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Summer Camp MB mill - as usual

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Sad to read.


I visited a camp here in Western NY this summer, arriving about 6:30pm on a Tuesday. It was just plain awesome to see the waterfront PACKED with boys canoeing, kayaking, fishing, swimming at that hour! (granted, it was 90 degrees, which is pretty rugged to the locals up here).


Why would you want to restrict open program time at a Scout camp!? Makes no sense.

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We just got back from our first summer camp (brand new troop). A handful of our new scouts took Wilderness Survival. Overall the Scouts we took averaged almost 3 MB each (59 earned for 21 Scouts). My thoughts:


-The Scouts had a lot of fun. It wasnt a full-on wilderness adventure, but it was enough outdoor fun and excitement to keep (most of) them running around and thrilled with the overall experience.


-A bunch of the MBs were ones that are difficult to offer outside of Camp (or other Council-level facilities): Swimming, Rowing, Small-boat Sailing, Canoeing, Archery and Rifle Shooting in particular. Over time, I think our Troop would like to build up our resources for offering several of those on our own, but for now the BSA rules about those MBs means it will be a little while. We encouraged Scouts to take those MBs.


-The guys who took Wilderness Survival had a blast. They lit fires, built their own shelters, and slept in them Thursday night. Well, slept might be an exaggeration they stayed in them, but Im not sure they slept much they all thought it was very, very cool to be doing what they were doing. Are these 11 year olds ready to be dropped in to the middle of the Amazon and survive? No, but they are excited about learning more and we will try to leverage that over the years they are in Scouts. I didnt go over to the WS camp area, but I heard several dads from other troops were over there helping their sons build their shelters, etc. Our guys did it on their own. Just because other Units are cheating their Scouts doesn't mean we are going to cheat ours.


-A bunch of MBs were gimmies like Fingerprinting and Art, but our SM said something I really liked they might be easy MBs but sleeping outdoors, hiking up and down the hill to our campsite, and eating camp food for a week were part of what the guys had to do to earn them, so fairs fair. Overall it was a better experience than sitting around indoors doing those MBs.


-A few guys took and earned First Aid at Camp. It was a one-off, they convinced the Camp Medic to teach them, and it was I think a total of 8 or 9 hours in the class. Now, the SM and myself (Im an ASM) are First Aid MBCs, WRFA certified, and both working on becoming WRFA instructors, so we have pretty high First Aid standards. Our SM befriended the Medic on day one and let him know we wanted him to keep the standards high. Plus, the guys who earned the MB will now be our helpers as we make sure the entire Troop gets a high level of First Aid instruction. If theres anything they didnt really get during Camp, theyll learn (or re-learn) it teaching the rest of the Troop. Frankly, repeated practice is more important than anything you learn in earning the MB anyway, regardless of the circumstances under which you did the MB.


-the Camp has a million dollar dining hall. We ate all our meals there except for lunch and dinner on Wednesday, when the dining hall provided food to each Troop for cooking in the campsite. We ended up doing Hobo Packs for dinner, and every Scout I asked said his favorite meal of Camp was the one he cooked himself.


-The Camp (Pigott, in Chief Seattle Council) also has a great High COPE course, along with a climbing wall, mountain bike course, and a mountain boarding run (think off-road skateboards). Most of our guys were too young for the high COPE and climbing, but the two who did take it loved it (so did the adults!).


-The MB haul seems a bit excessive, but I figure it will help keep any helicopter/eagle-centric parents happy with the program. They want advancement and Merit Badges out of the program, and one way or another we need to keep them happy if we want their sons to stay in the program. So MBs it is, but while their sons are raking in the cloth, theyre also learning how to cook and clean up for themselves, function in their patrols without constant adult direction, live outdoors, and theyre experiencing the excitement of outdoor adventures. Frankly I think part of the genius of B-P's program is that it combines a bunch of elements that complement each other, so as long as a Unit doesn't let the Methods get out of balance, it will channel enthusiasm for one method into progress in the others.


