Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Merit Badge of the Week: Bugling

Luck lets you wake up 2 minutes before the bugle starts to broadcast.

Clear notes float through the woods, letting everyone know what time it is and to get their day started.  Or to hunker back into their sleeping bag and groan.

Several months ago, I made a general inquiry by email about how troops use buglers--I just don't see them outside of summer camp.  I was surprised at the passionate response from a couple of units.

One uses theirs to call out each of the 15 calls from the merit badge (as appropriate of course--you don't call "Fire" just because you can).  They keep several boys in training (whether or not they play an instrument outside of Scouting) to always have one ready to go.

Good plan.  I've seen Taps played on a tuba (no bugler)--entertaining and odd.  A bugle would have been better.


  1. Always begin with an Introduction to Merit Badges from the BSA--and the worksheet from
  2. The official requirements for Bugling.
  3. Baden-Powell and Bugle Calls from
  4. Sheet music for the bugle (or trumpet or cornet)
  5. 67 Bugle Calls by John Philip Sousa
  6. Audio:  First Call
  7. Audio:  Reveille
  8. Audio:  Assembly
  9. Audio:  Mess
  10. Audio:  Drill
  11. Audio:  Fatigue
  12. Audio:  Officers
  13. Audio:  Recall
  14. Audio:  Church
  15. Audio:  Swimming
  16. Audio:  Fire
  17. Audio:  Retreat
  18. Audio:  To the Colors
  19. Audio:  Call to Quarters
  20. Audio:  Taps

[All of the audio files are through the great site!]

Related merit badges:  Music

Does your troop have a bugler?  Anyone you can inspire?  Do you use your bugler to call each point in the day?  Comment below!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Burning flags...not

From time to time, we receive American flags that are sufficiently worn or damaged and require proper retirement.

The most common form of flag retirement (and the only one our Scouts use) is by fire.

Which leads to the inevitable "flag burning" comments.

And explanations.

We retire flags, we don't burn them.

It is a distinction with a difference--it is not "both sides of the same coin".

Yes, I know the old guys at church got upset when you told them that we burn flags all the time.

According to the Federal Citizen Information Center:  "§176. Respect for the Flag (k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning."

Let your Charter Organization, local churches, and patriotic organizations like the VFW, American Legion and Knights of Columbus know that you would be interested in handling this for them.  Our local American Legion commander gives me bags full of flags each year.

These groups don't routinely have campfires...that can be used to give service to your community.

Monday, September 28, 2009

BSA "Nothing but Nets" Partnership

Saving lives.
Serving the community.
This is what makes us great.

BSA-Nothing But Nets toolkit--download it after you watch the clip.

More on the BSA-Nothing But Nets relationship here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Weekend Patrol Box #21

A blast of Autumn just rolled through our area.

Hickory and walnut trees have turned and are dropping leaves at the slightest suggestion.

Scouts are thinking about camping, backpacking and hiking (especially units that don't meet over the summer).

The Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Historic Trail patch above is a great way to work on a project as a unit. Just for hiking, backpacking, or canoeing once, you earn the basic patch.  Completing the mileage requirements for each segment qualifies you to wear it around the base patch.  Each segment represents the portion of the C&O Canal that passes through each of the 5 BSA councils along the way.

Do you have a program like this in your area?  Please share in the comments below so we can all learn about new adventures.

Here are some great ideas to mull over this weekend, maybe with a little warm cider...
  1. Troop 505 of Mechanicsville VA biked the C&O--August 2009 Boy's Life and video.
  2. The National Audubon Society has great material, and plenty for Cub Scouts looking for fantastic fall fun.
  3. Speaking of birds:  Merit Badge of the Week is Bird Study from Scoutsigns. #3 is a great bird house kit for $1.88--check it out.
  4. Last word on birds--Great new resource (not free) reviewed at The Scoutmaster Blog: iBird Explorer Good blog, too.
  5. Contest on Twitter: Win a signed 759 Boy Scouts of Harlem movie poster by sharing this message from @insanescouter The movie trailer is inspiring!
  6. Looks like is cleaning house!  Several craft kits with big discounts
  7. Robert Birkby--the ultimate "behind the scenes" influence in Scouting--courtesy of (via @classb and @insanescouter)
  8. OK, only a few more months until the new height and weight guidelines go into effect--are you doing anything about it?  Promoting it to your Scouts and Scouters?  Take the challenge!  Lead by example.  01 JAN will be here before you know it. (Also #2 if you really need a simple start.)
  9. Cub Scout Buckets--The Trainer's Corner blog.  Great idea--helps prevent the weekly "I forgot" chorus!  I know some Boy Scouts that need them, too...
  10. Simple Family:  How to Steal from Your Kids
That wraps up another Patrol Box.  If you have any comments or want to share things you think will be of interest, leave a comment or post to @scoutsigns on Twitter.  

