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Summer Camp Merit Badges

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I originally posted this elsewhere and thought it would be a good spin off topic:



Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge offered at Summer Camp? Really??? I'd like to know why? Do we really need to offer every Merit Badge there is at Summer Camp? Does your summer camp offer the three Citizenship merit badges too? No wonder so many summer camps have a reputation of being a week long merit badge mill.


In my opinion (and if you disagree, by all means try to change my mind), the merit badges offered at summer camp should be limited to those that summer camp is uniquely suited to offer like the rifle, shotgun and archery merit badges, the aquatic merit badges (try to earn rowing in winter), the nature merit badges (including astronomy) the outdoors merit badges (fishing, pioneering, orienteering, camping, wilderness survival, etc.) and the handicrafts (why do basketry and leatherwork at summer camp? They can help fill free time, and keep Scouts occupied when thunderstorms have closed the waterfront). If you're lucky enough to have a camp with it's own ranch, horsemanship.


First Aid? Emergency Preparedness? The Citizenships? Leave it out of summer camp - they can be done year round much easier than small-boat sailing or reptile and amphibian study.


If your argument is that Emergency Preparedness is an Eagle-required merit badge, save it - just because it's required for Eagle Scout shouldn't mean it has to be offered at summer camp if it's not a proper fit for a proper outdoor summer camp program.



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jtwestark posted this in the other thread as a reply before I could figure out what I was doing wrong to spin off my reply and I didn't want it to get lost (particularly since I'm about to reply). Sorry - not feeling very technically "ept" today (is "ept" the opposite of inept?).




Yeah, youre right Calico - to a point. I don't have a problem with First Aid, Camping, E Prep, Wild Surv, and some others though. A camp environment is as good as any to teach these with the right program and staffers. I would hear about some monumental battles on the camping committee each year over this. We got stuck with alternating Cit Nation and World each year as a compromise for a long time. They added Communications this year, which really bothered me. I could half buy Personal Fitness a couple years ago, but even that was a stretch. Four required for Star (Camping, Swimming, First Aid, and ...) and three for Life really entices a kid looking to advance.


I dont like it either and would frown upon the boys taking them and really try to talk them out of it to do as you say take some summer campish merit badges. Theres some ways you can twist the kids arm away from those, but largely that only works so much especially when we have tight classes and you may only get into two to begin. Plus when you look over what many of the fourth and fifth year guys already have many and what is offered, you lose much your argument.

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I looked over the list of merit badges and came up with 38 that seem particularly suited to summer camp:


Archery, Astronomy, Backpacking, Basketry, Bird Study, Bugling, Camping, Canoeing, Climbing, Cooking, Environmental Science, Fish & Wildlife Management, Fishing, Fly Fishing, Forestry, Geocaching, Hiking, Horsemanship, Insect Study, Leatherwork, Lifesaving, Mammal Study, Motorboating, Nature, Oceanography, Orienteering, Pioneering, Reptile & Amphibian Study, Rifle Shooting, Rowing, Scuba Diving, Shotgun Shooting, Small-boat Sailing, Soil & Water Conservation, Watersports, Whitewater, Wilderness Survival and Wood Carving.


Sure, there are some that can be earned just as easily at home but, in my opinion, all of these just scream outdoors and camp. Sure, oceanography might not be a merit badge offered in Wisconsin, but could be a good summer camp badge for camps on the coasts.


Cit in the Nation? Cit in the World? At camp? Why, to entice Star and Life Scouts to advance? Is that what summer camp should be about? Trails to First Class, getting Star and Life Scouts through Eagle-required Merit Badges? Now a camping committee is adding Communications? Well I suppose the market must be there for it then (how long would these merit badges be offered at camp if the SM's refused to let their Scouts sign up for them as a camp badge?).


If that's the future of camp in the BSA, then they may as well sell the camps, rent college facilities, and use the classrooms, computer rooms, and dorm rooms as summer camp.

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I'd add Indian Lore, Swimming


Some others that could be ok, which are included at our camp, are Art, Cinematography, Photography, Plant Science, Safety, Woodwork.


