Memorials and Eagle Courts of Honor


I’ve told this story before, but I think it’s fitting to repeat as we move into the Memorial Day weekend.

Many new Eagle Scouts have lost loved ones who played a role in their Scouting journey, and it’s entirely appropriate to memorialize those people in some way. How to do that, how to strike just the right tone, can be challenging.

Several years back, an Eagle mom named Debbie Borden told me about her son Tim’s court of honor—a great example of how to honor a lost loved one.

Tim’s grandfather had been active in their troop for more than 50 years and was an important part of Tim’s Scouting years. Sadly, he passed away before he could see Tim become an Eagle Scout, but his presence was felt at Tim’s court of honor.

Tim often wore his grandfather’s red patch jacket to Scout functions. At his court of honor, Tim hung the jacket next to the chair where he sat. As he received his Eagle Scout badge from his brother Brian (himself an Eagle Scout), Tim held the sleeve of his grandfather’s jacket—a simple, poignant tribute to the tangible and intangible gifts his grandfather had left him.

Debbie told me, “As a mother, watching my son accept his brother as an Eagle Scout was the proudest day of my life. I could have not been prouder of my two Eagle Scouts on that day.”

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

Steppingstones to a Lifetime of Service


One of the cool things I get to do for Eagles’ Call magazine is write about Eagle projects that have won the Adams Award at the national, region, and council levels. Some of the recipients put far more time, money, and effort into their projects than I can imagine having done when I was 16 years old!

I do worry sometimes, however, whether the pursuit of the Adams Award–and of the Eagle Scout Award itself, for that matter–gives some Scouts the mistaken impression that service projects always have to be big and bold. It’s important to remind them (and ourselves) that it’s also valuable to do small, impromptu acts of service that don’t require troop and district approval, fundraising applications, or extensive final reports. In fact, I’d rather see a Scout embark on a lifetime of informal service rather than do one huge Eagle project and then turn his back on the needs of his community for the rest of his life.

As adult leaders, we can play a vital role in inviting Scouts into a lifetime of service. How? By making service as integral a part of our programs as capture the flag and Dutch oven cobblers. Imagine the lesson you would teach if you made sure every campout included a small-scale service project, perhaps one that you don’t even plan ahead.

Let me give you an example. Recently, my wife and I went hiking in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge (which is, by the way, an awesome destination for hiking, backpacking, and rock-climbing). On one of our hikes, we crossed a stream with dry feet thanks to a series of steppingstones someone had thoughtful placed in the water. But we also crossed a stream where there were no steppingstones and our boots got soaked. Had I had a bunch of Scouts with me, I could have pointed out the difference between the two stream crossings and suggested that we take half an hour to place stones at the second crossing. If I’d been on my game, I probably could have even convinced them that the project was their idea!

Think about your last campout. If it didn’t include a service component, what opportunities did you miss? Looking ahead to your next campout, what could you do to leave the place a little better than you found it–and your Scouts a little wiser for the experience?

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

Re-congratulate Your Eagle Scouts


I received a Facebook message this week from one of my long-ago Eagle Scouts. Patrick told me that the day before had marked 15 years since he and five fellow Scouts received their Eagle Scout badges (in what was my favorite court of honor to plan and participate in). He was looking for the group photo from that day so he could post it on Facebook, and I was happy to oblige.

Thinking about that brief exchange reminded me that I’m not very good at remembering anniversaries–I remember my own wedding anniversary, of course, but not the dates of other important events. Had you asked me two weeks ago when that six-Scout court of honor had occurred, I couldn’t have told you the date–and I would have had to do some mental math to come up with the year.

But I am good at using Microsoft Outlook. And it occurred to me this week that Outlook like other calendar programs offer Scoutmasters a great way to remember important anniversaries. Wouldn’t it be neat, for example, to put a tickler on your calendar to mark the one-year anniversary of each new Eagle Scout in your troop (or the one-year anniversary of when each Scout turns 18 or goes off to college). Rather than let that day go by unnoticed, that tickler would give you the chance to drop each Scout a note to check in and to remind him of the promises he made when he repeated the Eagle Scout Promise or the Scout Oath.

