Bryan On Scouting

Three Scouts selected as finalists in nationwide high school STEM competition

Sometimes a Scout’s mountaintop moment doesn’t happen on an actual mountain.

Sometimes it happens in a science lab.

Three Scouts, hailing from California, New Jersey and Oklahoma, have been named finalists in the nation’s oldest and most prestigious STEM competition for high school seniors.

Lyron Co Ting Keh, Sam Ferguson and Braden Milford each completed projects deemed worthy of top 40 status in the Regeneron Science Talent Search.

Lyron, Sam and Braden will receive at least $25,000 apiece. If they are selected in the top 10, announced March 12 in Washington, D.C., they could receive between $40,000 and $250,000.

The Regeneron Science Talent Search, put on by the Society for Science & the Public, helps inspire and engage the next generation of scientific leaders. Alumni have won the Nobel Prize, founded major companies and invented groundbreaking medical treatments.

What will Lyron, Sam and Braden go on to do? With their backgrounds in both Scouting and STEM, the possibilities are endless.

Meet Lyron Co Ting Keh

Age: 17

Scout unit: Troop 319, Verdugo Hills Council

School: A senior at Crescenta Valley High School in La Crescenta, Calif.

What he did: Lyron developed machine learning algorithms with the potential to detect and diagnose six common cancer subtypes at an early stage, using a single blood sample. His liquid biopsy could be more effective and less costly than existing tests.

Meet Sam Ferguson

Age: 18

Scout unit: Troop 66, Washington Crossing Council

School: A senior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School in South Princeton Junction, N.J.

What he did: Sam created a computer design for a blended-wing-body aircraft that he estimates would use 40 percent less fuel and require less material to build than an equivalent conventional airplane.

Meet Braden Milford

Age: 17

Scout unit: Troop 153, Indian Nations Council

School: A senior at Cascia Hall Preparatory School in Tulsa, Okla.

What he did: Braden developed an inexpensive method to combine algae and environmentally sourced bacteria into “beads” to biologically remove metals from contaminated water.

Learn more

To read more about the Regeneron Science Talent Search, check out the official site. That’s also where, after March 12, you’ll find out whether Lyron, Sam and Braden were selected in the top 10.

Can Scouters raise funds for themselves using individual accounts?

The conundrum: A parent wants to go to camp with his or her Scout, but money has been tight for the family lately. So, the parent asks if he or she can individually raise money and put it in a Scout account. What do you tell the parent?

In short, no, it’s not recommended.

“The rationale for using Scout accounts at all, since the IRS doesn’t generally approve of individual fundraising accounts, is for a Scout to earn their own way,” says Russ McNamer, the BSA’s associate general counsel. “I don’t think it would be a good idea for adults.”

Doing so could violate the IRS’s regulations on “private benefit” for charitable organizations. For guidance on how individual Scout accounts should be used, click here and here.

So, what’s the parent to do?

Instead of individually raising money, adults and youth can both benefit from a unit fundraiser, based on the unit committee’s decisions. Remember to submit a unit money-earning project application for your local council and chartering organization to review and approve before you start raising money.

Other options include units providing financial assistance based on a family’s need or circumstance. A unit’s budget could also have funds designated for adults to go on a trip or activity. Again, these would be decisions for the unit committee to make in agreement with the chartering organization.

Check with your council to see if camps charge the full fee or not for adults to attend; some camps might provide a free adult to go based on the number of Scouts attending.

Another option could come when it’s time to do your taxes. The costs might be tax-deductible for adults who itemize, McNamer says.

What’s your solution?

What are some ways you help adults attend Scouting events? Share them below, and check out some do’s and don’ts of unit fundraisers and tips for providing financial assistance.

How a trip to Kandersteg in Switzerland changed this Eagle Scout’s life

You don’t have to travel across the ocean to have a transformative Scouting experience.

But if you’re ever lucky enough to visit Kandersteg International Scout Centre in Switzerland, the results will be nothing short of legendary.

Over winter break, Dakota Scott spent a week at Kandersteg. He met 29 other young people from 15 different national Scout organizations. Together, they rang in the new year, completed a service project, explored the Alps and formed lifelong friendships.

Dakota left with a newfound appreciation for and interest in world Scouting. Back in Texas, he summarized his emotions for his dad, Gary.

“His words were, ‘Dad, you remember when you came home from Wood Badge and how Mom was when she came home from Wood Badge?'” Gary remembers. “‘So excited about Scouting and ready to change the world? That’s how I feel.'”

What is Kandersteg?

After the first World Scout Jamboree in 1920, Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell dreamed of having one place that would become a permanent mini-World Scout Jamboree.

The World Scout Jamboree happens only every four years, B-P reasoned. Why not create a permanent, year-round hub for this spirit of world brotherhood, peace and friendship?

His dream came true in 1923 when Kandersteg International Scout Centre was founded. B-P’s theory that Scouts from around the world would flock to the Swiss Alps has been proven correct year after year. In 2018, 14,330 participants from 60 different countries visited.

Speaking of the World Scout Jamboree, I should note that, for Americans, this summer’s event at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia will be the most accessible in a generation.

Go here to learn more about the first World Scout Jamboree on U.S. soil since 1967.

What did Dakota do at Kandersteg?

Dakota is an 18-year-old Eagle Scout from the BSA’s Dallas-based Circle Ten Council. He’s registered as an adult in the BSA, but Kandersteg considered Dakota a Rover.

Rovering is a co-ed Scouting program offered by many national Scout organizations. It serves young people ages 18 to 26 and gives these men and women a chance to serve their local Scout units while camping, hiking and having fun with others their age.

Dakota visited Kandersteg during International Rover Week. He was one of 30 participants from 15 countries. Only two of the participants, Dakota and a young woman named Ella, were American.

That’s actually by design. Kandersteg limits the number of participants from any given country to ensure cultural diversity.

“In general, international Scouts were pleasantly surprised that there were Americans participating in a [World Organization of the Scout Movement] event,” Dakota says. “This really made me determined to find ways to help BSA become more active in World Scouting, and I hope to explore some opportunities in the near future to become more involved.”

For example, Dakota plans to serve on staff at the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, where he’ll reunite with some of his friends from International Rover Week.

What did Dakota learn at Kandersteg?

He summarized his feelings into this top 10 list:

  1. International friendship through Scouting knows no boundaries.
  2. International Scouting starts at the unit level. No matter where you’re Scouting, you’re a part of an international family of Scouts.
  3. We as Scouts can change the world through simple actions like doing a good turn daily and living by the Scout Oath and Law.
  4. The Sustainable Development Goals are a great way to get involved in a cause that interests you and your Scout unit.
  5. We as the BSA need to work on having younger leaders in our packs, troops and crews. Keeping older youth involved through programs like Venturing is essential to growth and retention in our program.
  6. Anyone can be a Scout. This is something I already felt strongly about, but seeing people from all over the world, of all ages, gender and ability all doing their best to help others really hit home for me. Anyone who wants to create a better world and is willing to put forth the effort to do so while following the Scout Oath and Law can be a Scout.
  7. Baden-Powell had a bigger dream for Scouting than I ever realized. He helped with many of the programs we have today and was the visionary behind the permanent mini-Jamboree that is Kandersteg.
  8. From Cubs through Rovers and even adult Scouters, international Scouting offers programs for everyone.
  9. A necker with a friendship knot is, at times, more valuable than patches — or even cash.
  10. Even a Texan with no real winter experience can survive the Swiss Alps!

