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We are trying a new BSA camp that has NUMEROUS Merit Badge offerings and little required in the way of prerequisite work. It will be interesting to see if it is another MB mill, as have been the last four BSA camps we have tried in Ohio, PA, and WV - all of which had numerous under-aged -- and even more importantly, very unqualified -- "Merit Badge Counselors." In talking to paid professional Scouters, I am told this is a well-known problem that there is very little interest in addressing.


"The same qualifications and rules for apply to counselors for council summer camp merit badge programs. All counselors must be 18 years or older, but qualified camp staff members under age 18 may assist the merit badge counselor with instruction. (These assistants are not qualified to sign off on a Scout's blue card nor may they certify the Scout's completion of a merit badge.) As always, each counselor must maintain the exact standards as outlined in the merit badge requirementsnothing deleted, nothing added."

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Yes, to a point. I can also tell you it's because there are a lot of troops who want that kind of program. For years our council camp has lost many troops to a neighboring council's camp because boys can earn 6-8-10 merit badges at the other camp. A good Scouting friend of mine takes his troop there for that very reason. The Scouts like it and the parents feel like they really get their money's worth.


Unfortunately, our camp seems like they're drinking the same Kool-Aid. This year they've added another session of MB in the afternoon and cut the time for troop/patrol/individual activities in half. They're justification is that they need to offer a wide varieties of programs which appeal to different troops. We are free to allow our guys to take all those MBs if they like or not. I suppose I'm just an old curmudgeon for thinking the time we spend together as a troop doing activities in the afternoon build comraderie, teamwork and morale.


This type of camp program puts the onus on the Scoutmaster to just say no. I've spent the past two weeks fighting with parents in our troop who are ticked with me because I've taken off the summer camp table the three citizenships and communications for our Scouts. But I don't believe those are appropriate MBs for summer camp so I'm exercising my discretion and not signing blue cards.(This message has been edited by Twocubdad)

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our summer camp has actually cut the number of merit badges the last couple of years. the boys use to be able to do 4 merit badges... now they get to pick from 4 things and only 3 can be merit badges, the other 1 or more if the choose is an activity area where they pick from a water, shooting, and scout skills. at the activities the boys can work on rank work, try some new skills, and just have fun. I personally was hoping my son would've picked the shooting because it's something he's never done before and could see if he would want to try those merit badges next year, but he really wanted to canoe but not do it as a merit badge so he picked the water one.


As for Eagle required badges... at our summer camp the only ones offered are swimming, livesaving, and enviromental science


so, there are camps out there that aren't "mills"

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Our local camp, Camp Birch, Yellow Springs, Ohio is offering an Older Scout program this year. It will be a re-occuring program that has 3 levels of difficulty.


I think the program is based on the "Long Hunter" theme, but they picked a different name out of respect for the local population.


Although there is a lot of youth staff all event areas have an adult counselor that oversees the merit badge activity.




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If it's all right, I'll cross-post this comment that I posted at the badges-that-should-be-eliminated thread.


I'd say it largely depends on the counselor and the resources available. Some "camp badges" are excellent. One of my council's camps has a great sailing program - it's located on the Chesapeake Bay. The other usually struggles with sailing, as there's very little wind that comes up the creek. It's great for paddling, though.


IMHO, camps should pick a few merit badges that best fit their layout and resources. If you try to offer everything under the sun, you'll just become a mill. But if you specialize and put effort into a few excellent programs, you'll get a really good reputation.


I'm not a betting man, but I would wager this: Chances are if your Scouts are getting a sub-par merit badge program experience, the class is being taught by someone aged 15-17, whose experience with the subject could range from master-level to "I skimmed the pamphlet on the walk over from the dining hall."


I know that as a 14-year-old summer camp CIT who was "teaching" Basketry and Indian Lore, I didn't do the Scouts in my classes justice. I knew that back then - I was assigned to teach them with 12 hours' notice - and I know it now. But by the time I was an area director at 18, I knew the skills and the program inside and out.


There are exceptions to every rule, of course. I knew quite a few "underage" camp counselors whom I would trust with my life, let alone teaching a Wilderness Survival class. But generally speaking, we do both staffers and campers a disservice by putting inexperienced, poorly trained teenagers in charge of merit badge programs that we require an experienced adult to counsel away from summer camp.


My best advice is that if your Scouts are complaining about the quality of the program, and you get involved, the camp should take it very seriously. Especially in these times, they can't afford to lose a paying customer. Make your concerns known.


(This message has been edited by shortridge)


Added: I'd love to see IM_Kathy's camp! My camp offers such "open" programs as well - open swim, open archery, open rifle, open boating, etc. - but they're generally swamped. And there's no limit on the number of badges one can take. (There are four program periods, but you could squeeze in five if you signed up for Astronomy at night.)

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Our camp offers a ton of merit badges. Lot's of them have prerequisites. We go to Camp Manatoc in Peninsula Ohio which is the council camp for Great Trail Council.


The camp documentation encourages the Scouts to do two or three merit badges at camp.


The camp provides tons of things to do that are not merit badges.


