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UncleP

Request for Summer Camp Suggestions

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I am trying to help my plan out summer camp for this year.  I have never been a scout and have never gone to summer camp, so I am trying to tap into the communities collective wisdom for help.   I am always willing to steal a good idea.

 

From reading some posts, it seems that their is a negative feeling towards over doing merit badge classes at camp.  I wanted to confirm if my impression is correct or not.

 

If merit badge classes are overdone, then does anyone have any suggestions for the following:

 

1.  How many merit badge classes should a boy scout take at summer camp?

 

2.  Any suggestions on type of badges (Eagle required, aquatic....)?

 

3.  From what I can determine, merit badges seem to be the main focus at summer camp.  If a boy scout limits the number of classes he takes, what alternatives should be consider?

 

My nephew tends to focus on the merit badge classes, because they are familiar (like school), and he gets a tangible result from them.  I would like for him to concentrate on making good memories instead, but I do not really know what to tell him.

 

The decision is his, and I support whatever he decides, but when someone comes to me for advise, I feel the need to give the best advise possible.

 

Thank you to everyone who responds in advance.

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If merit badges will help, I'd recommend 2 or 3.  One of them should be swimming or pioneering or such, outdoor oriented.

 

Random thoughts:

 

- Being homesick is normal...even if home wasn't so great, as in my case back in the day...stay busy and it will pass

- If the camp has a "first year camper" badge, recommend earning that.  It's like a merit badge in the sense that it requires the scout to try a little bit of every activity around the camp.  Earn a cool patch that will be treasured for decades to come.

- Rain, bugs, and meals we don't like are a part of camp...just press forward, laugh about it later

- Take time to enjoy the breeze off the lake, birds chirping, trees swaying in the wind, etc.

 

Best wishes!

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I am trying to help my plan out summer camp for this year.  I have never been a scout and have never gone to summer camp, so I am trying to tap into the communities collective wisdom for help.   I am always willing to steal a good idea.

 

From reading some posts, it seems that their is a negative feeling towards over doing merit badge classes at camp.  I wanted to confirm if my impression is correct or not.

 

If merit badge classes are overdone, then does anyone have any suggestions for the following:

 

1.  How many merit badge classes should a boy scout take at summer camp?

 

As many and as few as he would like.  He should not feel punished if he doesn't fill all his classes.

 

2.  Any suggestions on type of badges (Eagle required, aquatic....)?

 

If I'm not mistaken, this is your nephew's first time at summer camp?  Take fun ones.  If he likes swimming, then the Eagle Swimming MB is okay.  Otherwise, take some that hold his interest and don't worry about whether they are Eagle or not.  He has plenty of time to work those out when he's a bit more mature.

 

3.  From what I can determine, merit badges seem to be the main focus at summer camp.  If a boy scout limits the number of classes he takes, what alternatives should be consider?

 

Whittle, read a book (Scout Handbook is good), go fishing, take a hike and study some new plants, watch the birds, see how many different ones he can find and identify.  Buy a leather working kit and put it together,  I would not let him wander alone, but if there's a buddy to hang with the two of them should think of something to get into trouble with.  :)  Might make a good friend with like interests this way.

 

My nephew tends to focus on the merit badge classes, because they are familiar (like school), and he gets a tangible result from them.  I would like for him to concentrate on making good memories instead, but I do not really know what to tell him.

 

Take MB's with the above suggestions in mind.  I still have my necker slide that I made the first year at summer camp.  I also put together a wallet on my own.  I had it branded at Philmont 40 years later..  It's a time of imagination pursuit, not just knowledge.

 

The decision is his, and I support whatever he decides, but when someone comes to me for advise, I feel the need to give the best advise possible.

 

Go through each MB offered and ask him if he's like it.  When he says NO, ask why.  Bird Study,... "Its boring!"  to which you reply, "Did you now there are about 40 different kinds of sparrows?"  "How many different ducks are there?"  Ever see a Sandhill Crane in the wild?  It's kinda too bad you know so little about them."  Etc.  Appeal to his quest for knowledge, but not in a classroom setting, instead work to get his classroom outdoors!

