All posts by Brice Pearce

Finding a Better Way Forward

Submitted by Ahmadou Balde, District Executive

Five weeks ago, I returned to the United States from a trip in West Africa that profoundly affected me. I saw at first sight how the desertion of the youth and young adolescents can affect a society. From the media and family members, I was already aware of some of the societal realities, however, I soon realize that no amount of stories could have prepared me for what I was witnessing. All the initial excitement I had of going back to a place I had been away from a eight years dissipated. Instead, I was ecstatic to get back to start my new job with the Boy Scouts of America. 

The only knowledge I had of this organization was based on the research prior to my interview. I knew I was aligning myself with the right organization to learn for the purpose of eventually giving back. What I did not know was the fact that I was joining a deeply misunderstood organization with a deep seated history. 

A few weeks into my new job, I came to realize the mainstream view of the organization as WHITE ONLY or UPPER MIDDLE CLASS ONLY perpetuates a misunderstanding and prevents the active participation of many individual communities that can profoundly benefit from the Scouting movement. And frankly, I think viewing the Boy Scouts through those lenses is doing injustice to all of us.  Undoubtedly, an organization that is 106 years old has a long and diverse history with its own stereotypes and reputation. However, I strongly believe that it has the solution to the moral decay going on in our respective communities that none of us can afford to ignore.  

Recently, I heard a compelling story from a Scouter. As a child, his single mom dropped him at Scout meetings. With her competing priorities and responsibilities, she barely had the time, but she was entirely committed to having her son participate in Scouting. I guess she saw how the different camping activities would teach him how to live in a pluralistic society and how the respective field trips would open his sense of curiosity. But I think most importantly, she realized how the Scout Law and Oath that he was routinely reciting would forever be ingrained in the psyche of her son. More than 40 years later, she was right. Her child has become a decent man, dedicated to giving back to the world.

Now, I am in no way stating that this man is a decent person only because he joined Scouting. I am sure we can find plenty of examples that provide supporting details. Nevertheless, his story and stories of others show that the historical contribution of the BSA to America was unquantifiable. Just like Scouters, this mother understood early on that with the decline of institutions like families and churches, the presence of an entity with the sole purpose of inculcating people with certain moral values is essential to the well-being of our society. We are beginning to quantify that value today, with longitudinal research.

Before every Scouting meeting, all Scouts are expected to recite the Scout Oath, which goes begins this: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my Country…” As a black African immigrant with a double consciousness, I grapple with the meaning of this phrase. I surely knew duty to God and to country means different things to different people. I wondered if I was just pledging blind loyalty to America or simply reciting a slogan. Fortunately, I came to realize that this one phrase is an affirmation of the longest lasting American promise expressed differently by each generation: the responsibility to leave a better world for our children. It is the God-given duty of self-responsibility for a greater good ingrained in the collective psychology of everyday Americans.

The rising moral decay expressed by rising attitude of indifference, egocentric motivation, perverted aspiration (win at all cost) or the rise of demagogues is a product of our failures to properly react. Consequently, individualism is on the rise with all its ramification. Now, it is of utmost importance that we acknowledge the current reality to properly shape the youth and create a better world. The approach of community based activities and leaderships practiced by BSA in respective neighborhoods to responsibilize adults and prevent children from lionizing morally bankrupt folks and teach them decent moral values will only help reconnect with this promise.

In reality, this situation is a generational challenge that will require the commitment of each and all of us. The Boy Scouts of America has much to offer; however, I know many youth and parents are distancing themselves from the Scouting movement simply due to misunderstanding or historical missteps. The goal of Scouting is to prepare young people for life, to cultivate a higher sense of positive character and decency. At the end, what makes America great is not the fighters or the wealth of the nation. It is the affirmation of social responsibility acted upon by each of generation and expressed by this one phrase recited by every Scout. Now, the continuity of this tradition will depend on our current actions and choices.

Rock Climbing and COPE Instruction

Submitted by Darrin Johnson, General Manager of New England Base Camp

The first time I went rock climbing was at summer camp.  You had to be 13 years old and they only offered it on Thursday morning.  I skipped Reptile Study Merit Badge to go and to give it a try.  After all, I had been waiting to try rock climbing for 3 years.  My response was an instantaneous love of the sport.  A love that would stick with me for almost 30 years.  We went back to the campsite and tested out our new skill using bailing twine and the cliff next to our tent.  Needless to say, that did not go well.

