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Summer Camp Not Fun?!?!?!?!?!

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  • Summer Camp Not Fun?!?!?!?!?!

    Ok, I had an SM tell me that his troop decided not to go to a camporee that was turned into a MB weekend b/c "they have enough of merit badge classes at summer camp and want to have fun." or words to that effect.

    Has summer camp lost it's fun factor?

    It's been over 10 years since I served on a staff, and yes that was work, but it was FUN work

    But has summer camps lost their fun factor? Do the Scouts still look forward to getting away from their folks, being with their friends, and doing things that they don't normally do like canoeing, sailing, rifle and shotgun shooting, etc etc?

    Or has it turned into a big, week long "scout school?"

    Now I admit, I've said that Summer Camp is a great opportunity to work on MBs. It's a chance to live the patrol method for a week (ok you're not doing cooking for most units ) , you can take classes with your buddies,and have the time to work on things you may not haevthe chance to work on in the real world.

    But we always looked forward to the 2 hours of free time in the afternoon, depending upon if you chose to have MBs or other activities durign those slots, to have free shooting, swimming, and boating. We looked forward to the campwide games, inter-troop competitions, and campfires.

    Now I admit I only attended summer camp as a participant for 3 years: 12, 13, & 14. Those first two years were spent taking MB classes, but also having fun. I scheduled the last two periods off to have free swim, boating, and shooting. The third year I decided to do a HA program where I left base camp Monday after lunch and wasn't suppose to get back until Thursday lunch. So while I missed out on free boating, shooting, etc, I was having a different type of fun.

    So is there still a fun factor, or am I just an old fogey?

    And don't answer that last part, I know I'm old


  • #2
    In my experience there is a lot of parental pressure to work hard on advancement and MB classes and "not waste time". We have had to have boys cut back on MB classes --one kid took 6 and started crying when he couldn't get them done and his Dad would be mad.

    We want the boys to be doing something --hiking, shooting, swimming, playing games, rather than just hanging back at the campsite and getting in trouble. That said it seems some camps keep cutting back on their "open periods" that is the swimming area is only open to non-MBers an hour or two a day.

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    • #3
      Like I said it's been a while, but I remember 3 classes in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. The last two periods were when open swim, boating, and shooting sports occured. Now The freee sailing may have had a restriction that those in the sailing MB class have priority to get some extra practice, but I cannot remember for sure.

      SPL recommended taking 4 MBs max. That way we had time to do any paperwork, practice, work on projects, or take advantage of free time. Occasionally someone would get a 5th, but it was one that they started and completed, and had time to work on another one in the same period and it was usually a handicraft one. Rarely did we have someone earn six.

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      • #4
        I like the attitude described by Tampa Turtle.


        I tend to be of the opinion that Scout camps were probably the first merit badge mills and remain the most pervasive merit badge mills.

        There are some Scouts who chase merit badges like a hound dog after a rabbit, and that's fine. But I'd discourage leaders and families from pressuring Scouts into taking loads of merit badges.

        In my opinion, Scout camp should be fun but not an idyll. Usually the biggest challenge of summer camp is the stress of living together as a group for a week. Differences that can be papered over on a week end camp tend to come to the fore about Thursday, and adult and Scouts can be challenged to find ways to live and thrive together.

        Everything from maintaining your campsite to taking showers starts to mature as an issue about that time!

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        • #5
          Like most programs, it depends on the leadership and troop environment. We try to discourage too many merit badges, especially the more difficult ones. Younger first or second years are encouraged to take just two or maybe three, as long as only one is harder, then work on advancement and partake of free time activities with a buddy or two. We also try to schedule a few troop activities, but allow simply "kicking back" time as much as possible.

          But you need to have the parents on board from the start. They need to "get" that summer camp is an opportunity for their son to earn some recognition and badges, yes, but more importantly it is an open air laboratory to learn and experience nature and being on their own.

          Still, we do also make every effort to get boys through what they start, if at all possible. Sometimes you simply cannot, either because it is too hard for the scout, or he just will not do the work. Then you may or may not pursue the partial later, depending on the scout and so on.

          We have on occasion skipped the mid week campfire, because kids were simply too overwhelmed and tired; though we did allow any wanting to go to do so, as long as we had a volunteer leader as well. Instead we allowed them to "kick it" in camp.

          Just an old guys opinion of course.

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          • #6
            We limit merit badges at summer to camp to 3 maximum. Most new scouts we recommend taking 2. This gives them more free time to explore the camp and see what activities are out there for them to try. This seems to work well.

            "Free time" is one of the hardest concepts for new crossover parents to comprehend. After the uber-scheduling of cub scout activities, they are amazed and shocked we can give scouts a couple hours of free time on a campout to do what they want.
            Explore the woods, dam up a creek, hike to the camp store, do homework, read, or nap!

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            • #7
              In the Council I serve, it's a not very good summer school.

