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Summer Camp MB mill - as usual

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Thirty candidates for Wilderness Survival MB - many first-year campers.


Not a one with the MB pamphlet.


Candidates in three sessions sit and listen.


Some answer questions - or sit and say not a single word in five days.


Not one takes notes.


Thirty given the MB - without a single individual examination on any requirement.


Not one passed the MB.




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Not even the make the 3 fires or stay out all night in your shelter yopu made yourself? That's the manly fun stuff!


My son was passed at the Wilderness MB class he took even though nobody started a fire (it rained but they "passed" him--we are going to make him demonstrate anyway). I know he made a shelter of old boughs and tried to sleep in it all night (it was neither warm nor wet). And he thought that was a bad class!

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Ok - so what's the next step?


Will you be taking these issues to the advancement committee, the camp director, the program director, the camping committee and the Scout Executive and demanding better of them?


Will you be attending the same summer camp again? If you know this particular summer camp is a merit badge mill, are you willing to tell the Council that you're done with their camp until they get their act together and will be attending a new camp?


What's next?

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Calico brings up a good point.


First, since so many took it have the boys review and practice what they should have learned. They missed a lot of fun; by the popularity of survival type shows boys should eat this stuff up if you present it properly. I hate to think a whole week wasted.


Second, complain to the camp. Perhaps they had a bad instructor. It happens.


Third, I agree. Bring your concerns to Council. Even within the range of opinions of what should count for MB completion this seems pretty slack.

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TT, they did the fires. That is a "do" requirement. So it could be called the "Light Three Fires and Show Up at Lectures Every Day Merit Badge."


The shelters were made by teams of candidates, not individuals, and were uniformly inadequate for any purpose (You could see through them from side to side.). Nor were they taught to properly make an expedient shelter. However, that requirement is so vague as to be nonexistent -- no standard for acceptable. Given LNT and the practicalities, the requirement might better read:


"x) Using a tarp, poncho or other similar gear that you could reasonably expect to have on a weekend backpacker, make a shelter (or shelters) that could protect you from: a) rain and wind; b) sun and wind; and c) cold and wind.


y) If the materials are available and consistent with leaving little negative impact on the environment, build an expedient shelter of brush, grass, or other plant material suitable to protect you from cold and rain.


z) Spend a night in the shelter built to meet requirement x or y or a snow shelter."



CP, I have discussed this same situation with Camp Program Directors and Area Directors at eleven camps in Ohio, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.


I have discussed it with five Advancement Chairs in three Councils over the last few years.


I am told, over and over, that the camps lack the staff to individually examine as required by BSA. The logic seems to be, "If we can't do it according to the rules, cheat." (A Scout is expedient.)


The cheating is an "open secret." That is, everyone knows it is the rule, rather than the exception, but it is bad form to talk about it. I was not given Smiley Faces when I brought it up.


I suggested to the last Area Director that the camp require that each candidate have the MB pamphlet for each MB they appear for so there was a chance that they might learn -- even after they were given the MB. She was not pleased, and said "It is not up to me."


Handing out tons of MB's, earned or otherwise, is also regarded as a tool to get Troops into camp.


As for next year, I have not seen a single camp that is not a MB mill.


The troop I was with for 23 years did it's own camp every other year and encouraged Scouts to take the MB's most given away at a BSA camp at the troop's camp. My current troop always goes to a Council camp.


So what's next? More of the same. It's gone on for years.


Beyond the fires, I have no idea what the candidates learned, as they were never asked to explain or demonstrate. A few candidates made comments in class that make me hopeful that they know soemthing about the subject.


They started at a zero knowledge base, had no written information, and were not encouraged to work on the MB other than in the 250 minutes of class and "outpost." (The vast bulk of the "outpost" time was taken up in going and coming, a wide game, and attempting to sleep.)


Hopefully, as they never saw it, they didn't learn the many errors in the disgraceful MBP.

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WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? and yes I am shouting in complete and utter disbelief.



Wilderness Survival is one of the "FUN" MBs, and not a paperwork one. I admit I took it at summer camp, but they worked us hard on it, and the nite out was a "practical." I admit I cheated: in addition to the stuff the MBP listed, I added a few extras like garbage bags, and used them as the base layer to my shelter top. Although I was cold from the wind, I was dry. ;)


I still think the best class was the one I was the second adult for one year. The entire class of 10-15 hiked out about 2 miles form the base camp sat around for about 30 minutes while the MBC waited out everyone to make sure no one had any contraband. the instructor gave a scenario, gave a bag of supplies recovered form the airplane before it exploded and that was that. Oh and injuries would occur periodically to make it more challenging.