We never stop being parents to our children–even when they’re old enough to have children of their own. And the best Scoutmasters never stop being Scoutmasters–even when their Scouts grow up and sew on their own Scoutmaster patches.

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

A Sweet Treat for Your Next Court of Honor


A couple of years ago the BSA retired the Cub Scout Promise and the Law of the Pack in favor of the Scout Oath and Scout Law. At the time, there was plenty of hueing and crying about the change. What nobody anticipated was the positive effect this development could have on Eagle courts of honor.

Take a look at the picture above, and you’ll understand what I mean. It shows a bag of custom-wrapped Hershey’s Nuggets candy bars, each showing a point of the Scout Law–the perfect thing to set out at your next court of honor reception. I’m sure there are some Boy Scout leaders who could come up with this idea, but I’ve found that creativity is a recessive gene in Boy Scout leaders and a dominant one in Cub Scouters. (I’ll leave it to some Scouting geneticist to explain how a dominant gene can suddenly become recessive!)

I came across this great idea on the Cub Scout Ideas blog, where you can learn more about it. In essence, you’ll need to click over to Etsy to download the $5 template set, which I think even I could use successfully. Of course, you could create your own wrappers without much trouble, but $5 seems a low price to pay for having someone else handle the measuring and design work required.

What crafty ideas have you come across for Eagle courts of honor? I’d love to hear from you; post your ideas in the comments section below.

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

Take a Moment for Safety


In a recent blog post, I introduced the idea of Mental Health First Aid. What I neglected to mention–because I didn’t know it at the time–is that the BSA has developed a Safety Moment on this very topic.

What’s a Safety Moment, you ask? It’s an opportunity to review safety measures that relate to the current activity or to debrief after something goes awry. On the BSA’s Scouting Safely page, you can find links to 30 or so documents that give you the necessary background for conducting your own Safety Moments. Whether you’re planning to shoot bottle rockets, hold a family campout, or hang a hammock from a tree, you’ll find useful information in this collection, as well as links to sources of additional background.

For more on the concept of Safety Moments, check out this video from BSA safety guru Richard Bourlon or read this document.

In discussing the Scout motto, Robert Baden-Powell once said a Scout should be prepared for “any old thing.” The same applies to us as Scouters, and Safety Moments can help.

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

Isaac Newton, Inertia, and Your Troop’s Trajectory


I recently followed an online discussion about why the BSA is turning out more Eagle Scouts these days than ever before. People suggested all sorts of reasons, and of course an old-timer or two argued that the requirements are considerably weaker than in the good old days when they became Eagle Scouts (casually forgetting that many of today’s Eagle projects would put their four-hour projects to shame).

There are probably several valid reasons for the increase in Eagle Scouts, but I think one of the biggest one dates back to 1686, when Isaac Newton presented his three laws of motion. The first of those laws, as you may remember from physics class, says that “every object persists in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed on it.”

In Scouting terms, a troop that’s good at producing Eagle Scouts will keep on producing Eagle Scouts because it has the resources, the know-how, and, well, the inertia required to do so, while a troop that’s bad at producing Eagle Scouts will keep on struggling to establish a tradition of achievement.

But I think Newton’s law of inertia applies to more than just advancement. The more high adventure trips you plan, the easier they become to organize. The more times you neglect to hold a monthly outing, the harder it is to hold the next one. The more you use or ignore a method of Scouting, the stronger or weaker that aspect of your program becomes.

Troops tend to plod along or speed along at much the same pace unless an external factor speeds them up or slows them down. That factor could be the departure of a long-time Scoutmaster, the arrival of a dynamic new committee chair, a change in chartered organizations, an influx of new Scouts, or something else entirely. In The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, I argue that every troop has a natural membership level, which is will eventually return to regardless of how many boys in recruits. Now that I think about it, that’s more or less a restatement of Newton’s law of inertia.

Are you happy with your troop’s inertia? If not, what force can you apply to change its momentum?

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