Friday, May 29, 2009

Merit Badge of the Week: Aviation

Flight is one of mankind's oldest dreams.  A toy glider has been found in the ruins of ancient Egypt.  

My eldest son's Scoutmaster 15 years ago, used to take the Scouts up in his personal craft and with a little instruction, turn the controls over.  The Scout would spend 30-45 minutes gliding around the airspace over the countryside and nearby mountain.  Big fun...and really scary for the dad sitting in the back seat!

The first Aviation merit badge was offered in 1911, with several variations from 1942 to 1952:  Aerodynamics, Aeronautics, Airplane Design and Airplane Structure.  No doubt, these were fueled by the aircraft needs of World War II.  1952 brought back the single Aviation merit badge.

16,483 Aviation merit badges were awarded in 2007 (last year statistics are posted at

The BSA website has the requirements posted for the Aviation merit badge.

Resource List

  1. Always start with "Introduction to Merit Badges" for the steps to a successful merit badge.
  2. Worksheet for Aviation from  This is a great tool to organize your work, projects and thoughts.
  3. Civil Air Patrol:  Youth aged 12-18 can fly and participate in their Cadet Program.
  4. Plug for a flying career:  The United States Air Force
  5. Model Airplane News online--blogs, plans, videos and more.  Serious hobbyist website.
  6. Serious discussion on lift.  Complete with math formulas.
  7. Details on aircraft instruments:  how they are arranged, what they do and what they look like.
  8. A little airplane fun: has animated instructions to fold 10 great planes.
  9. Federal Aviation Administration--home to all the rules, saftey procedures and accident/incident information.
  10. National Aviation Hall of Fame--lots to see and do here (especially their Learning Center).
Related BSA merit badges:  Model Design and Building; Space Exploration

Do you have a resource for the Aviation merit badge?  Please share your information, ideas and stories in the comments or on Twitter.

Weekend Patrol Box #17

Great thing about a short holiday week is how quickly the weekend comes around again!

We have our troop's first Eagle Court of Honor this Saturday, followed by a couple of hours working at Camp Rock Enon.  Free lunch at CRE, so not too much cooking to do though!

There will still be some time for rummaging around in the patrol box, looking for goodies to share and enjoy.

Enjoy the weekend!
  1. Great American Backyard Campout--Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturers, Scouters and families can all help make this an annual event at your house!
  2. Camping sale at ends Sunday, 31 MAY:
  3. Cub Scout friendly project (Gardening merit badge, too):  How to grow corn in a container
  4. The Phantom Torso Returns--OK, definitely a Space Exploration merit badge topic from NASA.
  5. American Red Cross is having an event:  01-07 JUN is National CPR/AED Awareness Week.  Local Red Cross organizations are sponsoring events.
  6. Minnesota's Anthony Thomas is Eagle Scout #2,000,000.  Congratulations!
  7. Popsticks--anyone have one?  I have one coming and I'll report on it here.  Appears to be a neat gadget and could save a lot of trees from "marshmallow terror".
  8. New Scouter blog with advice on using Twitter. (Try @scoutsigns to see!)
  9. Advice on overnight camp:  is your child ready?
  10. Scouting News has information on a pilot program to use jetskis with Boy Scouts in the Blue Ridge Mountain Council.  Please don't tell my son...
Anything left over in your patrol box to share?  Please comment below! Or visit me on Twitter to share your idea.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Speak up!

Recently I posted about becoming a BSA Speaker.

Nice picture of the knot.  Lots of rah-rah.  So this is kind of a part 2, but more details to entice you to give it a try.  Especially you bloggers or regular forum commenters out there who have a lot to say and share with the non-Scouting world.

I know, I know...non-Scouting world?  Hard to imagine.

Turns out, that once you are signed up for the BSA Speakers Bank, you will receive a nifty package in the mail.  I received one yesterday (so, yes, I take my own advice and I signed up).