The ones that camp offers that seem particularly poorly suited to camp are the ones taught in a classroom just like a school class. Citizenship in the World, Nation, Communications, Computers, Personal Management, Personal Fitness. These are nevertheless popular classes with our older kids, and it's nice to have something that attracts them. There is definitely consumer demand for these classes, so while I tend to steer kids away from them when asked, I can see why camps offer them, and why our guys take them.


I'm glad they don't offer Citizenship in the Community, because it's my opinion that one really can't be done at camp.

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What was taught at B-P's first summer camp:


DAY 1 Preliminary

After settling into camp, formation of patrols and distribution of duties, orders etc each subject of the camp was explained with demonstrations. Patrol Leaders received a special course of instruction in he field for them to impart subsequently to their Patrols


DAY 2 Camping

Camp resourcefulness. Hut and mat making. Knots, Fire-lighting, cooking, health and sanitation. Endurance. Finding way in strnge country. Boat management


DAY 3 Observation

Noting and memorising details near and far. Landmarks etc. Tracking. Deducing meaning from tracks and signs. Training eyesight, etc


DAY 4 Woodcraft

Study of animals and birds, plants, stars, etc, stalking animals. Noticing details of people. Reading their character and condition, thereby gaining sympathy, etc


DAY 5 Chivalry

Honour, code of the knights. Unselfishness. Courage. Charity and Thrift. Loyal to King and to Employers or Officers. Practical chivalry to women. Obligation to do a "Good Turn" daily and how to do it


DAY 6 Saving a Life

From fire, drowning, sewer, gas, runaway horses, panic, street accidents etc. Improvised apparatus. First Aid etc


DAY 7 Patriotism

Colonial Geography. History and deeds that won the empire. Our Navy and Army. Flags, medals. Duties as citizens. Marksmanship. Helping Police etc.


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I must respectfully disagree with the First Aid not being offered at camp. I think if it is done correctly, you have a winner.


I took it at summer camp, and the instructor reviewed stuff with us, but he also took us on hikes where at first pre arranged stations with some supplies were available, and we were given situations to deal with. By the end of the week, we had to provide our own supplies and use our heads to adapt.


I also like adding Indian Lore. Then I had the LC as my MBC, and I know at my camp, it's taught by AIA folks who know there stuff.


Interesting thing about cinematography: one camp I worked at used that class to come up with the camp promotions video for the next. Soemtimes two or more classes worth of film would be merged together, and always the video was shown at the closing campfire.


Same camp also had a Journalism MB offered, and the class did the camp newspaper for the week. Yep it was a "paperwork" MB, but those guys not only did interviews and write articles during the class session, but also on their free time. They also worked late at nite sometimes to put out the newspaper.


One MB that was popular that I'd like to add was Archeology. We had a grad student teaching it one year, and he held the class to the tough standards of the field. BUT he also was working on his own thesis, and needed to make sure the standards were kept.

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I actually like the way you describe the Journalism MB experience. Probably one of the best ways to tell if a MB was a quality experience is to ask the parents what the scout told them upon arriving home. Did he say, "We went all over the camp, and then we interviewed everyone including the camp director which was really cool, and then we worked out all of the stories to make them fit, and then we printed the camp newspaper, and then we delivered it to all the campsites, and then...and then....".


Or did he say, "Uh, I got this merit badge."



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A few my son did that if the camp has the proper items was great for my son.


Horseback riding, metalwork (the one with the blacksmith stuff).


I guess some may disagree, but I thought the pottery & basketry.. Yeah arts & crafts and you can do indoors, but I guess I spent many (non-BSA) camps doing this type of artsy-craftsy things at my camp simply for the fun of it.. Those are simple, easy fun courses..

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There seems to be a consensus building that First Aid Merit Badge is a good one to earn at camp. Sure, folks may have had a good experience at camp with it, but is it really a camp merit badge? If a Scout needs First Aid but wants to take Motorboating and has to choose, what do you do? Have them do First Aid, which can be done well outside of camp, or let them do Motorboating, which for most Scouts will be difficult to do outside camp.


