Monday, April 23, 2012

St. George's Day

Robert Baden-Powell called St. George "the Patron Saint of Boy Scouts everywhere."
Image found at Pine Tree Web -

From Scouting For Boys:
"St. George was born in Cappadocia in the year AD 303. He enlisted as a cavalry soldier when he was seventeen, and soon became renowned for his bravery.
On one occasion he came to a city named Salem, near which lived a dragon who had to be fed daily with one of the citizens, drawn by lot.
The day St. George came there, the lot had fallen upon the king’s daughter, Cleolinda. St. George resolved that she should not die, and so he went out and attacked the dragon, who lived in a swamp close by, and killed him.
St. George was typical of what a Scout should be:
When he was faced by a difficulty or danger, however great it appeared—even in the shape of a dragon—he did not avoid it or fear it, but went at it with all the power he could put into himself and his horse. Although inadequately armed for such an encounter, having merely a spear, he charged in, did his best, and finally succeeded in overcoming a difficulty which nobody had dared to tackle.
That is exactly the way in which a Scout should face a difficulty or danger, no matter how great or terrifying it may appear to him or how ill-equipped he may be for the struggle.
He should go at it boldly and confidently, using every power that he can to try to overcome it, and the probability is that he will succeed.
St. George’s Day is April 23rd. On that day all good Scouts make a special point of thinking about the Promise and the Scout Law. Remember this on the next 23rd April and send greetings to Brother Scouts around the world."

To all my Brother Scouts around the world, I salute you.

Image found at US Scouting Service Project -

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Today (April 19) is Holocaust Remembrance Day. The remembrance day marks the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps.

Last night my wife and I caught a program on television, telling the stories of seven survivors of the holocaust. One of the men (Stephen Nasser) told about how his experience as a Scout helped him survive. It is absolutely amazing.
"In the Scouts I have learned something, which was our slogan--Be Prepared. And, apparently I was and I'm still a good Scout. I'm prepared for anything. Nothing throws me off. To me nothing is a problem, everything is a challenge. And that was a challenge from day to day to survive and try to help your brother survive.
He also tells a story of finding a dead mouse in his soup. The other prisoners were excited to think that he might throw it away (so they could have it, as it was the only meat there was):
"I said no way. I have that much what I learned from Scouts. It has a lot of protein and I have to survive. I hate to think of it. I ate the mouse."
You can watch the entire hour-long show on-line at

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wood Badge Staff Development

On Saturday I attended my first staff development meeting for this year's Wood Badge course. I get to be a Troop Guide for the second year in a row. Which means, I already have all my presentations basically ready--I just need to do some tweaking.

It was a really good meeting and I met several new people. I think we have a pretty good staff lined up. I'm glad I get to be a part of it.

Several people practiced their presentations. Troop Guides practiced Listening to Learn. Since I've been there before I felt like I was able to provide more input and contribute more than I did last year. A few of the troop guides were interested in seeing my presentation to get ideas for theirs.

I also had one interesting thing happen. During the presentation on the stages of team development, the staff member in charge showed a slide that looked awfully familiar:
This was a chart I created for a post on this blog back in January. He had apparently found it doing an images search on the internet. Pretty cool.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Recognition v. Advancement

I'm working on a presentation about the Venturing Silver Award for round table this month, which got me thinking about the Venturing method of recognition. And I decided I've been wrong. Sort of.

In the past I have tried to emphasize the difference between the Boy Scout method of "Advancement" and the Venturing method of "Recognition." I've told people that Advancement is not a method of Venturing. I've often interpreted that to mean that the Venturing awards aren't as important to the program as Scout ranks are to the Boy Scouts.

That has actually been a fairly hard position for me to hold, since I love the Venturing awards and think every Venturer should work on them. I also think that they provide ideas and structure to potential activities. And I think leaders who aren't at least sharing information about the awards with their youth are negligent in their duties. But, since Advancement isn't a Venturing method, it isn't a big deal if the youth don't work on the awards. To support this idea I have occasionally referred to the Journey to Excellence program. Nowhere in either the 2011 or 2012 Journey to Excellence scorecard for crews are awards mentioned. Obviously that means they're not that big a focus, right?

With this view in mind I have, in the past, described the Venturing method of Recognition as being broader than the awards. Sure, it includes the awards, but it also means we should be acknowledging any important achievement in the lives of our youth. It possibly opens the door to custom "awards" for anything the crew deems important.

I still think that recognition is broader than advancement, but I've changed my mind a bit on the importance of the awards.

Let's review the official literature.

From, under Venturing methods:
  • Recognition. Recognition comes through the Venturing advancement program and through the acknowledgement of a youth's competence and ability by peers and adults. (emphasis added)
  • Teaching Others. All of the Venturing awards require Venturers to teach what they have learned to others. When they teach others often, Venturers are better able to retain the skill or knowledge taught, they gain confidence in their ability to speak and relate to others, and they acquire skills that can benefit them for the rest of their lives as a hobby or occupation. (emphasis added)
If the awards weren't that important, why would they be mentioned twice under two different methods?

