Events Calendar Change

Today, we have made a change to the events calendar on this site. Previously, the calendar was maintained separately from the Scoutbook calendar and resulted in incorrect or missing information. Now, our website will display a calendar that is linked to Scoutbook. This comes with the benefit of simplifying updates, but comes with the caveat that there is a delay in updating.

New events and updates created in Scoutbook may take up to 48 hours to appear on our troop website. Scoutbook will always have the most accurate information.

Summer Camp Tips - Part 6

Part 6: What to Pack

Summer camp will be here shortly. One of the most asked questions parents have is, “what should we bring?” Today I bring you my list of Must Pack, Should Pack, and items to Leave at Home.

Must Pack
Extra Clothes 
Sleeping Bag 
Extra Shoes 
Class A & Class B Shirts 
Pants (it gets cool at night) 
Personal First Aid Kit 
Camp Chair(s) (Murphy’s Law: if you bring one it will break) 
Extra Socks 
Swimming Suit 
Two Towels (one for shower and one for swimming) 
Bug Spray 
Medication (Prescription medication must be given to Scoutmaster) 
Scout Handbook 
Rubbermaid Tote for Clothes 
Shower Shoes or Sandals

Should Pack 
Rain Gear 
BSA Approved Pocket Knife 
Paper and Pencil 
Snacks (All snacks will be locked away. No food in tents.) 
Drinks (In a cooler) 
Money for the Trading Post 
Fishing Gear
Alarm Clock

Leave at Home 

Summer Camp Tips - Part 5

Part 5: Scouts Are On Their Own

Scouts are reminded that they are on their own during the day and it is their responsibility to know what time they have to be to their events and merit badge classes. It is a good idea to bring a watch and keep a schedule in your pocket.

Adult leaders may not remind scouts of the schedule. Scouts may receive partial credit for badges when they are late or miss a class.

PA Act 153 Clearances

You may or may not be familiar with PA Act 153. Even the legislators who voted it into law aren’t exactly sure what the law requires and how it will impact volunteer organization like the Boy Scouts of America. The impact will be felt by everyone including leaders, councilors, and parents. It has been hinted that the law will be modified to make the process easier, however we all need to be prepared to comply with the law in its current form by the upcoming deadline.

I have included a memo from the Susquehanna Council regarding the act. Please read the memo in its entirety, but I have highlighted the key points below.

  • All volunteers who have direct contact with youth under 18 years of age need to provide three clearances to the troop. At this time this includes parents who volunteer to transport scouts to an outing and participate or are present during meetings and events. We are recommending all parents to obtain the clearances.
  • Clearances are required starting July 1, 2015 for our troop because we are sponsored by a United Methodist Church.
  •  For volunteers who have lived in Pennsylvania for 10 or more years, you can complete an affidavit (included) that needs to be notarized in lieu of the FBI fingerprint based federal history check.
  • Beginning July 1, 2015 all adult applications for membership must include the three clearances.

Once clearances have been obtained, please submit them either to myself or to Chuck.

On July 1, 2015, adults without the three clearances on file are not permitted to attend meetings, outings, or transport children under the age of 18, other than their own.

Summer Camp Tips - Part 1

This is the first part of a weekly blog post to help scouts and parents prepare for summer camp.

Part 1: Get Registered

Before scouts can attend summer camp, they must register. This involves more than just paying the camp fees. There are four steps to being fulling registered for camp.

  1. Pay camp fees
  2. Submit a completed permission slip
  3. Submit a completed annual health form with parts A, B, and C filled out and signed
  4. Sign up for merit badges

By the time of this blog post, most scouts should have steps 1-3 completed. Remember that the deadline to complete these steps is the last day of June.

Step four can be completed at anytime, up until two weeks before camp. This is an online process. Space for merit badge classes is limited and are filling on a first come first served basis. See me for details.

Recruiting Ideas

  • Talk about your experiences in Scouting to other youth including your friends, kids on the bus, your church youth group.
  • Invite a friend to a meeting. If you know that we are going to be doing an interesting activity in an upcoming meeting. Bring a friend and show them the fun we are having. It is probably not a good idea to bring a friend to a meeting that is a planned clean out the trailer or dry the tents night.
  • Bring a friend on a outing. You can bring a friend to one outing before they must join the troop. All they need is a completed permission slip and parts A & B of the annual health form.
  • Show youth our website. 

Top Recruiters Win Big!

We have had recruitment contests in the past with incentives such as Chuck Bucks and pizza parties. Today I announce a new contest that will really pay out.

