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San Diego Council’s Scout Fair April 18, 2010

Posted by thetrainerscorner in Uncategorized.
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Hello fellow Scouters,

This past Saturday, my council (the San Diego-Imperial Council) had its annual Scout Fair, in the parking lot of San Diego’s football stadium. It’s an event they hold each year, and every year it’s so much fun. My son and I had the privilege of going there all day with our troop. (And I mean all day! We left the house at 6:45am and got home after 7pm!) Here’s a run-down of what happened at Scout Fair (and sorry about the quality of some of the pictures – they were taken with my cell phone’s camera).

I don’t have the actual blue-prints of the layout, as I’m not involved in the fair’s planning, but here’s what I found as I walked around the fair:

1) They had a large information area. There were booths set up for general information, then Scouting booths such as one for Eagle Scouts, council training, Woodbadge training, Sea Scouts, Venturing, Order of the Arrow, the Religious Emblems program, and many more. My district even had a booth there! One great booth there was for Mexico Scouts. They had wonderful bright yellow uniforms!

2) As you walked along, you came across the fun area. Different packs and troops set up games, activities, and challenges. You could spend all day there playing box hockey, putt-putt golf, rope games, spin the wheel games, etc. At the end of this area, there was a large section dedicated to Boy Scout pioneering displays like rope bridges, log towers, and catapults and trebuchets. And towering over this area was a rock-climbing wall!

3) In the midst of the fun zone was an eating area. Packs and troops did delicious outdoor cooking. I saw a lot of Dutch ovens and stoves going, and I sampled donut holes, wire-hanger pancakes, cobblers, and of course, chili for the Fair’s chili cook-off.

4) One of the areas we used to spend a lot of time in, back when we were Cub Scouts, was the Belt Loop Alley. This is an area dedicated to earning belt loops. Our former pack hosts a booth there every year, with adult leaders volunteering for “shifts”. As I walked around this area I even saw some of the new belt loops being worked on there, like Skateboarding. (No Video Games belt loop booths, though. Go figure.)

5) The last area is the Merit Badge Midway. Merit Badge (MB) counselors and/or troops can set up booth dedicated to a specific MB. Classes are held throughout the day, and the classes are so popular that they are usually filled up early in the day! The classes at our Scout Fair included First Aid, Cinematography, Theater, Railroading, Reptile and Amphibian Study, Art, Dentistry, and Space Exploration (see below for this one). Most of the MB’s can’t be completed at this Fair. So boys would get their Blue Cards partially filled out and must finish the MB later.

My troop’s Scoutmaster is a MB counselor for the Space Exploration MB, and our troop hosted this one. We had 3 booths set up for this: one for the lecture, one for the model rocket build, and one with a lot of information for the administrative part of this MB. Scouts could purchase rocket kits at the Fair and build them there and then launch them! We had a dedicated area in the parking lot where we shot off the rockets the boys built. One great thing about our booth is that a Scout could complete this MB here. Ours was rare – most of the booths only did part of the MB.

I worked for a couple of hours at our booth’s registration table, which was somewhat sad because I had to turn a lot of boys away (by 9:45am, our class was filled for the entire day, including a “waiting list” for each class). After working at the table I went down and helped in the rocket launch area. We taught the boys how to build a rocket and then launch it. Of course, we didn’t do it for them; we just taught them how to do it.

It was so much fun to help work this MB booth, and it was truly inspiring to see how hard our Scoutmaster worked at this booth. Us volunteers from the troop had shifts. He showed up at 6:30 am to set up and left at 6:30 pm, with no breaks in between. My son is lucky to have a Scoutmaster like that!

My council’s Scout Fair is always a fun event. What makes it so great is that the activities are all run by the individual units. A lot of dedicated Scouters work hard to deliver a fun day to the Scouts that come, and every year they make for a great Fair. Me and my son came home tired, with sore legs and a sunburn, but we had so much fun. I cannot wait for next year! I hope your council does a fun event like this. It’s great for Scouting!

In Scouting,

 – Scouter Jeff <><

Protecting Your Cub Program March 25, 2010

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Hello fellow Scouters,

I was talking with another Scouter recently about how, when a Cub Scout Pack gets press coverage, it never seems to be about the good that pack did. You don’t hear about the service projects. You don’t hear about the Blue and Gold banquets. You don’t hear about the Pinewood Derby races. We talked about why you only seem to hear when something bad happens. (And yes I know that these are generalizations, and not usually true).

But this conversation got me thinking about protecting our Cub program: its quality, our boys, and our pack finances. We all want our packs to be a place where fun happens. No one ever wants to see something bad occuring in their unit. So what are you doing to protect the fun program that Cub Scout offers? What do you have in place to keep the boys in your pack safe from abuse? What are you doing to keep financial scandal out of your pack?

Here are some suggestions to consider:

1 ) Training – Make no mistake: you cannot have a quality program without fully trained leaders! And a quality program is a fun program. We all want our leaders to be trained, and now that the BSA is making training mandatory, we have National’s assistance with this. And trained leaders are much more equipped to deliver a fun program than those that aren’t trained. So make sure your leaders and assistants are trained. Make sure your committee is trained. This is the starting point. And your Pack Trainer should be overseeing this.

