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fred johnson

Merit badge turn off ... LAME ... LAME ... LAME

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Yet another lame merit badge class.

 

I've seen the ups and downs of merit badges.  But lately, it's just negatives.  Way too much focus and/or concern about earning the badge and completing the requirements.  Way too little focus on making it interesting and/or a great experience.  ** TAUGHT BY PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT SKILLED IN THE TOPIC **

 

A year ago, one of my sons really wanted to learn about a topic that was covered by a merit badge.  He went out of his way to ask to be signed up for it.  Interesting?  Not at all.  All power point and class room droning.  All to the requirements --> POINT BY POINT.  Little useful or meaningful or even a reason to attend.

 

Yesterday, some very good people ... very good ... put on merit badge sessions for scouts.  Dozens of scouts showed up.  A few of the merit badges were taught by people with very special skills in the topic and a long fascinating history.  Those would have been great.  My sons took classes that should have been interesting, but they were taught by someone with no experience, no tools or anything unique.  Just there to address the requirements.   Not even someone who was in a related field.  Just a willing helpful very nice person who wanted to help.  

 

The result was my sons had yet another bad scouting experience.  We looked and asked about how the second one was to be done.  It was the same.  Same person teaching in fact.  So, we left before the second started.  They did not want to stay.  They did not need either badge.  We just thought it would be a fun way to spend Saturday and that the topics were cool.  

 

It would be nice to have the merit badge on their sash, but that's just a reflection of an experience.  I WANT MY SONS TO HAVE FASCINATING EXPERIENCES. I want them to WANT to go to these merit badge sessions.  

 

Otherwise, why even have a merit badge program.  

 

I am offering a merit badge to our scouts in December.  I've done it before and scouts have said it's fun and enjoyable.  I've even had scouts who had the badge see  how we will be covering the badge and have come with anyhow.  

 

I PROMISE I WILL NOT TEACH A BADGE UNLESS I CAN MAKE IT INTERESTING AND A GOOD EXPERIENCE.  

 

 

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The main problem is the current use of "teaching", "classes", "universities" when referring to merit badges. Scouting is not supposed to be done as school. When we use school terms to describe the scouting process, it devolves into school. The adults are supposed to be merit badge COUNSELORS not teachers. The point as you said is to inspire, and encourage. I say this as a professional educator. My teaching hat stays at home during scouts.

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So how many such classes does your son go to before he figures out the problem is with the classes?  The only MB classes our troop offers are for a very few required MBs (like personal management), but those are held on multiple Saturdays (requiring extra effort), taught by a team of counselors who know their stuff and teach way more than is required.  The problem is when you throw one instructor at a class of 20 Scouts and tell them they have four hours to complete the badge. 

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One problem seems to me that the scout too often chooses a badge at these things by the title, but with no idea what it actually may require.  EG; Scouting Heritage sounds interesting.  After all, they have badges to show, maybe even a small collection.  But, what they really do not understand is that it is more than having the old book from Dad, or something.  Have to read, and write about someone from Scouting history.  The collection part is minor.  So, they come for introduction, but never complete it because they need to learn something and prove basic understanding.    Getting them to actually read the requirements is the first challenge.

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Have heard about this happening, seen it, and my own son was a victim of this, The difference in my son's case was that while the MBC was extremely knowledgeable, he used old, out of date requirements, and focused on specific "fun" requirements and completing ignored the time consuming ones. But everyone passed.

 

As a leader, once signed off, he earned it.  As his dad, we had a nice long discussion on it. May have been wrong, but we used the version of requirements that the MBC used, several years out of date, and had him complete the missing MB requirements.

 

He didn't go to the MBU this past spring again.

 

Last time I taught Indian Lore at the event, I had some negative reviews because I gave out partials. Also had a Scout who was upset he would be getting a partial, and expressed by being a smart aleck. Eventually he stopped when he asked ' which is more dangerous Rugby or Lacross?"  My response, 'while Rugby is a thug sport played by gentlemen, no one ever died from playing and losing in Rugby unlike Lacross or one of it's many versions of it."

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I've seen it. I've made the complaints. I've waited for improvements. And I've concluded that the only thing I really have control over is how conscientious I am when I work with a boy on the merit badge that I'm the counselor for. I can start the road to improvement by making sure I get it right first.

Edited by ya lazima vumbi
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MBUs are contrary to the whole MB concept.

 

No initiative on scout's part is necessary.   No need to show evidence of comprehension or skill attainment.   No opportunity to glean insights from the counselor over several meetings in a small group setting.