-Camp is a resource, but just one of many. It was our Troop overnight for July. Just one of 12 for the year. In August, theyre going to be building a pioneering tower, or maybe a bridge, well see. For us, I think camp was a great opportunity for a bunch of brand new Scouts (our Troop is all of 4 months old a pair of Tenderfoot Scouts are our highest ranks) to learn a little more about being responsible for themselves. At the beginning of the week, we were constantly reminding them of what they needed to do and where they needed to go. By the end, we figured they should know what Camp routine was and take care of it themselves. The SM and I headed off to play around with the Blacksmiths forge and wondered if the Scouts would remember they needed to send waiters down to get the tables ready for dinner. They did! I was fully prepared to eat beef jerky and trail mix for dinner if they forgot and the Camp didnt serve us any food. But the guys came though. Small victories bigger ones will come.


Overall, I think dkurtenbachs take is a great one:


Being old, tired, and cynical, I would say: Stop taking the earning of merit badges at summer camp seriously. The skills that Scouts really need to learn are learned through expert/experienced instruction, actual practice over time, and real experience -- and those things are rarely provided at summer camp. Most merit badges offered at camp, if they aren't fluff, are just "dipping the toe in the water" for a particular subject anyway, and any real knowledge or skill acquired is likely to fade quickly after camp unless the troop offers regular opportunities to practice or the Scout is interested enough to pursue the subject further on his own, and thus acquire knowledge and skill _for real_. In short, very little serious learning is going to happen via merit badge instruction at summer camp anyway; and besides, by offering merit badges in this venue, BSA is telling us clearly the level of importance it gives to them.


In short, accept the summer camp merit badge program for what it is, take advantage of the _other_ opportunities that summer camp offers where you can do something _real_ (hiking, patrol cohesion, cooking in non-dining hall camps, free time in program areas like shooting, archery and canoeing to actually practice, sitting around a troop campfire, doing patrol chores, etc.) and watch out for the Scouts who seem to be taking a shine to a particular merit badge subject so you can help them pursue that interest _after_ summer camp.


I understand BadenPs objection, I share his frustration with dumbed-down scouting, and I agree we should all be doing what we can to push the program in the right direction. But ultimately you probably have far more influence over your own Unit than over the entire Council*. Use the resources at your disposal (including Summer Camp) to make the best program for your unit. And I think its fine to let the Scouts know when you think someone else is running a substandard program. At summer camp, we were next to a Troop where the adults cooked for the scouts on the Troop cooking day! Holy smokes. Nice people over there, but we quietly under our breath let our Scouts know we didnt approve. They understood why too.


I cant really go march over and force those other guys to change their program. Theyre their own troop and have their own history and standards. Yeah, it bugs me to see it, but I cant fix them, I can only make our own program the best it can be. Our Council may be better than most we have our Eagle Mills and Parent-Son-Camping Club units, but I also see a bunch of really solid units proving good outdoor programs for the Scouts.


Now, dont get me started on the troop who got their Troop Trailer jackknifed in the parking lot as everyone was trying to leave Saturday


* PS: in terms of influencing units vs influencing Council or National, they take different strategies and both take a lot of work. I think each of us needs to decide what we are going to focus on as our primary mission. Influencing a Unit requires volunteering as a unit leader, working with the Parents to keep them sold on the program, and most importantly working with the Scouts to deliver a first-class real Scouting experience. Influencing your Council or National probably requires becoming a big fundraiser, or a big donor. If my business plans go the way I want, maybe I can do that in another ten years or so. But right now, I have a son almost Scout age, and hell be aged out before then, so for the immediate future Im going to focus on the Unit I hope he joins.


And regarding big money having a lot of influence, its not automatically bad. We were at Camp Pigott it exists because Mr. Pigott donated a boat load of money. Probably did a fair amount of fund-raising too. It was a great camp and helped our unit with our program one thats still young but will hopefully mature (along with our founding class of Scouts) into something Kudu would approve of. Heck, Im hoping its something B-P himself would smile down on. So Mr. Pigott has a lot of influence, and it looks like a positive influence so far to me.