Share your world Scouting story

Have you visited Kandersteg? Attended a World Scout Jamboree? Interacted with a Scout from another country?

Share your story in the comments.

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

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

And, more and more these days, they’re finding out about Scouting online, too. Today’s parents want, and expect, to learn more about the BSA through a simple-to-use, nicely designed website. is that website. It is the first thing many prospective Scouting families see about the BSA, and it tells them what Scouting is, why it’s a good fit for their family and where they can find a Cub Scout pack, Scouts BSA troop, Venturing crew or Sea Scout ship near them.

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

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

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


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

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

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

How to update your pin

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

Access to update your pin is available to all unit leaders, including committee members in a unit.

To update your pin:

  1. Go to
  2. In the drop-down menu, go to Legacy Web Tools and select BeAScout.
  3. Choose “unit” (rather than council) under “Unit Pin Mode” to update the pin with your contact info.
  4. Be sure to set pin status to “active.” If they want the “Apply Now” button on the pin, set “Apply Status” to “active.”
  5. Note that it may take a few hours for the updated information to show up.

The Unbelievable Story of How a Cub Scout Met John McCain Then Received an Honor You’d Never Expect

When Eagle Scout Zach Dougherty met John McCain in 2007, he was a Cub Scout. What happened years later will leave you speechless.

Zach knew the flag ceremony he was taking part in was important. But he had no idea the impression McCain left on him would come full circle.

From Troop 59 in Toms River, N.J., Zach shares his incredible story below:

My first Cub Scout event was back in 2007 … I had the honor to open an event for Sen. John McCain, who at the time was running for president. I participated in the opening flag ceremony, during of which Sen. McCain saluted me and shook my hand on stage. After the event I was able to take a picture with him.

From that moment onward I dreamed of being just like him. I wanted to grow up and be a United States senator. It’s a passion I still carry with me today.

Flash forward 10 years later … I became a leading influential young person in New Jersey politics and national student leader. As the leader of NJ’s March for Our Lives, I started to work side by side with my own U.S senators.

In September I had my Eagle Scout court of honor. My township business administrator (a former Scout executive and Mayor of Atlantic City) arranged for our congressman to send me a flag from the U.S Capitol. 

After my Court of Honor, I examined [it] in greater depth. I had discovered that the flag had flown over the U.S Capitol the same day Sen. John McCain laid in state in the rotunda of the Capitol building.

I was overwhelmed with joy and melancholy. Sen. McCain had made a tremendous impact on the beginning of my Scouting journey. He inspired a passion that’s guided me ever since. He was my hero and I dream to one day be half the leader that he was.

Scouts Meeting Politicians

Zach’s story probably leaves an impression on you of the power of role models and how strong the Scouting network can be. It may also have you wondering about the BSA’s policy on Scout participation in political events.

Here’s an excerpt from our post on the topic:

Q: Could a pack, troop or crew provide a color guard flag ceremony for a candidate’s public speaking event or rally?

A: Yes. But, BSA Policy requires our adult and youth members in uniform to leave immediately after the presentation of colors and the Pledge of Allegiance. Should they want to stay they must do so as individuals, not Scouting representatives. That means they would have to change out of their uniforms.

Since Zach was at Sen. McCain’s event to participate in a flag ceremony, he was following BSA policy.

Congratulatory Recognition for Eagle Scouts

We’ve covered how to request congratulatory letters for Eagle Scouts, but some recognizable figures send other tokens of congratulations to family’s asking for recognition for their new Eagle Scouts. Some congressmen will even request flags from the Capitol to gift to Eagles.

This is the case in Zach’s story. And thank goodness it was since it allowed him to receive a one-of-kind memento used to honor his hero.

There’s only one story like Zach’s. But other Eagle Scouts have received recognition from their communities and notable people. We’d love to hear other amazing stories like this. If you know someone with an incredible Eagle Scout recognition story to tell, send this post their way so they can share in the comments below!

Geek out on Scouting history at the National Scouting Historian Summit

Be a part of BSA history while preserving and promoting BSA history.

Youth and adult Scouting historians (or aspiring historians) are invited to attend the first-ever National Scouting Historian Summit this June at the Philmont Training Center in northern New Mexico.

Anyone with an interest in the rich history of the Boy Scouts of America is welcome at the weeklong event, set for June 9 to 15, 2019.

“Our job as Scouting historians is to impart our history in a relatable way to the Scouts of today, so that they, too, can understand that they are part of this storied program,” says Bill Topkis, the event’s lead adviser.

Every BSA council, camp and Order of the Arrow lodge has a fascinating past. At the National Scouting Historian Summit, you’ll learn how to collect, protect and showcase that story.

What you’ll learn

The course is built around four themes:

  • Research: What and where to gather the information you need to document your history
  • Storytelling: How to keep it interesting and communicate in ways that engage other people
  • Inventory, Archiving and Preservation: Everything you need to keep your collections organized, stored and protected
  • Sharing: How to get your history “out there” in books, social media, websites, museums and displays

Within each theme, participants can choose from classes and electives that allow them to customize their experience.

Fittingly, you’ll also get some quality, behind-the-scenes time at the new National Scouting Museum – Philmont Scout Ranch.

Who’s invited

Adults: Registration is open to all Scouters (adult volunteers). Whether you’re a beginner or expert, collector or academic, you’ll learn how to discover, assemble and tell the Scouting story.

Youth: Registration is open to any Scout who will be 14 or older on June 15, 2019. Perhaps they enjoyed earning the Scouting Heritage merit badge. Maybe they’re a troop historian. Any Scout with an interest in Scouting history or collecting is invited.

Grants available for youth participants

The National Scouting Historian Summit wants to develop the next generation of Scouting historians.

That’s why the “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt Foundation is offering grants to a select number of youth Scouts (at least 14 but not yet 21 on June 15, 2019).

The grant, which covers the entire course fee, requires interested Scouts to submit their application by Feb. 15, 2019. Recipients will be notified by March 1, 2019.

Your family’s invited, too

Philmont offers a range of exciting activities for spouses and children of Scouters — or parents and siblings of Scouts — attending training conferences.

Learn more about Philmont’s family programs.

How much?

Adults: $555

Youth (under 21 on June 15, 2019): $495

The price includes everything except for transportation to and from the Philmont Training Center in Cimarron, N.M.

