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ddubois

Partials & Blue Cards

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I'd like to have a discussions about Merit Badge partials (and maybe blue cards). What has been your and your units experience with boys who get partials? What are best practices for handling them?


I understand, in theory, a boy can contact a Scoutmaster and ask for a MBC contact, then arrange for a MBC to help him finish up the incomplete requirements and acquire the MB. From what I have seen in practice, partials never get completed; it's more likely the boy takes the class again a few years down the road and get the MB at that time. My boys have accumulated a large catalog of partials from multiple summer camp / winter camp/ MBC events over the years, while in different Troops.


Also, the Scouts getting copies of blue cards for events where MB completion has occurred a MB event, either for completions or for partials, has been very hit or miss. I haven't seen Troops be very diligent about about the process, in fact, so much so, that I'm not 100% sure what the process is supposed to be. Thoughts? Comments?


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A few comments:

  • Troop Role
    • Help obtain list of MBCs from district or council.
    • Inform Scout (and parent) about rules when meeting MBCs.
    • Provide blue card signatures and processing when done.
    • SMCs with the Scout when there are issues or questions.
  • Scout Role
    • Everything else.  ;)
  • Upvote 2

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"Classes" may not be a "bad" idea, but they are not the BSA desired way to go.  

 

Our troop Advancement Chair reminds Scouts about partials (never reminds parents but answers questions if asked) and tries to get them to plan completion.  The SM may have a "conference" with the Scout on the same subject.

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@@ddubois did I run into you on reddit/r/bsa?

 

I'm the advancement committee in my son's troop.  I get all of the blue cards back from summer camp, completed or not.  The completed ones I record and it is all good.  The partial ones, I make a record of the progress (we use scoutbook.com) and return the blue card to the scout with instructions on finding a counselor and maybe a recommendation for a counselor if it is one I know. 

 

A lot of MBs remain partial, but some get done.  We have a couple of outstanding cooking partials from before it was required!  And one of the troop ASMs is a counselor for that merit badge!

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1. Lead a horse to water.

2. Drinking it is on him.

 

Those instructions on the blue card? That's the process.

 

The point of partials is to help a boy who wants to earn a MB do so at his own pace in multiple venues of his choosing. Meanwhile, if by getting a partial, a boy at least tries a new skill, he has expanded his horizons.

 

Have your oldest scouts give tips on how they keep track of partials. When a boy earns an MB by completing a partial, while you're awarding it to him, ask him what he did to complete it.

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My experience is it's best to let the boy manage the process as much as possible.  It's his advancement.  He can keep incomplete blue cards in his handbook or a zippered pocket in the handbook cover.  Trying to track partials (etc) inserts the adults too much into the process.  It's supposed to be the SM who works with the scouts, not the ASM in charge of XXX and the ASM in charge of YYY and the committee member in charge of ZZZ and the .... Let the scout track it.  

 

Partials are fine.  Scouting is about exploring life.  If he tried a merit badge and did not finish, that's his choice.  And that's absolutely fine.  My oldest had 20+ incomplete merit badges and still had 30+ at time he earned Eagle.  Personally, it shows a smart scout who doesn't waste time on a bad experience or something that doesn't interest him.

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I agree to letting the scout manage this as much as possible.  Learning to follow up on things like this is a good life skill.

 

That said - I'm a believer that sometimes we all need a little helping hand.  

 

So, what we do:
- our advancement coordinator records the partials in Troopmaster.  It's really not that much work.  He gets an email listing the partials and then takes 10 minutes to update them.  If he stays current, it's not a big deal.

- the scouts are provided paper copies of their advancement records - including partials - once a year or so.

- a couple of times a year we schedule a merit badge catch up night.  Merit Badge counselors for some of the more common merit badges are at a troop meeting.  Scouts get a copy of their partials and have the opportunity to go and talk with the counselors. They can chose to talk to them or not.

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In my opinion, partials are up to the scout to manage/misplace. Their responsibility, not the troops' nor the scouters'. My eagle son, trying to get one more palm, recently dug through his room and found several partials that he started at his first summer camp and completed them. 

 

Onus is on the scouts (or the helicopter parents to nag their own kids).

