Scout parent to have a direct line of communication to you. That way you can tell them all about how awesome Pack 123 is or what makes Troop 456 so great.

There’s just one problem: some units haven’t updated their pins, meaning there’s an extra obstacle between you and a new member of your unit.

But don’t worry. Updating your pin is easy, and it’s well worth your time.

Two types of pins

There are two types of BeAScout.org pins: council-owned and unit-owned.

Council-owned pins give parents the council’s website or phone number. Unit-owned pins allow parents to communicate their interest directly to the unit leader.

Here’s what the difference looks like on BeAScout.org:

You can see that updating your pin is the way to go. But how’s it done?

How to update your BeAScout.org pin and who can do it

This Scouting Wire post outlines the steps for updating your BeAScout.org pin.

It’s simple, and it’s a good way to make sure your information is current — that it doesn’t list last year’s Cubmaster or meeting time, for example.

Not all adult volunteers can manage the unit’s pin. The capability is restricted to the primary unit leader, unit committee chair and chartered organization representative.

Parents incoming

Last year, there were more than 600,000 visits to BeAScout.org. This year, that number could be even higher.

That’s because the BSA will put some money into paid search results and boosted posts on Facebook — both directing traffic to BeAScout.org. That will ensure that prospective Scouting families come out in full force to the site this fall.

Once there, they’ll learn about Scouting, find units and access the lead form and membership application in the BSA’s new online registration system.

10 ways to maximize your solar eclipse viewing experience with your Scouts

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You might have heard there’s a total solar eclipse coming on Monday, Aug. 21.

In the contiguous United States, the eclipse begins at about 9 a.m. PDT on the Oregon coast. It will then dash across the middle of the country before ending around 4 p.m. EDT off the coast of South Carolina.

Scouts, Venturers, parents and Scout leaders who live along the 168-mile-wide path of totality are in for the biggest treat. But everyone in the lower 48 will see at least a partial eclipse, which is still really cool.

Speaking of really cool, the team at Boys’ Life will host the “Boys’ Life Eclipse Extravaganza” live on Facebook, beginning around 10 a.m. Central on Monday. Be sure to tune in.

With the eclipse now less than a week away, here are some last-minute suggestions for maximizing your viewing experience.

1. See what you’ll see.

This site, from the folks at Google and the University of California, Berkeley, lets you type in your ZIP code or city to see what the eclipse will look like wherever you’ll be on Aug. 21.

It provides exact times, so you can set your alarm accordingly.

2. Plan for the patch.

In June, I told you about the BSA 2017 Solar Eclipse patch, available to Scouts and Venturers who make the most of this awesome opportunity.

Learn more at the official BSA eclipse website.

3. Find an event near you.

If you’re in the path of totality, chances are there’s a Scouting event hosted by your council. That’s the plan at these BSA camps, plus others not listed:

If you aren’t near one of these camps, check this NASA page to find a viewing location near you. Options abound both in and out of the path of totality.

4. Be Prepared for traffic and poor cell service.

If you live or plan to drive to somewhere within the path of totality, expect heavy traffic and overloaded cell towers.

Plan ahead by bringing a standalone GPS device (instead of relying solely on your phone). Print out maps and reservation info for hotels or campsites.

Pack extra water and snacks in your car, too, in case you’re stuck on the road for a while.

5. Teach your Scouts and Venturers what they’ll see.

Use a flashlight and some sports balls to show your Scouts how an eclipse works. Have the tennis ball moon blocking out the flashlight sun, casting a shadow on the basketball earth.

You can also show them this Crash Course Astronomy video from PBS.

6. Stay cool in the shades.

By now I hope you have your eclipse-ready glasses. Look for ones that say they’re ISO 12312-2 compliant. Your local Scout camp, science museum, school or astronomy club might have extras for people to borrow.

Watch out, though, because some companies are selling eclipse viewers and glasses that aren’t safe.

The American Astronomical Society has put together this list of reputable vendors, which includes retail chains and online vendors.

7. Make your own eclipse viewer.

Looking for a hands-on activity that will also help Scouts view the eclipse in a safe way?

Look no further than this solar eclipse viewer from Boys’ Life magazine. Find instructions here, or watch the video below.

8. Prepare to be outside for hours.

Don’t let the eclipse distract you from your typical preparations for being outside in the summer heat.

That means you bring plenty of water, wear sunscreen and a hat, and find a shady spot with camp chairs to wait for the big moment in the sun.

Sunscreen? Yes, even in an eclipse you can get a sunburn.

9. Figure out a foul-weather plan.

Clouds can spoil even the best eclipse-watching plan. So even as you cross your fingers for clear skies, you should still plan for the worst.