I feel it is one of my responsibilities is to help each Scout have a fun time at summer camp. I ask them what they want to do. Some choose several merit badges others choose to do other things.


Some Scouts come home with a fist full of merit badges others come home with one and a bunch of partials. Everyone comes home with good stories about the fun they had.


My opinion is that if the camp only offers a lot of merit badges for the Scouts to do then it might be considered a mill. I think it is up to the troops Scouters to find out what there is to do at camp and let the Scouts know(through the SPL and PLs of course). This includes the list of merit badges, BSA special awards, hiking trails, special in camp awards, camp run activities... They also need to help the Scouts know when the water front, pool, archery and shooting ranges, and stuff like that are open.


What if all the camp offers is merit badges. The choices are find a different camp or come up with your own program. That way there is fun to have without the need to be at merit badge classes all day.


As a Scout I went to summer camp many times. One year I came home with six merit badges. My best friend and I earned basketry and leatherwork that year along with a few more challenging ones like life saving and environmental science. It was one of my best summer camps because I did those merit badges with my best friend. The merit badges were the icing on the cake. The two of us doing what we wanted to was the best part.


Just because a Scout earns a pile of merit badges does not mean he is not having fun. The flip side to that is that if a Scout earns one merit badge he is not necessarily a slacker.


Merit badge mill or a troop that has mill workers?


One last point it is up to us Scouters to keep the parents in line with fact that summer camp is about having fun. That merit badges can be part of that fun but not the main purpose. I am constantly reminding parents that advancement is only one eighth of our tool set so they should not focus on it too much.

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I admit I did not understand this the first year, but after that I did. My son's troop allows the boys to leave open one of the merit badge blocks, so that they can just enjoy being boys outside in the summer. My initial worry was that there would be little to do during that time. The program areas were all running merit badges so weren't necessarily open for free use. But after I spent a little time at one of the summer camps, I understood. The boys played cards, hiked, visited the trading post, went fishing, "explored," worked on attaining parts of the camp's honors programs (usually visiting certain locations) and in a few cases, worked on parts of their merit badges. Several commented that they just enjoyed having some time to relax. Late in the week, I noticed those boys did not appear as stressed out.


That won't work for all, of course. There are some boys who need a full schedule to keep them out of mischief. Boys who are prone to homesickness are probably better off being very busy. But it is an option, even at camps that operate as "mills." Just because the camp sets up its schedule to offer a crazy number of badges doesn't mean you and your scouts have to play along.


TwoCubDad - thank you! For not letting your scouts suffer through the citizen and communications badges at camp! I'd take off family life and personal management too. Those badges are not designed to be taught in that type of setting and require a bit more perspective and life experience than the typical 15 year old "counselor" is likely to possess.

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Sorry to post twice but asm411 and I must have been writing at the same time.


I want to second what asm411 said about his camp, Manatoc, in northeast Ohio. Our boys went there from far out of council last year. We'd never been to Manatoc before. We go to a different camp every year (we have no council camp of our own) so our guys have a lot to compare to. With hardly any exceptions, the boys (and adults) had two very positive comments about the merit badge program there.


The first was that they had knowledgeable counselors who actually taught the requirements. That's refreshing, after some experiences the boys have had elsewhere.


The second was that there WERE lots of other non-merit badge things to do and lots of time to participate in free-use time in the program areas. They really enjoyed that.

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"And lets not blame the camps, they try and do the best they can with the resources they have. If the troop wants quality advancement, then the troop needs to take control. If troops are going to be passive with their program, then cant really complain."


It's people and their behavior.


I blame the Council paid professionals who, as a matter of deliberate practice or reckless indifference, preside over the handing out of unearned MB's as a device to fill their camps/produce revenue.


I blame the Council Advancement Chairpersons/VP's who go along with such a farce.


I blame the "Camp Inspectors" who make zero effort to see if the program areas are actually functioning.


To a lesser extent, I blame the human tools used to produce this dishonorable result - the so-called Merit Badge Counselors who hand out unearned MB's. It is the Merit Badge Counselor who is the the person responsible for determining if a Scout has passed the MB requirements -- not the Troop.


Control? Under B.S.A. policies, the Troop does not "control" the process beyond the SM's signature certifying that the Socut is ready to earn the MB. In the real world, as your comment suggests, that may not result in MB's actually earned.


But if a Troop plays "cop" to catch the violations of Scouting's written rules, that does not relieve the "crooks" of responsibility. Trustworthy. Honor. Ethics. Values.


EXAMPLE: In a camp in WV, Scout appears in Troop campsite on Friday with signed blue card for Pioneering; yet, he cannot tie a single required knot, much less any of the required lashings. Required project? Forgedaboutit!


EXAMPLE: In another camp in PA, MB Counselor for Pioneering announces on Monday that he knows almost nothing in the MB pamphlet -- knows few of the knots and none of the lashings. He asks if any of the Scouts can teach the MB. He then signs over 20 blue cards on Friday. Knowing nothing by his own admission, how can he possibly know if a Scout has passed? And not one Scout did anything towards the project requirement. Not one earned the MB on that ground alone.


