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Boy Scout Troop 205
(Long Beach, Mississippi)
 
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FAQ - Section



FAQ

Frequently
Asked 
Questions


Use this section to find out (quite a bit) about the BSA Program, and the degree to which Troop 205 embraces the way it "aught to be".

What is "Boy Scouting"?


Scouting is unlike anything your son has ever experienced before.   

Unlike school, organized sports, or perhaps even in the home setting, in a Boy Scout troop the youth are the ones who are in charge.  THEIR desires become our agenda.  THEIR ideas for adventure, fun, and excitement are what the adults guide them to bring into reality.  In Scouting, THEY speak and the adults listen.  

By practicing representative democracy, they pick their own leaders who form the "Patrol Leader Council" which  creates the monthly/yearly agenda.  Scouts work together on every issue, from what to eat at camp to deciding who will wash dishes and shop for food.  They learn and PUT INTO PRACTICE communication, public speaking, teamwork, conflict resolution, and leadership... all the skills they will need to excel in the "real world".

By taking advantage of any of the 136 (as of April 2015) possible merit badges, they gain exposure to areas of interest ranging from Rifle Shooting to Chemistry, from Small Boat Sailing to Aviation, and from Reading to Nuclear Science, and more.  Statistically, the Merit Badge program often leads to life-long hobbies and even career choices.  At a minimum, Merit Badges help a young man try things he may never have had a chance to do if not for the Scouting experience, such as rifle shooting, archery, sailing, or camping.  

While boys are busy "being Scouts" and having fun, they start to embody the virtues of Scouting defined in the Scout Oath and Law.

What is Scouting?   It's "fun with a purpose".

What do boys do as "Boy Scouts"?



The Boy Scout Of America Program is a 105 year old, professionally crafted, program of education and character development.  By using the "Outdoor Method" (camping, fishing, rock climbing, etc)  boys work together to "do the things boys like to do".  In the process, they learn the value of teamwork, honesty, communication, mutual respect, and more as they work towards their goal and overcome any obstacles they encounter.

By employing the METHODS of Scouting, we reinforce the AIMS of Scouting, which are reflected in our Oath and Law.  The goal is to see that they become permanent fixtures in the character of each Boy Scout as we teach them to be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrift, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

Most boys get to do things and go places they would have never had the opportunity to do if not for being involved in Scouting.   

Ever spend 2 days in Pensacola FL. watching the Blue Angels preform their show. 
Ever try the team building challenges
Ever rappel down a 30', 40', or 60' climbing tower?
Ever sleep on USS Alabama  battleship?     
Ever spend 3 days canoeing down Black Creek or Wolf River?
Ever try shooting rifles, shot guns,  and bow & arrows?
Ever try fishing?  How about fly-fishing?
Ever cook over an open fire?
Ever spend the night in a tent?  How about an "emergency shelter" you created in the woods?
Ever do a 50 mile bicycle ride.  


WE HAVE !

Do boys join "character development" programs?



They do... but only if they don't realize it.  :-)

Ask a boy if he wants to join a "character development program" and he'll look at you with the same enthusiasm as asking him if he wants to help wash the dishes and take out the trash.  

Ask that same boy if he wants to get together with his friends and go camping, fishing, biking, or shoot rifles and bows & arrows and he says, "SIGN ME UP!"

WHAT IF...  someone were intelligent enough to make FUN happen in a way that indirectly taught MEANINGFUL lessons? 
WHAT IF...  there were a way to offer ADVENTURES, while constantly exposing him to positive values & morals?
WHAT IF...  there were a way to let him plan a "guys weekend of adventure" while teaching him how to plan, communicate, compromise, organize, and execute... you know...  those valuable SKILLS that he'll need in the "real world" some day?

Wouldn't that be perfect, to "play" in a way that allows him to learn, grow, develop, and prosper while being surrounded by like-minded peers and adults?   Those are precisely the AIMS and METHODS of Boy Scouting.

Hidden within the FUN and ADVENTURE, Boy Scouting IS totally a "character development" program, but as trained Scouters (adult leaders), our job is to focus on delivering the program the "BSA way" so that the Aims & Methods are successfully achieved.   We're not "baby sitters" or "zoo keepers", nor are we a bunch of guys trying to get away from the yard work 1 weekend a month.   We're dedicated to serving our youth by delivering the Scouting Program the way the BSA designed it.  When we're done, we've got some outstanding young men to show for it!

What is behind the phrase, "Aims and Methods"?



Simply put, the AIMS are "what the BSA is trying to teach your son" and the METHODS are "how the National BSA teaches".  For a more "official" answer, keep reading...

Copied from the NESA website (National Eagle Scout Association)


THE AIMS AND METHODS OF BOY SCOUTING

The Scouting program has three specific objectives, commonly referred to as the “Aims of Scouting.” They are character developmentcitizenship training, and personal fitness.

The methods by which the aims are achieved are listed below in random order to emphasize the equal importance of each.

Ideals
The ideals of Boy Scouting are spelled out in the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, the Scout motto, and the Scout slogan. The Boy Scout measures himself against these ideals and continually tries to improve. The goals are high, and, as he reaches for them, he has some control over what and who he becomes.

Patrols
The patrol method gives Boy Scouts an experience in group living and participating citizenship. It places responsibility on young shoulders and teaches boys how to accept it. The patrol method allows Scouts to interact in small groups where they can easily relate to each other. These small groups determine troop activities through their elected representatives.

Outdoor Programs
Boy Scouting is designed to take place outdoors. It is in the outdoor setting that Scouts share responsibilities and learn to live with one another. It is here that the skills and activities practiced at troop meetings come alive with purpose. Being close to nature helps Boy Scouts gain an appreciation for God’s handiwork and humankind’s place in it. The outdoors is the laboratory for Boy Scouts to learn ecology and practice conservation of nature’s resources.

Advancement
Boy Scouting provides a series of surmountable obstacles and steps in overcoming them through the advancement method. The Boy Scout plans his advancement and progresses at his own pace as he meets each challenge. The Boy Scout is rewarded for each achievement, which helps him gain self-confidence. The steps in the advancement system help a Boy Scout grow in self-reliance and in the ability to help others.

Association with Adults
Boys learn a great deal by watching how adults conduct themselves. Scout leaders can be positive role models for the members of their troops. In many cases a Scoutmaster who is willing to listen to boys, encourage them, and take a sincere interest in them can make a profound difference in their lives.

Personal Growth
As Boy Scouts plan their activities and progress toward their goals, they experience personal growth. The Good Turn concept is a major part of the personal growth method of Boy Scouting. Boys grow as they participate in community service projects and do Good Turns for others. Probably no device is so successful in developing a basis for personal growth as the daily Good Turn. The religious emblems program also is a large part of the personal growth method. Frequent personal conferences with his Scoutmaster help each Boy Scout to determine his growth toward Scouting’s aims.

Leadership Development
The Boy Scout program encourages boys to learn and practice leadership skills. Every Boy Scout has the opportunity to participate in both shared and total leadership situations. Understanding the concepts of leadership helps a boy accept the leadership role of others and guides him toward the citizenship aim of Scouting.

Uniform
The uniform makes the Boy Scout troop visible as a force for good and creates a positive youth image in the community. Boy Scouting is an action program, and wearing the uniform is an action that shows each Boy Scout’s commitment to the aims and purposes of Scouting. The uniform gives the Boy Scout identity in a world brotherhood of youth who believe in the same ideals. The uniform is practical attire for Boy Scout activities and provides a way for Boy Scouts to wear the badges that show what they have accomplished.

What is the ONE bit of advice for a Scout?



READ THE BOOK !

The Boy Scout Handbook does an EXCELLENT job explaining the BSA Program.  

It also provides valuable skill instruction and has the potential to IGNITE dreams of adventure, exploration, and fun for boys of all backgrounds and abilities.... all of which are POSSIBLE in this troop!  

"I'm bored" are the 2 words NO Scout has a right to say, as we are determined to help bring all their ideas into reality.


Spend time with your son each night (especially if he is new to Scouting).   Read the book with him.  Quiz him on a skill, or challenge him to a knot tying contest.  Ask him how he sees himself living up to the Scout Law.