Five reasons to register
  1. You’ll learn from experts in Scouting history. They’ll show you the rules, tools and strategies needed to be an effective Scouting historian.
  2. You’ll meet and network. Interact with more than 100 fellow Scouting historians and National Scouting Museum staff members.
  3. You’ll spend a week in the mountains. It’s hard to imagine a better setting for a conference than Philmont, nestled in the stunning Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains.
  4. You’ll get exclusive access to the National Scouting Museum. The National Scouting Museum just opened in its new location at Philmont Scout Ranch, and you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look inside.
  5. You’ll get a patch. Registrants receive the patch below.

To register or learn more, check out the National Scouting Historian Summit site.

Rafe’s special delivery: Eagle Scout collects items for victims of California wildfire

The Scouting community rallied to Houston’s side in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey.

A year later, when an Eagle Scout from Houston heard about the wildfire in Northern California, he was determined to return the favor.

Rafe Kotalik, senior patrol leader of Troop 1772 from the Sam Houston Area Council, launched a massive gear drive for Scouts and others from Paradise, Calif., who lost everything in the blaze known as the Camp Fire.

Rafe and his dad, John, also an Eagle Scout, flew to California in December to personally deliver the gear. In February, they plan to go back with even more supplies.

“I loved knowing that we were helping them to rebuild so that they would have supplies to resume their Scouting adventures,” Rafe says.

Even though Rafe’s efforts are grand enough to be an Eagle project, Rafe’s already an Eagle Scout. He did this because he cares about helping others.

Everyone pitches in

In late November 2018, Rafe approached his patrol leaders’ council to suggest the gear drive.

“We have a duty to serve the needs of fellow Scouts,” he told them.

With an enthusiastic thumbs-up from his fellow youth leaders, and the OK from his Scoutmaster, Rafe created an Amazon wish list for the affected Scouts.

This allowed families in Rafe’s troop to easily purchase and ship items like tents, sleeping bags, hammocks, backpacks and cooking gear straight to Scouts in the Golden Empire Council.

But Troop 1772 was just getting started.

Rafe and his fellow Scouts began collecting items to deliver in person. Members of the community donated camping stoves, blankets, cooking gear, cots and chuck boxes. The local fire department chipped in, too, with personal first-aid kits and flashlights.

Arriving in California

Donations in hand, Rafe and his dad loaded everything into eight large cardboard boxes and headed for the airport to catch a flight to Sacramento.

Rafe asked Southwest Airlines to waive its excess baggage fee, and they agreed.

After landing in California, Rafe and his dad were greeted by six deputies from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, who escorted the father and son to their gear.

The group drove through the California communities of Oroville, Magalia, Paradise and Chico to deliver it all.

“We arrived in the area just after the orders were lifted that allowed people back to see their homes and property,” Rafe says. “The devastation was so hard to comprehend. As we drove to deliver the supplies we brought from Texas, we saw what looked like the ruins of war.”

Meeting in Paradise

Rafe spent time with students from Paradise Elementary and Pine Ridge Elementary. Rafe, wearing his full Scout uniform, distributed a gift box to every student.

“Many were curious about Scouting, and I was happy to answer their questions,” he says.

Rafe next met members of Troop 316, based in Paradise. He passed out stockings and blankets to each Scout, along with other gear his troop back home had collected.

“They welcomed me like I was part of their unit,” Rafe says.

Rafe’s dad, John, says the destruction in Paradise was worse than he saw on TV.

“There were people coming back to their property for the first time, and seeing them break down over the total loss and destruction of their homes was heartbreaking,” John says. “All that remains were chimneys, stairs leading to nowhere, shells of washers and dryers, and the bodies of cars.”

Rafe’s service, by the numbers
  • 450 service hours by members of Rafe’s troop, friends and family on this project.
  • 800 items were gathered to fill stockings for Scouts and other young children.
  • 1,500 craft activity kits were assembled to provide gift boxes for each child at Pine Ridge Elementary and Paradise Elementary.
    30 Scout gear items were purchased and donated to a Boy Scout troop that lost all their gear.
  • New toys for 50 children and nearly 150 pet care items were given to area distribution centers.

What’s the difference between Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA?

This goes way beyond blue vs. khaki.

The difference between Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA encompasses critical categories like unit structure, leadership, parental involvement, advancement and camping.

Both programs are built on Scouting’s time-tested values. That’s evidenced by the fact that members of both programs recite the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

Beyond that, though, you’ll find more differences than similarities — for good reason.

You wouldn’t teach a third-grader the same way you’d teach a ninth-grader, right? By that same logic, your approach to Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA shouldn’t be the same either.

So, gathered from several Scout leaders in the know, here’s a rundown of the ways in which Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA differ.

Unit structure

Cub Scouts: Cub Scouts are in dens, which are part of a pack.

A den is made up of girls or boys of the same rank. There are two kinds of dens: all-boy or all-girl.

A pack can be all-boy, all-girl or include a mix of all-boy and all-girl dens.

Dens usually meet weekly or biweekly; packs meet monthly.

Scouts BSA: Scouts BSA members are in patrols, which are part of a troop. Troops are either all-boy or all-girl. Some leaders form linked troops, which means an all-boy troop and an all-girl troop share a chartered organization and troop

Some troops prefer mixed-age patrols (in which an 11-year-old and a 17-year-old could be in the same patrol), while others prefer to keep Scouts of similar ages together.

Troops meet weekly. Patrol meetings typically are part of the weekly troop meeting, but patrols are welcome to meet on their own.


It’s pretty simple: Cub Scout dens and packs are led by adults; Scouts BSA patrols and troops are led by the youth.

Cub Scouts: Adults plan and conduct the meetings and promote advancement, teamwork, fun and character-building.

Scouts BSA: The Scouts plan and conduct meetings and outings. Adults step in when asked for help and model good behavior.

Youth-led troops might not be “as organized or successful as if adults were running things, but kids learn from their mistakes, says Illinois Scoutmaster Dale Machacek.

Leadership roles: Here are some Cub Scouting positions and the equivalent position in a Scouts BSA troop:

Cub Scouts Scouts BSA Den Leader Patrol Leader Cubmaster Senior Patrol Leader Unit Committee (planning functions) Patrol Leaders Council None Scoutmaster Unit committee (administrative functions) Unit Committee

As you can see, adults hold all of the Cub Scout positions, while youth members occupy most of the Scouts BSA roles.

Why is there no Cub Scout equivalent to Scoutmaster? Because Scoutmasters, unlike Cubmasters, are mentors who sit on the sidelines. Think of the Scoutmaster as the “chief adult guide” and the assistant Scoutmasters as “adult guides.”

In a letter he sends to parents, New York Scoutmaster Richard Buzzard explains that things might get hectic in Scouts BSA, but that’s the point.

When you see Scouts struggling a bit, or not doing a job as well as you know that YOU could do it, resist the temptation to do it for them. A little help is always welcome. But let the successes be theirs as much as possible, as well as the learning which comes from those temporary setbacks.

Parental involvement

Parents are a critical part of both Cub Scouting and Scouts BSA.

Cub Scouts: The parents are expected to assist the pack with planning or helping with at least one activity or event annually.

