Scouting News from the Internet

Help this Scoutmaster with a perplexing predicament on patrol organization

Bryan On Scouting -

Sometimes the desire to support Scouting’s youth-led model clashes with the wishes of parents or your fellow Scouters.

That’s happening now in a troop in the northeast. The senior patrol leader wants to shuffle the patrols; some parents and assistant Scoutmasters are against the idea.

The Scoutmaster emailed me last week asking for advice, and he agreed to let me share the story here.

“Unfortunately, this issue is one that is causing lost sleep and a lot of hard feelings between people,” he writes. “So I am trying to resolve it soon.”

The situation

The newly elected senior patrol leader wants to reshape the way his fellow Scouts are divided into patrols. Instead of the troop’s current model with patrols organized by age, he wants to mix things up.

Under the new plan, each patrol would have a mix of younger and older Scouts.

“He feels that the younger boys would benefit from more direct interaction with the older boys,” the Scoutmaster writes. “They would learn more skills and hopefully become more friendly with the other boys as a whole.”

The Scoutmaster is inclined to let this happen. The youth-led model — where young people are allowed to try things, and even fail, in a safe environment —  is what makes Scouting so great.

“I am in favor of boys leading boys and letting them learn from any potential missteps,” he writes. “And I counseled the SPL in terms of making sure he didn’t make pairings where there were obvious issues.”

The source of concern

Some of the parents and leaders are against the SPL’s plan. They’d like the SPL to “stop trying to ruin a good thing.”

They agree that interaction between younger and older Scouts is a critical part of Scouting, but they don’t think rearranging the patrols is necessary to accomplish that.

One assistant Scoutmaster says the reorganization might take away the sense of patrol pride the boys enjoy so much. This assistant Scoutmaster asked the Scoutmaster to step in and tell the SPL that his plan isn’t permitted.

“I am trying to find a happy medium in all of this and was hoping for some advice,” the Scoutmaster writes. “I’ve read all sorts of BSA publications about how patrols should be organized and I see pros and cons for different methods. I want the boys to lead themselves and I have tried to preach this to the other Scoutmasters, but at times I feel I am talking to a brick wall.

“Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.”

What the BSA says about patrol organization

First, let’s look at the BSA’s official guidance here. “Guidance” is the operative word here, because there’s no rule. Each troop sets its own model for patrol organization.

I wrote about patrol organization last year, citing the Vol. 1 of the Troop Leader Guidebook.

Read that post to see what the Guidebook says about the advantages and disadvantages of the mixed-age approach. You’ll also hear the case for having three types of patrols: new-Scout patrols, regular patrols and older-Scout patrols.

There are three passages from the Guidebook that I’d like to highlight:

  • “In some troops, Scouts join a patrol together and stay together throughout their time in the troop.”
  • “Ideally, they have chosen to be in the same patrol.”
  • “The only time a Scout should be assigned to a patrol is when he first joins the troop.”
What’s your advice?

What would you recommend to this Scoutmaster?

Should he follow the wishes of the senior patrol leader, elected by his peers to make important decisions?

Or should he take the guidance of his parents and assistant Scoutmasters and preserve the current patrol makeup?

Please leave a comment below.

California Venturer a national finalist for Wendy’s High School Heisman

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Natalie MacEwan, the 2017-2018 Western Region Area 4 Venturing president, has been named a national finalist for a Wendy’s High School Heisman.

The award, presented in conjunction with the Heisman Memorial Trophy for the top player in college football, recognizes outstanding high school student-athletes from across the country.

Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, himself a high school dropout, created the High School Heisman. He wanted to celebrate the outstanding achievements of young people who give back to their communities, treat people with respect, excel in education and succeed on the athletic field.

Top 10 in the country

Natalie is a senior at El Camino Real Charter High School in Woodland Hills, Calif. In school she has a 4.5 GPA and plays volleyball and water polo. In Venturing, she has served multiple leadership roles since joining in 2015.

Natalie was named a state-level winner in October. One male and one female from each state — 100 students in all — earned this honor.

That group of 100 was cut to 10 national finalists. As a national finalist, Natalie receives a $5,000 college scholarship and an invitation to the Heisman weekend in New York City. She also gets a gold medal and — perfect for someone in Scouting — a High School Heisman patch.

National winners, one male and one female, will be announced during Heisman weekend. The winners each get a $10,000 college scholarship, a trophy and recognition during ESPN’s Heisman broadcast.

Natalie will learn whether she’s a national winner on Dec. 8.

Eager to join Scouting

A self-proclaimed “tomboy,” Natalie watched her dad and brother enjoy first Cub Scouting and then Boy Scouting.

“I began to wait anxiously for the day I would turn 14 and be able to join a program of my own: Venturing,” she wrote on her council’s Venturing page last year.

She wasn’t officially enrolled, but Natalie was definitely involved. She served as an unofficial den chief, staffed Cub Scout parents’ weekend for nine years, volunteered at Cub Scout day camp, placed flags on gravestones on Memorial Day, and volunteered at countless Eagle projects and other service projects.

In 2015, her dream of being a BSA member became a reality. Soon after, she was elected crew president of the resurrected Venturing Crew 22.

She’s made the most of her time in Scouting. She went on a backpacking trek at Philmont, attended VenturingFest 2016 and served on staff at the 2017 National Jamboree.

“Since becoming involved in Scouting, I have seen myself grow as an individual by embodying the Scout Oath and Law, facing and overcoming new challenges, taking on new positions of leadership, working in cooperative and positive environments, doing things I would never have dreamed I could do, and ultimately becoming a better and stronger person,” Natalie writes. “I strongly believe in the Venturing program and want to continue to work towards strengthening our crews, councils, areas, regions and essentially the program as a whole.”

Thanks to Matthias Leier of the Western Los Angeles County Council for the tip.

Five Scout camps named for fascinatingly famous people in history

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An icon of the American West, the longtime president of Coca-Cola and a man who died in the sinking of the Lusitania.

Names and these and other fascinating Americans grace BSA camps across the country.

The names of Scout camps offer an interesting entry point into the history of Scouting, a particular community or the nation as a whole. Many camps are named for men and women who donated money, time or both to support local Scouting. Others are named for famous figures in history.

How did your favorite camp get its name? Leave a comment at the end of this post.

But first, let’s look at five Scout camps named for intriguing people in history.

Theodore Naish Scout Reservation

Who: Theodore Naish (1856–1915), a civil engineer in Kansas City, Mo., who died in the May 7, 1915, sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat.

Where: Kansas City, Kan.

Council: Heart of America

The story:

Theodore Naish was born in 1856 in Birmingham, England. He later moved to the United States and became a citizen. In 1895, he purchased nearly 150 acres of land in Kansas — rolling hills and dense forests of oak and hickory.

In 1911, at age 55, Naish married Belle Saunders, a schoolteacher from Detroit. The two spent several summers on the land he owned, enjoying hikes to the tops of hills 1,000 feet high.

In 1915, the pair treated themselves to a belated honeymoon to England, where Theodore had grown up. They purchased tickets on the Lusitania and traveled to New York to board their regal ride. Yes, England and Germany were at war. And yes, the Germans had submarines lurking in the waters around England. But Belle and Theodore didn’t worry.

