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  • Removing summer camp focus from merit badges

    If you had the opportunity to change your summer camp and you wanted to make merit badges less of the focus, how would you set up the program? I might have such an opportunity.
    Last edited by MattR; 08-08-2013, 05:12 PM.

  • #2
    If I had the opportunity I would change the focus from merit badges to high adventure. Setup a rappelling/climbing area(a real cliff if one is available), a waterfront with small boat sailing, use one of the days to go on a whitewater rafting trip(when I say whitewater, I mean Class IV rapids, where it's necessary to have a guide in the raft with you), possibly setup a ropes course(or take a day trip to a ropes course), ziplines, or even go caving. That pretty much covers the best high adventure activities, BTW I have done all those except for caving.


  • #3
    To start with ask they Scouts what they wanted to do. Two MB tops and the rest adventure like 441 suggests. Would still need to include shooting sports, horses, Scoutcraft activities (pioneering, orienteering etc). boating lessons. Not many 1st years can handle the canoe MB, but they should get practice. Cooking contests.


    • King Ding Dong
      King Ding Dong commented
      Editing a comment
      Many camps still stick to old minimum age of 13 for COPE. Younger Scouts might not be able to do everything, but they can experience some of it. Fortunately our council has seen the light on this and encourages younger scout participation in climbing/rappelling and cope.

      I am taking the climbing instructor class next weekend and hopefully the challenge course training in the spring.

  • #4
    See, now why doesn't scouting do cool stuff like JoeBob's HA Level system? This is the kind of thing scouts want to do! I would love to see some handguns. As far as shooting sports goes I probably do a lot more than the average scout. I have a homemade slingshot(I haven't shot it in a long time though), a 50lb Ben Pearson Recurve Bow(which I am fairly accurate with), and a bolt action 20 gauge shotgun(my grandfather gave it to me a couple weeks ago, haven't gotten a chance to shoot it yet). Although, with all these weapons and experience I still don't have any shooting sport merit badges.


    • EagleScout441
      EagleScout441 commented
      Editing a comment
      Weltanschauung: a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint.
      German, from Welt world + Anschauung view
      First Known Use: 1868

    • JoeBob
      JoeBob commented
      Editing a comment
      Never really wanted to apprehend someone's worldview, not my job; just shake it up a little.

    • Scouter99
      Scouter99 commented
      Editing a comment
      Oh, fake Venturers. Typisch. We've already lost millions in funding for fraudulent units and registrations, why not millions more? Which church are you asking to register 350 fake Venturers to each summer?

      Your outlined program is great, you made a mistake in the details. Act as big as your hat and get over it.
      Last edited by Scouter99; 08-16-2013, 11:09 PM.

  • #5
    Well, what they don't want to do is sit in a class room setting. I'd even try something along the lines of do the fun stuff at camp and save the classroom work for back home. Even nature MB might be fun if it's not writing essays.

    EagleScout441, I'm all about the adventure. We can do all of that but the caving. JoeBob, I like the advancing level idea.

    What about building patrol camaraderie? Wasn't there some camp in New Hampshire that did a week of patrol based activities? So they'd sign up for shooting one afternoon and go do that together. Combine that with the levels and the younger scouts get to start with a sling shot and the older scouts can do the tomahawk. Activities that require teamwork would also be good.


    • qwazse
      qwazse commented
      Editing a comment
      Well, patrol cooking is definitely the glue of our summer camp. The trade-off is they have so much fun at it that they often skip camp-wide activities.

      It's also hard to tell who's ready for what at which age. Son #1 earned Archery at 11.

      I think if the camp had a wall with totems representing patrol challenges it would make it fun. They choose a totem, report to the camp director, get goals and objectives, report back, get some recognition.

  • #6
    Don't forget your slick promotional videos! Seriously, there are a number of camps out there with th HA competent. Ours isn't quite he tiered system that JoeBob has going. But it definitely gets the boys out from under merit badge burn-out.


