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Merit Badges and Summer/Winter Camp

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So he spends lots of time in activities with his patrol - some separate from the other patrols that make up the troop. Good.

 

You had only mentioned going with his "troop," so I misunderstood.  My apologies.

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So he spends lots of time in activities with his patrol - some separate from the other patrols that make up the troop. Good.

 

You had only mentioned going with his "troop," so I misunderstood.  My apologies.

Thanks for catching that.  I will go back and try to add a clarifier. 

 

As the PLC normally decides where a troop is going to camp, I am working on the assumption that the troop will all attend the same camp.  Once there, each patrol would pick and chose from the activities offered to build their own program.   Now, if a troop breaks up it's summer activities, (NBP goes to a traditional camp, venturing patrol goes white water rafting) this still works, the key is that this is the smallest cohesive group in a troop.

 

If the scout attends camp as a lone scout, he can be formed into a patrol with other lone scouts, that can vote on the activities it wants to do. 

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Guys please, let's keep this friendly.

 

Anyway, I can understand that spending $500 dollars with nothing to show in return is a hard sell.  But "earning" merit badges at a camp simply for showing up and attending the classes, or worse, being instructed by a youth in a merit badge that he may have little knowledge of (reading from the MB book) or having the Scout not want to go back because he can go to school for free isn't worth $500 dollars in my opinion either. 

 

I know that this may be tilting at windmills, but I would at least like to try and improve the camp experience for Scouts. I am using the Patrol as it is a good way to size a class, as most patrols are from 6 to 8 young men.

 

I would think it would have to start at the council level since camps are not usually district specific (at least not to my knowledge - we have two dedicated camps in our council that get scouts from many districts, including from other states). I am sure a district can exert some influence on a camp but such might be more productive and successful if you coordinate with other districts or the council.

 

I think your focus on just those activities that are outdoors (ore more accurately, non-classroom) is a great start. Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Swimming (and other water related MBs where appropriate) with the understanding that credit will be earned but that there either will be required pre-reqs or post camp work to be completed.

 

I still think you will be challenged by the fact that camps will still want to advertise just what a scout will accomplish as a means to recruit people from other districts, councils, and states. Our local camp was recently featured in the list of the top 20 best camps and I would bet if I were to go back and read their advertisement blurb, it probably listed the MBs one could complete while in attendance.

 

On a bit of a tangent, what about the actual MB camps? Our council holds two different ones a year that are basically MB factories. We have a summer "First Class" camp designed to help the scout earn everything they need for First Class and we have a summer "Baden-Powell Merit Badge Camp" for Eagle required Merit Badges. Our district also holds a MB workshop every fall. Other local districts appear to offer the same at various times of the year.

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I would think it would have to start at the council level since camps are not usually district specific (at least not to my knowledge - we have two dedicated camps in our council that get scouts from many districts, including from other states). I am sure a district can exert some influence on a camp but such might be more productive and successful if you coordinate with other districts or the council.

 

Although I am a District commissioner, we are a small council, so as DC I am expected to weigh in on council level events as part of the Council Commissioners team.

 

I think your focus on just those activities that are outdoors (ore more accurately, non-classroom) is a great start. Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Swimming (and other water related MBs where appropriate) with the understanding that credit will be earned but that there either will be required pre-reqs or post camp work to be completed.

 

Thank you.  As we have a small council, our camp doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles that allow it to compete with some of the larger councils in the area. 

 

I still think you will be challenged by the fact that camps will still want to advertise just what a scout will accomplish as a means to recruit people from other districts, councils, and states. Our local camp was recently featured in the list of the top 20 best camps and I would bet if I were to go back and read their advertisement blurb, it probably listed the MBs one could complete while in attendance.

 

Congratulations on that achievement. 

 

On a bit of a tangent, what about the actual MB camps? Our council holds two different ones a year that are basically MB factories. We have a summer "First Class" camp designed to help the scout earn everything they need for First Class and we have a summer "Baden-Powell Merit Badge Camp" for Eagle required Merit Badges. Our district also holds a MB workshop every fall. Other local districts appear to offer the same at various times of the year.

 

Our camp offers a "Trail to First Class" program for first time campers that does the same thing.  We're also trying out other non-merit badge programs for the older scouts in life skills, such as choosing a college, or writing a resume. 

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Promoting the “out†in Scouting.

Council Camps and Merit Badges. Have we forgot we’re outdoors?