“We were convinced that the Germans would not sink an unarmed passenger liner loaded with neutrals and so many women and children,” Belle Naish told The Kansas City Star in 1935.

When the German U-boat’s torpedo hit the Lusitania, Belle remembers seeing a “vast mass of water, mingled with all sorts of broken and splintered things,” she told The Star.

Belle and Theodore helped passengers don their life vests. Soon a second explosion — perhaps in the coal compartment — rocked the ship, sending Belle into the air and knocking her unconscious. Someone in a lifeboat pulled her in and took her to Queenstown, Ireland. Belle searched every hospital and morgue in Queenstown for her husband, but it became clear that he was one of the 1,198 passengers — including 128 Americans — who died.

Belle kept the Kansas property for more than a decade. In 1927, she donated 90 acres to the Boy Scouts. Later, she donated another 90.

Theodore Naish’s body never was found. In 1941, Boy Scouts helped dedicate a memorial to him. Decades later, his legacy lives on.

Camp Buffalo Bill

Who: William “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1845–1917), an icon of the American Old West and traveling showman who founded the town of Cody, Wyo.

Where: Cody, Wyo.

Council: Greater Wyoming

The story:

William Cody earned the nickname “Buffalo Bill” after the Civil War when he supplied buffalo meat to Kansas Pacific Railroad workers.

After building legendary status as a (lowercase-S) scout and hunter, Cody transitioned into a career as a showman. In “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” he traveled the country to bring a glimpse of the American West to sold-out audiences. When organizers of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 rejected his request to participate, Cody set up his own exhibition nearby. His exhibition’s popularity irked fair organizers.

In 1895, Cody helped found the town of Cody in northwestern Wyoming. He liked its rich soil, picturesque scenery and proximity to Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872.

Those qualities that made the town of Cody attractive in 1895 make Camp Buffalo Bill near Cody a favorite of Scouts more than 120 years later.

Woodruff Scout Camp

Who: Robert W. Woodruff (1889–1985), longtime president of The Coca-Cola Co. and a prominent Atlanta philanthropist.

Where: Blairsville, Ga., about 2.5 hours north of Atlanta.

Council: Atlanta Area

The story:

Robert W. Woodruff was born in 1889 in Georgia. He was the son of a Ernest Woodruff, one of a group of businessmen who bought The Coca-Cola Co. in 1919.

After various jobs — shoveling sand, selling fire extinguishers, supplying trucks for troops during World War I — Robert’s dad offered him the position of president of Coca-Cola.

As company president in 1926, Robert Woodruff turned Coke into a global brand by establishing a foreign department. He served as president until 1954.

The fact that Woodruff’s name graces a number of school buildings and public landmarks is a testament to his philanthropy. There’s the Woodruff Arts Center and Woodruff Park, for example, named in recognition of his gifts.

The Robert W. Woodruff Scout Reservation, now called Woodruff Scout Camp, was built after donations from the Woodruff Foundation and Coca-Cola. Each summer, Scouts gather there for life-changing experiences they’ll find nowhere else.

Horace A. Moses Scout Reservation

Who: Horace A. Moses (1863–1947), founder of Strathmore Paper Company and the man who helped start Junior Achievement, a nonprofit youth organization that teaches young people how to succeed in the world economy.

Where: Russell, Mass., about 35 minutes west of Springfield, Mass.

Council: Western Massachusetts

The story:

Horace A. Moses, born in New York, established the company that eventually became the Strathmore Paper Company. Strathmore, now part of the Pacon Corp., is known for making high-quality art papers. The company counts Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth among its past customers.

In 1919, Moses helped start Junior Achievement, serving as its chairman for 27 years. The organization teaches work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy to students in kindergarten through high school. In 1984, Moses was featured on a 20-cent stamp commemorating his work with Junior Achievement.

Moses’ good works extended to Scouting, as well. Shortly before his death in 1947, Moses sold sections of his 1,600-acre summer estate to the BSA.

For his Good Turn, Moses received the council-level Silver Beaver Award. The award still hangs in the camp office.

Cole Canoe Base

Who: Edward N. Cole (1909–1977), an automobile executive who was general manager of Chevrolet and helped develop the Corvair and Vega.

Where: Alger, Mich., about 2.5 hours northwest of Detroit.

CouncilMichigan Crossroads

The story:

Edward N. Cole wanted to be a lawyer, but a part-time job at an auto parts store introduced him to the high-octane world of automobiles.

He enrolled in the General Motors Institute, and his rapid ascent began. One of his first hits was as a member of the team that developed the 1949 Cadillac V8. He was the chief engineer of the Chevrolet Division when he helped turn weak-performing Corvettes into the muscle cars they are today.

When he was general manager of Chevrolet, GM’s largest automotive division, Cole was on the cover of the Oct. 5, 1959, issue of Time magazine.

After that, Cole developed the Chevrolet Corvair, a compact car that sold from 1960 to 1969, and the Chevrolet Vega, a subcompact available from 1970 to 1977.

Through all this, Cole was involved in Scouting as a volunteer. He served as president of the Detroit Area Council in 1962. In 1977, as vice president of General Motors Corp., he donated funds to support what was then called the Rifle River Scout Canoe Base.

In recognition of Cole’s gift, the base was renamed Cole Canoe Base, home of the famous Beast Feast I covered in 2015.

What’s your camp’s story?

Is your camp named after someone famous or fascinating? Leave the story in the comments.

This Webelos Scout’s campaign video for fifth-grade vice president is Oscar-worthy

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Leave it to a Webelos Scout to devise a campaign video that’s positive, uplifting and downright awesome.

Alexander Miles is a member of Pack 695 of the Sam Houston Area Council. In October, Alexander ran for vice president of his fifth-grade class at the Kinkaid School in Houston.

It was an exercise in the democratic process. Each candidate had to come up with a platform of campaign promises and make a 60-second advertisement for his or her cause.

“One of the best parts was bossing around my crew — my mom and dad!” Alexander says. “And I did not get in trouble for it!”

Behind the scenes

Alexander says the toughest part of the video was coming up with interesting shots and writing the script.

“Once that was done, making the video was a piece of cake,” he says.

In the 60-second video, which you can watch below, Alexander tells his classmates that “each and every one of you is awesome at something. Let’s discover it and show it off to the world.”

That’s the kind of positive message all of us can get behind.

A Scouting life

In the video, Alexander says he has the responsibility, creativity and leadership abilities to serve his classmates well. These are skills Alexander learned in Pack 695, which he joined as a Tiger Cub and will leave when he crosses over into Boy Scouting.

Alexander also spotlighted the ways he has helped others. He has helped organize a shoe drive at his school, volunteered for Hurricane Harvey victims and donated all $182.12 he earned at a lemonade stand to sick kids at a children’s hospital.

“We rise by lifting others,” he explains in the video.

‘We’re just kids’

But remember, Alexander concludes, “we’re just kids.”

A vote for Alexander Miles, he says, means a vote for “miles and miles and miles of fun.” That’s clear from his video, too.

In the end, the elections didn’t go the way Alexander had hoped. It turns out there was a glitch in the balloting system, and his name wasn’t even on the ballot for fifth-grade vice president.

But even in quasi-defeat, Alexander has a cheerful attitude.

