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What should Boy Scout Meetings look like?

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My son is currently in Webelos and looking to join Boy Scouts next fall when he will finish AOL. He and we are considering 2 very different troops.


Troop A: I think they only meet once a month. A small troop, less than 10 active scouts. Meeting led by patrol leader. The only thing they did was established a camping date and decided who would handle food. A few announcements.


Troop B: We have not visited a meeting yet but are good friends with a family with scouts in this troop. They work on merit badges during weekly meetings. They have 2 patrols. The boys do have power on saying yay or nay about working on badges. Either a parent or an outside knowledgable person leads the merit badges. My understanding is that the patrol leaders conduct the meetings.


I like the fact that Troop B has the boys earn merit badges as a group. Is this somehow bad?

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Troop A:

(+) Scout led

(+) Outing planned, decisions made, accountability established

(-) Once a month is a bit light

(-) Not a complete troop meeting - there is a standard plan & expectation


Troop B:

(-) Adult led

(-) MB class instead of a troop meeting


Maybe you didn't catch them each troop at its best.


The MB process is meant to be Scout initiated with the Scout carrying the responsibility for his own learning.


1. Scout gets a counselor referral from his Scoutmaster

2. Scout contacts counselor, arranges to meeting

3. Scout (w/buddy) meets with counselor, works out a plan

4. Scout follow his plan, contact counselor as needed for guidance

5. Scout reviews completed work with counselor, gets approval

6. Scout reports completion to Scoutmaster

7. Scoutmaster congratulates scout, records completion

8. Scout receives MB and sews it on his sash


One of the key benefits of the merit badge system is having scouts engage with multiple adults. MB classes are a cop out by the adults. Scouts accept classes because they're used to school and want the MB. It's a choice of what he will say later: either "I did this" or "they did this to me".



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Spending troop meetings working on merit badges is the classic hallmark of an adult-led troop. If you want your son to earn a lot of merit badges and make Eagle in a couple years, this will be a great troop. If you want him to learn to be self-sufficient, make good decisions and to be a leader, keep looking.


Troop B is defeating one of the primary purposes of the merit badge program: adult association. The way merit badges should work is for a boy to decide that he wants to earn a merit badge which interests him. He approaches his Scoutmaster who should talk with the scout about his interest in the badge and, if he approves, the SM will give the scout the name of a qualified counselor (or several names) and sign the boy's merit badge application that he is authorized to work on the badge.


The Scout then calls the counselor and asks for an appointment. Maybe the scout completes some of the requirements before hand, but he meets with the counselor who helps the Scout earn the badge. Some badges require touring specific facilities and hopefully the counselor can arrange that and personally take the scout on the tour.


Group merit badges classes usually -- no always -- short circuit the learning process. Instead of exploring and researching a subject, scouts sit in chairs while someone spoon-feeds the information to a large group. Because they have so many students at one time, many counselors will use fill-in-the-blank forms for the kids to report back what they've "learned." I've watched kids simply use these worksheets to take notes during the lectures then turn in their notes as evidence of completing the badge. Requirements which read "Discuss with your counselor...." or "Explain the following...." are short circuited.


There are limited instances when group badges are okay, such as when access to facilities or experts are limited. And there are ways to do group merit badges to overcome some of the above problems, but they are still a lesser experience than the real-one-on-one experience of working with a knowledgable adult.


There are likely a lot of other issues with Troop B, and I'm sure others will outline them, but merit badges like this are one of my pet peeves.


I also have a concern that Troop A only meets once a month. Hopefully, this means the boys are meeting as patrols on their own. Not too many troops really operate that way anymore. As a parent, I would want to see what's going on with the patrols and how they work. If they are doing it right, that would be a really great troop to be in.


Of course, they may just meet once a month and do nothing. In that case you need to be looking for Troop C.

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Are the parents in Troop B registered MB counselors?


Anyway, TwoCubDad said it best about why Merit Badges in troop meetings are bad. I will agree that I would be looking somewhere other than Troop B.


Troop A does not seem to have enough meetings. Once a month is just not enough. Is that their regular schedule?


I would be trying to find Troop C, D,and E to visit! You should visits as many different troops as possible to find the best fit for your son and in the end ultimately let him decide.

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If your family is from a rural area, making a choice between either Troop A or B, might just exceed enrolling as a Lone Scout program.


A good Boy Scout meeting should resemble similarities to the seven portions of a Troop Meeting Plan.



Or using some of the examples from Troop Program features.





