Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Merit Badge of the Week: American Heritage

"American Heritage" should have been awarded a lot more than it has.

4,274 American Heritage merit badges were awarded in 2007, out of 1.89 million. (BSA Fact Sheet)

When I was a kid, we were taught US History in the eighth and eleventh grades. Any Boy Scout who takes American History in school gets enough background to complete this merit badge. This also goes hand-in-hand with the "Citizenship in the Nation" merit badge--knock them out at the same time!

"To do my duty to God and my country..."--learning about our nation's history is an important part of knowing why we have duty to country.

The American Heritage merit badge requires reading the Declaration of Independence and understanding key parts; learning about the contributions of individual Americans; determining the historical perspective of a current event; describing the significant icons of America; connecting your family history to our country's history; learning about historical places in your area; observing media on American history; and finally describing career options in American Heritage.

The latest American Heritage merit badge requirements from the BSA:

1. Read the Declaration of Independence. Pay close attention to the section that begins with "We hold these truths to be self-evident" and ends with "to provide new Guards for their future security." Rewrite that section in your own words, making it as easy to understand as possible. Then, share your writing with your merit badge counselor and discuss the importance of the Declaration to all Americans.

2. Do TWO of the following:
a. Select two individuals from American history, one a political leader (a president, senator, etc.) and the other a private citizen (a writer, religious leader, etc.). Find out about each person's accomplishments and compare the contributions each has made to America's heritage.
b. With your counselor's approval, choose an organization that has promoted some type of positive change in American society. Find out why the organization believed this change was necessary and how it helped to accomplish the change. Discuss how this organization is related to events or situations from America's past.
c. With your counselor's approval, interview two veterans of the U.S. military. Find out what their experiences were like. Ask the veterans what they believe they accomplished.
d. With your counselor's approval, interview three people in your community of different ages and occupations. Ask these people what America means to them, what they think is special about this country, and what American traditions they feel are important to preserve.

3. Do the following:
a. Select a topic that is currently in the news. Describe to your counselor what is happening. Explain how today's events are related to or affected by the events and values of America's past. b. For each of the following, describe its adoption, tell about any changes since its adoption, and explain how each one continues to influence Americans today: the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, the seal, the motto, and the national anthem.
c. Research your family's history. Find out how various events and situations in American history affected your family. Share what you find with your counselor. Tell why your family came to America.

4. Do TWO of the following:
a. Explain what is meant by the National Register of Historic Places. Describe how a property becomes eligible for listing. Make a map of your local area, marking the points of historical interest. Tell about any National Register properties in your area. Share the map with your counselor, and describe the historical points you have indicated.
b. Research an event of historical importance that took place in or near your area. If possible, visit the place. Tell your counselor about the event and how it affected local history. Describe how the area looked then and what it now looks like.
c. Find out when, why, and how your town or neighborhood started, and what ethnic, national, or racial groups played a part. Find out how the area has changed over the past 50 years and try to explain why.
d. Take an active part in a program about an event or person in American history. Report to your counselor about the program, the part you took, and the subject.
e. Visit a historic trail or walk in your area. After your visit, share with your counselor what you have learned. Discuss the importance of this location and explain why you think it might qualify for National Register listing.

5. Do ONE of the following:
a. Watch two motion pictures (with the approval and permission of your counselor and parent) that are set in some period of American history. Describe to your counselor how accurate each film is with regard to the historical events depicted and also with regard to the way the characters are portrayed.
b. Read a biography (with your counselor's approval) of someone who has made a contribution to America's heritage. Tell some things you admire about this individual and some things you do not admire. Explain why you think this person has made a positive or a negative contribution to America's heritage.
c. Listen to recordings of popular songs from various periods of American history. Share five of these songs with your counselor, and describe how each song reflects the way people felt about the period in which it was popular. If a recording is not available, have a copy of the lyrics available.

6. Discuss with your counselor the career opportunities in American heritage. Pick one that interests you and explain how to prepare for this career. Discuss what education and training are required for this career.
Resource List:

Do you have a resource for the American Heritage merit badge? Please let me know via email or the comments below.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend Patrol Box #4

Hmmm, looks like a rainy weekend coming up.

Better make sure the Patrol Box has things in plastic baggies to keep everything fresh and dry.