From the 2011 Guide to Advancement (
"The purpose of the Venturing awards program is to facilitate these four goals; provide a pathway for personal development; encourage learning, growth, and service; and recognize high levels of achievement.
 "Except for Sea Scouts, Venturers work on awards, not ranks, and they can choose to work along with others in a crew or go it alone. They may also work simultaneously on the Bronze, Gold, and Silver awards; there are time-oriented requirements, but not between the earning of one award to the next." [In theory, a Venturer could earn bronze, gold, and silver all on the same day.]
 What I've come to realize is that the change from Advancement (as a Boy Scout method) to Recognition (as a Venturing method) isn't so much to lessen the importance of the awards as it is to emphasize the nature of the awards. Let me try to explain.

In Boy Scouts, the advancement focus is rank. A boy progresses from tenderfoot to second class to first class and on toward Eagle. Once he reaches Eagle, he's done. Sure he can earn more merit badges and get palms, but his advancement is essentially over. It's a linear progression from one level to the next.

That's not how it is in Venturing. We don't have ranks--we have awards. And while there is a limited advancement structure from bronze to gold to silver, that's not the whole picture.

The following is a simple diagram I've put together to illustrate the various awards available to Venturers. The basic structure is Bronze, Gold, Silver. But there are five different bronze awards: outdoor, religious life, sports, arts and hobbies, and sea scouts (I've left off sea scouts because they are a special case and I'm not going to deal with that here). The outdoor, religious life, and sports bronze have an associated "expert level award": ranger, trust, and quest.
The result of this structure is pretty cool, I think. After a Venturer earns a bronze award, he has several options for what to do next. He can choose to earn the Gold and then Silver, or he can go for the expert level award associated with whatever bronze award he earned, or he can earn second bronze award.

For example, one youth may start by earning the Religious Life Bronze award, then earn Gold and Silver. Even though he has now earned the highest award in Venturing, he then decides to go back and earn the Trust award. (The arrows in the diagram show the path of advancement in terms of order earned.)

Another youth might not care much about earning Silver right away but go for the Outdoor bronze and then Ranger award. After earning Ranger he then chooses to go for Gold and Silver. After earning Silver, he decides to work on the Sports bronze.
It's possible that a youth might even choose to take a path that looks something like this, starting with Outdoor bronze and ending with Trust:

This non-linear, personalized progression through the awards is one of the things that I really, really like about Venturing. It can be tailored to just about anyone's interests, and youth can go any direction they want.

So, I've changed my mind. The fact that the method is titled Recognition instead of Advancement will no longer, in my mind, lessen the importance of the awards. The awards are an essential part of Venturing. They provide structure and motivation to the program. From here on, I will un-apologetically promote earning of Venturing awards. I'll do more to encourage leaders to use the awards as part of the program. And I'll do even more to encourage my youth to earn their awards.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Doing it right?

I had an interesting conversation yesterday. Someone came into my office at work and told me he had been in a District Scout meeting (advancement committee, maybe?) and my name had come up. Apparently, the district executive told them that I had the only Venturing crew in the district that was doing it right. The criteria for this, of course, was that I had boys earn Venturing awards.

To me, that's an interesting measure of whether or not we're doing things right. Advancement isn't a method of Venturing--the awards are there, but they aren't a major focus. The Journey to Excellence criteria for Venturing doesn't even mention awards. But still it is seen as a major indicator of a crew that is "doing it right."

Yes, I've had boys earn awards, but I am the first (and perhaps only?) person to admit that doesn't mean I'm doing it right. There are a lot of things I think we need to improve. A lot.

We need to have much better activities. To do that we need to re-visit our Activity Interest Survey. We also need a Program Capability Inventory (despite my urging, the committee still hasn't done their job on this). We need to get outside more. We need to do more high adventure. We need boys to actually come to activities. Speaking of attendance, we need our Advisor to actually come to activities (I'm the associate advisor). We need to get our officers trained in with the Introduction to Leadership Skills for Crews. We need to do much better about our crew officers meetings. We have a lot to improve.

Why is it that with all these shortcomings I get credit for the only Venturing crew that is doing things right? It's the awards. That is the one thing that other people can see. They can't see our poor attendance on Wednesday night. They can't see our lack of camping trips. All they can see is that I've given out awards. (They can also see my green uniform....) That must mean something.

And it does. It means I have tried to tie our activities to award requirements, whether the boys are interested in the awards or not. It means I have introduced them to activities (like ethical controversies) that we wouldn't have done if not for the awards. It means I talk to the boys with some regularity about their goals and have told them I would like to see them earn these awards. Ultimately the choice is theirs. I haven't given out as many Venturing awards as I would like. I wish every one of my boys had a Bronze award. I wish more than one had chosen to go for Gold and Silver. But they have had the opportunity. They know about the awards. They know they are available. Some choose to put in a bit of effort, most don't. And that's okay. It's their choice.

I have often wondered about other Venturing advisors who are getting their boys to do some fantastic activities, but they don't know about the awards at all. They are doing great things, and most of their boys could earn some pretty cool awards if they would just take the time and effort to look at the requirements. The problem is that the Advisors don't care about the awards. Most don't seem to care about the Venturing program, period.

I have often tried to imagine what the excuses for not doing it could be. I keep coming back to Advisors saying something like, "they just aren't interested in awards any more." My response to this fictional exchange is "that may be so, but who are you to make that decision for them?"

I wish my leaders had told me about the Varsity and Exploring programs/awards when I was a boy. I like to think that I would have chosen to earn some of them. But I never knew about them, and consequently didn't have the chance to make that choice. I determined at the beginning that my boys would at least have the choice. I'm fortunate enough to have had a few choose to go for it.