Here's what you'll get in the mail:
  • Nice letter with a gold BSA Speaker lapel pin.
  • 60 page booklet on "Good Turn for America Tips for Success" aimed at encouraging participation in reporting Good Turn for America projects.
  • Detailed information on the webpage for the BSA Speakers Bank.
  • A collection of websites useful to speakers:, the BSA Brand Identity Guide, Speaking of Scouting, The Scout Zone,, Information Center, Language of Scouting and the online Insignia Guide.
  • Step-by-step instructions on adding BSA Speakers to your MyScouting profile.
  • Instructions on getting "Be Prepared I'm Prepared" brochure and Powerpoint presentation.
  • Nice guide called "Be Prepared" with flip pages on each Scouting program with FAQs, as well as a page for Charterd Organizations.

And the cool stuff:
  • 100 years of Scouting bumpersticker
  • BSA Speaker ribbon
  • Certificate from Robert Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive, appreciating my service to Scouting.

At the top of the certificate is an image of a position patch for "Speaker".  I can't find an image of it to share, but it is really sharp and if it doesn't exist, it should.

So, are you motivated to be a BSA Speaker yet?  Do you have a copy of the image you can share?  Are you a Speaker?  Tell me about your experiences.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Weekend Patrol Box #16

National Honor Patrol Award, cloth, No. 00367, Boy Scout, beneath patrol emblem of patrol that has met the

Great way to begin the weekend!  

One of our patrols has earned the National Honor Patrol Award, which they will receive at our Court of Honor next weekend.  They worked on it as a patrol, with little interference from the adults.  It is a great example to set for our new patrol of former Webelos, the Bloody Sharks.

Here are a few spices to enjoy with your Memorial Day Weekend patrol box:

  1. The Best Patrols from Scouting magazine.  Includes National Honor Patrol requirements.
  2. Prone to blisters when hiking?  Everything you wanted to know about taping them.
  3. Finally, it's back--Merit Badge of the Week:  Automotive Maintenance
  4. Great series on Webelos to Troop conversion at The Trainer's Corner.
  5. Immersion training for the New Scout Patrol--part 1, part 2 and part 3.
  6. Webelos Scout, not Webelos--got it.  Thanks KISMIF.
  7. Arbor Day Foundation--BSA tree for the 100th Anniversary.  You buy one, and another will be planted in the "newly created Boy Scouts of America Centennial Forest" for each tree you purchase.
  8. Be a BSA Speaker--easy to do, and I'm all signed up.  Anyone need a speaker?
  9. Name that council! Each week, BSA's Cracker Barrel blog posts a council shoulder patch with the words blocked out for you to try and figure out.  Patch hounds will probably know, and interesting for the rest of us.
  10. In honor of Memorial Day--everything you always wanted to know about it.

How will your troop or pack spend the Memorial Day weekend?  Anything exciting?  Share your plans with us in the comments.

Scoutsigns on Twitter.

Webelos Scout to Boy Scout, part 3


What we accidentally learned was that:
  1. 11 year-old Scouts can handle the Wilderness Survival merit badge. 
  2. This was a great way to stress the importance of the 10 essentials.
  3. Wilderness Survival merit badge can be taught well and effectively as a group.  The more experienced Scouts had plenty of leadership opportunities to teach and demonstrate skills.
  4. The Scouts figured out how little they really need to go camping or backpacking.  Subsequent camping trips have had gear slashed food is well thought out (usually) to account for weight and necessity.
  5. They have figured out how to make each thing they bring do 2 or 3 jobs.
We were able to test out new-found theories out a few weeks ago.  We brought 5 newly crossed-over Scouts camping with us.  Each patrol was able to get their own campsite, all within 100 yards of each other.

The weather was a lot better (sunny and 60s during the day, 30s at night).  The new Scouts were greener than the previous year, so that balanced the weather out.

The older Scouts were anxious to get started, and build much better shelters this year than last.  I challenged them to really pretend they had gotten lost with just their 10 essentials--no sleeping bag.  Some of the shelters I would have gladly slept in--they were well constructed, water resistant, and downright roomy.