This wet weekend will need plenty of coffee, a merit badge manual, maybe a video, plenty to read and a project to try out.

Hope you have a good weekend, stay dry and well informed!

On a cold, wet weekend, coffee is an issue. The comments section has plenty of good advice, too.

How to Use a Bear Canister courtesy of Backpacker.com. Another informative video from the experts, part of their Survival 101 series.

American Cultures merit badge is the Merit Badge of the Week at Scoutsigns. This is another under-earned merit badge (my opinion). It is pretty straight forward, and needs a quick look.

Adventures in Books is the Cub theme for October. Use Kismif.org to help prepare your pack's month of adventure.

There is a reading contest at Boys' Life, too. Everyone gets a patch, some will win up to $100 in gift certificates. Plenty of time--grab a book!

Scouts can't have all the fun. Here is a contest just for Scouters: Great Tastes in Camp Cooking Recipe Contest. Entries are due soon--01 OCT 2008, so hurry! You can enter online. Anyone have a recipe worth $400?
A wet weekend at a picnic table under cover is good time to carve the perfect pumpkin. 'Tis the season.

...it is also popcorn season. Tip #5 is available now, with about half the season to go.

Any tips you think should be here? Drop me a line at Scoutsigns or use the comments below.

Popcorn Tip--Week #6: Sign-up sheets at work

Bringing a sign-up sheet to work is an easy idea. Older Scouts may be able to bring one to their own jobs.

Almost every Scout can ask a parent to bring one in, too.

Before you do though, parents should check with the workplace to make sure it is OK. No one wants to get a parent in trouble while they are trying to help “support Scouting”.

If it is OK, then make sure the sign-up sheet has your name on it. Fill in the line at the bottom about payments made by check. Just like selling to your neighbors, the parent can collect up front, or when they deliver the popcorn.

Make sure the sign-up sheet shows that deliveries will be made in mid-November.

Maybe you can walk around where your parent works—ask and see. If so, remember to wear your uniform, and bring your best manners. Thank everyone for their time.

When it is time for delivering the popcorn, ask your parent if you can help with the deliveries. Grown-ups like to see a Scout doing his own work.

Tip: Remember, the people your parents work with are important to your parents! Be polite and friendly.

Past Popcorn Tips:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Merit Badge of the Week: American Cultures

"American Cultures" can be represented in many ways. Different parts of America over the past several centuries have seen the influx of peoples from around the world.

Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, South and Central America, Australia and hundreds of islands spanning the globe have contributed to America.

The right of religious freedom and the promise of the American dream have led many to come here, looking to pursue the lives they want to live.

This has caused a great "melting pot", where language, cultural habits and differences can both exist and become part of the bigger picture that is our country.

The American Cultures merit badge is designed to show you about the different people of America: their customs, traditions, religions and backgrounds; their differences and similarities between groups; significant contributions by members of the groups; and to lead a conversation about the relationship between different cultures.

1. Do TWO of the following, choosing a different group for each:
a. Go to a festival, celebration, or other event identified with one of the groups. Report on what you see and learn.
b. Go to a place of worship, school, or other institution identified with one of the groups. Report on what you see and learn.
c. Talk with a person from one of the groups about the heritage and traditions of the group. Report on what you learn.
d. Learn a song, dance, poem, or story that is traditional to one group, and teach it to a group of your friends.
e. Go to a library or museum to see a program or exhibit featuring one group's traditions. Report on what you see and learn.

2. Imagine that one of the groups had always lived alone in a city or country to which no other groups ever came. Tell what you think the city or country might be like today. Now tell what you think it might be like if the three groups you chose lived there at the same time.

3. Tell about some differences between the religious and social customs of the three groups. Tell about some ideas or ways of doing things that are similar in the three groups.

4. Tell about a contribution made to our country by three different people, each from a different racial, ethnic, or religious background.

5. Give a talk to your Scout unit or class at school on how people from different groups have gotten along together. Lead a discussion on what can be done to help various groups understand one another better.

Resource list:

Do you have a resource for the American Cultures merit badge? Please let me know via email or the comments below.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Popcorn Tip--Week #5: Big Box Stores

Wal-Mart, Target, Books-a-Million, Lowes are all kinds of "big box" stores. They are often supporters of Scouting.

While they won't let you walk around inside selling, they will usually let you set up a table outside so you can sell popcorn.