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Merit Badge of the Week: Bird Study

We are fortunate to have an Audubon club in a nearby town.

Each November, they have a multi-day event for the general public that includes hikes, vendors, several talks, and a great session with live birds (last year's was about raptors).  They also offer a separate class (all day) for Boy Scouts to cover their Bird Study merit badge.  This includes building a great birdhouse that anyone would be proud to display.

A second session is held a couple of weeks later to handle the field work required for the badge.

I suspect there are areas of the country that are easier and harder to earn this merit badge.

Like Basketry, this merit badge requires patience.  Good tracking skills help, too, something Baden Powell would have encouraged.


  1. Always start with the Introduction to Merit Badges for the steps to a successful merit badge. Use the Bird Study worksheet provided at
  2. Find a local chapter of the National Audubon Society.  [It would be easy to take all the points for this merit badge just from their resources online!]
  3. has 5 birdhouse kits for your Scouts (or you!) to work on, including a nice little log cabin style for $1.88.
  4. 10 Tips for New Bird Watchers--where else, but
  5. Kudos to Gary Wilson, Bird Study Merit Badge Counselor in NJ:  Bird Study Merit Badge Online
  6. Christmas Bird Study reports--folks, there is a LOT of material here.  100 years of Christmas Bird Counts are in a database for you to poke through.
  7. Online bird guide from of the entries have recordings of the birds.
  8. An amazing website:  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  9. Bird house plans for free.
  10. Bird guides on Amazon--use the list to find the book you want in your local library.
Related merit badges:  Fish and Wildlife Management, Insect Study, Mammal Study, Nature, Reptile and Amphibian Study

One in six Americans is involved in birds--whether active bird watchers or just keeping feed out for them in the backyard.  Do you?  Leave a comment below with your bird study stories or resources!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Weekend Patrol Box #20

Wow, 20 is a milestone.

Translation: a couple of hundred links have been sent your way to encourage your Scouting experience.

Videos, blogs, podcasts, merit badges, manuals, forms, awards, fun activities and more have all been sent your way.

If you've missed any, I'll generate an index of them for another post soon.

To celebrate this 20th Weekend Patrol Box, let's have 20 items to look at:
  1. Merit Badge of the Week from Scoutsigns:  Basketry
  2. Walk of Life program--with the new weight guidelines going into effect on 01 JAN 2010, this is a great way to take advantage of the cool autumn weather and shed a few pounds.
  3. Scouting magazine online helps spread the word on our weight guidelines with "Fat Chance".
  4. Anyone read this book? "We Are Americans, We Are Scouts" is based on Theodore Roosevelt and Scouting.
  5. Scouting on Facebook:  BSABSA Licensing and Boy's Life
  6. ...and Trail's End Popcorn!
  7. Do you need the new Scout handbook on your iPod or iPhone?  Yeah, it is.
  8. No political commentary (and the audio is all music):  Senator Al Franken freehand sketch of the United States--quite a talent!  (Video from Minnesota Public Radio)
  9. Ultralight snacks for the trail--high protein, Backpacker...oh, wait until you are done with your coffee for the day, too.
  10. Youth cycling program from the Adventure Cycling Association--getting kids back on bikes--very Scouty idea.
  11. Art of Manliness blog continues to provide good information:  How to Unclog a Toilet Like a Plumber
  12. Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) is coming 17-18 OCT--are you ready?  There is still time to get your council in the game!  BSA flyer, too.
  13. JOTI--have you done this?  How did it turn out?  I've heard mixed reviews.  Same weekend as JOTA.
  14. Boy's Life "Join Scouting" video contest until 15 SEP--get your entry in!
  15. My council is on Facebook:  is yours?  If so, share the info in the comments below.  I'd like to see more of them.
  16. Timeline of Scouting--Centennial of Scouting celebration.
  17. From the Guide to Safe Scouting: Football is an unauthorized activity.  Right between abandoned mines and uncertified or unlicensed use of fireworks.  Yep, seriously.
  18. Autumn is a great time to learn about rockets!  Apogee Components has a free DVD to encourage young rocket scientists!  They have good videos, too...
  19. Get in the Game! Geocaching is a centennial program.
  20. Belated anniversary update from Scoutsigns.
Which link helped your Scouting experience the most this weekend?  Leave a comment below!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Merit Badge of the Week: Basketry