Clive S. Choat

District Commissioner, Thunderbird District, Calcasieu Area Council

 

 

This thesis will look at the merit badge process, how it is being applied at council camps, and what we can do to both enhance the merit badge process, and the outdoor camp experience. Some of the things that I am proposing is the elimination of "teaching" merit badges that can be worked in a classroom setting (such as the three citizenship merit badges, family life, emergency preparedness...) and concentrate more on those things that a camp environment can offer (swimming, camping, sailing, rowing, canoeing, wilderness survival, pioneering...). I will also suggest ways that local councils through their districts can recruit and train merit badge councilors, thus delivering the promise of the Scouting program.

This thesis does not intend to bash these council run camps, because we are aware that they are trying to provide the best program they can, given their limited budgets and resources. It is our hope that it will cast a light on several glaring issues, and point the way to possible solutions.

 

Defining the Issue

 

Summer camp—Summer camp is what many Scouts enjoy most. Camp programs provide numerous opportunities for Scouts to earn merit badges along their advancement trail. Resident camp includes at least five nights and six days of fun outdoor activities.

― The Boy Scout Outdoor Program, BSA Website

It’s well known that the outdoor adventure is the promise made to boys when they join Scouting. As leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that our Scouts get the type of program that that stirs their imagination and interests. It is in the outdoor environment that our scouts have the opportunity to obtain skills that will allow them to become more self-reliant. It is here they can explore activities such as hiking, canoeing, sailing, pioneering as well as complete challenges they may have thought to be beyond their ability. But is this the program we are giving them?

As a Commissioner, have you ever had a Scout leader come up to you and question the validity of a scout’s merit badge progress report from a summer or winter camp? Or a parent complaining that their Scout didn’t get all the badges he signed up for? It’s become normal for Scouts (and their parents) to measure success by how many merit badges they (or their son) earn, and are vocal if the scout comes back with partial completions or no badges at all. Given the cost of the camp, parents expect something tangible in return, else they feel that they have not got their monies worth. Some camps therefore, have over the years cultivated a reputation (whether deserved or not) of being “easyâ€, with requirements and completions.

Thus the ability to earn merit badges have become one of the primary reason why many Scout leaders choose one camp over another. A quick look at how the average council run summer/winter camp advertises itself based on how many different merit badges it offers, but not on the quality of its instruction or staff, or other programs that allow the scout to experience the outdoors. To meet these promises, many of these camps rely primarily on either youth staff members under the age of eighteen, or those adult unit leaders, attending camp with their troops and hastily recruited to teach a merit badge that they not only were not expecting to do or prepared for, but quite often not even familiar with the merit badge requirements or field. So although the promised “number of badges offered†is high, the quality of instruction is highly questionable.

During my research on this topic, I asked for comments on the Scouter IPS Community, a forum set up for Scout leaders to discuss various topics relating to Scouting. One comment struck me hard. “I am not paying $500 for my son to have a personal vacation. Right or wrong, I expect some kind of return on my investment. I would assume that many parents feel the same way and have not been told how merit badges work so that leads to disappointment and frustration.†(The $500 dollar price tag included transportation costs) So is the message we are sending about what the purpose of camp is wrong?

 

The Merit Badge Program

 

As Commissioners, let’s ask ourselves these questions. Do merit badges exist simply for the purpose of providing scouts the opportunity to learn skills? Is correctly utilizing the merit badge program important to a scout’s advancement? Can a large group of scouts really earn Eagle required merit badges in a classroom environment in three or four 50 minute sessions? Do Scouts benefit if they simply show up, do nothing and are awarded the badge? What merit badges should and should not be offered at council run summer and winter camps?

Before we explore each of these questions, let’s remember that as Commissioners, we are the guardians of the Scouting program. As such, one of our responsibilities is that we are charged to see that the program is being delivered as directed by the guidelines and policies set forth by the national headquarters. One of the keys to this program is Guide to Advancement which defines the merit badge program.