“It’s OK, there will be new elections next year,” he says. “I can’t wait to create my next video.”

And we can’t wait to watch it.

Alexander Miles’ campaign video

Be Prepared for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner

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With Thanksgiving a little over a week away, let’s practice the Scouting motto by “being prepared” for the big day, especially if you plan to incorporate an outdoorsy twist, like cooking and eating the meal outside.

Just as you might do when making the huge annual meal indoors, recruit some help for preparing the feast. Scouts and family members can pitch in by creating table decorations, stoking the fire and cooking.

Here are a few Thanksgiving recipes to make and enjoy outside:

Dutch oven turkey

Make a showstopper main dish in your Dutch oven. You’ll need:

3 onions, one quartered, two sliced

1 apple sliced

6 sprigs rosemary

6 sprigs sage

6 sprigs thyme

2 Tbs. canola oil

1 Tbs. salt

1 Tbs. pepper

2 cups chicken stock


Stuff your turkey with your quartered onion and sliced apple. Cover the bird in canola oil. Place the sliced onion, rosemary, sage and thyme at the bottom of your Dutch oven. Placed the oiled turkey on top and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Pour the chicken stock in the oven.

Arrange the coals to bake the turkey for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove some of the coals to reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Remove the turkey when its meat temperature has reached 160 degrees. Watch how to do it here.

Dutch oven stuffing

What’s turkey without stuffing? For this recipe, you’ll need:

2 Tbs. canola oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cups celery, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 loaf of day-old bread, cubed

1 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup raisins

2 large eggs

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 Tbs. black pepper

1 tsp. salt


Place your Dutch oven atop several lit coals. Pour in canola oil, followed by the onion, celery and bell pepper. Stir and cook before scooping the mixture into a large bowl filled with bread cubes. Mix in pecans and raisins. In a separate bowl, add eggs, chicken stock, salt and pepper. Stir well and pour over the bread cubes. Mix everything together and pour into the Dutch oven.

Bake the stuffing for 30 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees. You can accomplish this temperature by placing nine coals under a 12-inch Dutch oven while putting about 16 coals on top. Watch how to make the recipe here.

Grilled corn

Forgo the oven and just use the coals for this recipe:

Corn, unhusked





Pull back the corn husks without removing them; discard the silks. Wrap the husks around the corn and keep them in place using kitchen twine. Soak each ear of corn in water for 30 minutes up to one hour. Place the corn directly on ash-covered coals. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning the corn every couple of minutes. Remove the corn and brush off the ashes. Husk the corn and smother in butter and season with salt and pepper.


You can also cook your potatoes or sweet potatoes in the coals. Just wrap each one in aluminum foil and place in the embers. Cook them for about an hour.


Cranberry sauce

Break out the camp stove for this quick and easy side dish:

12 oz. cranberries

1 cup sugar

1 cup orange juice


In a saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the orange juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cranberries and cook until they pop, which takes about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; the sauce will thicken as it cools.

Cranberry apple pie

Don’t forget dessert! For this recipe, you’ll need:

Ready-to-bake pie dough

3 cups apples, sliced

1 cup cranberries, whole

2 cups cranberries, chopped

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

3 Tbs. tapioca




Grab your Dutch oven again and line it with parchment paper and the pie dough. Mix the apples, cranberries and pecans in one bowl. Then mix the cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and tapioca together. Fold that mixture into the fruit mixture and place it all in the Dutch oven. Cover with pie dough and slice slits in the dough. Brush an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees (that’s eight coals under and 17 coals on the lid of a 10-inch oven). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then place the oven in tap water for another 10 minutes. After 10 more minutes, add ice, and chill for one hour. Watch how to make this dessert here.


As you gather with your family and friends this Thanksgiving, don’t let the fun stop at the dining table. This year, we challenge you to head outside to start a new tradition.

From Dutch oven recipes for the backcountry to crafts you can whip up in the backyard, make the most of heading outdoors and spending time with the people you love most.

Explore projects, recipes, and camping gear that will bring your family and friends together this holiday season. We have everything you need to start your adventure on this Pinterest board.

Outfit your whole family and friends for outdoor adventures year-round! Everyone is invited to take advantage of free shipping on orders of $100 or more in November at the Scout Shop using the code CAMPSGIVING.

A Scout’s guide to earning and wearing a religious emblem

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Representing an array of faiths — from the African Methodist Episcopal Church to Zoroastrianism — religious emblems encourage Scouts, Venturers and adult volunteers to strengthen their faith-based journey within Scouting.

This journey aligns with the 12th point of the Scout Law — reverent — and the “duty to God” part of the Scout Oath.

While the BSA is secular and members are not required to belong to any religious organization, BSA members are required to acknowledge a belief in God.

Earning a religious emblem helps turn that “acknowledgement” into something deeper and more meaningful.

To learn more about religious emblems, including how to earn them, wear them and promote them within a Scout unit, I talked with Jason Noland. He’s the CEO of Programs of Religious Activities with Youth, or PRAY. PRAY is one of several faith organizations with which the BSA partners to administer religious emblems programs.

“Religious emblems are important because they help connect young people deeply to their faith and implement Scouting as part of a congregation’s youth ministry within the denominations where they belong,” Noland says.

What are religious emblems?

They are medals created by the various religious groups represented in Scouting. Their purpose is to encourage youth and adults to grow stronger in their faith as part of their Scouting experience.

Why are religious emblems important?

Studies by the BSA have shown that Scouts who earn a religious emblem stay registered longer in Scouting’s programs.

Considering that nearly three of every four units is chartered to a faith-based institution, this connection is vital to sustaining those relationships.

How are these emblems different from regular advancement?

In one sense, they are not different at all. Just like earning a merit badge, a Scout has to take the initiative to start the process to earn a religious emblem.

However, a young person doesn’t ask his or her Cubmaster, Scoutmaster or Venturing advisor to help with that process. He or she contacts the religious institution. At most institutions, there’s already a process in place for earning these emblems.

What role do adult leaders play?

An important one. They can encourage young people to earn the emblems, connect them with the appropriate faith leader and present the awards in a meaningful way.

Units with a Religious Emblems Coordinator have a designated adult who promotes emblems and tracks which ones have been earned.

What resources are available?

Many of the faith organizations have their own websites, including the National Jewish Committee on ScoutingNational Catholic Committee on Scouting and more.

The official website of PRAY has a ton of great info, like this Duty to God poster you can print and share.

What are the steps to earning a religious emblem?
  1. Obtain the specific booklet for your religion by checking with your local Scout Shop or contacting the religious organization directly.
  2. Ask parents to review the program guidelines.
  3. Become a member of your religious institution, if necessary. Note that some programs require participants to be official members of the religious institution and that age and grade requirements vary from program to program.
  4. Find a counselor. Each program sets its own guidelines as to who may serve as counselor. Some programs require clergy to serve as counselors; other programs allow parents or other family members to fill the role.
  5. Complete the requirements and obtain the proper signatures.
  6. Order the emblem itself. These emblems are not available from your local council Scout Shop. Follow the instructions in your booklet to order the emblem.
  7. Receive the emblem in a meaningful ceremony, preferably in the member’s religious institution.
How do you get the medal itself?

