Differences between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

Boy Scouts are not “webelos 3”. There are significant differences between the two organizations. These differences reflect the differences between the target groups of youth served by the different organizations. They are there for good reasons. Cub scouts is a family program aimed primarily at 7-10 year old boys; it requires the adults to run it in detail, largely because boys of that age cannot be expected to run it. Boy Scouts is a youth-oriented program aimed primarily at 11-18 year old youth. It is run by the scouts, for the scouts, and the adults play a (considerable) role in supporting the program. Our parish scout ministry has another BSA program, Venturers, which is aimed at young adults (14 & 9th grade – 21), where the scouts plan and run activities, but where adult support is fairly minimal, primarily as a resource for activities and as a review of plans.

Whose Troop is it?

It is worth remembering the words of Baden-Powell, “The chief task of the scoutmaster is to help the scouts run their troop”. The central goal of all adult leadership (really adult mentoring and teaching) is to empower the scouts to take up the leadership of their unit. Every adult leader should always ask “does this action of mine enable the scout leadership, or does it interfere with their ability to run their troop?”

Equivalent Positions in Cub and Boy Scouts
Cub Scouts Boy Scouts
Den Leader Patrol Leader
Cubmaster Senior Patrol Leader
Unit Committee (planning functions) Patrol Leaders Council
None Scoutmaster
Unit committee (administrative functions) Unit Committee

Notice that most cub scout positions are filled by youth in the boy scouts. This reflects the central difference between the two organizations. The patrol leaders are elected by their patrols, and the senior patrol leader by the troop at large. Because it is run by the scouts, boy scout meetings and activities tend to be more chaotic than cub meetings and activities. This is healthy. The scouts need to have opportunities to make mistakes, one role of the adult mentoring is to prevent these mistakes from becoming catastrophes. Unlike cub scouts, rank advancement in the first ranks (tenderfoot through first class) is examined by senior scouts (technically the scoutmaster can now restrict who can examine them, but it does not bode well if a scout who is most of the way to eagle is not competent to teach basic knots to a tenderfoot scout or the oath and law to a scout scout), and checked by the scoutmaster and board of review. Ranks like star, life scout, and eagle require merit badges which are taught and examined by adults who are registered merit badge counselors. They still have scoutmaster conferences and boards of review.

But you have put none for the equivalence between Scoutmaster and Cub Scouts, What gives?

Baden-Powell was thinking of the turn of the last century English word “schoolmaster” when he coined the word “scoutmaster”. A schoolmaster is a mentor, friend and teacher to his students. BSA is one of the few scouting organizations that still uses the term scoutmaster. The way to think of scoutmaster is as “chief adult guide” and the assistant scoutmasters as “adult guides”. Unfortunately these don’t make as nifty patches as scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster.

Written by Rob in: scouting |

Even More on Merit Badges

You’ve probably gathered that my son’s troop has had some difficulty with obstreperous adults trying to bully their way around using merit badge requirements as a pretext. I just sat on a board of review for one of the scouts who “couldn’t possibly have done …”, and whose alleged failure to complete an eagle required MB was considered reason to fire the scoutmaster (not done), emasculate the committee (forget that too), and harass the scouts (in violation of youth protection and not done either). There was much gnashing of teeth and hot air at the committee meetings over this.

One of the scouts was being reviewed for star and following typical questions: (I don’t guaranty that the quotes are verbatim – we don’t record these meetings).

“what was your easiest merit badge?”
a little discussion about that then:
“what was the hardest?”
“Environmental Science”
“and what was hard about that?”
“Sitting and observing that tree for two hours a day”

Basically the part of the merit badge that the blowhards had claimed the scouts didn’t do and therefore we should tear the troop apart about, they did.

Needless to say the scout is now a star scout.

Now as committee chair, I have to figure out what to do with the blowhards.

Written by Rob in: scouting |

Repurposing proteins

Yet another in my occasional musings on evolution.

One of the really interesting examples of evolution in action that would have been difficult to anticipate in the 1800′s, yet makes perfect sense, comes from snake venoms.  Most vertebrates are not venomous, which is probably a good thing, but there are a few that make their living with their bite (and we aren’t talking about Transylvania).

What is interesting with snakes, is how they repurposed or re-engineered proteins and moved them from being normally useful to being toxic.

One of the easiest examples of this is alpha-dendrotoxin, a neurotoxin from the green mamba.  (you can buy it freeze-dried from Sigma and it rehydrates and crystallizes without too much difficulty).  Most vertebrates use proteolytic enzymes, like trypsin, as part of digestion to chew up proteins.  Simply soaking in 1N HCl doesn’t quite do the trick.  Of course, if you use a protease to digest proteins in your food (a good idea) you need to be able to turn them off so they don’t digest you (not such a good idea).  Therefore, there are many protease inhibitors, and one of them, pancreatic trypsin inhibitor, is fairly common.  dendrotoxin and one class of pancreatic trypsin inhibitor are remarkably similar in structure and clearly the snake has taken a copy of its trypsin inhibitor and modified it slightly to perform another functionDendrotoxin structure, namely blocking potassium channels.

Dendrotoxin isn’t the only example.  There is a family of proteases involved in the control of tissue remodeling, namely the ADAM family.  adam33_model Rattlesnakes have adapted these to be venom, this time as a hemolytic factor.

Written by Rob in: engineering,science |

Another Practice Hike Near Atlanta

Sunday, while waiting for the superbowl to begin ;-) my wife and I took a practice walk up Stone Mountain Georgia (not to be confused with Stone Mountain North Carolina – which even shares a few trail names). Early’s Pac-man isn’t visible any longer on the sculpture.

I loaded my Miraposa with 23 lbs of stuff to get close to a reasonable weight. Actually a bit more than I’d like but somewhat close to a fully loaded pack with water and food for a few days. There were a couple of other equally crazy people with packs, but mostly struggling Atlanta-ites.

This is a fairly easy stroll for the first 2/3, but does have a few places after that where knowing the rest step is a good idea. It took about 26 minutes to get up which is not a great time, but is consistent with what I’d need to be able to do to get up Springer Mountain so I’m not unpleased.   It costs $10.00 to enter the park – which is a bit steep – so if I want to continue to use this I’d either get the $32 park annual pass or park at a friends in the quaint little town of Stone Mountain.

Trail map for stone Mountain Georgia

Trail map for stone Mountain Georgia

Written by Rob in: outdoors,trail map |

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