 

“Earning merit badges should be Scout initiated, Scout researched, and Scout learned. It should be hands-on and interactive, and should not be modeled after a typical school classroom setting. Instead, it is meant to be an active program so enticing to young men that they will want to take responsibility for their own full participation.â€

― 7.0.3.0. The Process of Counseling

 

The merit badge process was designed to give scouts the opportunity to get out into the community and meet with adults who in turn could mentor them on topics of interest to the boy. It is designed to give the Scout the confidence achieved through overcoming obstacles, improve their social skills and develop self-reliance and allows the scout to explore fields of study and interest outside of the school classroom. The process starts with the scout showing an interest in a merit badge subject and discussing this with his Scoutmaster or designated assistant. The Scout is connected to a counselor, who has registered with the BSA and has demonstrated knowledges and experience in the field the badge covers. The merit badge counselor acts as a coach, assisting the Scout in completing the requirements to earn the badge. While merit badge counselors are permitted to guide and instruct a Scout on the subject matter, the Scout must do the work himself.

When one counselor works directly with one Scout and his buddy, or with a very small group, personal coaching and guidance can be achieved. This why the recommended best practice as stated in the national guidelines is the small-scale approach for merit badge instruction and requirement fulfillment. Large group instruction, while perhaps efficient, doesn’t provide the desired results when it comes to both learning and positive adult association that the merit badge program intends. This is why it is important that districts and councils should focus on providing trained, qualified merit badge counselors for as many subjects as possible, and made available to the Scouts.

Sadly, many scouts, instead of getting blue cards from their scoutmasters and seeking out merit badge councilors, are earning all or the bulk of their badges in a council sponsored camp environment. In doing so, we have allowed the merit badge process, and in turn, the advancement process to be watered down, and have turned our summer and winter camps into factories, with the main goal to have the boys earn as many merit badges as possible. This has led to a detrition of the merit badge program as quantity of badges offered takes priority over quality of instruction, and detracts from the outdoor experience.

 

“In Boy Scouting, advancement requirements must be passed as written. If, for example, a requirement uses words like "show," "demonstrate," or "discuss," then that is what Scouts must do. Filling out a worksheet, for example, would not suffice. “

― 4.2.0.1 Scouting Ranks and Advancement Age Requirements

 

Camp Directors will point out that 7.0.3.2 in the Guide to Advancement allows group Instruction. And while it may be true that BSA deems it to be acceptable, and that under certain circumstances even appropriate that merit badges be taught in group settings, every Scout in attendance must “actually and personally†have completed the requirements, as spelled out by the merit badge. If the requirement states that the Scout must “show,†“demonstrate,†or “discuss,†then every Scout must do that. The Guide goes even further, clearly stating that “It is unacceptable to award badges on the basis of sitting in classrooms watching demonstrations, or remaining silent during discussions.†(The Merit Badge Program, BSA National Website, 2017) And yet we find in many council camps, groups of 20 or more Scouts are taking Eagle required merit badges such as Citizenship in the Community, Nation or World.

The expectation that badges such as these can be completed and earned in a group that large over a short period of time (3 to 4 fifty minute classes) is stretching the bounds of possibility, considering the fact that if conducted to standard, of the eight requirements, each scout would have to “discuss†four requirements, “explain†one, “show†one and “tell†two. Yet somehow, scouts are returning home with completed Citizenship in the Nation merit badges. Adjustments, compromises and exceptions have had to have been made to allow every Scout to “complete†the requirements to earn the badge. Add to this mix, one counselor (who may or may not be underage, or inexperienced in the subject) can be found running several classes each day, and there is no way to know if a Scout actually actively participated, or just showed up.

National guidelines clearly spell out that “The same qualifications and rules for merit badge counselors apply to council summer camp merit badge programs. All merit badge counselors must be at least 18 years of age. Camp staff members under age 18 may assist with instruction but cannot serve in the role of the merit badge counselor.†(The Merit Badge Program, BSA National Website). This means that those staffers serving as merit badge counselors must be registered in Scouting, and both knowledgeable and qualified in the subject that they are hired to instruct to sign off on merit badges. It puts the onus on the Camp Director to certify that these standards are met, and that all badges were earned in compliance with the Guide to Advancement.

However, the Camp Director is limited by many factors, the most pressing of these is money. In order to keep costs within the limited budget set forth by the council, the Director is limited to just how many staffers he or she can hire, and how much they can offer to pay them. Coupled with a need to offer as many merit badges as possible, this means that hiring an all adult staff, qualified in the various badges offered is an unobtainable goal. Instead, the pot is spread by hiring youth members, and assigning them as merit badge councilors for several different badges. In addition, pleas are made for the adult leaders attending camp with their units to assist by teaching merit badge classes that the director could not fill.

