Jump to content

Recommended Posts



You're right, no problems here with your questions, and in fact there were some that I debated with myself with.


I cannot say how much time folks put into it prior to the class. I can tell a few folks did a lot of research learning a great deal, one had a very easy time getting it done (he was 1/2 Apache), and some probebly did spend a minimal amount of time.


In reference history: at the MBU we had 2 classes: one with about 12-15 folks, one with about 25. The first class went really well as the kids did do their research, showing pics, describing things per the requirements, etc. Discussion went really well in my opinion. the second class was more difficult due to the time restraints. We got involved, but were not able to give each person as much time as the first one.


In reference to the "mobile museum," That was a hard decision to make, and I admit I used the experience of summer camp to do it, just to a larger degree. Especially at the seminar as a reproduction of a Houma Village was created at a museum about 45-50 minutes away from the seminar site. We did promote that museum, as well as their annual powwow, and brought in pics if memory serves.


The MBU was not really as close to any museum on Native Americans at the time. While a museum now exists, their collection of Native American is quite small, consisting of a few arrowheads, a few pieces of pottery, and posters printed with de Batz and le Moyne drawings from the late 17th and early 18th centuries with quotes from journals of the explorers and traders of the period. So I didn't have as much of a concern with the MBU as I did with the seminar, but I do see your point.


With the songs it got interesting. We did teach the songs to the group and what they meant. When it came time to sing, we split them up into groups of 8 max, and they sang while the rest played the games at the MBU. At the seminar, we had a little more room so we also taught them to dance. Again the seminar was a fundraiser for the OA, and a recruitment tool to get folks excited about the OA and get them interested in dancing and singing when they joined the OA. We did get a few dancers out of the seminar. If memory serves we got some interest in the lodge's dance and singing teams out of the MBU. So I think it did help.


One thing we did with the songs, which is a trick I learned by the guy who tried to teach me to sing, was we switched the lead singer for each verse. The instructor would start off the song, and when the verse was sung, he would point his stick, and that person became lead. Then he would pick the next one. until everyone had a chance to lead.


Now I agree with you to a degree that MB classes should be a starting point and that they folks need to keep going afterwards. I see the entire MB process as an intro to a topic, giving you the basics and then giving you the resources via the MBC to continue the topic to the next level, IF you are interested.


I'll give you an example. I got Pottery MB. I did it b/c I had some free time, and it looked interesting. It was cool, but pottery overall isn't my cup of tea. I did the minimum required, and did not pursue it afterwards. As you can guess Indian Lore really stuck with me, and I have pursued beyond the requirements since I dance, can sing a few songs, and at one time was trying to write a thesis on the Houma and Colonial and Early American Louisiana relations, until I was corrupted into doing 20th Century military history ;)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 31
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I'd rate many of the summer camp merit badges as hopelessly "slack."


To keep the thread on track, I purposely did not mention summer camps, but the truth is they're the biggest MB mills of them all. Throw 15 kids at at 16-year-old counselor who barely qualifies for the merit badge itself, much less as any sort of expert in the field. The counselor can barely keep decorum much less deliver any sort of meaningful instruction. How is it anything but hopelessly slack.


The problem, here at least, is the way we go about recruiting staff. The premium is on spirited, out-going, enthusiatic kid who are a lot of fun. They assemble the barrel of monkeys, then try to pick MBCs out of the bunch. As a result, we get a great, entertaining staff campfire Sunday night, but very weak instruction the rest of the week.


We get really great instruction from the old guys who teach stuff like climbing, shooting sports, some aquatics and (in our council) metal work which is taught by an experienced blacksmith. Except for metal work, BSA requires camp-school certified, 21-year-old directors. What conclusions can you draw from that?



Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think I'm "leading the charge" on this, Seattle. Lots of other scouters I know, and others on this forum, have said the same basic thing. Some troops I'm familiar with actually discourage boys from taking the "win all you can" approach to merit badges, particularly at summer camp, and I'm happy about that.


Does it matter in the big picture? Maybe not. Does it matter locally? Yeah, I think it does. For example, I've got a boy in scouting. He and I have talked about this topic because he's had some particularly awful summer camp and MBU experiences. As a result, he's decided to earn most of his MBs the old-fashioned way, working with a counselor who he contacts on his own, rather than in "classes." So although he has earned his shooting sports MBs and a couple of others at camps over the years, nearly all of the rest were done individually. He has convinced a couple of his friends to do the same.


