Welcome to the LDS Scouter Blog. We hope to provide you with valuable information, share useful resources and maybe even improve some attitudes and Ward Scouting programs. The recommended way to use this blog is to start with the post, "Why I started this blog." Then browse through the post titles in the archive (found in the sidebar) for topics of interest.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Young Adults, Not Teenagers

One of my favorite LDS Bloggers, Chocolate on My Cranium, wrote a post recently called Enjoying Young Adults in the House, Rather than "Teenagers." She talked about how they take an old fashioned view of the ages we think of as teenagers. She and her husband treat them like young adults (as in, adults who are younger), and as a result, they act like young adults.

They are a family of mostly girls, but it makes sense that the same principle would apply to boys. In fact, she links to a similar post on another blog by a family with boys. This second post focuses largely on teaching boys skills and giving them real work.

Scouting does that! Actually, the second post mentions Scouting and how it s a good way for young men to learn these skills.

Another favorite blog, Adventures and Accidents, often talks about expectations often held, or that should be held, of young men and scouts. Most recently, he wrote about: A boy doing a man's job.

Actually, this seems to be a common theme with other Boy Scouters I know (like this guy and this guy).

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's about learning for us too

"O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise..." - 2 Nephi 9:28

A few weeks ago I wrote about how Scouting is all about letting the boys learn through experience. I realized afterward that it is all about learning for the adults too.

The Training Times pointed out in its most recent newsletter that there is no such thing as "fully trained." When you have taken certain requisite courses for your current position, you are considered "trained" but you can never be fully trained, because there is always more to learn.

Just like the scouts, we should always be working to improve ourselves. After all, that is what life on earth is all about, isn't it? Our physical growth may stop when we reach adulthood, but we continue to grow in other ways for the rest of our lives.

Someone mentioned on another recent post that trainers should ask for and be willing to receive good, honest feedback. In Trainer's EDGE, they refer to this as, "Start, Stop, Continue" (for example: "Start making eye contact. Stop reading off the slides. Continue your great smile.) I think this advice applies to any position. One of the first things you are supposed to do in a committee meeting or leaders meeting is evaluate the previous month - discuss what worked and what did not. I think an important quality in a good Scouter is to take this evaluating process seriously and not feel bad when there is something you could do better, because there will always be something you can do better.

In an LDS-BSA newsletter a couple of years ago, the General Young Men Presidency said, "Many have said that 'Scouting is for the boy.' In reality, it is for the adult. Boy Scouts of America provides the training, programs and resources necessary to help adults effectively prepare young men for today and their future."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May Newsletter and New Green Book

The latest LDS-BSA newsletter is up! It focuses largely on safety and highlights the new Tour and Activity Plan. It also introduces the new LDS-BSA Relations Director and Associate Director. I found the Young Men Presidency message and the article about the stake that sponsored a Wood Badge course to be especially inspiring.

Also note that the Handbook has been updated (thanks to Eric the Half-bee for the heads up). Outside of a format change, the updates appear more minor this time (although I haven't gone through a point-by-point comparison yet.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Are people afraid?

When I attended my first Scout leader training, I remember looking at these "scout nerds" with a bazillion knots on their uniforms and an overt reverence for the program, and I thought, "These guys are nuts." I had no intention of ever becoming like that (or putting more than the minimum required into the calling, sorry to say).

Fast forward to only a few weeks ago. We had a day full of Scouting events, going from one to the next. I left the last one to attend a baby shower - it happened to be our committee chair/ward Primary presidency representative. I was so tired at that point, I didn't bother changing out of my uniform for the shower. Her comment was, "I wouldn't recognize you without it."

Ha ha. She sees me every Sunday in Primary, but I knew what she meant. I know I project that same "scout nerd" image to everyone I work with. I do it on purpose, because I want to set the bar as high as possible. That way when people only reach halfway, they are still reaching higher than they would otherwise.

I have found that in many cases, this works well. Often enthusiasm begets enthusiasm, and a few choice people end up reaching even higher than hoped. Some people, however, seem to dig their heels in and refuse to budge no matter what.

I have even seen/heard derogatory remarks referring to LDS Scouters that are "too into Scouting." Phrases like, "Irving Scouter," and, "church of Scouting," have been tossed around, in a not-so-admiring way. "I like Scouting, but not like that..."