They may also take a leadership role in the pack or den. Parents are usually required to accompany their son or daughter on overnight campouts.

Scouts BSA: The parents are expected to continuously assist the troop by supporting the Scouts and participating in those tasks that the Scouts can not do.

This may include: transportation to an activity, shopping for a trip or chaperoning a trip. It also may include assisting with fundraisers (finances and organization) and coordinating special events. It is expected that each family take an active role in the troop. Unlike Cub Scouts, parents aren’t required to camp with their sons or daughters. But they’re encouraged to do so if they’d like.


Cub Scouts progress through the ranks to earn the Arrow of Light. Scouts BSA members progress through the ranks to earn the Eagle Scout Award.

Cub Scouts: Cub Scouts rely on their den leaders, den chiefs and parents to plan and assist with all advancement activities. Achievements/books are signed by either the den leader or parent.

Ranks are based only on age or grade. Even if a Cub Scout did not earn the rank for his or her age, he or she moves to the next rank with the den.

The levels are: Tiger, Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, Webelos and Arrow of Light.

Scouts BSA: Parents can guide, but advancement is planned and assisted by patrol leaders and adults.

Unlike in Cub Scouts, advancement is individual, not by patrol.

A Scout works at his or her own pace, meaning a 13-year-old in the Dragon Patrol might be a Life Scout while a 15-year-old in the Dragon Patrol is still a Star Scout. A Scout cannot advance to the next level until all activities are completed in the lower rank.

The ranks are Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle. (Eagle Palms may also be earned after Eagle.)


See this section in the Guide to Safe Scouting to get you started.

Cub Scouts: Limited to Scout and parent weekend or day trips. May have some camping in tents or cabins. Summer camp is limited to two or three nights, usually. Campouts usually have a very structured schedule.

Scouts BSA: Monthly or bimonthly camping trips as well as additional outdoor day activities.

Much of the program involves activities that can only be done in the outdoors (nature, ecology, pioneering, orienteering, conservation etc.).

Also available to the Scout is at least a week of camping each summer. Not every minute of the campout is scheduled. Free time is important.

Scouts normally get a couple of hours of free time to hang with friends, walk in the woods, work on advancement, sleep, play sports, or do nothing at all.

This is “one of the hardest concepts for Cub parents to grasp,” Machacek says.


When considering activities for your pack or troop, consult this chart showing Age-Appropriate Guidelines [PDF].

Chain of command

Where do Scouts go with a problem or question?

Cub Scouts: They’ll ask their parent, den leader or Cubmaster.

Scouts BSA: They’ll follow the “chain of command.” Scouts are taught to go to their patrol leader, then their senior patrol leader and finally the adults. Where safety or health is an issue, though, Scouts may go straight to the adult.

Other differences

What differences weren’t covered? Share your wisdom by leaving a comment below.

Have you taken our latest Scouting Safety Quiz?

A new year means a new year of Scouting Safety Quizzes.

About 400 people tested their knowledge in our November-December quiz: “Oh, Christmas Tree!” It dealt with the fire dangers of Christmas trees. We picked one entrant at random to win a $100 Scout Shop gift card.

And that winner is an Eagle Scout, who wished to remain anonymous, from the Central Minnesota Council. He is planning to give the gift card to his former troop.

Take our next quiz

You can still take the “Oh, Christmas Tree!” quiz, but if you want to be entered to win a Scout Shop gift card, take our January-February “Napping, A to Z” quiz.

Each issue of Scouting magazine will focus on a different BSA health and safety topic. At the end of the online version of the quiz, you can submit your name and email address to be entered in the contest, which ends February 28, 2019.

A few people took the last quiz more than once. If it bothers you that you didn’t get a 100, you can take the quiz again. Just know that submitting your information multiple times does not increase your chances of winning.

You also don’t have to get a perfect quiz score to be eligible to win the gift card. We will draw one winner at random and will notify them via email. Good luck!

A fascinating look at the history of the Pinewood Derby

Don Murphy

Decades before precision starting gates, glow-in-the-dark cars and electronic finish lines that measure time to the thousandth of a second, there was a two-lane wooden track in California.

A lot has changed since Cubmaster Don Murphy dreamed up the idea for the Pinewood Derby in 1953.

But a lot has stayed the same, too.

The Pinewood Derby is still about Cub Scouts and their parents turning four plastic wheels, four nails and some wood into a custom race car.

It’s still about designing a 5-ounces-or-less car that goes fast, looks cool or both.

But most of all, it’s still about a parent and child working together to build lasting memories.

Don Murphy and his son

The year was 1953, and a 10-year-old Cub Scout named Donn Murphy of Manhattan Beach, Calif., wanted to compete in the soap box derby run by the Management Club at North American Aviation, where his dad worked.

But this race involving kid-size, gravity-powered cars was just for those ages 12 and up.

Donn’s dad, Don, had the perfect idea to cheer up his son. The pack would hold a miniature soap box derby using hoagie-size cars the Cub Scouts could build with their parents.

Don Murphy remembered how much fun he had making model cars as a child in La Porte, Ind. Why not bring that same joy to his Cub Scout pack?

“I also wanted to devise a wholesome, constructive activity that would foster a closer father-son relationship and promote craftsmanship and good sportsmanship through competition,” he later told Scouting magazine.


A track and a brown paper sack

Murphy and the other parents in Pack 280C built a 32-foot, two-lane track. Impressively, the track had a battery-run finish line made from doorbells. Light bulbs identified the winner of each race.

Every Cub Scout got a brown paper bag containing four plastic wheels, four nails and three blocks of wood — all supplied by North American Aviation’s Management Club.

Why three blocks of wood? One was for the car’s body, and the other two formed the axles. (Today’s cars are made from a single block of wood, and each axle, or nail, goes directly into the body of the car.)

The first Pinewood Derby race was held May 15, 1953, in Manhattan Beach’s Scout House.

An instant success

Other packs in the Los Angeles area held their own races that year.

By 1954, word got to the national director of Cub Scouting Service, O. W. (Bud) Bennett. Bennett and other officials at BSA headquarters — then in New Jersey — thought it was a swell idea.

Bennett wrote a letter to Murphy, saying, “We believe you have an excellent idea, and we are most anxious to make your material available to the Cub Scouts of America.”

Boys’ Life makes it official

Boys’ Life magazine published Pinewood Derby plans [PDF] in its October 1954 issue.

That was the first reference to the Pinewood Derby in any BSA publication.

Before long, packs across the country made the Pinewood Derby a part of their annual calendar. Most packs, districts and councils settled on January, February or March as Pinewood Derby season.

The tradition lives on

Murphy continued to run the Pinewood Derby until his son left Scouting. After that, the Pinewood Derby founder lost connection with the BSA for more than two decades.

And then, in 1997, Gary McAulay showed up at Murphy’s house.

McAulay was the Cubmaster of Pack 713, which evolved out of Murphy’s original Pack 280C.

“Are you Don Murphy?” McAulay asked the man who answered the door.


“Did you ever live in Manhattan Beach?”


