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Read Merit Badge Books and complete worksheets or not?

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  • Read Merit Badge Books and complete worksheets or not?

    When I began as a Scoutmaster, I required that Scouts signing up for Merit Badges obtain the Merit Badge book and read it, as well as complete the worksheets that go along with the Merit Badge prior to attending a Merit Badge class. As I read the books myself, I found them to be boring and tedious; very text book style writing. I am of the belief that Scouts don't come to Scouting to be in a second classroom, but to have a more dynamic form of learning; learning primarily through experience.
    I have gradually begun moving away from the school of thought that the books/ worksheets are necessary except when required by the instructor. I believe that the learning should occur through a series of well designed experiences, but I do realize that some boys simply can't focus on auditory (and tactile) learning alone. Some may need the visual learning style of the Merit Badge books in order to better absorb the information.

    With this said, I think that the worksheets (and books) would benefit some boys, but not necessarily all of them. I also believe that its not as important to master the subject matter through the initial introduction, but through continued exposure to the material. I think that if a boy gravitates to a merit badge subject, that he'll further explore the material, and gradually retain (and master) the subject matter.

    I realize that some Merit Badge counselors"require" that Scouts read the Merit Badge books and complete the worksheets prior to coming to a Merit Badge class. Others state that the books need to be read, but the worksheets are not necessary. Still others do not require either to be done. I realize this is at the discretion of the counselor, and shouldn't be questioned.

    When Merit Badge book reading/ worksheet completion is not listed in a prerequisite, I have recently not been requiring this to be completed. What are others thoughts on this practice?

  • #2
    As a SM this is not your call.

    As a MBC, you can require that scouts read available material before class. Then in class, you discuss the assigned readng and teach subject material in class. Next,you challenge scouts to do the corresponding requirements (possibly worksheets). The old Show, Tell, Do method. Completing a worksheet before the first merit badge class makes no sense to me, as the material has not been taught yet by the MBC.

    Some merit badge pamphlets are well done, some are not, and others seem totally unnecessary. I have yet to observe any scout actually read the Swimming merit badge book. Consequently, some MBC's use pamphlets, some don't.

    All scouts learn by hands-on doing (FUN), few learn by reading or copying answers onto a worksheet (boring schoolwork).

    My $0.02
    Last edited by RememberSchiff; 04-02-2014, 04:12 PM.


    • #3
      I discourage SM's from asking the boy to do anything specific except read the requirements and call MBC x to see if he/she's available, then if so ask him/her if he should get the pamphlet or do anything else prior to the first meeting.

      If the requirements were more static, I would suggest a boy grab a copy of a book and read the first couple of pages. But, anymore I have a boy check online to see if he's still okay trying for that MB because there are so many changes that nobody can keep track. (E.g. who knew the change in altitude option for Camping was reduced from 2000 to 1000 feet? ),


      • #4
        From 2013 GTA (note last sentence) Unofficial Worksheets and Learning Aids Worksheets and other materials that may be of assistance in earning merit badges are available from a variety of places including unofficial sources on the Internet and even troop libraries. Use of these aids is permissible as long as the materials can be correlated with the current requirements that Scouts must fulfill. Completing “worksheets” may suffice where a requirement calls for something in writing, but this would not work for a requirement where the Scout must discuss, tell, show, or demonstrate, etc. Note that Scouts shall not be required to use these learning aids in order to complete a merit badge.


        • #5
          It is a MBC call but I think it is legit for a SM to ask a MBC on how he teaches a class. I do have to constantly tell the boys "The worksheet is NOT the merit badge" I am thinking of getting the forehead tattoo.

          But some boys know the material forward and backwards and will not bother with the worksheet--a thoroughly boring and unimaginative form of teaching that has taken over many schools and seminars.


          • #6
            Personally, I hate the worksheets. This isn't school, I'm not a teacher, and assigning fill-in-the-blank homework seems to me to be pretty much the opposite of what scouting is supposed to be about. I consider the merit badge pamphlets to be a good reference, but not an absolute necessity. I'm a bit saddened to see how many boys show up to our first meeting for a given merit badge with a sentence or two written in each blank on a worksheet they pulled off the internet figuring that they'll get my signature on a blue card 45 minutes later. In reality, anything that can be completed on the worksheet is the least emphasized part of the badge for me: I spend a lot more time and effort on both the hands-on and discussion requirements of any given badge.


            • #7
              I like the worksheets, just because they give the boys a way to organize the material, and have a list of requirements on them. That said, I'm not slavish about them, and unless it's something requesting a written plan, we discuss it, rather than just read it off the worksheet.