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In my opinion, partials are up to the scout to manage/misplace. Their responsibility, not the troops' nor the scouters'. 

 

Yeah, I must admit staying organized is a good life lesson to learn.  

 

MBs have relatively little value.  The value is becoming an organized person or a self-starter or one of many other character traits reflected by someone who completes merit badges.  

 

That's why I like to keep the adults out of it.  It's a natural lesson coming out of the structure of the program.  IMHO, those are the best lessons. 

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We tell our guys:

  • Buy a three ring notebook.
  • Buy these inserts.
  • Take a picture of all rank and blue cards. Load them to Google Drive.
  • Put all your rank and blue cards in the notebook.
  • Put the notebook in a secure place in your room.
  • Ditto with the rank pages of you handbook.

That way you always know where your stuff is AND you have a back up in the cloud in case your house burns down.

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For summer camp the camps give the Troop all partials.  I use to put them with the completed cards and patches to be handed out at summer camp.  I stopped doing that 2 years ago and toss all partials in a big envelope.  Not a single Scout has asked me about them in those 24 months.  (I do record the partials in Troopmaster though - actually not sure why after reading this thread.  May discontinue if a couple helicopter parent "leaders" in our Troop don't squawk.  As a MBC I would review with the Scout all requirements "completed" at a summer camp anyway before awarding the MB, that is if a Scout every asked me to finish a partial MB.)  

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In my experience the largest number of partial MBs come out of summer camp.  Thankfully we don't have MB days, universities, etc. around here and so I don't have to deal with that. 

 

If scouts are signing up to retake the class it is possible that they don't understand that they could try to complete the badge on their own.  A troop should at least make sure that their scouts understand that possibility

 

Having said that, for some of those badges the easiest way to complete it is probably to try to finish the requirements at camp the next year whether that's by signing up for the badge all over again or by trying to get in the missing requirements during open area times.  Some of the most common examples of this that I've seen are Climbing, any of the Boating MBs, and the shooting MBs.  For shooting it's getting a high enough score on enough targets; since there are very tight restrictions and when and where scouts can shoot as scouts it is not uncommon for summer camp to be the most likely venue.  For Climbing and Boating weather plays havoc with completion: thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday at camp mean the areas are closed and there is just no way to complet the badge.  In theory a scout could find someone with a small sailboat to borrow for completion, or go to a climbing wall, but that just may not be as practical as waiting until the next summer.

 

There are other common summer camp MBs that we do see completed:  the nature type badges come to mind, things like Astronomy, Nature, Reptile and Amphibians, Oceanography, etc., usually the scout needs to do more research and report writing to complete these, and often if a scout was intrigued by the material they'll get around to finishing them up.

 

The big take away I think is making sure your scouts really understand the MB and partial process, and then let them handle it as best meets their own curiosity and needs.

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Some of our scouts retake a class even after they've earned the badge. So that's never a problem.

 

@@DadScouts, I understand the temptation to micromanage. Resist it. If a scout thinks you have his partial from last year when in fact he never earned it, his helicopter parent is going to blame you when he is 17.9 and has only earned 20 MBs.

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Pay your bills, including property tax, without monthly reminders, do you?  

 

Renew your licenses without reminders?  

 

Operated on one notice of a future test or paper due with no reminders from anyone else?  Starting at 10.5 years old?  Admirable.

 

Kind

Helpful

Friendly

Coach

Mentor

 

Don't do something because you may be unfairly blamed for something if you do?

 

Brave

 

Model

 

 

Just asking.

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Pay your bills, including property tax, without monthly reminders, do you?  

 

Renew your licenses without reminders?  

 

Operated on one notice of a future test or paper due with no reminders from anyone else?  Starting at 10.5 years old?  Admirable.

 

Kind

Helpful

Friendly

Coach

Mentor

 

Don't do something because you may be unfairly blamed for something if you do?

 

Brave

 

Model

 

 

Just asking.

Thanks TAHAWK, I give a similar answer to folks who gripe about and criticize scouts not getting the final requirements of Eagle done until near their 18th birthday:  If you file your taxes on April 15th is that late or is that getting them done on time?

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