The new Scouts were a different story.  We used the same format as last year--instruction, followed by building shelters and having the older Scouts provide advice and encouragement.  Two of the new Scouts were nervous--homesickness and fear crept in.

You could tell that they were considering bolting back to their tent and campsite once it got dark out.

Command decision:  "Guys, let's save some time in the morning, and break down the campsites tonight."  A lot of "deer in the headlights" looks from the new Scout patrol.

An hour later the van was packed, and as the sun went down, they trudged off to their shelters.

...and loved it!  No one had any trouble sleeping, no one woke up afraid in the night, and they had a great new level of confidence and experience to draw on.  

Word has already trickled down to next year's Webelos Scouts that this adventure is waiting for them next April.

What does your troop do to help "break in" the new guys?  What worked well?  What didn't?  Share your experience in the comments.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Just received this ad in my email--it doesn't give the expiration date for the sale, but looks like a good deal.  I may have to pick up one for a Scout in need, and the BOGO (buy one, get one) will go to the "experienced" uniform closet.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Webelos Scout to Boy Scout, part 2

...I rousted the SPL a little before 7.  He in turn got the woodstove going and the patrol cooks moving.  They cooked for the new guys to give them an idea of how it happens and some options that didn't involve instant oatmeal.

We launched into an aggressive session of Wilderness Survival.  We would spend the day mixing the action items (build three fires without matches, demonstrate three ways to purify water) with the "book work" (memorize the seven priorities of survival, first aid, discussions on panic and good morale).  

Mid-morning we had our first eye-opener:  hail pounding on the windows and metal roof of the cabin.  Outside the cabin door, it was an inch deep in spots.

"Are we spending the night out in THAT?!?!"

Our training on building and finding adequate shelter took on a whole new meaning after that.  

A quick lunch and the Scouts were turned loose to get their shelters set up for the night.  Older Scouts were to do it, too, even if they already had the merit badge--and they were expected to inspect and make suggestions for the new Scouts.

Each Scout was allowed their sleeping bag and 10 essentials.  That's it.

They were given until dinner time, then much cooking happened, campfire stories were told, and they trucked off into the dark to find their shelters and settle in for the night.  It was supposed to get down to 30 degrees overnight, and I expected a few to straggle back to the cabin.

But not one did.  A Coleman lantern burned from the back of the cabin to help orient them in case of emergency.  All Scouts were within 150 yards.

More freak weather--high winds kicked in overnight, adding windchill to the mix.  Still, no one came in.

The following morning at the crack of dawn, I headed out to check on everyone.  (Plus I was tired of keeping the woodstove going...)

Each Scout was found sleeping soundly, warm and in good spirits.

Merit Badge of the Week: Automotive Maintenance

There are a couple of fairly common references to Scouts and automobiles.
  1. It is one of the "fumes"--perfumes and car fumes.
  2. Eagle Scouts may have a driver's license in my house. Get busy.

The American love of the automobile is legendary. Monster trucks, radio controlled cars, the '57 Chevy, and even the pinewood derby feed our imagination for things that go fast!

The Merit Badge History page at shows this attraction to Boy Scouts goes back to 1911 with the Automobiling merit badge.

Automotive Maintenance (the name just changed from Auto Mechanics) was awarded 7480 times in 2007, the most recent year for the data. (BSA Fact Sheet)

As cars and trucks become more computerized, there are evolving changes to what can be maintained now. Even changing a headlight can require time and special tools. Maintaining your own vehicle can save you time and money, too.

The BSA website has the requirements posted for Automotive Maintenance.

Resource List
  1. Always start with Introduction to Merit Badges for the steps to a successful merit badge.
  2. Worksheet on Automotive Maintenance from This is a great tool to organize your work, projects and thoughts.
  3. Automotive terms from
  4. NPR's Car Talk show:  My kids love this show as much as I do.  Some of your Scouts might recognize their voices from characters in Pixar's movie Cars.  New show every week.
  5. Car Talk's Teen Driver Area
  6. Car Talk's Search of 1500 columns
  7. Change a tire, step by step.  Funny and good details.
  8. Change the oil, at
  9. Check the fluids!  Concise list to keep everything working right.  Missing fluids are really bad...
  10. Automotive careers--lots of information on a wide variety of car related careers

Related BSA merit badges: Traffic Safety, Truck Transportation

Do you have a resource for the Automotive Maintenance merit badge? Please share via email or the comments below.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Webelos Scout to Boy Scout

"The Trainer's Corner" blog has been running a series on getting Webelos Scouts ready and into a troop.