 

Thank you to everyone who responds in advance.

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I agree with the above. Two or three is reasonable. Encourage him to think about badges he might not be able to earn on his own throughout the year. (For example, I could have never done Pioneering at home. Fathoms of high quality rope were not a priority expense in my family or troop. But, I could practice knots and splices in advance and work on towers and zip-lines in advance.)

 

Also encourage him to pick different areas (e.g., one scoutcraft, one aquatic, one field sports) and ask older scouts what their favorites were from previous years.

 

Supplements to the MB program depend on the style of the camp and the troop. Our boys may set themselves to camp-wide challenges, like building a one-man raft that out-floats any other troop's vessel. Or, they may opt to set up a lakeside outpost bunk using knots and lashings (and my spool of baler twine). Or, they may plan ways to outdo themselves on steak night.

 

And there's always applying those basic 1st class skills ... making sure every knot on every canvas is perfect and every rope whipped. Some scouts are all about chopping wood; others, scrubbing pots.

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I'd focus on:

 

- Letting the boys select their MBs.

- Urging them to take MBs that interest them that may not be offered at home.

- Keep the guys busy especially after dinner, wards off home sickness

- Encourage them and keep things fun.

- Build patrol and Troop spirit by participating in camp games

- Make sure they are prepared by following the packing checklist and doing a shakedown before you leave

- Keep then off electronics

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IF they want to take merit badges, I recommend:

- something aquatic; it's summer, it's hot & you get wet in all of the aquatic mbs

- something in which you make something to bring home; leather working, basketry, metal working, etc.

- something you've never tried before

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One caution I would give is that in your initial post you talk about the collective wisdom here being against an over emphasis of taking a lot of merit badges at camp.  I think you're reading our sentiments correctly, but those sentiments may reflect how we wish things worked much more than they would translate into practical advice.

 

Whatever we may wish, most camps these days do run on a merit badge based program, and so there may be very few other program areas open during the day.  If you're not in a merit badge class you will likely be in a minority and you will likely be hanging around your campsite looking for things to do --- this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but make sure you can picture what your nephew will do with that time if his buddies are not also there to find adventure with.

 

At our summer camp there are five MB time slots each day, 50 minutes each.  If you have a MB from say 9 -- 9:50, you finish your session, we figure 10-15 minutes at least from our campsite to anywhere else in camp, so you get back to the troop site at 10--10;05; you then have to see who else is around, think of something to do, do it, and then start heading out for the next session at about 10:45.  That isn't really a lot of time for free adventures.  Sadly, in a bad scenario scouts hanging out in the campsite may be seen by adults as having time on their hands which needs to be filled by doing whatever chores may be pending.  Make sure you understand how your troop works, especially if they do their own cooking in camp.

 

I recommend for our fist year campers that they take 3 or 4 merit badges, and that they try to hit different program areas for each, so Swimming for sure (for us we have a pool for swimming and a lakefront for boating), one stop at Ecology: Mammal Study or Fishing are good 1st year choices; a stop at Handicrafts: Leatherworking, Basketry; and a Lakefront session: Canoeing, Kayaking, etc. 

 

Your camp should have a Parent Guide that includes what they recommend for younger campers, along with the above our camp recommends Indian Lore, Fingerprinting, and one or two others that slip my mind.

 

Try to talk to other adults and scouts who have been to camp and get a sense of how your troop actually works there and what they would recommend, then sit with your nephew and talk through what would be the most fun and fulfilling way for HIM to experience camp.

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Just remembered, the best advice for summer camp is to make sure he understands that it is CRITICAL that he put on clean socks and clean underwear every day.

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+1 for reading the Leader/Parent Guide. Hate the name by the way. Should be Camp Guide or something like that. Saying Leader or Parent Guide makes it sound like its for them only, when most times it is the camp catalog and guide to adventure for the SCOUTS!!

