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Summer Camp Woes

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To boomerscout:


Yes, the camp is used throughout the year. Our council used to have two summer campgrounds. One was sold. An additional weekend campground was also sold. Our council only has one camp remaining.


Minimum age for MBC is 18. However, camp merit badge classes may be taught by anyone super well qualified -- even if 14 -- although not younger than 16 is prefered. MBC still needs to do the actual sign-off.


I disagree. A youth instructor may assist, not counsel. If the actual merit badge counselor never works with the Scouts but simply signs off a merit badge card, that merit badge counselor did not counsel the merit badge. The youth instructor actually did the counseling with is not allowed.


Merit badge counselors must be 18 and qualified as well as individually reviewing each Scout to ensure the completion of the badge requirements. This cannot be done if a 14 year old does the counseling without any intervention by the counselor himself. Furthermore, the youth instructor must also be qualified to assist. My camp has had youth instructors counsel merit badges they knew nothing about.


The advancement policies and procedures for summer camp are specific. They are in no way followed at my council camp. A Scout must be counseled by a merit badge counselor. A youth instructor cannot counsel. I have indeed verified these policies and procedures with the author of the advancement guidebook. And no council, district, unit or individual has the authority to add to our subtract from advancement requirements.


Camp staff members who are qualified in a merit badge subject but are younger than 18 may assist the merit badge counselor with instruction. (Page 34)


Each scout must be reviewed individually by the counselor to ensure completion of the badges requirements.

(Page 34)



The same qualifications and rules for merit badge counselors apply to council summer camp merit badge programs. All merit badge counselors must be at least 18 years of age. Camp staff members under age 18 may assist with instruction but cannot serve in the role of the merit badge counselor.


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They way I have seen it work is that each program area director is over 18 at a minimum, with staff under him usually in the 15-17 range, but sometimes older. The director is the couselor of record and is the one signing off on the requirements. However it is his staff that he trained over the staff weekends and staff week that do the teaching and make the recommendations for signoff. If the director doesn't feel comfortable with a staffer's skills to teach, then that staffer doesn't teach.


That said, it sounds as if your council has larger issues. First and foremost is a SE who gets it and a DSS who understands the need to get the best summer camp staff. STAFF are the key to a successful summer camp. I been to a camp that had teh facilities, but staff were not the best and the experience was poor. On the opposite end I went ot a camp that had poor infrastructure, but the staff were excellent, and the troop had an great experience overall.


Then you need a dynamic CD who can recruit, motivate, and KEEP a quality staff for three years. The CD is the cornerstone of the camp staff. I've seen firsthand what poor excuse of a CD can do to a excellent staff (one that had an experienced and motivated CD on staff for 7 years and "molded" HIS staff). And I say three years b/c it will take that long to learn and solve problems as well as train newer staff to leave a foundation that needs coninutal building. BUT the first three years are the most difficult


Next the SE, DSS, and CD needs to do some talking to the units and find out why they are not coming to camp. If the counci doesn't know what the problem is, how can things be fixed.


Then you need to keep the staff happy. Yes the campers are important, but a happy staff means happy campers.


Finally you need t promote the changes, promote the changes, and promote the changes some more.

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Abel, If you tell me your council name I might be able to help. I'll find out a lot from their website. I worked for the BSA and other non-profs, I know how to read their annual reports. I have served on national task forces for the BSA and serve in the regional camping program process.


Terry Pogue


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I really believe we're saying the same thing here. The MBC has overall responsibility for his program. His "underage" helpers assist in the teaching, but he does the final review of each class. I am thinking of, for example, rifle shooting which is usually over-subscribed. One MBC can't handle the entire class by himself, especially when it's one-on-one time. If not for his helpers, there may be no class at all.

Many council camps put age restrictions on merit badge classes. Some because the over subscription would swamp the facility. So, they suggest these mb are better for second year campers. Other mb need more physical maturity, such as rowing or archery. And, others need more emotional maturity -- such as motorboating.

From where does your camp get its staff? Many hire college students for the summer; this doesn't seem to be a problem

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It is confusing what goes on with a 14 year old counselor for a badge.


What is really supposed to happen is that the Camp Counselor (whatever his age) teaches the boy something. Then the registered Merit Badge Counselor (Area Director) should be reviewing the boy to find out what he knows related to the badge.


What really occurs though is the Camp Counselor, takes attendance, teaches something and then the Area Director rubber stamps it.


