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Tabletop Campfire October 1, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

There are many great tabletop TableTopCampfirecampfires on the Internet. Here’s one that I made for a centerpiece for our pack’s 2005 Blue and Gold banquet. Actually, I made three of these for that banquet, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of Cub Scouts. Even though this was a stationary item, I wanted to have something to make it stand out. So I decided to have a flickering flame effect, done by using a battery-powered fan to blow the flames. While reading this, please note that what was done in a den meeting as a den project is noted by “we”, as in “we made a…”. I didn’t make all of this – my Scouts did a lot of the work on this centerpiece (which they should!).

I started with a 12″  x 12″ x 12″ box. I sealed the top with glue and cut off the bottom flaps. Then, I cut a hole in the center of the top of the box the same diameter as the fan that I bought for this project.  I then painted the sides blue and the top brown (to simulate dirt).

Then we wired the fans. We did this as Webelos for TableTopCampfire_FanAndWiringEngineer #6 (making a circuit – we substituted the fan for the light). The fans were connected to a battery pack with a switch in the line so we could turn the fan on and off from outside the box. We purchased the fans, battery holders, and switches from Radio Shack. This was the most expensive part of the campfire.

Next, I cut out some thin press board to fit inside of the box, as I TableTopCampfire_Switchdidn’t want to mount the electronics to the cardboard (due to their weight). I cut a circle in the middle of this to mount the fan to. I then cut holes in one corner to mount the battery pack to. The fan was held in by small machine screws, and the battery pack was held in by zip ties (which also held the batteries in the battery pack). To replace the batteries, I would need to cut the zip ties and replace them. I mounted this pressboard to the underside of the box lid with machine screws and washers (the washers help the cardboard to support the weight).

Our next step was to make the logs (because every good campfire TableTopCampfire_CloseUpneeds fuel!). We made this as a den craft project. The logs were just sections of newspapers rolled up then wrapped in tan masking tape. The masking tape’s texture gave our “logs” a wood grain look, which we were real happy with. We spray painted these brown (we used a craft spay paint which was made to look like wood). I think these came out great!

Then we took some small styrofoam balls and made the rocks TableTopCampfire_Rocks(because every good campfire needs to be contained!). We filed one side flat so we could glue it down, then I let the boys shape the rocks as they saw fit. Since we were working with styrofoam, this was very messy! I had some grey primer spray paint around my house, so I used this to paint the rocks.

Then it was ready to put together. We set up the logs in a criss-TableTopCampfire_Sidecross formation, to simulate a log cabin campfire. We hot glued the first two to the base, then the next set on top of the first set of logs. The logs were spaced apart so they wouldn’t block the flow of the fan. Next we hot glued our rocks around the perimeter of our little campfire.

Next we found some orange and yellow tissue paper and cut pieces to look like flames. We used white glue to glue it to the top logs. We even stuffed some real newspaper in the logs for effect! As I noted on a recent podcast, it did take some time to find the orange tissue paper. But tissue paper flickers so well with the fan!

One hurdle we had to overcome was getting enough airflow to cause the tissue paper to flicker. I tried cutting some vent holes, but this hurt the look and really didn’t give us enough air. So we ended up placing 1″ x 2″ wood spacers at each corner and lifting the entire box off the table. Not necessarily attractive but it did the job. These little fans took in quite a bit of air.

If I had it to do over again, one thing I’d do differently is to mount a light inside the box. I saw this on one on the Internet, and I thought that would be a great effect. I’m not sure how that would have worked with the fan’s spin, so I would need to test this first.

Although these were made for Blue and Gold centerpieces, they can have other uses. You can use them for a skit, a Cubmaster minute, or maybe a talk about the outdoors at a pack meeting (although you might need to make a larger one for a pack meeting). Or you can have an indoor campfire with some fire-free smores. I am going to use my indoor campfire as a training aid. What better than to have a talk about campfires and the outdoors while sitting around our tabletop campfire!

Making a table top campfire is a fun craft to share with the boys. Not only do they look good, but they can have many uses. And what shows the spirit of Scouting and the outdoors better than a campfire!

