Scouting News from the Internet

Eagle Scouts make Men’s Journal list of year’s greatest record-breaking feats

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“Passion can always trump fear.”

That’s the message behind the year’s 22 greatest feats of adventure — a list of you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-me moments in running, rowing, cycling, caving, kayaking, mountaineering, skiing, rock climbing, paragliding and skydiving.

Included on the list of Men’s Journal‘s “22 Greatest Record-Breaking Feats of 2014” you’ll find two Eagle Scouts. And why not? They’ve conquered Scouting’s toughest challenge, so conquering the world’s highest mountains or deepest caves must feel natural to these guys.

Let’s meet Matt Moniz and Bill Steele.

Matt Moniz, 16-year-old climbing superstar

Eagle Scout Matt Moniz became the youngest person to summit the fifth-tallest mountain in the world. Here’s what Men’s Journal said:

The Feat: On May 25, Matt Moniz, a 16-year-old Eagle Scout, became the youngest person to summit 27,766-foot Makalu, the fifth tallest mountain in the world. And he did it one week after summiting 26,905-foot Cho Oyu, the sixth tallest. The back-to-back peak bag was actually Plan B — Moniz and his father Mike, also an accomplished mountaineer, were originally in the Himalayas to summit Everest, along with Cho Oyu, and Lhoste, an expedition they dubbed ‘The Triple 8,’ referring to the three eight-meter peaks. But the deadly April 18 avalanche on Everest forced them to choose another mountain.”

Matt’s accomplishments belong on the list even if he was 26 or 36, but to do it all at just 16? Insanely awesome.

This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: This won’t be the last we hear from Matt Moniz.

Bill Steele, caver extraordinaire

Distinguished Eagle Scout Bill Steele, who recently retired as director of the National Eagle Scout Association, also made the Men’s Journal list.

What was the world-renowned caver recognized for this time? As outlined in the writeup, he “led a groundbreaking expedition to Oaxaca, Mexico, to explore Sistema Huautla,” a cave system first discovered in 1965 and considered the deepest in the Western Hemisphere.

Along the way, his team “discovered six new species of cave-adapted animals.”

Steele is committed to spending every April in Huautla for the next nine years, an arrangement that brings new meaning to the word “retired.”

All that, and he’s a heck of a nice guy. Three cheers for Bill Steele.

The full list

See the 20 other extreme adventurers, including the first man to bike to the South Pole, the first person to paddle across the Atlantic Ocean at its widest point and the longest distance biked in one hour (31.75 miles), here.

Photos of Matt courtesy of Mike Moniz and used with permission. Photos of Bill courtesy of Bill.

Boys’ Life, Scouting magazines honored with Folio awards

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Awards season for magazines comes with good news for the BSA’s official publications.

Boys’ Life and Scouting magazines each picked up Folio awards this month, honors that mean the Boy Scouts of America’s magazines are some of the best around.

Boys’ Life won an Eddie (editorial) award for its May 2014 “BL Essentials Guide.” Scouting magazine picked up an Ozzie (design) award for the four-page illustration in its May-June 2014 “Game of Life to Eagle” story.

Mike Goldman, editorial director for Boys’ Life and Scouting, said Folio awards recognize a team effort.

“I’m proud of everyone who works on our magazines,” Goldman said. “We strive to deliver a great reading experience all year long, and that requires our writing, editing, photography, design, production and circulation teams working as one.”

Case in point: The Boys’ Life Eddie award, which honors the best full issue among kids and teen magazines. There’s an easy comparison there to the Best Picture award in the Oscars. It’s the only Folio award that honors a full issue instead of individual elements.

The full-issue winner for grown-up magazines, for comparison, was Entertainment Weekly‘s popular Reunions issue. That’s impressive company.

Scouting‘s Ozzie recognizes Jonathan Carlson’s illustration of the fictional game Life Scouts play on their way to becoming Eagle Scouts. (See the illustration below.) Spaces on the game board look familiar to anyone who has witnessed this journey: “Live by the Scout Oath and Law. Move ahead” “Homework overload. Move back.” “Take part in a unit leader conference. Move ahead.” “Have a date. Move back.”

Boys’ Life snagged three additional honorable mentions from Folio, while Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazine received one honorable mention each.

Winners Consumer – Full Issue – Youth / Teen [Eddies] Association / Non-Profit (Consumer) – Use of Illustration – Less than 6 Issues [Ozzies]

The winning illustration:

Honorable Mentions Consumer – Single Article – Youth / Teen [Eddies] Consumer – Cover Design – Above 250,000 Circulation [Ozzies] Association / Non-Profit (Consumer) – Single Article – Less than 6 Issues [Eddies] Association / Non-Profit (Consumer) – Redesign  [Ozzies]

So how did Boy Scout Logan do in the ‘MasterChef Junior’ finale?

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Spoilers follow! Don’t read if you haven’t yet watched the Season 2 finale of MasterChef Junior.

Sixteen young chefs entered Gordon Ramsay’s MasterChef Junior competition, but only one left with the title of champion and a check for $100,000.

The show, a spinoff of Ramsay’s popular MasterChef, pits 8- to 13-year-olds against one another in a series of increasingly difficult cooking challenges.

Those race-the-clock challenges — including filleting Alaskan salmon, flipping pancakes and cooking the perfect sunny-side-up eggs — were no match for Logan Guleff, a 12-year-old Boy Scout from Troop 34 of the Chickasaw Council, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn.

Logan, who first made headlines in Boys’ Life magazine, won the finale and title of MasterChef Junior champion in Tuesday night’s show.

His winning dishes: a mouthwatering appetizer of grilled shrimp prawns with smoked saffron aioli and olive tapenade and a delicious-looking entree of salt-crusted branzino with chimichurri sauce.

Something tells me there’s a good chance the Scouts and leaders of Troop 34 will ask Logan to make the menu for their next campout.

While watching MasterChef Junior, it was inspiring to see how well Logan handled the pressure of cooking with cameras and professional chefs watching his every move. When he made a mistake, he owned up to it. When a competitor made a better dish than his, he was gracious and humble.

But in the end, it was Logan who outlasted all others, and he did so while being a great example for Boy Scouts everywhere. Congratulations, Logan!

One question remains

Does Logan have his Cooking merit badge yet? If not, Facebook commenter Matt M. has a suggestion: “Chef Ramsay should sign his blue card. Any Scout who puts up Gordon Ramsay for any period of time while cooking has done more than enough to earn the Cooking MB.”

True, Ramsay has a reputation for being fiery, but Logan told Memphis Parent magazine he found the chef quite encouraging.

While Ramsey [sic] is known for being tough, he showed his tender side in one segment when a flank steak Logan prepared fell short. Disappointed, he briefly lost his composure. But Ramsey [sic] quickly gave him a hug and told him how to work through the problem. “I’m very much a perfectionist,” he admits. “If a dish is to go on a restaurant menu, then it needs to be perfect.”

Repeat airing scheduled

You can watch a re-airing of the season finale at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Central) Friday (Dec. 19) on Fox .

Download these Cub Scout smartphone backgrounds

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Cub Scout Spirit is alive and well, but until now that’s been limited to T-shirts, bumper stickers and Facebook profile photos.

Not anymore.