Don't let Scouting be "1 hour a week" each Tuesday night, but a regular and routine part of every day.

We're looking at troops. What should we look for?



WHAT should you look for when you visit a troop? 
WHAT are some signs of a "good" unit?

Keep these questions in mind...
  1. How is the attendance?  (low enrollment and/or attendance may indicate a troubled program.)
  2. Are the boys AND leaders in the proper uniform?  (RUN from troops that allow the "bluejeans brigade", where they are only in uniform from the waist up.  If they don't promote the basic uniform, rest assured that OTHER PARTS of the Program are missing too.)
  3. Are boys advancing at an individualized rate?  Is there a mix of ranks among the Scouts, even in the same patrols?  (Right answer is "yes")
  4. How many EAGLES did they have last year?   (BEWARE of "Eagle Farms". On average, only 4 per 100 boys in Scouting make it to Eagle.  Rates higher than average demand scrutiny as they may be too lax about advancement requirements, or may indicate an "adult prepared" agenda.  "EAGLE" is earned by the BOYS making the effort to achieve on their own initiatives, not by being "spoon fed" an agenda of merit badge coursework over a pre-defined schedule.)
  5. Were YOU welcomed?  Did they make you feel genuinely welcomed and wanted?
  6. WHO is TEACHING?  Boys, or adults?  (With the exception of  "advanced" skill instruction, youth leaders should be running the meeting.)
  7. Are they having FUN?  Do boys look interested, or bored?
  8. Are there boys of various ages?   (Big gaps in enrollment may indicate periods of a problem program or "issues" with the adult leadership.)
  9. How long has the Scoutmaster been the Scoutmaster?  (A "new guy" may be lacking experience, and "old timers" almost always lack "program updates"  or haven't attended training in years.)
  10. Is there room for you as a leader or on the Troop Committee? 
  11. Are the boys well behaved?  Do they respond to the "Scout Sign" or was someone screaming "SIGNS UP!!!"?  Any screaming is a warning sign.
  12. Ask what trips they've had, and what they have planned.   Do they do the same trips every year, or are they always trying something new and exciting?
  13. WATCH YOUR SON!   Did he blend in?  Did the boys make efforts to include him?
  14. Watch for different "stages" of the Troop meeting.  There should be distinct periods of Skill Instruction, Patrol time, Inter-patrol Activity, and some formal opening and closing ceremonies. 
  15. What are the facilities like?  Is there adequate meeting space.. storage space...space to "do things"?  (OK, we are a little biased since we have our own gun ranges, fish pond, archery range, stream, field, etc.)
  16. ASK the Scouts questions.  Ask if they like the troop, and then ask WHY they gave that answer.
  17. Ask about camping fees or monthly dues.   There are some troops that take extravagant trips every year and may run a program that is quite costly for its members.  Remember that 1 troop does not represent "all" of Scouting.   A troop with extravagant trips or plans endless "fund raisers" does not mean every troop will operate that way or that "Scouting" is expensive.

What do you mean by "Boy Led"?


A Boy Scout troop leads itself.   Adults are present to guide and ensure safety & compliance exists, but it is the YOUTH who make key decisions.  The primary role of the Scoutmaster is to teach the Senior Patrol Leader how to run/lead his troop.

The Scouting program using The Patrol Method means the Troop members ELECT their own leaders; individual Patrol Leaders and a Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) who takes on "ownership" and holds the actual leadership position within the Troop.  The SPL appoints an assistant scout (Assistant Senior Patrol Leader - ASPL) and various other leadership positions, all of whom serve at the Scoutmaster's discretion.

While serving as Senior Leaders, the SPL and ASPL cease to be members of their respective patrols and function as peers with the adult leadership. The SPL and ASP execute Program decisions, lead the meetings, plan agendas, pick camping destinations, and LEAD BY EXAMPLE when executing the agenda that the boys themselves created and agreed to follow.

Patrol Leaders are responsible for the well being and actions of their individual patrol and will REPRESENT their patrol in the Patrol Leaders Council (PLC).

At the PLC meeting (chaired by the SPL and monitored by the Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster), Patrol Leaders plan future trips and troop meetings.  Through a model ofRepresentative Government, THEY choose the trips and activities THEY want to do, and appoint other scouts to serve as skill instructors, or lead games & other activities.  Adult leadership keeps them on track with suggestions and advice, but the decisions are ultimately left to THE YOUTH.

Once the future meetings/camping trips are planned, the SPL and Scoutmaster present the PLC's plans to the Troop Committee for review. The agenda is checked for issues such as necessary fund raising, unique equipment/skills, camp ground reservations, and is given an over-all inspection to confirm that trips are aligned with the purpose of the Scouting Program.   If the plans are approved, the SPL goes forward with leading the weekly meetings or delegating others who will lead all/part of the meeting.  The model is "boys leading boys" unless the skill instruction needed is currently beyond the skill set of the Scouts or relates to merit badge requirements, then adults will render assistance.

ADULTS are a RESOURCE for guidance and ensuring that things are done the "BSA way" for safety, youth development and general direction setting.

"Boy Leadership" really means the Troop is doing the things the BOYS want to do, and in doing so, they will develop the leadership, communication, problem resolution, and organizational skills that underscore why Scouts excel in all other areas of their lives.

If Scouting is "boy led", why have adult leaders?



A Boy Scout troop is "boy run", and the functioning boss is one of the Boy Scouts who serves as the Senior Patrol Leader (SPL).  He's elected to that position by all the Scouts in the troop and typically serves for a 6 month term (he is allowed to run for re-election).

However, just because a patch is sewn on your sleeve designating you as the "leader", it doesn't mean that you actually know HOW to lead.  That's where the adults come in.     

The Scoutmaster's job is to teach the boys how to lead their own unit.   That seems to be more of a "journey" than a "destination" because in 6 months, a new election is held.  The next Scout to be elected as the SPL may have strong leadership skills, or may be be starting to develop them for the first time so getting to a "100% boy run" status is difficult.

Sometimes we're able to be more "out of the way" than others, but our goal is to let the youth leaders "lead" and only step in when necessary, even if that means letting them make a few mistakes along the way.  

He was never a Cub Scout, can he still join?



YES!  There are no prerequisites for joining any of the Scouting units other than meeting the age requirements.   Scouting has MUCH to offer young men and women and we welcome new members at any age, and at any point in the year.

Cub Scout Pack - Boys ages 6-11 (1st through 5th grade)
Boy Scout Troop - Young Men ages 11-18  (can be dual-enrolled in Crew or Post)
Venturing Scout Crew * - Young Adults (coed) ages 14-21  (can be dual-enrolled in Troop or Post)
Explorer Scout Post * - Young men ages 14-18  (can be dual-enrolled in Troop or Crew)


* Venturing Crews focus on more high-adventure activities;  Explorer Posts focus on a career path such as law enforcement or fire fighters.     While a member of Venturing or Explorers, youth under the age of 18 can continue to pursue Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts) or the Gold Award (Girl Scouts).

Where would I fit as an adult leader?



Boys are Scouts.   Adults are Scouters.

As a Scouter, you can serve in 3 capacities in a local Scout unit. Other positions exist at the District level, but we're focused on the Troop on this FAQ. 


Scoutmaster (SM) / Assistant Scoutmaster (ASM)- these Scouters work closest with the Scouts and ensure the program is running as it should.  Their primary focus is to support the Senior Patrol Leader and Assistant Senior Patrol Leader by guiding them in leadership of the Troop while delivering the "Program".

Merit Badge Councilor (MBC) - a MBC works with Scouts on an individual basis to work on the specific badges (from 1 to 140) that the MBC is registered to teach.  A MBC works with the Scouts "on demand" when he is contacted by the Scouts requesting time to complete badge work.

Committee Member - the role of the committee is to provide the Scoutmaster with the support needed to deliver the program that the Patrol Leader Council chooses as the "Program".   The Committee provides the logistical support (funds/fund raisers, camping equipment, Treasury, camp site reservations, recording advancement, Boards of Review, registration/recharter, etc) needed to support the Troop.   The Committee also has the responsibility to ensure that the Scoutmaster and the PLC are delivering a program that is aligned with the BSA Charter.  If not, the Committee can recommend replacements.  The Committee Chair would report to the Charter Organization which has the authority to hire/fire adult leaders.