              My son had the greatest fun of his Scouting career when he was 16 and 17, and was doing things, many of service to the camp, and fewer of merit badge school.

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              • #8
                In our neck of the woods, we are like Eagle90 (unless you take a specialty camp like "Trail to Eagle") only 3 merit badges in the morning, the whole afternoon is free time, filled with fun different things that are not MB related that you could sign up for as a patrol or troop.. Or don't sign up and just have "hang out" time..

                This is in 3 summer camps that my son frequented while a scout..

                There is a 4th summer camp that does do 5 (usually partial) MB.. One a day, but it was never my son's favorite for various reasons..

                Seems weird to know there are camps out there where you need "schedule" your free time.. This just seems wrong in so many ways.

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                • #9
                  I liked summer camp, even with the merit badge overload. Parents see badges as getting their money's worth, so some will push it. Many don't, and summer camp isn't necessarily "not fun," but just doing activities that don't focus on getting 50 badges before 15 are nice.

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                  • #10
                    Whether summer camp is fun or not seems to have more to do with the attitude and level of camaraderie among the boys in the troop, than with the camp program .

                    Last summer my son's troop went to a camp that he had been to before, with a different troop. The camp has a very weak program. Their merit badge class quality is notoriously poor, camp-wide evening programs were designed so that a few people participate and everybody else watches (snooze), and use of "free areas" were unreasonably restricted.

                    The first time my son went to this camp (with a former troop) he had a lousy time and so did pretty much everybody in his troop. When he came back this summer from the same camp I was expecting to hear more moaning & groaning about how bad it had been.

                    Well the program wasn't any better than it had been previously, and he hadn't bothered to finish most of the MBs because he said he knew more about most of them than the kids "teaching" them. But he had a GREAT time. Why? The attitude of this troop is markedly different. They used the camp facilities as a backdrop to make their own experiences and fun. Other troops expected the fun to be provided by the camp program, and were left wanting.

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                    • #11
                      Y'know, this thread makes me look back on my summer camps. In order from favourite to **** tier:

                      -2003 Ben DeLatour (lots of activity time. I actually don't remember what MBs I took, and I had a full schedule...)
                      -2004 Camp Alexander (rained every day at the same exact time; not the staff's fault)
                      -2001 Peaceful Valley (altitude sickness was never so beautiful. Meals could stand improvement, though)
                      -2002 Camp Cedars (humid, but instructors were very nice. I remember this as a MB mill)
                      -2007 Camp Cedars (still humid and a MB mill, but was only worse because I was stuck with a bunch of preteens during classes)
                      -2005 Lewis and Clark (lolno)(This message has been edited by chaoman45)

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                      • #12
                        Just like adults, I think kids need free time to relax and build friendships. I've seen kids drop from scouting because summer camp was just not much fun.

                        I've seen two different troops do summer camp. One troop "published" their own troop schedule based on the camp schedule filling free time with troop elections, annual planning, service projects and other items. Time was filled most of the week from 7am to 9pm. They did a lot at summer camp, but I'm not sure how great of a time they had.

                        The other troop used the camp schedule and that was it. They did sign up for troop activities during free time, but it was totally optional for the scouts and the scouts had several hours of free time each day.

                        I much preferred only using the camp schedule with the free time. Some of my best memories are walking through camp and seeing the scouts play catch, chatting, heading to the beach, playing cards late at night or just hanging out.

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                        • #13
                          Scout Camp is the same, as far as I can tell, as when I was a Scout, except...female staff...I've gone 8 years as an Adult, now. If you ask me, It's a BLAST!!

                          I let the Scouts take every Merit Badge they want. If it's too much for them, they learn. If they complete every one, great!
                          Some Scouts want to take two Merit badges and play cards. Some want to take 5 and go nuts doing them. I can't determine for the Scout what to do, it's their Troop. I just nudge here and there. I've had a Scout or two worry about what the parent will think, but I tell that Scout I'll talk to the parent if they want. Sometimes there's a very real reason they don't finish a badge, like they got hurt, or it was stormy and we got evacuated during a class.
                          One thing that I do do, and reccomend everywhere, is, have the Scout work on the MB BEFORE going to camp. Then, they may finish the badge early in the week, or be excused from a class on days that the requirements being covered were already done by that Scout. Partials brought home: I will try to find a Counselor that will help them finish it, or go back next year and finish it then. Or, just forget it. The purpose of Merit Badges is to learn a little bit about something. Maybe you take a few sessions and decide that you don't like that one. Fine.

                          The other thing is: If Camporee is announced as Merit Badges, and you don't want to do Merit Badges, go to camporee and don't do Merit Badges. I remember one where we brought our bikes and rode a local bike trail. We got back to camp, and other boys were asking ours "What Merit Badge did you take?" They said. "none!" The reactions were priceless. (We actually did a 15 mile ride that could count towards Cycling MB. )

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