There's certainly much to complain or worry about with Scouting today - but not everything is a disaster!



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Program Offerings at Camp Gorsuch


One of the best reasons to attend Camp Gorsuch is the program opportunities for young and advanced Scouts. We will offer several programs that meet the needs of your Scouts.


Here are some things to take into consideration when planning your camp program.


Summer camp is not a merit badge mill, where you pay a fee and get four merit badges automatically. Instead camp offers merit badges as one portion of the overall program.

Trying more than four merit badges in one week is not recommended. We suggest a maximum of three merit badges per week per boy. True, some have earned upwards of five, but that is the exception.

The most difficult badges to earn are those requiring a great deal of physical skills, coordination and stamina, i.e.: lifesaving, rifle shooting, archery.

Many badges have advance work that could be done before arrival at camp. Experience shows us that camp is not an ideal classroom for written work and the smart Scout is one who comes to camp with all the written work already done.

Boys should try something new at camp and get a well rounded experience. Try a handicraft badge, a nature badge, an aquatic or scoutcraft badge combination. In addition, experience a hike, do Low/High C.O.P.E.

Come to camp prepared. Have patrols already organized. Elect patrol leaders before camp. Work on ideas as patrols and have the "patrol leaders represent the group" at camp.

Make patrol camping areas. Your campsite is your home for the week, so work at making it comfortable by bringing "banners and flags" to dress it up.

Dont forget to schedule rest. Thats right. Too often, you dont take the time to sit and enjoy the beauty at camp around you. Dont keep such a pace that you miss the trees, the nature, the clean fresh air.

Be spirited. The troop that comes to camp with ideas and spirit and challenges makes the rest of camp come alive. Bring your troop cheer to camp and show everyone that youre number one.

Be flexible! Our courteous staff will do their best to help you but sometimes things happen.


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Summer camp season, for me, ended today. I've been the Outdoor Skills (Scoutcraft) Director and Wilderness Survival has been one of the merit badges in my area. I agree with dkurtenbach's statement on merit badges.


The Wilderness Survival merit badge is not really a wilderness survival merit badge, it's a "how to sit there and wait to be rescued, while taking steps to make sure you can survive for a night or two while you wait". I mean, the types of plants that you can eat in the wilderness isn't that strange of a topic to me. I'd love to teach more about that, but the merit badge pamphlet specifically has me discuss why it is not wise to eat edible plants/wildlife in a survival situation. It's sort of my job to discourage true "survival" -- something like what happened in the book Hatchet isn't even on the horizon in that merit badge.


I think there's a vast difference between various merit badges as far as difficulty goes. Take the Nature merit badge, for instance. Holy toledo it's a tough one! There's no way on earth that anyone is going to accomplish that merit badge in a week of regular summer camp anywhere unless they've basically completed the merit badge before they come. Seriously, go look at the requirements. Pioneering is a difficult merit badge for young scouts -- splicing, lashing, it's difficult for them to wrap their head around it, let alone their fingers. Wilderness Survival is an easy merit badge.


Even the "memorize the seven priorities" requirement is easy, but that might be because I (and my counselors) teach hand signals for each step and we keep referring to the priorities while we do every other requirement in the merit badge. For instance, in the different environments, we run through all seven priorities, etc.

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I respectfully disagree.


It should follow Camping MB (as some council camps require). The most important aspect is mental, and older, more-experienced Scouts would find it easier to stay positive, adapt, and improvise. There are simply more things they are able to do in order to keep busy staying alive and comfortable. Most newer Scouts have trouble starting a fire with matches on a sunny, dry day, much less anything harder (Although the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge does allow flame-throwers, blow-torches, and railroad flares. Seriously. Actually read the fire requirement. BSA didn't. You can.)


Don't confuse what is required in the typical Summer Camp vs. what is required to actually earn the badge, even given the lack of a realistic fire-making requirement.