Six new Cub Scout smartphone backgrounds let you display your Cub Scout pride on your iPhone, Android phone or Windows phone.

Visit this page on the Cub Hub to download your favorite background and set it as your smartphone’s lock screen, background or wallpaper. They’ll work on any smartphone, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry devices.

The free smartphone backgrounds tell others that Cub Scouting is always with you — just like your smartphone itself!

Kate Middleton visits low-income Scouts in London

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Kate Middleton’s latest royal stop trumps even her high-profile visit to the U.S. earlier this month — in my opinion, at least.

Today she visited a newly established Scout group in east London to lend a hand to the U.K. Scout Association’s “Better Prepared” campaign, which brings Scouting to young people living in low-income areas.

In January 2012, I blogged about the Duchess’ new role as volunteer with the U.K. Scout Association. And in March 2013, she did what every Scout volunteer should: She got trained.

Today, Kate, who is pregnant with her second child, is at it again. She’s wearing a black Scouting hoodie with jeans and boots as she visits a group of 6- to 8-year-old Scouts.

Everything Her Royal Highness does is big news overseas, of course, so you can follow all the fun in The Daily Mirror‘s minute-by-minute blog.

My take: What’s good for U.K. Scouting is good for World Scouting. So let’s give a big hand to Kate and the Scout Association for making a difference in the lives of youth.

Follow along on Twitter

These are the Twitter streams to follow for all things U.K. Scouting: @Scouts and @UKScouting.

The Duchess of Cambridge knows that Scouts gives every child the chance to be #BetterPrepared for a brighter future.

— Scouts (@scouts) December 16, 2014

The Duchess of Cambridge is at a Scout Group in East London where every child is now #BetterPrepared thanks to Scouts

— UK Scout Association (@UKScouting) December 16, 2014

RT if you believe every child should have the chance to be #BetterPrepared for a brighter future…The Duchess does!

— Scouts (@scouts) December 16, 2014

Photo via @UKScouting on Twitter.

Boy Scout advances to finals of ‘MasterChef Junior’

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Boy Scout Logan Guleff sure has made the most of his appearance on Fox’s MasterChef Junior, a nationally televised cooking competition for kids.

The 12-year-old from Troop 34 of the Chickasaw Council, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., has advanced to the finals. That means he’ll appear in every episode of the season.

Logan will compete in the final two against Samuel, with the winner picking up $100,000. Not bad for a 12-year-old!

While watching MasterChef Junior this season, I’ve been impressed by Logan’s willingness to encourage others. He’s always the first to congratulate a competitor on a dish well done, and he’s quick to acknowledge his own mistakes.

Humility and kindness aren’t traits you often see on reality TV, but they are common in Scouting. So it makes sense.

Tune in tonight

Watch the season finale of MasterChef Junior at 8 p.m. (7 Central) tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 16) on Fox. If you’re late to the party, you can catch up on past episodes here.

Logan first made headlines in Boys’ Life

This isn’t the first time Boys’ Life readers have heard about Logan. In the October 2013 issue, BL spotlighted Logan for being a winner in the 2012 Epicurious Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. Logan’s recipe earned him a trip to the White House.

See the article below (click to enlarge):

Read Logan’s blog

See more from this young chef on Logan’s official blog, where he shares some fun behind-the-scenes stories about the show.

Jan. 17 webcasts will help prepare you for the new Cub Scout program

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Hey, did you hear there’s a new Cub Scout program launching June 1, 2015?

If so, you know it’ll be more exciting for boys and easier to implement for unit leaders.

But you probably still have questions about how it’ll work. There’s good news: You can get many of those questions answered by watching a special webcast on Jan. 17.

The webcasts will cover the coming changes, how to prepare and when resources will be available. Sessions are position-specific, but anyone in any role who has an interest in the new Cub Scout program is welcome to attend. No login or special registration is required. Just click the link below at the times listed, and you’re all set.

If you can’t make any of these sessions, don’t worry. They’ll be recorded for later viewing.

Here’s the schedule:

New Cub Scout Program Webcasts Schedule

Cubmaster Webcasts

  • 8 a.m. (Central) Saturday, Jan. 17, or
  • 3 p.m. (Central) Saturday, Jan. 17

Den Leader Webcasts

  • 9:30 a.m. (Central) Saturday, Jan. 17, or
  • 4:30 p.m. (Central) Saturday, Jan. 17

LDS-Specific Considerations*

  • 11 a.m. (Central) Saturday, Jan. 17, or
  • 6 p.m. (Central) Saturday, Jan. 17

* It is recommended that those interested in the LDS session view one of the role-specific sessions first.

Where to view the webcasts

Click here to attend a webcast: (No login is required.)

Save the date: Kids to Parks Day is May 16, 2015

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In Scouting, we’ll take any excuse to get outside and explore neighborhood parks. There’s a wealth of science, history, nature and adventure right around the corner or just across town.

That’s why the Boy Scouts of America is encouraging you to mark your Scout calendars for the next Kids to Parks Day: Saturday, May 16, 2015.

The BSA — along with the National Park Service, NFL Players Association, American Hiking Society and others — is a prominent collaborator on Kids to Parks Day, organized by National Park Trust.

Getting involved in “America’s national day of play” is easy. Just head to a park with your Scouts, and have fun! You can even register your event on the National Park Trust website to be a part of this massive movement.

And I do mean massive. Some 447,208 people celebrated the 2014 edition of this event, which I told you about earlier this year.

To be a part of the 2015 Kids to Parks Day, visit

Photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by motleypixel

Hat tip: Thanks to the BSA’s Keith Christopher for the blog idea.

Read this sample dialogue with a Life Scout about Eagle project ideas

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Haven’t had “the talk” with a Life Scout in your troop? You soon will.

I’m referring, of course, to the conversation between a Life Scout and his Scout leader about Eagle project ideas.

For many young men, the Eagle Scout Service Project is the toughest part of the journey to Eagle. And the first hurdle of this process is coming up with an idea.

This is when a Scoutmaster, assistant Scoutmaster or Eagle coordinator is asked: “What’s a good Eagle project?”

Marc Dworkin wants to help you.

Dworkin is, among other Scouting roles, Eagle coordinator for a troop in New Jersey. He’s written a sample dialogue between himself and a Life Scout looking for Eagle project ideas.

As Dworkin proves, this is more than just a 15-second conversation. And the best Scouters do more than simply send the Scout to search for ideas on Google. This requires a five-minute chat with the Scout. (Youth Protection reminder: Be sure to have this talk in full view of at least one other adult.)

The following dialogue is a great read to get you thinking about how this conversation could go. Give it a look, whether you’re a Scouter who wants to be prepared for when a Life Scout approaches you, the parent of a Life Scout or a Life Scout yourself.

Mr. D., what’s a good Eagle Project?

By Marc Dworkin, Eagle coordinator and assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 59 in the Northern New Jersey Council. He’s also the advancement chairman and a board member in the council.

Mr. D: Let’s start by looking at your Scout book. Eagle Requirement No. 5 says:

While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community. (The project must benefit an organization other than Boy Scouting.) A project proposal must be approved by the organization benefiting from the effort, your unit leader and unit committee, and the council or district before you start. You must use the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, BSA publication No. 512-­927, in meeting this requirement.

