Sunday, March 12, 2006

Boy Scouts in the Mist

Nearly as wild as Gorillas in the Mist, but closer to home.

This weekend was Merit Badge Blitz for my son's Scout troop, where the boys spend a weekend working on merit badges (or rank advancement for new boys). By popular demand, I was back again this year to do Environmental Science. I already teach biology and have been an environmental educator, so it's a no-brainer that I should be the counselor for the badge. It's also one of the badges required for Eagle rank (hence the snazzy silver border), so it's one of the popular badges for boys who are moving up the ranks.

Though the troop spent Friday and Saturday night up at old Camp Kilowan (a Campfire camp near Falls City, OR, but we've done service project there, including an Eagle project, so the troop gets some camping privileges), I drove up with a couple of other parents on Saturday to spend the day. I had too much to do at home to go up for the whole weekend, but I didn't want to miss the whole thing. There'd been snowfall a few days ago, and reports were that there was at least four inches of the white stuff on the ground, but by the time I got up there on Saturday morning, there were only patches left (though there was more on the Weyerhauser land just above, which we who were driving up together found out when were trying to figure out which road out of Falls City was the right one, and ended up doing a bit of "touring"). Though there was a bit of mist in the air, the weather held for us, and we even had some sun breaks.

Five boys and I spent a highly productive morning doing most of the active requirements and experiments for Environmental Science. We made terraria in jars, which always look very cool, very green and mossy when they're done, causing other boys to gather around and say, "I shoulda signed up for that!" We did some behavioral studies on isopods (sow bugs), saw the erosion that can happen when slopes are denuded of vegetation, cleaned up simulated oil spills (to the disappointment of my little pyromaniacs, attempts to burn off the oil didn't work), studied differences in species lists and diversity in study plots in three different areas, created an environmental impact statement for a proposed building project, and learned about recycling. The boys need to observe their terraria for a week and make observations, finish an air pollution experiment at home, and do some write-ups. In the afternoon, while I went to work with a group on the Personal Management badge, my busy boys finished a list of definitions of terms and a timeline of the history of environmental science.

One of my boys worked on both badges, as both are Eagle required, and he's one of our Life scouts (the next rank below Eagle) who is aiming to attain Eagle by this summer. If our Lifers work steadily, we'll have one grand ceremony for another flock of Eagles. My own son was in the last flock of eight, and there were six in the year before him. It's been three years, and we need another flock to inspire the younger boys. The Lifers are all excited, and I think they'll all make it!

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