Posts Tagged ‘Training’


As the year 2009 comes to an end, it suddenly dawned on me that this year was the 25th anniversary of my first trip to Philmont Scout Ranch. It was not a trip to partake in a twelve day trek, but to spend a week at the Philmont Training Center (PTC).

I was a 23 year old scoutmaster when I received a letter from PTC inviting me to attend a Scoutmaster Fundamentals Course during the 1984 season. Needless to say, I was quite excited. I had never been to Philmont but it had always been a dream of mine to get there someday. Unfortunately, I was a young adult who was pretty much living from paycheck to paycheck at the time. The money to pay the course registration and the airfare was not in my budget or savings account.
The troop committee must have seen this as a great opportunity to invest in the local Scouting program. So did the business community, it turns out. One of the committee members went to several local businesses to explain the committee’s plan. A short time later, the committee surprised me with the news that I would be going to Philmont Scout Ranch for the training. Enough businesses had donated funds to pay the airfare and registration. I was shocked! I was surprised. And I was going to make a commitment to stay the scoutmaster of Troop 68 for at least a few more years.
There were a few firsts for me involved with this trip. It would be my first time to Philmont. It would be the first time I would travel by airplane. It would be the first time I had ever traveled on my own. I was a little nervous, but a lot excited.
The trip went well. I proved to myself that I could handle a trip on my own. The course had great instructors. I learned a lot about being a scoutmaster. I met many dedicated Scouters from around the country. I saw the movie Follow Me Boys for the first time. And I climbed to the top of the Tooth of Time (for the first time).
Of course, me being the type of guy who likes taking a lot of photographs, I did use up several rolls of film. I have posted those pictures on my Flickr account. Here is a slideshow of those photos:
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 I did my Woodbadge course in the fall of 1988. Yes, that was long before the current “Woodbadge for the 21st Century”, but I have a feeling the core training is still pretty much the same. The course was held at Camp Stearns in central Minnesota. We camped out, cooked outdoors, and slept in tents. In fact, most of our training was held outdoors. We seldom found ourselves inside the Woodbadge Lodge.

The staff kept us pretty busy between training and projects. One Saturday afternoon, each of the five patrols was assigned a pioneering project to build. The projects included a catapult, a ballistica, a swinging gateway, and an overhead gateway. My patrol, the Bobwhites, received the weather station project, which we found to be quite interesting.
As the patrols arrived at the field to build their projects we discovered piles of rope and logs and a drawing of the completed project. No directions on how to build it, just a drawing of what it should look like when finished. We needed to figure out how to construct it ourselves.
The weather station the Bobwhites were to build looked like a large diamond balanced on ropes about a foot off the ground.We guessed that the humidity and barometric pressure would tighten or loosen the tautness of the ropes, thus raising the diamond higher or lower. The closer it was to the ground, the greater the chance of rain. If it rested higher it was probably meant that we would have great weather.
The Bobwhites had a good time building their project, as did all the patrols. I like pioneering and knots so I was helping out the patrol members who were not as proficient with square and diagonal lashings. Raising, balancing, and tying the diamond onto the cross ropes proved to be a fun challenge. We hung a little strip of cloth to the top to show wind direction. One of our patrol members came up with another small embellishment for the project.
The scoutmaster and a few other staff members inspected each of the projects. When they saw a stone hanging from the end of a rope on our project their curiosity lead to ask what it was for. “It is a weather rock”, we replied. We placed a sign next to it that explained: If the rock is wet it must be raining. It the rock it swinging it must be windy. If the rock is warm and dry the sun must be shining.
All five pioneering projects turned out very well. There was even a competition between the ballistica and the catapult to see which would throw a projectile the furthest. Yep, we all had some fun that afternoon.
For more pictures of this project and my Woodbadge course check out my page at community.scouting.org  You will need to be a registered member of community.scouting.

The Friday that I had been both dreading and excited about had arrived. It was time to go to the first weekend of Woodbadge training at Camp Stearns in central Minnesota. I was dreading it because I did not know if I would know anyone in attendance other than Paul, the culprit who signed me up for the training. I am pretty shy and it takes me a while to warm up to new people. But I was also excited because this was Woodbadge, the ultimate Scout leader training course.