This mechanism is a great way for boys to earn advancement and show value to the parents.


This mechanism is a bad way to build a troop so that the older kids can have knowledge to teach the younger boys.


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Sounds to me like the first big issue is quantity and quality of staff.


Our Council camps have either over 21 Lodge Directors (area heads) (especially aquatics and shooting sports) or under 21 directors (other areas). All Directors/ADs go to NCS.


We hire Counselors (over-18s), usually staffers in their 3d/4th seasons, who are approved to truly sign out MBs, as well as teach, as well as supervise instructors. They examine the kids


Instructors are 15-17. They do the work of teaching the MB curriculum.


CITs are 14. They serve 1 session and do not have actual teaching responsibilities.


Of course, as others have noted, the ability to recruit, qualify, supervise and retain a quality staff is the very core of this issue.


Finally, again I counsel: Pick one issue to start eating this elephant. Flooding folks will give a reputation of: 1) Being a whiner, 2) Not being able to prioritize, 3) Being part of the problem, not part of the solution.

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Alright, I have to admit I almost quit reading the OP's post several times, and I wouldn't be in a defensive position about anything he wrote.


Along with your laundry list of complaints, have you also recommended actions with proposed costs to not only the CD, Camping Committee Chair, SE, and Council Chairman?



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I'm with Nike and John on this. It is clear that you are passionate and that is a good thing. But sometimes one needs to take a step back and dispassionately organize one's approach. This seems to be one of those times.


Pick one aspect of the problem. Identify it in a paragraph or so with a few bullet point examples. Explain probable consequences of the problem in another paragraph or so. Then have a section labeled "possible actions" or something similar where you lay out two-four concrete steps that can be taken to address the problem.


A page or two, max - printed, double spaced, normal fonts and margins - is all you'll get to sink in for starters.


If someone asks you for something longer, by all means, oblige them at that point. But in the meantime, keep it to business-letter-length.


(and good luck to you - these problems you describe with inadequate staffing are pretty common, in my experience, and they do indeed rob boys of the promise they're given when they sign up for camp)

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boomerscout: let me explain further. Here is a breakdown of the camp staff - Rifle, (2) older adults, (1) youth helper. Shotgun, (1) older adult, (1) youth member. Archery, (1) 21 year old and no youth helpers. Nature, (1) older adult, (2) youth helpers. Pool, (1) 21+ adult, (1) youth helper. Cope and Climbing,(1) 21+ adult, (1) youth helper. (Climbing tower closed in morning, Cope closed in afternoon, open climbs cancelled.) Scoutcraft (1) 21+ adult, (2) youth helpers. Lake Front (1) 21+ adult, (1) 18 year old. Handicraft, (1) 21+ adult, (2) youth helpers.


About half of the hired staff either quit or were fired during staff week leaving a skeleton staff. Even the cits were all fired before the start of camp.


The few adult merit badge counselors (the area directors) had to counsel their own merit badges and had no time to oversee any of the youth instructors who counseled merit badges. Adult area directors simply signed off merit badge cards at the end of the week for the youth instructors. They never had an opportunity to work with any of the Scouts who were being counseled by the youth instructors.


eghiglie: you are absolutely correct. What you say is supposed to happen, but did not at my council camp. The area directors having their own merit badges to counsel had no time to review any of the Scouts in the youth instructor classes. The area directors were the mb counselors. They were approved to counsel all merit badges within their particular area. Our camp did not have the privilege of having area directors each having a mb counselor working for them, only one area director and 1 or 2 youth working under them.


John in KC: you are correct. the big issue is first quality and then having an adequate number of staff to handle the youth in attendance. There are things happening at my council that I know you would find unacceptable, especially if you are in the volunteer ranks.


Nike and Lisabob: what you have read is a final compilation of the problems that happened at summer camp this year. I wrote my evaluation as a Scout leader and presented it to the advancement committee along with the camping committee, the SE and District chairs, and others who needed to have it. Please dont judge the length of the report. You do not know all the things that were done prior to camp. Issues were addressed one at a time prior to summer camp without any success. The advancement committee worked hard to resolve the advancement problems of summer camp before they happened. I dont have the time to post years worth of work. You are only seeing an end result.