    • #7
      My ideal camp would be for each PATROL in a troop to have the option of designing their own program. NSP gets scoutcraft, maybe makes a bridge, tower, maybe works on advancement, special training in cooking on wood fires, whatever the boys want to do. Older boys want whitewater canoeing this year, maybe rock climbing next year and shooting sports the third year or maybe they'll just fish all week. If there be a patrol of older boys that just want to come to camp to sit and enjoy the out-of-doors for a week, jaw-jack around the campfire and stay out of trouble! What's the harm? Maybe they might want to take on a camp service project if they get too bored.

      Dump the mess hall. All patrols are supported by a commissary and they pick their menus for the week like they pick their MB's today. If they want pancakes every morning. So be it. If they want steak every night, so be it. Cost of the meals is known when they sign up and adjusted accordingly. The price of camp varies according to the menu chosen.

      PORs function as PORs - SPL works with camp staff to make sure the patrols get what they need. If he needs more help, the ASPL is there. QM is the go to guy for camp equipment and commissary supplies for anything the patrols may need. Whereas it doesn't sound like much fun to be in these positions, taking on responsibility for the welfare of others isn't always fun and games. Camp staff is responsible for programming in leadership development for the PORs when they are not attending to their patrol support activities. Or maybe they, too, could be doing worthwhile camp service projects of their own choosing.

      Nothing against MattR, but maybe he's asking the wrong person, he needs to be asking the scouts what they want for a summer camp experience.

      For me personally???? I would love to be dropped off someplace in a national forest, have 5 days of goods cached around the area a day's hike apart and I need to survive from one cache to the next finally exiting at a pre-designated area. No GPS, just map and compass. I would need to record my trek with camera and journal indicating all wildlife and flora I came across.

      Last edited by jblake47; 08-09-2013, 06:40 AM.


      • MattR
        MattR commented
        Editing a comment
        No offense taken. I'm just collecting ideas for now. One thing I've figured out with most scouts is that if I can give them some ideas that are completely different from what they're used to, I'll get much better ideas from them. So I will be asking them. I'm really just trying to come up with a generic model, the actual activities would be based on scout input plus a reality check (money, staffing, resources,...)

        I'd like to see a patrol based camp. It would just be great for helping a troop develop patrol method. There is a tradeoff with what the younger and older scouts can and want to do.

        This will be a patrol cooking camp because there is no dining hall. There is a regular dining hall camp on the same ranch so I think this is a slightly easier sell. They have a high adventure backpacking program at the ranch, the dining hall camp, and this one. Making it the high adventure non-backpacking might fit well with the other camps (of course, if the scouts wanted to go backpacking for two days I'd think that would be great)

    • #8
      What a great idea.I'm with you on this but good luck selling this to council let alone parents. We have all been trained to look upon advancement and MB's as a gauge of a troop or program's success. This is a lie, the true measure of success is more subtle and harder to gauge. Sometimes you may not see it for months or years.

      I once spent a few days at a camp in northern Wisconsin near Rhinelander after having to get off Lake Superior because of weather. This was a full blown, high energy, high program dining hall camp. Everything was on a BIG scale. Kids were encouraged to bring their bicycles so they could get to "class" on time. Meals in the dining hall were high energy, loud raucous affairs. My scouts and I were truly blown away. Two days later we were of a different opinion. To us it seemed like a Webelos 3 and 4 camp with no challenges for older or even 3rd and 4th year scouts. We realised that everyone's time was very programmed. It wasn't camp it was a small town.

      Our troop is very adamant about attending a patrol based cooking camp. The unfortunate thing about it is patrol identity seems to begin and end at the activities centered around meal times. Cooking, cleaning and gathering wood for the stoves. I would like to see our camp change it's Campwide troop competition to a patrol based competition. Granted you may have those troop that can only muster enough scouts for one patrol, but wouldn't that even the playing field when going up against larger troops?

      The advancement end of camp seems to have taken over and becomes what drives the activities as opposed to the other way around. Activities should drive the advancement.

      I really like your ideas. They would really help the boys "get it" as opposed to the one and done attitude that programmed camps engender.