The next 25 years I would go climbing with the Scouts at summer camp, weekend climbing with friends and worked in the industry for a while.  When my oldest came home from a school trip to the local climbing gym and wanted to go climbing all time, was when I determined that I needed to refresh my best practices.  Even though I had learned new skills along the way, I knew that I needed to get better and safer.

Picking the right climbing course (or any course for that matter) is not easy.  I did not want one that was too basic.  I also did not want one that was way over my head.  I looked all around, and in the end I decided on the Spirit of Adventure Climbing Course.  For me, the reason was convenience.  The timing of the course worked and the location was right for me.  I was not sure what to expect, but my goal was to refresh my skills.

I sat by two people that I did not know.  On my left was a person who had never gone climbing before in her life and just wanted to “give it a try.”  To the right of me was a former White Mountain Guide who wanted to get his certification to take his Scouts climbing.  I was pretty much right between the two of them in my skill level, so the seat was perfect.

The course succeeded with something that is not easy to do at all- they managed to relate and to teach at all the different levels.  The person who had never climbed before, now takes her Scouts climbing regularly, helps out at Base Camp and is planning on taking her COPE certification.  The former guide added a ton to the discussion during the course, helped everyone, learned several new safety skills and now teaches Climbing Merit Badge for units, districts and at Merit Badge University.

I got something out of the course that you really cannot put a price tag on.  I did learn a ton (more than I ever thought that I would) and it did help make my best practices a whole lot better.  The biggest thing though, without question, is that I feel safe taking my daughters climbing.  We have gotten closer by climbing together on the weekends and bonding over the difficult climb that they managed to climb.

Come join us at New England Base Camp to become a Climbing Instructor and learn how to impact not only your life, but those of countless youth as well by registering HERE

Why Do We Camp?

To experience the wilderness? To be with friends? To challenge our skills? To explore?

All of this, and something even more. Camping is pure. It’s an opportunity to strip away the pressure of the day and focus on more important things. As the Scoutmaster, you can leave the stress of work behind and focus on helping others.

For the Scouts, they leave behind their school and part-time job concerns, desire for academic achievements, athletic competition, and social pressures. They are free to roam at camp like nowhere else (Obviously, we know where they are at all times, and they are in a safe environment). Within that wilderness space they can let go and explore. As a Council, we spend enormous time, effort and resources scheduling merit badges, building ropes courses, improving facilities, launching boats, and dozens of other activities that add up to “the program.” However, when the Scout comes home after the week at camp and his mom asks him what was the best part about camp, he says “I caught a frog!” Or “Billy laughed so hard milk came out his nose.” Two things he could’ve done on any given Saturday in the backyard.

If that’s the highlight, why do we camp?

We are grateful that he has fun memories when he’s 11 years old. But those memories change and evolve over time. As he grows he learns to articulate different memories from his camp experience. When you ask a 17-year-old about camp he references camaraderie. Ask a 25-year-old to reflect on his youthful camp experience and he talks about independence. When you ask 40 year-old he talks about learning responsibility in camp. Responsibility he never would’ve learned anywhere else. The place that prepared him to to be a father. Ask a 55 year old and he’ll reflect on learning leadership that, in retrospect, has guided him ever since. Ask a 70 year old and he’ll reminisce about the milk coming out of Billy’s nose 😉

So, why do we camp?

It provides life changing opportunities and builds life-long bonds. Deeper than they first appear, and they fill our personal memory reservoir. Camp is a wonderful mixture of authentic challenges, metaphorical lessons, and unparalleled fun. The scouting community (Scoutmasters, Scouts, camp staff and the physical property) all work together – like a recipe to make the experience work.

Building and developing the Northern Nexus and the Spirit of Adventure is an authentic challenge. It’s the challenge that makes the victory taste so sweet. We are glad to announce all the registrations for the much anticipated inaugural summer at Northern Nexus (Wah-Tut-Ca, Storer and Parker) can be found HERE.

Focusing on the Future

Submitted by Chuck Eaton, Scout Executive and CEO

Our Council, Spirit of Adventure is in transition. That’s pretty clear by nature of the merger, and our strategic objectives:

  • Build the Northern NeXus
  • Open Camp Sayre to the public as New England Base Camp
  • Reinvigorate Scouting by making it Thrive in Our Communities

This can be a tough and confusing process. Some Executive Board and District-level volunteers – as well as some Council Staff – have, for their own independent reasons, separated from the council. Regardless of their individual reasons, each one of them still expresses a long-term commitment to our new direction.

The transition itself causes ambiguity, causing “the council” to ask a lot of questions. Focus groups, anecdotal stories, analysis of trends, and a host of thoughtful exercises work together to help develop a detailed plan. This strategic plan will ultimately end the ambiguity and develop a council that can help Scouting thrive.