“Did you create the Pinewood Derby?”

Murphy said yes and wowed McAulay by showing him photos, handwritten notes and the letter from Bennett.

Then it was McAulay’s turn to amaze Murphy. He told the then-79-year-old that the Pinewood Derby had become a nationwide sensation with more than 100 million Pinewood Derby cars purchased and built since its inception.

“I had no idea at all that it had grown so big, because I left Scouting when my son grew up,” Murphy later told the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Calif. “But now that you mention it, I’ll blame it on my boy for getting me involved.”

The founder returns

McAuley convinced Murphy to serve as grand marshal of the 1997 Pinewood Derby run by the Pacifica District of the Greater Los Angeles Area Council.

The Cub Scouts at that year’s race treated Murphy like a hero, even asking him to autograph their cars.

Murphy, who embodied the true Scout spirit, was happy and humble about doing the ultimate Good Turn of giving Cub Scouts everywhere the gift of the Pinewood Derby.

“For Don it was never about money. It was about fathers and sons,” McAulay told the Daily Breeze. “He was an old-style gentleman, a thoughtful and kind man who was delighted that the boys were still racing and still enjoying themselves.”

The legend races on

Don Murphy went on to tell his story in a 2001 book called Simply Pinewood!

He later had a walk-on role in the 2005 film Down and Derby, starring Greg Germann and Lauren Holly.

Donald Wright Murphy died on July 1, 2008. He was 90.

Murphy’s obituary in the Daily Breeze ran under a simple, powerful headline: “Father of the Pinewood Derby.”

A beloved, signature part of Cub Scouting was started by a humble Cubmaster who wanted to do something special for his son.

And now that moment of parent-child magic is repeated again and again by millions of Cub Scouts.

The big difference between Cub Scout advancement and Scouts BSA advancement

Rank advancement in Cub Scouting is not like rank advancement in Scouts BSA. And that’s by design.

In Cub Scouting, advancement is grade- or age-based. It’s a rank-per-year system designed to offer age-appropriate fun and challenges as Cub Scouts progress through the program.

Cub Scouts don’t go back and work on ranks designed for earlier grade levels. They also can’t move ahead to the next rank if they finish requirements early.

In Scouts BSA, though, Scouts hold the reins. They advance at their own pace — independent of grade, age or the progress of their fellow Scouts.

While there’s a recommended speed at which ranks are completed, a Scout BSA member can advance at his or her own pace. The only real deadline: age 18, when a Scout is no longer a youth member of the BSA.

Cub Scout advancement

The first badge all Cub Scouts (except those in the Lion program) earn, regardless of age, is the Bobcat badge. After earning Bobcat, Cub Scouts work on advancement for their grade or age level.

  • Bobcat. Earned first by all Cub Scouts, no matter what age they join.
  • Tiger. For boys or girls who have completed kindergarten or are 7 years old.
  • Wolf. For boys or girls who have completed first grade or are 8 years old.
  • Bear. For boys or girls who have completed second grade or are 9 years old.
  • Webelos. For boys or girls who have completed third grade or are 10 years old.
  • Arrow of Light. For boys or girls who have completed fourth grade.

Cub Scouts do not go back and work on ranks designed for earlier grade levels, even if missed because of their time of joining. Likewise, Cub Scouts do not move ahead to the next rank until the completion of the current school year.

The highest rank, Arrow of Light, is earned as the Cub Scout leaves Cub Scouting and enters a Scouts BSA troop.

Scout BSA advancement

Scouts BSA advancement isn’t age- or grade-based. The Scout, with support and guidance from parents and Scout leaders, progresses at his or her own pace.

The Scouts BSA Handbook suggests that members earn the Scout rank “soon after joining.” It goes on to say that earning Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class should happen within the first 12 to 18 months of joining Scouts BSA.

At Star, Life and Eagle, Scouts tend to spread out a little bit. Some Scouts advance through those ranks quickly while others take their time. There’s no right approach — every Scout is different.

Beginning at the Star rank, the BSA adds time-based requirements:

Star: Active as a First Class Scout for at least four months; serve in a position of responsibility for at least four months.

Life: Active as a Star Scout for at least six months; serve in a position of responsibility for at least six months.

Eagle: Active as a Life Scout for at least six months; serve in a position of responsibility for at least six months.

Add those requirements up, and you’ll get a minimum of 16 months between becoming First Class and earning Eagle. That’s a minimum. I have argued in the past that Scouting advancement is a wonderful journey — not a race.

Clearing up misconceptions

The mechanics of Cub Scout advancement could leave Scouts and parents with a mistaken belief that Scouts BSA advancement works the same way.

There are seven ranks in Scouts BSA, and an 11-year-old Scout has seven years before he or she turns 18. Seven ranks, seven years? Some families assume that a Scout must earn Eagle just before turning 18.

That’s not the case, but it could be part of the reason why the average age of Eagle Scouts is around 17.25.

That’s why the BSA recommends discussing Scouts BSA advancement during new Scout and parent orientation. Some points to make:

  • Advancement in Scouts BSA is based on individual initiative with guidance and encouragement from the patrol leader, Scoutmaster, and other youth and adult leaders.
  • Scouts BSA has seven ranks: Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle. Requirements are found in the Scouts BSA Handbook and online.
  • Advancement has four steps: Learn, Test, Review and Recognize.
  • Some of the requirements for each rank have a time element, so Scouts will want to plan ahead so they don’t run out of time.
  • Alternative advancement paths are available for Scouts with permanent physical or developmental challenges.

Details on Scouts BSA uniform, handbook availability in advance of Feb. 1 launch

We’re now just weeks — not months — away from the launch of Scouts BSA.

In anticipation of the program’s Feb. 1 debut, Scouts BSA uniform items and the Scouts BSA Handbook for Girls have begun arriving at Scout shops and will soon be in stock at

You’ve been asking for details about these new items, and today, I’ve got answers to share.

But first, a quick note to leaders and Scouts in existing all-boy troops: your uniforms and handbooks won’t need to be replaced. You’re good to go.

For leaders of new Scouts BSA troops, as well as new Scouts BSA members — boy or girl — keep reading for the latest info.

Scouts BSA uniforms: Your questions answered When will the new Scouts BSA uniforms be available?

Scouts BSA launches Feb. 1, but uniform parts are available now at some nationally operated Scout shops.

They’ll be in stock at by the end of January. That will include the roll-up pantsgirl’s short-sleeve shirt and more uniform items available in sizes for women and girls.

I recommend you call your local store to confirm availability before making a trip.

What’s new or different about the Scouts BSA uniform?
  • The Scouts BSA uniform shirt comes in sizes and cuts for women and girls.
  • New uniform pants for women and girls can be rolled up at the leg to be worn as capri pants. Women and girls can also purchase the current, switchback-style uniform pants that zip off at the knee.
  • The new shirt is tan and features a BSA fleur-de-lis emblem and the letters “BSA” in red over the right pocket. The existing inventory of tan shirts, with “BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA” in red over the right pocket, will be available until they’re all sold out.
Can I still wear previous-generation uniform pieces?