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Depending on when you took WSMB, you may not recognize the requirements of today's badge:


1. Show that you know first aid for and how to prevent injuries or illnesses likely to occur in backcountry settings, including hypothermia, heat reactions, frostbite, dehydration, blisters, insect stings, tick bites, and snakebites.


2. From memory, list the seven priorities for survival in a backcountry or wilderness location. Explain the importance of each one with your counselor.


3. Describe ways to avoid panic and maintain a high level of morale when lost, and explain why this is important.


4. Describe the steps you would take to survive in the following conditions:

Cold and snowy

Wet (forest)

Hot and dry (desert)

Windy (mountains or plains)

Water (ocean, lake, or river)


5. Put together a personal survival kit and be able to explain how each item in it could be useful.


6. Using three different methods (other than matches), build and light three fires.


7. Do the following:

Show five different ways to attract attention when lost.

Demonstrate how to use a signal mirror.

Describe from memory five ground-to-air signals and tell what they mean.


8. Improvise a natural shelter. For the purpose of this demonstration, use techniques that have little negative impact on the environment. Spend a night in your shelter.


9. Explain how to protect yourself from insects, reptiles, and bears.


10. Demonstrate three ways to treat water found in the outdoors to prepare it for drinking.


11. Show that you know the proper clothing to wear in your area on an overnight in extremely hot weather and in extremely cold weather.


12. Explain why it usually is not wise to eat edible wild plants or wildlife in a wilderness survival situation.



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Wow, Tahawk, you are correct, I barely recognize the MB now (earned mine in '76)! Seems there are lots of activity-free loopholes (describe, explain, etc.)


Not much Wilderness, nor Survival, in these new requirements. Perhaps the MB should be renamed.....


PS This requirement jumped out:


12. Explain why it usually is not wise to eat edible wild plants or wildlife in a wilderness survival situation.


Had to re-read that several times...why is it unwise to eat edible plants or wildlife? It is better to eat inedible? Or is LNT so entrenched in our thinking that it's better to sit under a tree and starve than nibble on some berries or trap a rabbit?


Or, perhaps closer to the truth, certain parts of the BSA don't trust the scouts to learn edible from inedible, or make the right decisions in the field.


Whew, if this ain't Cupcake Scouting, I don't know what is(This message has been edited by desertrat77)

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It was once about primitive living and well-written by THE man, Professor Olsen of BYU.


It changed to "modern survival" - staying alive until rescued. That topic is what most, but not all, "wilderness survival" is about these days. The primitive living topic is often labeled "bushcraft."


The current pamphlet is now written by a secret committee and is a mess - disorganized, internally inconsistent, inconsistent with other BSA literature, and full of silly and dangerous errors and omissions.


But BSA does not want to communicate about it under any circumstances. The Vatican is more open to discussion of the liturgy.

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Tahawk, thanks for the background.


Mulling it over, I guess today's prevailing thought is that you'll be rescued pretty quick, so don't bother the flora or fauna, or learn any heavy-duty survival skills.


In the past, the philosophy was "You don't know when you'll be rescued, if ever, so if you want to live, you'll be wise to develop as many skills as possible."


Along those lines, I recall an entire chapter on survival in my scout Fieldbook, circa '73, including some very deep discussion on morale while surviving, including spiritual matters.


Sign of the times.....

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One of our more popular events is a wilderness survival campout for which the Scouts all build their own shelters (usually in pairs) and sleep in them. We've also done edible plants (yeah, someone needs to explain to me why leating local plants is unwise), and utensil-less cooking. One year we had a retired Marine dad teach corps-style SERE training. (That was cool. If you don't give the right call sign before you come out of cover, your own guys shoot you.)


As such, I don't pay much attention to wilderness survival MB at camp. The guys who take it at camp ARE there just to fill out the sit-and-listen requirements we don't cover in the troop.

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Thirty Scouts and two instructors? How can that staff even begin to pretend to test each Scout's work in the time given, let alone teach? That's setting the staff up to fail.