The Committee is headed by a Committee Chairman who functions as the "great organizer" to make sure that sub-committees are on-task in their roles within the troop, such as ensuring a Treasurer delivers a Treasurer's report... Outdoor Chair is making campsite reservations....  Quartermaster is maintaining the camping equipment.... webmaster(s) are updating the website... etc.     To avoid "power plays" the Committee Chair is more of an "organizer" than a "position of authority".   Committee decisions are made via parliamentary procedure and voting.  The Committee Chair does not get to cast a vote unless votes are tied.  By design, the Scoutmaster and assistants are NOT members of the Committee, and therefore cannot vote on committee decisions.   

There are a myriad of positions needed to staff a strong committee, so most adults in a troop are registered as Committee Members.

I wasn't a Scout as a boy, can I be a Scout Leader


All are welcome to contribute as much as they would like as a uniformed leader, Committee Member, or a Merit Badge Councilor (MBC).

As a Committee Member, you should be willing to attend the monthly Committee Meeting (4th or 5th Mon of each month, 7PM) and get involved in as much/little upcoming activities as you wish.   

As a Merit Badge Councilor, you choose to provide counseling from 1 to many of the available 130+ Merit Badges.  YOU DO NOT need to be an "expert" to be a councilor, as the $4.59 handbooks will cover ALL that you need to know to learn/teach each particular badge.    

As a Merit Badge Councilor, your time is ONLY used "upon request" when a Scout decides he would like to work on a particular badge for which you've agreed to be a councilor.  Merit Badges are intended to be earned OUTSIDE of the weekly meeting, so Scouts meet with you ON YOUR SCHEDULE of availability.


NOTE.. all leaders MUST complete a BSA Adult Application, which requires you to provide your Social Security Number.   A background check will be done by the Pine Burr Area Council.  WE (Troop) will NOT know of the particular details of anyone's record, but will simply be told "yes/no" regarding your eligibility.   If you do not provide your SSN, you will not be accepted as a leader.   This is National BSA policy, not an ad hoc policy of Troop 205

Parents... Helpers or Hinderance?



Are you a "Helicopter Parent"?   Do you hover over your child, constantly instructing, guiding, correcting, and monitoring your child's every move?  (Many do and don't even realize it.)

Does this situation sound familiar?   Your son is approaching the camp fire or is picking up a knife to start preparing food dinner and you're already telling him, "Don't burn yourself" or "Don't cut yourself"?   Are you already "correcting" him before he even had a chance to TRY doing something for himself?  If that sounds familiar to you, look up... you may see a propeller spinning above your head.

Hovering over him may have been helpful and appropriate when he was an impulsive and clumsy Cub Scout, but when he walked over that Cub Scout Bridge to become a Boy Scout,  the time for that level of monitoring ended.  "Bridging" can be a visual and ceremonial new start of his Scouting career and the expectations that come with it.    

Part of his maturation process requires some things to start happening:

1.  He starts to do things on his own or with his patrol.
2.  He starts to expand his interaction with adults OTHER than his parents such as the Scoutmaster(s) and Merit Badge Councilors.
3.  Realize that its OK TO FALL DOWN.  Mistakes are the greatest teachers, and Scouting is a safe place for him to stumble a little.  If you're worried about him burning the pancakes, then make it a regular part of home life for him to help out in the kitchen, but when we get him at camp, its HIS time to "do" and HIS time to "try".
4.  As a preteen or teenager, it's also quite natural for him to WANT some independence and space.  Give it to him.  Scouting is a well-monitored and safe place for him to find some independence; without you but still under the watchful eyes of trained leaders.
5.  It is BOY Scouting, not WEBELOS 3 and not "family camp".   The structure of Scouting affords him opportunities to start coming into his own.
6.  Put faith in the BSA Training and the experienced Adult Leaders to guide boys into young adulthood the "BSA way".

The reality is that he's going to do just fine.  In fact, many scouts actually do better without their parents there constantly correcting or without him needing to constantly seek your approval.  On the other end of the spectrum, if he's a bit unruly or is a "handful" at times, the last thing he/we need is a protective parent preventing the Scoutmaster (trained in dealing with boys of various ages/developmental stages) from doing his job in talking with a Scout and putting a fresh perspective on his behavior and fostering clear expectations & responsibilities incumbent upon him as a Boy Scout.  

Are parents welcome on camping trips?   Absolutely!  But when parents are at a Scout outing, they are not there for THEIR son, but for ALL the boys.   For the next hour, weekend, or week, they need to stop being "mom" or "dad" and become Mr. or Mrs So-and-so, the assistant leader for the entire troop.   If you see your son struggling with something, try to ask another adult to check on them while you keep your distance.  Depending on the conditions of a Special Needs youth, he may need a parent there who is intimately familiar with his behavior, but whenever possible, keep the boys "main-streamed" with the Scoutmaster team and let them do their job.

What's so special about "Eagle Scout"?



Becoming an Eagle Scout is no small achievement.  In fact, among adults who have gone on to become astronauts, doctors, politicians, or business leaders, most of them will say that earning their Eagle is clearly among the most important achievements in their lives.

Back to the question... WHY?

Look at it from this angle.... ADVANCEMENT is completely up to the individual Scout.   If he has no desire or sense of committment to advance in rank,that is his choice.   IT IS POSSIBLE for a boy to attend EVERY meeting and EVERY camping trip, and never make it through 1/2 of the available ranks if he isn't motivated enough to take the extra step of demonstrating skills or earning merit badges.  Statistically speaking, only 2 out of 100 boys in Scouting will push themselves to become Eagle Scouts.

The "Trail to Eagle" is one of persistance, dedication, well-rounded learning experiences by earning 21+ merit badges, strong attendance at meetings and camping trips, and hundreds of hours of community service.... all culminating with the planning and complete exectution of his "Eagle Project" before his 18th birthday.

The "Eagle Project" is SO MUCH MORE than "giving something back to the community" (which it is, and let's not minimize the importance of community and charity).   It is actually his "final exam" in Scouting.   

HE manages his Eagle Project.  He will put to use all of the lessons he learned as a Boy Scout;  communicating, organizing, recruiting, conceiving an idea, selling the idea, planning the work, assigning work details to those helping him, being the "accountant" that tracks the hours worked and the money spent, etc.   In every conceiveable way, HE is the "project leader".

THESE are the highly desirable skills and traits that makes "Eagle Scout" stand out on a job resume or college application, and the fact that such skills and moral foundations are learned/mastered before "society" recognizes him as an "adult"...  simply amazing!

You might be an "Eagle Factory" if...



The term "Eagle Factory" is as popular in the Scouting community as the unofficial phrase, "Class B uniform".   Sadly, "Eagle Farms" are a recognized problem throughout the BSA and it deals with the fundamental question of, "What does it REALLY mean to be an Eagle?"  

A Google search on the term will result in a WHOPPING 2,580,000 results (trust me, I just did it).   One of the best summaries of the "problem" was answered by a guy who goes by the name "Bob White" (also a "critter" in the BSA's Woodbadge Training program):  "Eagle factory is a term used to describe troops who put the achievement of rank over the personal character growth of the individual scout."

Bob White gets it... this is a CHARACTER program, first and foremost.   While many advertise the statistic that "Only 2 out of 100 boys make it to Eagle", the truth of the matter isn't really HOW MANY boys in a troop make it to Eagle, but HOW did they get there?!?   If you read through this site, you know we are dedicated to having scouts EARN their Eagle (and ANY other advancement or badge), so this FAQ is meant to be a bit of fun.   If it happens to sound like a Troop you know... well... what can we say?


Let's play, "You might be an Eagle Factory if..."

If your troop meeting is based on merit badge classes, you might be an Eagle factory. 

If your Scoutmaster, not the PLC,  plans the yearly or weekly agenda, you might be an Eagle factory.

If the majority of merit badge sashes in the troop look the same, you might be an Eagle factory. 

If scouts are told which merit badge they "must" learn next, you might be an Eagle factory. 