 

MBU:  Just show up, join the crowd, eat lunch, and leave later that afternoon new with 3 new MBs.   "Senior Cub Scouting" is all it is.

 

Looks good for the district/council metrics!  Here's proof that we actually support scouting...look at this cool flyer!

 

But the scout learns little/nothing.  

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Yet another lame merit badge class.

 

I've seen the ups and downs of merit badges.  But lately, it's just negatives.  Way too much focus and/or concern about earning the badge and completing the requirements.  Way too little focus on making it interesting and/or a great experience.  ** TAUGHT BY PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT SKILLED IN THE TOPIC **

 

A year ago, one of my sons really wanted to learn about a topic that was covered by a merit badge.  He went out of his way to ask to be signed up for it.  Interesting?  Not at all.  All power point and class room droning.  All to the requirements --> POINT BY POINT.  Little useful or meaningful or even a reason to attend.

 

Yesterday, some very good people ... very good ... put on merit badge sessions for scouts.  Dozens of scouts showed up.  A few of the merit badges were taught by people with very special skills in the topic and a long fascinating history.  Those would have been great.  My sons took classes that should have been interesting, but they were taught by someone with no experience, no tools or anything unique.  Just there to address the requirements.   Not even someone who was in a related field.  Just a willing helpful very nice person who wanted to help.  

 

The result was my sons had yet another bad scouting experience.  We looked and asked about how the second one was to be done.  It was the same.  Same person teaching in fact.  So, we left before the second started.  They did not want to stay.  They did not need either badge.  We just thought it would be a fun way to spend Saturday and that the topics were cool.  

 

It would be nice to have the merit badge on their sash, but that's just a reflection of an experience.  I WANT MY SONS TO HAVE FASCINATING EXPERIENCES. I want them to WANT to go to these merit badge sessions.  

 

Otherwise, why even have a merit badge program.  

 

I am offering a merit badge to our scouts in December.  I've done it before and scouts have said it's fun and enjoyable.  I've even had scouts who had the badge see  how we will be covering the badge and have come with anyhow.  

 

I PROMISE I WILL NOT TEACH A BADGE UNLESS I CAN MAKE IT INTERESTING AND A GOOD EXPERIENCE.  

 

 

The main problem is the current use of "teaching", "classes", "universities" when referring to merit badges. Scouting is not supposed to be done as school. When we use school terms to describe the scouting process, it devolves into school. The adults are supposed to be merit badge COUNSELORS not teachers. The point as you said is to inspire, and encourage. I say this as a professional educator. My teaching hat stays at home during scouts.

 

I'm new at this MBC stuff, but I agree with @@DuctTape.  

I'm counseling.... I have no intention of teaching a class.

I signed up for several, and really would feel comfortable doing several others.  Some I know more about than others..... but 'm not here to teach a class.  I'm there to advise, answer questions, encourage, discuss... and mostly to verify that the scout has done the work.....but I'm not there to lecture.

 

Based on Fred's post, I may find some disappointed parents or scouts in the future... but I just don't see it that way....

 

I may change in the future, but doubt if I'll ever agree to do a class or a MB College.   I see it as an individual effort.... even if it's two or more buddies working on it together, I'd look at them more as a study session partners rather than a class.

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I may change in the future, but doubt if I'll ever agree to do a class or a MB College.   I see it as an individual effort.... even if it's two or more buddies working on it together, I'd look at them more as a study session partners rather than a class.

Well said!

 

I've been approached a couple times about organizing an MBU.   I've said no each time.   The scouts are being cheated by these MBUs.   The scouts are smarter and have more initiative than they are often given credit for.   If they want to earn the MB, they will figure out a way to get it done.   Spoon feeding is not a worthy goal/aim/method.

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After a 10 year hiatus, I'm back in the MB business.  I figured now that I have retired, I should have more time to do it right.  The last time I taught a MB was back in the middle ages.  A boy wanted to do Bugling.  No problem.  His mother called to make the appointment which didn't set well with me.  The mom with the boy in tow showed up for the first session.  He did bring his trumpet so that was at least a step in the right direction.  No MB book, but he had the trumpet.  I asked him what the requirements for the bad was he had no idea.  I at least had them printed off the internet.  I told him he would have to get the book so he would know what bugle calls were and how to play them.  He never came back for session two.  I think his expectations were different than mine.  I wasn't going to pass him just because he showed up.

 

That's when I figured I had better things to do with my time than MB's.

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MBUs are contrary to the whole MB concept.

