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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).

 

While someone who is not a registered Merit Badge Counselor may assist in instruction and coaching, only a registered Merit badge Counselor is allowed by BSA rules to determine if a candidate has passed any requirement or to sign the Blue Card.  

 

This rule is systematically violated by many council camps, and BSA has admitted that they know it is going on.  

 

Other than reminding the paid Scouters and volunteers about the rules, BSA's only action to reduce the frequency of this disgrace is to, effective 2015, allow a unit leader to treat the MB as not earned if he or she determines that it was not possible for the candidate to have actually earned the badge.  That would be the inevitable conclusion if the "counselor" was not a registered Merit Badge Counselor.  That would also be the inevitable conclusion if staffing levels did not provide adequate time to allow each candidate to be individuality tested on each requirement as is absolutely required with no exceptions.

 

If you have concern about the integrity of Scouting, you might ask if the "counselors" scheduled to handle Merit badge sessions at camp are in fact registered Merit Badge Counselors and how the camp plans to have each candidate individually tested on each requirement.  You might then refuse to allow you Scouts to "take" a Merit Badge from a staffer who is not a registered Merit Badge Counselor for the respective Merit Badge or where staffing does not allow individual testing on each requirement for that Merit Badge.  Given that the paid Scouters responsible for sham Merit Badge programs are intentionally violating the rules and that BSA is not using its power to remove them from employment  by disqualifying them from holding paid positions, it would seem to be on the volunteers to effect change where needed.

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It's also not your place to put a limit on how many badges a Scout can take at camp.  

 

 

The GTA (7.0.1.4) does allow for the following:

 

 

[snip]

 

However, in situations where a Scout is earning a large number of badges from just one counselor, the unit leader is permitted to place a limit on the number of merit badges that may be earned from one counselor, as long as the same limit applies to all Scouts in the unit.

 

[/snip]

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Yes, @, and how many summer camps do you know where one counselor is teaching more than X badges in a time configuration that would also allow for one boy to earn so many from him?  What's the limit from one counselor—3?  now if Johnny goes to camp 2 or more years, he can't learn from the expert nature greyhair that teaches several nature MBs because his SM has made an ideological decision without practical thought.

Quotation isn't necessarily insight, this passage doesn't apply to what MattR is suggesting.

 

I am just as annoyed by crummy summer camp MB programs as anyone else, but I also recognize that the program is set up in a certain way to achieve certain results.  In my "chaotic good" outlook, this makes for some sticky messes; personal freedom has to reign.  The SM's job is to counsel in a way that the boys understand that some things are best done another way, and let the boy decide, and if needsbe to take the counselor and camp to task over shortcomings in the program.

Edited by Scouter99

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The camp I have been attending has a rubber stamp icon that prints a report at the end of the week. No counselors are identified by name. They do five MBs for each scout and no alternative program except swimming lessons and first year scouts. Basically the camp is a MB university for the week.

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The camp I have been attending has a rubber stamp icon that prints a report at the end of the week. No counselors are identified by name. They do five MBs for each scout and no alternative program except swimming lessons and first year scouts. Basically the camp is a MB university for the week.

 

 That's a shame. Everytime I see something like this I am so grateful that our troop is in an area where selection and variety exist.

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Stosh, why do you attend that camp?

It's the camp the boys picked. They had a negative experience this past summer and that may motivate them to select something else for next summer. I'll just have to wait and see what they decide.

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Yes, @, and how many summer camps do you know where one counselor is teaching more than X badges in a time configuration that would also allow for one boy to earn so many from him?  What's the limit from one counselor—3?  now if Johnny goes to camp 2 or more years, he can't learn from the expert nature greyhair that teaches several nature MBs because his SM has made an ideological decision without practical thought.

Quotation isn't necessarily insight, this passage doesn't apply to what MattR is suggesting.

 

I am just as annoyed by crummy summer camp MB programs as anyone else, but I also recognize that the program is set up in a certain way to achieve certain results.  In my "chaotic good" outlook, this makes for some sticky messes; personal freedom has to reign.  The SM's job is to counsel in a way that the boys understand that some things are best done another way, and let the boy decide, and if needsbe to take the counselor and camp to task over shortcomings in the program.

SMs can also advise boys they are overloaded, hence I suspect that's the premise that's used to limit scouts. Just as we would advise them not to drink 20 Red Bulls, we advise them not to take too many MBs. They usually agree.

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As skeptic covered, it's not possible for you to implement a process like this without breaking the rules yourself ("who guards the guardian?")