So, what do you think that means?

Life Scout: I guess I have to be a Life Scout before I can start my project.

Mr. D.: Almost. You can start to think about your project before you are a Life Scout and share your ideas and get input, but you must be a Life Scout before you start the planning and approval process required by the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook.

Life Scout: So is that it? Make Life, complete the workbook, get it approved and knock out the project?

Mr. D.: Yes, but a bit oversimplified. By the time you’ve made Life, you fully understand the meaning of the Scout Oath and Law, have learned leadership as you’ve progressed through the ranks and know the meaning and importance and honor of the Eagle Scout rank. You should consider all of this, as you work to select a project.

Life Scout: I can think of lots of projects to do around town for my school, my church maybe at a park. I’ve seen pictures in the paper of other Eagle Scouts who painted fences and flagpoles, or built benches in a park or school. Or maybe a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society or American Red Cross.

Mr. D.: Well, fundraisers are not allowed, and neither is regular maintenance, like pulling weeds or periodic painting. These are all good ideas to start with, but I’d really like you to give some thought as to whom your project will help and the impact it will have on the community. I like to see Scouts find community service projects which help people and organizations with a real need (and in today’s connected society, ”community” is really the whole world).

I also like to see projects where the Scouts you are leading learn from the experience, by being exposed to people and situations they would not come in contact with in their normal routine. Take your bench idea, for example.

Rather than build benches in our town park, find a school a few towns over, in an underserved community, where they could use the benches and a podium as an outdoor classroom. You could lead your workers (fellow Scouts, friends and family) to do the building at home in your garage, then deliver them and plan an activity at the school, and meet the children and teachers who will use the outdoor classroom. This is the kind of project you can proudly discuss on a college interview, and it shows you really understand and live by the Scout Oath and Law.

Life Scout: What is the approval process, and how do I know if my project is good enough?

Mr. D.: Your project proposal is reviewed by a number of people on the way to getting approval, and they all have expectations of what makes a good Eagle project. There are no requirements for the size of an Eagle project, the number of hours required to complete a project or the number of people who work on it.

You are required to demonstrate your ability to plan, develop and provide leadership on the project you select. I’d like you to find a project that will be a challenge to accomplish, one you will be proud to have completed. It must be your project, and you must take the lead in doing the work.

For starters, you can talk to me as your Scoutmaster, and we can brainstorm ideas. You may need to go talk to the organization you will do the project for, to make sure they like the idea, and see if they have any particular requirements. Next step is to select an Eagle project mentor, which can be any of the dads in the troop, who will help you complete the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook.

Then you submit the workbook to your project sponsor, committee chair and Scoutmaster for their review and approval. Then, the completed workbook is submitted to the District Advancement Committee for a final review and approval. Once you have the district OK, you can start work on your project.

I know this sounds a bit complicated, but your Eagle project coach will help you, and in some troops there are additional resources, like an Eagle Project Review Committee, who review and comment on the workbook before the committee chair and Scoutmaster sign.

Life Scout: So once I get district approval, I do the project and I’m Eagle?

Mr. D.: Not so fast. Your project should take a while to complete, maybe a few weekends over a month or longer. Your sponsor must sign off on your workbook, indicating they accept your project and it is completed.

Remember, you must complete your project, all your merit badges and leadership assignment before your 18th birthday, so timing is important.

Once you have all the requirements done, you have one last Scoutmaster conference, and then an Eagle Scout board of review. A representative from the district will be present at your board of review, and the board must be satisfied you completed all the Eagle requirements (and accept your completed project), before you are awarded Eagle.

Your take?

Thanks to Marc for sharing that dialogue with us. How do you respond when asked for Eagle project ideas?

Photo courtesy of Eagle Scout Conor Butler.

That famous Forest Witcraft quote first appeared in Scouting magazine

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“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different, because I was important in the life of a boy.”

You’ve probably heard that powerful quote before. Or you’ve seen it — often attributed to “Anonymous” and usually misquoted (the last word changed to “child”) — on inspirational posters, wall art for sale on Amazon, or images posted on Pinterest or Facebook.

What you probably didn’t realize is that the quote first appeared in the pages of Scouting magazine as part of a longer, even more powerful piece.

And you probably didn’t know that its author, Forest Witcraft, was hardly Anonymous. He was a professional Scouter and onetime managing editor of Scouting magazine.

Read on for the full story of Witcraft’s timeless words. 

The quote in context

First, take a second to read Forest Witcraft’s entire essay, called “Within My Power.” I’ve included it below.

In the essay, Witcraft shows that even someone who is “not very important” and a “humble citizen” — words he uses to describe himself — can have tremendous impact on the life of a boy.

“If I can have some part in guiding them up the trail of Scouting, on to the high road of noble character and constructive citizenship, I may prove to be the most important man in their lives, the most important man in my community.”

Strong words indeed. Here’s the full essay, which first appeared on Page 2 of the October 1950 issue of Scouting magazine.

Who was Forest Witcraft?

In his classic essay, Forest Witcraft says he’s “not a very important man.” He was wrong.

Not only did he craft a quote so powerful it’s still in heavy use more than a half-century later, he also served the BSA as a professional Scouter.

As a Scouting magazine editor myself, I felt a sense of pride to learn Witcraft was managing editor of Scouting magazine for seven years in the 1950s.

His name first appears on the Scouting masthead in the April 1951 issue. Seven years later, the April 1958 issue, was the last time he was listed as managing editor.

Here are those mastheads, first from April 1951 and then from April 1958. You’ll probably recognize some other names on these mastheads, too.

More about Forest Witcraft

Forest Witcraft’s quote is often attributed to “anonymous,” and the man himself kept a low profile.

You could say the quote was the most indelible part of his legacy.

What little I was able to learn about the man after some exhaustive research comes from this post on an unofficial Scouting message board.

In 2009, user dewASM posted that he had done some census research on Witcraft and found some facts. Here are the highlights, which piece together to form an impressive life:

  • Aug. 23, 1894: Forest Eugene Witcraft born to Thomas and Rosa Devorse Witcraft.
  • 1900: His father was listed on the 1900 census as a day laborer; his mother didn’t work.
  • 1920: According to census data, Forest Witcraft and his sister, Vivian, lived with their mother in Chicago. His mother was the housekeeper for a college fraternity, and Forest listed no employment, possibly because he was a student at the time.
  • June 19, 1921: Forest married Rose Winifred Whipple in Illinois.
  • 1930: Forest was living in Hastings, Neb., with his wife, Winifred, and daughter Carol. His occupation was listed as “college professor.” That could have been at Hastings College, founded in 1882.
  • 1936: Likely his first connection with Scouting. An article in the Newark (Ohio) Advocate stated, “With the final decision of the officials of the Licking County Council, Boy Scouts of America, to conduct summer camping activities for 1936 only on a troop camping basis, the training committee felt the need for conducting an intensive training course in troop camping, under the direction of Brandt Hervey and Professor Forest Witcraft of Denison University, who compose the training committee.” Denison University is a liberal arts college in Granville, Ohio.
  • September 1936: An article states that “Training in the Principles of Scoutmastership will begin Sept. 24. This course is one of the required courses in the five-year progressive training for Scoutmasters and will be under the direction of Prof. Forest Witcraft of Denison University and Brandt Hervey, who compose the council training committee”
  • Feb. 9, 1942: Forest’s wife, Winifred, died in Sioux Falls, S.D.
  • Aug. 11, 1943: Forest remarried, wedding Neva Elizabeth Replogle.
  • 1944: Forest and Neva were living in Sioux Falls where Forest was listed as Assistant Scout Executive.
  • 1945 to 1947: Forest was listed as the Scout Executive of the Central South Dakota Council. His office was in the basement of City Hall. After this, it looks like he moved to Minnesota and possibly worked at Sommers Canoe Base in Ely, Minn.
  • 1951 to 1958: Forest was managing editor of Scouting magazine and presumably worked at the BSA’s headquarters in New York and, later, New Jersey.
  • 1963 to 1966: Forest, then referred to as Dr. Witcraft, is the Resident Administrator at Salem College in Salem, W.Va.
  • 1967: Forest Witcraft died in West Virginia. He would have been 72 or 73.
  • March 1968: As a tribute to Witcraft, Scouting magazine republished his classic essay in its March 1968 edition.
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Eagles’ Call seeks photos taken by Eagle Scouts