2 ) Follow up when someone leaves the pack – And having the recently added committee position of a ScoutParent Unit Coordinator for this is key. Provide openness between the pack and the parents. Give the parents someone to go to if there are problems. And the ScoutParent Unit Coordinator is a great resource to follow up when someone leaves the pack. Too often we hear something like “Tommy hasn’t shown up in 3 months.” “Ok, we won’t recharter him”. It’s crucial to follow up when someone leaves to see why. Was the den running a boring program? Was there something about the leader that made them uncomfortable?  Was their bullying by another Scout? Some people just quit Scouting – it’s unavoidable. But it’s important to know why they leave, so if there are problems, they can be corrected. And this is a great task for a ScoutParent Unit Coordinator. (Visit www.scoutparents.org for more information on this position).

3 ) Watch den attrition – As I said earlier, some people leave Scouting. But if you have a den that’s constantly shedding members – that needs to be addressed. It could be as simple as boring meetings. Or it could be worse. Part of the Cubmaster’s job description is to “guide and support den leaders”, so this would be a good thing for them to look at. I know of a den that went from 13 boys to 7 boys in a year and a half. This needed to be looked at, and I doubt it was. Cub Scouting is a fun program. So when you see attrition like this, something else is going on and should be looked into.

4 ) YPG train your Tiger parents – When a parent signs up to be a Tiger adult partner, have them take YPG (Youth Protection Guidelines) training. Why is this important? As we know, knowledge is power. YPG training is excellent training, and having parents know what to look for in areas of youth protection will help them know when a situation looks wrong. And it’s often easier to get them trained when they are new to the program.

5 ) YPG train all adults in the pack – Along with the Tiger parents, consider having all parents train in YPG. You might think that’s over-kill, but if every parent knows what protection is expected from the program, then you will have fostered an environment where (hopefully) nothing can be hidden. Even if they take it only once and don’t get it renewed, they at least have a knowledge base of what youth protection should be. Following up on this could go to the Pack Trainer, but I think this would be an excellent job for a ScoutParent Unit Coordinator.

6 ) Make sure you have financial accountability – So that the risk of losing funds is lowered. Make sure you have 2 check signers required on checks (and make sure these are from different households). Make sure you don’t have a debit card attached to your pack’s checking account. Make sure someone verifies the popcorn and other fundraising deposits. Make sure you have a policy dealing with cash collections, so that more than one person is collecting cash at a fundraiser, bake sale, food sale, etc. And make sure your pack’s bank statements are being mailed to someone other than the treasurer (and make sure they are being reviewed and signed off). I’m an accounting controller as a career, and sometimes what I see going on in Cub packs or Little Leagues or other volunteer programs amazes me. Financial controls are vital in your pack. Have them in place, and it will be difficult for someone to take off with your pack’s money.

7 ) Keep the power separate – I think it’s a bad idea to have the most powerful positions in a pack from the same household. I see the three most powerful positions in the pack to be Cubmaster, Committee Chair, and Treasurer, and keeping these in separate households lowers your pack’s risk. What are the risks when you have the “power positions” of a pack in the same household? For starters, if they have to relocate for a job or get divorced, you can loose several key positions in your pack at once. Also, it’s easier to hide any financial impropriety when these positions are not separated. Your pack’s leadership structure is stronger when you keep the most powerful positions in you pack separate.

8 ) Have a leadership succession plan – I’m sure many of you are laughing at this point because you are having trouble filling the positions listed above! But if you are lucky enough to have enough volunteers, make sure that there’s a leadership succession plan in place at all levels. Leaders sometimes quit without notice. They might have to move. Something in their personal life might suddenly change. And having someone able to take a position, even if they aren’t fully “up to speed” can help the den program, the pack program, or the committee keep moving forward.

What do you do in your pack to keep the quality high, the program fun at all levels, and retain your boys? What advice would you give to help keep the boys in your pack protected from abuse? And what do you do in your pack to protect the money? Please leave any tips or suggestions in the comments so we can all learn from what you’ve done to protect your Cub program.

In Scouting,

 – Scouter Jeff <><

E-Mail Accounts October 29, 2008

Posted by thetrainerscorner in Uncategorized.
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Hi fellow Scouters,

E-mail is a crucial part of being involved in Scouting. I have no idea how they did Scouting before the days of the Internet and e-mail (the dark ages). How do you handle e-mail accounts? I learned early on as a leader that I’d rather have a separate Scouting e-mail vs. having my e-mail come to my main account. For me, it is so much easier to keep personal e-mail separate from Scouting e-mail. When I have time, I can take care of all the Scouting e-mails, and not have to find them mixed in with personal e-mails. Less things get lost, and I can manage them better (such as setting up folders). An additional benefit is that I can set up two different address books, and not have to worry about who are Scouting contacts and who are personal contacts.

Good communication is vital to being a good Scout leader. I will have a post one day on my thoughts about communication. But for me personally, one thing that helps me be a better communicator as a Scout leader is a separate e-mail account. If you are struggling with managing e-mail, consider setting up a separate e-mail. There are so many good free e-mail services out there (G-mail, Hotmail, Yahoo).

What works for you? Feel free to leave a comment about what works and what doesn’t work concerning e-mail.

In Scouting,

- Jeff <><

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