Bryan On Scouting

Why this Cub Scout den does a service project once a month, every month

You’re never too young to start a habit of serving others.

That’s the powerful example being set by a Cub Scout den in Pack 41 of Billings, Mont., part of the BSA’s Montana Council. These 9-year-olds have shown a devotion to community service that’s truly inspiring.

They call it Service Saturdays. On one Saturday morning each month, the members of the Bear den (and their parents) gather to give back.

They’ve hosted a bingo game at a nursing home, planted trees, made sandwiches for the homeless and much more. One act of selflessness each month, every month.

“These experiences have strengthened our den,” says Monica Hill, their den leader. “We see all the good things we can do with our time and energy.”

How they do it

This all began when Hill and her fellow parents began working out a den calendar and realized that several of the boys participate in sports. They have practices during the week and games on Saturday afternoons.

“We decided we could do service activities on Saturday mornings,” she says. “That way our den could stay connected with each other and our community.”

With that mandate from the families in her den, Hill became the den’s “superintendent of service” — a title I just made up but that seems entirely fitting.

Hill spends time calling local nonprofits and businesses to “ask if my group of energetic 9-year-old boys can come do service.”

Who would say no to that? So far, nobody has.

The nursing home was so thrilled that they asked the den if they’d visit several times a year.

What the Cub Scouts think

Do the Bears mind giving up a Saturday morning of Minecraft and cartoons to participate in a service project?

Not only do they not mind; the boys love it.

“They love getting together, no matter the activity,” Hill says. “They are excited about everything I sign them up for.”

In the coming months, the Bears will paint over graffiti in a bike tunnel, clean out horse stalls at a barn and paint fingernails for residents at a nursing home.

While the Bears see these projects as fun and new activities with their friends, Hill understands the deeper meaning.

“Kids are often underestimated,” she says. “They need to be shown how to be part of a community. They need to know that they have the ability to make a difference. Scouting provides all of these opportunities.”

Top California eye surgeon receives Distinguished Eagle Scout Award

California eye surgeon John Hovanesian, who has literally written the books on innovative techniques in ophthalmology, received the prestigious Distinguished Eagle Scout Award at a special ceremony last week in Newport Beach, Calif.

The award, the highest honor presented by the National Eagle Scout Association, honors Eagle Scouts who have made major contributions in their professional fields. NESA accepts nominees once 25 years have passed since earning Eagle.

Hovanesian, 51, joins an illustrious list of previous DESA recipients that includes Gerald Ford, Neil Armstrong and Steven Spielberg.

The Orange County Council, based in Santa Ana, Calif., honored Hovanesian at a special leadership breakfast on Nov. 9. Guests learned that just over 2,200 Distinguished Eagle Scout Awards have been presented since 1969. That’s an average of less than 50 per year.

Hovanesian, the doctor

Hovanesian specializes in cataract, LASIK and corneal surgery at Harvard Eye Associates. He’s a member of the clinical faculty at the UCLA Stein Eye Institute, has published two textbooks in ophthalmology and has authored numerous peer-reviewed articles. He holds leadership positions with the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.

Hovanesian uses his impressive talents to give back, too. He’s involved with the Armenian EyeCare Project and travels each year to Armenia to perform the newest surgical techniques and teach others.

He also has traveled as a volunteer surgeon to Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Fiji to treat patients there.

“There is no better mantra for a surgeon than to help other people at all times,” Hovanesian says. “When we put our patients’ best interests first, we are bound for success.”

Tanya and John Hovanesian Hovanesian, the Scout leader

Somehow, despite a rigorous work schedule, Hovanesian finds time to serve as a Scout volunteer.

“Almost every day is filled with Scouting, from rushing home for a den meeting to staying up late researching how to prepare my boys for Philmont this summer,” he says. “It’s all very rewarding.”

Hovanesian has two sons and a daughter. His older son is about to earn Eagle, and his younger son is in a Webelos den that “constantly challenges me and makes me laugh out loud.”

His Scouting life is about to get even busier. When the BSA’s Scouts BSA program launches in February, Hovanesian’s 13-year-old daughter plans to join a troop and follow in her dad’s footsteps toward Eagle.

“And my wife, Tanya, and I are gearing up to be the leaders of her troop, so she and a group of her friends can do it,” Hovanesian says.

Hovanesian, the Scout

“Scouting has had greater influence on me than any other activity of my youth,” Hovanesian says.

He grew up in Farmington, Mich., where he enjoyed campouts and hikes with Troop 179.