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Eagle Scouts: Want to see one of your recent Scouting photos in print? The honor could be yours thanks to a page in Eagles’ Call magazine.

The “Closing Shot” feature highlights one lucky photographer’s work in the glossy-paged magazine. And because Eagles’ Call is only published four times a year, we select only a handful of the best images for this honor.

We’re looking for photos taken by an Eagle Scout that depict the “essence of Scouting.” What does that mean? Every Scout defines this differently, but it could be a photo from a recent Scouting event, a landscape that reminds you of a long-ago Scouting trip and much more.

Take a look at the photos below from past “Closing Shot” pages to get an idea of the kind of work highlighted so far.

If you have a photo you’d like for us to consider, please send it to It helps to include your contact information and some details about the photo, such as where and when it was taken and why it’s meaningful to you. (Please keep files under 2MB.) We’ll contact you if your image is selected for our “Closing Shot” page.

Questions? Send them to the email address above or leave your queries in the comments for us to answer.

The top photo was taken by Eagle Scout Aaron Linsdau during his journey to the South Pole. Linsdau — whose work was featured in the Fall 2014 edition of Eagles’ Call — became the second American to travel solo on skis to the South Pole on Jan. 21, 2013.

Gretchen Sparling

Why 2015 is the year to take your family to Philmont Training Center

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Spend a week in one of the most beautiful spots in the country.

Learn from Scouters who wrote the book — literally — on Scouting subjects that matter to you.

Oh, and bring the whole family because there’s something for infants, spouses, grandparents and everyone in between.

Consider this your formal invitation to spend a week next summer at Philmont Training Center, the national training center of the Boy Scouts of America. What you learn at the iconic New Mexico destination will improve the Scouting experience for the young men and young women of your pack, troop, crew, team, post or ship.

But don’t delay. Sign up for a summer 2015 conference by the end of 2014 and you’ll save some cash — you early bird, you.

I spoke with Andrea Watson, associate director of program at Philmont Training Center, to get the scoop on Philmont Training Center’s 2015 season. Here’s what I learned.

Who teaches Philmont Training Center conferences?

No less than the best volunteers and professionals from across the country.

These are the people who “wrote the book” — literally — on Scouting. I’m talking top-level trainers and Scouters, many giving up vacation time to share their knowledge with you.

For example, the people teaching the “Leading the NEW Cub Scout Adventure” course are the volunteers who wrote the new Cub Scout program.

The faculty for the commissioner conference are members of the National Commissioner Service Team who have been involved in the creation and rollout of Scouting Tools.

Who can attend Philmont Training Center?

Any registered Scouter; there’s no other prerequisite. PTC is suited for brand-new Scouters and seasoned veterans. There really is something for everyone.

Who else will be in my session?

One of the best parts of a Philmont conference, Watson says, is the opportunity for shared learning among the participants.

That means you will network with and learn from Scouters from across the country. And in today’s Facebook-connected world, the connections made at PTC will extend beyond the week spent in New Mexico.

What will my family do?

Never want to leave, that’s what. The family program component is unparalleled in or out of Scouting. My first exposure to Philmont was attending a family program while my dad took a training course. My sister, mom and I were inspired to return to Philmont again and again.

Scouts and non-Scouts of any age can experience the magic of Philmont.

Parents can bring children, grandparents can bring grandchildren, wives can bring husbands and husbands can bring wives. From 2-month-olds to 90-year-olds, there is something for everyone.

Learn more about the family programs here.

What’s the PTC like?

It offers world-class facilities, comfortable lodging with private hot showers, great food prepared by staff members, historic museums and southwestern history — all with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as a backdrop.

The summer weather is perfect, with highs in the 70s and 80s and lows in the 40s.

To see what a typical week is like at PTC, go here.

When are these sessions held?

Every week, all summer long. Week 1 is June 7 to 13. Week 10, the final week of the summer season, is Aug. 9 to 15.

PTC offers one fall conference week: Sept. 13 to 19.

What sessions are offered?

Way more than I can list here. See the full 2015 conference schedule here.

I did want to draw your attention to these great conferences:

#Awesome!—STEM Explorations in Philmont’s Backcountry (14-20 age youth only)

Spend a week exploring the natural science world taking day trips into Philmont’s backcountry. Daily you will travel to and from locations across Philmont, exploring and experimenting in the New Mexico wild. Discover the mechanics of COPE adventures, chemistry of the prairies flora and fauna, and habitat of the Philmont water ways and eco systems. Climb to new heights as you challenge your skills with rock formations; climbing, rappelling and identifying the composition of the landscape. Sign up now for this intense five day adventure. (Week 3: June 21-27)

Creating Exciting Exploring and Learning for Life Programs: Best Practices and Strategies

Participants will learn how to identify and fill the needs of local schools and businesses by using the total package of in-school and Exploring programs. You’ll learn how to fund and sustain these programs to achieve the maximum benefit to both the youth and the organizations who serve youth. District and Council Key 3s, commissioners at all levels and district and council committee members with Exploring and Learning for Life responsibilities are encouraged to attend. Faculty will include National Learning for Life volunteers and professionals who will share best practices and strategies. (Week 3: June 21-27)

Disabilities Awareness: Building Council and District level Resources

Learn from members of the National Disabilities Awareness Committee how best to serve youth who have disabilities. The focus will be on building or strengthening council and district disabilities awareness committees that can address training, publications, program resources, and advancement issues, and also provide general support for units serving Scouts with disabilities. Unit volunteers will benefit from the course as well. All participants will come away better equipped to deal with the many questions and situations involved in working with Scouts who have special needs, and to provide support and education for Scouts, families, leaders, and council staff in delivering a quality Scouting experience. (Week 6: July 12-18)

Finding Your Way – Night or Day

Do you want all of your Scouts to be confident and competent in the outdoors? How do you team them abstract skills like reading terrain features and have fun while doing it? This is the conference for you! Learn new skills that you can take back to your unit, district or council. Warning—it’s not your father’s compass game! You will learn tips and tricks to get your Scouts excited about navigating in the outdoors. You will learn how to create programs and teach Scouts from Cub Scouts to Venturing, including how to teach the Orienteering and Geocaching merit badges. Over half the week will be spent outside of the classroom, so you will come away with new hands-on feet-on knowledge that you can apply directly to your program. Whether you are a seasoned woodsman or new to Scouting, you will find this conference valuable and exciting. (Week 7: July 19-25)