If everyone moves to the next rank at the same time, you might be an Eagle factory. 

If you define the success of your program by the number of Eagle Scouts you produce, you might be an Eagle factory. 

If you think advancement is the most important part of Scouting, you might be an Eagle factory. 

If you give blue cards to scouts before they ask for them, you might be an Eagle factory. 

If you tell scouts how many, or which, merit badges they must earn at summer camp, you might be an Eagle factory. 


If your troop meetings look like "merit badge school",  you might be an Eagle factory.

If your leaders sign off on requirements you didn't really do, you might be an Eagle factory.

If you think "Eagle" only means 21 badges and a service project, you might be an Eagle factory.

If you visit a new troop and the Scoutmaster tells you he has a "plan" or "agenda" for the boys to follow to get them advancing in rank (or making Eagle), you might be an Eagle factory.

What is an "Eagle Project"?



An "Eagle Project" is project that is ORGANIZED and MANAGED by a Life Scout who is working towards the Eagle rank.   There are  guidelines for Eagle Projects that will be described below, but in its most simple definition, it is a community service project where the Eagle Candidate shows of his LEADERSHIP ABILITY.    It is not for the candidate to "do" the work, but to provide the organization and leadership so the work can get done.


Does an Eagle Project need a certain number of "minimum hours"?
No.  There is no set minimum for a project, although most average more than 100 hours of combined service.   However, the length of work must be long enough that there is AMPLE OPPORTUNITY for a scout to show/demonstrate actual "leadership".

Does an Eagle Project have to be unique?
Yes & No.   An Eagle Project does NOT need to be "unique", but it should be unique FOR HIM.   A scout who simply repeats a project he worked on with another scout is NOT "leading".... he's "repeating" some one else.   Remember, PLANNING and THOUGHT are big parts of the project/process.

Does an Eagle Project require "building" something?
No.  An Eagle Project can be a SERVICE, but it cannot be "routine service"... such as raking leaves at his church, spreading mulch, or cutting the lawn.  An example of a non-routine service may be the planning/organizing/executing of a clothing drive or canned food drive.    By PERSONAL PREFERENCE, many scouts like "building" something that they can come back to years later and say "That was my Eagle project!".

Does an Eagle Project require all the Scouts of the troop to work on it?
No.  There must be some involvement of the Troop (leaders) so that those who will be sitting on a candidate's Board of Review can say they saw leadership qualities demonstrated, but that does not mean all the labor has to come from Scouts.   If the Candidate wants to call upon friends, family, or contract labor, that's up to him as the "foreman" to hire the right people to get the job done.   However, it is "healthy" for all the scouts when workers include the troop members as it gives all the Scouts a feeling of participation and the motivation for their own Eagle endeavors.

Does an Eagle Project have to cost a certain amount of money?
No.  If money is needed, it is up to the Candidate to raise it through donations, fund raiser, or it can be self-funded.  The stipulation is that there can be NO donated money left over.  Any leftover money must be returned to those who donated it.

Does an Eagle Project have to benefit Scouting?
It CAN'T.   Once again, the BSA shows its value to the surrounding community.   Eagle Projects are done for organizations OUTSIDE of The Boy Scouts of America.

Can an Eagle Project be done on Government property?
Yes.  Please note that the nature of "government" is slow and full of many "approval processes".   Doing any work on government land or for government agencies will require permits, approvals, board meetings, etc....that can take quite some time.  Scouts should ask these questions in the early stages of his project.   Government land projects are NOT a good idea for a boy who is facing the "timeout" of his 18th birthday as government delays may cause him to MISS his Eagle opportunity.

Can an Eagle Project be done after his 18th birthday?
No.   There is a 60 day time gap after a boy's 18th birthday to file his application for Eagle and have his Board of Review, but ALL WORK (Project, Leadership, Merit Badges, Rank) has to be done prior to his 18th birthday unless he has ALREADY been granted a waiver for medical/developmental purposes.

He's a really good kid, an A student, involved in sports, etc...  Is there ANY way to get an extension on time?
No.  All work for the Eagle Rank must be completed before a boy's 18th birthday. There are no exceptions unless his has been previously classified as a "Special Needs" scout.

Do adults help in the Eagle Project?
Absolutely!   Just because it's "his" project doesn't mean he's expected to magically have the knowledge of a structural engineer, electrician, or master carpenter.   An Eagle Candidate may reach out and solicit assistance from the RIGHT RESOURCES in order to plan/execute his Project.  Remember, his job is not to be the guy swinging the hammer or drawing the plans... but HIRING the right people and making sure work is done according to his plan.

Is there a special way for Eagle Projects to be done?
Yes.  Please reference the BSA Eagle Project Workbook for a step-by-step guide (and approvals!) needed to complete an Eagle Project.

WHAT IF a Scout didn't do exactly what he was supposed to?  Maybe he  allowed his dad to take over the Project, or he never invited the adult leaders to see him "in action"... you wouldn't "punish" the Scout by denying him Eagle, would you?
Yes, and so would District, and so would Council, and so would National... but we would not view it as a "punishment", but simply a situation where a Scout didn't do the REQUIRED work. If there was a mistake or some type of misunderstanding, that's something to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, but if a scout makes the conscious decision to not complete all of the requirements, then the troop leaders are left with no choice but to not award ANY rank advancements, including Eagle. 

What are the thoughts of very young Eagle Scouts?



The rank of Eagle can be earned by Scouts as young as 11 1/2 years old and there are no BSA restrictions specifically discouraging scouts from becoming Eagles at unusually young ages.   However, it is very important to note that the rank of Eagle embodies far more than completing "21 badges and a service project."

DONE RIGHT, the rank of Eagle reflects a course of growth and experience that forms a lasting framework of character traits, including fostering the maturity to drive himself towards completing rank & badge work on his own initiative, having the skills necessary to actually "lead" in troop leadership positions as well as having complete leadership when finding, planning, and executing his Eagle Project.    

It is highly unlikely that a scout of abnormally young age has mastered these skills, as these lessons come from years of experience and repeatedinteraction with his patrol on monthly camping trips, making duty rosters & menus, and dealing with a variety of other situations where communication, planning, problem resolution, and maturity form over time.  (Nothing exists in the Scouting Program by accident!)

While not limited by age restrictions, earning certain Eagle-required merit badges functionally have "implied" age limits.    For example, the Eagle Required merit badge Personal Management calls for 13 weeks of monitoring incoming/outgoing finances.  Unless he is a child TV star, it is doubtful that a boy of 11-12 years of age is actually handling money on a steady-enough basis to make earning the merit badge a meaningful exercise; essentially he would be "speeding" through the steps without getting the intended lessons/values.

If there are cases where Scouts are earning Eagle at ages younger than 14 (author's preference), it would demand a great deal of scrutiny be given to see how the Troop is being ran as to validate that the drive and initiative to complete work was from the Eagle or if advancement & requirement completion was organized, planned, and laid out before him by the adults around him.   While it would be impressive, it is equally uncharacteristic for a boy that young to have the skills and maturity properly seek out, secure, and complete a service project worthy of testing/demonstrating his "Eagle" qualities.

The required ranks and badges are specifically designed to expose him to a well-rounded series of experiences that teach  preparedness, leadership, history, communication, time & finance management, environmental studies, and communications.  IF a boy has attained these skills and character traits at an early age, then he is certainly worthy of commendation!  But the overwhelming likelihood is that a boy who earns Eagle "too young" has missed out on valuable aspects of growth and development that were intended to come over time by design of the National BSA Program.   It would also demand close scrutiny of the Scoutmasters who [apparently] have too active of a role in getting "advancement" done at the expense of valuable Program subtleties and nuances.

The National average age of an Eagle Scout is 15 years of age.   If "properly" earned, it is very beneficial for the troop and younger scouts to have an Eagle remain active in the troop to guide and inspire.   Therefore, just as it is undesirable for Eagle to be earned "too young", we would caution against earning it "too late" and squeezing it in just in time for his 18th birthday.

Service Projects



Upon reaching the 1st Class rank, Scouts start to learn their place in the community, and more importantly, the citizenship lesson that despite being a young age, scouts have the POWER to IMPACT the community.    Community service hours are required for advancement to Star, Life, and Eagle ranks.