Yes. With BSA uniforms, the rule is: once official, always official.

Can I mix and match old and new uniform pieces?

Yes. For example, you could wear the new tan Scouts BSA uniform shirt with previous-generation green uniform pants.

Scouts BSA Handbook: Your questions answered When will the new Scouts BSA Handbook be available?

Scouts BSA launches Feb. 1, but the Scouts BSA Handbook for Girls is now available at and will be available at nationally operated Scout shops by Jan. 25.

I recommend you call your local store to confirm availability before making a trip.

The Scouts BSA Handbook for Boys will be shipped to Scout shops this summer as current inventory decreases. Boys can continue using the 13th Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, which remains available at Scout shops and online.

Why are there two different handbooks?

The volunteer-led board of directors wanted to ensure Scouts can see themselves represented accurately in the pages, and having two handbooks was the most effective way to do that.

The photos reflect the troop of which the Scout is a member. In other words, boys will see images of other boys in the Scouts BSA Handbook for Boys; girls will see images of other girls in the Scouts BSA Handbook for Girls.

Is the content the same between the Scouts BSA Handbook for Boys and the Scouts BSA Handbook for Girls?

Yes, the content, requirements and page numbers are exactly the same. All that’s different is the photos.

What did and didn’t change from the Boy Scout Handbook to the Scouts BSA Handbooks?

What didn’t change:

  • Requirements
  • Program elements

What did change:

  • Images, which reflect the troop of which the Scout is a member
  • The program name — Boy Scouts becomes Scouts BSA
  • Youth Protection guidelines, which are regularly updated to keep young people safe
  • Minor grammar and formatting fixes to the 13th Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook
Can a Scout continue to use the 13th Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook?

Absolutely. But be aware that rules and requirements can be updated, so always look for the latest requirements online or in Scoutbook.

Eagle Scout owns Guinness World Record for longest chain of carabiners

One carabiner can help you carry a water bottle, organize your keys or climb a mountain.

But 1,856 carabiners? That’ll help you get a Guinness World Record.

Charles Boone, an Eagle Scout from Dormont, Pa., was honored by Guinness World Records for creating the longest chain of carabiners ever.

The certifier of superlatives says the record-setting chain was created on Feb. 25, 2018, in Pittsburgh.

Charles spent two hours linking all the carabiners together.

The finished chain extended 250 feet, 10.5 inches. If placed on a football field, Charles’ chain would extend from one goal line across midfield and almost to the 16-yard line on the other side. Not quite a touchdown, but definitely in the red zone.

Where’d he do it?

Guinness World Record attempts must occur in a public place.

So Charles asked the manager of the Walmart in Carnegie, Pa., to use their parking lot. The manager agreed to allow Charles to section off a portion of the parking lot for the job.

The completed chain stretched from the Walmart building, across the parking lot and to the Ford dealership on the other side.

How’d he do it?

Getting the Guinness World Record required more than just carabiners and patience.

Charles needed to work within the very specific Guinness guidelines. That meant witnesses, documentation and verification.

He enlisted the help of some local teachers to serve as witnesses and to complete the official measurement. His parents took photos and video of it all.

Who is Charles?

Charles Boone is an Eagle Scout from Dormont, Pa. For his Eagle project, Charles led the collection supplies for Animal Friends, a shelter in Pittsburgh. Charles and his volunteers collected more than 1,500 items — the largest single donation ever made to Animal Friends.

He’s now a student at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.

He has earned the Triple Crown of High Adventure and served on staff at the 2017 National Jamboree.

He’ll be on staff (officially called the International Service Team) at this summer’s World Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

What happened to all those carabiners?

Charles gave most of the carabiners to his home BSA council, the Westmoreland-Fayette Council, based in Greensburg, Pa. That’s Charles above presenting the haul to council Scout Executive Martin Barbie.

The council will distribute the world-record carabiners to Scouts this year at summer camp.

Cub Scout handbooks are now available in Braille versions

There’s room for everyone in Scouting, especially Scouts who are blind or visually impaired.

That’s why the Boy Scouts of America has released Braille versions of all four Cub Scout handbooks: Tiger, Wolf, Bear and Webelos.

Now every Cub Scout can follow each chapter of his or her Cub Scouting journey.

Families order the handbooks directly from the Kansas Braille Transcription Institute (details below).

The cost, while higher than the non-Braille versions, includes only the actual cost of producing the books. The BSA paid for the transcription, and shipping is free.

How much do the Braille Cub Scout handbooks cost?

Some Braille transcription services charge 75 cents per page or more. That would mean a cost of $226.50 for the 302-page Tiger Handbook or $397.50 for the 530-page Webelos Handbook.

Thankfully, the actual cost of these Cub Scout handbooks is a fraction of that.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Tiger Handbook (two volumes): $50
  • Wolf Handbook (two volumes): $56
  • Bear Handbook (two volumes): $56
  • Webelos Handbook (four volumes): $96

How does a family or Cub Scout leader order a Braille Cub Scout handbook?

Customers order directly from the Kansas Braille Transcription Institute.

Call 316-265-9692 during business hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday.

You may also email

What about the Scouts BSA Handbook?

The Scouts BSA Handbook (14th edition) also will be transcribed.

It will be ready when Scouts BSA, the new name for the BSA’s Boy Scout program, launches in February 2019.

What about Boys’ Life magazine?

The official magazine of the BSA is available in Braille at no charge through the National Library Service.

What other resources are available for Scouts with special needs?

There are a number of resources on this page, which is updated regularly to provided the latest guidance.

Also, be sure to pick up your March-April 2019 edition of Scouting magazine for a cover story about a troop for deaf and blind Scouts. Senior Writer Aaron Derr learned how the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind started its own pack and troop to serve these Scouts.

Photos by W. Garth Dowling/BSA

This troop honored its late Scoutmaster with a really cool patch

Troop 121 in Granite Bay, Calif., celebrated its 50th anniversary last fall with a special program, featuring a video presentation, group photo and ice cream and cake afterwards. More than 300 Scouts reached the Eagle Scout rank in those five decades, and more than 255 of them were mentored by Scoutmaster John Hooten, Jr.

Earlier in the year, Hooten, who served as the troop’s Scoutmaster for 22 years, died while rowing, another passion of his. To honor him, part of the anniversary program highlighted Hooten’s devotion to the troop of 100-plus boys.

“A major force in the success of Troop 121 was the presence of John Hooten,” said U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, who attended the event. “His contributions will never be forgotten.”

His contributions were also commemorated in a patch the troop designed for the occasion. The patch, emblazoned with stars and ribbons, is adorned on one side with an Eagle’s bust to honor the troop’s 300 Eagle Scouts, and on the other side with Hooten’s image. Centered between the two is a Philmont Scout Ranch expedition achievement patch. Wooten encouraged Scouts to go on high adventure treks to Philmont, Northern Tier and the Florida Sea Base. He also emphasized to them the values of service, preparedness and living by the Scout Oath and Law. The troop’s Eagle advisor Tim Darcey and artist Jim Fitzpatrick worked on the patch’s design.

