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As the tagline promises, I’ve created this blog as a repository for ideas related to writing, Scouting, and writing on Scouting. I talk about the books I sell at EagleBook.com, my other Scouting-related writing projects, and other items of interest. I hope you find the blog of interest. If you have ideas to share, just post a comment on the About page.

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A 20-Cent Court-of-Honor Treasure

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These days, technology has made it easier (and cheaper) than ever to include a slide show in a court of honor. The hardest part, in fact, is sorting through hundreds of images to find those that chronicle the honoree’s growth in Scouting. During the sorting process, of course, you’re likely to find far more pictures than the two or three dozen you’re likely to use in the ceremony. After all, you don’t want the slide show portion of the show to balloon out of control. (If you’ve ever sat through a relative’s marathon showing of vacation pictures, you know how easily that can happen.)

I recommend burning all the relevant pictures you find onto a CD and presenting it to the honoree. One of my readers named Hal Smith did just that several years ago for his son’s best friend. The CD he created contained about 200 photos (culled from a collection of more than 7,000–yikes!) and will undoubtedly be enjoyed by the new Eagle Scout for years to come.

But the best thing about the CD, Hal said, was that the Scout’s mother got to share it with her terminally ill father before his death. Looking at the photos together allowed them to talk about happier times and not dwell on thoughts of cancer and loss. Not bad for a 20-cent piece of plastic.


For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both EagleBook.com and Amazon.com.

What’s Your Troop’s Digital Emergency Plan?

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A year or so ago, a friend’s husband passed away suddenly in his late 50s. In the aftermath of his death, my friend felt lost–and not just because her husband had died. You see, he had handled the household finances, and she had been blissfully ignorant of things she suddenly really needed to know, like account numbers and online passwords.

Steve’s death prompted me to create a file of things my wife would need to know if I were gone. She now knows what our various account numbers are, how bills arrive (electronically or by snail mail), which bills are paid automatically, how to access online accounts, and where to find the keys to the safe deposit box. She also knows not to cancel my email and cellphone accounts since so many financial organizations now use two-factor authentication when you try to log into their websites.

What does this all have to do with your troop? You probably don’t have a safe deposit box, but you almost certainly do have other important data that could be lost if a key leader died–or simply decided to take his toys and go home. There’s your troop checking account, for example (which ought to have multiple people on the signature card). You may also have a Square or PayPal account you use for fundraising. There are the login credentials for your website (perhaps including separate domain-name registration). And what about your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts? Who is listed as an administrator there?

Most troops have relatively transient leadership, so it’s easy for the wrong people to still be listed as contacts or administrators for various accounts. You shouldn’t wait for a crisis to do a digital inventory.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Updated Resources for a Historic Award

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The BSA’s Historic Trails Award has been around for decades–so long, in fact, that the patch isn’t even fully embroidered. (Gasp!) Now, an important update makes getting started with the award easier.

As described on the application, the award has just three requirements:

  1. Locate a historic trail or site and study information relating to it. (The information may be obtained from an adult historic
    society, public library, or people living near the trail or site.)
  2. Hike or camp two days and one night along the trail or in the
    vicinity of the site.
  3. Cooperate with an adult group such as a historic society to
    restore and mark all or part of this trail or site. (This may be
    done during the hike or overnight camp.) Or cooperate with
    such a group to plan and stage a historic pageant, ceremony,
    or other public event related to this trail or site—such an event
    should be large enough to merit coverage by the local press.

Those Scouts and adults who complete the requirements are eligible to receive a cloth or leather patch, which may be attached to a backpack or patch blanket (but not worn on the uniform).

The main problem with the award in recent years has been identifying nationally approved trails. No one was apparently maintaining the list, which had grown outdated as councils merged and changed names. Now, the National Outdoor Programs Support Committee has updated the list and published it on The Adventure Plan website. Just scroll to your state (or a state you want to visit), and you’ll find the trails in that area, along with the appropriate council to contact. (If you know of a trail that’s missing, encourage your local council to submit the BSA Historic Trails Renewal Application.)

In Boy Scouting, we often focus heavily on merit badges and ranks. While those advancement awards are obviously important, recognitions like the Historic Trails Award can be useful motivational tools and can encourage your Scouts to broaden their horizons.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

How Eagle Scouts Can Pay It Forward

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One of the most popular exhibits at this summer’s National Jamboree was the National Eagle Scout Association tent. And one of the neatest activities that happened there was the distribution of Future Eagle Scout pins. Over the course of the Jamboree, staff members distributed 2,000 of the pins, issuing a challenge to each recipient to become an Eagle Scout. (There’s no doubt the coins work; several Scouts who’d received similar coins at the 2013 Jamboree came back this summer to show off their Eagle Scout patches.)

So what’s the connection with Eagle courts of honor? Your next honoree could have a similar, albeit smaller, impact on the younger Scouts in attendance.