Requirements are to be done as stated in the Handbook; specifically done "while" holding the appropriate rank and "approved by the Scoutmaster".   This clearly implies that approval should be sought before conducting the work.  A scout should not expect to get "service hours" credit for work done without getting the Scoutmaster's approval.   Also, for Star Scouts working towards Life, a scout should be reaching out on his own to find service projects, just as a Life Scout will work to find an acceptable Eagle Project.

What is the purpose of a "patrol"?


A significant part of the Scouting experience is to get plenty of  HANDS ON activity.  From knot tying, to cooking on a fire and stove, to learning how to use a pocket knife or axe...   Scouts "DO".

In order to make sure everyone gets a chance to DO, boys are divided into smaller groups within the Troop so that everyone gets ample opportunity to participate.  This is part of what the BSA calls, "The Patrol Method".

Within a patrol-sized group, boys do not get "lost among the crowd" or feel as though their opinions (and votes) don't matter. Each plays a critical and important role in the Patrol's success.

The definition of the "Patrol Method" from the National Council's website...

Patrols are the building blocks of a Boy Scout troop. A patrol is a small group of boys who are similar in age, development, and interests. Working together as a team, patrol members share the responsibility for the patrol's success. They gain confidence by serving in positions of patrol leadership. All patrol members enjoy the friendship, sense of belonging, and achievements of the patrol and of each of its members. 

Why don't your patrols have boys of mixed ages?


Many troops mix boys of different ages in their patrols (not BSA policy). 

Usually, the justification is "so older boys can teach the younger boys".   If that model is working for them, great, but that RARELY works and puts them in the very small minority.   Even in the Cub Scouting Program,  the BSA recognizes the developmental differences in boys of different ages and clarifies the NEED to keep young boys separate from older boys.  That model continues in Boy Scouting and Venture Scouting.

Most units who use a "mixed age" model experience a lot of bullying and/or intimidation; usually manifesting itself in low-key intimidation; older boys making all the decisions and younger kids quietly following along or being "out voted" or "shouted down" on the decisions.  By sheer size/age difference, younger/newer boys end up being intimidated and just "go with the flow", not really getting benefit of the "self-guided" model the BSA has laid out (and 17 year old boys talk about much different things than 12 year old boys).

However, the overt mission of this Troop's leadership is to run this unit "by the book".  The "book" we refer to is the National BSA Program, and it clearly states that "Patrols are made of boys of SIMILAR AGE, ABILITY, and INTERESTS."

It is also HIGHLY DESIRED that Patrols be "permanent groups" so that they can become close friends and EVOLVE (through trials and tribulations) into well functioning units (mastering the skills of communication, teamwork, respect, problem resolution, etc).  Sometimes we have to do a "reshuffle" based on development or changing attendance, but these changes are only done WHEN NEEDED.   

To further justify separating Scouts by ages, keep in mind that Patrols are strongly encouraged to do "patrol activities" (activities away from the rest of the Troop).  This is literally impossible to do when a group of 16/17 year old Scouts want to go on a canoe trip or rock climbing and other members in their patrol are FORCED to be left behind because they are 11-13 years old and not skilled, mature, or strong enough to join in on the activity.  Some activities also have age restrictions from the BSA, showing again, why a "mixed age" model goes against the Methods of Scouting.

And the model of age separation continues in Venturing...

The Venturing model (once again) REINFORCES the BSA's "group by age and ability" concept by grouping the older boys who seek (and are physically able) to do High Adventure Scouting from those incapable physically or intellectually.

There are MANY NUANCES interwoven into this 100 year old program, and none of them exist by accident.  When Troops try to "modify" their Program and change/eliminate/ignore certain aspects of how a unit is supposed to operate, they [knowingly or not] deprive their Scouts of the FULL EXPERIENCE designed into being a Boy Scout.

What happens at camping trips?



Camping trips usually follow the following format.

Scouts arrive at Scout Hut in full Field Uniform on a Friday evening, typically at 5:30 PM so we can depart by 6:00 PM.   Once all gear is packed and a final check for permission slips and medications is complete, we depart for our camping destination.   Upon arrival, the first order of business is to choose camp sites and set up tents.  Once all tents are up, kitchen/cook areas are set up and then all personal gear is stowed.   Time permitting, the boys will have "Cracker Barrel" (snack) and the remainder of the night until 10 PM is "free time" for Scouts to unwind and burn off some energy.

Saturday mornings begin with the designated cooks waking up 1/2 hour before reveille and starting to prepare breakfast.  At reveille, the rest of the camp will rise. Patrols are encouraged to eat together.  Each patrol will have their own dining area, or in the case of a shared pavilion, designated tables.   Once KP is complete, there is a flag ceremony and then the Program portion of the day begins with a break for lunch around noon.    Program (Scout-skill related activity, and/or the purpose of the camping trip) continues until 5 PM.  After dinner, the flag is lowered ceremoniously and there is free time until the Council Fire (at dark).  At the Council Fire, boys often perform skits, tell jokes, and enjoy Cracker Barrel.

We generally sleep a little longer on Sunday. Again, cooks are called to prepare breakfast 1/2 hour before their patrols.  Cold breakfasts are encouraged, due to the faster KP time.   After KP, all scouts are to gather personal gear and then start packing kitchen/dining areas.    The tents are the last to be packed, as it is usually necessary to wait until the tents and ground cloths have dried completely before stowing them.   A tent put away wet will grow mildew and be ruined in a VERY short time.     While waiting for tents to dry, the Troop is lead in a "Scouts' Own" prayer service by the Chaplain's Aid; a boy appointed by the SPL to lead religious events.   Once all gear can be packed, camp is struck and we depart for home targeting a return to Scout Hut by 12 PM.

What is a "Patrol Outing"?



While there is a planned agenda for the Troop as a whole, individual Patrols are encouraged to participate in their own activities aside from the weekly meeting.  For example, if a Patrol wants to hike or visit a zoo, they need not wait until the activity can be scheduled and incorporated into the Troop's annual or semi-annual plan.

Patrol members may plan & execute trips on their own.   In this age of Facebook and Twitter, nothing stops a patrol from having spontaneous plans or outings to add to their fun/excitement as Scouts.   

The only stipulations would be that any outing done as a "Scout unit" must comply with the Guideline To Safe Scouting, and we'd ask that Patrols NOT plan trips that are REPLACEMENTS for the scheduled Troop activities, but are done in ADDITION to troop-wide events.

Patrol Outings are a great way to build unity and teamwork in a patrol, and a great way to keep the program nimble and exciting.

What are some of the things THIS troop has done?


When it comes to what we do, we're proud to say that we're way past the "recruiting hype".  This troop DOES...
  
... camp or have a "big idea" occur EVERY month
... pioneering projects
... orienteering with map & compass
... hiking, including BSA Heritage hikes and recognized Historic Trails
... "Wilderness Survival" weekends sleeping in shelters we built from scratch
... week-long Summer Camp each year
... study mammals, reptiles & amphibians, nature
... study soil & water conservation, oceanography
... fossil hunting (and we have the shark teeth to prove it)
... cooking over open fire 

And there is so much MORE.  We do not limit the level of "adventure" the boys want to have.  Scouting is a BOY LED program.   THE BOYS decide what we do, and strong, trained, committed adults help them achieve their goals.  

What do YOU want to do?

What is the Order or the Arrow?



Purpose

As Scouting’s National Honor Society, our purpose is to: 

  • Recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and through that recognition cause others to conduct themselves in a way that warrants similar recognition.
  • Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship as essential components of every Scout’s experience, in the unit, year-round, and in summer camp.
  • Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation.
  • Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.

