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  • Reading the Merit Badge Pamphlet

    I have a question about reading the Merit Badge pamphlet. Soon a few Scouts will be starting the Fishing Merit Badge. I will counsel the Merit Badge, my first time. I have requested the Scouts to read the pamphlet. But I have found interesting comments from the adult troop members. Comments like, The Scouts usually dont read the complete pamphlet. And... Usually, there are few books in the troop library for them to view, but they dont read the complete pamphlet.
    I would like the Scouts to read the sections, so they can answer the requirements and also talk about the other information in the chapters.
    This puzzles me, am I asking too much?

  • #2
    You're not asking too much. You're setting an expectation of how scouts will need to Be Prepared to work with you on completing the requirements. They can, of course, choose to not prepare themselves adequately, but that may make it difficult to earn the merit badge in their intended time frame.


    • #3

      Welcome! You might start by reading the counsellor guide and training material for MB counselors:

      MB pamphlets are a useful resource for scouts. It provides information that helps the scouts meet the requirements. If they have other resource material to use instead, that is fine. You can't require any one to read the MB pamphlet, or any other material. You can encourage them - and if they choose not to, YOU do not have to be the source of the material for them to complete the requirement. by that, I mean be careful about putting yourself in the position where scouts come to you and you hand hold them through every requirement, and you are providing them with the answers in the event that they choose not do the reading/research/work between meetings with the scout. Tell them your expectations, provide some excitement and encouragement, share your knowledge, and let set them free to work on the various requirements. When they are prepared, then they come back to you to show you what they have done, and explain all those explanation/demonstration requirements.

      Stay aware that your goal is not to make the boys to complete the MB. Don't feel bad if less than half of the scouts complete the badge. This is their badge, their initiative; you are merely a resource for them.(This message has been edited by venividi)


      • #4
        Old Guy,

        This Old Guy feels your pain. I repeat "did you look in the Merit Badge book" until I am blue in the face. Once in a great while I get a "No but I looked it up on the web". A lot of what I get are blank stares.

        But no you are not asking too much.


        • #5
          No, as the MB councilor, you have the right frame of mind.

          Get familiar using "no more, no less" If the requirement says do then they "DO", if it says "Discuss" then they "DISCUSS".

          Merit Badges are EARNED, not given away.


          • #6

            How dare you propose that "Reference" be part of your teaching method! Don't you know that our boys are being taught that skill acquisition begins with someone explaining it to them?

            If it's any consolation, at the venturing level, the line is "research the following references ...", or "call this expert ..." (who might actually live down the street from the kid). You'd be surprised how many youth set aside pursuit of an award for because I hold them to that step!

            Now, I'm the first one to say I don't like the cost of the MB pamphlets. But, if the boy or his folks haven't made it an issue, then that's not the issue here. Complacency is.

            Stick to your guns. Most boys have never taken oral exams. (You know, like the ones in that show Room 222.) So this is a big step for them, maybe the first time they've done something like this. Encourage them that sometime in life, someone is going to need them to have read the manual before class -- be it college or job training.* Then, make an appointment for the next available time after the boy has read the book!

            *Heck, most everything I know about fishing was from reading magazines first then asking someone how to make it actually work.


            • #7
              Old guy,

              I took a look at the fishing MB requirements, and see that there are a lot of "discuss" and "explain" requirements. How I approach those requirements is similar to dg98's statement. Discussing is a back and forth conversation. It is not a sit and listen while the MB counsellor explains; it is not a sit and listen while the MB counsellor discusses it with another scout. To effectively have a discussion for the requirements that I see in the fishing mb list, you need a very small group. Otherwise there just isn't enough there for a scout in a larger group to add to a discussion other than to repeat what other scouts have said.

              For explain requirements, I would look for the scout's explanation to be of similar nature to what is included in the MB booklet. If a scout offers a short explanation that isn't similar to what is in the MB book, I ask questions to see if the scout can provide that additional information. If he can't, then he is given the opportunity to go home and research, and then call to make another appointment when he is ready.