So yeah, that matters to me. And it still would, even if I wasn't his mom. (of course a side-effect is that he doesn't have 85 merit badges, but so what? At least he can tell you what he did to earn each one that he has.)


And this is not a separate issue from the T-2-1 requirements. Too many programs, at summer camp or elsewhere, make those ridiculously easy (devoid of meaning or content), too. Different skills, but same issue.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Eagle 92,



Your Indian Lore Merit Badge programs sounds like it was a noble effort! It sounds like it was a culturally rich program and well planned.


And it had the benefit of a well informed adult who was really interested in his topic.


It sounds to me like the Scouts who took your class had a fine experience.



By contrast, Two Cub Dad puts his finger on the real weak point, really inadequate merit badge Scout/counselors at summer camp who really don't have much background for teaching a merit badge.


For openers ---- Merit Badge Counselors are supposed to be 21 years of age! So how do 16 years olds wind up running such programs?



And there are some merit badges that get taught well because the staff is qualified, the Scouts tend to be motivated and adequate time is scheduled for instruction. Aquatics and shooting sports would probably be consistant examples.


By contrast I think merit badges like basket weaving and finger printing has a reputation primarily for being easy to complete.


Where you have a skilled Xpert, like the blacksmith doing the metal working merit badge, I bet the Scouts have a good experience.


How important is it to have higher standards? That might involve eliminating many of the merit badges for which really competent instructors aren't available. Would that be worth while?


I would be delighted to have an experience police detective or (better yet!) FBI agent teaching finger printing. Could you make that happen for a month of summer camps? Probably not.


You might make it happen for a Merit Badge University. You might find someone to do that for a troop program, even.


The problem seems to be trying to do too much with limited resources. Summer camp staff can do some things well, but feel compelled to offer more merit badge programs than they can do well.


Merit Badge Universities can attract skilled people and hobbiests, but I see efforts to get ANYBODY available to be able to offer more merit badges. I think a quality class/program could be offered on a troop level, but perhaps some troops try to do too many and wind up sacrificing quality.


Another remedy for this kind of issue is for troops to step forward and offer outings and activities that will deepen the merit badge experience for Scouts.


Suppose a troop encouraged Scouts to take fingerprinting at summer camp knowing that the experience would be problematic, but supplemented that with a later tour to a detective bureau where modern methods and real experts would be part of the program. Wouldn't that make good use of the marginal "introduction" to finger printing offered at summer camp?



Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, the minimum age is 18, but still...


The way camps get around this is to have an 18-year-old area director listed as the "couselor of record" for the badges, but it's a shell game. The official counselors are busy off teaching their own classes and rarely have time to observe the other MBs which they technically counsel, much less make the time participate in the actual sign-off of badges.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I wouldn't knock all 16 to 21 yo camp staff. yes there can be problems, trust me with 6 years of boy scout summer camp expereince. I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. But I've seen some 16+ yos who go after the courses with a passion. Aquatics staff come to mind right off the bat, but I was a swimming instructor at 16, and a Lifeguarding instructor at 18, so I am a bit partial to the "aquarats." heck there are some "aquarats" under 18 I'd trust with my life over an adult lifeguard, especially when BSA did have the toughest lifeguard program.


I've also met some first year camper staff who rally did a bang up job teaching their charges in the field. Grant you a lot of them were under the supervision of a grizzly, retired Leatherneck who served in 3 wars (WWII, Korea, and Vietnam) and was firm, but fair in teaching those basic scout skills. But even when he got sick and they had a replacement, and then when he finally passed on, his legacy remained and the first year camper staff are some of the best the camp has. EDITED forgot to add this Devil Dog served on staff for over 15 years, I actually beleive over 20 but not sure), and 95% of the Boy Scouts in the council knew him. At his funeral, it was standing room only, and former staffers flew in to attend. Lots of BSA uniforms at that service.


But again I have seen problems. The key to summer camp MB mills in my opinion is the camp key three: business manager, program director, and camp director.