Eligibility

The Order of the Arrow membership requirements are:

  • Be a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America.
  • After registration with a troop or team, have experienced 15 days and nights of Boy Scout camping during the two-year period prior to the election. The 15 days and nights must include one, but no more than one, long-term camp consisting of six consecutive days and five nights of resident camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America. The balance of the camping must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps.
  • Youth must be under the age of 21, hold the BSA First Class rank or higher, and following approval by the Scoutmaster or Varsity team Coach, be elected by the youth members of their troop or team.
  • Adults (age 21 or older) who are registered in the BSA and meet the camping requirements may be selected following nomination to the lodge adult selection committee. Adult selection is based on their ability to perform the necessary functions to help the Order fulfill its purpose, and is not for recognition of service, including current or prior positions. Selected adults must be an asset to the Order because of demonstrated abilities, and must provide a positive example for the growth and development of the youth members of the lodge.

How / When do I wear the OA Sash?



When worn, the OA sash or Merit Badge sash is worn over the right shoulder.

The OA Sash is NOT an automatic addition to your Field Uniform (Class A).   Your membership in the OA is shown by the pocket flap patch on your right hand pocket.  Simply put,  the OA sash (and new neckerchief) is only worn at OA events or when you are rendering service directly on behalf of the OA.    A scout never wears both sashes at the same time, nor should either of the sashes ever be worn hanging from the belt. 

Per the OA Handbook:

The Flap Signifies a scout or scouter as a member of a Lodge (if their dues are paid)
The Members wear their sash at camp on Visitors night for the OA call out ceremony
Members of the Unit Election Team wear their sash when they come in to do a unit election. (This is also an appropriate time for the members of the troop to wear their sash.)
Members of the Dance team wear their sash while at a Function.

Remember, Scouts are expected to HONOR THE UNIFORM at all times, which includes wearing it correctly and keeping it clean and presentable.

How much does Scouting cost?


The Troop charges an annual "activity fee" that amounts to a little over $2 per week.  First time members pay an additional $25 fee for the initial sign-up fees imposed by National.

There is a modest "food fee" for camping trips, and a 1x per year fee if your son attends week-long Summer Camp (highly encouraged!).

Fund Raisers are held as needed to fund new equipment, more elaborate camping destinations, or to allow boys to fund their OWN "scout account".

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 "Camping Fee" (food fee) - .   Each patrol creates their own menu for the monthly camping trip and can decide to raise or lower this fee to be aligned with their menu choices.   TYPICALLY, this is $15-$20 each month.  In winter months, or for destinations that are far away, the  fee may include extra fees to cover camp ground expenses and help to reimburse gasoline for those transporting Scouts/gear.

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Summer Camp Fee - Week-long Summer Camp is a GREAT experience, and we encourage Scouts to attend every year.   The average fee is $220.   Please start saving for this NOW so that Camp is not a "financial burden" when payment is  due (usually by May 1 of each year).

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Fund Raising - held as needed to supplement the cost of running the Troop.  Covers new/replacement equipment (tents, stoves, cook gear, propane tanks, etc), or to cover the cost of more elaborate camping destinations.  A portion of fund raising is usually designated for Scout Accounts to inspire strong participation.


  

Does my son have to come every week?


We certainly won't send the "Scout Police" out to find you if you don't show up, but you miss out on a big part of the BSA Program if you don't attend regularly.

Scouting is NOT just playtime, or "Billy's weekend fun" away from his kid sister.   Scouting is a carefully crafted character-development program where no aspect of this program exists by accident.

Each boy is a member of a PATROL, and as such, is part of a smaller group (as compared to the whole Troop of boys) so that he is given AMPLE opportunity to play an active and valuable "hands on" role in the patrol's success. 

A Scout who shows up only for the "fun trips" or shows up sporadically to the weekly meetings DEPRIVES himself of the chance to make key decisions within his patrol; choose trip ideas and destinations, make menu selections, divvy out workloads, and build close friendships.  Every meeting includes a period of valuable skill instruction and fun inter-patrol competitions that relate to the upcoming camping trip. If a boys misses a meeting, he will find himself less prepared for the upcoming weekend in the outdoors.  The troop meetings are where we "learn", but the camping trip is where we reinforce the skills by putting them into practical use.

Scouts should make every effort to attend meetings on a regular basis.   Those who don't are missing out on the full experience of their limited Scouting years, and are causing their fellow patrol members to do the same.  Patrols with members who do not attend regularly DO perform less efficiently than other patrols where their members attend each week.   The differences are noticeable and sometimes astounding when it comes to teamwork, food preparation, advancement, etc.

Scouts who hold LEADERSHIP POSITIONS are expected to show up at every meeting and camping trips as the leadership positions are "working" positions.  Scouts need to provide leadership service to their patrols and the troop as a whole in order to be credited for their time in leadership positions (often needed for rank advancement).

What is "Summer Camp"?



Summer camp is a week long experience in "Scout life", and a LOT of fun!  It's held at Council-run scout camps like Camp Tiak, or other BSA-owned properties.  It is staffed with some adult leaders, but the program areas (merit badge classes, and other skill areas) are run by other (older & experienced) Boy Scouts who spend the entire summer living at camp as councilors.

Troops from all over come to camp, and each troop stays in their own camp site.  We sleep and eat together, but beyond than that we are joining other scouts in merit badge classes, 1st Year program, or COPE or High Adventure.  You can think of Summer Camp as a week at "Scout College" where boys sign up for the classes that interest them, allowing the camping experience to be a personally satisfying experience.

Summer camp has up to 4 basic programs, "1st year", "Open Program", "COPE" (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience), and High Adventure.

The "1st Year Program" is a dedicated program for boys who are typically new to Boy Scouts.  The agenda is focused on the outdoor and basic skills that relate to the first 3 ranks of Scouting.  Although they are focused on basic Scout skills, 1st Year Program attendees usually get the chance to earn 1 or 2 merit badges, get swim lessons or play in the pool during free swim, and after dinner, try out ALL of the program areas around camp during "open time", or join in with camp-wide games organized by the Camp.

"Open Program" is like going to college for a week.  Scouts typically choose to attend classes for up to 5 merit badges. It's a great way to get a LOT of advancement towards Eagle!  After dinner, the program areas throughout camp are opened to everyone so boys can sample every part of camp, even if they aren't working on specific merit badges.  There's also plenty of time for "free swim" in the pool, or time to join in with camp-wide games organized by the Camp councilors.

"COPE"  Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience - What a great way for older boys (13 and up) to challenge themselves physically as they engage in team building, trust building, and physically challenging activities and obstacles like the climbing wall, zip lines, overhead wire course, or the rappelling wall.  While generally open to boys as young as 13 years of age, the course does require a moderate amount of upper-body strength.  13 year old attendees usually require the approval of the Scoutmaster, as the "ideal" age for COPE is 14 and above.    If you're ready to challenge yourself and have a really great experience in personal growth and confidence, COPE is for you!

A "High Adventure" program may or may not be offered at every BSA camp.  Like COPE, high adventure programs are designed for the "experienced" Scouts (13/14 years or older) who feel like they've "done everything" offered by camp and are ready for something "new".   Some high adventure programs  include SCUBA, canoe trips, or other exciting excursions that take you away from the rest of the campers.  Check out the website for the summer camp we are attending in the coming year to see if there is a High Adventure program.


LIFE AT CAMP...

At summer camp, Scouts will be boarded in 8'x8' "wall tents" (large canvass tents with 2 cots, usually on pallets to keep them off of the ground).  Per BSA regulations, "long term camping" requires a set amount of "living space" per scout; hence the use of the BSA camp-supplied wall tents.  Despite their open exposure to the elements, the tents do a great job keeping out the elements and protecting camping gear from getting wet.

During the day, all Scouts from Troop 205 will wear matching Class B tee shirts.  It helps us look "uniform" and ensures the boys are in clean clothes (at least at the start of each day!)  All meals are served in the Camp Dining Hall.  Note that ALL camp attendees (adult and youth) MUST be in full Field (Class A) uniform for admittance into the dining hall for dinner.  After dinner, class B or plain clothes are allowed again.

During the day, scouts spend the day in "Program" areas learning the scout skills they selected before coming to camp.  However, there is plenty of "free time" for Scouts to relax, sample other program areas around camp, visit the shooting ranges, fishing ponds, or swimming pool.  There are often "camp-wide games" at each camp to make sure Scouts have plenty of FUN and entertaining activities for their entire time at camp.   There are usually opening and closing Council Fires and other ceremonies throughout the week, including OA "tap outs" and early morning "Polar Bear Plunges" for a brisk early morning dips in the pool!