“We had a really spirited, though sometimes unorthodox, patrol: the Gremlins,” he says. “Being a patrol leader taught me that leaders need first to be servants. Working with other Scouts, I learned that doing the right thing is more important than always having all the right answers.”

Hovanesian says becoming an Eagle Scout taught him he can do almost anything if he sticks it out. That reminder came in handy as he worked toward becoming a doctor.

“These lessons helped me make it through the long hours of medical school and residency and to build — along with outstanding and like-minded partners — one of eye care’s most respected practices,” he says.

Thanks to the Orange County Council’s Melissa Dundovich for the post idea.

What Dick Van Dyke said about Scouting, parenting in 1971 still rings true today

When Dick Van Dyke gives you his endorsement, you know you’re doing something right.

In 1971, as the Emmy-winning actor was preparing to make his return to TV in The New Dick Van Dyke Show, the actor talked with Scouting magazine about his time as a Boy Scout, his opinion of Scout leaders and the challenges of parenting in a fast-paced world.

“They call themselves Scouters,” Van Dyke said, “these people who are being so wisely selfish in their desire to help a movement which today has more relevance and significance to human welfare than ever before in its 61-year history.”

On parenting, the father of four lamented how “the whole pace of advancing culture is speeded up.”

“It seems that even the family is more fragmented today,” he said.

When viewed nearly 50 years later, Van Dyke’s words retain their value. The BSA remains relevant and significant to humanity. And families feel like they’re pulled in a million directions every week — a fact that makes Scouting’s commitment to bringing families together even more essential.

With Van Dyke set to appear in the new movie Mary Poppins Returns next month, let’s revisit his 1971 interview.

Van Dyke on his time as a Boy Scout

Dick Van Dyke was a Boy Scout in Troop 11 of Danville, Ill. He says he was a Tenderfoot “for a long, long time” and never reached Second Class.

He didn’t much care for troop meetings, seeing them as too much like school.

“I had so darned much to learn and prepare for every Tuesday night,” he said.

(Hey, that’s a good reminder to Scouters and older Scouts: pack, troop and crew meetings aren’t school and shouldn’t be treated as such.)

While Van Dyke didn’t like troop meetings, he loved summer camp.

“I really looked forward to those two weeks of camping every summer,” he said. “That was the most fun.”

And did the future Television Hall of Famer get to practice his acting skills at camp?

“Of course we did do a lot of skits at camp,” he told Scouting magazine. “As a matter of fact, they’re doing the same skits today that we used to do. Remember the one where a guy would hide his arms behind him and somebody else would get behind him and stick his arms through his armpits, you know? And do all the gestures. We did that, and I see the kids are still doing that one.”

Van Dyke on Scout volunteers

Van Dyke said he has great respect for adults who volunteer their time as Scout leaders. He didn’t hold back when suggesting that the future of our nation rests in the hands of these men and women known as Scouters.

“They represent a major cross section of concerned Americans who realize that Boy Scouts may very well be the last best hope for the survival of a decent and civilized society,” he said.

To demonstrate his support for Scouting, Van Dyke filmed a 15-minute PSA for the BSA called “First Aid for the Gap.” The “gap” is the generation gap that Scouting can help overcome.

The video was created for the Theodore Roosevelt Council in Phoenix (now called the Grand Canyon Council), where Van Dyke lived at the time. But the council would send a copy to other councils for $150.

Van Dyke agreed to appear in the movie because, Scouting magazine wrote, “he’s a gracious, witty man who strongly believes in Scouting.”

The movie was characterized as wildly successful in signing up new Scouts and Scout leaders. I wasn’t able to find a copy online, so if you’ve seen it, please leave a comment below.

Van Dyke on parenting

Much of the Scouting article is devoted to Van Dyke’s experiences as a dad.

He says the most effective tool for overcoming the gulf between a parent and child is communication.

“I think it’s the only way in the whole world,” he said. “A little tolerance for each other’s points of view, a little bending over backwards, and, particularly, trying hard to understand the other person’s point of view.”

Read the full article

How to complete requirement 4B of Scouting Heritage merit badge

When Scouting Heritage merit badge debuted in 2010, Scouts completing requirement 4B were asked to “write or visit the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas.”

Now that the museum has officially opened at its new home at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, the procedure for completing this requirement has changed.

Scouts still have the option to visit the museum in person and see its stunning new digs. That’s what I would call “Plan A.” Or they may complete the requirement by writing to the museum via email or traditional mail.

