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approaches to improving district MB experience

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For a long while, we've had some issues with the way scouts' merit badge experiences work in our district (and council).


There is a central list of MB counselors, by district and for the council. Leaders can get a printed list so that the SM can help a scout find a registered MB counselor. That's the good news.


The bad news is, the list is really outdated and wrong, as often as it is right. For a while there was a district list and a council list that didn't seem to match. Everybody knew it was a problem.


Recently, the district staff is taking a hard look at how to improve this experience for scouts. THey're trying to cull out the names of MBCs who have died, moved, or are no longer registered. That's a good step.


They're also pushing district wide merit badge opportunities, for MBs where there are few counselors. Veterinary Medicine and Rail Roading are two specific ones that were mentioned.


I wonder what people think about that idea? In some regards, I can understand it. For example, there's evidently only 1 registered RR counselor in the whole state (I'm told), and that counselor would like to do some kind of program in coordination with a state RR museum. Would hardly make sense for him to do this with each individual scout.


But I also kind of wonder whether we have it backward. If the problem is a paucity or counselors, is holding district events so that kids have access to counselors the solution? Or is recruiting more counselors the solution? Having raised this question, I was told that it has become increasingly difficult to recruit counselors for many unusual badges.


What's the collective wisdom of the forum?


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One of the reasons I dislike large MB "university"-type programs is that they're artificial. They offer a badge up to the Scout without the Scout having to really do anything except show up and participate. The Scout might not even have been interested beforehand, but saw a chance to get an MB fairly easily, with minimum of effort.


The same thing would apply in this case, it seems. Unless there are a ton of Scouts beating down these counselors' doors so that the MBC simply can't deal with them all individually or as buddies, there's not any real need to do a district- or council-wide "MB event."


That said, there's absolutely nothing keeping the MBCs from putting on an open house of her veterinary practice or his personal railroading museum, and advertising it to Scout troops, thus potentially sparking some interest among a small group of Scouts who will really go ahead with it and contact the counselor to follow up.


I did a couple of MB university things as a Scout, most notably at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, where they're taught by the middies (mostly Eagle Scouts themselves). Firemanship (now Fire Safety) was good because the counselor was a chemistry guy and knew his stuff, and it was a subject I had an interest in. Atomic Energy, I didn't get much out of - and on my own, I wouldn't have completed it. Mostly, it was a chance to tour the Academy, watch a hockey game, talk to some cool midshipmen and freeze our buns off.


Recruiting is definitely the way to go. It's interesting that Railroading is one of your examples, because I know personally of two counselors within about an hour of each other, and know of at least two organized model railroading clubs in a 45-minute radius. I think they'd be flattered to be asked to serve as a resource - and that's really what MBCs are. Some people may be intimidated by the title "counselor," thinking it's a more active role including teaching organized classes. Not so.


Sorry for how this rambles.(This message has been edited by shortridge)

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First, where in the Sam Hill is your District Advancement Chairperson?? Recruiting Counselors, ensuring they are trained, and working a Counselor list are his jobs by ACP&P!




I find it a little hard that there is ONE Railroading counselor in all of Michigan. It seems to me that one good alternative here is to sign up the staff and docents of such places as the Steam Railroad Institute in Owosso.


As far as programs go, railroading thankfully has lots of DO requirements away from the counselor. There are some things which should be done with a Counselors help, but can be done with a little initiative by the boy.


The key issues is there is stuff for individual examination in the badge. One Counselor cannot do it by himself. I'm not working our MB Day this year (work requirements trump Scouting time), but when I did, I leveraged my parents to review with kids the work they brought in from the house. I FOUND A WAY to make the personal examination happen.


Yes, Railroading is one I counsel btw :)

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On another thread I posted that my son had to call at least 5 MBC's to find one that was still active. We're also in the same council as you.


They really need to update this stuff. Perhaps a password protected section of the website would work.