Now through December 31, 2015, the scout who recruits the most new members to join the troop will have their 2016 dues paid in full by me. Yes, I am personally putting up $120.00 towards the top recruiter. 

To qualify, new recruits must have all paperwork completed and turned into the scout office no later than December 31, 2015. In the event of a tie, payout will be split among winners.

Silver Beaver

It's been a long road for Chuck and this past Sunday he was finally awarded for his efforts. Chuck does not do what he does for recognition, but that does not disqualify him from the honor. On May 17th Chuck Mertes received the Silver Beaver Award. The Silver Beaver is the highest council level award that can be given to an adult leader in scouting and is given for exceptional service in scouting and the community. 

After over 20 years of dedicated service to Troop 172, we congratulate Chuck Mertes for becoming the 2015 recipient of the Silver Beaver Award.

Comments on a Successful NYLT

After two days of recovering from the conclusion of the four month journey as staff for this year's NYLT course, I wanted to pass on a few comments about the experience. I have experienced and staffed Wood Badge courses in the past. This was my first NYLT. While the programs are similar, there is a huge difference between training adult leaders and training youth to be great adult leaders.

The course itself was amazing. The weather was perfect. The staff was well prepared or at least we faked it pretty well. The participants, well, I never imagined that I would see such a change and growth in some of the youth over just two weekends.

Our troop sent three boys to this year. Staffing the course, I had the unique knowledge of the leadership abilities of Christian, Travis, and Mario beforehand. At least I thought I knew. My role was Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop Guides. During the course I mentored the youth guides on staff and monitored the interactions of each youth patrol with their guide and each other. This gave me the opportunity to see firsthand what our scouts were capable of in a completely different way than I have had the ability to do in the past.

Just like the different stages of team development, I experienced different stages while observing our scouts. Namely they were amusement, shock, and pride. All three displayed great leadership skills throughout the course. This ability was not overlooked by the rest of the staff. In my 17 years as a scout leader, I have never experienced a level of pride as I did while observing from a distance.

Now that the course has ended, I challenge Christian, Travis, and Mario and all scouts to continue to grow. Use what you know and what you have learned to better yourself and your troop. Share that knowledge and be the great leaders that you are while passing that knowledge down to the next generation.

I will end with a section of a book read to the participants in the closing of the course.

Today is your day. 
You're off to Great Places! 
You're off and away! 

You have brains in your head. 
You have feet in your shoes 
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose. 
You're on your own. And you know what you know. 
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

-Dr. Seuss from Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Welcome to Scoutbook!

Welcome to Scoutbook! For years we have used a product call TroopMaster to track advancement and personal records for the troop. TroopMaster served our needs between Chuck and me, but did not offer a good solution for merit badge councilors, parents, and scouts to monitor and update records.

Recently the Boy Scouts of America purchased a company called Scoutbook, a web based tracking solution that integrates directly into the national BSA database. Troop 172 has purchased a license to use Scoutbook and I am in the process of moving all the TroopMaster data to the new system.

What does this mean to you?

-          Advancement records will be available in real time to leaders, parents and scouts

-          Merit badge councilors can enter progress directly into our database

-          Parents can RSVP and print permission slips for events

Change in Dues Structure

After a review of expenses, the Troop Committee adopted the following change to the youth dues structure. These changes take effect on January 1, 2015:

1) Dues have been increased from $5.00 per month to $10.00 per month.
2) Dues discount period has been discontinued.
3) Membership renewal payments for youth will be paid from dues account.

We are constantly monitoring expenses with the Troop. To date membership dues have been used exclusively to cover the cost of food purchases for outings and events. The past few years have seen an increase in food prices. Five years ago, the average cost of food for a weekend campout was around $50.00. Today costs have increased to around $200.00 per weekend. This increase was the primary reason for the dues increase.

The second reason for the increase is the decision to make annual membership renewal payments part of the dues. In 2014, membership renewal was $27.00 per person. Under the new policy, we will not be asking parents to pay the $27.00 fee in October. However, adult members will still need to pay the fee since adults do not pay dues.

As before, any scout behind on their dues payments will not be eligible to attend events and outings, but will be able to attend weekly meetings.

Troop Policy Changes

During the Troop Committee meeting held on April 22, 2014, the Committee agreed on three troop policy changes. The first change has the greatest impact to the program and is important for all families to take note of:

Activity Consent Forms 
Effective with the Knoebels campout on June 27, 2014, activity consent forms must be completed, signed by the participant and a parent or guardian when the participant is a minor, and turned in prior to all activities.  Any participant without a completed form will not be permitted to participate in the activity.  