 

Restoring the Merit Badge Process in a Council

 

So how do we fix these issues? I suggest a two pronged approach to this issue. First, restore the credibility of the merit badge program by requiring that Scouts complete the requirements as written, and second review the merit badges that a camp should be offering, tailoring them to accentuate the facilities the camp can offer, and in turn, returning them to providing a great outdoor experience.

To restore the credibility of the merit badge program, we must first look to recruit qualified merit badge councilors. While this may be the responsibility of the District or council advancement committees, (who are, by their nature, charged with the recruiting and training sufficient counselors in order to meet their unit’s needs) we as Commissioners must always be on the lookout for individuals that can serve.

An already present resource in the councils are their registered adult leaders. Scoutmasters and assistant scoutmasters should be encouraged to sign up as merit badge counselors, taking on one to three badges of subjects that they are both qualified and comfortable. Unit Commissioners should work with the Scoutmasters to identify other unit level leaders and parents, who might also be interested to serve. From both of these sources, a master list should then be compiled for Scoutmasters to refer to when a Scout is ready to pursue a merit badge.

District and Council Commissioners can network with those who belong to the same civic groups as they do, such as the American Legion, the Lion’s Club, Shriners, PTA, etc. By doing so, we can gather names of people who may be qualified to serve, and pass them along to the advancement committee for follow-up. In addition, we can help ensure that these individuals are fully supported by conducting both Youth Protection and the Merit Badge Counselor training.

 

Suggestions for Improving the Camp Experience

 

Camp. The word as defined by Webster’s is “a place usually in the country for recreation or instruction often during the summer, a program offering access to recreational or educational facilities for a limited period of time, such as a resort offering boating and hiking campsâ€. For the purpose of this paper, I will be breaking out the three types of camps currently run by the BSA, these being High Adventure, Traditional and Combination, but will concentrate on the Traditional.

At the pinnacle of Scouting’s camps lies the High Adventure Camp. (HAC) These camps offer specialized, unique scouting opportunities such as back country backpacking expeditions, sailing and scuba diving, wilderness canoe excursions, Philmont Scout Reservation, Florida National High Adventure Sea Base, Northern Tier and the Summit Scout Reserve are the best known of these, with Swamp Base in Louisiana and Sea Scout Base-Galveston two local examples.

A combination camp offers scout units the choice of either the traditional camp experience, or a specialized program. One such example of this would be the Sid Richardson Reservation, run by the Longhorn Council in Texas. This camp offers the troops Scouts to either participate in a traditional summer camp experience (earning merit badges) or in a series of high adventure activities that do not lead to merit badges, where the Scouts immerse themselves in various historical periods where the can experience life as a Texas Ranger, Civil War soldier, UFO hunter, and other fun activities.

This brings us to the Traditional Camp experience. When one thinks about the traditional view of a Boy Scout summer camp, the mind congers an image of a woody place with hiking, canoeing, and campfires. But today, many of our council camps have changed this view with a greater emphasis on offering as many merit badges as possible. This is largely to counter a trend in decreasing enrollment in summer camps, due to competition from other council camps as well as non-scouting venues.

But you say, “Don’t the Scouts want to earn merit badges?†Yes, in a sense they do, and because of this, the camp has become almost an extension of school. Instead of taking time to just relax and enjoy nature, our scouts are regimented into a schedule of six to eight periods of instruction of fifty minutes each with 10 minutes to move from class to class. Many of the badges offered are neither nature or outdoors related at all, and are all but impossible to complete in the allotted time, and the subjects being taught could have just as easily been done at the Scouts normal meeting places or in his community. While some camps take time off from this schedule to offer inter-camp activities, these are usually poorly attended by the units, as the boys tend to use this “free time†to do the things that they really want to do.

So what is a cash strapped Camp Director to do? First, take stock of what your camp has to really offer a Scout, in order to get the most out of his outdoor experience. The Scout is your customer. Your job is to give the customer good service and value for his money. A summer camp environment should allow the Scout to learn new outdoor skills in a safe and nurturing environment. What merit badges can you offer that a Scout that fits your camp environment? With the facilities you have? What special activities can you offer that will set your camp apart and make scouts want to return year after year? Is it more important to offer fewer Scouts a great experience, or cram in as many Scouts as possible, with multiple meal times and packed classes to maximize profit? If you can offer fun, you will get return business.