      • #9
        Yeah, well, pluses and minuses to everything I suppose. Are you in an area where you can take advantage of outside outfitters for HA experiences? What sort of resources are available to exploit?

        I think the chances of being everything to everybody is probably slim and likely to result in only mediocre program for everybody. Our council camp is adamantly campsite cooking. There are troops who attend because of that and those that refuse to attend because of it. That's the way it is. If your camp focuses on high adventure to much you'll lose scouts wanting to work on advancement. If your camp focuses on advancement too much you'll lose scouts that want a HA program. Finding a balance results in people complaining camp was too vanilla or too hard or too easy or whatever. I guess the question is what does your summer camp want to be known for?

        I do like the levels of skill idea. It's similar to what was done at Jambo in the adventure areas.


        • #10
          Our council as a big camp at over 5k acres, but the older scouts were getting tired of it and by older I mean 14. The heat the past two summer didn't help. This year we went out of council to a another much smaller dining hall option camp, but was not enough to attract the older scouts. I like the option of going to a different camp each year to keep it fresh even if it means some travel. I don't understand all the details but apparently the OA is requiring us to come back to council camp next year. So looks like we are limited to every other year. They may have valid reasons for their policy, just don't know what they are. Does OA limit anyone else's options ?


          • King Ding Dong
            King Ding Dong commented
            Editing a comment
            I did not see the paperwork but my CC said she had to sign a document stating we would be in council next year. Maybe they can't require us to stay in council, but maybe they can not allow any elections if we do leave council. I will poke around and see what I find out, I am not in OA so it is all still "mysterious" to me.

            We have two camps also, but one is only half the size without a lake so it is only used for weekend outings, cubs and STEM camps, training etc. Our big camp runs at least two parallel BS summer programs so technically you can be at a different "camp", it also has a separate Venturing/Explorer Base. I believe OA Is just requiring (encouraging) us to stay in council every other year.
            Last edited by King Ding Dong; 08-09-2013, 01:14 PM.

          • FrankScout
            FrankScout commented
            Editing a comment
            There's a difference between requiring and encouraging. From what I understand, you're saying the OA will not hold elections in your troop unless you agree to their "requirement" of attending the council camp. That is WRONG!! Your CC should never sign any agreement like that! Have your COR contact the Scout Executive in your council ASAP. This is NOT kosher. The OA is there to support your troop program, not to run it.

            Khaliela: No, you can go to any camp you want, or hold your own camp. I can't see how you can be "required" to attend your council camp. Money talks.
            Last edited by FrankScout; 08-09-2013, 06:08 PM.

          • dcsimmons
            dcsimmons commented
            Editing a comment
            Your OA candidates are required to do their ordeal in their own lodge. If the lodge only offers to run ordeals at summer camp then you have to do it there. Now, our lodge runs ordeals at our fall and spring fellowships as well as summer camp. For summer camp we also allow for candidates to come to camp just for the ordeal. The OA can't force your unit to go to camp anywhere, but, they do control where and how they hold the ordeal. Remember, the OA Lodge's reason for being is to promote camping AND provide service to your council.

        • #11
          I'm for keeping the merit badge focus; high adventure can happen the other 11 months of the year. We've taken the boys Kayaking and white water rafting; gone caving; taken week long backpacking trips; gone to ropes courses and used zip lines; all outside of the summer camp experience. We tell our boys that camp is for merit badges, the rest of the year is for fun!


          • Eagle92
            Eagle92 commented
            Editing a comment
            441, depends upon the MB. The three citizenships and PM were not fun for me. And I know of camps that offer them at summer camp.

            Motorboating, wilderness survival, caneoeing lifesaving, YEP fun.

            Wish I woudl have earned Sailing and Rifle and Shotgun MBs ( one MB at the time) way back when.

          • Khaliela
            Khaliela commented
            Editing a comment
            KDD: My kid struggled through the Citizenships too.

            I find that most kids who do not fill out their day with MB's at camp end up getting board and a board scout is trouble waiting to happen. Besides I think most boys would rather have to work their butts off for one week than to have the merit badges follow them around the rest of the year. Granted, I come from a highly motivated troop with a bunch of intellectual kids who enjoyed pestering each other about their HW while sitting around the picnic table at camp with the lantern burning.

