Scouts stay active in new ways


Some completed an online merit badge class. Others are working through weekly challenges that task the youth with completing various activities inside their homes and backyards, or taking part in community service projects in one-person shifts. One group will even stream a pinewood derby.

Scouts BSA troops and Cub Scouting packs in Dubois County have paused social gatherings. But kids and leaders are adapting as they tap into new resources to keep their units active and moving forward.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to make sure that scouting can continue in a somewhat modified form,” said Michael Richard, district director of the Buffalo Trace Council’s Lincoln Heritage District. “But still a form that has value to our scouts and families.”

Richard explained that Buffalo Trace has regularly updated information on its website that includes suggestions, action plans and activities for scouting families to work on from home while normal operations are put on hold. Many units are using Zoom and other teleconferencing services to keep in touch, and while technology limitations can present issues in some areas, the remote scouting info shared by the council is aimed at maintaining a sense of involvement for everyone connected to the programs.

In Ireland, the 15 active Scouts in Troop 130 have shifted to communicating in small groups online and also tackling community service projects in safe ways. Recently, for example, the kids broke into individual shifts to clean headstones at their sponsoring organization, St. Mary Church.

The youth will follow this same format when they plant trees at the Ireland Sportsman Club on Saturday as part of a reforestation project. Some of the scouts congregated via Zoom to complete their citizenship in the world merit badge, too, and rank advancement meetings and other conferences have been completed virtually as well.

Scoutmaster Jason Green credited the success of the troop’s transition to the support of the Scouts’ families.

“Because we don’t want the boys to lose interest or lose their momentum in their advancement,” Green said. “We’re hopeful. We’ve got summer camps planned, a couple different ones depending on the age of the scouts, and we’re really hopeful that those don’t get canceled.”

Joe Keller, Cubmaster at Ferdinand Cub Scouting Pack 186, explained that his group has not congregated at Forest Park Junior-Senior High School since shortly before Gov. Eric Holcomb issued his stay-at-home order. The kids haven’t been meeting online yet, but they will soon use the internet to experience two big events.

The first will be the pack’s annual pinewood derby event. Instead of gathering in-person to watch the heats, the track will be set up at a leader’s home, and the races will be taped and broadcast through the internet, where about 35 cubs will watch as their creations go head-to-head with their friends.

Rank advancements are also continuing — Keller explained the scouting year had nearly wrapped up before the distancing precautions went into effect — and the second big streaming event will be a crossover ceremony that recognizes the youths’ achievements and sends off the oldest kids into the Scouting BSA program.

“Because the kids had already had their pinewood derby car ready for the upcoming race, and they’re already finished with their rank requirements, I want to go ahead and recognize them now,” Keller said. “And I’m clearing up some logistics on how to get the awards out to them so that they can be presented whenever they do win or whenever they do rank up. But I think, especially now, they kind of need that little bit of positivity to know that, ‘Hey, you’re still Scouts. We’re still doing this together.’”

In Huntingburg, kids in Scouts BSA Troop 181 have been completing weekly challenges to keep their scouting muscles sharp. The eight troop members have been tasked with activities like constructing a campsite in their backyards and cooking a meal for their family.

Next, they’ll build a camp gadget and perform a family skit. When the four-week program ends, all the Scouts will have checked off requirements for various ranks, and the troop will celebrate with a pizza party when it’s safe to have one.

“Some of them have said they just enjoy getting out of the house and doing something,” Scoutmaster Kevin Carrico said of the program’s success, later adding, “their parents are happy for them to do something besides sit in the house and get in trouble.”

On a regional scale, Richard told of how an annual district merit badge day that would have allowed almost 200 participants from across the area to earn badges needed for rank advancement in early March was canceled. The hope is that event will be rescheduled for later this year.

An activity-filled council camporee has been modified to be held in an online format on May 9. Online registration is required in advance, as participants will be given secure codes to join via Zoom. More information and registration is available at, under “Virtual Camporee.”

A national, virtual camp-in will be streamed on Facebook on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m.

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