Mastering Advanced Skills That Build Programs That Rock

Aimed at Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, and Venturing leaders, this new conference introduces participants to engaging program topics like geocaching, search and rescue, special cooking, and advanced pioneering. Try out the activities in a special round-robin format at sites around Philmont and learn how to take activities back to your troop, team, or crew. (Week 6: July 12-18, Week 7: July 19-25)

Strategic Analysis for Council Properties

This conference is provided for professionals and volunteers who have planning responsibilities for council properties. A companion to the NCAP Application for Authorization to Operate a camp, the course explores the many analytical tools that can be used to determine if a property is meeting it’s intended goals. This course will provide you with real time analysis of your home council properties. Topics include: stewardship, matching capital investment with strategic objectives, analytical methods, market analysis, value, financial sustainability, product development and channels of distribution. This is a hands on course and students are asked to bring real time data to the class from their own council for analysis. (Week 11: September 13-19)

STEM-tastic Scouting – Inspiration, Imagination and Innovation

This week-long STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) conference is designed to help you and your council integrate STEM programs and activities into your current programming. There will be many opportunities to experience hands-on activities to share with your units; these activities will be accompanied by discussion on how to implement, modify, and incorporated them in and for your programs. Excitement, roadblocks, funding, recruitment, training, resources, and tracking will be topics addressed by this conference. (Week 3: June 21-27, Week 11: September 13-19)

How much does it cost?

Less than your typical family vacation. And even less if you register by Dec. 31, 2014.

2015 Philmont Training Center Early Bird Fees (include conference materials, meals, lodging, and activities):

  • Conference, $515
  • Non-Conference Adult (20+), $365
  • Ages 14-20, $305
  • Ages 6-13, $195
  • Ages 5 and under, $95
  • Mountain Trek, $415
  • NAYLE, $395
  • STEM Youth Conference, $395

Registrations are accepted at any time throughout the year.

What if I still have questions?

Find more answers to FAQs here.

Still have a question? Contact the PTC’s helpful staff.



Tuesday Talkback: Encouraging Scouts to read Boys’ Life

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Jeff M., a Scoutmaster with a brand-new troop in Cleveland, hosts a “Boys’ Life Trivia” section during the Scoutmaster’s portion of each meeting.

He pulls questions from the most recent issue of Boys’ Life and finds it’s a great way build camaraderie around the shared experience of reading BL. Plus it encourages Scouts to read the latest issue right away rather than letting it sit around for a week or two.

Hearing about Jeff’s story (relayed to me by BL Senior Writer Aaron Derr) got me wondering how other pack and troop leaders motivate Scouts each month to read the hottest magazine for kids and teens.

That’s the subject of today’s Tuesday Talkback. First, learn more about Jeff’s strategy for encouraging his Scouts to read BL. Then share your own ideas.

After all, you and I know that boys who subscribe to and read Boys’ Life get more out of Scouting, advance farther and stay in Scouting longer. But boys don’t care about any of that. Once they open the magazine, all they see are fun stories that interest them.

The challenge — your challenge — is making sure they open it.

Jeff’s strategy

During each meeting, Jeff asks his boys a trivia question from the most recent issue of Boys’ Life. The first Scout to answer correctly gets a prize — usually candy or something like that.

He started off by telling the boys, “Next week’s question will come from the Heads Up section.” Or, “Next week’s question will come from Scouts in Action.”

But the boys got so good at it that now the entire magazine is fair game. The result is all of his boys pore over the magazine each month, hoping to be the one who knows the answer to that week’s trivia question.

The idea, of course, is that they’re learning more about Scouting along the way, too. But they just think it’s fun.

Your strategy

How do you encourage Scouts to read their copy of Boys’ Life? Continue the conversation in the comments section below.

Related posts

How your pack and troop can get the most out of Boys’ Life

Did you know there are two editions of Boys’ Life each month?

Share your Tuesday Talkback questions

Have a question you’d like me to consider posing to the larger Scouting community? That’s what Tuesday Talkback is all about. Send me an email, using the subject line “Tuesday Talkback.” Describe your dilemma, and include your Scouting role. Submitters will remain anonymous.

102-year-old Eagle Scout, who traveled the entire Lincoln Highway in 1928, dies

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Bernard Russell Queneau, a 102-year-old Eagle Scout who in 1928 represented the Boy Scouts on a cross-country trip on the Lincoln Highway, died Sunday — one day after receiving the BSA’s rare Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.

The Boy Scouts of America and National Eagle Scout Association don’t keep an official list of the nation’s oldest living Eagle Scouts, but at 102, Queneau was certainly one of the oldest Eagle Scouts at the time of his death.

He did a lot in those 102 years, including earning a Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering from the University of Minnesota, working as an assistant professor at Columbia University, serving as a commander in the U.S. Navy and working as general manager in charge of quality assurance at U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh.

Queneau retired in 1977, but he only got busier. He worked as an editor of Iron and Steel Society magazine. He volunteered in the Pittsburgh area with Meals on Wheels, St. Clair Hospital and Mt. Lebanon Public Library.

He was a special guest of NESA at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree, where he helped inspire Scouts to aim high.

But it was before all of that — in the summer of 1928 — that Queneau etched his place into Boy Scouts of America history.

Across the country on a wooden bench

Queneau, who turned 16 in the summer of 1928, was one of four Boy Scouts selected to represented the BSA on the Lincoln Highway Safety Tour.

By 1928, the Lincoln Highway, which was the first transcontinental highway for automobiles, had been around for 15 years. But many Americans were still skeptical about transcontinental car travel. Was it safe? Was it comfortable?

So the BSA stepped in to do a good turn. Queneau and three other Scouts joined three adult leaders in a 1928 REO Speedwagon modified to look like a covered wagon. Large lettering on the side told passersby about the Boy Scouts’ mission: “Lincoln Highway Safety Tour: New York to Golden Gate.”

The journey of 3,389 miles took 34 days. Two months later, the October 1928 issue of Boys’ Life explained the importance of what Queneau and his fellow Scouts had accomplished.

Using as their equipage a modern “covered wagon,” these Scouts set out to show the nation that it is possible to use the transcontinental highways with speed, comfort and safety. They stopped in cities along the highway, and instructed the people in highway safety, Scouting, first aid to the injured, life-saving, and other safety activities that have some part in the Scout program.

It was a wonderful trip. The “covered wagon” reached San Francisco without having even a flat tire en route. Each one of the four boys gained in weight and height on the journey. Thousands of people throughout the breadth of the United States had visited with the Scouts, had learned about safety and Scouting from them, and had in turn given to the boys a glimpse of their own viewpoint. It was a real education for the Scouts.

In the September 1928 issue of Scouting magazine, one of the boys’ leaders shared how the guys fared traveling more than 3,000 miles on a wooden bench.