              Another tip for a new counsellor - sometimes boys will come with a completed MB worksheet and hand it to you, expecting that having it written or printed on a form meets the requirement. I thank the scout, set the paper aside, and proceed with starting a discussion, or asking for explantion, as appropriate for the requirement.(This message has been edited by venividi)


              • #8
                Even though the pamphlets may have pretty good information, it is sometimes a bit much. They are already expected to read a lot in school and to find they HAVE to do it in Scouting might turn some people off. I'm not saying it's pointless, I'm saying that we need to be realistic in what kids will do v. what adults expect.

                Put it this way, do the committee members in troops read the entire Troop Committee handbook cover to cover and retain this information? Does the Scoutmaster read the Scoutmaster handbook in it's entirety? Probably not; they might skim it for general ideas and quick refreshers. These are supplemental, but should not be used as required reading material unless it covers particular requirements.

                And even then, Scouts might only skim the book for requirements they aren't familiar with, if that.


                • #9
                  And another thing: the average retention rate for reading is 10%, compared to 75% for practice, as noted by the National Training Laboratories in Bethel, ME. Read a long thread anywhere in this forum and see how many of the posts you will remember in a month or even a week.


                  • #10
                    I'm a Canoeing MBC and am holding a canoeing course next month for my troop. I set requirements to participate in my course which include Swimming MB and obtaining and reading the Canoeing MB book.


                    • #11
                      Thanks everyone for the great replies. I understand sitting down and reading 92 pages can but anyone off the bite. And then coming back to the Counselor with the completed Merit Badge work sheet is a huge task. I have asked that we take the review and discussion of questions in sections. And supplement it with a little time practicing casting and looking at equipment shown in the pamphlet.
                      I can only wish/hope that the Scout will Be prepared for the first meeting. And maybe spot them one day, looking over the magazine rack for the latest In-Fisherman magazine.

                      Tight Lines,

                      Old Guy


                      • #12
                        A merit badge was never meant to be a gimmee. If the candidates haven't read the booklet, then it's just one extra day they need to come back to see me before I sign off on it. The extra day is to show they've read it; we move on from that point.

                        One of the hidden lessons of earning merit badges is learning how to do self-directed study (learning things on your own).


                        • #13
                          I am not buying the "they have to read too much in school already" argument. The MB booklets are written at about a 6th grade level and include a lot of pictures. They can be read, cover to cover, in about an hour.

                          That said, they're also (frequently) boring and - did I mention? - written at about a 6th grade level. A lot of the older guys I've counseled for MBs chafe at reading them in part BECAUSE they're so simplistic. And there may be better ways to convey many ideas (easier to learn the J stroke by doing, than by reading/easier to understand the power structure of local gov't by talking to people involved, than by reading about it)

                          An aside - Tampa wrote:

                          "I repeat "did you look in the Merit Badge book" until I am blue in the face. Once in a great while I get a "No but I looked it up on the web". A lot of what I get are blank stares."

                          Tampa, I get that from college students! For the life of me, I never understand why they pay big bucks for the textbooks, only to not read them and go for a shallow and often wrong answer from google, reddit, and wikipedia as authoritative sources, instead.


                          • #14
                            Some of the textbooks really aren't all that helpful. Heck, we didn't even use half of our books for some classes. I am speaking from experience on the reading issue, accept it or not. Not reading the entire pamphlet shouldn't mean a Scout didn't fully earn the requirement; remember I am NOT saying "reading is bad." I am saying there are more productive ways of a Scout learning material like watching demonstrations on YouTube or EDGE. Some of the lashings I had to tie for rank or merit badges were hard because I relied on the book, and sometimes an inanimate weave of rope does not help me learn; demonstration does.


                            • #15
                              Supplemental material is great. I find it hard to learn knots and lashings from a book too, same as you describe. There are lots of good knot animations online that I find more helpful for refreshing my memory- but not as helpful as doing/using the knots, of course.

                              But the book ought to be THE place to start. Not end, but start. And it isn't like the book is too onerous to read. A fellow who is not motivated enough to at least give it a look, isn't really showing much initiative, IMO.

                              (As for college textbooks, yep, that happens - but honestly, a lot of times, people are just being lazy. Why read the book, be forced to think about it and synthesize material, when you can find some pre-digested (and often, wrong or overly simplistic, or just off-topic) info on the web, instead. This irks me because PART OF THE POINT is to encourage development of better critical reading and thinking skills. It isn't a 30-second hunt-and-peck or google search exercise, to read a textbook effectively.)