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Webelos Outdoorsman Campout August 17, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

Since the Webelos program allows you to camp as a den, why not Outdoorsmanconsider working on your Outdoorsman activity badge at your own den campout? When I was a den leader, I would only work on the Outdoorsman pin at an outing – I just couldn’t work on any of the requirements at a den meeting. Although just my opinion, the very name implies that you should be in the outdoors!

We worked on the Outdoorsman badge for the two dens I led at a Webelos-only campout (all the Webelos dens from the pack participated). We broke out many of the requirements into rotation stations, and spent two hours or so working on these requirements:

  • Leave no Trace discussion, for #5
  • Fire safety and fire starting, for #7
  • Whip and fuse the end or a rope, for #10
  • Set up a tent fly using knots, for #11 (#10 and 11 were combined into one station)

Then, in in the afternoon, we went on a 3 mile hike, to fulfill requirement #9. (This is just for an example – you should tailor the program requirements as you want).

Apart from the rotation stations and hikes, we worked on cooking with the boys (for #8). The boys helped pitch their tent (for #3), and had them present themselves to us and show us how they packed their bags (for #1). By the end of the weekend, not only did we have a great time outdoors, but the boys earned all of the Outdoorsman (and one or two requirement to spare).

Since you have the Scouts for the whole weekend, you can also add other activity pins. We did the Citizen flag requirements as part of the rotations, and for the evening campfire each Webelos den did a play for a Showman requirements (which also fulfilled Oudoorsman #2). We did allow plenty of free time, however, so the campout wasn’t only about Webelos requirements. Even with as much work as we did, though, all the boys had a great time at these campouts.

If you decide to hold a Webelos outdoorsman campout, I would recommend working with any other Webelos dens in your pack. This way you share the workload. And I would recommend doing this early in the program. This way if any Scouts are unable to attend, you have time before the Arrow of Light to work with the Scout on this required activity badge. And don’t be afraid to ask your parents for help – my den parents were more than willing to help and did a great job teaching the boys on some of these requirements. They just needed to be asked.

The Outdoorsman activity badge is a fun achievement to earn. And it is so much fun to work on in the outdoors. So as you plan this Scouting year’s schedule, take advantage of being able to camp as a den and consider scheduling your own Outdoorsman campout. Campouts are always fun and build great memories. And lest face it, by the time your boys are Webelos age, they often would rather do their own camping apart from the younger boys in the pack. So consider taking advantage of this and have your own campout.

Here’s to a great outdoor Webelos experience! Don’t forget to collect campfire ash!

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Scout Songs on Youtube July 18, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

Songs are an important part of the Scouting program. Hopefully you CubsSinging are a pack that sings Scout songs. If you aren’t singing, you are missing a wonderful part of the Scouting program. I have a feeling that this is one of the toughest areas for a leader to do if they (like me) aren’t a good singer.

You don’t need to be a musician or have a decent voice to bring songs to your Scout meetings and campouts. Thankfully the boys are very forgiving in this matter, and if you are worried about what the parents think – then make them a song partner! And don’t forget your parent survey forms – we had a mom in my den who sang at her church, and was our song leader until she moved away.

One of the difficulties of songs is knowing how the melody goes. That’s where Youtube.com can come to the rescue! Just do a search for your favorite Scout song, and there’s a chance that someone recorded this at a meeting or campout and has posted a video on the site.

If there’s a song I want to learn, and it’s on Youtube, I will download the video off of the site and put it on my iPod.  (I use a 3rd party software for this - look for “Youtube download software” as a Google search or at Download.com for help with this). Then I will listen to it in the car and even sing along until I get it down. Yes, I sing in the car – there, I said it :-)

As an example, here are some of my favorite Scout songs on Youtube:

Ghost Chickens in the Sky - this might be tough for the younger guys to sing.

Crazy Moose Song - a favorite of mine, and this rendition rocks!

Scout Vespers - I’m not sure I like how this version ends, however.

Mother Gooney Bird - our pack sang this one all the time.

The Grand Old Duke of York - I’d never try this choreography, though!

Now the video quality of these are usually poor, and you might not get the whole song, but you get to hear the song sung the way (hopefully) it’s supposed to be sung.

