The Very Best Way to Find Scouting Resources Online



Like most websites, is always under construction. That means finding what you’re looking for can be an adventure. And the built-in search engine, while much improved in recent years, is still not perfect.

So how can you find what you’re looking for? Start with Google. Create a search string that includes For example, if you’re looking for the Guide to Safe Scouting, use this search string: guide to safe scouting Virtually every time, the content you’re looking for will appear at the top of the search results Google returns.

But wait; there’s more, as all those infomercials promise. In recent years, the BSA has put many of its publications online in free PDF versions. (Ironically, this tends to boost sales rather than cannibalize them.) If you know the catalog or bin number of the publication you’re looking for, use that instead. For example, you can find the Guide to Awards and Insignia by using this search string: 33066

(What’s the difference between a catalog number and a bin number? FIve- or six-digit catalog numbers generally go on items that are for sale, while bin numbers–which are hyphenated–go on free items.)


A Tree-mendous Honor

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J. Sterling Morton, the founder of the National Arbor Day Foundation once said, “If you seek my monument, look around you.” The same could be said of Eagle Scouts; their monument lies in the people they’ve touched through their leadership, service, and example.

But wouldn’t it be great to have a permanent monument to your troop’s Eagle Scouts, one that’s entirely appropriate to Scouting? Imagine starting a grove of trees near your meeting place (or the local Scout camp or a nearby park), planting a tree each time one of your Scouts becomes an Eagle. Imagine a group of Tenderfoot Scouts walking through that grove 20 years from now, dreaming of the day they too could add their own tree to the collection.

Your local cooperative extension service office should be able to give you more information or help you get started. In most parts of the country, now is the about the right time to plant trees.

But that’s not the only “tree-mendous” way you can honor your new Eagle Scouts.

The National Arbor Day Foundation has a program called Trees in Celebration/Trees in Memory. For a $10 donation, you can have 20 native trees planted in your honoree’s name in either Superior National Forest in Minnesota or Blackwater River State Forest in Florida. (Locations vary from time to time.) The Eagle Scout’s name goes in a permanent online registry, and you receive a full-color certificate you can present at his court of honor. (If you’re pressed for time, you can download the certificate as a PDF file and print it yourself.)

Party Time Times Two



Most Eagle courts of honor are followed by a cake-and-punch reception, often held in the same room or just down the hall. Such receptions give guests a chance to meet and greet and to offer personal congratulations to the new Eagle Scout.

For one of our troop’s Eagle Scouts, one reception wasn’t enough. His family held a second reception at their home the weekend after his Thursday court of honor. While some of us attended (and enjoyed!) both receptions, the second was specifically aimed at out-of-town family, school friends, and others who couldn’t attend the court of honor. 

For another court of honor, we did basically the opposite thing. This honoree had a number of out-of-town guests on hand, so his family held a dinner right before his court of honor. (It was held in another part of the church building, which ensured that everyone was on time to the ceremony.)

Having a family dinner or a second reception lets more people celebrate a young man’s achievements while keeping the troop-sponsored reception relatively simple and inexpensive. And since they are clearly separate, family-sponsored events, they don’t set a precedent that the troop or future Eagle families have to follow.

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

Can I Get a Witness?



Most Eagle Scouts excel in several areas of their lives, not just Scouting. The young man you’re honoring at your court of honor may well be an honor student, a star athlete, or a leader of his church’s youth group. These other accomplishments could enhance the picture painted at the Eagle court of honor—if they were mentioned. Unfortunately, they’re usually left out.

One court of honor I attended solved this problem neatly. The program included a 3- or 4-minute “testimonial” from someone who knew the honoree outside of Scouting. For one young man, it was a family friend who had also been his middle-school principal. For the other, it was the director of the church choir of which he was a member.

These men gave the ceremony added color, humor, and depth. They also had some surprising insights. For example, the choir director said, “The point of Scouting is not to make you a different person but to take the person you are and make you better.”

Who has been instrumental in your honoree’s life outside Scouting? Consider inviting him or her to participate in the court of honor. You’ll be glad you did.

BSA Health Forms, Now as Easy as A, B, C


Kudos to the BSA’s health and safety team for making health forms easier to navigate this year!

Bryan on Scouting

Deciding which version of the BSA’s Annual Health and Medical Record you need shouldn’t raise your blood pressure.

And starting today, you’re getting a streamlined version of the BSA health forms and an easier-to-use website to accompany them. The site is the result of several BSA teams (professionals and volunteers) joining forces to make this process a painless one for you and other Scouters.

The Annual Health and Medical Record (hereafter AHMR) comes in several flavors, and until now some Scouters and parents found it a little difficult to determine which version of the AHMR they or their Scout/Venturer needed.

Taking your Cub Scouts on a local tour or your Boy Scouts on a two-night camping trip? The forms you’ll need are different from those required on a camping trip lasting more than 72 hours.

Visiting the Florida Sea Base, Northern Tier, Philmont or the Summit? Be sure to print off…

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Twelve Questions for Patrol Leaders



Here’s an interesting self-test to give to the patrol leaders at your next patrol leaders’ council meeting. It comes straight out of the 1939 edition of the Handbook for Patrol Leaders but is as relevant today as it was then.

  1. Do I know about every Scout in my patrol—each fellow’s strong and weak points; ambitions; home life; special needs?
  2. Can I plan and conduct patrol meetings worthwhile enough to insure the bunch attending, and steady enough to provoke a second invitation from the fellow’s parents in whose home we meet?
  3. Can I salute and report “All present or accounted for,” at every troop gathering?
  4. Can I interest the fellows in continuous and thorough work for advancement in Scouting?
  5. Can I divide the actual leadership of the patrol so that every Scout gets a chance to do his best part in helping with the meetings, hikes, games, Good Turns, new recruits, etc., so that all the fellows in my patrol have a chance to develop leadership?
  6. Can I patiently handle any boneheads or wise guys or roughnecks, so that they will either come through with the right Scout spirit, or when every possible chance has been given them, eliminate them for the good of the patrol and the troop?
  7. Can I keep the Good Turn idea strong in the minds of all boys in my patrol, so that Good Turns are a habit?
  8. Can I make the fellows proud of our patrol’s appearance, dependability, progress—so that the patrol spirit will be strong and wholesome?
  9. Can I plan a patrol hike and lead it well enough so that eventually my Scoutmaster can trust me with the patrol for a day without adult supervision?
  10. Can I wisely lead my patrol in its part of the troop enterprises and have brains enough to think of new things for the patrol to do besides?
  11. Can I justify my Scoutmaster’s confidence in my loyal and thoughtful cooperation under his leadership for the development of the whole troop?
  12. Finally, can I make my own Scout life an unboastful example and encouragement to every fellow in my patrol, commanding thereby respect and confidence?

Note: Some readers may be surprised that activities without adult leaders (as described in question 9) are still permitted. They are under certain circumstances. Here’s the relevant section of the Guide to Safe Scouting:

There are a few instances, such as patrol activities, when the presence of adult leaders is not required and adult leadership may be limited to training and guidance of the patrol leadership. With the proper training, guidance, and approval by the troop leaders, the patrol can conduct day hikes and service projects.