Skill Instruction

Patrol Meeting

Interpatrol Activity


After the meeting


A troop meeting is a good location to demonstrate and promote a merit badges. But most merit badges require independent work or outdoor participation. So while a merit badge may begin inside of a troop meeting, a troop meeting time should not be consumed with nothing more than doing merit badge after merit badge.


Scouting Forever and Venture On!

Crew21 Adv


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Troop B from the description has the appearance of an adult lead troop per what everyone else said.


Are you sure Troop A only meets once a month?

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From your location that you entered when you registered, you and your son are in the Cherokee Area Council based in Chatanooga:


Cherokee Area (TN) Council

6031 Lee Highway

Chattanooga, TN 37421-2930

Phone: (423) 892-8323

Web Site: http://www.cherokeeareabsa.com


Go to http://www.thescoutzone.org/locator.html and enter your zip code. You'll be presented with a list of troops in your local area. (I've listed them below). Also, check just over the border in Tennessee as well by entering a zip code from up north a bit. If any of these are convenient to your location, I suggest you visit a few more troops to see if there are others in the area that may have a more robust program for your son. Contacting the council at the above number would be the best way to get contact info for the specific troops.



Chickamauga, GA

Troop 64 Elizabeth Lee United Methodist Church

Troop 224 Oakwood Baptist Church


Flintstone, GA

Troop 211 LDS Church Chattanooga Valley

Troop 316 Flintstone Baptist Church


Fort Oglethorpe, GA

Troop 17 Fort Oglethorpe United Methodist

Troop 52 First Presbyterian Church


La Fayette, GA

Troop 1 First Baptist Church

Troop 70 Lafayette Rotary Club


Ringgold, GA

Troop 71 Graysville United Methodist Church

Troop 77 Kiwanis Club Of Ringgold

Troop 99 Ringgold United Methodist Church

Troop 208 Boynton United Methodist Church


Rising Fawn, GA

Troop 29 New Salem United Methodist Church


Rock Spring, GA

Troop 15 Rock Spring Produce

Troop 125 Rock Spring United Methodist Church


Trenton, GA

Troop 84 Trenton United Methodist Church

Troop 143 Optimist Club Of Trenton/Dade County


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Thanks Everyone! As for the other troops to consider, I do see ways to expand our horizons to other possibilities. But I have information on some troops that makes me want to stay away from them.


I think the adults leading the badges in Troop B are MB counselors. They have several very talented adult leaders.


As for Classroom approach - Our Council has MB College at least twice per year. Both troops have boys that use it.


I am pretty sure that Troop A only meets once a month. I have insider info. that often their outings are cancelled due to not enough people who can make it. I am wondering if we team up with the insider and scout (who would like a more active group) if we can change the tide there.


You guys are great. My perspective has been to hop on board with Troop B because they accomplish things. (Note: a CPAMom, not scout, perspective at work here.) I clearly see your point that this approach cancels out the boy-led aspect.

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BSA does not forbid Merit Badges being earned in a group. However, because it is not the optimal way, they do not encourage it either.


This is what the BSA National Executive Board, in the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures book, has to say -



"To the fullest extent possible, the merit badge counseling relationship is a counselorScout arrangement in which the boy is not only judged on his performance of the requirements, but receives maximum benefit from the knowledge, skill, character, and personal interest of his counselor. Group instruction and orientation are encouraged where special facilities and expert personnel make this most practical, or when Scouts are dependent on only a few counselors for assistance. However, this group experience should be followed by attention to each individual candidates projects and his ability to fulfill all requirements."



As others have said, Merit Badge classes should definitely NOT be the focus of every Troop meeting. You stated that in Troop B, Scouts can opt out of the MB classes. If they do, what are they doing during the Troop meeting while everyone else is in MB class? Do they simply not attend the meeting? Are they engaged in other Scouting activities (learning required scout skills such as knots)? Are they sitting around or playing games?


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CPA Mom,


If as you describe, Troop A is on life support and Troop B is probably in trouble because Boy Scouts is not supposed to be just more school. From the boy's point of view, it's about fun, friends, and adventure.


Ask more questions about Troop B's retention and level of activity. With every similar troop I've known, over half of their new scouts drop in the first 2 years and virtually all have become inactive (not camping, not running the troop, etc) by the time they are in High School.


The guys have been in school all day. They don't really want to come to scouts just to sit in more classes. They want to have an exciting campout to look forward to and use the meeting time to get prepared. Advancement is a little slower, but guys enjoy it much more and are better able to get maximum life value out of the program.