Here are a couple of sights you can go to for listing and lyrics of good Scout songs:

Macscouter.com/songs/

Scoutsongs.com

Boyscouttrail.com/songs.asp

Official BSA Cub Scout Songbook at Scoutstuff.org

Don’t forget the three rules of fun Cub Scout songs:

  • Whenever possible, sing the song three times
  • Sing the song louder each time
  • Sing the song faster each time (the last time is usually too fast to hear)

But if you are singing a Scout song – beware! You could end up on Youtube!

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Dutch Oven Cobbler Recipe June 5, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

One of my favorite camping activities is dutch oven cooking.  We DutchOvenDessertconverted one of my favorite desserts to make in a dutch oven. It’s a fruit cobbler dump cake that is easy to make and comes out great! When I was a Cub leader I was able to impress the Boy Scouts with this dessert on a campout! Here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of cherry pie filling
  • 1 can of crushed pineapple
  • 1 box  of yellow cake mix (not the pudding-type)
  • 1 cube butter
  • 1 small package of chopped walnuts

Directions:

  • Dump both cans of fruit on the bottom of a foil-lined 12″ dutch oven (spray with pam cooking spray before lining with tin foil).
  • Spread the yellow cake mix evenly on top of the filling (just pour it right out of the package).
  • Dice the cube of butter in small chunks and drop it as evenly as possible on top of the cake mix.
  • Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on top of the mix.
  • Cover and bake around 350 degrees for about 45-50 minutes – you want the top of the cobbler brown and bubbly, and not too dark. (I use 22-23 briquettes, with around 9 underneath the oven. I don’t replace them during cooking).
  • Rotate the oven AND the lid every 15 minutes.

The butter melts into the cake mix and it comes out so good. As you can see it’s a very easy dessert to make. While it’s baking the scent of pineapple and cherry starts to flow around you. I think I’ve had a request to make this at every campout I’ve been on.

Instead of cherry pie filling you could add a can of blackberries – it tastes good with them too. And you can try different fruits to suit your taste, even fresh fruits. (If you use fresh fruit you should mix them with a little sugar first.)

Top it off with some whip cream and you are set for the evening! And if you can smuggle some vanilla ice cream to the campout, this is great a-la-mode.

As I’ve blogged about before, you can make pretty much anything you bake in an oven at home. Here is a link for getting started with dutch oven cooking:

Getting Started With Dutch Ovens

Enjoy!

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Pack First Aid Kit May 6, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

Does your pack have a first aid kit? It’s a good idea to have one firstaiddisplayed prominently at each pack meeting or pack outing. You should also consider having a first aid kit at your den meetings. Unfortunately I had a Scout injured at a den meeting once, and I’m glad I had my first aid kit near by!

Now that we are enjoying the spring weather, springtime is a good time to go through your first aid kit and check for expired medicine, supplies that need refilling, etc. You can never have enough Band-Aids, so it’s a good idea to keep a good stock of those. (I was always partial to Hot Wheels or Spiderman bandages).

Hopefully you will never use one. But as Scouts we desire to “Be Prepared”, and a first aid kit should be stocked and ready to go as we go outside and enjoy our spring or summertime activities.

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Campfire Ash – Part 2 March 27, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

Several Scouting friends have recently asked me to provide more detail about how I collected ash for my boys. I have previously blogged about why I collect ash. Here is how I used ash to start a campfire ceremony, and how I collected ash and gave it away.

Starting Campfires – along with being a den leader, for two years I was our pack’s Outdoors Chair. One of the tasks I had the privilege of doing was starting our pack campfires. As I blogged about previously, as I started the fire, I would sprinkle some of the pack’s ash collection on the fire, and say some words. After the campfire was over, I took some of the campfire ash to add to the pack collection.

Collecting Ash – along with collecting ash for the pack, I collected theinfamousmugash from each campfire for my scouts. I was always there with my blue camping mug after a campfire to get ash (one time I forgot and drove away. I had to turn around and go back to the Scout camp to get the ash from the campfire ring). In the past few years in southern California we have started to douse fires to put them out, due to wildfires (before then, we’d just separate the coals and let it burn down overnight. Due to the persistent drought, we can no longer do this). So I would try to get ash when it was still hot with my metal mug and some pliers and heat gloves, and let it cool down overnight in the mug. But if I couldn’t get to it before it was doused with water, then I’d end up with chunks of wet coal that would need to be dried out on my workbench for a couple of weeks. (There are chunks of coal in the ash collection I gave the boys.)