If you’re watching at home, bookmark NASA’s Eclipse Live page, where viewers can see the eclipse from a number of unique vantage points, including NASA aircraft and high-altitude balloons.

If you’re watching with a group, bring a laptop and projector so you can share these live videos for all to see.

10. Start planning for 2024.

There will be another eclipse in the United States on April 8, 2024. That one will cut across Texas, through Ohio and into Maine.

In other words, even if you miss out on the 2017 eclipse because of bad weather or other factors, all is not completely lost.

Lion pilot program for kindergarteners off to a roaring start, with exciting changes coming for 2017-2018

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“It’s fun, hands-on and active.” “It’s simple and easy to implement.” “It’s age-appropriate, builds character and develops new skills.”

That’s just a glimpse of what parents and youth across the country are saying about Lions, the BSA’s pilot program for kindergarten-age boys.

Lions answers the call for fun, character-building after-school adventures for boys 5 or 6 years old or in kindergarten. Lions begins its second season as a nationwide pilot program in the 2017-2018 Scouting year.

Pilot is the operative word here. It means this program is evolving based on feedback from parents and BSA professionals. Based on that feedback, as well as surveys and focus groups, the BSA has some changes to announce for this fall.

I’ll share those changes a little later in the post. First, let’s take a quick look at what people are saying about Lions so far.

What did families think of Lions in 2016-2017?

Lion Guides, parents, and youth agreed that the program content was enjoyable, effective and engaging.

“Overall, the Lion program was a big hit with our pack,” one survey respondent wrote. “In my opinion, this is the best idea the BSA has come up with, next to allowing girls to join Venturing.”

Many said they got the training and support from council and district volunteers to help make their Lion experience a success.

Other highlights from the survey:

  • 61 percent of Lion parents indicated they have no other child in Scouting. This means Lions is both recruiting new families to Scouting as well as serving siblings of existing Scouts.
  • 90 percent of parents said they liked the uniform T-shirt, shared-leadership model, age-appropriate activities, youth Adventure book and immediate recognition stickers. They’re also pleased with the meeting duration, frequency and content. They said the Leader Guidebook was simple and easy to follow and that the Adventures were engaging for the boys.
  • 91 percent of parents say their Lion will be moving to Tigers. This is probably the best indicator of all that the pilot program is success.

What’s new in Lions for 2017-2018?
  • Pack meetings and activities will be open to Lion families who want to participate. Lion families said they wanted more pack involvement, and now they have the option of being included in program, skits, and more.
  • Pinewood Derby open to Lions. Packs have three recommended options for implementing this:
    1. Integrate into the pack Derby with other Cub Scouts.
    2. Use the wedge car from the Scout Shop to eliminate cutting.
    3. Have Lions participate in a Veggie Car Derby, where potatoes and cucumbers replace wood blocks.
  • Fundraising will be allowed as a family option. Although they don’t want mandatory levels of funds to raise, Lion families indicated they do want to have the option to raise funds. Spring fundraising is encouraged. If popcorn is sold by Lions, a show-and-sell approach where older boys and parents are also present is preferred. Door-to-door selling would only be appropriate if the parent is by the youth’s side.
  • Uniform T-shirt won’t change, but families can buy button-down if they want. Parents and boys love the required Lion T-shirt and optional cap. But this change allows families to buy official blue Cub Scout button-down shirts and blue pants as desired for special occasions and pack ceremonies.
  • A Lion-specific page in Boys’ Life. Parents can use this great resource to help unlock the world of reading for their child.

Find tons of great Lion content on this site.

Winning formula: Eagle Scout wins world championship in Microsoft Excel

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On the list of unlikely global competitions for teenagers, this one sits on Row 1 of Column A: a Microsoft Excel world championship.

But sure enough, it’s a thing. Each year, students from around the world compete to see who has the sweetest spreadsheet skills.

This year, for the first time ever, an American won the Excel trophy at the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship in Anaheim, Calif.

And it wasn’t just any American.

It was Eagle Scout John Dumoulin of Troop 1390 from Woodbridge, Va.

Prepared for the pressure

John, a 17-year-old rising senior, became an Eagle Scout in March 2015, conquering the tough list of requirements completed by the 6 percent of Scouts who earn Scouting’s highest honor.

Two years later, to win the Excel championship, John had to best 560,000 candidates from 122 countries who had entered the competition. At the finals in Anaheim, John and 150 others were given 50 minutes to re-create completed spreadsheets.

John told me that Scouting helped him Be Prepared for that kind of pressure.

“Scouting has given me the mentality that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to, no matter how challenging the feat may be,” he said. “This helped me in the competition.”

Excelling at an early age

John started getting into Excel in middle school, where he loved tracking baseball stats using the software. When he got to Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, John channeled that hobby into something that will serve him well in a future career. Through the school he earned several Microsoft certifications, including one for Excel.

