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MattR

Limit Merit Badges At Summer Camp?

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There are a few threads about merit badges and how poorly they are being done. Everyone is impatient and the results are just a waste of time, which everyone is trying to minimize, so more impatience.

 

However, I like the idea of merit badges when they're done right. I can't fix National but here's an idea I can control. At summer camp scouts can only take merit badges that are staffed by people that could be a counselor outside of camp. Or, we will only accept blue cards from someone that's a counselor, so the scouts will have to redo other merit badges when they get back home. Likely that means anything with certification is okay -- climbing, shooting, and water front, and possibly crafts like leather work and basketry. The advantage is scouts have more fun taking MBs and there would be more time outside of merit badges to have fun. The disadvantage is scouts won't get as many merit badges done and, the real problem, will have to make time for them during the year.

 

How would this fly in your troop? Would it create problems the scouts can deal with or would it just be kids saying I don't have time, good bye (which would be fine by me).

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It's very hard to know who is good or bad at summer camp as an MBC. We have our adults audit the classes so we can be reasonably sure if the requirements are covered. If not, we re-teach.

 

We tell our parents this at the beginning of the year this is what we do. We also know which badges can and can't be done in a week. We have certain badges we do in the troop and encourage guys to take them there. Most do. Those who don't are usually very disappointed.

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I used to discourage scouts from signing up for MB that, at best, would result in a "partial" unless significant work was required pre- or post-camp.  My experience is most partials go unfinished unless Eagle-required.

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I used to discourage scouts from signing up for MB that, at best, would result in a "partial" unless significant work was required pre- or post-camp.  My experience is most partials go unfinished unless Eagle-required.

I strongly discourage scouts from taking an MB if they haven't done the pre-reqs. If they didn't make an effort before camp, what's gonna ensure they do it afterward?

 

That said, I have no problem with scouts accumulating partials. Even if they never convert any of them into a little round patch, at least they learned something!

 

Besides in any other organizations camp, the kid wouldn't even get a pretty blue piece of paper for what they did during the week.

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I strongly discourage scouts from taking an MB if they haven't done the pre-reqs. If they didn't make an effort before camp, what's gonna ensure they do it afterward?

 

That said, I have no problem with scouts accumulating partials. Even if they never convert any of them into a little round patch, at least they learned something!

 

Besides in any other organizations camp, the kid wouldn't even get a pretty blue piece of paper for what they did during the week.

 

I pretty much agree.  My youngest son has probably 6 or 7 partials from summer camp.  I hope he will convert some of these after he gets his Eagle.   

 

I think that summer camp MBs should be fun merit badges that would be hard to get outside of summer camp. Climbing, shooting, etc.  If I were emperor of BSA, I'd ban the "book" badges from summer camp. 

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Maybe it's me, but this past summer I limited the scouts to no more than 5 MBs, with none after dinner except Climbing ( only time MBC could get there).  Camp we went to offers 6 classes before dinner, and only Climbing after dinner. Night time is activities AS IT SHOULD BE! ( emphasis, OK maybe a little shouting from the soapbox ;) ) They kids need some down town.

 

And I strongly suggested that they take the last period of the day off since that was when free swim and the waterslide was available. No arguments there.

 

As for not suggesting parttials, things I think they cannot complete, etc sometimes "failure" is a life lesson. My son took 4 MBs, didn't earn a single one. NOT ONE (emphasis again). Wasn't angry or upset, and don't think I wasted my money or his time either. He learned a lot, but more importantly HAD FUN! He even surprised me by looking out for the new Scouts.

 

Best part for me was watching him grow up and take responsibility.

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Maybe it's me, but this past summer I limited the scouts to no more than 5 MBs, with none after dinner except Climbing ( only time MBC could get there).  Camp we went to offers 6 classes before dinner, and only Climbing after dinner. Night time is activities AS IT SHOULD BE! ( emphasis, OK maybe a little shouting from the soapbox ;) ) They kids need some down town.

 

And I strongly suggested that they take the last period of the day off since that was when free swim and the waterslide was available. No arguments there.

 

As for not suggesting parttials, things I think they cannot complete, etc sometimes "failure" is a life lesson. My son took 4 MBs, didn't earn a single one. NOT ONE (emphasis again). Wasn't angry or upset, and don't think I wasted my money or his time either. He learned a lot, but more importantly HAD FUN! He even surprised me by looking out for the new Scouts.

 

Best part for me was watching him grow up and take responsibility.

 

Seriously, you look at partials as "success" or "failure"? MBs are complete and partial. I've had boys go to camp to do the "camp" requirements for a MB and come back and complete the written after camp, not because they failed at camp but because, and I quote "why would I want to sit at a table and write when there is so much more to do". The problem I think is many SM and leaders don't look at the boys in an individual type manner, what one boy may have no problem completing another may be overwhelmed. My goal as SM isn't to have boys earn as many badges as possible. My success or failure is that each boy had a fun and learning expierence.