During the previous years summer camp in 2008, so many promises were broken that the professional in charge was terminated at the end of camp. Unfortunately, she was in over her head and was not receiving any support from the director of support service. She became the fall guy. But she also had her issues. The young program director of 2008, a sharp 21 year old who did all of his summer camping at the council camp as a Scout had the leadership ability and worked hard to take care of all the issues that plagued camp that year. He received little support form the council. His father is one of our district chairmen. His father told me that his son will never come back to the council camp he loves because of how the professional staff treated him. This is completely unacceptable. The problems of my council are big. You are only seeing a small part reading my camp evaluation.


And yes, as I stated before, all those you mentioned have been informed. The problems seem to be a lack of concern, apethy and sometimes rude responses from an overbearing camp director. There has been little cooperation from our paid staff in charge of camp. Some feel that the volunteer committees have no jurisdiction. This lengthy report I wrote is simply the end result from an concerned leader of a troop. I have spoke for my Scouts, who are the paying customers Again prior to camp, I took it one step at a time. And this has been going on now for over a decade.


Here is an example of some of the apathy I received. The archery director was a huge problem in 2008. The director of support service and camp director were made aware. They hired him back anyway against the judgment of the advancement committee. You should have read the response that our committee was given when we stated that we would not approve him. The advancement committee required that the camp staff be present at our council advancement meeting prior to camp so the committee could review and approve the mb staff. The camp director agreed. When it was time for the meeting, there was no staff and no camp director. It was at this time that things really started to get bad as it became obvious that the camp director felt he was above any volunteer committee function. He was in charge, he hired the staff, he trained the staff, he approved the staff and we had no jurisdiction as we were an outside group.


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Abel, I think you are misunderstanding the nature of the advice you received from John (and seconded by Nike and (thirded? that's not a word, is it?) by myself).


It is not the case that you are being told your concerns are invalid or to be taken lightly. I read every word of what you posted. I have been to a couple of camps that had problems similar to what you are describing. I agree that this is a terrible way to run a camp, and a great way to run it into the ground. The problems you are describing are not falling on deaf ears here.


The advise was more focused on how to effectively present your concern, in order to increase the likelihood of seeing positive results.


While I really did read every word, chances are good that a lot of people would not. That is more true if you are a known figure in your district and council, where people might be prone to say "Oh that Abel, he's off on another one of his rants..." and dismiss your lengthy report. That is probably terribly unfair, but it is also still possibly true.


Sometimes shorter is better, even though you have more you want to say on the matter. Paradoxically, it is much harder to ignore a short report, than one that can serve as a door stop.



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I've been thinking a lot about one of the points that the OP made, regarding age restrictions placed on participation. It's a very difficult issue. While I certainly agree that any Scout can take any badge at any time, I also see the point of view of the camp, which does not have unlimited resources or staffing and needs to keep things flowing from a sheer management-of-numbers, quality-control standpoint.


During the five years that I worked at a summer camp, mostly teaching Scoutcraft MBs, there were MANY times that I wished I could have placed age restrictions on certain badges - or at the very least, required a skills test beforehand. The first-year camper taking Pioneering who doesn't know a square knot is going to have a very frustrating experience, and likely end up discouraged because everyone else in the class is five steps ahead of him. The 11-year-old signed up for Wilderness Survival who's been on two campouts before may have a very difficult time building a shelter and sleeping in it at a remote outpost. And both of those situations are going to be very tough for the counselor.


You simply can't spend all your time hand-holding one Scout to the detriment of the others. Even the best MB instructor can't take a Scout with zero knot-tying skills at the start of camp and in five hour-long periods have him building a monkey bridge by the time he goes home, not unless there's 1-on-1 instruction.


I'm sure the Shooting Sports director at the OP's camp felt the same way. If you have to spend half your time working with three 11-year-old Scouts on how to hold a gun and continually reminding them to keep it pointed downrange, the rest of your class is going to get cheated. It may not be the best solution - perhaps an introduction to marksmanship program for newbies might be a good bet? - but it works.


HOWEVER... that said, part of me also strongly oppose flat-out, no-exception age restrictions, because I was one of those Scouts who would have been hurt by them. I took Wilderness Survival my first year at summer camp, at age 10.75. That overnight was when I fell head-over-heels in love with this Scouting stuff and with my local camp. If I'd have been barred because of some jerkwad camp director, I wouldn't be the person I am today.


In an ideal world, the best solution would also be the easiest - for the Scoutmaster to take his or her gatekeeper role seriously, and do a realistic assessment of each Scout's basic skills and what the camp program can offer them.

