Sign up Now for Northern Tier 2016



Northern Tier, the BSA’s oldest high-adventure program, will soon open its phone lines for crew slots for the summer of 2016. The lottery runs from January 6 to January 9, and you will be notified by January 16 if you get a slot.

During the same period, you can also enter the lottery for the 2015-2016 Okpik season. (Okpik is an Inuit word that means either “snowy owl” or “Wow, it really gets cold here in northern Minnesota. I can no longer feel my extremities.”)

To enter the lottery, call 218-365-4811 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST anytime between January 6 and January 9.

Before you call, be sure you know the following:

  • Unit type and number
  • Council name
  • Number of crews you’re requesting (crews range from 6 to 11 participants depending on the program selected)
  • Which base you want to attend (Ely, Atikokan, or Bissett)
  • Trip length desired
  • Arrival and departure dates desired
  • Estimated number of youth and adult participants (both male and female)
  • Crew advisor contact information, including BSA membership ID number

Assuming you get a slot, you’ll owe an $800 deposit on February 6. You can find more details at

Avoiding a Thank You Thicket at Eagle Courts of Honor



Although many Scout leaders helped your honoree reach the pinnacle of Scouting, one or two of them may have been especially important to him. It’s appropriate to recognize these special individuals at the court of honor, but doing so can cause a couple of problems you need to be aware of.

First, it’s easy for the focus to shift from the star of the show to one of the supporting actors. Second, you run the risk of snubbing some leaders by highlighting the contributions of others.

To solve the first problem, any recognition of adults—and other Scouts, for that matter—should take place before the badge presentation begins. If you follow the outline in The Eagle Court of Honor Book, that means making these recognitions a part of the Scout’s personal statement at the beginning of the presentation phase.

Solving the second problem is a little more difficult. In his personal statement, the honoree should be sure to thank all his Scout leaders before singling out one or two for special recognition. He should also be sure to thank by name each of the people who has served as Scoutmaster during his tenure.

At times, it may also be more appropriate (and more meaningful) to personally thank key leaders outside the court of honor. Especially at an Eagle court of honor, many leaders would prefer to stay in the background.

Scouting for Boys: The App



Few 20th-century books have had more impact on society than Scouting for Boy, the world’s first Boy Scout handbook (and, in many ways, an introduction to Boy Scouting to the world at large). First published in as a six-part serial in 1907, the book later appeared as a single volume and later still (after Scouting spread around the world) in a “world brotherhood” edition.

Now, it’s available as an iPhone app for $4.99.

This app, Scouting for Boys, is not just a digital version of the book. (In fact, you’d be better off buying a print or Kindle version if you just want to read the book.) Instead, the book provides facsimiles of the original serial version’s pages, the pages of Baden-Powell’s typescript that still exist, a variety of correspondence related to the book’s publication, an essay about the book’s development, a gallery of images from the book, and even three early reviews of the book. Here’s an excerpt from one of those reviews:

The object of the gallant general appears to be to induce the little boys of this country to be up and doing, to imitate the prowess of Richard the Lion-hearted and the Crusaders who careered around the world in days of old when knights were bold. He shows that there may be peace-scouting as well as war-scouting, for has not Milton told us that “Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war!” Thus, when war’s alarms do not call the little boy to fight for his country at the front he may serve her by removing a piece of banana-skin from the pavement or by helping an old lady across the road–excellent and sound advice.

The app is not perfect–three B-P videos it links to never loaded for me–but it’s nonetheless a fun way to explore Scouting’s founding document.

To Have and to Hold



Christmas is coming, a time when many young people will be end up sitting on floors piled high with gifts (followed, in short order, by parents sitting at desks piled high with bills).

The floor is a great place for kids to sit on Christmas morning. Otherwise, they don’t have any place to set one gift while they open another.

Which brings us to Eagle Scout courts of honor.

A central part of any Eagle court of honor is the handing of stuff to the new Eagle. He gets his medal pinned to his shirt, of course, and perhaps a neckerchief draped around his neck, but all his other mementos—certificates, letters, plaques, belt buckles, etc.—are handed to him during the ceremony.

So what’s a guy to do with all that stuff? Hopefully, if you’ve planned ahead sufficiently, there will be a small table strategically placed nearby. As recognition items are handed to the honoree, he can set them on the table, leaving himself free to accept congratulatory handshakes, hugs, or simply more recognition items.


Making New Year’s Reservations



As you may have noticed, Christmas is just around the corner. But another looming holiday—New Year’s Day—may have more impact on your troop operations.

Although a lucky handful of troops have their own meeting places, the vast majority use space provided by their chartered organizations. This could be dedicated space, such as a Scout room in a church basement, or space that the troop must share with other groups.

If you share space, now’s a good time to make sure that you’ve reserved the rooms you need for 2015. Standing reservations often end with the calendar year, meaning that the room you’ve been counting on using every Tuesday night could be grabbed by another group.

While you’ll typically make a standing reservation, be sure to consider exceptions. You’ll undoubtedly cancel your troop meeting during summer camp, for example, and you may need to reserve a different room for courts of honor or other special events. It would be awfully embarrassing to show up your spring court of honor only to find the Women’s Knitting Society using “your” room.

Scholarly Writings



Scouters and parents planning Eagle Scout courts of honor often solicit letters from all sorts of dignitaries, from government officials and military leaders to athletes and celebrities. While that’s fine, I think it’s also important to request letters from people who are a little closer to the honoree than his favorite NFL quarterback.

Awhile back, one reader of The Eagle Court of Honor Book took that idea to its logical conclusion. Since her son’s ceremony was taking place after his freshman year at college, she requested letters from the president of his university and the head of his department. As she explained to me, “Not only would those letters mean a lot to my son, but I am sure that those who know him at college would be honored to be able to extend their congratulations.”

I might add that it never hurts to be known—for good things—by the president of your university!

What unique congratulatory letters have you seen? The comments section is open.

No-Excuses Marketing



In case you missed it, Adweek just announced its best ad of 2014. And the winner was an ad that didn’t actually exist. Really.

For its “If We Made It” campaign, the company that brews Newcastle Brown Ale imagined the Super Bowl ad it would make if it had the money. The sophisticated campaign included storyboards (mockups) of would-be ads, video of focus groups hearing about the ads, real celebrities, and–of course–Twitter hashtags.

Here’s the part of the Adweek story I found especially interesting:

In the end, the clutter around the Super Bowl itself made it impossible to break through during the event itself, says [Newcastle’s brand director, Quinn] Kilbury. But more importantly, the overall effort generated some 1 billion media impressions, a milestone he says puts Newcastle on par with the kind of advertisers who pony up for Big Game airtime.

That’s right. By not running a Super Bowl ad, the brand got as much attention as companies that spent $4 million for a 30-second commercial.

Now, if you’ve stuck with me this long, you probably wonder what the connection with Scouting is. It’s simply this: Many Scouters bemoan the fact that they don’t have the budgets to advertise the program, so they don’t even try. By thinking differently and creatively, however, you can get your message out for little or no money–through texting, Facebook ads, chartered-organization and school newsletters, etc.

How do you market your troop? Post your ideas in the comments section.

If you need a little inspiration, you can learn more about the Newscastle campaign at Just be aware that the content is not necessarily safe for work–or for Scouting.