As we listen and craft this Council together, we can start to see some pieces of the new culture come clearly into focus.

We are dedicated to the following:

  1. ScoutBook – this new software and its ability to directly impact online registration, program enhancement, and the empowerment of units
  2. Program development – providing resources that help the Scout program come alive
    • (For example: helping Den leaders provide hands-on advancement-oriented, and exciting outdoor activities at convenient locations)
  3. Customer service – training and retraining staff and volunteers around customer service to provide the standard of care to which families are accustomed
  4. Exciting volunteer opportunities – creating easy volunteer on-boarding programs and increasing volunteer satisfaction

These positive additions will come at a price. We have to reorganize and reinvest. We understand that the transition is difficult. Each District’s Key Three members will meet on February 25 to refine these plans. The officers and board have been reviewing draft plans for the past six weeks. We have been holding listening sessions and focus groups since the very beginning 11 months ago.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” – Abraham Lincoln

This quote is quite appropriate for the stage of development for our Spirit of Adventure Council. If we use Lincoln’s analogy, we have been sharpening the ax for 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Thanks for your patience
Chuck

Birthday Adventure Is Yours Here!

All across the country, Troops, Packs, and Venture Crews find ways to celebrate and recognize and share their enthusiasm for Scouting is part of the anniversary.

Everyone understands the character and leadership building value of the program. And everyone in the program understands the fun excitement of the scouting activities. Yet, in many communities we also struggle with attracting new families. Ask any Cubmaster with growing membership and will all say the same thing “The secret is program first! Make it fun for the scouts, siblings and the parents!”

What could be more fun than an outdoor adventure birthday party!?
Plan your birthday party with us this month and save $50.
Think about the invitation list. All their friends would enjoy a day that includes rock climbing, archery, swimming, Native American games, and all the great outdoor activities.

So plan today, and register with your Scout’s birthday party between April – October 2016 during the month of February and save!
Email Heather Sheehan or call her at 617-615-0004 to schedule your party now.

The Benefits of Active Parenting

Submitted by Ted Cormier-Leger, Cub Scout Dad, Pack 7, Dedham, MA

A little over 5 years ago, we got a call that our application to become pre-adoptive, foster parents was approved and our social worker had a little boy in mind for us to meet.  Since we had just completed the state’s required classes and home study visits, we thought we would have to wait a lot longer so the call came as quite a surprise.  Were we ready?  What were we going to do with him?  Would he like us?  Would he get along with our dogs?  So we forged ahead and figured this was part of some larger plan.  We went to the house where Charlie was staying.  He had just turned 2.  It was the summer so he was running around with only a diaper on.  He hid behind the couch and peeked around at us.  He smiled and giggled and ran away to some other part of the house.  Needless to say it was love at first sight.  He was non verbal at that point but he knew various signs to tell us what he wanted.  He quickly won his way into our hearts and shortly after came to live with us.

Having a son brought back lots of great memories for me.  Especially those that involved Scouting.  Whether it was sitting in den meetings in our kitchen with my mom as our den leader or building my first Pinewood Derby car with my dad in our basement, Scouting played a critical role in my young life.  Sports were never really my thing back then despite trying really hard.  I got hit by the pitch way more than I have connected the bat to the ball.  Scouts was different.  I could learn new stuff, play, laugh with other kids, go on adventures and just be myself.  I am also confident that because I had such a great experience in Cub Scouts, I stayed with the program as a Boy Scout and later attained my Eagle.  (I could also talk about all my great summers at camp, both as a Scout and on staff or even delve into my trip to Philmont, but I think I will save those stories for another time.)

So when the opportunity came for my son to become a Cub Scout, I was so excited to bring him to the first meeting.

Seeing him in his full uniform and a big smile across his face brought a little tear to my eye. At the first meeting, all of the parents decided to divide and conquer so we each would take turns with delivering the lessons and activities to the kids each month.  Within a month, Charlie earned his Bobcat as well as his first belt loop and he was beaming to get those awards at the pack meeting from the Cubmaster (with proud dad standing beside him of course).

If you have the opportunity to work closely with your child on anything, I suggest you grab it.  If that opportunity is with Scouting, that is great.  My mom and dad were not spectators watching my young life go by.  They were involved, they cared, they took risks.  They did stuff with me.  I want to be that parent for my son and I encourage you to do the same.

dad and charlie

Parents + Day Camp = Quality Family Memories

Submitted by Brice Pearce, Cub Scout Camping Advisor

Just a few years ago, back in 2012, I began to work with Day Camp for the first time. Initially, I thought it would be just like Boy Scout resident camping, only the days would be shorter. Boy, was I both right and wrong…

Not having children myself, I must admit I wasn’t sure what to expect of the parent/youth interaction… You don’t see a ton of this at Boy Scout resident camp, and, at an older age, you are definitely encouraging more independence from the youth.