“Their health, happiness and morale has been excellent. They are getting a lot of Real Things out of the trip besides fun. They are working hard and earnestly to please and function in the ways they should and when I say working, I mean just that, because it is work to travel over a hundred miles in a day, sometimes stopping in five different towns for meetings and demonstrations during a single day.”

Queneau later joked that the journey was something “only a 16-year-old” could handle. He was the last living member of that seven-person expedition.

The trip was hailed as a success, earning newspaper coverage across the country. Articles appeared in The New York Times, Salt Lake Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and others.

The result was people across the country gaining an interest in safe highway travel and a new appreciation for Scouting.

It’s not an overstatement to say that the efforts of Queneau and his traveling companions saved countless lives and recruited countless boys into Scouting.

But the cross-country trip was just the beginning.

On Sept. 1, 1928, Scouts who lived in towns along the Lincoln Highway erected four-foot-tall concrete markers to indicate the Lincoln Highway’s route. Scouts placed nearly 4,000 markers that day alone, and many of those markers are still around today. (Learn more at the Lincoln Highway Association website.)

A much-deserved honor, just in time

The National Eagle Scout Association created the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 1969 to recognize Eagle Scouts who have distinguished themselves on a national level. The list includes astronaut Neil Armstrong, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and director Stephen Spielberg.

Fewer than 2,200 Distinguished Eagle Scout Awards have been presented in the award’s 45-year existence — an average of about 50 a year.

Queneau never set out to earn this rare honor, but he told friends and family he had been “so pleased and proud” to receive the award.

Though the Lincoln Highway trip certainly helped his case, Queneau’s award primarily stemmed from his work in the Navy and at U.S. Steel. While in the Navy, Queneau improved oxygen tanks in planes so pilots could fly at higher altitudes. This earned him the Navy Commendation Medal.

He was also one of a handful of engineers selected to study Nazi industrial technology after World War II.

Queneau’s health had declined in recent months after a fall and internal bleeding.

He told friends how desperately he wanted to make it to Saturday’s DESA presentation. The day was doubly important for Queneau — it was also the 90th birthday of his wife, Esther.

He didn’t just attend the ceremony; as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, he was in high spirits and his usual jovial self:

Calling the honor “unbelievable” and “unexpected,” Mr. Queneau urged the crowd to abide by Boy Scout principles such as being “obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave and clean.” He also told attendees repeatedly not to smoke, a request met with chuckles by the crowd.

A peaceful end

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review spoke with Esther Queneau on Sunday after her husband died:

“He just hung on,” Esther Queneau said. “He did it his way. That award meant so much to him. He’s in a better place.” Saturday was also her 90th birthday.

On Sunday morning, the couple spent time together at his Providence Point residence, reading through nomination letters for the award and reliving the memories of the special day, Esther Queneau said. He died Sunday afternoon.

A peaceful end to a remarkable life. Bernard Queneau will be missed.

Video: Bernard Queneau at the 2010 National Jamboree

Thanks to Michael R. Marks, assistant council commissioner with the BSA’s Laurel Highlands Council, for the tip.

Boys’ Life wins Adweek Readers’ Choice award for Hottest Kids/Teen Magazine

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The people have spoken, and their message is clear: Boys’ Life magazine is hot.

The BSA’s official youth magazine, which covers everything in a boy’s life, was selected by readers as the Hottest Kids/Teen Magazine of 2014, according to poll results revealed by Adweek this morning.

By winning its category, Boys’ Life joins other industry leaders selected by readers as best in their field. Those include:

  • Fast Company, Hottest Magazine of the Year
  • Travel + Leisure, Hottest Travel Magazine
  • Every Day With Rachael Ray, Hottest Food Magazine
  • Women’s Health, Hottest Health/Fitness Magazine – Women
  • Men’s Health, Hottest Health/Fitness Magazine – Men

See the full list here.

Editors at Adweek, a well-known advertising trade publication, initially selected six finalists as Hottest Kids/Teen Magazine of 2014: Boys’ LifeJ-14Seventeen, Sports Illustrated KidsTeen Vogue and National Geographic Kids.

Next they put it to a vote to let readers decide their favorite. Thanks to strong support from BL readers, Boys’ Life survived the cut from six magazines to three. In the finals, BL went against Seventeen and National Geographic Kids — two well-known titles.

The race was close throughout, but the final tally looked like this:

  1. Boys’ Life: 30.6 percent
  2. National Geographic Kids: 25.2 percent
  3. Seventeen: 23.5 percent

Thanks to everyone who voted and declared what Boys’ Life readers have been saying for more than 100 years: BL rocks!

How to subscribe

Are your Scouts getting the Hottest Kids/Teen Magazine in their mailboxes each month? If not, here’s what to do:

  • BSA Members: To subscribe to Boys’ Life at the member rate of $12 a year (that’s $1 an issue), check with your local Scout council service center.
  • Nonmembers: To get Boys’ Life at the $24 a year nonmember rate, click here.

How to get Scouts in the spirit of giving this holiday season

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The holidays aren’t just about receiving gifts. You and I know that, but do your Scouts?

Probably, but by taking advantage of some teachable moments during the holidays, you can reinforce this spirit of giving in your Scouts and Venturers.

The tips below come from Denise Daniels, a parenting and child-development expert who has a wealth of helpful advice for parents at her website.

I like that Denise’s tips don’t force-feed the “attitude of gratitude.” Instead, the ideas involve young people in ways that promote compassion and empathy by helping others in need.

Visit a toy store

You shouldn’t have trouble persuading your Scout to join you on a trip to the toy store.

But instead of picking out something for himself, have your child choose a toy to donate for a kid of the same age.

The toy may be the only gift this young person receives, so your Scout’s choice is important.

Prepare a meal together

Have your Scout/Venturer suggest a meal you can make together. Or better yet, get a bunch of Scouts and Venturers together to make a meal.

Then deliver it as a group to a homeless shelter or food bank. Be sure to let them know you’ll be stopping by.

Organize a coat drive

Provide warm clothing for those less fortunate during the winter months by organizing a coat drive.

Or if this is too much, have your Scout or Venturer select a coat to donate. Be sure to explain the value of their donation — not in dollars but in kindness — and have them go with you to the donation center.

Send a card to the Armed Forces

This is one for the whole group. That group can be your family, Cub Scout den or pack, Boy Scout patrol or troop, Venturing crew, Varsity team, Sea Scout ship, Explorer post — you get the idea.

A holiday card has special meaning to men and women in the Armed Forces who are thousands of miles away from their families during the holiday season.

Make handmade cards and mail them together. The Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program has changed this year, so read more here. Or send the card(s) directly to a soldier you or someone in the unit knows.

Bake cookies

Whip up a batch of your famous gingerbread cookies and share them with an elderly neighbor who might be alone for long stretches during the holidays.

Be sure your Scout or Venturer joins you when you deliver them. Your neighbor will appreciate seeing a young, friendly face.

Compliment others

Words matter. Tell the people around you what makes them special and why they mean so much to you.

Your Scout or Venturer will notice the act and emulate it.

Choose a charity to support as a family

Hold a family meeting to choose a charity everyone would like to support. Or do the same thing with your den or pack.

For Boy Scouts, the patrol leaders’ council should make this call.

At whatever level, the key is involving the Scouts/Venturers in the decision-making. If they find a charity that tugs at their heart, they’re more likely to participate.