Your popcorn chairman will probably make the arrangements. They will work out a time and date, bring the popcorn and the sign-up sheets, and look for Scouts to help work at the booth.

Volunteer! Let them know you want to help.

Thousands of people walk through those big doors everyday. People just like you, who like to see a young Scout out trying to help "support Scouting".

Show up for your turn at the table on time, and in uniform. Be neat and clean. Use the bathroom before you start your turn! Have a buddy at the table all the time.

Smile! Be excited! If you are excited, the people you talk to will get excited.

Stand up. Sitting down doesn't make you look very excited.

Say "Hi" to people as they walk to the doors. Even if they don't answer or look at you, "A Scout is friendly."

If they do look at you, ask them if they would like to help "support Scouting". Some will come over to your table, some won't.

Let them look at the popcorn, and then ask them to fill in the sign-up sheet. Collect the money, and give them the popcorn. Thank them for helping to "support Scouting".

Stay until the next Scout arrives to work at the table—and wish him luck!

Tip: Some folks want to leave a cash donation instead of buying popcorn. Our units add up those donations during the popcorn season, and buy "Military Donations" with them. Just seems like the right thing to do!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Weekend Patrol Box #3

The Patrol Box is clean, stocked and ready for another weekend of fun and Scouting.

There are a lot of goodies below, waiting to help your program out. Merit badges, a fire building video, popcorn sales, and lots to ponder--have a good weekend!

Ropes and Poles strikes again! (This is quickly becoming a favorite website.) Troop 423 will be trying out the Simple Friction Lock Bridge this weekend.

Scoutsigns introduced the Merit Badge of the Week Program--and the first week is American Business. Find lots of resources to help a Scout, or Scouter turned merit badge counselor.

The Scoutmaster Minute points out the value of your money in Scouting. A Scout is thrifty. This doesn't always mean "cheap".

Speaking of value: how are your popcorn sales going? See another tip--4th one!

Social networking is a growing part of your Scout's life: now the BSA has joined Facebook to connect with them.

Backpacker magazine demonstrates starting a fire with one match, a great survival skill to master. Video clips grab attention, and men are definitely visual--use them in your meetings.

BoyScoutTrail lights up a Webelos activity badge ceremony.

The Boy Scout Trail blog also highlights Confluence.org, where the intersections of latitude and longitude are photographed for an unique look at the world.

Let me know if there are other sites or news you would like to see. I'd love to read your comments on any way you use this material.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Merit Badge of the Week: American Business

"American Business" is in the news a lot today. Good news, bad news. It constantly changes, and seems to have a life of its own.

The American Business merit badge is designed to teach you about free enterprise; the relationship between money, business, government, banking and insurance; and labor relations. You will also learn the basics of the stock market, run your own business for 90 days, and complete a short reseach project.

1. Do the following:
a. Explain four features of the free enterprise system in the United States. Tell its benefits and responsibilities. Describe the difference between freedom and license. Tell how the Scout Oath and Law apply to business and free enterprise.
b. Describe the Industrial Revolution. Tell about the major developments that marked the start of the modern industrial era in the United States. Tell about five people who had a great influence on business or industry in the United States. Tell what each did.

2. Do the following:
a. Visit a bank. Talk with one of the officers or staff. Chart the organization of the bank. Show its relationship with other banks, business, and industry.
b. Explain how changes in interest rates, taxes, and government spending affect the flow of money into or out of business and industry.
c. Explain how a proprietorship or partnership gets its capital. Discuss and explain four ways a corporation gets its capital.
d. Explain the place of profit in business.
e. Name five kinds of insurance useful to business. Describe their purposes.

3. Do the following:
a. Pick two or more stocks from the financial pages of a newspaper. Request the annual report or prospectus from one of the companies by writing, or visit its Web site (with your parent's permission) to view the annual report online. Explain how a company's annual report and prospectus can be used to help you manage your investments.
b. Pretend you have bought $1,000 worth of the stocks from the company you wrote to in requirement 3a. Explain how you "bought" the stocks. Tell why you decided to "buy" stock in this company. Keep a weekly record for three months of the market value of your stocks. Show any dividends declared.

4. Do ONE of the following:
a. Draw an organizational chart of a typical central labor council.
b. Describe automation, union shop, open shop, collective-bargaining agreements, shop steward, business agent, and union counselor.
c. Explain the part played by four federal or state agencies in labor relations.