Unlike other advancement, these emblems are not purchased through the local council Scout Shop. You buy them through the faith organization that administers the emblem program.

The instructions for ordering are highlighted at the end of the booklet. Emblems should be presented in a meaningful ceremony, like any other award in Scouting.

Many units do this on Scout Sunday, Scout Sabbath or Scout Jumuah.

Depending on the grade and emblem, it may take anywhere from 6 to 14 weeks for the emblem to arrive. So plan accordingly.

What about adult emblems?

Unlike youth religious emblems, adult awards are based on service to Scouting and their faith.

Most require a nomination form, letters of reference and clergy signature.

Their approval also goes through the appropriate faith organization. Because most units are interfaith and multidenominational, it is not uncommon for adults to receive the emblem of other faiths in recognition of their service.

How/where are emblems worn?

All faiths have emblems or medals that should be worn as part of the official uniform and are appropriate for those events.

A silver knot on purple cloth may be worn by youth members who have received their religious emblem. For adults, the knot is the reverse: purple on silver cloth.

If you earned both, you may wear both at the same time.

A reminder about the BSA’s position on religious principles

From the Guide to Advancement: Religious Principles

From time to time, issues related to advancement call for an understanding of the position of the Boy Scouts of America on religious principles. The Boy Scouts of America does not define what constitutes belief in God or practice of religion. Neither does the BSA require membership in a religious organization or association for membership in the movement. If a Scout does not belong to a religious organization or association, then his parent(s) or guardian(s) will be considered responsible for his religious training. All that is required is the acknowledgment of belief in God as stated in the Declaration of Religious Principle and the Scout Oath, and the ability to be reverent as stated in the Scout Law.

Dancer Derek Hough using star power to support Scouting, national parks

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You couldn’t choreograph it any better: A big-name celebrity using his fame for a pair of great causes.

Derek Hough, the Emmy-winning dancer and choreographer known for his work on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars and NBC’s World of Dance, is using his talents to support the Boy Scouts of America and America’s national parks.

On Nov. 17, Hough will host the Great Salt Lake Council’s annual holiday gala and auction. In addition to emceeing the event, Hough has put up for auction a number of priceless items and experiences. Winning bidders will receive a dance with Hough, a piece of his artwork or a mini-dance lesson.

Proceeds from the auction and event will benefit the council that serves 100,000 Scouts, Venturers and adult volunteers in central Utah.

In a post on Instagram, Hough invites his 2 million followers to attend and support a good cause.

All the right moves

This is hardly Hough’s first bold move in support of Scouting. In August 2016, he showed up for a pre-Emmys dinner wearing his old Cub Scout uniform shirt. He posted a photo on Instagram of himself wearing the uniform and holding up the Scout sign. The caption listed the 12 points of the Scout Law and what they mean to him.

That same summer, Derek and his dad, Bruce, visited Teton High Adventure Base, operated by the Great Salt Lake Council. They went whitewater rafting, tested out Derek’s drone and greeted (and took selfies with) Scouts and camp staffers.

Derek Hough was in Scouting until age 12 when he moved to London with his sister Julianne to pursue a dancing career full time.

Though his Scouting career ended relatively early, his belief in the movement’s power lives on.

Derek Hough told his dad that wearing the shirt and posting about the Scout Law on Instagram “was a reminder to him that he needs to live these things each day of his life,” Bruce Hough told me last year.

Supporting lesser-known national parks

These days, you’re as likely to find Derek Hough exploring a national park as twirling on a dance floor.

That’s why he eagerly signed on to help the National Park Service with Parks 101, a new online series that focuses on lesser-known destinations within the NPS’s 417-site system.

In the series, celebrity ambassadors share videos and social media posts about these hidden gems.

Derek Hough’s chosen destination: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on the southern shore of Lake Michigan.

He told The Washington Post that his goal is getting people outside to explore — just like he did as a Scout and continues to do today.

“As a kid, I was a Boy Scout and my dad was very into the outdoors, so we would take these big road trips every year for my birthday and go camping and see all the amazing parks,” he told The Post. “When someone asks me what my favorite thing about America is, one of my first answers is the national parks. My trips with my dad, listening to U2, Bruce Springsteen, singing and blasting the radio, instilled in me a sense of adventure and an appreciation for our planet and the natural beauty of Earth.”

Thanks to Peter Self of the Great Salt Lake Council for the story idea.

This is why Northern Tier absolutely forbids waterproof boots on its canoeing treks

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At first I thought it was a misprint.

In several places on the Northern Tier website, participants are told not to bring waterproof boots.

The Northern Tier National High Adventure Program involves canoeing around the beautiful lakes and rivers of Minnesota and Canada. Canoeing, of course, being that water-based activity where your feet may get wet.

What’s more, Northern Tier treks are famous for their portages. At several points in a trek, you’ll have to get out and carry your canoe through puddles and across rocky streams. Surely waterproof boots are vital to keeping your feet dry and happy, right?


While Northern Tier participants must wear rugged boots with full ankle coverage, the boots must be able to drain. In other words, they must not be waterproof.

I’m going to trust that Northern Tier, the BSA’s oldest national high-adventure program, knows what it’s doing here. But for an explanation, I asked Leslie Thibodeaux, Northern Tier’s director of program.

Why Northern Tier requires boots but forbids waterproof ones

Leslie tells me Northern Tier’s rule is in place for three reasons:

1. Boots minimize injuries on portage trails

Let’s be clear: Northern Tier wants you to wear boots, not water shoes or rugged sandals — and definitely not flip-flops.

Why? Portage trails are rugged, with rocks and roots common. A stable shoe with good ankle support is essential.

By requiring boots, Leslie, says “Northern Tier has minimized the number of feet, ankle and leg injuries.”

2. Northern Tier practices wet-foot portaging

To minimize wear and tear on its canoes, Northern Tier practices wet-foot portaging.

Instead of paddling the canoe until you hear that scraping sound and can paddle no more, you’re asked to get out before the portage trails so you don’t drag on the rough sand or rocks.

Boots-wearing participants climb out and prepare to portage.

“The rocks are slick and sharp, and without good foot protection, this can cause damage to the feet,” Leslie says.

3. Waterproof boots don’t drain

A wet-foot portage will completely immerse your feet — meaning water will come streaming in from the top.

“Since your feet are complete immersed, you will want to wear a boot with good drainage, so that the water will drain from them,” Leslie says. “A waterproof boot will hold the water in the boot, keeping the foot wet.”

Where to get good boots for Northern Tier or other portage-and-paddle trips

Leslie says Northern Tier likes the Merrell Moab Mid, which “has good drainage, a rugged sole and is not waterproof — it is a traditional hiking boot.”

Northern Tier likes those so much that it sells them at its trading post, pictured above.

But any rugged boot that isn’t waterproof could work. Portage boots, wading boots and jungle boots could suffice as well.

Best bet, if you aren’t sure, is to contact Northern Tier before your trip. They’ll let you know whether your existing boots will work.

Crews who arrive at Northern Tier with inadequate footwear will be asked to purchase boots in the trading post before their trek begins.

Buy a patch to help rebuild Puerto Rico Council’s Guajataka Scout Reservation

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Scouts help other people at all times, and the Puerto Rico Council needs our help at this time.