As far as RR, two great resources sort of locally to recruit would be the Roundhouse at Greenfield VIllage (I learned more in 30 minutes of talking to a guy there than I ever knew about railroading) and the Michigan Transit Museum in Mt. Clemens. I'll bet many of these guys could be recruited to be MBC's

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I guess the short answer, from my perspective, is yes. I'm not sure it has to be an either/or proposition. Use the resources you have today in the most efficient manner possible and recuit for more.


I personally don't have a huge issue with example you gave regarding MBs. If there is a really good museum or facility in which to explore a merit badge then it's good. It's really on the counselor to review the requirements, figure out which ones need to be considered pre-requisites, and publish the requirements for the experience. Many of the museums around here offer merit badge opportunities in two sessions. Session 1 may be more bookwork/exploration, session 2 is more review of requirements. It's certainly doable.


Lisabob, I've seen several people recently that have offered to help counsel merit badges right up to the point that they have to sign up. Did your district person say why it was becoming more difficult to recruit MBCs? I apologize for the hijack.


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Merit badge universities are the perceived solution to the problem of fewer merit badge counselors (MBC). The real solution is get more and better MBC's particularly from outside of scouting.


In my experience, it is easy to get outside experts to help with merit badges but difficult to impossible to get them to register. Oh they are interested until they see the paperwork and hassle now required. Many are very concerned about identity theft (good luck getting all that info from a licensed physician). They are also amazed at the absence of professional courtesy - 'I am a licensed plumber/EMT/policeman/teacher why can't I automatically counsel Plumbing/First Aid/Fire Safety/Scholarship'?'Heh I'm willing to teach some metalworking for da boys but I'm not jumping through hoops.'


So National could go back to an old simple system.

1. Just a one sheet, double spaced MB application form, signed by a sponsoring adult scout leader. A SM could 'knight' a new MBC on the spot! A council employee is assigned to maintain lists.

2. Registered until they withdraw. (No yearly renewal, which councils seem unable to process anyway)

3. MB counselor need NOT be an adult scout leader, just an upstanding community member will do. (I doubt National will agree to this)

4. YP not required AND an adult scout leader is present for all merit badge meetings. Just like any other outing activity, we don't require outfitters, museum guides, etc. that we work with to take YP.


Or here's an approach that I use - an adult scout leader registers as a MBC but acts as a merit badge facilitator of sorts. Scout(s) are interested in say Railroading where there are no MBC, so I register as a Railroading MBC whether I know or care if trains run on tracks. Council is just glad to have a warm body. Next I outsource - get help from local Casey Jones's. I show Casey the requirements and merit badge book and we talk it over. I am there for all meetings, somewhere in the back. When the requirements are complete, I sign the card (Casey can sign too, after all no one at council looks at the signatures anyway :)).

This is just an approach that I adapted from my earlier Den Leader experiences: find a expert, shield him/her from BSA BS, let expert do his/her thing, scouts learn something/have fun/earned badge. Maybe at Round Table, ASM's can be asked to try this approach for merit badges which have few or no MBC's.


I have not participated in a Merit Badge University nor would I. My merit badge courses require more than 2 meetings and I do not want that expectation misunderstood. I also want scout's undivided attention.


I think the merit badge system needs some serious repair, the only bright spot for me is that the merit badge pamphlets are FINALLY in color.


My $0.02




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In my neck of the woods, we had a Unit Serving scouter who was caught and convicted for YP issues.


Remember the guy on the National Executive Staff?


No, YP training will be part of being a Scouter forever now. Sadly, the sons of guns are out there, and so are the ambulance chasing lawyers.

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No we have to be registered there are bad guys out there.

I was a district advancement chair for two years and maintained the MBC list was a pain. It was an excel spread sheet and data consistency problems. James Jones, the same person as Jimmy Jones with a different address (move?) or Jim or Jr Jones at the same address (son or a different MB?) . Then they started tracking on the National Database (just names, not enough time to add MB counseled). Well that allow us to drop scouter registered in other positions when they left them; but what if he was a great leather crafter and would have stayed on as MBC. Another problem, if MBC was only registered as a MBC nothing else, there was no rechartering (no money) as an incentive to clean up the list. Imagine if you gave a SM a MBC who turned around and gave it to the scout and MBC has moved, divorced or died. Some mighty uncomfortable conversations for a young scout. One of my pet peeves was MBC who only do their unit, our council even had a box to check on the MBC list of badges form to limit who they worked with. I seriously doubt that it was ever checked when an advancement report was submitted (no time) and it would not be fair at Eagle time for MBC could be no longer on the list but was when completed.