5. Run a small business involving a product or service for at least three months. First find out the need for it. For example: a newspaper route, lawn mowing, sales of things you have made or grown. Keep records showing the costs, income, and profit or loss.Report:
a. How service, friendliness, hard work, and salesmanship helped build your business.
b. The benefits you and others received because you were in business. Comparable 4-H, FFA, or Junior Achievement projects may be used for requirement 5.

6. Do ONE of the following:
a. Make an oral presentation to your Scout troop about an e-commerce company. Tell about the benefits and pitfalls of doing business online, and explain the differences between a retailer and an e-commerce company. In your presentation, explain the similarities a retailer and an e-commerce company might share.
b. Choose three products from your local grocery store or mall and tell your merit badge counselor how the packaging could be improved upon so that it has less impact on the environment.
c. Gather information from news sources and books about a current business leader. Write a two-page biography about this person or make a short presentation to your counselor. Focus on how this person became a successful business leader.

Resource list:
Do you have a resource for the American Business merit badge? Please let me know via email or the comments below.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Popcorn Tip--Week #4: Neighbors

No matter where you live, you have neighbors. They might be in an apartment upstairs, the townhouse next door, across the street, or on the next farm—but you have neighbors.

First, put a sign in your yard letting everyone know you are selling popcorn to “support Scouting”.

Second, get a buddy. A buddy might be an older sister, a Boy Scout, or a parent—the buddy system always applies.

Next, put 10 one-dollar bills into an envelope for change, and put your sign-up sheet on a clipboard. You and your buddy are ready to go see the neighbors!

Go up to the first door and knock. If no one answers, try the doorbell. If no one answers after that, go to the next door.

If someone answers the door, tell them: “Hi, I’m Tim and I wanted to know if you’d like to help support Scouting?” Then be quiet and listen to what they say.

If “No”, thank them for their time, and go to the next door. There is nothing wrong with “No”.

If “Yes”, show them the options on your clipboard, and let them look. Ask them to fill in the information on the sign-up sheet. Then, ask if they would like to go ahead and pay now—this will make delivery a lot faster for you in November.

They can always pay later when you make your delivery. When they are finished, let them know that the delivery will be in mid-November. Thank them for their time and for “supporting Scouting”.

Finally, go to the next door.

If you do this for half-an-hour, a couple of times a week, you’ll be surprised how quickly you fill up a sheet!

Tip: Sometimes people want to know what your favorite kind is, or what you recommend. Know the answer, so you can tell them right away!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Merit Badge of the Week Program

One idea that I want to pursue in this blog is a resource list for merit badges.

I think many Scout leaders and troops face the difficulty of locating a merit badge counselor who is truly an expert. Often, a parent or Scoutmaster becomes the default merit badge counselor.

Many merit badges are under-earned (my opinion), only a couple of thousand a year out of 2 million plus earned nationwide. Let's change that.

So whether you are looking for more information on a topic, or are that "default" counselor, or are a Scout hot in pursuit of your merit badge, I have an idea that will help.

Each week, on Wednesday, ScoutSigns will publish a "Merit Badge of the Week".
I'll include images of the badge and a cover of the new merit badge book; a copy of the current requirements; a link to online worksheets to help collect your work; links to BSA materials; and (hopefully) 10 online resources specifically aimed at that merit badge.
The first one will be for "American Business":

You can help by sending me links and resources you find online--for any merit badge! Don't wait for the "right week".
Have a Genealogy link? Go ahead and send it over!
Let me know what you think.

Weekend Patrol Box #2

This week’s Patrol Box is chock full of goodies for you to sample. Since this is the second edition after last week's, we now have a "tradition".

There were a lot of interesting things this week, both Scouting and non-Scouting oriented, that will help your Scouts have a great Scouting experience.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think! If you don't see a blog or website below that needs mentioning, put in the comments below.

Backpacker magazine leads the way with a fun video about handling bear attacks on the trail. No “bears or interns” were harmed indeed.

American Red Cross has news on efforts for Hurricane Ike. Perfect timing: September is National Preparedness Month.

Popcorn tip #3 at Scoutsigns shows you how to tap a few big sales this season.

Boy's Life online has a great tool (new to me) to help keep Scouts "physically strong"--the BL Gym!