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You're right about the Webelos activity pins, CPAMom. And troop B sounds like a big Webelos 3 den.


I am quite sure the troop leaders are very talented, busy and involved. Unfortunately, that's not how a Boy Scout troop is supposed to work. The Scouts should be running the show with the adults in the back of the room with their mouths shut. Most adult interaction with the Scouts should be one-on-one (in a Youth Protection-compliant way), coaching and guiding to youth leaders who are implementing the program.


Back to your original question, "What should Boy Scout meetings look like?" Absolute chaos. At some point troop meetings should look like 12-ring circuses. A healthy troop should have a couple 15-16 year olds chasing down a handful of 13-14 year olds who are trying to control the rest of the crowd. Again, the adults should be on the fringes drinking coffee (back in the day, they used to smoke pipes, but that's been banned.)


The order can be difficult to spot among the chaos. But there's probably a couple knots of guys (patrols) sitting together. They may be making plans for a patrol outing or a menu for the next campout. There may be kids (quartermasters) working on gear or refolding tents. There may be older Scouts (instructors and troop guides) teaching basic Scout skills. Someone (the scribe) should be running around taking attendance or with a sign-up sheet for an outing.


One of the main purposes of the program is to give the youth leaders the experience of making decisions and leading an organization. If you don't understand that we've created an environment in which the boys can try, fail and try again, you will probably come away wondering what the heck is going on. Many adults just can't tolerate that and think "someone (meaning an adult) needs to take control."




On the other hand, it is appropriate for troops to use merit badges as part of their troop program -- if done correctly. We do it frequently, especially in the winter and early spring before cross over, when most of the Scouts are well on their way to First Class. But the difference is that the boys are taught skills which will ENABLE them to earn the MB on their own with a counselor. We don't sign-off requirements at troop meeetings (unless a Scout arranges to meet a counselor before or after) and we certainly don't issue blue cards (merit badge applications ) to everyone who sits through the session.


And having adults teach these sessions isn't necessarily inappropriate either. We've had some really good adult speakers conduct sessions on Nuclear Science, Electronics, Law and Medicine. Not many Scout-aged boys have the expertise to lead those sessions. The idea is to whet the boys' interest in the subject so that on his own he will contact the counselor and finish the badge individually. We've had sessions like this after which not one single Scout completed the badge. And that's fine. They still learned a thing or two.


Overall, it seems you have two troops operating at the far ends of the spectrum. I would suggest a lot more research before committing in either direction. In the past there have been some good threads here on what to look for in a Boy Scout troop. There is good info there if you run a search for them

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Our Troop has a meetings almost every week during the entire year. We camp every month except December. 3 of the 4 meetings we have during a month are focused on either preparing for the camping trip (2 meetings), or cleaning up from the camping trip (1 meeting). We work on Scout skills, advancement, and play skill games when not focused on camping.


We do some merit badges during the meetings but only Eagle merit badges taught over a several months, and only to older Scouts who are Star rank and above. The Scouts primarily earn merit badges at District weekend events and summer camp.


Our Troop is very much Scout led and run, and is all about their favorite thing - camping! Not for everybody, and the Scouts advance slower than other Troops, about a rank a year, but they have fun and do a lot of participatory leadership!


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To the one who said Scout Meetings should look like total chaos he is right! I went to my very first Troop meeting last night as a parent and leader(committee). They did our Webelos crossover first thing and then went right work at their meeting. It was very strange not having to jump in and reign in the chaos lol! And it was strange being out of the loop as to what was going on(it was election night). I can say that seeing my sons face as he came over to us AFTER the meeting was over with a big old smile on his face made the months of decision making on which troop to join seem worth it! He is at the troop that HE chose not the one Mom and Dad chose (even though secretly it is the troop we wanted!)


Please visit lots of troops as I said before and let you son have a big voice in the decision making.

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So, the popular thinking apparently, is that Troop B parent led and therefore bad.


Well not necessarily. Depends on your Scout....and what you're both willing to tolerate.


If your Scout (and you!) can handle a lot of chaos and constant rollover of youth leadership, then a Patrol Led troop is for you.


If, on the other had, your Scout (and you) cannot handle disorganization and indecision and constant leadership rollover very well, the a Patrol Led troop is *not* for your Scout.


Personally, my Scout's troop drives me bonkers. I have to just go wait outside most of the time. I've seen preschools more organized.


It really boils down to what your Scout's (and your) goals are. Experiences...ok...Troop B works for that, the leadership is more organized. If you want some other result, then maybe Troop B isn't it for you.

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