(not sure how I missed Swimming - I did mean to put that one in there).


Archaelogy and Indian Lore (thought of Indian Lore) - if the camp has folks that can do it well, sounds great. Art, Photography, Cinematography, Journalism - I have mixed feelings - great to do some work on them at camp but are they really camp merit badges?


Or am I just old fashioned when I think of summer camp? Is advancement the be all and end all of summer camp? If we stop offering the Eagle required badges, will summer camp attendance suffer? Is the latest generation of Scouts really that uninterested in the traditional outdoor badges that were offered at camp that we have to offer Eagle required badges to 4th and 5th year campers in order to keep them coming? Or are we coddling Star and Life Scouts by offering these badges because they are too busy, or too lazy, to try to earn them during the rest of the year?


Perhaps on a more philosophical level about the direction of the Boy Scouts, if the market is demanding that summer camp be an opportunity to earn as many merit badges as possible, including those that are Eagle required, is the Boy Scouts becoming just another resume builder activity and is it worth it to fight to keep that happening or shall we just surrender and let the BSA become just a mediocre organization that no one really cares about anymore?

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I'm going to have to disagree with Calico's main point. I would not at all be in favor of placing artificial limits on which MBs a camp could/should offer. I'd say that a camp should offer as many MBs as they have qualified instructors for. I'd say it's up to each individual Scout, with guidance from his troop leadership, to determine the best way to spend his time at summer camp.


A couple personal anecdotes from when I was a Scout at summer camp:


One year I had signed up for both Pioneering (probably on your "approved" list for Summer Camp) and Law (probably not on your approved list). The Law MB was awesome - there was a lawyer on camp staff who was the instructor, and there were only 3 of us in the class. The class didn't really meet at a set time - I think we had a couple 1/2 hour meetings whenever everyone was free. We also spent a morning on a field trip to the county courthouse, and got to spend some time speaking with the judges and prosecutor for the county. I thought I really learned a lot, and had an enjoyable time working on the badge. Pioneering, on the other hand, was less impressive. I don't think we actually did any lashing the whole week, but I still got the MB. So - by your standards - I would have been forced into taking Pioneering, and not Law, and had a poorer quality experience.


Of course, anecdotes aren't the same as evidence, and I'm sure there's plenty of examples of "classroom classes" being of poor quality compared to the traditional outdoors classes. So I guess the point is that I'd focus more on the quality of the program being offered, rather than on whether the MB fits into whatever category that you think should be permitted at Summer Camp. If a Scout is going to get more benefit from taking a high-quality Emergency Prep class from an awesome counselor than he would from taking a mediocre Swimming class from an apathetic CIT, shouldn't he do what's going to be of greater value to him?


Honestly, I think that any MB can be easily done outside of summer camp. Swimming can be done in any pool or lake, shooting sports can be done at a weekend camp out with an approved range, Nature badges can be done in any forest preserve or park on the weekends, and the other outdoor badges can be worked on at any weekend camping trip. What summer camps can sometimes do is attract better counselors and other resources than what might be available to a single troop or a single Scout.


Let the camps continue to offer whatever they want - but encourage your Scouts to think about what the best way to make use of their time at camp will be. For some, that might be the Emergency Prep or Journalism MBs, for others, it might be no MBs at all. But that's not the camp's decision to make, it's the Scouts.

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Great discussion it looks to me that people are saying why not? to a lot of non-campish merit badges. The bottom line is if its done properly, just about any MB can be a summer camp MB.


My camp offers 39 different MBs this current summer for 53 separate classes, in fact most of what you suggested Calico but a few like Horesemanship, SCUBA, WaterSports, Whitewater that we dont have the facilities or equipment for. Capital plans in the short term future will address some of those. They have a complete staff of around 70, Id guess.


They offer 6 required for a whopping 10 classes (FA, Camping, Swimming, E Sci, E Prep & Lifesaving) no Citizenships or Personal Fitness this year, but yes Communications (grumble). Home Repair popped up good for camp maintenance! Ha! Plus Radio, Energy, Fire Safety, Scouting Heritage, Woodwork, to name a few.