I believe it should also follow First Aid MB, assuming that badge is earned.

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It should follow Camping MB


I completely agree with that being a pre-req. I am surprised to read here of so many first year Scouts taking Wilderness Survival. I would not allow younger guys to take this before Camping MB and certainly not first year Scouts. Because of that, it ends up being at least 3rd or 4th year Scouts taking it on.


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The Camping merit badge is a whole magnitude more difficult than the Wilderness Survival merit badge in my opinion.


The Camping merit badge requires you to camp 20 days/nights, memorize the seven Leave No Trace Principles and the Outdoor Code, basically plan an entire campout (how to get there, what to do when you're there, meals, what everyone else will do, all the equipment needed), do at least two "big" activities sometime while camping and basically know everything else there is to know about camping, not to mention the conservation project.


The Wilderness Survival merit badge requires you to camp a single night (albeit in a shelter that you build) while following Leave No Trace principles (so if the forest is deep with pine needles you can't dig down to where they're matted, you can only take the top inch or so and then those have to be replaced afterward, etc.), you have to have discussed general survival principles (basically, take care of stuff that'll kill you tonight first, like panicking, bleeding, exposure to the elements, then signal for help and wait to be found while possibly working on getting water). I mean, the book basically specifically requires a person to discuss why it's "unwise" to eat anything that you didn't pack in yourself -- any sort of discussion as to what sort of plants in the area are good to eat isn't even on the horizon. It's unwise, remember? The only difficult part is possibly the "demonstrate three fire building techniques" part, depending on what methods you're using (permanganate/glycerin, road flares, etc.)


If anything, Wilderness Survival should be a prerequisite to the Camping merit badge. That's my opinion based on how things "are" (in my opinion). Sure, surviving in the wilderness "should" be tougher than car camping a lot and going on bike rides and day hikes, but the requirements as currently written don't really seem to support that. Again, this is my opinion, not some established rule written in stone or something.(This message has been edited by BartHumphries)

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The rationale for requiring Camping MB is that Wilderness survival is advanced camping.


For example, were a candidate to actually be required to meet the expedient shelter requirement, which they very rarely are, he would need a good day to construct a shelter that would actually keep out even modest rain, not to mention insulate. I have no doubt that most Scouts could erect a tent far more than twenty times in a day. He might also find that the tent keeps out wind and rain better than three feet of brush and a sleeping bag and mattress does better at insulating than leaves. Most camps that actually require that the badge be earned, require equipment for the night of camping to be restricted to the Scout's "Personal Survival Kit."


We all form opinions based on our knowledge and experience, and everyone here is entitled to their point of view.


I think, for example, that the current requirements for the Wilderness Survival MB are deficient in several respects. For example, the requirements do not cover the critical preventive measures (gathering information; planning; "leaving word"; group-forming) that the pamphlet poorly discusses, the need for rest and sleep for survival, nor the navigation skills the pamphlet gives such short shrift. The old learning on the calculus of who stays and who goes for help, when self-rescue makes sense, is totally gone.

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"It seems plainly ridiculous to me that in training someone to survive in the wilderness you demand that they follow artificial "leave no trace" constraints."



The MB pamphlet, as with other things, is internally contradictory on following LNT in a survival situation.

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Yeehaa! "Leave No Trace" is emphasized in the Wilderness Survival MB?

That can only mean one thing... the Wilderness Survival MB is now more like SERE. What else could explain an emphasis on "Leave No Trace" other than the addition of Evasion training and exercise?


That's is one awesome camping trip - practicing land-nav, evading, finding water, sheltering themselves from the elements... surviving... all at the same time. Throw in some challenging weather and teams of professionals to try to find them while they're evading you've got yourself a fulfilling and educational experience.


They should draw the line at the Resistance portion of the training though - not appropriate for Boy Scouts IMO. A father should teach his own sons the fundamentals of surviving captivity and resisting interrogation when he thinks they're ready. Fathers are supposed to have qualified on all that before they even get to attend the Father Q Course, right?

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