While we enjoy paperwork as much as you do, this policy change was not made to make your participation in the program tedious.  The change was made after a recent disclosure from Boy Scouts of America that annual consent forms are not valid.

We are still working out the details and I am sure some adjustments will be made.  Our current proposal is:
- All consent forms will be pre-filled with event details and will be made available on our website.  We will also have copies available at scout meetings.
- Forms will be due one week prior to the event.  For example, the form for an event on Friday will be due the Wednesday the prior week. This allows us to use the form as a confirmation of attendance to give accurate numbers for meals, fees, etc.

Board of Reviews
Board of reviews will be scheduled the Wednesday after the Troop Committee meeting and appear on the events calendar  Any scout wishing to schedule a board of review must notify the Advancement Chairman prior to the Committee meeting. If no requests are made, the board of review will be canceled for that month.  It is the scout's responsibility to obtain and complete a Scoutmaster's conference prior to requesting a board of review. It is important for scouts to plan accordingly.  If they are coming up on a hard deadline for advancement, it is their responsibility to schedule and complete a board of review before their deadline. The Committee will not back date any late advancement.

Court of Honors
Court of honors will be held on a quarterly basis during the months of February, May, August, and November.  The actual date will very from month to month and year to year depending on other activities. If their are no advancements or awards to present, the court of honor will be canceled.

Fundamentals of a Patrol Leaders Council

There are three important components to a successful Boy Scout troop: organization, planning, and execution. While it is often tempting for adult leaders to step in and take control of one or more of these components, it is important to remember the fundamentals of scouting and its structure. 

“The more responsibility the Scoutmaster gives his patrol leaders, the more they will respond.”

-Robert Baden-Powell

Scouting is a boy-led program where the adult leadership provides direction and empowerment. A troop is separated into at least 2 or more patrols. Each consisting of their own elected leadership that includes a Patrol Leader and Assistant Patrol Leader.  The troop as a whole elects additional troop wide leadership including a Senior Patrol Leader.

Once a month a troop holds a Patrol Leaders Council (PLC) meeting.  The PLC is comprised of the Senior Patrol Leader (SPL), Assistant Senior Patrol Leader (ASPL), Patrol Leaders, Troop Guide, and Scribe.  

Lead by the SPL, the PLC organizes the weekly scout meetings and assigns responsibilities for activities.  Typically the council will plan a general activity list for the upcoming year.  They will then formulate a more detailed plan for events and activities in the upcoming quarter, refine plans for the next two months, and finalize the details for every event in the coming month.  Each member of the PLC, with the exception of the Scribe, is a voting member.

Following the PCL meeting, the SPL presents the decisions and requests from the PLC meeting to the Troop Committee.  The committee then advises on any financial, technical, and safety concerns they may have and supports the troop in carrying out their requests.  

Let's Talk About Fundraising

Fundraising is an important part of any organization.  It may seem that we are constantly sending home information about yet another sale to help fill the troop's coffers, but that is not necessarily the case.

The troop only has two fundraisers a year that benefit the troop directly.  Those fundraisers are the spaghetti dinners held in March and October.  Participation in the rest of the sales is completely optional and all profits go directly into the scouts individual camp fund accounts.

My goal when it comes to individual fundraising activities is that every scout should be able to raise enough money to attend summer camp without their parents writing a single check.  In order to accomplish that, we provide scouts with many opportunities to earn money throughout the year.

Fundraising is also an important part of a scout's development.  A scout that does not do everything they can to earn their way to camp is missing out on critical lesson of scouting.  It is even a requirement for Second Class rank, the Personal Management merit badge, and is a major aspect of the Eagle Scout project.

Parents, I ask that you help your child learn financial independence by putting the checkbook away and guide your scout to reach their goals by effective fundraising.

Has it really been a year?

Has it really been a year since my last post?  As you browse other blogs around the internet, you will often find authors apologizing for the lack of updates.  I am not going to do that here.  In fact my only apology is that some time ago I changed the format of my blog to be more informative on site updates and troop policy changes.  Well, that isn't very fun reading is it?

Here's what I have done.  I have created a Twitter account for the troop that will announce most site updates.  This blog has been given a new name (previously the Jackalope Trail and Chairman's Minute) and a new focus on where we are, where we want to go, and occasionally an interesting story about what we did in the past.  Hopefully you will find some of my ramblings amusing as well.