It did not take long to find a few people from my council that I knew once I arrived at Camp Stearns. I have known Bruce since my days as a Boy Scout. He worked on staff at the summer camp I attended, Parker Scout Reservation. I knew Jim through roundtable meetings and council family camp weekends. Jim was also known as Skunk because of the striped cap and coat he wore when camping, which we suspected was made from real skunk hides.
John was also from the Central Minnesota Council and was the fourth member of our patrol. He was the scoutmaster of a troop in St. Cloud. The final members of our patrol were two female Scout leaders from the Viking Council, Mary and Marge. So, we had four men and two women in our group. We all got along great and formed a good, if somewhat mischievous, patrol.
It was time to receive our patrol name. Would we get to be the agile Antelopes? Maybe the wise Owls? How about the mighty Bears? I liked the idea of being a high flying Eagle. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered we were to be the Bobwhite patrol. A bobwhite? A small game bird? Come on guys, get real. But the Bobwhites we were named, and the Bobwhites we would be.
We actually had a lot of fun as the Bobwhite Patrol. We came up with a cool flag, created a nice sign for our camp, and came up with an awesome totem. Bruce even found some small yellow beaks for us to wear by the second weekend of training.
“I used to be a Bobwhite, and a good old Bobwhite too. But now I’ve finished Bobwhiting, I don’t know what to do.” We are the Bobwhites. Beware!
Watch for more stories about my Woodbadge training.

I was beginning to feel a little burned out after serving as the scoutmaster of Troop 68 for six years in the fall of 1987. I told Paul, a great Scouting friend of mine, how I was feeling about Scouting. He suggested that I attend a Woodbadge training course. Woodbadge would get me energized.

I had heard about Woodbadge, that it is like the college course of Scout leader training, and that it is an excellent course to attend. I also knew that it would take place over three weekends and that there was a “nice” registration fee. Woodbadge would be something I would attend some other time.
Paul caught up with me during a district function in the spring of 1988. “I registered you for the fall Woodbadge course,” he told me, and then gave me the dates of the three weekends. “Well gosh,” I thought, “that was nice of him.” Yes, I wanted to participate in a Woodbadge course but this was much sooner than I had planned. Oh well, I was registered now so I guess I may as well get it done and over with.
I told the troop committee about it at the next meeting. They agreed to pay a portion of the cost for which I was very thankful. I also discovered that I would need another uniform shirt since I was not about to redo many of the patches on my current troop uniform. Luckily, I already had the official Scout pants, cap, and socks.
As the first weekend approached I began to get a little nervous. I was attending the course in Viking Council, since our council was not conducting Woodbadge training. I knew Paul would be on the staff as the troop quartermaster but would I know anyone else? Who would be in my patrol? What would be my patrol name? Too many questions. Too much to be nervous about.

Last night, when I was checking out a few Scouting related blogs, I had a quick flashback to the early 1990′s. BuffaloEagle, at Lone Star Scouter, had posted a list of the eleven skills of leadership. Upon seeing them I was taken back to my Woodbadge training at Camp Stearns.

The skills are:

Buffalo Eagle wrote that these skills were discussed during a COPE course that he attended. I went through COPE nearly ten years ago, but I do not remember discussing these during the course. Maybe we did. I do not remember. I was having too much fun climbing things and riding the zip line.

The Eleven Skills of Leadership. It has been awhile since I have thought about them. Maybe it is time to review them. Now, where did I put my Woodbadge notebook?

Roundtables need to meet a few requirements if you want Scout leaders to attend them. They need to be informative. They need to offer worthwhile training. They need to offer a wide variety of topics, not just the same old thing year after year. They need to offer something for the new leaders, and something for the experienced crowd. But most of all, they need to be fun!

I have attended many good roundtables, and many boring ones. Any meeting that expects me to sit there for ninety minutes listening to a lecture is NOT a good meeting in my book. If that speaker is someone with a monotone voice that likes to drone on and on then I will be fidgeting in my seat.

I know the national office publishes meeting suggestions for roundtables. I also know that not every roundtable staff uses them. Sometimes the national suggestions are not compatible with a district’s agenda. It does not matter if the staff uses the nation book or makes their own agendas, but they need to make the meetings worthwhile for adult leaders to take the time out of their own busy schedules. Otherwise do not expect people to show up to fill those chairs. Here are my suggestions for a decent roundtable.

First of all, have an opening and a closing ceremony. Use different ones every month. Give the pack and troop leaders new ideas to take back to their units. Keep in mind that when you use and opening and closing ceremonies you “actually” bring the meeting to a start and an end just like a troop meeting.

Try to offer at least two topics per monthly meeting, something for the new leaders and something for the old timers. You can either break the meeting into two halves, each half covering one topic, or break the group into two groups, one covering each topic. Be sure to invite speakers who are knowledgeable in the topic.

Play a game part way through the meeting. Yeah, that is right. A game! Expecting men to sit there for ninety minutes is the equivalent of torture. A short ten minute game lets everyone get up, stretch, and burn a few calories. It clears the cobwebs that may have started to form in the mind. Keep the game simple and something that could be used during a troop or pack meeting with the boys. Remember, we are at the roundtable to learn things to take back to the troops. Oh, and make sure the game is fun!