If you didnt register them and do YP can you imagine what the BSA liability would be? But how to get qualified MBC is and will be a issue that I really dont see an easy solution.


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As John stated, the DAC is responsible for the MBC recruitment and training. S/He is also responsible for publishing a list for the District and providing it to Council. I take ALL MBC's for the Council and produce a District by District list for the Council (I am a DAC).


I also hold training and have purged the entire list this past year and informed ALL Troops. They are still arguing the purge but they have to accept that the list has fbeen published for months and they never stepped up to say anything.


MB Universities, for the most part, have been inefectual. They get MB's to the Scout but the Scout is cheated as most MBC's don't test individually and SM's don't want a partial even if the MB is not possible to do in one day.


I would reccomend your DAC/CAC work together to purge/renew the lists. Then get recruiting/training the new MBC's.


My $0.02






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What's the hassle? You have to fill out an application form. Big deal. I see the "shortage" as really being an failure of outreach and recruitment.


However, you also have to balance that against Scout interest. Having only one Veterinary Medicine counselor in a district may sound horrible. But if, over the last five years, precisely two Scouts have contacted the MBC about the badge, one may be the right number.


RememberSchiff's ideas included:


3. MB counselor need NOT be an adult scout leader, just an upstanding community member will do. (I doubt National will agree to this)


MBCs now are not required to be an adult Scout leader. All they have to do is be an upstanding community member with knowledge in their fields. Registering as an MBC is only committing to counsel that badge, not do anything else.


4. YP not required AND an adult scout leader is present for all merit badge meetings. Just like any other outing activity, we don't require outfitters, museum guides, etc. that we work with to take YP.


Not sure what you're saying here. You don't want MBCs to have to complete YP training - presumably because it's too much of a hassle - and you think the solution is to require registered unit adults to be present at all meetings? If I'm understanding you correctly, how would this work? Every time a Scout and MBC needed to meet, a committee member, ASM or SM would have to clear their schedule as well? I don't see that working on a practical level.

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I think we set ourselves up for failure by asking outsiders for help, they willingly arrive, and then we start auditing - 'er wait we have some forms, need personal information, oh you need to go online and take a test, you will need to set up an online account, you need to take a district training course oh that's offered in the spring, no it doesn't matter if you were a scout...' See ya later.


By 3. "MB counselor need NOT be an adult scout leader" - I meant they would not need to fill out the insecure adult application as code 42 with the SS#, DOB, DRP. Anyway, National would not go along with this.


By 4. Currently there is NO requirement for two adults at a mb meeting. The thought is 'two deep' protection occurs by the scout buddy system. I don't agree with that thought. It is common in my unit for one or more adults to hang around a mb meeting as they would have to drive back anyway. Two-deep adults is better protection than one MBC taking YP. I believe the examples that John cited all had taken YP, one a former National Program Director had helped develop YP. Prospective volunteer MBC's have asked for an adult leader(s) to be present as they just want to teach and leave the discipline to us. Again, this will not happen either.


How do we prevent a bad guy from becoming a MBC, a teacher, a priest, an elected leader? Unless he/she has a criminal record or someone steps forward with damaging credible information, we can't as we have seen. How do you prevent a MBC/SM/.. or unregistered adult from committing a bad act - two or more deep adult presence with eyes and ears open.


For the 100th, I would like a 100 'new' MBC's in each council. And I mean 'new' as not otherwise currently connected with scouting. And I want cool people, no turnips. I want people willing to advertise they are MBC's. I want pics, badge info, bios on council website and no more of this secret squirrel nonsense with counselor lists. But to make this happen, the process of becoming a MBC needs to be easier while maintaining youth safety.


Another $0.02





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