 

Taking your example, I took Fishing MB at camp and it was one of the best experiences I had.  We went to a lake one day, river the next, trout stream the next, fly fishing another.  The "boring class" part was the backbone of what we were doing: learning how to cast differently in different situations, where fish lay, what fish look for, how to tie flies, how to clean a fish, etc.

If you had been my SM, you would have robbed me of that experience because you know better, but you don't.

Actually, in this case what I propose (or meant to propose) would work well. Go to the classes and learn what you can, but don't waste time discussing and sleeping. If the counselor is a good one like you had, do the fun stuff and get the most out of it. All that's really needed for fishing is catch 2 fish, release one, eat the other. The rest is discuss and explain. Having that signed off at home by a real counselor would be quick and easy and the scout would have had a great experience trying the different areas and casts.

 

While someone who is not a registered Merit Badge Counselor may assist in instruction and coaching, only a registered Merit badge Counselor is allowed by BSA rules to determine if a candidate has passed any requirement or to sign the Blue Card.  

 

This rule is systematically violated by many council camps, and BSA has admitted that they know it is going on.

I don't know that I've ever seen a camp in my area where all the MBs were run by legit counselors. I don't even mind 17 year olds that are not official counselors but just enjoy the subject. I mention fishing MB because at the camp we just got back from there were 12 scouts in the class, the counselor had a bunch of boards with fishing knots on them he passed out, and 2 cords he passed around for each scout to try and tie the knot. So the boys spent most of their time waiting for a chance to tie a knot. They all got signed off (even though this is not even close to the req) and the scouts in my troop only completed one knot because I was there and helped them out.

 

This is the majority of MBs that I see. The scouts know they'll be sleeping through the classes and even expect it, so when they get back to camp they just burn energy like crazy. Climbing, shooting, and aquatics are always good and that's what the scouts like. The worst ones are the outdoor skills like camping, cooking, and pioneering. The scouts don't cook. In pioneering they rarely do the splices.

 

People mention confronting the camp director and bringing up the problems but that is just poring grief on the camp director. A good friend of mine was a camp director and that's all about juggling bailing wire and duct tape. The Councils are broke and there's no extra money for good staff or enough resources for merit badges. They're worried about the septic system and dining hall. That's why I'm trying to find a "chaotic good" solution to something well beyond what I can affect.

 

Possibly I can work with the scouts and get them prepared for their MBs. Just knowing the requirements and which ones are fun, safety, or just blathering (and can be skipped till later at their discretion) might help them make their own decisions about what they spend their time on.

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Actually, in this case what I propose (or meant to propose) would work well. Go to the classes and learn what you can, but don't waste time discussing and sleeping. If the counselor is a good one like you had, do the fun stuff and get the most out of it. All that's really needed for fishing is catch 2 fish, release one, eat the other. The rest is discuss and explain. Having that signed off at home by a real counselor would be quick and easy and the scout would have had a great experience trying the different areas and casts.

 

I don't know that I've ever seen a camp in my area where all the MBs were run by legit counselors. I don't even mind 17 year olds that are not official counselors but just enjoy the subject. I mention fishing MB because at the camp we just got back from there were 12 scouts in the class, the counselor had a bunch of boards with fishing knots on them he passed out, and 2 cords he passed around for each scout to try and tie the knot. So the boys spent most of their time waiting for a chance to tie a knot. They all got signed off (even though this is not even close to the req) and the scouts in my troop only completed one knot because I was there and helped them out.

 

This is the majority of MBs that I see. The scouts know they'll be sleeping through the classes and even expect it, so when they get back to camp they just burn energy like crazy. Climbing, shooting, and aquatics are always good and that's what the scouts like. The worst ones are the outdoor skills like camping, cooking, and pioneering. The scouts don't cook. In pioneering they rarely do the splices.

 

People mention confronting the camp director and bringing up the problems but that is just poring grief on the camp director. A good friend of mine was a camp director and that's all about juggling bailing wire and duct tape. The Councils are broke and there's no extra money for good staff or enough resources for merit badges. They're worried about the septic system and dining hall. That's why I'm trying to find a "chaotic good" solution to something well beyond what I can affect.

 

Possibly I can work with the scouts and get them prepared for their MBs. Just knowing the requirements and which ones are fun, safety, or just blathering (and can be skipped till later at their discretion) might help them make their own decisions about what they spend their time on.