Before the closing ceremony spend a few minutes with any announcements. And do not forget to recognize any accomplishments achieved since the last roundtable. Yes, adults like to be recognized also, just like the boys, even if the recognition may be for something silly.

There, now you have my recommendations for a good roundtable. After these three entries about roundtables you can look forward to a new topic next time.

In the 1980′s, when I began attending monthly training meetings, the district had a great roundtable staff. They were well trained, prepared for the subjects, and they made the roundtables fun.

Paul was the roundtable commissioner. He had sons of his own in the Scouting program and had held several positions within Scouting, including scoutmaster. He seemed to be very knowledgeable about every aspect of the Scouting program. Paul was a Scouter that I looked up to. Over the next few years he became my mentor and one of my best friends in Scouting.

Once I had attended roundtables for a few years Paul invited me to join his staff. I was in my mid-twenties and did not feel very comfortable about training men and women who would be older then myself. I think Paul saw something in me that I did not see in myself.

During the next few years, under Paul’s guidance, I began refining my Scouting skills as an adult leader. One trick that Paul loved to do to me was to place me in charge of a subject for the next roundtable that I did not know a lot about. So, I had one month to learn about it. The trick worked very well, although at the time I did not always appreciate it. I learned a lot under Paul’s instruction. He soon encouraged me to be a staff member for the Scouting University and the weekend scoutmaster training sessions. We even experimented one year with a junior leader roundtable.

I soon became more comfortable speaking in front of groups of people, something I had hated doing in high school. My voice started cracking less and less, my palms became less sweaty, and I did not shake quite as much as I used to. I began to become more confident in myself as my knowledge in Scouting increased.

As adult leaders we always like to brag about how Scouting can help our boys, but I think we also need to remember what Scouting offers adults who are willing to apply themselves to the program. I, for one, have grown more as a Scout leader then I ever did as a Boy Scout. I am sure that I am not the only one out there who can make that claim.

Twenty years after those roundtable staffer days, I received the council’s highest award, the Silver Beaver. I invited my parents to the award ceremony. (I am not married so there was not a wife to invite.) I also asked my old roundtable commissioner, mentor, and friend to attend the dinner and be the person who would present the award to me. Both Paul and I were grinning wide as he placed the Silver Beaver award around my neck.

Should you attend your monthly roundtable meetings? You bet you should! And apply yourself to the leadership roles you have accepted. After all, look where it got me.

I began attending monthly district roundtable training meetings shortly after becoming an assistant scoutmaster in 1980. I was a firm believer that this ninety minute training session would help me in my new position. I still attend many roundtables, even though I have been in Scouting long enough to conduct the meetings myself. I still pick up a couple things here and there that are useful.

Those first years of roundtables were critical in my leadership training. Oh yes, I did also attend the weekend scout leader training session and the yearly Scouting University, but it was during the roundtables that I really got to know the other Scout leaders in my area.

I live in Melrose, a city of approximately 3000 people. Nearby cities are 6-7 miles apart with a lot of farm land between them. Interstate 94 runs through the south portion of Melrose. The Central Minnesota Council office is located in St. Cloud, thirty five miles from my home. A couple leaders from neighboring cities and I would carpool to the meetings. During that 30 minute drive we would discuss various Scouting topics and sometimes talk about current problems we had within our troops. The same thing would happen on the way home, although the meeting may have given us a new topic to discuss.

One advantage in attending these monthly meetings was forming new friendships with my fellow Scouters. I am pretty shy by nature so it was great to be able to share experiences and to have them there to help solve problems.

The members of the carpool soon decided to stop for supper after the roundtables since we did not have the time to eat properly between getting home from work and getting to the meeting. We made a habit of going to Bonanza in St. Cloud. These “after-roundtable roundtables, as I liked to call them, became another important element of my training and friendship making. It did not take long for other Scouters to discover our after-roundtable roundtables. There were times when we would have eight to ten leaders, in Scout uniform, sitting at a table in Bonanza, shooting the breeze and solving all of the problems in Scouting. We had a great time.

Currently, I am the only member of those early roundtable years that is still involved in Scouting, at least locally. Most of those guys have retired from Scouting or moved on to other locations. I, however, am still making new friends at the roundtables. A couple months ago, four of us stopped at a local dining place after the meeting for some snacks and something to drink. We talked about Scouts, the Order of the Arrow, and the council’s camp.

Who knows… Maybe the after-roundtable roundtables will become popular once again.