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I tend to agree with most everything above....except the clean underwear bit.... :)

.....

- If the camp has a "first year camper" badge, recommend earning that.  It's like a merit badge in the sense that it requires the scout to try a little bit of every activity around the camp.  Earn a cool patch that will be treasured for decades to come.

.......

I'd qualify this one point...it depends!

A lot of people brag on these programs, and i fully can imagine that some can be great for some

 

My son went to his 1st summer camp last year, and signed up for the camp's 1st year program.

He's not going to summer camp this year, much to my dismay.....he had no interest.  

    that pretty much sums it up.

He had been a cub tiger through webelos, and was an early crossover into the troop & had been very active in the troop for many months prior so a whole lot of what they had covered he'd already done through webelos akela weekends, cuborees, den meetings, troop campouts, troop trainings, etc...

    so that program might have been great for a brand new scout that had never been exposed to 

they gave him a very limited selection of elective MB classes he could take along with the program.... most of which were not very exciting (for him anyway)

his day was filled with mostly classroom work.  Might have been in an open air pavilion, but it was still lecturing and classroom

the camp offered very little free time for things like open swim, patrol level or troop level activities, or just hanging with friends, etc...

 

I went along on the trip as a scouter for the troop.  As I roamed the camp through the days.... I saw a whole lot of bored to tears scouts sitting in pavilions listening to lectures.  Wasn't all bad though....some crafting where a few scouts looked interested and some action at places such as down at the waterfront or in "wilderness survival".

 

Personally,

I feel like 1 -maybe as many as 3 MB classes would be a good target (as long as there was plenty of freetime available for the scouts to choose on a whim.... let's go swimming...or let's try the climbing wall.... or ....) ....but that's just me, not him.  Everyone is different.

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As has been mentioned, most camps are oriented towards MB'S and have nothing for the non MB time. Only an occasional scheduled free time is open. Want to swim? You need to wait until 4:00 pm after MBs. It is for this reason I have occasionally done a non-camp outing week. It makes a great opportunity for the older scouts. There's a lot more interactions between ages and we can find places to spread out the patrols.

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Not all camps are like this. A few camps out west have gone to an adventure-based program where there are blocks of activities during the day. Scouts can elect to go with a MB track or an adventure track. According to one camp our Scouts are looking at for 2018, the split is in favor of adventure over MBs. Sadly, this camp is in Utah, so the LDS pull out may impact them a bit.

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.....Want to swim? You need to wait until 4:00 pm after MBs.....

this is how the camp we went to was.... something like 4PM start.... but considering the scouts had to find their way back to camp first, and then perhaps a few duties there, maybe throw in some "homework" from "school".... then it was just about time to get the uniform on for dinner

I know that it's not about me or for me.... but even as an adult with really "nothing" to do i never dipped so much as a toe in the lake all week.... and I really wanted to get on that blob thing they had down there too!

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While the camp does offer a lot of adult training (more so than in years ago), there's really not much for the over trained adult who's all caught up with their credentials.  A couple of years back I went through the training with a new ASM to get her up-to-date and was so disappointed in the teaching, I have no inclination to doing that again.  I take a book or two to read instead. 

 

I make it a personal policy to not run around "checking up" on my boys but leave that responsibility to my PL's.  I have intervened on occasion when the boys complained about what they were learning from a particular teacher.  One First Year Scouter program was so poorly run, the boys asked me to reteach it again after we got home.  I did visit the class and they had just cause.

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Just remembered, the best advice for summer camp is to make sure he understands that it is CRITICAL that he put on clean socks and clean underwear every day.

We require all Scouts to pack one ziplock bag with their name on it and clean socks, underwear and Class B shirt.  Collected before we even leave for camp and held by adults until lights out the final night.  Bags distributed to the Scouts that night so at least the adult drivers won't have to smell dirty clothes, on top of dirty bodies, in the cars on the way home.  One of the better "traditions" has Troop has adopted.

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