Honoring leaders

Troop 121’s commemorative patch not only looks great, but it honors a Scout leader who influenced so many people.

How do you remember a leader who has died?

Some units have devoted their buildings and have petitioned their city officials to rename streets. For Eagle Scouts who have passed, they can be featured in Eagles’ Call magazine. You can also memorialize someone through the James E. West Fellowship.

A family tradition: For the Moellers of Ohio, it’s six brothers, six Eagle Scouts

Birders call a group of eagles a convocation, a congregation or an aerie.

But in the case of Daniel, Tim, Ben, Adam, Sam and Joshua Moeller, a more fitting word is “family.”

Last month, the two youngest members of the Cincinnati-based Moellers earned the Eagle Scout rank. In doing so, Sam and Joshua became the family’s fifth and sixth Eagle Scouts.

That means all six Moeller brothers — whose ages range from 15 to 30 — have achieved Scouting’s highest honor.

In doing so, they join an even larger family: the community of more than 2 million Eagle Scouts in BSA history.

Six (or more) Eagle Scout brothers in one family

While six Eagle Scout brothers is remarkable, it’s not unprecedented.

The Glanzer family of the South Texas Council has six Eagle Scout brothers. Ditto the Gemmell family of the San Diego-Imperial Council.

It’s seven Eagle Scout brothers for the Hartwig family of Arizona.

And in 1984, Scouting magazine found three families that each have 10 Eagle Scout sons.

That’s 10 Eagle Scout brothers in the Dupaix family of Sandy, Utah; 10 in the Dowdle family of Green River, Wyo.; and 10 in the Twa family of Spring Lake, Mich.

Meet the Moellers

The four older Moeller brothers watched their two younger siblings receive their Eagle Scout badges on Dec. 19, 2018.

Troop 641 of the Dan Beard Council held an Eagle Scout court of honor with the whole Moeller family in attendance.

That includes:

  • Daniel, 30, who has a Ph.D. and lives in California
  • Tim, 28, who is an aerospace engineer in Denver
  • Ben, 25, who is a software chemical engineer in Wisconsin
  • Adam, 23, who is working on a graduate degree at Stanford and is interested in teaching
  • Sam, 17, a student at La Salle High School
  • Joshua, 15, a student at La Salle High School

Congrats to Sam, Joshua and all of the Moeller brothers for their excellent achievement.

And because no Eagle Scout earns the award alone, a special shout-out to their mom and dad for their support along the way.

Thanks to Julie Whitaker of the BSA’s Dan Beard Council for the tip.

You can now shop a selection of BSA-licensed products on Amazon

Repping the BSA is now just a tap or click away.

The Boy Scouts of America has opened a new Amazon store that makes buying officially licensed products easier than ever.

The collection includes more than two dozen unique items, including officially licensed T-shirts, pocketknives and those PopSocket things everyone has on the back of their phone.

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll be delighted to know most products qualify for free, fast shipping. And if you’re a fan of new stuff, look for more cool gear added throughout 2019 and beyond.

Leaders looking for the latest editions of Scouting handbooks and leader guides will find those in the store, too.

Greg Winters, the BSA’s manager of licensing programs, says his team wanted to create a single destination point to make finding BSA-branded products on Amazon a snap.

“For the BSA, it makes sense to have a presence where consumers are shopping and to create opportunities to help enhance that shopping experience,” he says.

Check out to see what’s available.

What are officially licensed products?

Officially licensed products are produced by a third-party manufacturer and authorized by the BSA’s National Council under a product licensing agreement.

These are different from official products, which are items produced directly by the National Supply Group. You’ll still purchase official products, such as the uniform, through or your local Scout shop.

Can my other Amazon purchases benefit the BSA?

Buying a book, a television or a box of diapers off Amazon?

Learn how to use Amazon Smile to automatically donate 0.5 percent of your purchase to the charity of your choice, including the Boy Scouts of America and its many local councils.

Setup is easy and the donation costs you nothing, making this a great additional way to support Scouting.

How to replace a lost Eagle Scout medal, card or certificate

The Eagle Scout medal symbolizes a difficult, rewarding journey that, for some young people, spans more than a decade.

While it’s impossible to replace the actual medal pinned on a proud Eagle Scout at a court of honor, the BSA does have a process for obtaining a replacement.

The same steps apply regardless of how the medal was lost — natural disaster, family move or any other reason.

Here’s how to replace a lost or missing Eagle Scout medal, certificate, congratulatory letter or pocket card.

Step 1: Purchase a replacement card and/or certificate

To get a replacement Eagle Scout medal, you’ll first need an official Eagle Scout card or certificate.

Go here to order one.

When ordering these Eagle Scout credentials, you’ll need the following information:

  • Name of Eagle Scout
  • Eagle Scout’s birth date
  • Month and year when the Eagle Scout award was earned
  • City and state where the Eagle Scout award was earned

The BSA, at its National Service Center in Texas, will verify the person’s Eagle Scout status. Once verified, the Eagle Scout card, congratulatory letter and/or certificate are shipped to the address provided.

Step 2: Purchase a new Eagle Scout medal and/or badge

Once the credentials (card or certificate) are in hand, the Eagle Scout can go to a local Scout Shop or council office to purchase a new medal and badge.

The Eagle Scout Award Kit, which includes the medal, pin and badge, is a “restricted item.” This means it’s only available in a local council trading post or Scout Shop with required paperwork.

Step 3 (optional): Consider re-presenting the medal at a court of honor

If the medal was lost because of a natural disaster or some other tragedy, consider making a big deal out of re-presenting it to the Eagle Scout.

This could be done at your troop’s next court of honor, further solidifying the message that “once an Eagle, always an Eagle.”

Thanks to the BSA’s Michael Lo Vecchio and Jeff Laughlin for the info.

What questions should you ask when selecting a Scout troop?

Eric Dorre’s family has a bit of a problem, but it’s a good problem to have.

They’re moving to Mercer Island, Wash., and they want to find the right troop for their son Magnus.

“We are spoiled for choice, with three troops within a few minutes of our new home,” Eric Dorre writes. “The curse of choice is not knowing the cultures of these troops and which might be the right fit.”

They can start by asking each troop’s Scoutmaster a few essential questions. But what should they ask? I polled our Facebook audience and came up with this list below.

Note: This list isn’t just for families selecting a troop. It works the other way, too.

Scoutmasters and assistant Scoutmasters should review the list to see which questions prospective members might ask. Don’t have an answer for each question? Now’s the time to Be Prepared.