The camp director has to have a vision, has to have standards for both the classes and the staff. I've worked with some truly good CDs. One had built up the staff and program over several years, and when we lost him it was a tremendous blow to the camp. One was in the process of rebuilding the camp program, and it was a challenge. But i also had a CD who only took the job so that he could get a bonus. Expectations were low, morale was low, and despite the awesome faculties at the camp due to the completion of a capital campaign, that summer was the worst experience. So you need a good CD.


You also need a good program director. He's the one who has to not only come up with programs, but also has to motivate and mentor the staff, especially new ones. he too has to have high standards in conducting classes, and makes sure his directors, understand his vision and implement it. Again I worked with some good PDs, who were rebuilding program and staff, or keeping the high exceptions of years past, and I worked with one who, like his CD, was only there for a paycheck and would ratehr sleep and play board games than work.


You also need a good Business Director. he's gotta make sure that you have the supplies needed to teach the classes. he's gotta make sure that supplies are being used wisely. he's gotaa make sure thate food is good and plenmtiful,the TP is fully stocked and ready to sell supplies, and the records are up to date at the end of the week.


(This message has been edited by Eagle92)

Link to post
Share on other sites

So I'm not offended by merit badge programs that provide an introduction to the topic rather than a degree of mastery of the topic.... The practical way for troops to deepen the merit badge experience is to use the merit badge introduction as a springboard for the troop program into USING the merit badge skills to achieve more experience and understanding.


Well I'm not sure any of us are offended, eh? ;) Just disappointed. We owe da boys more.


The thing is, if yeh remember your training, SeattlePioneer, what yeh talk about as "deepening" the MB experience is actually supposed to be part of the MB experience, not extra. In your first aid example, a proper first aid MB will have the boys doing scenarios and treating moulaged (fake wounds) victims in various circumstances as a part of learning, eh? Not just sittin' in a class and memorizing treatments out of the book or doin' a basic splint once or twice with help.


Yep, a troop meeting or a class can be a good introduction to the MB, so a lad can figure out if he's interested. But then to pursue the MB he should meet with a counselor/mentor who gives him some personal attention, and he should work hard to actually learn / master / be proficient in da skills. The requirements, after all, are pretty basic, eh? They're not college material, they're an introduction. But to really get a meaningful introduction, the lad does need to do the work to master those basic requirements.


Dare I quote da materials again? This time from Leader Specific Training syllabus:


Those who are teaching Scouts a skill do the following:

1. Demonstrate the skill.

2. Work with scouts on learning the skill.

3. Reinforce the use of the skill at troop meetings and during monthly outings. This reinforcement can occur by incorporating the skill into patrol competitions, troop projects, and other hands-on events.

4. Test scouts when the scouts feel they are ready...


A Scout wanting to complete a requirement to advance in rank must demonstrate to a scout leader that he has fully mastered a skill at the level expected. (emphasis mine)


I think where summer camps and MBU's and units really fail with da advancement program is when they skip step 3 and go right to step 4. They think that talking and showing is enough for a boy to learn, or they devalue real mastery, the work it takes, and the confidence it brings the lad. In short, they cheat the boy out of da real growth and a real introduction to the topic.


Most of da time it's well-meaning, like I said earlier. It's folks who think the lad has learned just because he's been talked at in a group, or feel that because they as an instructor were engaged in a great discussion, that boy who was number 21 out of 25 who never got a chance to speak was also engaged in a great discussion. Then they either skip individual testing (most common) claimin' not enough time, or they try individual testing but excuse da lack of mastery as forgetfulness or shyness or whatnot and sign anyway to make the lad and themselves feel good.


Real learnin', real growth, even a basic introduction to a topic, takes some time and effort strugglin' to master those basics. When we cheat on da steps, we only cheat the boys.




Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello TwoCub Dad,


Thanks for your explanation of how summercamp merit badges get signed off, and correcting me about the age limit.




Hello Beavah,



What I'm suggesting is the the summercamp and Merit Badge University merit badges are more or less a part of the woodwork these days. If that's true, I'm asking how can a troop program adapt to that fact of life?






If #3 is commonly omitted, then perhaps that's where the troop program can help remedy such problems (That's actually exactly what my earlier post suggested!).


