Bobwhite Blather

Information, Observation, and Inspiration for Scouters

Just what is “camping,” anyway?

tents_at_scouting_camp_250Boy Scouts go camping. Everybody knows that, right?

Camping is the universal activity that ties the program together. Outsiders are likely to think that camping is the raison d’être of Scouting. It’s been with us since the very first camping trip that Lord Baden-Powell took Scouts on back at Brownsea. Camping is to Scouting as building robots is to Robotics or playing basketball is to basketball teams.

We have previously explored why Scouts go camping. It’s not just because we like camping. Not many boys join Scouting expressly for the camping. It’s because when Scouts camp, they practice leadership, self-reliance, independent thinking and problem-solving that will serve them well as they grow. Continue reading

Summer topics to think about now

checklist_200Although Scouting is a year-round activity, many troop and pack committees don’t hold regular meetings during the summer months. There’s either just not enough business to make holding a meeting worthwhile, or there aren’t enough committee members around to be able to get anything done.

If your unit committee follows this pattern, there are a few things you should consider before you adjourn for the summer. Now is a good time to think about putting them on the agenda for your next committee meeting. Continue reading

The way Scouts learn

The-Patrol-LeaderOur older son, a second-year medical student, came over and joined us for lunch this weekend. He filled us in on some of what the school is planning for next year’s incoming class. For the past year, he has been the volunteer leader of a co-curricular study program called Case-Based Learning, in which second-year students mentor first-years in situational learning. They work in small groups, posing hypothetical situations appropriate to what they’ve been covering in lecture, with the first-year students mulling over the problem and coming up with a solution collaboratively. After being impressed with its success, the dean of the medical school met with my son to talk about how this independent study concept could be incorporated into the actual curriculum. He told us that, starting next year, many of the large lecture classes (which can include a couple hundred students) are going to be replaced with smaller study groups, where students will take turns learning specific skills or elements and then teach them to the rest of the students in their small group. The concept is that by teaching a new skill themselves, students will learn it better than if they’ve just heard someone lecturing them about it and retaining it just long enough to repeat it back on an exam.

My first reaction was to observe that it sounds pretty much like the patrol method at work. Continue reading

Our barriers to abuse

ypOnce again, there are sordid details of child abuse by a prominent member of society in the headlines. The latest incident involved former Congressman and speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) who is accused of sexually molesting boys when he was a high school wrestling coach prior to his service in elected office. He won’t be charged with the crimes because the statute of limitations has expired, but his behavior is being taken into consideration as he is sentenced for illegal financial acts involving hush money recently paid to one of the victims of his assaults. I won’t detail any of the prosecution’s findings in the case here, but you can certainly read about them in the press.

The Hastert case brings to mind another recent episode involving the Penn State football program that led to the downfall of one of the game’s most celebrated coaches, which we also wrote about here. It reminds us that despite increased awareness, these things continue to happen in our society to vulnerable youth who, through their naïveté, may be unaware of what is happening and are unwilling to make waves for fear of losing out on opportunities they desperately want. Continue reading

How to become a merit badge counselor

merit_badgesAside from Eagle Scout, merit badges are probably the most visible and iconic part of Scouting to those not involved in the program.

“Did you get a merit badge for that?” is sometimes asked when someone does an extraordinarily good deed – a social currency akin to earning “brownie points” for anything from volunteering for an assignment to trying to impress the boss.

Merit badges are part of a Scout’s advancement, though not the entire program as some may believe. Aside from the dozen-plus Eagle-required merit badges, there are more than a hundred additional ones that allow a Scout the chance to explore a wide spectrum of interests, skills and potential careers. They combine the method of advancement with the method of adult association in giving Scouts an opportunity unavailable anywhere else. Continue reading