Concilio de Puerto Rico de los Boy Scouts of America, one of the BSA’s nearly 280 local councils, suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Maria in September.

The powerful storm hit the council’s service center as well as the beloved Guajataka Scout Reservation.

While most of us won’t be able to make it down to Puerto Rico to help with relief efforts, there is something we can do with a few taps or clicks.

In true Scouting fashion, this bit of relief comes in the form of a commemorative patch. The Northeast Region, of which the Puerto Rico Council is a member, has created a set of limited-edition patches. Proceeds from the sale will rebuild Scouting on the island.

Puerto Rico Council’s Guajataka Scout Reservation after Hurricane Maria. How Hurricane Maria affected Scouting

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico hard, causing damage, flooding and mudslides. Power was knocked out, and fresh water became a commodity.

BSA facilities in Puerto Rico were similarly affected.

The council office in Guaynabo, just south of the capital of San Juan, was damaged in the storm. The roof and air conditioning system need repairs. Inside the building, water damage is rampant. Fixing everything will take a long time. The council has reopened its office, but it will be many months before they’re back to normal.

The beautiful Guajataka Scout Reservation also took a hit. Campsites were flooded with more than 3 feet of water. Trees were toppled, with some covering important roads. The camp has no power and must use generators on an island where diesel fuel is now an expensive commodity.

The camp’s buildings were damaged by flooding, and most if not all of the equipment stored in the campsites — bunks, mattresses and more — were damaged.

While the council tries to recover, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturers in Puerto Rico have stepped up for their fellow Puerto Ricans. You can see photos of their service projects on the council’s Facebook page.

Members of a Puerto Rico Council Venturing crew volunteered their time to help rebuild Guajataka Scout Reservation.


Buy a patch to help

The patch idea was devised in part by the Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s service society.

The Northeast Region’s OA chief (a youth) and OA chairman (an adult volunteer) worked with the Northeast Region Area 5 Director (a professional) to create the patches. Arrowmen from OA Section NE-5 (of which Puerto Rico’s OA lodge, Logia Yokahú, is a member) helped with the design.

Proceeds will help get the Puerto Rico Council back on its feet.

The patch comes in three flavors — a blue border for $5, a blue mylar border for $10 and a limited-edition chenille for $25.

You can order the patch here by following these steps:

  1. Click the blue button marked “Order Here” at the top of the page.
  2. On the next page, click “Order Here” again. It will show $0.00, but you’ll actually add patches to your cart in Step 4.
  3. Sign in (if you have an existing MyRoster account with the council), or register as a guest by putting in your first name, last name and email address.
  4. Order your patches. You may also make an additional donation at the bottom of the page.
A Puerto Rico Council Venturing crew cleans debris at Guajataka Scout Reservation. What to do with questions

Contact Frank Caccavale by email at frankcacc (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Puerto Rico Council Cub Scouts participate in a service project.

Buddy check! The importance of getting a friend wherever you go

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In a crowded pool full of raucous boys splashing and swimming, the justification for frequent buddy checks appears self-evident.

But do Scouts really need to get a friend for a quick trip to the latrine or when they meet with a merit badge counselor?

Simply put, yes.

Scouting’s buddy system calls for Scouts to pair up with a friend or two for all activities. This helps ensure safety and accountability, and teaches Scouts to have responsibility for others.

The basics

Looking out for one another anywhere and everywhere is the keystone to the buddy system. Just because you’re in a populous place doesn’t mean you can’t get overlooked by those around you. Watch a few videos on this YouTube page of rescues at a South Carolina wave pool, and you’ll soon notice that many times the lifeguards — and not the swimmers just a few feet away — are the first ones to realize something is wrong.

Buddies are there to watch you when others may not. They stay nearby to monitor you, alerting a safety team if help is needed.

Adults are not exempt from any these safety measures. Scouters should have buddies during all Scouting activities, too.

Buddy system guidelines: 

  • The buddy system should be used at all times, not just for aquatics. Horseback riding, cycling, canvassing the neighborhood during a fundraiser…you name it, you need a buddy.
  • It’s recommended that buddies know and be comfortable with each other. No youth should be forced into or made to feel uncomfortable by a buddy assignment.
  • It is strongly encouraged to pair Scouts of similar abilities, ages and maturity. Self-selection with no more than two years age or significant differences in maturity is recommended.
  • A buddy team may consist of three Scouts when necessary, like an odd number in a group.

On the water:

  • Buddies should check into and out of an area together. They are to stay in the same assigned area, too.
  • If two buddies are of differing swimming abilities, they should remain in the assigned area of the buddy’s lesser ability level.
  • About every 10 minutes, lookouts can conduct a buddy check. The lookout gives a signal and calls for “Buddies.” Buddies are expected to raise each other’s hand by the time the lookout counts to 10. Lookouts count the paired swimmers before swimming resumes.
  • Scouts on a float trip need to have buddies as well, and each boat should have a “buddy boat.”

On the trail:

  • While hiking or camping in the backcountry, Scouts are encouraged to travel in groups of at least four. That way, if one gets injured, a buddy can stay with him, while the other two seek help.

At meetings:

  • When meeting with a merit badge counselor, Scouts can have a fellow Scout, sibling, parent, relative or friend with them.
  • A buddy isn’t necessary for a Scoutmaster conference, but the meeting should be visible and accessible by others.
What about girls?

When girls join Cub and Boy Scouting programs, the Venturing program has a practice the other programs will follow. Buddies should be the same gender, or in groups of three in mixed company. No boy-girl buddy pairs.

How to check if your pack, troop or crew’s fire extinguisher is part of the Kidde recall

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Nearly 38 million fire extinguishers manufactured by Kidde and sold between 1973 and 2017 are part of a nationwide recall.

Scout leaders should check their unit meeting sites, troop trailers, trunks and garages today to see whether their fire extinguishers are included.

There have been nearly 400 reports of affected models failing to activate in a fire emergency, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC cites one death and 16 injuries.

The affected models of Kidde (pronounced “kidda”) include plastic-handle fire extinguishers and plastic push-button fire extinguishers.

They were sold at Menards, Montgomery Ward, Sears, The Home Depot, Walmart and other department and hardware stores nationwide. They were also sold online at, and more.

How to check if your fire extinguisher is recalled

Plastic-handle Kidde fire extinguishers

Use this chart (PDF) to see if your plastic-handle Kidde fire extinguisher is recalled. You’ll need the actual extinguisher in front of you to see its exact serial number and model number.

Push-button Kidde fire extinguishers

Use this chart (PDF) to see if your push-button Kidde fire extinguisher is recalled. Once again, you’ll need the serial number and model number.

If you’d rather talk with someone in person, call 855-271-0773 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST Monday to Friday (excluding holidays), or between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the weekend to determine whether your extinguishers are affected.

How to get a replacement if you’re part of the recall

Kidde will ship a replacement within approximately 10 to 15 business days from your call or online form submission. Keep your affected unit until the replacement arrives because they’ll want it back.


Click here to complete a request online.


Call 855-271-0773 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST Monday to Friday (excluding holidays), or between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the weekend.

How to get more questions answered

Kidde created this list of FAQs.

At Order of the Arrow Hackathon, Arrowmen plan for the OA’s technology-enhanced future

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An app that lets Order of the Arrow members earn points by attending events and completing puzzles was among the technological tools developed at the inaugural OA Hackathon last month.