 

  I am not trying to be smart here. Just one question. Do you go through all of that when any of your boys go to see a MBC back home or just at camp? At camp the ASMs and myself will walk around to different areas and look to see what is going on. The most important thing is that the boys are enjoying themselves. Before I go to the leaders meeting at the end of the week our SPL sits with all boys and ask them if they had comments about the MB that they took. If there are any negatives or positives I will pass that along at the meeting. That is as far as I as SM can take it. Now just as we tell parents to look for another troop if unhappy with the one they are in, then maybe, if possible do the same when it comes to summer camp. You are really going to drive yourself crazy if you try to control every aspect of your scouts experience. Lets worry more on the ones that we have direct control over.

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I've never seen a problem with legit counselors. Having fun at camp is what this is all about. One problem is there are fewer activities to do outside of merit badges, especially for older scouts. The result of this is fewer scouts are going to summer camp so they don't seem to be having the fun they used to. I'm hoping that if the scouts had to do all the reqs they'd have more fun. Maybe that's a bad assumption.

 

I had a scout work at camp and he asked me to sign off on the merit badges he taught (camping, pioneering, and something else). I said great, it will be really easy for you to complete the MB with a regular counselor. He never did complete the merit badges. People say I shouldn't change the rules on merit badges but that assumes the Council is holding up their end of the deal.

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I've never seen a problem with legit counselors. Having fun at camp is what this is all about. One problem is there are fewer activities to do outside of merit badges, especially for older scouts. The result of this is fewer scouts are going to summer camp so they don't seem to be having the fun they used to. I'm hoping that if the scouts had to do all the reqs they'd have more fun. Maybe that's a bad assumption.

 

I had a scout work at camp and he asked me to sign off on the merit badges he taught (camping, pioneering, and something else). I said great, it will be really easy for you to complete the MB with a regular counselor. He never did complete the merit badges. People say I shouldn't change the rules on merit badges but that assumes the Council is holding up their end of the deal.

 

  I agree it is about the FUN. I have heard from other leaders about getting older scouts to camp. The only time I have had any boys miss summer camp was one year two brothers who were on vacation and could not reschedule. I live in an area where there are plenty of camps and programs to choose from and I take full advantage of it. Every once in awhile I'l present a camp that's a little further away. Our troop is located just above Phila., Pa. One year I offered the boys the chance to go on a long summer camp. We went to Camp Bud Schiele in western NC the cost for camp, trans, and added meals was still cheaper then going 15 minutes away to our council camp and the kids had a blast!! By the time we were heading home some of them were even talking with a little southern drawl.

 

  Right after I have rested from camp I'm looking on line for places to go next year. Put all the info together and present it to the boys for them to choose. I know of troops that, even though they don't have to, go to the same camp year after year. Boorring. Some of the fun simply comes from the adventure of being someplace you haven't been before. I've had other SM in my district tell me that I should only go to out of council camps once in awhile. Well I tell them I answer to the scouts in my troop before I answer to anyone. If the boys don't want to go there then why take them?

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Its funny, we had one scout this summer take the 4 C's (citizenship in world, nation, community and communications) at camp and he loved it more than if he had done any "outdoor" merit badges.  That is just his personality.

 

We do counsel the boys to take fun merit badges and not to overload themselves.  We discourage taking badges that they will partial due to having requirements that can't be done either before or during camp such as Camping, Backpacking, Hiking, etc.

 

I have the same concerns as a lot of you, but the program seems to be pretty well run.  

 

The highlight or me was that one of the counselors in training came to our campstie to hang out on Thursday night and ended up coaching one of the scouts on how to weave the seat of his stool for his basketry merit badge class.  This boy would have partialed the class without the help.  I watched from a far as the counselor would show the scout how to do something, undo what he did and then have the scout do it.

 

Nonetheless, I love to retest my son... don't get me wrong - he earned the badge-- but I want to see if he actually learned something.  :D The best part is that it requires us to go sailing and horseback riding to really see what he learned. :rolleyes: He typically really does learn the stuff -- allbeit at a basic level.  But I guess that is what MBs are about -- getting introduced to a topic.  The good news is that he typically wants to learn more and become proficient.

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I looked at the list of merit badges available at camp and was surprised what was on the list.  I never was a boy scout, but was a girl scout, and did attend a boy scout family camp every spring for years.  I think camp should be full of fun camp kinds of stuff- like boating, swimming, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, nature and nature-y type stuff, shooting sports, as well as the typical camp crafts, like leather work or basketry.  I let my son choose what he wished, though.  I expected partials.  He has now completed all camp badges, except archery, which he may just have to retake at camp until he gets it.  At girl scout camp I earned badges, too, but was having so much fun in the outdoors, I didn't know I was earning them and really didn't care either.

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