What I have observed over the last few years focusing on Cub Scout programming has been truly amazing, and life-changing for many families.

I have watched several parents become amazing Cub Scout leaders, simply because they came to a camping event with their scout and had a good time. I have seen children gain confidence while learning new skills with their parents, and the parents smile as they see this happen. I have seen parents gain new skills, without realizing it, and then develop those skills into new passions. And, I have seen parents discover, some for the very first time, how to simply play with their child. This is totally in-line with what is expressed in a recent article in the Boston Parents Paper (“Learning Beyond Class”), looking at the instructive value of play when choosing extracurricular activities that focus on the acquisition of “skills that can be acquired through participation, practice, and performance.”

When people ask me what the value of Cub Scouting, is, I give an answer that I don’t hear expressed very often:
By spending time with your child in Scouting, and allowing them to see you have fun learning new things alongside of them, you are creating a bond that you could not pay for later in life.

So, as you think about Day Camp this summer, and are making those decisions around dollars and cents, schedules, daycare, and tax write-offs, think about the investment that you need to make in your child’s life.

When you register your children for Day Camp this summer, why not take some of your vacation time to come play with them, and spend a few days smiling together?

DAYCAMPteMPLOGO

Spirit of Adventure Day Camps open for registration Saturday, January 16th, at 8am HERE.

For more information, see our short video and our online magazine.

Engage with our Facebook pages for the Chelmsford, Topsfield, and Greater Boston areas, as well as our premier camping facilities at New England Base Camp in Milton, MA, and Lone Tree Scout Reservation in Kingston, NH.

Here We Go!

Submitted by Chuck Eaton, Scout Executive and CEO

Two New Convenient Scout Shops
Starting later this winter two local stores in the Northern portion of the Council will start providing limited Scout supplies, books and uniforms.

Ben’s Uniforms Inc.                                                                                        All Sports Heroes
http://www.bensuniformsonline.com/                                                      http://www.allsportsheroes.com/
20 Main St, Amesbury, MA 01913                                                               18 1st St, Lowell, MA 01850
Phone: 978-388-0471                                                                                    Phone: 978-452-1976
Fax: 978-388-7878                                                                                         Fax: 978-452-2707

Other Administrative and Physical Changes
The North Andover Scout Shop will be closing on February 19th
The Haverhill Office will be closing on or before March 1st
The Scout Office aspect of the Egan Center will close on or before March 1st (Scout Shop will remain, of course!)
The Woburn Office will open for Business on or before March 1st

How this will workThe Woburn location is considered to be the most central location – both geographically and based on traffic patterns for the council footprint. The location will now serve as a primary Scout Shop (600 Cummings Park suite 1250) and the business operations headquarters (600 Cummings Park suite 2750 – just upstairs) for Spirit of Adventure. Over time we will look to expand the sales floor for the Woburn Scout Shop to accommodate for the additional traffic.

Council Service Center – who really uses the Scout Service Center?
The new business format for Spirit of Adventure will minimize trips to the council office by all volunteers. Through use of technology, conference calls, video conferencing and a highly mobile staff we want every ounce of volunteer energy to go toward the Scouts – not spent in your car driving to an office. Our office staff will be all together in one building and they will serve as the nerve center for operations. A phone call to that location will provide quick and courteous answers about camp registrations, advancement concerns, membership questions, donations or training information etc. The Commissioned Staff will be out in the field – ready willing and able to meet with unit committees, community leaders, and others. Their responsibilities are to roll up their sleeves and dig into more detailed and complex situations that ultimately make SCOUTING THRIVE.

Therefore during the day the space in Woburn will serve as a “hotelling” location for those commissioned staff in between meetings in the field. This provides maximum flexibility of the space (and a smaller footprint) so during the evening that same “office space” will be used for council and district meetings.

What about the space at the Egan center? #letsPLAY
The Egan Center and the New England Base Camp are the program delivery hub for Scouting across Eastern MA and soon New England. While we will maintain a small administrative staff in that location the majority of that highly valuable indoor space will be used for program delivery. Likely an improved STEM Center, Birthday party rooms, Handicrafts and other program features that’ll enhance the quality of the program.

Winter is Coming!