EXAMPLE: In Ohio, MB Counselor waits until Thurday night for the "night-in-a-shelter" requirment for Wilderness Survival. It rains. MB Counselor decides staying out in the rain is out of the question. Scouts might get wet in the pitiful excuses for shelters they have built (I saw them. I sugegsted use of rain gear. "Too late," I was told. "They have been sent back to their Troops") Nevertheless, all MB candidates receive signed blue cards on Friday, even the ones who could not start a single fire using "primitive" methods. (The "Counselor" was 17 and did not, himself, have the MB or the skills/knowledge required to earn it . Nor did any of his four, younger assistants.)


EXAMPLE: In Ohio, WV, PA, Wis., 45 Scouts sit at tables. When a single Scout gives the correct answer to a question, all receive credit as if they had individually shown that they know the information. Many of the questions are corruptions of a requirement that the Scout demonstrate a skill. (This is a common pattern we have seen in at least one program area at every camp we have attended in 28 years. One camp that followed this method for all Scoutcraft MB's and First Aid MB also prohibited unit Scouters from participating/helping in the program areas -- even registered Counselors for the MB's. Our role was strictly limited to silently watching - and retching.)


EXAMPLE: In Ohio (in a camp with the best physical resources I have ever seen = $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$), Canoeing MB candidates literally do not get in a canoe until Friday. Yet two MB Counsellors somehow pass all 37 candidates -- in 50 minutes. Upon checking, our four Scouts simply do not know how to paddle a canoe. In fact, they have trouble getting in the canoe without rolling over. (But non-swimmers in PFD's have been out canoeing all week -- some out of sight of any lifeguard.)


EXAMPLE: Almost everywhere, our Scouts return to camp complaining that the staff in some program areas are not knowledgeable and apparently are simply going to hand out the MB's simply for "bein' there and not fallin' asleep." They prove to be correct, and several of our Scouts refuse to accept the blue cards for MB's they know they have not earned.


Which is why we do our own SC every other year.


How about offering MB's only when you have competent Counselors and only to numbers of candidates that you can actually honestly, individually pass? Oh. Wait. That would cut into the numbers of "MB's EARNED THIS WEEK !!!" announced at the closing campfire.


Camp Manatoc sounds like what we would like to see in a BSA camp. I'll bet they are full most weeks, if not every week.(This message has been edited by TAHAWK)

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That's terrible about MBC not getting it done or not knowing what they need to know.


I am the yearly Merit Badge Trail Drive organizer for 3 districts...and all of my MBC's hear/read me say "attendance is NOT Participation", "DO NOT GIVE A MB AWAY".


That being said, my events don't crank out "completed" MB's for most of the classes. I have never been asked to "pump up" the COMPLETES or even questioned about the lack of COMPLETES at the event.


I have volunteered at the Pool as a MBC (swimming/lifesaving) during camp for the past 2 years during our Troops week in camp. It's the toughest job at camp, so I know it's a sacrifice. :)


I look for the Scouts who need more time or instruction than the staff have to give. The staff works the group skills, and I work with 1-2 almost every session. No one has ever gotten a "buy", even when it has rained 2-3 days of the week.



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They prove to be correct, and several of our Scouts refuse to accept the blue cards for MB's they know they have not earned.


Yah, good for your boys!


That's the sort of thing that really shows character, and demonstrates that your program is really doin' what it should to meet our goals.





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As for Manatoc they run 7 weeks with about 400 Scouts each week. You can see the reservation schedule here:



Even councilors at Manatoc make mistakes. We have had to hunt down councilors for not signing off on requirements several times.


We even had one Scout come back with a completed blue card and he said "What should I do I did no complete one of the requirements." I told him that when he did the requirement come and see me, I happen to be a councilor for the MB. He tried to hand me the signed off blue card. I told him that I trusted him to do the right thing and to put it with his other blue cards until he needed was ready.


Mistakes happen sometimes but as far as I can tell the MBC at Manatoc do the best they can to get it right. Each MBC has charts of the requirements with the Scouts names and check them off as they are completed. Seems to work well most of the time.



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Camp Many Point in MN has 4 MB sessions scheduled in the morning and afternoon with some MBs taking up two session slots. There are 'troop activity' times each day where the troop signs up for climbing, shooting, swimming, ... whatever the scouts decided beforehand to do from a list of a few dozen. In the evening, all activity areas have 'open time' for scouts to do what they like best. There are special programs for scouts 8th grade and up that take them away from the younger guys - Huck Finn Raft, Treehouse, COPE, Kayak, Sailboards.


Merit badges get a lot of attention, and some scouts even set up additional MBs in the evening, but summer camp offers a lot more than MBs. We have about 40 scouts do camp and distribute around 100 MBs at the next court of honor. But, there's also about 20-30 partials left to complete. I visit the MB areas and feel the scouts complete the requirements.


Last year, they came up with some special programs called "All Things ..." where a scout concentrates on a specific area such as Aquatics, Emergency Response, or SCUBA. See http://www.manypoint.org/Older_Scout_Activities-All_Things_Specialty_Weeks

I presented WFAB there last year and the scouts were working hard and worn out by week's end.


Scout On

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