Honestly, I have no problem with that offering and would bet thats not far from the norm of most camps (but I get called a lazy SM for taking my Troop to a merit badge mill). Anecdotal stories can show all kind of hair brained events seemingly going on everywhere, but please - the sky is not falling, Scouting is not being turned over to helicopter parents, 13 year old staffers (CITs have to be 14 and fulltime have to be 15), or any other whacko theory that flies all over the forum.


Most camps they have much more going on than just merit badges at their camp. It's not like they're sitting in classes all day, every day. A strong camping program otherwise will keep Scouts engaged and active in a Scouting environment they can't get anywhere else. Not bad for a week compared to many other youth camps. Even a bad week at camp is better than a good week at...


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I'm going to say it depends. If you're in a fairly rural Council, and the MB catalog is not readily available within 100 miles of the Scouts' home, then yes, let's offer them at Camp.


OTOH, if you're in a city, and each District has most of the catalog, then dial back at Scout Camp ... let the kids have fun doing things they can't do back home. It's hard to get day after day of small craft instruction, so boating and canoeing make sense. It's really difficult anymore to get on a safe range, so the shooting sports should be done at camp.


First Aid? Do it in the city.


Cooking? Make it Eagle Required Once Again!! :-)


My 0.01 (adjusted for inflation)

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I brainstormed a bit this morning after reading Calico's comment, and was struck in particular by his use of non-capitalized words for the merit badges. Shouldn't *that* be what camp is about - not teaching classes in Pioneering and Camping and Cooking, but teaching pioneering, camping and cooking?


It's a subtle difference, sure, but got me thinking more about what a camp program would look like without merit badges. Here's what topics or subjects my local camp could offer programs on, drawn from its strengths:


NATURE: Plant identification, animal tracking, animal care, forestry, conservation, wetlands


OUTDOORS: Basic cooking, advanced cooking, knots & lashings, backwoods engineering, survival, pathfinding, backpacking, first aid


FIELD SPORTS: Archery, shotgun, rifle, climbing


WATERFRONT: Rowing, canoeing, sailing, motorboating, kayaking


POOL: Swimming, lifesaving, Mile Swim


HANDICRAFTS: Basketry, leatherwork, woodburning, woodcarving


MISCELLANEOUS: Leave No Trace, Search and Rescue basics, Indian lore


So instead of going to class from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., and another from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. ... at 9 a.m., you could go to your choice of rifle, swimming, woodburning, first aid, tracking or advanced cooking. At 10, you could pick from another list. And so on, until you filled up your dance card with fun and interesting topics, whatever struck your fancy.

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POOL???? You woosie.


This year was my eighth as summer camp with the troop and I've developed a few ideas over the time (and no, eight years isn't a particularly long tenure):


1. Giving away unearned MBs is wrong and I don't mind tell ing the poor schmuck from the Advancement Committee who has the misfortune to be in camp my week.


2. I don't really worry too much about elective MBs. Most of my guys make Eagle with a 8 or 10 MBs to spare, so if they want to take Scholarship or Reading (neither or which are actually offered) at summer camp, it's their wasted hour.


3. I draw the line on required MBs. I only sign summer camp blue cards for Swimming, Camping, Lifesaving, EnviroSci and Emergency Prep -- and EPrep is on my hit list to bring in-house. Otherwise required MBs take individual effort, one-on-one with a troop counselor.


4. I don't want my guys taking 7 or 8 MBs at camp. I'd rather them come back to the campsite and sleep than take MB classes through the afternoon. We offer enough fun stuff through the troop to ensure that hanging out with your mates back in the campsite is more fun than earning eight MBs.


5. Where I really have an issue with the camp program is the trend to extend MBs through to dinner, taking facilities, staff and time away from free-time activities and allocating them toward more MB classes. I understand, however, that I'm swimming upstream on this one and most troops and SMs are looking for camps which maximize the MB opportunities. Our response is to offer the fun stuff ourselves in our campsite. I can't wait until we get to the point we have kids from other troops in our campsite doing stuff and their SMs have to come to us to find their Scouts.

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