250 minutes spread over five days is 50 minutes per day - not even an hour. If each instructor takes 15 Scouts, they can give each one just over three minutes of dedicated, one-on-one attention per day - less than 20 minutes for the whole week.


Camps need to put limits on their program sizes, and stick to them. And SMs and parents need to stop complaining that their Scouts didn't get in. There is not always room for one more.




On the flip side, let's look at this from the point of view of the Scout's responsibility should be. I agree with you, TAHAWK, that the camp program was seriously screwed up. But I also would argue that the Scouts and their troops bear some responsibility here.


They started at a zero knowledge base, had no written information, and were not encouraged to work on the MB other than in the 250 minutes of class and "outpost."


Let's dissect that sentence.


>> They started at a zero knowledge base ...


Why? Did none of the Scouts read the MBP? Read the relevant sections in the Handbook and Fieldbook? Did their SPL or SM encourage them to do so before signing up for the program to make sure they'd enjoy it?


This was my biggest pet peeve as a camp instructor. A Scout who doesn't know how to tie a bowline should not be signing up for Pioneering.


>> ... had no written information ...


Why? Why did none of the Scouts have the MBP? Why did their SPLs and SMs not encourage them to obtain one first?


>> ... and were not encouraged to work on the MB other than in the 250 minutes of class and "outpost."


Why is it the instructor's job to remind a Scout to work on a MB outside of the program time? The Scout chose to sign up for it, and his SM signed off. That assumes some level of interest in the topic. Why is it not the Scout's responsibility?




I have argued in other threads here that Wilderness Survival should have a rank or age requirement placed on it - preferably First Class and up. First-year campers should not be taking that program. Scouts who just learned how to build and light a fire with a match at 9 a.m. cannot truly learn how to light a fire with a bow drill at 1 p.m.


Allowing them into such a program is irresponsible on the part of both the camp and the troop leadership.

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I could be mistaken, but I seem to recall that I had "edible plants" for Second Class. This would have been about 1972, right before they switched over to the "improved" program.


We actually ate a few, and ironically, from that exercise, I know the answer to number 12:


12. Explain why it usually is not wise to eat edible wild plants or wildlife in a wilderness survival situation.


"Because you probably won't get enough energy from the few known safe things that you find to really be worth the trouble."


But it's still fun. And I also know that after the collapse of society, I'm definitely not going to die of scurvy, since I'll get plenty of vitamin C from the dandelions in my yard. :)


Still, the Scouts would have a lot more fun if they ate a few cattails.


The main requirement I remember from Wilderness Survival was to cook without utinsels. I made hamburger and probably some vegetables from a little grill made out of green sticks. No, it probably wasn't a particularly practical exercise. If the utinsels got lost during the plane crash, then the hamburger probably got lost along with it. But it was still a useful exercise, because it showed that you could do things without the normal tools. The tool you actually need will be something you didn't anticipate, but you'll still know that you're able to improvise.


I doubt if that lesson could be taught very well in a "class".

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We had a similar situation, but Scouts ended up with partials -- but the story takes some setup. We go to a patrol-oriented camp, where program is based on what a patrol chooses to do for the day. Our guys decided to sign up for the "Wilderness Survival" program, which is a day-long program and an overnight (in the shelters they built). The intention of the program is they earn most, if not all, of the Wilderness Survival merit badge.


In this case, the patrol is 7 Scouts. Two already have the merit badge, one had a partial, lacking on the overnight, and four others were starting it from scratch. The program started after breakfast, and most of the morning was a similar lecture, talking about first aid, rescue, signals, fires, etc. During the morning, they all built fires, with either flint and steel or a magnesium starter, and several attempted use of a magnifying glass. After lunch they built shelters during the afternoon. The instructor allowed buddy pairs to build shelters. His parameters were that he would allow warm clothing, rain gear and whatever is in your pockets (the smart ones brought bug spray). No sleeping bags or ground cloths.


The one Scout with the partial finished (he only lacked the overnight -- here's his backstory: he worked on the merit badge at another camp, including the shelter building -- he got the partial because the night of his overnight, it started to storm heavily, and he and his buddy bailed on the overnight). The four Scouts starting fresh were credited for most things, except were only credited with starting one fire each, not three fires each. I'm not sure what else they are lacking for completion. Their PL for the week is talking about contacting a counselor so they can all finish.



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