At first, John’s passion for a seemingly mundane program bewildered his friends. But they quickly understood.

“Being a baseball player, my friends were confused when I told them I was competing in an Excel competition, but after I told them what it was they were really supportive and proud of me,” John says.

Surely their support will grow further once they learn of John’s prize for winning the world title: a $7,000 scholarship, a big trophy and an Xbox.

Scouting spreadsheets

John used his skills to help his troop, too. He created a troop calendar in Excel and used it when tracking his progress toward merit badges like Family Life and Personal Fitness.

Of course, John’s hobbies and Scouting experience extend beyond the borders of his laptop screen.

His Eagle project was entirely analog: he preserved trees at a park in Lake Ridge, Va.

“They had an issue with beavers damaging the trees and creating debris on the walkways,” John said. “My volunteers wrapped wire fencing around trees to help preserve them for the park, and we finished with an area cleanup.”

John’s favorite Scouting memories — so far — include learning to ski with his troop, whitewater rafting and his Eagle Scout ceremony.

“Scouting has taught me to strive for excellence and go for high achievement in everything I do,” John said. “I’m glad to bring the Microsoft competition into the world of Scouting and hope for the growth of technology and STEM work in Boy Scouts continues.”

Does the National Jamboree count toward a National Outdoor Award?

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The National Outdoor Awards, which debuted in 2010, are how the BSA recognizes Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, Sea Scouts or Venturers who demonstrate knowledge and experience in high-level outdoor activities.

Young people can earn badges in one or more of these six areas: Camping, Aquatics, Conservation, Hiking, Riding and Adventure.

Once earned, the patch and segments can be worn in the temporary patch position — on the right pocket.

Go here for the full list of requirements for each of the six National Outdoor Awards.

Now that you’re up to speed on the basics, let’s discuss one very specific detail.

Question from a Scouter

A Scouter named Tony emailed me with this question:

Hi Bryan,

Thank you very much for running your column. It is my go-to place to begin looking for a Scouting-related question.

Also, I hope that the Jamboree was as fun for you as it looked to me as an offsite observer.

Anyway, the question that I anticipate will be: Does attendance and participation at the 2017 National Jamboree meet requirement 3G of the National Outdoor Award for Adventure? That requirement says: “Attend any national high-adventure base or any nationally recognized local high-adventure or specialty-adventure program.”

Yours in Scouting,

Tony

Thanks for the question, Tony. For the answer, I went to Rob Kolb, outdoor programs specialist at the BSA’s National Service Center.

Does the National Jamboree count toward the National Outdoor Award?

Yes, attendance at the Jamboree can count toward requirement 3G of the National Outdoor Award for Adventure. The requirement states that Scouts or Venturers must “attend any national high-adventure base or any nationally recognized local high-adventure or specialty-adventure program.” The Jamboree qualifies.

Bottom line: The Adventure segment of the National Outdoor Awards asks Scouts or Venturers to complete 10 adventure activities. The Jamboree can count as one of those 10.

If a Scout or Venturer is lucky enough to attend two or more Jamborees — perhaps the 2017 National Jamboree and 2019 World Scout Jamboree — he or she may count both toward the 10. That’s confirmed by this sentence in the Adventure award requirements: “Items 3a–g may be repeated as desired.”

BSA photo by Al Drago.

The history of Scouting and s’mores

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The Girl Scouts are widely credited with inventing the concept of sandwiching a fire-roasted marshmallow between graham crackers and chocolate and calling it a s’more.

So before we go any further, let me just say one thing on behalf of the millions of Boy Scouts and Venturers who have enjoyed these campfire treats over the past nine decades: Thanks, Girl Scouts!

But did you know that the tradition of Scouts browning marshmallows (or blackening them, if you’re weird and prefer them burnt) over a fire began well before s’mores blazed onto the scene in 1927?

It’s true.

In The Official Handbook for Boys, the first Scout handbook published in 1911, Scouts are introduced to the deliciousness of toasting marshmallows. Perfectly preparing a marshmallow is, of course, the first and most important step in making s’mores.

Campfire Marshmallows finds its customer

By putting marshmallow roasting in the Scout handbook, the BSA was essentially recommending the practice to boys all over the country.

The company that made Campfire Marshmallows, introduced in 1917, saw a natural customer base.

They started buying ads like the one below, seen in the June 1920 issue of Boys’ Life. The ad reminds Scouts that they’ll “want delicious toasted marshmallows” at summer camp again this year.

Later ads told Scouts to carry marshmallows as snacks on hikes because they’re “high in food value, pure and wholesome” or to pack them as a “healthful” lunch.