And what we do best is hands on not lectures or classroom study.



In Cub Scouts we Do Our Best. Not infrequently I have to notice that's not necessarily a high standard! If the standards for merit badges have become regrettably low for whatever reason, what can a Scoutmaster do about that?


You can howl at the moon (we see some of that from time to time on this board).


But I think real leadership is looking at the reality you have in front of you and figuring out what you can do about it to make it work --- better if not perfectly.



Link to post
Share on other sites

I hear you, E. I know there are some great kids out there. My son would do a bang-up job teaching photography and cinematography, but he's a quiet guy has no desire to spend his summer with all the type-A, silly skits and grass skirt shennaghans on camp staff. I rather doubt he would get hired. Besides, he will be 18 by summer camp so he's beyond my profile anyway.


But even in your two examples, the great young staffers were either led by an old leatherneck who ruled the program, or were rather-highly trained lifeguards led by an even more highly-trained aquatics director.


The real problems occur with the kid who is handed a merit badge pamphlet and box of mud and told, here, go teach pottery.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Most of the Merit Badge Colleges around here are run by a troop. They do it as a fund raiser and they make really good money in one day. 100 to 200 boys x $25 is a good payday. Troops need money and fundraisers so I understand that.


I do think the teaching is less than stellar in most of these but it is no worse than summer camp or Scout Base or National Jamboree. It all depends on the teacher.


Counselors that actually make sure the scout knows their stuff before signing off are few and far between.



Link to post
Share on other sites



I hear. That's Why i say it's CRITICIAL, repeat CRITICAL (and yes it's shouting this go around), that the summer camp CD, PD, and BD have a shared, common vision of what they want to happen, with clear expectations given to the area directors, and to the staffers. If you have high expectations and demands of your staff, AND you take care of your staff to the best of your ability, they will perform. Sad to say I attended a camp with so-so camp facilities, but their staff was motivated, highly trained, and compensated for the facilities.



Recruting staff should be a year round thing, starting the day after the camp is packed away. You need to look to take a look at your staff, see where everyone's strengths and weakness are, and recruit, recruit, recruit.


I'll give you an example. My camp had a long term staffer, rose from the CIT ranks and worked in every area at the camp. Some areas he was great at, some areas ok at. He was a good PD, but an even better AD. So you got to start looking at those strengths and start matching them.


Then you got to train the heck out of them. You got to give your staffers training on not only how to conduct the classes, i.e. lesson plans, behavior problems, etc, but also time to improve their skills. This is especially critical with the younger staff who may know it and can do it, but need to perfect it and be able to teach it.


Again you got to have high expecations, and it come dfrom the top and works its way down.

Link to post
Share on other sites


Counseling merit badges as a fundraiser (presumably Council approved)? Making it easy and making a buck at the same time?


I can see covering facility rental and supply expenses but making a profit. Is it just me who thinks this is wrong?


Depressing $0.02



Link to post
Share on other sites

Eagle92, you said "Now we did play games, so they had to go back to their troops to teach a game. letter to the SM explained that the SM could sign off of that requirement when they did it."

This statement truly concerns me, becaus as a SM, I have NO authority whatsoever to sign off any requirement for any MB, unless I am a registered counselor for that badge.  My responsibility, as a SM, is to find this scout a counselor with whom they can meet, so that the counselor can sign off the requirement.

Other than that, I would be overjoyed to send a scout to you at a MB program.  My problem is that I cannot reasonably know in advance which counselors at MBUs are good counselors and which are not.  It creates a definate conundrum for me.

Link to post
Share on other sites



The reason why I wrote the letter is b/c our MBC lists have not been up to date, and there may not have any IL MBCs in the district. Plus I was goign by that scout summer camp urban legend that can finish up partials.


Mea culpa.


I will say that the letter contained my email so that if folks had questions they could contact me.(This message has been edited by eagle92)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Eagle92, sorry if I came across critically, that was not my intention. In fact, as I said, I would be happy to know that classes at these gatherings were handled by counselors as skilled as you. I just don't know how to figure out in advance which counselors are doing things right and which are not. With a district MB list (which largely has the same counselors over a few years, as ours does) on can learn from scouts who is an who is not doing the job right.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...