Basketry is one of the merit badges we often encourage new Scouts to do.  Young hands seem to be able to pull this off, even though it means sitting for hours to accomplish the final.

With only a few requirements, it is a great way to teach the steps to earning a merit badge in general--not to mention making something useful to boot!

To earn this merit badge, a Scout needs to be patient.  This is all about practice of basic skills--not a lot of bookwork--although reading the merit badge series book is always recommended.
    1. Always start with "Introduction to Merit Badges" for the steps to a successful merit badge
    2. Worksheet on Basketry merit badge from
    3. Individual square baskets from
    4. ...and round ones from
    5. The final project is a campstool--Scoutstuff offers the Flat Reed Campstool Kit.
    6. How to make a split white oak basket: video is good and very educational, audio is kind of spotty.
    7. Video series on basketweaving by Nancy Jacobs--18 in all.
    8. Her blog on basketweaving is Basketmaster's Weavings.  Check out this list of amazing tools.
    9. Amazon's list of basketweaving books, from simple to advanced.
    10. Index of Basket Weaving How-to-Pages--now this is a resource, with lots of categories over on the left side of the page!
    Related BSA merit badges: Leatherwork, Metalwork, Pottery, Sculpture, Textile, Wood Carving

    Did you ever earn this merit badge? Do you have any resources for the Basketry merit badge?  Share in the Comments below!

    Happy Belated Anniversary to you...

    Hard to believe, but the anniversary for the ScoutSigns blog has come and gone.

    It is almost the anniversary now of the Merit Badge of the Week program.  The point was to provide a weekly resource devoted to helping Scouts earn, and Scouters to learn, about a new merit badge.

    Well, 14 of them made it--all of the A's and Backpacking.  I'm working on Basketry, and another Weekend Patrol Box before I head out for the weekend--camping with the troop, of course.

    Blogging has been a lot of fun so far.  I've gotten to meet a lot of folks online via the comments, email and Twitter.  Everyone has been encouraging, and the spam has been thankfully light.

    OK, the second year is off and running.  More patrol boxes to build and merit badges to communicate.

    If there is something you would like to see, topics or series, please let me know.  In a year, the blog has had about 5000 views, so something must be working right!

    THANKS to all of you who read and participate--feel free to pass it along!  The more people learn about the resource, the better information our Scouts will get!

    Friday, September 04, 2009

    Weekend Patrol Box #19

    A cool snap has struck just in time for Labor Day weekend, low 70's to begin the week.

    It can just as easily be in the 90's here this time of year.

    So camping is definitely on the mind. Definitely not mowing the lawn this weekend...;-)

    All across the country, the BSA is kicking off celebrations of the Centennial Year this week. What is going on in your area? Contact your council to find out! There is a committee busy, busy, busy working on your council's celebrations.

    1. In honor of the pending Labor Day weekend, a little information.
    2. Does your sponsor do anything special for you? Like a parking spot for Eagle Scouts?
    3. Merit Badge of the Week: Backpacking by Scoutsigns
    4. Art of Manliness blog: How to Build a Pinewood Derby Car
    5. ReverentScout: Den Chiefs (short audio link) New service that is off to a good start.
    6. Art of Manliness again: International Backpacking tips Yeah, this is a pretty interesting blog for the Scouting world.
    7. Corn Scouts or Scouting for Corn or just corny...
    8. BSA Adventure Base 100 Tour schedule. Coming to a large city near you...or close anyway.
    9. Did you miss National Marshmallow Toasting Day? Thought so. A Boy Scout's Blog is a good effort by a Scout, too.
    10. If you are going to help a little old lady...this is the way to go. The purse might be a problem though. (30 second BSA commercial)
    11. X-Mouse, Spider-Goofy, might not care so much but your Scouts will be interested!
    Well, that should keep you busy and give you lots to talk about with your Scouts. Celebrate Labor Day to remember your "hour a week"!