Storing Ash – I would clean and keep pickle jars, mayonnaise jars, ash1or whatever jars I could. Once the ash was dried (if it came home wet), I’d store it in one of these jars, and I’d write the date of the campfire on the lid. This ended up taking a lot of room in my garage, so towards the end I started to put the ash in gallon zip bags, which took less space. I also kept a spreadsheet where I recorded the date of the campfire, the location of the campout, any interesting information (temperature, skit performed, noteworthy events, etc), and who in my den attended that campfire. I kept this from the beginning of our Tiger year to the end.

The Gift of Campfire Ash – after our last campfire at the end of the ashwriteupWebelos program, it was time to divy up the ash. I bought some small canning jars, and printed labels with each scout’s name and attached it to the lid. Then I reviewed the campfire attendance record and took a scoop of ash for each campfire that scout attended. Afterwards I made a write up of each campfire to give to the boys along with their jar, so they’d have a written record of what campfires they attended. 

Some attended all of the campfires, and received a full jar. Some only attended a few and didn’t get a full jar. But they all received the same challenge: keep adding to your campfire ash collection in Boy Scouts. Keep going to campouts and enjoying the outdoors.

I feel that collecting campfire ash is a great tradition. If this is something you are interested in, you can start now. With my first den, I didn’t start collecting until our Bear year. So I only had around two and a half years of ash to give out when we graduated. But that was enough to give away. Even if it’s the ash from your last campfire, that’s OK. The point of this is not to just give out the ash from all of their campfires, but to challenge them to keep in Scouting and add to it. It’s a visual reminder that the some best experiences in life are not in front of a T.V. or computer, but staring at the flames of a campfire with the sky overhead (or even with no campfire and just enjoying the stars and the fellowship).

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Fire-free Smores November 14, 2008

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Hello fellow Scouters,

Happy Friday to you! As you know, it’s just not a Cub Scout campout without smores. There’s something about the combination of chocolate, roasted marshmallow, and graham crackers that can’t be beat. But what if you don’t have a campfire? What are you to do?

Here in southern California, we get dry spells in the fall (called Santa Ana’s), and we have campfire restrictions. There’s nothing like sitting around the fire ring staring at a lantern in it! Sometimes, when it’s real dry and windy, we can’t even use hot coals (so no dutch ovens). But that doesn’t mean we can’t have smores!

It’s easy to make a smore with no fire or heat. You still use your chocolate, and you still use marshmallowcreamyour graham crackers. But instead of a marshmallow, you get a jar of marshmallow cream and substitute a spoonful of marshmallow cream for the roasted marshmallow. It tastes the same, and it still gets your child’s clothes and sleeping bag sticky. It’s not warm like a marshmallow right out of the fire, but a cold smore is better than no smore.

You can even use this outside of camping. Going to the beach for the day? Hosting a day-camp? Need a snack for a pack meeting? Now you can have smores and not have to worry about fire or marshmallow forks.

Enjoy!

In Scouting,

-Scouter Jeff <><

Campfire Ash October 23, 2008

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Hi fellow Scouters,

Hopefully you are a campfire ash collector. If not, you should consider collecting ash from campfires. “Why would I want to do that?” you may ask. Here’s some things to think about.

At the pack level: We started collecting a cupful of campfire ash from each pack campfire about 5 years ago. Each collection gets added to the pack collection (which is in a popcorn tin, of course) once it cools down. What makes this special is that at the beginning of each campfire, we sprinkle some from the pack ash collection to the fire. We talk about the scouts that have gone through our program and are with us “in spirit” when we sprinkle the ash. In my opinion, this is such a great way to start a campfire. Of course, you need to have a pack that’s really active in the outdoors to do this.

At the den level: One thing I’ve done in both dens that I’ve lead is had my own collection of ash from each campfire. I also record the attendance of my scouts at each campfire. When my den graduates to Boy Scouts, they will get a collection of ash from each campfire that they attended, along with a listing of the campfire date, location, and anything noteworthy about that campfire. They also get a challenge: Keep adding to this collection of ash in Boy Scouts. The goal is not to have a momento of Cub Scouting but to get them to keep going outdoors and keep attending campfires. Hopefully the boys will do this.

In Scouting,

-Jeff <><

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