The main problem is the current use of "teaching", "classes", "universities" when referring to merit badges. Scouting is not supposed to be done as school. When we use school terms to describe the scouting process, it devolves into school. The adults are supposed to be merit badge COUNSELORS not teachers. The point as you said is to inspire, and encourage. I say this as a professional educator. My teaching hat stays at home during scouts.

The problem is when you throw one instructor at a class of 20 Scouts and tell them they have four hours to complete the badge.

I don't see MBUs or group settings as the issue.  IMHO, completing or not completing on the same day is not the same issue.  

 

I see it as lame efforts.

 

I have seen some great group merit badges.

  • Chess ... Moderate size class.  Lots of chess boards.  Part learning about the game.  Part tournament.  Cool music played during the tournaments.  
  • Theater ... Drama done in a fun way
  • Archaeology ... Done with a park ranger that was excavating an indian camp
  • Archery ... Multiple people building and others shooting at the same time
  • Indian lore ... Stories and information that locked the attention of the scouts
  • Weather ... Done at the national weather service
  • Photography ... Scouts brought cameras and spent a large part taking pictures
  • Astronomy ... Late night star parties
  • Architecture ... Class left the classroom and started touring the local area
  • Fingerprinting ... Teacher brought multiple finger printing devices and finger print sensor devices.  Brought flash cards to teach major patterns.

I have seen some done great one year and lame the next.

  • First Aid
    • Good - One year taught by med students that brought break-out body mannequins, CPR dummies, AEDs and lots of other stuff
    • Bad - Taught by freshman / softmore pre-med students that had relatively little experience, no resources and invested little in the effort

IMHO, it's less about the venue.  It's about the MBC's investment and/or ability to make it a great experience.  

 

IMHO, counselors need to be vetted and on-boarded as part of counseling.  At minimum, a phone call communicating expectations.  If they can't fulfill expectations, then they should not teach the badge.  Period.  

Edited by fred johnson
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@@fred johnson, I've seen this with adult training as well .... from day we IOLS stood in a circle watching a district volunteer not start a fire with his one match.

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I am a counselor for a number of merit badges.  I've found that it makes sense having a small group of scouts (6 or less) work through the requirements together.  

 

For Cooking, we do an hour meeting (to plan menus and write shoping lists), a full day of cooking in my back yard (last time I checked my back yard was "outdoors") using the Patrol boxes and stoves and a one-hour follow up meeting.  The scouts are then responsible for fulfilling the home cooking and trail cooking requirements.

 

For Family Life and Personal Management, we have 4 or 5 one-hour classes over the course of 5 weeks.  We have actual discussions of the "discuss" requirements.  I find that the boys have a basic understanding but working with them I can get them to think about and apply what they know.  They have to do their projects and tracking on their own and then report back to me when they are done.

 

For Backpacking, we do an hour and a half "gear talk" for new scouts where some of the older scouts help out.   Then, we do a 9:00 to 1:00 session on a Saturday morning where we do the requirements.  Each boy "shows" a skill to the group (i.e. first aid) and then all of them "demonstrate" that skill.  The discussions are done as a group with each boy contributing.  They then have to complete the "doing" requriements and get back to me.  

 

I've got a bunch of guys that asked me about Camping.  I'm trying to come up with a way to make it interestng and participatory.  

 

For the Citizenship badges, our Troop is doing those in two meetings with two months in between.  The first meeting discusses the plan and some of the basic requirements, the scouts work on the remaining requirements (these badges seem a lot like homework) and then everything is reviewed at the second meeting.

 

For Personal Fitness, the MBC partnered with a local gym.  The boys met three times at the gym to do the testing, researched the other requirements on their own and then met with the counselor to complete the requriments.

 

 

Our Council did its Merit Badge Fair last year over two weekends two weeks apart.  The first weekend the boys met with the MBC, the did the requirements in between and then met again.  Unfortunately, it was during spring break so my son didn't attend -- can't judge whether that was a good thing or not. 

 

My son's experience at camp for merit badges has been mixed.  It took him two years to get Archery because of the skill component -- so I feel like they actually are folliwng the requirments.  He was frustrated with sailing and horse back riding because he didn't get to sail for that long -- maybe a half hour with anoher scout -- or ride for that long - maybe a half hour.  We generally discourage scouts from doing Cooking or Camping at camp just because it typically results in partials because most of the activiites have to be done with the Troop.

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We only sign off on cards where we know the counselor. If someone comes to us with a new MBC our coordinator contacts them to find out who they are, how they will teach the class, etc. We then send an educated parent (try to find someone with that interest or background) to "audit" the course while one of our scouts takes it. If they are good, they go on our list. If they are not, we don't use them again.

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