At the Hackathon, held at the Intel offices in Folsom, Calif., participants from across the country joined one of three “leagues.” Each league’s mission: to shape how the OA will use technology in the future.

The Connections League looked at ways to better communicate with Arrowmen. The Delivery League explored ways to run events more effectively. The Games League focused on creating fun games for future OA programs.

Within each league, teams of four had just 24 hours to come up with something special. They started brainstorming on Saturday morning. Then they presented their “hack” ideas before a panel of judges to receive feedback. They continued working throughout the night and submitted the as-finished-as-it-could-be version online early Sunday morning.

The champions in each league received some cool, tech-themed prizes: tablets, drones and bluetooth speakers.

The three winners

The Games League winner came up with OALeague, an app that aims to increase participation in OA events and boost knowledge about the OA among members.

Arrowmen earn Arrowheads to increase their rank on the leaderboard. As their level increases, they’ll earn cool, OA-themed card packs to trade and collect.

The Connections League winner developed Project ALLAN (Awesome Lodge Local Accessible Network). They realized that Scout camps often have poor internet connectivity, making websites worthless. So they developed an offline website that uses a cached web page to provide OA resources at all times.

The system includes offline chat functionality, too.

The Delivery League winner invented NOACTS (National OA Ceremonialist Training Platform). Their goal was to create “the premier training platform for ceremonialists across the country.” NOACTS helps Arrowmen memorize lines and learn pronunciation by quizzing them in an immersive way.

In the future, they want to add the ability to record a performance for an adviser’s review.

Youth-led, adult-supported

As with all the best OA events — from chapter meetings to the National Order of the Arrow Conference — the Hackathon was planned and led by youth.

Adults, including representatives from Intel, were on hand to provide support whenever necessary.

Noteworthy among the adults in attendance: Vijay Challa, the BSA’s chief technology officer, who spoke at the Hackathon banquet about the BSA’s efforts to enhance the movement’s technological profile.

OA National Chairman Mike Hoffman and National Director Matt Dukeman were also there to share how the idea for the OA Hackathon came about. They said the OA, despite having been around for more than a century, wants to be on the forefront of technological innovation within Scouting.

What’s next?

Multiple locations are being considered for the next OA Hackathon, projected to be held in fall 2018. Expect more information early next year.

In the meantime, the OA’s youth leaders are moving forward with a variety of projects presented at the 2017 Hackathon.

“We’re looking into potentially bringing on some of the teams to help with OA Lodgemaster integration, a new section website initiative, technology/ceremony integration, and the creation of a full-time OA mobile app,” says Tyler J. Inberg, the OA’s national technology coordinator.

Top 5 merit badges Thor could hammer out in a weekend, no problem

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Thor has superhuman strength. He can summon lightning. And, with the help of his enchanted hammer, he can fly.

But can the Asgardian god of thunder earn a merit badge?

Technically, no. You need to be under 18 to earn one, which makes Thor, by most estimates, about 1,000 years too old.

Still, nothing’s stopping the mighty Avenger — or any mere mortal — from completing merit badge requirements just for fun.

And so with Thor: Ragnarok storming into theaters today, I put together this list of the top 5 merit badges the titular hero could finish in a weekend.

(P.S.: It certainly helps that Chris Hemsworth, the actor who plays Thor, already has a positive connection with Scouting. Last year, Hemsworth appeared on Ellen to personally thank the Eagle Scout who found and returned his missing wallet.)

OK, here’s the list. Do you disagree with one? Sound off in the comments. But remember the rule: If you remove one, you have to tell me which merit badge would replace it.

1. Weather

Yeah, this one’s obvious. It’s also perfect for the god of thunder.

Just think how awesome it would be when Thor has to explain to his merit badge counselor how lightning is formed (requirement 4).

“Sometimes it happens when a cloud has static charges that overpower the insulating properties of the atmosphere,” he might say.

“Other times it happens when I get especially angry at a deadly creature from another realm.”

2. Metalwork

Say, for instance, your favorite hammer — let’s call it Mjolnir — gets destroyed by an evil woman.

Do you cry about it, or do you get to work on Metalwork merit badge (requirement 5, option 4) to craft a new one?

“Wow, impressive work, Thor,” the merit badge counselor might say.

“Quick question: Why can nobody pick it up but you?”

3. Genealogy

Thor’s family tree would be something to behold. From the films, we know his dad is Odin, and his adopted brother is Loki.

Beyond that, things get tricky and involve an understanding of Norse Mythology that confounds me. There are names like Balder, Hermod, Tyr and Vidar — all Thor’s half-brothers, apparently.

I’d especially like to see what Thor comes up with for this requirement: “Obtain at least one genealogical document that supports an event that is or can be recorded on your pedigree chart or family group record.”

“Um, Thor, is this your stone tablet?”

4. Electricity

See also: “1. Weather.”

I’m not sure a merit badge counselor would be satisfied with Thor’s answer to requirement 1D: ” Explain what to do in an electrical storm.”

“What should you do when there’s lightning in the air, Thor?”

“Do I … Keep spinning my magical hammer really fast in a circle?”

“No, Thor. No. That’s not what you do.”

5. Space Exploration

When trying to escape a foreign planet with a green “friend from work,” it’s helpful to know a thing or two about how rocket engines work (requirement 4b); the purpose, operation, and components of a rocket ship (requirement 6a); and possible careers in space exploration (requirement 8).

“Interplanetary Avenger” is definitely a possible career in space exploration.

Especially if you’re a nearly invincible alien who can travel between dimensions.

How to understand, recognize and prevent cyberbullying

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Note from Bryan: October was National Bullying Prevention Month. Each Wednesday in October, the BSA Youth Protection team shared important reminders about what each of us can do to prevent, recognize and report bullying as we work to make Scouting a safe place for all.

This week, we have this important follow-up post from Jim Wilson, national Youth Protection chairman.

As we wrap up National Bullying Prevention Month messaging, we have been reminded that there is one other critical aspect of bullying prevention that is serious enough to merit its own week.

In recent years, technology has given rise to children and youth in a form of bullying referred to as “cyberbullying.”  Cyberbullying is also referred to as “online social cruelty” or “electronic bullying.”

Cyberbullying is just what it sounds like: using internet technology such as instant messaging (IM), text, social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.), or simply texting via cellphone for the purpose of teasing, humiliating, harassing, threatening or coercing another person.

It may mean text messages or posts sent at all times of day or night, with degrading comments about someone or fictitious posts.

The effects of cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can have devastating effects on the victim or target, whether a lone cyberbully or other friends watching/monitoring/witnessing the attack.

The target may lose sleep, lose desire to participate in family and social activities, obsess over what is going to be posted next, become depressed, become angry, avoid school or social activities, and have suicidal ideations.

In extreme circumstances, unfortunately, there have been incidences where cyberbullying has led to teen suicide.

The role of parents and leaders

It is important that parents, leaders, and “upstanders” understand the common forms of cyberbullying, signs a child may be a victim, some things that can be recommended to a child or Scout who is being cyberbullied, and what Scouters and parents can do to deal with cyberbullying.

