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Summer Camp Merit Badge Mill Grinds On.

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  • #16
    Pay your money, get badges for showing up. It's what the "customers" expect and it's how kids are being raised these days. Work for it, and even sometimes <gasp> fail ??? No, we won't allow that. It might cause hurt feelings and a drop in attendance.

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    • #17
      An alternative would be to just allow parents to go to the Scout Shop and buy the badges and ranks that they want. It would save everyone a lot of time, and the end result would be the same.

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      • #18
        TAHAWK, Sounds like a local problem for you. Just got back from a week of camp as an ASM, I signed a ton of blue cards as did the SM and other ASMs. From what I saw at camp, most of the MB counselors were young, but knew their stuff.

        WE had several scouts (including my son) who came home from camp with partials either because they failed to complete the prerequisites PRIOR to going to camp, or the camp didn't have time or the correct facilities to complete a given requirement. Swimming was one of those MBs, as the camp was a lake only place and was not deep enough for safe surface or safe dock diving... all scouts in swimming MB got a partial - becuase the lake level was low this year.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by SM bob View Post
          The problem is signing young scouts up for a merit badge that we all know they can not do. If we all refuse to allow first year scouts and maybe second year scouts from signing up for complex badges the classes will be better. A 1st yr scout in environmental science, wilderness survival, rock climbing, cooking, or any eagle badge other than swimming is ridiculous. We should all push the more crafty ones. When the scouts get older they can choose for themselves. If only older scouts are in the more technical badge classes the instructor can cover more material.
          That is exactly what I do. We even white-out the three citizenships, communications and personal fitness from the schedule before giving it to the Scouts. We allow them to take cooking but only with the agreement that they will do menus and food safety stuff at camp but must complete the cooking requirement with our in-troop counselor. (The only thing the class cooked this year was spaghetti with canned sauce, hobo dinners and deep-fried frozen biscuit dough covered with powered sugar and affectionately referred to as "doughnuts.")

          Here's the rub: according to the BSA Guide To Low-drag, High-Speed Advancement, That's not allowed. Scouts are permitted to take any merit badge, anywhere, any time and with any counselor. The old system of the SM issuing a blue card to "authorize" a Scout to attempt a MB is out. The SM's signature on the blue card is decorative, I suppose, and only indicates the scout and SM had a "discussion" about the merit badge.

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          • #20
            I would expect that most scouts would listen to the SM if he told them that they are not ready for a merit badge or that it would be better not to take that badge at camp. Don't underestimate the power of a discussion.

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            • #21
              Mostly true. They're also listening to mom and dad who want to get "their money's worth" from summer camp so Little Sweet Thing can make Eagle before high school.

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              • #22
                I know yall are speaking about Boy Scouts but let me throw in what I saw at Cub Scout Camp.

                My Son is a Webelos 1
                I am a Den leader, no of the Webelos though


                So I followed my son to ALL of his classes, took an active part in said classes as well. Wrote down and rememberd what was done and what wasn't.

                He took:
                Naturalist
                Geologist
                Aquanut
                Athlete

                He completed none but they said he completed Naturalist and Geologist. One of the other parents kids went with me to Naturalist and I mentioned they HAD NOT completed the work and she says "Well why do they go to camp if it isnt for completing achievements?" ugh !!

                Some of it is the Parents as far as Cubs go. But I told her "TO HAVE FUN" and learn the scouting way

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by DeanRx View Post
                  TAHAWK, Sounds like a local problem for you. Just got back from a week of camp as an ASM, I signed a ton of blue cards as did the SM and other ASMs. From what I saw at camp, most of the MB counselors were young, but knew their stuff.

                  WE had several scouts (including my son) who came home from camp with partials either because they failed to complete the prerequisites PRIOR to going to camp, or the camp didn't have time or the correct facilities to complete a given requirement. Swimming was one of those MBs, as the camp was a lake only place and was not deep enough for safe surface or safe dock diving... all scouts in swimming MB got a partial - becuase the lake level was low this year.

                  I have seen it in thirteen camps now in five states. Again, when dozens of camps say on their website "Camp Runamuck is not a Merit Badge Mill," its not a local problem. National says its not a local problem.