It makes me wonder whether some people might be afraid that if they become too into Scouting, that will somehow degrade the rest of who they are. It almost seems as if becoming too involved in Scouting will make you less of a Church member or taking the training will have a negative effect on your testimony.

I am sure this is related to the idea that the Church is "out-sourcing" its activity program for young men and that Scouting is not really a Church program.

What do you think? Have you ever noticed this attitude? Is there any way to lovingly convince people that you can love Scouting and the gospel both (aside from pointing to President Monson), that the two go hand-in-hand, and that Scouting is all about building testimonies?

(I understand this may be a sore subject for some readers. I hope we can have an open and thoughtful discussion.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Faith in God by Month (Jun-Aug)

Here is another set of three months' worth of suggestions for working on Faith in God, relating to that month's character connection and/or theme. Most of these can easily be fit into various requirements the boys are working on anyway. Check their books to see how you can fit them in. You can find the first list of ideas (Mar-May) here.

Remember, many of the requirements will need to be completed at home, but you can use den meetings to discuss them with the boys and get them started working towards some things.

June: Perseverance, Head West Young Man

Prepare a pedigree chart with your name and your parents' and grandparents' names. Prepare a family group record for your family and share a family story. Discuss how performing temple work blesses families. (square knot requirement) 

The “Head West” theme invokes images of pioneers. While the boys work on their pedigree chart, you could discuss the meaning of the word “pioneer” and the many ways a person could be a pioneer. Ask the boys to find out interesting stories about “pioneers” in their families that they can share (don't forget to tell the parents yourself as well). Have an activity where you roast marshmallows around a campfire, and everyone takes turns telling family stories (Webelos Outdoorsman requirement 2; Bears requirement 9g). If it's not feasible to have a real fire, make a pretend one instead. (Bring marshmallows anyway.) Don't forget to work on the Heritages belt loop at the same time. This also fits with Bears achievement 8.

Read D&C 88:118. Discuss what it means to "seek learning, even by study and also by faith." Improve your personal study habits by doing such things as learning how to choose and read good books or being prepared for school each day.

Learning takes perseverance, and it is the one thing we take with us after we die. School is out for the summer, but you can help the boys think of some goals they can set for themselves for the next school year, or you can encourage them to participate in your local library's summer reading program.

Plan and complete your own activity that will help you develop your talents.

Developing talents definitely requires perseverance. Talk to the boys about what talents each of them is working on (learning to play the piano, participating in a sport?), and discuss what goals they have or help them set goals. You could also have someone come to your den meeting to teach the boys a new skill.

July: Courage, Cubs in Shining Armor

Give an opening and a closing prayer in family home evening or at Primary. Share your feelings about how prayer protects us and helps us stay close to Heavenly Father and the Savior. (square knot requirement) 

We can always pray when we need more courage. Sometimes it also takes courage to pray in front of others. Review the order of prayer with the boys.

Tell a story from the Book of Mormon that teaches about faith in Jesus Christ. Share your testimony of the Savior (square knot requirement) 

There are some fantastic stories about courage (not to mention fighting) in the Book of Mormon. Since the boys are studying the Book of Mormon this year, they may already have some favorite stories they want to share. You could also role play the story of Ammon (Alma 17-19), make war diagrams from some of the battles (some good ones include Alma 43:16-44:20 , Alma 55:5-23, and Alma 56:31-56), or have the boys make their own “titles of liberty” and relate the ideas from Captain Moroni's flag (Alma 46:12) to the Declaration of Independence for Independence Day.

August: Honesty, Kids Against Crime

Explain how taking the sacrament helps you renew your baptismal covenant. In a family home evening, teach others about the things we can do to remain faithful. 

The very first thing boys do when they enter Cub Scouts is learn the Cub Scout Promise and complete the Character Connection for Honesty. Have you ever noticed the similarities between the Cub Scout Promise and Baptismal covenants? See this post for some ideas on discussing similarities about what we promise as Cub Scouts and the promises we make when we are baptized. One of the main things we promise is to keep the commandments, which includes being honest. Brainstorm with the boys ways that we can keep our covenants as well as the Cub Scout Promise so that they can teach their families in Family Home Evening.

Write a poem, story or short play that teaches a principle of the gospel or is about Heavenly Father's creations.

Have the boys pair up and write short plays about honesty. Then they can take turns performing them.