            Both my boys earned 5 MB at camp their first year, and under my leadership at camp we had one lad earn 7. That's why I oppose limits on MB's at camp. If you have a gung ho lad--give him room to excel. Life gets crazy with academic pursuits, athletic pursuits; philanthropic causes; career decisions; internships; religious requirements, etcetera ad nauseaum. Let them get the MB's done at camp--saves head-ache trying to fit them in elsewhere.

          • EagleScout441
            EagleScout441 commented
            Editing a comment
            E92, I was commenting on Khaliela's statement: "We tell our boys that camp is for merit badges, the rest of the year is for fun!"
            And I agree, the citizenship merit badges were by far the least enjoyable.

        • #12
          Ok I admit I think some MBs do have a place at summer camp: canoeing, rifle, shotgun, climbing, you know the OUTDOOR oriented ones. Closest I can see to "paper pushing" ones is Environmental Science and possibly, stressing POSSIBLY, Journalism and Cinematography. ES has a large paper pushing component IMHO. One camp I worked at did Journalism in which the folks went out did interviews, reports, etc and published a camp newspaper. It was awesome. As for Cinematography,. again they had the scouts doing actual shows for the last campfire and for camp promos.

          I do think they need to limit the number you can take. I also think they need to provide opportunities for "free swim," "Free Shooting," "free leatherwork" etc.

          Don't remember camp games at the 2nd to last camp I worked at, (my boss, who never worked summer camp before in her life, had me working during the campwide games at the last camp I worked at despite me not only telling her that we would have no business in the trading post, but also showing her the sales log showing no business) But those competitions and games were someof the best memories I had. Staff manhunt, raft races, greased watermellon, those were some of the best memories..

          FYI, 13 years old for COPE is a national standard, can't get around it.


        • #13
          Our boys really enjoyed the week-long camp-wide game. They received "gold" coins for all the activities they attended. My boys were the only out-of-council troop that week. The other boys used their coins up by purchasing "weapons" and "mercenaries" and went to "war" against each other. My boys were never attacked, no intra-council rivalries. Well, eventually all the troops had whittled themselves down to one last troop standing. Thinking they were the last man standing they had forgotten our boys, who still were sitting on a pile of coins. They "bought" up the whole rest of the camp as mercenaries and went after that last troop. They never saw it coming and every other troop in camp was looking for revenge.


          • #14
            For us it was the STAFF MANHUNT! Every staffer had a watermelon bounty on his head based upon their "rankings," i.e. how many times they've been caught, number of years on staff, etc. Most had 1 - 2 watermelons on their heads, but I remember one long term staffer who had never been caught since the first or second year he was on staff had a 15 watermelon bounty on his head!

            And the watermelon came in handy on TROOP NITE, i.e. troop's did their own program.


            • #15
              Thank you for your ideas. Here's my summary.

              Key components are challenge, patrol based and cooking, fun, and hands on. The challenge can be found from learning new skills, having skill levels, competing with other patrols, awards, team challenges. The week is one massive challenge. Merit badges can be a great source of skill challenge but it can certainly be augmented (not to get the MB, but just to add more to it). So, build the tower and not just a model, and race the canoe. Patrol leader decides the program for his patrol. There is plenty of flexibility for how hard, lazy, challenging, fun, advancement, the program will be. Fun things like the gold, weapons, man hunt, would be great themed silliness the scouts can get into. Hands on (vs lecturing) is a big part of this. Lecturing is fine if it's kept to less than 20% of the time or part of safety. If scouts want to do the classroom work at camp, fine, but if they do it before camp that gives them more time to have fun.

              If anyone wants to fill in some details about the silly activities (man hunt, attacking neighbors, etc) I'm interested. I'd also like ideas on how to turn inherently single person activities into patrol activities. A Coulter's run is an example of each scout doing a different task. "Get the lowest ranked scout to advance one rank" could be a team effort.