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I appreciate your comments. Our camp does make recommendations in our summer camp manual of what a Scout should know before taking a merit badge. It lists what requirements a Scout should have already done prior to taking the badge. My Scoutmaster also does his job by steering young Scouts away from tough badges like Rifle shooting to easier badges like pottery. We will ask a Scout have you ever shot a rifle before? If he answers No, we inform the Scout that its hard to score and will cost his spending money to buy bullets. The Scout is encouraged to just have fun during an open shoot and we recommend some easier badges instead. But a Scout still has the right do go for the merit badge if he wants. He has paid the fee and the advancement policies and procedures say that he can. Recommendations and a Scouts adult leadership are an important key to ensuring Scouts will have fun by directed them to age and experience appropriate merit badges. But you hinder a Scout due to an age or rank requirement, try explaining that to a parent as FOS time when their Scout is refused the promised program.


Our council camp has never had class size limitations or age requirements, never until this year. This new policy came with the new camp director. This year we had the smallest camp staff I have ever seen for the amount of Scouts in attendance. As I noted; half the staff either quit or were fired during staff week. All cits were fired during staff week. I wont even begin to discuss the reasons why. Our camp did not have a quality camp staff of adequate size to serve the Scouts in attendance period. The excuse has been our council does not have the money. Unfortunately, a capital campaign was necessary to renovate our scout office (which was functional) for the comfort of the paid staff. There have been no capitol campaigns over the years to upkeep the camp in which many campsites, pools, cabins, roads, are no longer functional. Camp actually had to be closed for a month last year because the only functional entrance into camp was washed out and had to be replaced. The other camp entrances have not been maintained and were impassable. Too bad Scouts cannot camp at the scout office.


When I discussed advancement policy with our paid staff, the response I continually get is thats how its done at other camps. So if other camps break the rules, then its ok for our camp to do so as well. And the BSA likes to throw around the word quality. Last year our camp actually failed its regional inspection the first week. They were finally certified during the second week of camp. Though if you came to visit the camp and reported to the office, you would never know the camp actually failed. They proudly display their camp accreditation pennant they received during the second week. First week campers did not get the promised program they paid for.


I have discussed with the national advancement task force that their policies and procedures may not be obtainable and need to be revised. But I also stated to them that the policies and procedures are good and should be obtainable. Its just that in my council, many dont really read their committee books. Its all spelled out. And its really troubling that many of our paid staff have never read the books as well. This year was the first time a professional ever told me that our volunteer committee was just an outside group with no jurisdiction. Funny how our first advancement policy states that no council, district, unit or individual has the authority to add to our subtract form advancement requirements and it is the job of the council advancement committee to implement throughout the council the policies and procedures in the book. Unfortunately our council paid staff feels they are exempt from this.


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Your concerns are valid, but see Lisa's last post. I've been there albeit in a different professional role from Scouting volunteer service ... and had my professional credibility thrown in the trashcan for being there


Pick your battles wisely and well. You're not Superman, you cannot fight all the battles simultaneously.


Pick the most important issue, and condense your case about it to a page or two. Then it has a chance to get attention from decisionmakers.


If I receive your package on my desk right now, I'm going to go "OMG..." for the sheer bulk of it, and I'm going to bury it as a priority C. It'll never see the light of day.


Find the Achilles' Heel in this. Prioritize. Attack such that you get traction. Then you can move to the next bite of the elephant.(This message has been edited by John-in-KC)

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A few bits of advice from another former pro.


1) Don't present the problem as one of advancement, rather presnet it as more of a financial/marketing problem. Sad to say but most of the pros I've known and/or worked with only cared abotu the financial side of things.


1A) By creatign a better program more units will start to attend the local camp instead of going OOC, which would increase revenue.


1B) By hiring and TRAINING a quality staff, you will i)save money not having to rusgh out and replace staff last minute and ii)save money long term by not having to conduct recruiting drives every year for staff, training them, etc. and iii)will imporve customer relations, thus makign people want to come back.


2) Having a quality staff WILL compensate for lack of facilities. TRUST ME ON THAT! So it's cheaper to spedn the money on staff than camp imporvments in the immediate time period.

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Out of curiosity, how many Scouts attended this camp during an average week?


A 21-person program staff isn't very large (in particular, having just two people at the pool concerns me), but perhaps that's all they could justify given the attendance - just covering the bare minimum staffing requirements.

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