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I was at our Council's Summer Camp for the whole week with my son's Troop. Structure for MB classes is 3 in the AM and 3 in the PM. Our Troop does Troop Swim at 2pm- right after siesta. My son (13.5 years old, Star, Troop QM) signed up for Forestry, Lifesaving (2 periods), Animal Science, Snorkeling BSA and Orienteering. He skipped the Troop Swim, but was at the Waterfront for half of each day anyway. From my vantage point (I spent a fair amount of time wandering the camp during class times), the camp program is better than a lot of the horror stories I have seen on this forum. For the most part, there are no classwork heavy badges offered (none of the Citizenship badges, for instance), and a lot of the descriptions that are in the annual guide are clearly marked "automatic partial". My son completed all of the badges he signed up for, plus he had a partial from 2 summers ago in Fishing. The MBC that year didn't cover cleaning a fish. This year's counselors offered it during siesta at the end of the week. My son asked the counselors if he could join in so he could finish, and did so. I don't have the actual numbers in front of me, but we had a fair number of partials overall- probably about 20% of all of the badges that our boys signed up for. Some were in the automatic column, and some were that the boys simply didn't do the necessary work to complete the badge. the fact that we get those numbers- and our Troop is hardly alone in that, leads me to believe what my tours of the camp had already told me- that this camp isn't a MB mill. the counselors seem to have a handle on the content, and the attention of the boys. But they are also willing to refuse sign-off if it is warranted. I also know that the 1st year program is a skill learning session. they let our SPL know what they have covered, and he had the PLs sit with the boys and make sure that they actually knew the skills before they signed off in their handbooks. The camp staff didn't do that themselves. My son's biggest complaint is the food- other than that he always seems to have a great week.

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Excellent point, I had never thought of it like that.  Do the requirements that can be done at camp, and save the paperwork for later.

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IMO, that is the only way that a 1st year program should be done. If the PL's job is to take care of his boys, that should include checking on their advancement. This program does just that- the younger Scouts get the skills in a group setting, and then they have to duplicate those skills for their PL to get signed off.

 

As for the automatic partials- a similar system is in play here too. The camp MBC starts the process, but a Troop approved MBC does the final check and signs the card.

 

I'm not saying that this camp is perfect- but they do seem to run a good program as far as the MB classes go.

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Seriously, you look at partials as "success" or "failure"? MBs are complete and partial. I've had boys go to camp to do the "camp" requirements for a MB and come back and complete the written after camp, not because they failed at camp but because, and I quote "why would I want to sit at a table and write when there is so much more to do". The problem I think is many SM and leaders don't look at the boys in an individual type manner, what one boy may have no problem completing another may be overwhelmed. My goal as SM isn't to have boys earn as many badges as possible. My success or failure is that each boy had a fun and learning expierence.

 

No, I don't consider partials "failure" and that is why I used quotations marks in the original.  However I have encountered some parents, and a few Scouters, who would view my son's time at camp as a waste since he didn't bring home and MBs. And one leader even used the "failure" term.

 

Like you I want them to have fun and learn. I want to give them the freedom to do things, make mistakes, and grow physcially, mentally, and morally.

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No, I don't consider partials "failure" and that is why I used quotations marks in the original.  However I have encountered some parents, and a few Scouters, who would view my son's time at camp as a waste since he didn't bring home and MBs. And one leader even used the "failure" term.

 

Like you I want them to have fun and learn. I want to give them the freedom to do things, make mistakes, and grow physcially, mentally, and morally.

 

 My mistake. Those scouters and parents are the ones who don't get it. They are also the reason that many camps are more set today for MBs then for adventure. By this I mean very little open time at different activity areas. The fact that Torchwood had troop swim time surprises me most of the camps that I have been to have done away with that.In fact his camp sounds like a very good camp. Summer camp should be an oppurtunity for boys to also try new things. They don;t want to work on Rifle shooting MB but sure would love the chance to just shoot a little. But because of the number of boys taking the MB and needing to get their target shooting in many times there is very little time for the "I just want to check it out" scout. If that's the case then we are both on the same page with this.

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So how do we, at the troop level, deemphasize poorly done MBs and emphasize just having fun doing cool stuff at camp? I can't audit 30 merit badges to see how they're done. I'd rather just say no MBs will be signed off from camp but learn what you can, we will accept anything you made (including score sheets and photos) but the rest will have to be done at home with a counselor on your own time. Rather than sit through a boring fishing MB class the scouts can just go to the lake, fish, take a picture, and go do something else fun.

 

I would much rather see summer camp have a lot more "just check it out" and if they want to complete the mb then they can do the paperwork at home but get their hands dirty cleaning guns and making bow strings at camp under the guidance of someone that knows this stuff.

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I think that summer camp MBs should be fun merit badges that would be hard to get outside of summer camp. Climbing, shooting, etc.  If I were emperor of BSA, I'd ban the "book" badges from summer camp. 

Concur 100%!

 

When I look at various leaders' guides to summer camps, I can't believe the number of sedentary MBs they offer.    Offering Citizenship in the World MB at summer camp is cruel and inhumane.   It might help a few Life scouts who are scrambling to finish it, but why commit the resources to help such a small group?    Surely that staff member could be better utilized elsewhere in camp.  

 

Then there are the scouts who might want to take the book MBs "just because."   Still not good.   Their time is better spent at camp doing just about anything else, including nothing.   The book MBs can be done in town.   Camp only happens once a year.  

Edited by desertrat77
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So how do we, at the troop level, deemphasize poorly done MBs and emphasize just having fun doing cool stuff at camp? I can't audit 30 merit badges to see how they're done.

 

I didn't think we could either. My first summer camp we sent 3 ASMs to circulate the classes. It was pretty clear early on which classes were fluff and which weren't. Those we couldn't get to Day 1 we got to on Day 2. Talking to the guys the night of Day 1 filled in the blanks.

 

There has to be a level of trust for both the scouts and MBCs. Obvious MBs like Hiking, Backpacking, Cooking, etc., that cannot be done entirely at camp are easy to identify.

 

When we get back out next meeting we discuss the MBs and classes. Our guys know that if they think their MBC shorted them on their learning, our guys come forward and we help them get the training/knowledge. Only a few over the years have accepted the sub-standard teachings and walked with the MB; most want the detailed review.

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