                  Even where the "Counselors" know their stuff and are registered MBCs, they do not have time to test, individually on each requirement when the candidates show up starting at zero - something regarded as embarassing when I was a Scout - unless you have tiny class sizes. We came back with very few partials. One kid got - got - seven MB's.


                  Unlike prior unit I was with, SM has no concern as he feels advancement is the entire purpose of Scouting. (Distinguish: "advancement" vs recognition for achievement.) We go to about three weekend MB programs a year. Aviation in a day. Rifle Shooting in a day. Great stuff. 0___0 We lead the Council in "Eagle Scouts." Could they earn it? We'll never know. Totally untrained SM. Scotumaster of the Year for 2011. Totally untrained Committee. Much practice in cheerfulness and grinding teeth.

                  Years ago, camp was to tackle tough requirements and get signed off on requirements hard to do back home - field sports, waterfront, the long hikes -- and have fun !

                  Oh, and how do the honest camps compete with the mills? This camp this year filled seven weeks. Food was great. Staff is friendly. Pleasant con game with good meals.

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                  • #24
                    Some years ago I was talking to the new camp director who was tasked with adding more fun and adventure activities to the summer camp program. I don't remember much of the discussion except that he said liability insurance for mountain biking was ten times more than any other activity in camp.

                    Really the problem is with the unit leaders. Councils generally build their camp programs around the desires of the troops. I think troop leaders just don't know how to have fun. I agree that scouts are much more wanting of fun than advancement when given the choice. Our troop plans additional activities at summer camp like our own campfires and group activities on the water front, shooting ranges, or whatever the camp offers. We ask the staff to blocked out a time for the troop and we have never been turned down. The troop also brings whiffle ball sets, baseballs, footballs, chess, checkers, cards and whatever else scouts can grab for a few minutes. Our scouts are always filling their spare time something other than advancement.

                    Another BIG problem I've seen in our area is that most troops really only have a couple of advancement seasons. Typically it is summer camp and something in the winter like a MB College. They have to do advancement at camp for scouts to advance. Our troop works on advancement all year long. So for us "Fun" is the primary motivation of summer camps. That's why we typically look for camps that are little different than our local camp, we are looking for fun activities. And we always try to do a special activity on our way home. Anything from a day at Six Flags to White water rafting.

                    It's kind of a Catch 22, troops complain about camps being MB Mills, but the camps only do what the troops want. Camps don't need to change, they are followers and change by nature. Troops need to change by learning how to bring the fun to camp.

                    I Love this scouting stuff.

                    Barry

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                    • #25
                      I'd certainly like to get away from the scouts needing these week long MB mills.

                      Barry, how does your troop do merit badges all year long and still let the scout do merit badges on his own? As in, call the counselor, do the work, .... Or is it just that you set up your own MB colleges? We used to organize merit badges troop wide and few scouts would finish, so we bagged it. I've tried with little success to get the scouts to just pick the fun bits of merit badges as activities to entice the scouts to do the rest on their own. Anyway, it sounds like the worst case scenario is still better than camp, as you have control and likely plenty of time.

                      Our local camps wll not block time for us. We've asked.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by MattR View Post
                        I'd certainly like to get away from the scouts needing these week long MB mills.

                        Barry, how does your troop do merit badges all year long and still let the scout do merit badges on his own? As in, call the counselor, do the work, .....
                        We keep and extensive MB counselor list first of all. Ours is much better than counsels or districts. We make it by trading list with other troops.

                        Another thing we do is ask at least two counselors a month to introduce themselves to the scouts and give a five minute commercial about their badge. They leave flyers with their name and number for scout who interested. That is 24 badges a year just from doing that.

                        I don’t care for MB colleges, but we allow the scouts to participate if they want. A few do, usually those who need only a couple to complete a rank, but it is not pushed.

                        Then once in a while a counselor will announce that they will be around on a specific day, evening or weekend and anyone who wants to earn that badge should call them. I don’t like group classes, but some badges just lend themselves to it, so we allow it if the scout initiate the contact and learn more about the class and times. This has always been popular for car mechanics and rocketry.

                        I can’t believe your camp wont let you do a troop activity. It’s no big deal to them other than a couple of staffers putting in overtime. Of course it has to be done during free time, but that really isn’t that hard. I think shooting sports are our scouts favorite. Next year call the camp and tell them you expect them to provide a troop activity, or two. Then work your way up all they up to the Council Executive if you have too.