Remember to be grateful

Teach young children to say “please” and “thank you.” For older children, writing thank-you notes shows them how to demonstrate their gratitude to the gift-giver.

Share positive stories

At the dinner table with your family or during a Cubmaster’s or Scoutmaster’s minute with your Scouts, share positive stories about giving that appear on the news or in magazines during the holiday season.

You’ll find some of these stories in Boys’ Life and Scouting magazines!

Be a good neighbor

Invite a neighbor who is alone to join your family for a meal or for some egg-nog and cookies.

As a Scout unit, invite the “neighbors” (people who live or work near where your Scout unit meets) to a holiday party.

Sing some carols

Take your Scouts to a nursing home or hospital to sing carols for the residents.

Don’t worry if your Scouts are better at carrying backpacks than a tune. It’s the thought that counts.

[Your tip here]

What other ways can you get Scouts in the spirit of giving? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo: Cub Scouts visit the Naval Hospital for Christmas, ca. 1952. Some rights reserved by Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections

Cub Scout motto, sign, salute and handshake won’t change

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While the Scout Oath and Scout Law will be used in Cub Scouts beginning on June 1, 2015, the current Cub Scout motto, sign, salute and handshake won’t change.

That news isn’t new, but Scouters have been emailing me with the question. So this morning I went to Bob Scott, Cub Scout Experience Manager, to confirm.

Indeed it’s true. To support the mission of Cub Scouting, Cub Scouts will begin to use the Scout Oath and Scout Law currently used in Boy Scouting and Venturing. But they’ll keep the Cub Scout motto, sign, salute and handshake.

For the latest information about the changes coming to Cub Scouting in 2015, visit and bookmark the Program Updates page. (The site also contains info on the changes to Venturing in 2014 and Boy Scouting in 2016.)

But this post’s all about Cub Scouting, so let’s recap what is changing and what isn’t when it comes to the mechanics of Cub Scouting:

Being retired from Cub Scouting on June 1, 2015
  • Cub Scout Promise
    • I promise to do my best
      To do my duty to God and my country,
      To help other people, and
      To obey the Law of the Pack.
  • Law of the Pack
    • The Cub Scout follows Akela.
      The Cub Scout helps the pack go.
      The pack helps the Cub Scout grow.
      The Cub Scout gives goodwill.
Staying in Cub Scouting (not changing)
  • Cub Scout motto
    • Do Your Best
  • Cub Scout sign
    • Two separated fingers held up high (like a peace sign)
  • Cub Scout salute
    • Two fingers together held above the brow
  • Cub Scout handshake
    • Handshake with two fingers extended

New to Cub Scouting on June 1, 2015
  • Scout Oath
    On my honor I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country
    and to obey the Scout Law;
    To help other people at all times;
    To keep myself physically strong,
    mentally awake, and morally straight.
  • Scout Law
    A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
    courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
    brave, clean, and reverent.


A STEM holiday gift guide

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Finding the perfect gift for your brainy, science-loving Scout or Venturer isn’t easy.

Fortunately, there’s help. Richard Stone, the education and training leader of the STEM/Nova Committee who has contributed to other STEM posts on my blog, got together with some Scouting friends to come up with our STEM holiday gift guide: nine items for Scouts into STEM.

For each item, there may be alternatives that better fit the interests of your Scout or Venturer. So consider this a starting point.

Oh, and the fine print: These gift ideas are the opinions of several volunteers and do not necessarily represent the position of the Boy Scouts of America or any of their commercial partners. Always follow the Guide to Safe Scouting when conducting STEM activities.

STEM holiday gift guide

Fishing gear

Why it’s a great gift: Scouts and Venturers love fishing. It’s a great opportunity for outdoor activities with friends.

How it’s STEM-related: A successful fisherman will understand the ecosystem the fish live in, the weather and microclimates, and the different behaviors of the fish. They’ll use the technology of the pole, line and reel to bring in the fish. They’ll experience conservation ideas when they catch and release or keep the fish for the frying pan.

Where to buy: Most outdoor stores and your local Scout Shop

A tool set

Why it’s a great gift: Scouts and Venturers can use screwdrivers, pliers or an adjustable wrench for routine bike maintenance, working on Home Repair merit badge or tinkering around the house.

How it’s STEM-related: Taking apart (and, I hope, putting back together) that old VCR or toaster oven to see how they work is hands-on learning. Adult supervision preferred.

Where to buy: Hardware stores


Why it’s a great gift: Binoculars are great for studying birds across the street, squirrels up the tree, deer across the field or the moon across space.

What to consider: Smaller binoculars are more portable and have less handheld wobble. Larger ones have more magnification and collect more light, so they’re good for looking at planets and constellations but require stabilization.

How it’s STEM-related: A chance to study wildlife and do some basic stargazing? Sounds like STEM to me.

Alternatives: Monocular, telescope, spotting scope, telephoto lens on a good camera

Where to buy: Outdoor stores, camera shops, Scout Shops

Field microscope

What it is: These are about the size of two Starburst candy tubes with a lens at each end, and they’re great for looking at how insects move, the structure of leaves and flowers, and the shape of sand and snow crystals. Some have USB cameras so Scouts and Venturers can record what they see on a computer.

Why it’s a great gift: It helps curious minds explore their world.

How it’s STEM-related: Using science and technology to get a closer look at nature.

Alternatives: Magnifying glass, bug catcher, macro lens on a good camera

Where to buy: Many outdoor stores or specialty gift stores

Lego Technic, Lego Mindstorms, Vex

What it is: Building upon the Legos Scouters grew up with, lines like Lego Technic add gears, pulleys, springs and motors to make moving vehicles and machines. Lego Mindstorms adds sensors, servos, remote controls and a programmable processor to make robots. Vex is snap-together robotics kit that is more oriented toward robotics projects and competitions.

Why it’s a great gift: Scouts and Venturers get to build something awesome, test it out and perfect it.

How it’s STEM-related: It uses technology heavily and ties into the Robotics merit badge.

Prices: From $20 for simple kits to $350 and up for more complex robotics sets.

Where to buy: Toy stores or online


What it is: Scratch was developed by education experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for Cub Scout- and Boy Scout-aged youth.

Why it’s a great gift: Technically it’s not a gift, because the website is free and there’s nothing tangible involved. But your Scout or Venturer will thank you for introducing the site to them. They’ll have fun creating animations and games, making music, controlling robots, simulating biological systems and doing pretty much anything they can think of.

How it’s STEM-related: They’ll learn to code by stacking blocks of different actions.

Price: Free.

Where to get it: Go to

Python coding book

What it is: Python is the coding (programming) language many Scouts or Venturers first encounter in school.

Why it’s a great gift: Why not have fun while learning? A book on Python for kids and teens will use games and fun projects as examples. Work through a few of the chapters with your Scout or Venturer, then encourage them to think up their own game or project and code it.

How it’s STEM-related: Computer programming is a hot field right now, and this knowledge could help them find a job.

Price: Around $20 for a Python book, such as Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming. The software is free and likely already on your laptop or desktop computer.

Where to buy: Local bookstores or online


What it is: A small electronics board containing a programmable microcontroller and many input and output connections.