These can be found on our partners’ websites: and NetSmartz. We also have information on the BSA Youth Protection website.

Everyone needs to understand the critical issues of cyberbullying and how to address them. Let’s make sure that our actions are keeping our youth safe and free from bullying.

‘Scouts First’ helpline

Should you, as a leader or parent, need support with this critical issue, remember you can receive assistance and help by contacting the “Scouts First” Helpline for Abuse and Youth Protection at 1-844-Scouts1, (1-844-726-8871).

Remember, Youth Protection Begins with YOU!

2019 World Scout Jamboree registration is now live for BSA members

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The U.S. contingent logo for the 2019 World Scout Jamboree.

The theme of the 2019 World Scout Jamboree is “Unlock a New World.”

Now you’ve got the keys.

Registration for the 2019 World Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve is live. This means prospective youth participants, adult volunteers and staffers — known in World Scout Jamboree parlance as the International Service Team (IST) — can register to join the adventure.

The quadrennial event, held at the BSA’s high-adventure base in West Virginia and co-hosted with Scouts Canada and Asociación de Scouts de México, will be the first World Scout Jamboree in the United States in more than half a century.

This historic event will be held July 22 to Aug. 2, 2019.

The World Scout Jamboree (hereafter WSJ) will welcome 50,000 Scouts and leaders from 169 different countries. They’ll gather to meet friends from around the world, develop mutual understanding and sharpen their leadership skills. They’ll do all that at the BSA’s newest high-adventure destination, where a playground of world-class adventure venues awaits.

This means you might climb next to a Croatian, skateboard with a South African or paddleboard with a Paraguayan.

Who is eligible

Participation is open to eligible men and women who are registered members of the Boy Scouts of America. WSJ units will be organized on a regional — not council — basis.

As I mentioned in August, the BSA contingent will include 10,000 people — the largest contingent the BSA has ever sent to a WSJ. The total will encompass Scouts/Venturers, adults and staff.

That will break down like this:

  • 7,200 youth participants and adult leaders
    • Youth participants: Boys and girls age 14 to 17 on the first day of the Jamboree. (Birthday between July 22, 2001, and July 21, 2005)
    • Adult leaders: Age 18 or older on the first day of the Jamboree. (Birthday before before July 22, 2001)
  • 2,700 members of the International Service Team (the name for staff at the WSJ)
    • Adults age 18 or older on the first day of the Jamboree. (Birthday before before July 22, 2001)
  • 100 members of the Contingent Management Team
    • These volunteers have already been selected.

Even though the BSA’s presence at the WSJ will be large, we’ll make up only one out of every five people at the event. That means approximately 80 percent of Jamboree attendees will be from one of more than 160 other countries planning to attend.

Yes, 10,000 seems like a lot, but interest is expected to surpass the number of available spots.

Translation: Apply as soon as you can.

When to apply

The U.S. contingent application opened Nov. 1, 2017.

How to apply

Individuals interested in being youth participants, adult leaders or IST will complete an online application.

Applications will be reviewed on both a council and national level.

Use this link:

What’s the cost? Participants and Leaders

The participant and unit leader fee includes registration for the Jamboree, meals at the Jamboree, tents, and patrol and cooking gear. The fees also cover appropriate travel expenses (including food) between “Hub Cities” and the Jamboree. An appropriate number of “Hub Cities” will be identified across the continental United States depending on the distribution of youth and leaders that make up the various units.

Applicants will be responsible for the costs to get themselves to and from these “Hub City” locations.

Region Early Bird Discount* Regular Fee Northeast $2,400 $2,500 Central $2,400 $2,500 Southern $2,400 $2,500 Western $2,700 $2,800


International Service Team (IST)

The IST fee will include all of the items noted above except for transportation and travel related expenses.

Transportation to and from the Jamboree will be the responsibility of the IST member based on when they need to report or depart from their staff assignment.

The World Jamboree Organizers (Host) will provide transportation to and from a limited number of Gateways to the jamboree site. Those Gateway locations are: Yeager Airport in Charleston, W.Va., Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, N.C., the Amtrak station in Prince, W.Va., and the Ruby Welcome Center in Mt. Hope, W.Va..

Early Bird Discount* Regular Fee International Service Team $1,700 $1,800


Payment Schedule

  Application Deposit 1st Payment 2nd Payment Final Payment based on Early Bird Discount* Participants and Leaders by 1/31/18 3/15/2018 9/15/2018 3/15/2019 Northeast $250 $850 $700 $600 Central $250 $850 $700 $600 Southern $250 $850 $700 $600 Western $250 $850 $850 $750 International Service Team $250 $600 $600 $250

Some notes:

  • *Early Bird discount: Applicants who submit a $250 deposit between Nov. 1, 2017, and Jan. 31, 2018, and make all additional payments on time will have a $100 discount applied to their last payment.
  • Tours: In an effort to reduce costs, there will be no pre- or post-Jamboree tours.

Selection process Participants

Participants will be notified by unit leadership if they have been accepted or are being put on a waiting list. If they are put on a waiting list, they will continue to pay according to the payment schedule. Applicants on the waiting list that are not ultimately selected will receive a full refund (including their initial deposit).


There will be four leaders per unit, and acceptance timing will be based on the filling of youth in the units that have been allocated to each region. Leaders will continue to pay, according to the payment schedule, even if they have not been confirmed.

BSA area and regional leadership will select leaders based on the leader qualifications. Leader applicants who are not ultimately selected will receive a full refund. If a unit leader applicant is not selected for a unit leadership position, he or she is encouraged to apply for the International Service Team. Once that modification is made in their application, selection for IST positions would be handled by the Host Committee.

IST (International Service Team)

Once approved by their local council and the U.S. contingent leadership, the application will be sent to the WSJ organizers (host). The host will notify the applicant of acceptance and job assignment. Some assignments will likely be given in 2018 and some in 2019. The applicant will need to continue to pay as per the fee schedule above. If an applicant is not ultimately accepted, he or she will receive a full refund.


Partial scholarships will be available, based on need. If received, these scholarships will be applied to the final payments.

More details on this will be out by Dec. 31, 2017.

Where to learn more

Go here.

Photos from 2015 World Scout Jamboree, by Randy Piland

Scouts clean a national park’s sticky situation

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Next time you’re strolling down a well-traveled sidewalk, study the ground. You might find small black splotches caked onto the pavement.

Volunteers at the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego found 997 such spots. It was all chewing gum — casually discarded over the years and stuck to the mile’s worth of concrete and brick walkways around the park.

“It’s so ugly; it’s an eyesore,” says Debbie Sherman, park ranger at Cabrillo National Monument. “Gum on the ground is like graffiti, the more people see it, the more people will do it.”

Cabrillo National Monument saw more than 1 million visitors last year; it’s the site that commemorates Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Spanish explorer who led the first European voyage up the western U.S. coast in 1542.

On Sept. 30, it was also where 90 Cub, Boy and Girl Scouts met for “Operation Gum Drop Removal.” Armed with metal spoons and eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner, the Scouts sprayed and scraped the unsightly blobs, meticulously peeling the gummy mess off the sidewalks. They removed about half of the gum that day.

“They wanted to come back,” Sherman says. “They were all smiles; it was great.”