This is also a great chance to work on the 13th Article of Faith with the boys. Here are a few ideas:

You could give them a gathering activity where they need to unscramble key words, like honest, true, chaste, benevolent. Discuss what each of the words mean. Why do you think “honest” and “true” are mentioned first? Why are they so important?

Have the boys assemble the appropriate puzzle from here:

Make cards with words or phrases from the Article of Faith. Distribute them, and have the boys assemble them in the right order. You can even make distributing the cards a game by hiding them around the room to find or handing them out to boys who answer a question correctly or recite the Cub Scout Promise.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Promises and Covenants

Our oldest is is working on his Bobcat badge. The first step on the Bobcat trail is to learn the Cub Scout Promise and complete the Character Connection for Honesty.

Wanting him to understand the promise he is making, I broke it down into parts, which we discussed.

First we discussed what a promise is and how it would be dishonest to say you promise to do something that you do not intend to do. This led naturally into a discussion about covenants, specifically baptismal covenants.

(The blocks in the above picture are something I had on hand anyway - something I made for primary a while back. Obviously you don't need something like that to discuss covenants with your son, but it is a visual representation of how covenants work.)

We talked about some of the things he will be promising when he is baptized. Interestingly, each one related to other things we have discussed relative to becoming a Cub Scout. We had talked about how when he is wearing the Cub Scout uniform he is representing the Cub Scouts and needs to act accordingly so that he represents them well. I told him it is the same when he is baptized and takes on himself the name of Christ; he is representing Christ and His church. Keeping the commandments is the same as doing his duty to God. We even covenant to help other people (give goodwill).

Talking about covenants led into a discussion about Christ and the Atonement. None of us is perfect, but Christ gave us a way to repent and try again. (With the block visual, breaking part of the covenant makes the building fall down, but we can rebuild it when we repent and take the sacrament each Sunday.)

This relates back to when a Cub Scout promises to do his best. He is not promising to be perfect, just to do the best he can. We have tried to ingrain in our son the idea that everyone makes mistakes, and that's okay; that's how we learn. We are here to learn. That's why we have repentance.

Doing your best also means doing your personal best, not trying to be like someone else. This is also something Christ has asked of us. He knows each one of us. He has given us each our own, unique talents. He does not want us to compare ourselves to others.

I love how this all fits together so well. None of this was planned, it all just came together naturally.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's About Learning

I was talking with our Cubmaster, evaluating our most recent Pack Meeting. She observed, "The flag ceremony every month seems like the first time we've ever done it."

I had to point out that for the boy leading the ceremony, chances are it is the first time he had done it. Of course, that does not make her observations or suggestions to help less valid, but it is important to remember that the point of the boys doing these things is for them to learn.

This is the reason we make the distinction between "advancement" as a method and "personal achievement" as a goal. We have had several well-meaning parents in our pack retro-actively decide their boys had earned awards. They went through the list of belt loops and pins or Webelos Activity Badges and checked things off for the last year, "Oh, he did this and this and this..." then turned it in all at once. Now those boys have some nice awards to wear (actually, many of them are graduating Webelos, so they are not even going to wear the things), but did they get anything else out of it? They advanced, but they did not achieve. They did not learn from the experience (and I hate to think how this is going to translate into expectations in Boy Scouts).

This is why our Advancement Chair has coined the phrase, "Awards are earned intentionally, not accidentally."

In a recent post, the Volun-told Scouter pointed out:

When done right, Scouting is disorganized, messy and inefficient, because it is the Boys’ program. Adults are the facilitators, not the planners; their place is in the background as guides rather than directing from the front. Many adults find this to be anathema to their disposition – adults want efficiency, high levels of organization, etcetera.  But their idea of success differs greatly from the boys'.

Again, the goal here is for the boys to learn, not to have perfect organization. In Boy Scouting, leaders and parents are there to keep things safe and make suggestions. When the adults do too much, it robs the boys of the opportunity to learn.

How much the boys do on their own may come in small steps with guidance, but I think that at every point in the trail, whether you are doing a craft with Wolves or pointing Varsity Scouts toward their Eagles, you need to carefully consider how much "help" to give. Remind yourself that the point is for them to learn, not to get it done or for it to be perfect. Ask yourself whether that goal will be best accomplished by you stepping in to steer a little or by you stepping back and letting them figure things out themselves.