Boy Scout Trail's Scoutmaster Musings has quick advice for packing your pack properly--good photo examples!

A Scoutmaster’s Blog taunts us with Magic Eskimo Counting Sticks. If you know the secret, feel free to tell me!

The Scoutmaster Minute is all about character and the 12 points.

Lone Star Scouter is preparing for Ike, with a good list of things to do to prepare for big weather.

Tip Dad blog: What killed backyard football games? Some good points to consider about life balance for kids.

KISMIF continues to be better organized than I am: November's theme for Cub Scouts. There are also more entries to help out with October's Adventures in Books.

After reading all of that, there will be a lot of information to digest!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Popcorn Tip--Week #3: Civic organizations and Churches

There are groups of people out there that want to help you--lots of them.

These groups believe in organizations like Scouting, because they are organizations like Scouting. They support their communities and the people in them.

Look in your phone book for organizations like: the American Legion, Ruritan, the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), Kiwanis, Lions, Moose, Elks, Rotary Club, and Knights of Columbus. Send them a quick letter to let them know what you are doing.

Military organizations like the American Legion and VFW may be very receptive to hearing about the Military Donation option offered by Trails End. Include a print-out from the Trails End website (http://www.trails-end.com/TEPublic/leaders/military.asp) of the Military Donation advertisement.

Churches in your area (especially yours!) may let you include a short note in their weekly bulletin, or post a sign-up sheet in the lobby. If your church offers a "coffee social" after services, man a table.

It can take a few weeks for groups to meet or bulletins to print your notice, so start early to give them plenty of time.

Make sure your name and phone number are provided so people can call you directly.

Spell out the deadline to respond—people won’t hurry if there isn’t a stopping point!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Weekend Patrol Box #1

The Weekend Patrol Box is a summary of the links that I have come across during this week. Hopefully, they will add something special to your units.

A good patrol box has all the goodies in it you need to get through the weekend--spices, utensils, pans, maybe a dutch oven, matches and more. If something is missing, you can often find something else tucked away in a corner to make due with, or create something completely new!

This patrol box is stocked with things to help you and your Scouts have a great Scouting experience:

ScoutSigns began with a way to help get your popcorn sales poppin'!

A Scoutmaster's Blog has 10 GREAT reasons to be a leader.

I've shared The Knight's Code with my Cubs before, and they liked seeing the similarities with the Cub Scout Promise.

The Cub Scout theme for September is New Buddies--all about being a friend and recruiting new Scouts. Definitely use the Program Helps to keep your pack and dens on track.

Scoutmaster Musings over at boyscouttrail.com shares information on a new way to promote Leave No Trace within your troop.

KISMIF--Keep it simple, make it fun! Links to help with September's Communicator activity badge for Webelos Scouts.

BSA is highlighting National Scout Day in coordination with the National Park Service--Saturday, 27 SEP 2008.

Ropes and Poles is a new website (to me), and the Belgian Arch Bridge shows you what Scouts can do when they put their minds to it!

Did I miss a link or blog that you think was important? Please let me know in the Comments.

Monday, September 01, 2008


Just a quick reminder, that this is a great time to recruit new members for your units.

The Cub Scout theme this month is "New Buddies".

There are "back to school" nights.

And don't forget the ongoing "Centennial Recruiter Patch" program from the BSA website.

Send an invitation to a friend to come see a meeting or activity at The Scout Zone, too.

Popcorn Tip--Week 2: Call last year’s list

If you sold popcorn last year, you have a great list to help get your sales started off this year.

The people on that list said “yes” once, and are likely to say it again.

Look at last year’s sign-up sheet, and call the people on it. Remind them that they helped to “support Scouting” last year, and let them know you appreciated it. Ask them if they would like to support you again this year with another purchase like last years.

Be nice. Be polite.

If they say “yes”, thank them for their order and their time. Let them know when to expect delivery (mid-November). They can pay you at that time.

If they say “no, thanks”, still thank them for their time. Everyone likes to be appreciated, even if it didn’t turn out quite like you had hoped.

Either way, move on to the next person on the list and try again. Sales is about trying, again and again. Some folks say “yes”, some “no”.

Not asking at all is a definite “no”!

Tip: when you finish your sheet, ask your Popcorn Kernel if any others are available.