    Pinewood Derby, marshmallow toasting, zip lines, backpacking and corn mazes--definitely something for you to comment on! Feel free to leave a comment below or send me a tweet.

    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    Merit Badge of the Week: Backpacking

    One of my great pleasures in Scouting is backpacking.

    Our troop has segment-hiked 150+ miles of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O) over the last 3 years, one weekend at a time. I would like for us to do more of it, but we need to balance camporees, summer camp, and the other special opportunities that come along.

    But still. Putting that pack on gets the adrenaline going. Feeling that weight settle in and a good rhythm get established is liberating. Watch that cell signal go dead for a couple of days is relaxing. Even most of the western end of the C&O (East Coast) is a giant dead spot.

    All of your Scout skills come into play: poisonous plant identification, fire control, cooking, 10 essentials, hiking, selecting a campsite, leave no trace, conservation, water purification, first aid, hazardous weather training--everything.

    "Outing in Scouting" at its best.

    So why isn't it a more popular merit badge? Fewer than 5000 earned in 2007, right at a quarter of a percent.

    Let this be the summer! Fire up the troops and their troops! Grab the sunblock and head out. If it is too hot in your neck of the world, plan a great series of trips for the fall.

    For one leg of the C&O, we slept out under the stars--in January. We had to knock the hard frost off all the bags the following morning. Still a trip they like to talk about 2 years later.

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

    Resource List

    1. Always start with "Introduction to Merit Badges" for the steps to a successful merit badge.
    2. Worksheet on Backpacking merit badge from
    3. Backpacker magazine is loaded with goodies, and so is the website. They also tweet. I always recommend this magazine to my older Scouts and our Scouters.
    4. Leave No Trace--now that this has been added to the new BSA rank requirements, more important than ever. Second Class requirement #2; First Class requirement #3; new leadership position for Star, Life and Eagle--LNT Trainer.
    5. Five ways to treat water on the trail.
    6. BSA's Wilderness Use policy--which also references BSA's Fieldbook website. The Fieldbook online leads you to a lot of links and organizations to help with your trekking plans.
    7. Planning group adventures section from BSA's Passport to High Adventure.
    8. Hazardous Weather training at or Weather Hazards at MyScouting. Same thing, same training online. Get a MyScouting login to complete.
    9. provides a good list of Wilderness First Aid topics.
    10. Scouting magazine brings you the 10 Essentials for any Scouting activity.
    Related BSA merit badges: Camping, Climbing, Hiking, Pioneering and Wilderness Survival

    Do you have a resource for the Backpacking merit badge? Please share in the comments below or on Twitter.

    Tuesday, September 01, 2009

    August's Top Tweets

    August was a busy month!

    Here were the top 10 since 31 JUL:


    Weekend Patrol Box #18

    164 Clicks


    Excellent idea! Eagle Scout Parking Only sign.. (via @LatterDay_Scout)

    103 Clicks


    New Merit Badges for 2009 & 2010 | Scouting News

    53 Clicks


    ScoutSigns: New BSA Rank Requirements Coming

    39 Clicks


    Boy Scout Handbook Online--great website!

    34 Clicks


    No postage stamp for 100th BSA Anniversary? Fire up the email!

    30 Clicks


    A minor obstacle for a good Scoutmaster to handle...(comic)

    24 Clicks


    Boy Scouts turn away from Goshen Pass site | | The News Leader

    23 Clicks


    Comic: Notice the subtle use of the Scout Sign... ;-)

    22 Clicks


    Finally available today! 12th Edition Boy Scout Handbook

    22 Clicks

    Which one did you like the best? Which one helped your Scouts? Comment below (or tweet).