Over the last two years, I've stumbled across a method that is working well.  On paper, it might seem a little drastic.

We are fortunate that our council has a Webelos Crossover weekend in early April.  Webelos Scouts from all over come to shoot a rifle for the first time (as Boy Scouts anyway) and cover virtually all of the Scout badge and Tenderfoot rank requirements.  

A lot of dedicated volunteers come out to help make this happen.  Scouts travel from station to station from breakfast early to a post-campfire crackerbarrel after 9PM.

The transition weekend is a blend of Boy Scout material in a Cub Scout format.  Honestly, that is the only downside of it to me.  With the number of boys to process, that might be the only way to handle it, too.

Our troop though takes a different approach after that weekend:  Wilderness Survival merit badge.

Last year, our program plan called for Wilderness Survival in the early spring--always an unpredicatable time in the mountains of Virginia.

The troop arrived at Camp Rock Enon in nice, cool weather.  There had been rain earlier in the week, and the usual shoe-sucking mudholes were easy to identify.  A number of the Scouts were brand new, and this was their first campout with the troop.

For ease, we used a large cabin with a great woodstove and covered outdoor shelter to teach the basics of Firem'n Chit and the Totin' Chip.  With dinner preparation and getting camp set up, that filled most of Friday night.

Our new SPL called it a night, and everyone hit the sack.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

BSA Speaker

Do you really love the Boy Scouts of America?  

Does the 100th anniversary get your blood up, in a good way?

Are you the leader that can't get enough of the program?  Active in a lot of things?  Trained?  

Love to share your good news and the BSA message?

Blog, tweet and participate in online groups for Scouting?

You should consider the BSA Speakers Bank.

From the website:
The BSA Speakers Bank is a national resource for volunteers and executives that provides BSA speakers with a centralized resource of speech templates, topics, and other presentation tools for use at the local, regional, and national levels. This asset will serve as a critical component as we re-introduce Scouting to communities across America.
To become part of the Speakers Bank, you need to contact your Scout Executive as only the SE can enter you into the Speakers Bank.  There are speeches and powerpoint presentations available online to help you out.

Hey, there might even be a free lunch! 20 speeches earns you the nifty Speakers Bank knot, too.

Are you currently part of the Speakers Bank?  Any stories to share?  Feel free to help us with a comment.

Friday, May 01, 2009

April Tweets

Below is a summary of the most popular tweets from April (@Scoutsigns), per Hootsuite.

One thing I noticed is that the huge increase in clicks from Patrol Box #14 (68 clicks) over Patrol Box #15 (19 clicks).  

The difference?  I posted the link to #14 at the Boy-Scout-Talk YahooGroup, whereas I just listed the regular blog link for #15.  As many folks may have read #15, but it is harder to tell.

Good lesson.

Here you go:

Most Popular Tweets

1. essay on the Boy Scouts! Clicks
2. American Backyard Campout--add to your calendar! Clicks
3. Scouts bad for the environment? Clicks
4. speaks volumes...Tetanus Guide for Hikers and Adventurers | Clicks
5. Patrol Box #14 up What Scouting blogs do you like? Leave in comments!68 Clicks
6. once I'd like to be this organized... How organized is your pack or troop?24 Clicks
7.! Six Ways You Should Be Using Twitter (that Don't Involve Breakfast) - Feature Clicks
8. different Boy Scout Trail Another great Arbor Day idea.20 Clicks
9. No Trace Blog: To leave or not to leave... Firewood Clicks
10. Patrol Box #15 Clicks

So which did you like the best?  How about that tetanus picture/? Gruesome.