But what’s the procedure for doing so? What will the museum send in reply? And what else should Scouts know about completing this requirement?

I talked with David Werhane, director of the National Scouting Museum – Philmont Scout Ranch, to learn more.

Scouts learn about the history of merit badges at the National Scouting Museum – Philmont Scout Ranch. Photo by Shane Mrozek. What is Scouting Heritage merit badge requirement 4B?

To complete requirement 4, Scouts must do one of the following. I’ve bolded 4B for emphasis, but a Scout can choose any one of the three options.

Requirement 4

  • (a) Attend either a BSA national jamboree, OR world Scout jamboree, OR a national BSA high-adventure base. While there, keep a journal documenting your day-to-day experiences. Upon your return, report to your counselor what you did, saw, and learned. You may include photos, brochures, and other documents in your report.
  • (b) Write or visit the National Scouting Museum. Obtain information about this facility. Give a short report on what you think the role of this museum is in the Scouting program.
  • (c) Visit an exhibit of Scouting memorabilia or a local museum with a Scouting history gallery, or (with your parent’s permission and counselor’s approval) visit with someone in your council who is recognized as a dedicated Scouting historian or memorabilia collector. Learn what you can about the history of Boy Scouting. Give a short report to your counselor on what you saw and learned.
What if Scouts want to visit the museum in person?

Great idea! Any excuse to visit Philmont is a good excuse to visit Philmont.

Consult the museum’s operating hours at this link.

What’s the preferred address for Scouts who want to write a letter to the museum to fulfill this requirement?

Via email: Philmont.Museums@scouting.org. Scouts should include “Scouting Heritage Merit Badge” in the subject line.

Via U.S. mail:

National Scouting Museum – Philmont Scout Ranch
Attn: Scouting Heritage Merit Badge
17 Deer Run Rd.
Cimarron, NM 87714

What will Scouts receive in response to their letter?
  • A letter, which will also answer any questions the Scout might have asked during the inquiry. The letter may feature the National Scouting Museum – Philmont Scout Ranch passport stamp and date.
  • A museum facts sheet and timeline of the history of BSA museums
  • A museum brochure
What else should Scouts know when working on this requirement?
  • IMPORTANT: Email/snail mail requests should be from Scouts, not merit badge counselors or parents
  • Scouts should feel free to ask a question about BSA history, the museum itself or Philmont. The idea is to do more than merely write, “I’m working on Scouting Heritage merit badge, please send information.”
  • Don’t use the National Scouting Museum Facebook page to make a request. Stick to email or snail mail.
  • Counselors can verify that a Scout completed the requirement by:
    • A Scout’s checking in to the museum’s location on Facebook if they visit in person
    • A dated “National Scouting Museum passport stamp,” available in the lobby
    • A mailed reply from the museum
    • An emailed reply from the museum
    • Completion of the museum’s virtual geocache
  • If Scouts write a letter, make sure it is legible — especially the return address.
  • Remember that the visit, letter or email is the first step of requirement 4B. The second is to “give a short report on what you think the role of this museum is in the Scouting program.”

Congrats to the fourth winner of our Scouting Safety Quiz

Did you take our October-November Scouting Safety Quiz on Scouting basics? More than 520 people did, and we selected one entrant at random to win a $100 Scout Shop gift card.

And that winner is Jeremy Strater, Assistant Cubmaster for Pack 589 in Sebastian, Fla., and Wood Badge alumnus in the Gulf Stream Council.

The “Back to basics” quiz went over what to do if there’s an incident on a Scouting event, handling medical forms, appropriate activities and where Cub Scouts can camp.

Congratulations, Jeremy!

How did you do?

You can still take the “Back to Basics” quiz, but if you want to be entered in our next Scouting Safety Quiz contest, take our November-December quiz: “Oh, Christmas Tree!” As magical as Christmas trees can be, they can also be dangerous.

Each issue of Scouting magazine will focus on a different BSA health and safety topic and offer an online version of the quiz where you can enter to win a prize.

At the end of the questions, you can submit your name and email address to be entered in the contest, which ends December 31, 2018. A few people took the last quiz more than once. If it bothers you that you didn’t get a 100, you’re more than welcome to take the quiz again. Just know that submitting your information multiple times does not increase your chances of winning.

You don’t have to get a perfect quiz score to be entered in the contest. We will draw one winner at random and will notify them via email. Good luck!

5 Quick Questions with: Spencer Reeves, an Eagle Scout attending college in China

The world gets a little smaller every time an Eagle Scout like Spencer Reeves comes along.