Why it’s a great gift: Your Scout or Venturer will love connecting sensors, displays, motor controllers, etc. to the input and output ports. They can use expansion boards that provide specific functions like Internet access or robotics functions. And they can write software to read data from the sensors, process that data and act on that data by possibly changing the direction of the robot motion or sending data to the host computer.

What to get: You need the board and a getting-started book. You will likely want to get the starter kit, which includes a lot of electronic components for projects.

How it’s STEM-related: Technology + hands-on fun = a great STEM learning experience.

Price:The software is free. Everything else is $25 and up. The Arduino Starter Kit is around $100.

Where to buy: Electronics hobby stores and online retailers. Learn more and get the software at

Raspberry Pi

What it is: Developed by educators in the UK, Raspberry Pi is a low-cost, credit-card-sized computer built for education and experimentation.

Why it’s a great gift: This simple computer has about the same power as your cellphone and offers a Linux operating environment. It contains multiple software packages, including games, Python, Scratch, Arduino programming and is very expandable. It also has some input and output ports to allow you to connect sensors and actuators for robotics projects.

How it’s STEM-related: Computers, programming, safe digital experimentation and fun. What more could you want?

Price: $25 and up, not including certain peripherals required.

Where to buy: Electronics hobby stores or online

A final note from Dr. Stone

“These are nine ideas for gifts that may be useful in STEM and Scouting, but there is really just one idea: It’s not the object that counts. The real gift is how you use it to have fun and learn.

“Happy Holidays from the BSA STEM/Nova Committee. Think STEM.”

Wayne Brock, Dr. Robert Gates and Tico Perez have a holiday message for you

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The Boy Scouts of America’s National Key 3 has unwrapped its annual holiday message.

In the 86-second video, which you can watch below, Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock, National President Dr. Robert M. Gates and National Commissioner Tico Perez wish the BSA family a safe and happy holiday.

The three Distinguished Eagle Scouts express their thanks for the millions of volunteers and Scouts who helped make 2014 a banner year for the BSA.

“We want to take this moment to say thanks for what you did,” Brock says.

“Scouting happened because of dedicated volunteers and staff,” Gates says, “and we’re grateful for each of you.”

“And we look forward to working shoulder to shoulder with you again next year,” Perez adds.

The rest of the video is filled with images of Scouts doing what Scouts do: participating in service projects, enjoying the outdoors and having a little goofy fun.

Take a look: 

Ensure a happy holiday parade with these 16 safety tips

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Post updated

Marching in a holiday parade with your Scouts this year?

Keeping everyone safe should be tops on your wish list. After all, nothing can ruin the holidays quicker than a sprained ankle or broken arm — or worse — a few days before winter break.

You don’t need to be a Grinch, but you do need to read this special Holiday Parade Edition of the BSA’s trusted “Sweet Sixteen of BSA Safety.”

Included in the 16 are some tips you might not have known, like this one: Scouts should walk along the route or ride in passenger cars (assuming two-deep leadership). Or if they ride on floats, truck beds, trailers or the like, they must follow the rules in No. 7 below.

All it takes is one Scout getting injured for you to understand why these rules exist. Is it worth the risk?

Here are the 16 tips:

1. Have qualified supervision

Do you have enough adults to supervise Scouts and monitor for hazards along the route?

Many packs and troops use a four-corners approach with adults: two adults at the front — left and right — and two bringing up the rear.

2. Consider physical fitness

How long is the parade route?

Are there hills?

Adults and youth need to be in good enough shape for the length and conditions.

3. Use the buddy system

Before you begin the march, make sure each Scout — and adult! — has a buddy.

That’s especially important in crowded environments.

Parades are typically crowded, and you don’t want a Scout to get lost in the shuffle.

4. Find a safe area

You wouldn’t choose a busy street for a Scout activity, but you don’t get to pick the location of a parade.

Parades can bring risks that might not ordinarily be present:

  • Moving vehicles and machinery
  • Animals
  • Firearms or fireworks
  • Hazardous weather
  • Large or unruly crowds
  • Potential for thrown objects
5. Check vehicles used to transport Scouts

Any vehicle used for transporting passengers should be equipped with a secure passenger compartment and approved safety belts.

And don’t put more people in a passenger vehicle than it’s designed to hold.

See No. 7, below, for more on Scouts and parade vehicles.

6. Bring personal safety equipment

Dress for the weather, and bring the following:

  • First aid kit (one or two per unit should suffice)
  • Rain gear
  • Good walking shoes
  • Water bottle
  • Sunblock
  • Insect repellant
7. Follow proper safety procedures
  • Allow adequate space between marchers and any vehicles
  • Designate a lookout to watch out for vehicles and other hazards
  • Take head counts before, during and after the parade

The BSA rule prohibiting the transportation of passengers in the backs of trucks or on trailers may be tempered for parade floats or hayrides, provided that the following points are strictly followed to prevent injuries:

  • Transportation to and from the parade or hayride site is not allowed on the truck or trailer.
  • Those persons riding, whether seated or standing, must be able to hold on to something stationary.
  • Legs should not hang over the side.
  • Flashing lights must illuminate a vehicle used for a hayride after dark, or the vehicle must be followed by a vehicle with flashing lights.
8. Consider the abilities of younger and older members

If the forecast calls for unseasonably warm or cold weather where you live, don’t be afraid to suggest that your younger Cub Scouts or older adults find a seat on the sidelines.

Perhaps they could find a better way to participate that’s suited to them.

Better safe than sorry.

9. Watch the weather

Don’t let a blizzard, high winds or rain make your parade dangerous.

Check the forecast several days out and daily as the parade approaches.

The best outcome in weather emergencies is to avoid them altogether.

10. Plan ahead

Do you have all of your permission slips?

Did you determine a meeting spot for before and after the parade?

Did you distribute maps and emergency cellphone numbers to the adults?

Hold a pre-parade meeting with adult leaders where you discuss these items, consider severe-weather locations and discuss the location of a support vehicle nearby.

11. Secure a communication plan

Cellphones or two-way radios can keep everyone on the same page.

You can use them in emergencies, of course, but also to tell parents and families when you’re nearing their spot along the parade route.

If you’re using cellphones, make sure you have numbers pre-programmed into your phone. With radios, find an open channel and stick to it.

12. File your plan and permit

File your application for a BSA tour plan and any other required permits your city or county might need.

Find out more about BSA tour and activity plan at this link.

The tour plan might have changed since the last time you looked at it, so be sure you’re using the new version.

13. Bring a first aid kit

Have first aid supplies handy.

Have trained adults who know first aid.

Find out what resources will be available at the parade, where they will be located and how to contact them if needed.

14. Follow applicable laws

Know and follow all parade rules and regulations.

Most community parades have rules that they distribute to all participants.

Be sure to read them carefully.

15. Bring a CPR-trained adult

Will there be firemen, EMT professionals and CPR-trained police officers all along the parade route?


Should you have a CPR-trained adult with your group anyway?


16. Promote discipline

An essential part of parade safety is discipline. That means reminding Scouts that marching in the parade is a privilege.

They’re representing the entire Scouting organization to the community.

If you’re a Cub Scout pack, you can have that talk with the boys. If you’re a troop, ask your senior patrol leader to lead the talk.

Source: Post adapted from the Health and Safety team’s parade safety tips (PDF)


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