                        Barry

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                        • #27
                          At summer camp the areas are already booked. there's never enough time to get the scouts that are signed up for rifle to qualify. There are a few free shoot times but the whole camp shows up. I asked about letting patrols go to different areas in the afternoon and the answer was no. My idea of summer camp is some merit badges in the morning and all afternoon for patrols to go where ever they want. I even joined a committee to help make this happen and the answer was no way, they want more merit badge periods because that's what the parents tell them. I don't have the time to fight that one.

                          Just yesterday I had a room full of scouts in my basement tell me the way to kill an event is to make it like school. I knew that but it's a start for them to recognize it. That said, there are summer camps my scouts like and the difference is the quality of the staff.

                          I like the idea of encouraging counselors to just let it be known what they have. If we could get away from the MB mills we could free up time for more fun.

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                          • #28
                            Our troop tries it's best to go the troop activity route. Unfortunately, with six merit badge class sessions a day the time with open camp facilities is very limited. Most camp areas are open for troops to sign up between 4:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon. But it's a hard sell as most kids just want to crash for a bit before dinner and it's tough to get much of a program going in one hour minus travel and set up time. The camp is more than willing to allow us to use vacant land for what ever we want. We can set up our own aquatics area if we are willing to provide trained staff, our own gear and take the half-hour hike to the far side of the lake. Tell me why we're paying the camp for that?.

                            We do try to make our camp site as interesting as possible. We take lots of toys to camp. We set have our own throwing knives and range, a great deal of handicraft equipment (woodcarving, leatherwork, etc.) We tried a slackline course (too hard for my klutzes). Corn hole is huge. This year we had a line of staff members visiting our site to play. Next year the guys want to build a bunch of corn hole sets and run a camp-wide tournament. Cracker barrel every night with watermelon, hand-turned ice cream or something out of the Dutch oven.

                            Y'all are right in that troops get the camp programs the market demands. Ten years ago a neighboring council's camp was eating our lunch. There it was common for boys to come home with up to 8 or 9 MBs. Our camp responded by going from four morning MB sessions to offering a few MBs in the afternoon. That was a big hit so they began offering a full complement of classes in the afternoon. Attendance has picked up considerably since then. The camp director and camping committee will listen politely to the old dinosaur SMs but just shrug their shoulders. Those parents have to get their money's worth.

                            I don't understand the "advancement season" concept. Merit badges are not a part of the troop program. Boys should be working on them individually and therefore work on them when ever they like. Our troop will cover merit badge "topics" during troop meeting instruction time, but it is wholly up to the scouts to individually contact the counselor and finish the badge. This spring we did a full month on forestry, including a campout during which we covered all the field work. Not one Scout has earned the badge or, to my knowledge, is still working on it. I know quite a few of them learned something about sustainable forest management. I am perfectly okay with that.

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                            • #29
                              Your unit either supports the integrity of the process or does not.

                              The earning of Merit Badges is the backbone of Camp Tamarack and Boy Scout Summer Camps everywhere. Over the years, Camp Tamarack has been known not as a merit badge mill, but instead as a place where Scouts can truly earn the badges. We as a staff do not add requirements to the badges, but we do make sure that if the Merit Badge calls for a Scout to write and give a report, he does it. If the requirement calls for a Scout to demonstrate, he does it. The Summer Camp Staff of Tamarack takes pride in the fact that when Scouts leave here, they have earned their merit badges and have had fun doing so!

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                              • #30
                                I don't know about the merit badge program at the camp my son's troop went to, I was too busy taking Aquatics Supervision classes, but I really liked their first year program that my son went to. Several friends who have been there before told me that the program is designed to help the troop out in teaching these T-2-1 skills. I know they had an incentive program for leaders to help out in that program, and in the merit badge programs. Listening to the first year camper counselors, they said that the skills marked off were the skills that the scouts DID do, and should know. They also said that we could accept paperwork as is, but that if we want to make sure they know their stuff, then by all means let them do the work for us.

                                BUT what really impressed me was the focus on FUN! Only 2 merit badges were offered at night: Astronomy and Climbing ( and that was because the MBC was only available at night due to last minute issues at home.) Organized night time activities included staff manhunt, Neptune's raft race and luau, OA night, and chili cook off. Open activities included BMX Track, Chess, and Free Shoot.

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