Marshmallows always catching fire? Try this

In later years, Boys’ Life started publishing s’mores hacks. This was well before “hack” became a word for a simple tip that makes your life easier.

In BL‘s February 1986 issue, reader Kevin Gerber of Austin, Minn., shared his method for keeping the outside of marshmallows from burning while roasting them.

“The answer is simple,” Kevin wrote. “Just dip the marshmallow in water before holding it over the flame.”

Another s’mores hack, published in the December 2009 BL, came from Jarod Spencer of Troy, Ill.:

“Instead of using graham crackers and chocolate when making s’mores, use fudge-striped cookies,” Jarod wrote. “Your s’more will be easier to handle, and you won’t drop your chocolate on the ground.”

There’s s’more where that came from. (Sorry.)

BL published this list of 10 Tasty S’mores Variations, including one I have to try: Ritz Crackers S’mores, where the salty Ritz replaces the graham cracker.

Enjoying s’mores safely

And finally, just because nobody wants a flaming marshmallow burning off their eyebrows, please take a second to read these BSA tips for enjoying s’mores safely.

Who invented ga-ga ball? Someone might have solved the mystery for good

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It has become the unofficial sport of Scouting.

It’s ga-ga ball, a friendlier form of dodgeball played in an octagonal pit. And it has swept through the Scouting movement.

Almost every Scout camp has its own ga-ga pit; you’ll see Scouts and Venturers gathered around these enclosures until the last bit of daylight is gone. Same story at the 2013 and 2017 Jamborees, where the Summit Bechtel Reserve’s permanent, high-quality ga-ga pits were constantly full.

The Boys’ Life Eagle Project Showcase has tracked at least four Eagle Scouts whose service projects involved building ga-ga pits at their local schools or parks, ensuring future generations of kids get hooked on ga-ga, too.

So who invented ga-ga ball?

For a while, it was rumored that the game started in the Israeli Defense Forces, but that turned out to be a tall tale.

In truth, the game was probably invented in 1975 by a 17-year-old camp counselor named Steven Steinberg.

A new article posted this month by the online magazine Tablet has the story.

Makeshift walls

Steinberg was a counselor at a Jewish Community Center camp in the Baltimore area in the summer of 1975. His unenviable task: watching over a group of 6-year-old boys.

The boys liked to bounce a ball around, but it kept rolling down a hill. So Steinberg got some benches and laid them on their sides, surrounding the play area. The makeshift walls kept the ball in play.

He developed a form of dodgeball where the boys could hit the ball with their hands and eliminate opponents by hitting them below the knee.

This form of dodgeball was much safer for 6-year-olds, with the rules ensuring that nobody would take a shot to the nose. Plus, the below-the-knee rule — still in place today — kept the ball from escaping the pit as frequently.

What about the name?

The article mentions that Steinberg, in a moment of frustration, “told his campers that they ‘all look like a bunch of babies’ — at which point some of the kids began chanting ‘goo-goo, ga-ga,’ which soon became the name of the game.

“When Steinberg had to fit the name on a written activity schedule, it was shortened to ‘ga-ga.'”

The years since

Seventeen years later, in 1992, Steinberg brought his then-8-year-old son back to orientation at the same camp. A staffer told the pair to go check out the ga-ga courts.

That’s when it hit Steinberg: the game he invented in 1975 had stuck.

From the Tablet article:

Steinberg’s story is backed up by an article in the Baltimore Jewish Times in July of 1992, long before the game became the mini-industry that it is today. Steinberg, now a 61-year-old grandfather and a reflexologist in Owings Mills, Md., says he has never made any effort to trademark or monetize the game.

Some unsourced reports say ga-ga ball has been around since the 1950s — even if it wasn’t first called that. Steinberg’s response: “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come up with a game like this.” But he’s sure the name “ga-ga” was his creation.

Be sure to read the full story over at the Tablet website.

Ga-ga and Boy Scouts

My first exposure to ga-ga ball was at the 2013 Jamboree, where I chose the far-too-obvious headline “Scouts go ga-ga for the Israeli version of dodgeball” for my blog post.

This is what I love about jamborees. You hear all about rock climbing, zip-lining, and skateboarding going in, but nobody mentions ga-ga. It’s just another jamboree surprise awaiting Scouts and Venturers around each turn.

I’ll bet most of the Scouts in the octagon yesterday didn’t intend to come over and play ga-ga, but now just try to keep them away.

Since then, ga-ga has really taken off in the Scouting community.

Still, I could find no official record on how long Scouts have been playing ga-ga ball. So let me ask you this: When did you or your Scouts first try ga-ga? Leave a comment below.

Photo by Kevin Shaw. Thanks to Baltimore Scouter J.D. Urbach for the tip.

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