Several years ago, I heard from a mom whose son handed out Scout Oath and Scout Law pocket coins to his troop’s newest members during his ceremony. As he did so, he said, “My Scouting journey is complete and yours is just beginning; keep this coin with you always to remember to live by the Scout Oath.”

The new Scouts were excited to be part of the ceremony and to receive their coins. The group picture taken that day will doubtless reappear when some of those boys step forward to receive their Eagle Scout badges.

How does your troop involve younger Scouts in Eagle courts of honor? Post your comments below.


For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both EagleBook.com and Amazon.com.

Helping Your Scouts Help Houston

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In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, one of our assistant Scoutmasters suggested our troop collect bottled water for victims and survivors. Wanting to do something–anything–to help, the troop set up a collection point and we collected several van loads of water to ship to New York.

Did I mention that our troop is in Kentucky? Or that water is very heavy? (As the old saying goes, “A pint’s a pound the world around.”) Or that New York didn’t even need our water?

I remembered that project this week as I reflected on the disaster Houston is facing in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Scouts all over the country naturally want to do something to help. As adult leaders, we have the opportunity to both help hurricane victims and teach our Scouts the right and wrong ways to be of service.

This week, the United Methodist Church reposted a great article on what to do–and what not to do–to help after a natural disaster. I encourage you to read it and share it with your patrol leaders’ council, but the bottom line is simple: don’t go without an invitation (and training) and don’t send supplies that haven’t been requested.

The best thing to do is probably to donate to a reputable charity, something recommended by experts in a recent NPR story. I love the United Methodist Committee on Relief because 100 percent of donations go directly to provide services; overhead is handled through separate fundraising. Another good option is the BSA Emergency Assistance Fund, which helps rebuild Scouting in affected areas.

Scouts can also get involved in assembling relief supply kits, a project that can help them feel like they’re doing more than just spending money they collect from adults.

And one more suggestion: Use this disaster as an opportunity to talk about preparedness in your own community. While you may be immune from hurricanes, you’re only one tornado, fire, earthquake, chemical spill, or ice storm away from being featured on CNN.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Planning for Positive Adventure

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When I was growing up, one of my favorite authors was Patrick McManus, whose humor columns in such magazines as Field & Stream (many collected in books like A Fine and Pleasant Misery and They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They?) described childhood misadventures involving camping, hunting, and boating. His stories made clear that you didn’t need to do any planning whatsoever in order to have memorable experiences–as long as you don’t care whether you survive!

Of course, in Scouting we want our adventures to be both memorable and survivable. “Challenge by choice” (the watchword of ropes courses) should never become “challenge by chance.”

That’s why I’m pleased that the BSA has created a comprehensive online tool called The Adventure Plan. Here’s an overview:

The Adventure Plan (TAP) provides a one-stop set of tools to help adult and youth leaders envision, plan, prepare and conduct safe, exciting and successful outdoor Adventures. Your unit Adventure may be as simple as an overnight backpacking trip or bike ride, or maybe it is a week-long or longer activity. This online planning guide is encouraged for all levels of Scouting from Cub Scouts to Venturing. Not all the steps outlined in this guide will apply to your unit’s Adventure. What steps apply will depend on what type of Adventure your unit selects.

The process includes 53 steps, which can seem daunting at first. However, some actions will happen automatically, like choosing an activity (step 4), while others are pretty simple, like reconfirming all reservations (step 45). (That latter step is a good example of something that’s easy to overlook if you don’t follow a rigorous planning process.)

Along the way, you’ll find links to relevant BSA resources. On the page associated with choosing an activity, for example, you’ll find links to Age Appropriate Guidelines for Scouting Activities and the BSA Caving Policy, among other resources.

Outdoor misadventures can make for entertaining reading, as Patrick McManus demonstrated. By following the TAP process, you can ensure that fiction doesn’t become fact in your Scouting unit.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Catholic Committee Honors New Eagle Scouts

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Like many faith groups, the Roman Catholic Church strongly supports Scouting. In fact, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting is among the strongest organizations of its kind.

Among the many things the committee does is present certificates to new Eagle Scouts. The best way to get started is to contact your diocesan chair or chaplain. If you’re not sure who that person is, the NCCS website has a handy locator feature. Just enter your ZIP code at http://www.nccs-bsa.org/index.php/locate-me to find contact information. (I checked several ZIP codes and found email addresses and phone numbers for both chairs and chaplains, as well as contact information for the local diocese.)

For more information on certificates and congratulatory letters–including how to incorporate them into a court of honor–order a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book. It includes a sample request letter, as well as detailed information about how to present what you receive. You’ll also find lots of information on my blog; just enter “congratulatory letter” in the search box.


For more great ideas, check out my new ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both EagleBook.com and Amazon.com.