The clean-up effort was part of National Public Lands Day, an annual volunteer day for public lands. Scouts who helped could also work on earning a patch through the National Park Service’s Scout Ranger program. Scouts receive a badge by participating in educational programs or volunteering 10 service hours at a national park. Troops can earn a certificate for group involvement.

Helping the parks

Sherman advised Scouts who want to earn the patch or simply serve a national park to first find a park, historical site or monument. The National Park Service has more than 410 sites with at least one in every state and territory.

Second, Scouts should contact the park’s main office and talk to a ranger or volunteer program manager, so they can plan their project with them. Don’t start on a project without getting permission. The next National Public Lands Day will be Sept. 29, 2018, but Scouts can plan a project anytime.

Finally, work on the project and have fun. The National Park Service provides a worksheet to help Scouts keep track of their progress.

Some parks offer specific Scouting and Ranger programs tailored to that individual park. Here’s a list of those parks.

Most national parks are open year-round, and remember, you can get an admission pass for fourth-grade Cub Scouts to get into the parks for free.

Submit your questions for my sit-down with the Chief about girls joining Scouting

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You have questions, he has answers.

Using the form below, submit your questions now for my sit-down interview with Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh to talk about the BSA Board of Directors’ historic decision to welcome girls into Scouting.

We’ll record the conversation on video, and I’ll share that video on this blog next week.

Broadly, I want to ask the Chief how our movement got here and where we’re headed next.

But I know you, as dedicated adult volunteers, have specific questions you’d like answered. Please share them using the form at the end of this post.

All topics are welcome. I’ll take your most frequently asked questions directly to our Chief.

Submit your question here [contact-form]


Media company seeks expert on Scouting, outdoor adventure for new TV show

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Scouters, are you ready for your big break?

A media company is looking for experts in the world of Scouting, outdoor adventure and survival skills to serve as possible talent for a TV show.

The company is AMS Pictures, based in Dallas. They’ve created award-winning shows for channels like the Food Network, HGTV, Reelz Channel and more.

For their next project, they’re looking for a man or woman who is a credible expert on Scouting and the outdoors. Adults from anywhere in the country are welcome to apply.

Questions to ask yourself
  • Are you an authority figure on a wide range of topics?
  • Do you have experience or a background in teaching?
  • Are you a published author in a specific field?
  • Do you have a blog or social media account with thousands of followers?
  • Does your educational background or work experience make you an expert in a particular field?

If you answered yes to any of those questions — and you have a larger-than-life, TV-ready personality — send a photo of yourself and links to your work or portfolio to

Note that AMS Pictures only accepts submissions by e-mail. They ask that you don’t call or send anything in by snail mail.

This blog’s track record

I’m hoping this post extends the blog’s solid record of finding reality TV stars.

Terry Fossum, the Scoutmaster from Washington state who won $250,000 on Fox’s Kicking & Screaming was cast after a fellow Scouter saw the casting call right here on Bryan on Scouting and answered it on Fossum’s behalf.

Before that, the blog helped find young contestants for MasterChef Junior, also on Fox.

Think your Sea Scout ship is the best? Apply for the National Flagship Award

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Does your Sea Scout ship rule the seas (or rivers or lakes)?

Prove it by applying for the annual Sea Scout National Flagship Award. When doing so, have your Sea Scouts use the new and improved application process outlined below.

Each year since 2002, the Sea Scout committee has selected one ship to be the National Flagship. Winning ships receive a special flag and a patch for members’ uniforms.

Past recipients have represented coastal and landlocked councils. The 2015 winner, for example, was from the Dallas area, proving that even those ships far from the ocean have a shot.

For maximum points, be sure it’s the youth — not the adults — who complete your ship’s application.

National Flagship Award application process

There’s a new application process for 2017 and beyond. Incomplete or old applications won’t be considered.

Essentially, the application process involves sharing everything your ship accomplished from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 in a given year. The application deadline is March 31 of the following year.

For example: The next deadline, March 31, 2018, will consider your ship’s accomplishments in calendar year 2017.

Scoring is completed on a point system. There are 100 points available, and they break down like this:

  • 15 points: Youth perspective and preparation. Did the youth, not the adults, prepare the application?
  • 10 points: Journey to Excellence evaluation. How’s your ship’s JTE score?
  • 15 points: Advancement and recognition. How many Sea Scouts earned awards like Quartermaster or completed training?
  • 20 points: On-water activities. Did your ship spend a lot of time on the water?
  • 10 points: Collaborative and mentoring activities. Did you participate in a lot of council, regional or national activities?
  • 10 points: Community service. How much did you give back?
  • 15 points: Recruiting. What did you do to recruit or retain Sea Scouts?
  • 5 points: Leader development. Did your adult volunteers get trained?
Three things to include in your application

Here’s what you need to send by email to

  • Completed scoresheet, which you can download here.
  • Photograph of ship members in uniform.
  • Written narrative, presentation or video to help support your story. (Whatever form you choose to use, it must be accessible via a single URL on the internet: it could be a YouTube video, a Google Slides or PowerPoint presentation, a web page or site, or any other form that can be accessed from a web browser.)

For questions, call 972-580-2448.

Babe Ruth signed this baseball ‘to Troop 6,’ and now it’s being auctioned for Scouts

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There was something different about the baseball these Scouts were tossing back and forth.

The year was 1948. The place: a crowded gym in Larchmont, N.Y.

Eagle Scout Jack Coughlin, then the 20-something Scoutmaster of Troop 6 out of Larchmont, had to confiscate the ball so nobody got injured.

But this wasn’t any baseball, Coughlin realized. It was signed by Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat for the New York Yankees. The inscription read “To Troop 6 Larchmont Boy Scouts.”

When Coughlin asked the Scouts about the autograph, they said they assumed all baseballs were signed like that.

Nearly 70 years later, this baseball has found its way from Troop 6’s equipment box to the Steiner Sports auction house.

It’s expected to fetch between $10,000 and $15,000. Proceeds will be split between Coughlin, now the ball’s official owner, and the Westchester-Putnam Council, which serves Scouts in southeastern New York State.

Not just any baseball

Back in the gym, Coughlin examined the scuffed baseball. He saw it was signed by The Great Bambino himself. The legendary ballplayer died in 1948 — the same year Coughlin came across the ball.

Coughlin later learned this was a Babe Ruth home run ball. Apparently it had been donated to the troop by a Scout’s dad.

Rather than encasing it in glass, though, someone in Troop 6 had simply tossed it into the troop’s equipment box.

The troop committee asked Coughlin to track down the ball’s rightful owner, but he struck out. And so the troop gave Coughlin the ball to thank him for his service as Scoutmaster.

Collecting dust, gaining value

Coughlin first kept the baseball in a drawer. Then, when he got married, he moved it to a safe deposit box.

Fast-forward 70 years later, and Coughlin again hunted for the ball’s owner. No luck.

Coughlin contacted an attorney, who confirmed that Coughlin was the ball’s rightful owner. The troop had given it to him as a gift, and it was his.

So Coughlin contacted Steiner Sports to see whether the ball had any value. That led to this auction, now online and set to end Nov. 18. Bidding started at $1,000.

The winner will get more than a piece of baseball memorabilia. He or she will be supporting Scouting, too.

Thanks to Dustin Farris for the blog post idea.


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