The 19-year-old, a product of Troop 70 from New Canaan, Conn., shows how all humans benefit when people from other countries work together.

It started with his Eagle Scout service project, where Reeves helped Syrian refugees feel safer and more comfortable in their new homes in Connecticut. He organized a charitable drive and launched an awareness campaign in his community.

It continues into higher education, where Reeves is part of the inaugural class at Duke Kunshan University in China. The 266 students in the Class of 2022 come from 27 different countries. Thirty-nine students are from the United States. Of the 14 American men in the class, four are Eagle Scouts.

I caught up with Reeves by email to ask 5 Quick Questions about college life overseas, the value of language skills in an increasingly global job market and how he plans to give back to Scouting after college.

Bryan on Scouting: What made you consider going to college overseas?

Spencer Reeves: When I was looking at schools, I knew that I wanted to study Chinese at a place where I would really learn the language and the culture.

I had learned that Duke University was opening a new university in China, in partnership with the City of Kunshan and Wuhan University. So I applied to Duke Kunshan University’s inaugural class, thinking that it would be a unique opportunity but understanding that I would not be able to come home as often given the distance.

Once I got in, I was faced with a difficult decision. Ultimately, I decided to go overseas because it would give me a way to get a completely different perspective on things that I already knew about and would be a good way to learn about and experience things that I would never experience in the United States.

BOS: What makes going to college in a foreign country unique and challenging?

S.R.: One thing that is unique and can be challenging is that English is not at all the dominant language in China. This is really great and helpful for learning the language, because one has to speak it to taxi drivers, shopkeepers, train station attendants, etc. Some people get frightened by that aspect, but it pushes you to learn outside of the classroom.

BOS: How do you feel Scouting prepared you for the rigors of college life?

S.R.: I feel that Scouting prepared me for college life just as much as high school did. In Scouting, one learns to be able to effectively manage oneself (time, health, workload, etc.) and be able to physically navigate oneself (and others) through a new place.

Scouting also prepares you to be a strong leader. Given that I am in the inaugural undergraduate class at my university, I have drawn upon many skills learned in Scouting to do my part to make sure my class gets off to a good start. Not only has it helped me to lead others, but also myself in managing my time and making sure I know when to take a break

BOS: Scouting is worldwide, so what skills does a young person learn in the BSA that might prepare them for a job in an increasingly global marketplace?

S.R.: I would say the skills that we learn in the BSA transcend national borders. Things like leadership, communication, kindness, helpfulness toward people, respecting those senior to you, organization — these are all things that are respected worldwide.

As long as you fulfill your role in Scouting, you are preparing yourself for the global world — though it may be helpful to pick up some language skills along the way!

BOS: What’s your plan after graduation, and in what ways do you plan to give back to Scouting?

S.R.: These days, the world changes so quickly, so what I want to do today may be different two months from now. While I am just trying to keep my options open, I am very interested in how different people and cultures use various forms of technology — particularly the technology of cars, as they become more connected into peoples’ lives.

I do hope, wherever I live, to find a Scouts BSA troop to become involved with. I hope that, when I have kids of my own, I will be able to go through Scouting with them.

9 things I learned about bullying by talking to an expert

If you think you know everything you need to know about bullying, I have someone you should meet.

Dr. Susan M. Swearer, co-director of the Bullying Research Network and a professor at the University of Nebraska, is one of the nation’s foremost experts on bullying and cyberbullying. She studies the latest research, concentrating both on the numbers and the stories behind them. She determines trends, finds solutions and identifies problem areas.

Dr. Swearer has been featured on Anderson’s Cooper’s daytime talk show, presented her findings at the White House and traveled with Lady Gaga to promote anti-bullying initiatives for the Born This Way Foundation.

I called Dr. Swearer last month to ask for advice on how we, as Scout leaders, can identify and prevent bullying. It’s all part of our longstanding commitment, as Scout leaders, to keep young people safe. The conversation reinforces and expands on what’s covered in the Youth Protection training we all must take.

Here are nine key takeaways from our conversation.

1. Bullying involves more than just a bully and a victim.

It’s tempting to think of bullying as involving two distinct sides: bully vs. victim. But that’s not quite right, Dr. Swearer says.

“We understand that it’s a much broader issue that involves a peer group and families,” she says. “We understand the complexity a lot more.”

That means all of us — parents, Scout leaders and bystanders — play a role in recognizing, treating and preventing bullying.