What preparation is needed for Summer Camp?


There is much we do to prepare for summer camp;  fund raising, health forms, acclimation, Program selection & prerequisite work, and Swimming.

Fund Raising - Each year we conduct a Mulch Sale fund raiser.  While it is a lot of work, it is highly profitable and Scouts have the earning potential to fund their entire year of Scouting if they have strong participation in sales and delivery.   Summer Camp usually costs $340 each year, so scouting families should plan accordingly so that the annual camp fee is not a "surprise" or unattainable expense.  

Health Forms - Every year, we are required by the BSA to bring current/valid health forms for EVERY ATTENDEE (adult and youth) to camp.   EVERYONE must submit the BSA health forms in order to remain on BSA property.  It is best if the BSA health form is completed by the family doctor at the time of the annual "school physicals".   If a current form is not already on file, then families should engage their doctors to ensure the forms are complete and in the hands of the person coordinating troop registration ON TIME for a smooth registration.   PLEASE do not expect "special exceptions" when you are not handing paperwork in or time.   Registering/Administrating camp attendance is a huge undertaking, and we need/expect your full cooperation to help facilitate a smooth registration experience.

Acclimation - Every year (typically in April) the Troop conducts a weekend camping trip SPECIFICALLY for the benefit of our newest scouts (those bridging in from WEBELOS).  The goal is to get younger Scouts used to attending over-night camp, ideally, 1st year boys should attend camp without their parent(s).  This will give them (and mom) a taste for being away from home, especially since Summer Camp is 6 nights away from home.   New parents generally like to "tag along" with their "former cub scouts" on the first couple of camping trips, butthis defeats the purpose of getting them used to being away from home.  Try to be supportive of the idea of your sons camping without you.

Program Selection & Pre-req work - Scouts should choose as early as possible which program area is right for them at camp; 1st Year, Merit Badges, COPE, or High Adventure.   1st Year and Merit Badge participants should select their merit badges early so they can start getting familiar with any prerequisite work that needs to be done before coming to camp.  Scouts should also take the time to purchase the respective Merit Badge Workbook from the Scout Shop and start reviewing the material (especially for Eagle-required badges).  These actions will ensure that Scouts come home with all badge work COMPLETE and will have the badges awarded as soon as possible.  Otherwise, Scouts will have to find other merit badge councilors to help them complete the tasks that were not completed at/before Summer Camp.

Swimming - Swimming is a big part of advancement and other activities in Scouting.   Scouts usually pursue the "Swimming Merit Badge" at a BSA camp due to the number of requirements to earn the Swimming MB and a daily chance to keep cool in the pool.  If your son wishes to attempt the Swimming merit badge, he must be a STRONG swimmerJumping up and down in your 4' deep backyard pool is "keeping cool", it is not "swimming".   Please note that the BSA measures swimming capability by the ability to jump into water that is over his head, surface and swim multiple(3) 25 yard laps (no stopping allowed) in a strong, steady, and proficient forward stroke, the 4th 25 yard lap is made on is back (a "gliding back stroke"), and then 30 seconds of rest/emergency floating.  If this does not describe the swimming capabilities of your son, please do NOT sign him up for the Swimming Merit Badge, as he will NOT pass and will only feel defeated and frustrated when he does not complete the badge and is surrounded by boys who are much more proficient in swimming ability.  Whether pursuing the Swimming merit badge or not, everyone attending Summer Camp will have AMPLE time to cool off and enjoy the swimming pool during "open swim" and/or "instructional swim" times.  Anyone needing basic swim lessons will have them provided at camp.  LIFEGUARD training is also available.

What is the "BSA Swim Test"?



Swimming is a big part of many Scouting activities and is a skill that virtually all Scouts eventually will master.  Swimming also represents the largest category where death and injuries in Scouting occur.  Therefore, careful attention to the swimming capabilities (and facilities) of ALL water-related activities must be of paramount importance.

In "safe swim areas" (open water) or swimming pools, it is imperative to know the exact level of swimming capabilities of each/every scout.   Before a Scout can participate in any water activity, he must take the "BSA Swim Test" where he will be categorized as a Nonswimmer, Beginner, or Swimmer.   Each designation dictates the depth of the water that the respective scout can enter.

The test:
1.  (unless a professed non swimmer) Scouts are to jump into water depth that is over their head and return to the surface.  (All swimming is to be done on the surface, not underwater)
2.  Scouts are to swim 75 yards in a "strong and steady" forward stroke (crawl, side, breast, Trudgen) without stopping and without touching the bottom of the pool.  Typically it is a 25 yard pool which requires the scout to make a sharp turn and continue uninterrupted, and do this for 3 laps (75 yards).
3.  Scouts are to switch to a "gliding back stroke" and traverse a distance of 25 yards (completing 100 yards of uninterrupted surface swimming).
4.  At the completion of 100 yards, Scouts will then "rest by floating" until signaled by the Life Guard to exit the pool.

Depending the category of swim designation, his swim tag will be color coded to visually identify his skill level.  This is a key function in the system used by pool staff to monitor & manage the pool population, including "Buddy Checks".

Why do Scouts wear a Uniform?


The Uniform is a specific item listed in the "Methods" of Scouting.   Wearing a uniform publicly identifies the boy as a member of an organization and underscores that certain behavior is expected from him through the Scouting Oath, Law, and Motto.   To those who understand the Program, wearing the [full] uniform is an essential aspect of the Scouting Movement.

Also, Scouting's founder, Lord Baden Powell realized long ago, that when people look the same (uniform), they not only show they are members of an organization, but being dressed the same erases all trace of "class" or "wealth" or "social status".   In Scouting, all are equal and treat each other with respect.  In doing so, we learn to look past class, income, race, religion, nationality, and social status.  

Despite the attacks from some of Scouting's detractors, there has never been a program so OPEN and SUPPORTIVE of diversity as Scouting.

Considering this was taken into account in 1907,  Lord Baden Powell was clearly a man ahead of his time.

Uniforms. What's "official"?



Officially, the BSA has ONE uniform, and any historical version of it is acceptable (once official, always official).  It is found in the front pages of every Scout Handbook.

The official BSA uniform is comprised of:
a troop-issued hat *
a troop neckerchief *
BSA tan shirt (with patches placed in the proper spots)
a Merit Badge Sash **
BSA olive pants 
BSA web belt w/ buckle
BSA socks
(Note that blue jeans are not listed here!)

This is THE official uniform, but in many pieces of BSA literature it may be referred to as the FIELD uniform, or commonly, the "Class A" (a military term the BSA prefers NOT to use as the BSA does not wish to be perceived as a paramilitary organization).

*  Technically, hats and neckerchiefs (and how they are worn) are optional in the BSA Uniform Guide, but if the wearing of either is adopted by a troop, they are then considered official components of the uniform.  We wear both.  The hat is the "baseball cap" variety imprinted with our troop number, and the neckerchief bearing our logo is to be worn UNDER the collar with the top button of the shirt unbuttoned.

** The Merit Badge Sash, worn over the right shoulder, is impractical for most Scouting-related activities.  It is therefore only worn at ceremonial events or select meetings such as a Court of Honor.


It is not always practical to wear the Field Uniform shirt every minute a Scout is involved in a scouting-related activity.   The BSA offers a variety of polo-type shirts and tee shirts imprinted with BSA logos, and many troops (ours included) often opt to have custom printed shirts made.  

It is customary practice that when a troop (as a whole) agrees on a standard shirt, they will opt to wear it INSTEAD of the BSA olive shirt, and in many items of BSA literature, this will be referred to as an ACTIVITY uniform, or sticking with military nomenclature, "Class B".


Historically, the BSA offers major redesigns to the uniform about every 20 years.  This past year, the BSA announced the "Centennial Uniform" with "switchback" pants and some color changes to troop number decals and shoulder loops.   This is the 5th major redesign in the BSA's 100 year history.

The difference between Rank & Merit Badges?


Rank is an interesting word choice, clearly derived from Scouting's origin as a program modeled after a military structure.