Questions to ask when selecting a Scout troop
  1. Does my child feel comfortable in this troop?
  2. When does the troop meet?
  3. Where does the troop meet?
  4. How often do you go camping?
  5. What are some of your troop’s core/signature events?
  6. Is the troop youth-led?
  7. Does your troop participate in high-adventure trips?
  8. What other activities are your Scouts involved in?
  9. How are activities funded?
  10. Are service projects a priority?
  11. At what pace do Scouts advance in rank?
  12. Has the troop achieved Journey to Excellence bronze, silver or gold status?
  13. Are youth and adult leaders trained?
  14. How big is the troop?
  15. How are Scouts with special needs welcomed?
  16. Is caffeine available?
Why these questions? A closer look 1. Does my child feel comfortable in this troop?

This is the first and most important question. What vibe did your Scout get when checking out the troop? If possible, it’s smart to visit a few different troops to find the one with the best fit.

“When visiting the troops, we stepped back to allow our son to make the final decision about which group of boys he wanted to hang out with,” says Rebecca H.

2. When does the troop meet?

Check your family schedule. Does the troop meet on a night when your Scout absolutely can’t attend?

That might be a deal-breaker.

3. Where does the troop meet?

Plug the address into Google Maps and see how long it’ll take to drive to the meeting site from your house.

“I kept it within 30 minutes driving,” says Todd K.

4. How often do you go camping?

“Once a month” is a great answer!

5. What are some of your troop’s core/signature events?

Find out if the troop has a favorite place it returns to each year or is planning some sort of epic trip.

6. Is the troop youth-led?

One way to find out might be to ask a Scout where they go with questions. If they answer “my patrol leader,” that’s a good sign.

“Witnessing a meeting and how it’s run can tell a lot,” says Reed T.

7. Does your troop participate in high-adventure trips?

Jacob C. says this question is important because “high adventure is a big help in keeping the older youth around to lead and teach the younger Scouts. It’s also a great recruiting tool for new Scouts.”

8. What other activities are your Scouts involved in?

Scouts are busier than ever these days — with school, sports and other non-Scouting activities all pulling on their time. The best troops encourage this. With a little planning and support from Mom or Dad, young people can make time for everything.

“Is it an all or nothing troop?” Janet H. asks. “Can my son show up late due to sports?”

9. How are activities funded?

Is it “fundraising or the ‘bank of Mom and Dad?'” asks Michele K.

Troops that plan one or two quality money-earning projects per year enjoy more Scouting fun for less money out of pocket.

10. Are service projects a priority?

Scouts are supposed to “help other people at all times.” How often does the troop participate in projects that give back to the community?

11. At what pace do Scouts advance in rank?

“Ask a few Scouts when they last advanced in rank,” says Dave S.

If a Scout wants to advance in rank toward Eagle Scout, how will the troop support his or her journey?

This will tell you something, but not everything. Advancement is an important part of Scouting, but advancement alone doesn’t determine the success of a troop.

For proof, look at the Journey to Excellence scorecard, where advancement is just one of 11 categories that determine troop quality. Speaking of …

12. Has the troop achieved Journey to Excellence bronze, silver or gold status?

Journey to Excellence, or JTE, is the BSA’s tool for helping units track the quality of their program.

Participation is optional, but troops that use the JTE scorecard are taking an active step toward improving the ways they serve Scouts.

13. Are youth and adult leaders trained?

Have a number of youth leaders completed their council’s National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT) course?

Have any adult leaders taken their council’s Wood Badge training?

Trained leaders — both youth and adult — are signs of a quality troop.

14. How big is the troop?

There are large troops, medium-sized troops and small troops. Determining which one is the best fit for your Scout is a family decision.

“We didn’t want a troop too large that our sons got lost in the chaos and not too small where the workload was heavy for adult volunteers,” says Tracy B.

15. How are Scouts with special needs welcomed?

If your Scout has special needs, you might want to ask whether the troop has experience working with all kinds of Scouts.

If the troop hasn’t yet had this opportunity, don’t worry! There are plenty of resources available to help everyone involved.

16. Is caffeine available?

Tammy P.’s question might be the most important one of all: “Is there coffee on the campouts? If not, then you might have to find another troop.”

What if there’s just one troop around?

Some families might have just one troop within reasonable driving distance.

That makes your decision easy!

In that case, parents should sign up their Scout and sign on as leaders.

If there’s anything they wished was different about the way their new troop is run, they can make that change from the inside.

What other questions do you ask?

Let’s keep this conversation going in the comments. Share the questions you get asked, like to ask — or wish you had asked.

Michigan firefighters’ careers in service started as Boy Scouts

Rogers Claussen, a battalion chief with the Rochester Hills Fire Department, recently joined the National Eagle Scout Association and got the Firefighters Affinity Group decal for his helmet. That decal served as a proud statement of his earning the Eagle Scout Award in 1987. It also turned into a discussion-starter among other firefighters on his shift — a shift of 13 personnel, four of which are also Eagle Scouts.

The fire department serves the Michigan city of 70,000 people on the north side of Detroit, fielding about 8,000 calls a year. Firefighters work on 24-hour shifts, so there’s a lot of time to get to know your co-workers.

“The fire department is an extended family,” Claussen says. “There’s a fair amount of camaraderie.”

When he found out four other firefighters on his shift are also Eagles, Claussen was impressed, especially considering the percentages of Boy Scouts that reach the rank. What’s just as impressive is that all five did their Scouting in Michigan, most near Detroit. Their firefighting careers are an extension of community service they began when they were Boy Scouts.

“Scouting instills a lot of the qualities that makes a good, grounded, well-balanced person,” Claussen says.

Start of service

Claussen, a member of Troop 1616 in Royal Oak, Mich., and later Troop 1093 in Clawson, Mich., earned 27 merit badges en route to the Eagle Scout Award. He recalls especially enjoying the Fire Safety and Fingerprinting merit badges.

“Public service has always been there,” he says.

His Eagle Scout project consisted of refurbishing markers and electrical distribution boxes at Clawson’s city park.

Phil Thomas earned his Eagle award in 1998 as part of Troop 60 in Rochester Hills. For his project, he built an outhouse for a one-room schoolhouse on a historical farm the city acquired.

Nick Birchmeier got the Eagle award in 1999 with Troop 90 in New Lothrop, Mich. He sealed a parking lot and painted a map of the United States that could be used for outdoor lessons at an elementary school.

As part of Troop 125 in Rochester, Mich., Chris Ogg earned his Eagle in 2010. His project consisted of building a seating area at the city’s veterans memorial park.

In 2013, Ricky Dvorak earned the Eagle Scout Award as part of Troop 108 in Oxford, Mich. His project involved building a veterans memorial at a cemetery that included three flagpoles and marble benches.

The Eagle firefighters

The men’s backgrounds in Scouting are evident while on the job.

“I’m watching guys shovel walks and driveways when they’re not expected to,” Claussen says. “They live up to Doing a Good Turn Daily.”

About 80 percent of the calls the team responds to are medical calls. The other 20 percent usually deal with fires and hazardous materials. For someone in a medical crisis, seeing a reassuring face can be helpful.

“Scouting has helped us interact with people,” Claussen says.

The BSA’s programs can help youth interested in careers in firefighting and fire safety, with Cub Scout electives, merit badges and an Exploring program. Click here to learn more about the NESA firefighter affinity group.