2. A quarter of bullies are/were victims themselves.

They’re called bully-victims: kids who bully others while being victimized themselves. Dr. Swearer says about 25 percent of bullies fall in this category.

They might act like a bully on a sports team or in their Scout patrol, but in a different setting, they’re the victim.

“Years ago, I worked with a bully-victim who said, ‘It’s really unfair that I get in trouble for bullying, but they don’t get in trouble for bullying me,'” Dr. Swearer says. “It’s not an excuse, but it helps us understand the complexity of the dynamic.”

This illustrates the important role leaders/parents play in stopping the cycle.

3. Bullying typically happens when adults aren’t around.

This one seems obvious, but it’s worth talking through. As adults, we aren’t likely to observe bullying firsthand.

So how do we know someone has been bullied? The victim isn’t likely to report or tell. Asking the suspected victim outright — “are you being bullied?” — rarely works, either.

We must observe, watching for changes in behavior that might result from bullying.

“It comes down to relationships,” Dr. Swearer says. “If you’ve got a good relationship with a group of Scouts, you’re going to be more likely to know when something’s not going well.”

4. Turn to your trusted youth leaders (like the SPL) for help.

Dr. Swearer suggests leaning on people with high social status, like a senior patrol leader or Venturing crew president.

These “social influencers” were elected into their role, meaning others look up to them.

“We listen to people we perceive have social influence,” she says. “If you can, use your social influencers to say, ‘Hey, we treat people with respect. We treat people nicely.'”

If reporting to the SPL doesn’t help, or if the SPL is involved in the bullying, we want to encourage the target/victim to report this behavior to a trusted adult. This adult should both intervene and follow up to make sure the bullying behavior has ceased.

5. Create a culture where all leaders feel empowered.

Let’s say you’re at a Scout event and see someone else’s child being a bully, but the parent isn’t around. What do you do? Dr. Swearer says parents must give each other permission to speak up.

This starts with a pre-trip conversation about creating a healthy environment where all adult leaders are on the same page.

“Discuss what do you do if you hear my child saying something mean, but I’m not around,” Dr. Swearer says. “It’s like when you hire a babysitter, you give your babysitter permission to put them in timeout. We’re parents of all the kids, and if we see something, we should say something.”

6. Understand that both boys and girls can be bullies.

“There used to be this idea that boys are involved more in physical bullying, and girls are involved more in relational bullying,” Dr. Swearer says. “Over time, the research has shown that it’s an equal opportunity behavior.”

Boys tend to be involved in bullying more than girls on the whole, and boys still participate in physical bullying more than girls, she says.

But with relational bullying and cyberbullying, the numbers between the genders are about equal.

7. Cyberbullying is real, but you can fight it.

The threat of cyberbullying goes up as a young person’s access to technology increases. With cyberbullying, the potential for harm is just a tap away and accessible day or night.

Cyberbullying statistics can be troubling, but Dr. Swearer has a plan.

It starts with creating an environment where young people are encouraged to share what’s going on without fear that a parent will take away their phone. Next, try to open communication about what apps your kids are using. Educate yourself on the benefits and risks of those apps, and watch for warning signs.

“It’s important for parents to not be completely clueless about the technology their kids are using,” Dr. Swearer says. “Look for warning signs: is the child being very secretive with their laptop or phone?”

8. Talk to your child about wearing their uniform to school.

Some parents have asked me for advice about a Scout who wants to wear his or her Scout uniform to school. I asked Dr. Swearer for her take.

She began by saying Scouts should be confident in their uniform and proud of their involvement in Scouting. But she acknowledges that some schools have an environment where people are picked on for looking or dressing differently.

“I wouldn’t say don’t wear your uniform, but if the student is going to stand out and be a complete target, it’s important to have the conversation,” she says.

There are two things to consider: the school’s environment and the student’s personality. For the former, consider whether students at the school get picked on for their clothes — perhaps for not wearing the popular brands, for example.

“I put it in a broader context of attire,” Dr. Swearer says. “Certainly freedom of expression is important, and we want kids to be confident and independent, but at the same time, there are certain schools where standing out might make you a target.”

Next, consider the student’s personality. Some kids might say, “I don’t care; make fun of me.” Others might let negative comments get to them.

9. There are more resources available.

“There’s just not a simple, one-shot solution to bullying,” Dr. Swearer says. “It really is about relationships and how you cultivate them.”

There’s no simple solution, but there is a simple reminder to share with everyone, from the youngest Scout to the most seasoned leader. It’s the sixth point of the Scout Law: A Scout is Kind.

BSA resources:

Other resources:

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