It may not feel like it, but soon the temperature will drop, the snow will fall and the water will freeze.  There is not much one can do about it, we are in New England after all.  Now is not the time to start to think about the ice damns on your house or the amount of snow that you shoveled last winter.  It is time to think about what you are going to do to get those kids that will be stuck indoors outside! WinterCamping

Winter is not the time to plan for only indoor activities for your family or Scout group.  It is the best time to get outside and enjoy what Mother Nature has given us.  Soon February vacation will be here and nothing is worse than being stuck inside with kids that are ready to be outside.  The Spirit of Adventure Council has opportunities for all ages of Scouts and for families to enjoy.

February Vacation Camp

With two different camps, both running out of New England Base Camp in Milton, your opportunities are almost limitless.

SnowProgramThe “traditional” winter camp is anything but traditional.  Cub Scouts will go on hikes through the Blue Hills using snow shoes,  go ice skating on our ice rink, learn how to cook in the snow and so much more.  Boy Scouts will have the opportunity to earn Wilderness Survival Merit Badge with their overnight be done in a quincy or the Eagle required Cooking Merit Badge with the meal done on a hike be done while hiking with snow shoes.  Everyone will be able to enjoy sledding, snurfing, our indoor nerf shooting range and the swimming pool. Sign up HERE

Need a little more adventure for your vacation camp?  Join us on our Mountaineering/Ice Climbing expedition week.  Scouts will spend the first two days at New England Base Camp learning how to Ice Climbing.  On Wednesday morning they will head up to New Hampshire to climbing on some of the best ice in New England.  You will return Thursday night and spend the last day at Base Camp showing the participants what you have learned and taking advantage of the water adventure course. Sign up HERE

IceClimbing

Weekend Program

Every weekend starting January 9th through the last weekend in February, New England Base Camp runs our Saturday winter program.  Come for the day and learn how to build a quincy, go ice skating, spend the afternoon at the pool and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate around a camp fire as the sun is setting.  If you are looking for more adventure, check out the ice climbing (as featured in this month’s Boy’s Life).  Call 617.615.0004 today, as limited space is available.

www.newenglandbasecamp.org

So let’s PLAY outside!  Grab those kids and join us at Base Camp to create memories that will last a lifetime.

Website Preview: Boy Scouts

When we listen to Boy Scout leaders it’s clear that for 10 months a year they take pride in their outdoor self sufficiency. An average Troop simply needs a few acres of wooded green space and the SPL and the SM will develop the program from there. Most commonly we hear about “Iron Chef” competitions, building snow shelters, hikes, and other outdoor activities to prepare for camp-o-rees or Klondikes derbies.

Our camps in Scouting reflect that need and that service. Camp Sayre, Lone Tree, Wah Tut Ca, Storer and Parker Mountain all provide basic weekend camping opportunities between September and June. Campsites and cabins are inexpensive and the program development and services at these camps are minimal. Troops also like to branch out and explore other Scout camps and often find unique exciting features.

Through all that self sufficiency and all the outdoor skills that our Scout Masters and leaders exhibit month in and month out, we also recognize more and more troops don’t go much beyond “car camping” and high adventure is something we often “outsource.” Older Scouts often express mild frustration in their troops ability to expand their outdoor horizons beyond typical weekend camping trip. Troops sometimes add a white water adventure, or a trip to Rock Spot to help expand those horizons.

Expanding your Troop Horizons
This is where the collective resources of the council can provide additional value.
Summer Camp and the Northern NeXus! 
By connecting all three of our Northern NH properties we have created up 30,000 acres of adventure than none of the individual properties could attain on their own. Now Scouts can enjoy everything from mountain top experiences, to vertical caving, to water park style activities and unique boating, horseback riding, and back packing!
Patrol Leaders Council and Leadership Opportunities
It’s clear that every troop wants to expand and empower their youth leaders. We provide a suite of programs throughout the year to help youth leaders expand their skills and send them back to the troop enthusiastic and motivated.
Every Weekend at the New England Base Camp, ScoutMasters enjoy the added support and patience required to help patrol leaders expand their skills and practice leadership. For the very adventurous older Scout or Venturer there are Specialty Programs for extreme activities like Ice climbing, rock climbing, weekend COPE, staff opportunities and much more.
Every Summer through NYLT, Brownsea and Summer camp staff opportunities older Scouts can expand and develop their skills to better serve in leadership roles for the coming year.

Contact Us
Our Scout Representatives are happy to meet with Your Patrol Leaders Council or your Troop Committee to help develop your annual plan and get the most out of the council resources. Click HERE to set up a meeting!