  Those holding a "higher rank" do not order around those of "lower rank".   In Scouting, the term "rank" is a PERSONAL measure of his progress along the "Trail to Eagle"... or more appropriately thought of as his "trail to manhood".

When a boy joins Scouting, his first POSITION is one of "Scout".  

He then works on the first 3 RANKS; Tenderfoot2nd Class, and 1st Class.    Within the requirements of these ranks, a Scout learns the SAFETY aspects of Scouting; basic first aid, how to choose a safe camp spot, how to properly dress for an outing, how to find his way with map/compass, what to do if he gets lost, etc...

Now a demonstrated "safe" Scout... he is ready for his next period of personal development, which is LEADERSHIP.  In the pursuit of StarLife, and Eagle, a youth is learning (and then mastering) the skills of leadership.  By holding leadership positions within the troop, he learns to lead, instruct, and inspire others.  He learns to "give back" to others, and also learns his emerging place in Society as a citizen.


There are 130+ various Merit Badges available (only 21 needed for Eagle).   To ensure that the Scouts are getting a taste of the opportunities available, the higher badges of rank require a set number of merit badges be completed (including some designated as "Eagle required").

Merit Badges offer exposure to a diverse background of interests, adventures, and opportunities that Scouts may never experience IF NOT for the Scouting program (Aviation, Scuba, Reptile study, shooting sports, etc).    It is not uncommon that exposure to a topic via the Merit Badge Program leads to life-long hobbies and career choices, as well as "needed skills" like Home Repair, Auto Mechanics, and Public Speaking.

There is no limit on the number of Merit Badges a youth may earn.

How do Scouts earn Merit Badges?


The day a boy signs his BSA application, he is eligible to start working on Merit Badges.  

Completing a Merit Badge involves 4 people... The Scout, the Scoutmaster, the Merit Badge Councilor (MBC), and the troop's Advancement Chair.

The process:

1.  Scout chooses a badge (or badges) that he'd like to work on (alone or with another Scout).

2   He informs the Scoutmaster of his intention to work on a badge, and is issued a "blue card" and given the contact information for a registered Merit Badge Councilor (MBC).  A MBC can be ANY registered MBC in any Council.  He is not obligated to  work with councilors in his home unit or Council. CONTRARY TO URBAN MYTH, the Scoutmaster can NOT deny any Scout the opportunity to work on any badge, nor can he delay the badge being awarded once the MBC signs the "blue card" showing that it is complete.  Judgment as to whether a Scout successfully completed the badge requirements rests solely with the MBC.

3.  The Scout(s) contacts the MBC and make arrangements to meet as often as necessary to complete the badge requirements (following Youth Protection guidelines at all times).   Upon the first meeting, the Scout presents the MBC with the blue card, which the councilor keeps so that he can update completion dates and keep track of the Scout's progress.

4.  Upon completion, the MBC will sign all 3 segments of the blue card, and return it back to the Scout who in turn, presents it to the Scoutmaster for final signature indicating final recognition that all work is complete.    Again, the Scoutmaster does NOT have the authority to deny, "retest", or delay the formal completion of any MB work.  

5. The Scoutmaster will pass the signed segments along to the troop's Advancement Chairperson who will record the work on the Troop and Council levels, and ensure the Scout is presented with his badge on the next possible opportunity. *

*  While NOT mandatory that a badge be presented right away, the BSA strongly encourages "instant recognition" for effort.  The typical model is to present the badge by the next meeting, and present the "pocket card" during a formal presentation at the next Court of Honor.  

6.  The Scout will be given 1 segment of his blue card which he must keep so that it can be produced when applying for his Eagle Rank.  The Troop should also retain a segment for their records as will the MBC for his records.

What is "being active in your troop"?



For the Star, Life, and Eagle ranks, the scouts are required to be "active" in the troop and serve in some type of leadership capacity.   

Being active "enough" to get credit towards rank is a very hard thing to measure.  Some troops insist on 80% or 75% attendance at all events.  Some BSA resources (AskAndy.com) insist that "active" is nothing more than being registered and having your annual dues paid.   But a FAIR and REASONABLE definition of "active" or "leader" is found somewhere in the middle.

The March-April 2012 edition of Scouting Magazine did a 1 page article that offers the best answer.  This is the guideline we will follow.    It recognizes that several worthwhile organizations/activities for boys are found outside of Scouting, and that it is unreasonable to expect 100% attendance at all functions.  However, the fact also remains that the PURPOSE of being "active" in Scouting is so the program can have an impact on you, and you can have an impact on the Program and your fellow scouts.  Therefore, a REASONABLE amount of participation and attendance is incumbent upon you.  

Those in Leadership positions have a unique responsibility.  People are actually counting on you to do your "job" and provide leadership (in some capacity) to the Troop in general.  Therefore, the Scoutmaster will clarify these expectations with you when you have attained a position of leadership.  You may also ask him any time you are unsure or confused as to whether or not you're fulfilling the obligations of your position.    The decision of the Scoutmaster as to whether or not a Scout has completed requirements for "leadership" and has been "active" are made at his discretion. 

See the attached document in the FORMS section of the website for clarity on this issue.

What is a Scoutmaster Conference?



After a Scout completes all the required tasks towards his next badge of rank, the next step is for the Scout to meet with the Scoutmaster for a "Scoutmaster's Conference".

The Scoutmaster's Conference SHOULD NEVER be a re-testing of any of his skills.  Certifying his skills is the responsibility of the leader who "signed off" on his Handbook.   Rather, the conference is a chance for the Scoutmaster to make sure all requirements are signed off, and then engage in a comfortable, yet detailed, discussion on how the Scout is feeling about the Program and how Scouting is fitting into his life as a whole.  (This IS a character building program, if you didn't know.)

The Scoutmaster wants to hear from the Scout exactly what he likes, doesn't like, might want to do different, etc.  He wants to know what his ambitions are in Scouting and "life".  The ultimate goal is to make sure the Scouting experience is of real benefit to the Scout's development.  

Once the Scoutmaster is convinced the Scout is ready to move forward towards the next rank, the Scoutmaster will direct the Scout to meet with members of the Committee, where a similar meeting will take place.  This is known as a Board of Review.

What is a Board of Review?



A Court of Honor is a Boy Scouting awards ceremony, commonly held quarterly throughout the year.  It is a formal recognition ceremony of awards, badges, or advancement they may have already received at the weekly meetings.  Why recognize things "already received"?  Because Scouts stay motivated by "instant recognition" of work they've done, so as soon as a Scout earns his next rank or completes a merit badge, they are presented to him to help him stay motivated.

At the Court of Honor,  Scouts and their families gather for a formal recognition of advancement(s) and accomplishments that have been earned since the last Court of Honor.  There are also periods for the Troop's Committee Chairperson to speak to the state of the Troop, or for some other event such as Scouting's annual Friends of Scouting campaign, updates on fund raising, etc.  Lots of information is presented, but the focus is always on the Scouts' accomplishments first and foremost.  Awards for adults or other troop business is downplayed so the focus stays on "building men".

By ceremoniously recognizing the value of advancement and hard work, we hope to strengthen a boy's motivation to continue being active within the Troop and reach for the next rank.  The Court of Honor also gives parents/guardians valuable insight to accomplishments or Program happenings they may not see due to their lack of presence at the weekly meetings.

As always, the goal is to ENCOURAGE through positive reinforcement and praise.  Please join us WHENEVER the possibility exists, to accentuate accomplishments and achievements!

What badges are "Eagle Required" ?



There are a total of 21 Merit Badges required for the rank of Eagle and are specifically selected to provide a base of education in Scout Skills, Civics, Personal & Financial management, and Physical Fitness.

13 of these badges are Eagle Required "White Bands"  (merit badges with white/silver border stitching around the edges).

The remaining 8 (or more if you choose) may be any badges from among the remaining 109 non-Eagle required "Green Band" merit badges (badges with green stitching around the border).

While there are 17 possible Eagle Merit Badges, there are some that are "optional".  Refer to the picture to clearly understand which badges qualify for Eagle, and which ones do not.   Earning MORE THAN ONE of the optional badges will NOT afford you the choice to NOT earn other required badges, but "extra" Eagle badges can be counted towards the mandatory total of 21.