If you’re going to offer merit badges, limit them to those badges with connections to the outdoors. Remember this rule, if they can earn it at home, then why are they coming to your camp? Take the time to ensure that your councilors are trained in the subjects that they will be instructing. If the trainer doesn’t know what he or she is teaching, the Scout’s will quickly see through the bluster and take advantage of the trainer’s weakness. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling as if you’re wasting your time. Keep the class size small. This is especially true for those classes being led by youth staffers, who should already have experience managing a patrol size element, but will be overwhelmed with a large group. If a class proves to be popular, offer multiple classes at the same time with separate instructors, instead of adding more Scouts to the class. The key is that Scouts learn better in small groups.

Schedule classes in the morning, and offer open sessions in the afternoon, where scouts can practice the skills they learned. It is one thing to have a formal class in rowing, let them check out a boat and row on their own. Encourage patrols to organize a hike, work on a gateway for their campsite. Instead of a dinner hall prepared dinner, set up an open charcoal pit and allow the Scouts to make their own tin foil dinner one night, or issue them a grub box and have them prepare their meal in their campsite.

Offer activities for the adult leaders. Don’t look at them as extra staffers to plug your staffing holes, but as customers as well. This is where your Camp Commissioner (CC) comes in. He or she is the go to person that these leaders will approach if any issues come up, freeing up the Camp director to take care of other activities. The CC should be responsible to provide activities to keep these individuals occupied, such as training opportunities and fun activities throughout the day. One of the best ways is for the CC to have a Scoutmaster Merit Badge program, where the unit leaders participate in various activities such as judges for contests, helpers at the ranges, cooking skills demonstrations, training participation, etc.

Or, why offer merit badges at all? Let’s take this opportunity to reinforce the patrol method. As the PLC normally decides where a troop is going to camp, let’s work on the assumption that the troop will all attend the same camp. Once there, each patrol within the troop would pick and choose from the activities offered to build their own program. Now, a New Boy Patrol can concentrate on Scout thru First Class outdoor requirements, while the venturing patrol spends its week on all water related activities.

These various Patrol activities can be offered though out the camp week. Instead of teaching the Cooking MB class, the staff can offer to do patrol sessions on various types of cooking, (Dutch oven, backpacking, propane stove) at their campsite, allowing the Scouts to prepare their own dinner meals. The waterfront area can offer Kayaking, Rowing and Canoeing, with patrols first signing up for an instructional period, then being allowed to practice what they have learned during open boating periods.

The Patrol can sign up for a pioneering class. The Scouts will arrive at the Pioneering site, and with the tools and materials at hand, receive instruction on a building a tower, camp chair or monkey bridge. Instead of a structured Nature class, a staffer can take the patrol on an observation hike, pointing out the various flora and wildlife found in the camp along the way. The idea should be that Scouts are enjoying the outdoors, not sitting in classes, completing those parts of a merit badge that cannot be done in a non-outdoor environment as they go along. Once back at home, the Patrol can work together to complete the badge.

This will require that the camp Director, and his or her Program Director will have to work to ensure that their staff is able to deliver this type of program. It will also require a fundamental shift in the idea that a successful camp is one where Scouts earn many merit badges.

 

 

 

 

 

References:

 

A Guide for Merit Badge Counseling, No. 512-065,

 

The Merit Badge Program, BSA National Website http://www.scouting.org/home/guidetoadvancement/themeritbadgeprogram.aspx#7011

Edited by cchoat

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 Our scout's first year at camp, the wife and I had never heard of prerequisites or partials.  The only badge he had earned before his first year at camp was Fingerprinting.  He crossed over and there was a real learning curve for us as parents.  There was no info from troop leadership regarding any of this.   He went to a different camp his second year and they provided more info in their paperwork.  Parents need to be aware that badges will not be completed or require additional work ahead of time in the camp literature.  I know people don't always read the paperwork but at least tell them.

 

 

Even if you tell parents multiple times, they still will not get it. We held multiple meetings, talked multiple outside of meetings etc, AND SOME PARENTS STILL DO NOT GET IT! ( emphasis)

 

We told parents before their sons joined the troop that advancement is the sons' responsibility. We will help them, but they need to do the work. We went over the process of advancement, and even the purpose of Boy Scout meetings ( instruction and skills) vs. Cub Scout meetings (advancement), and we still have parents upset their son got a partial at summer camp, or never finished a MB after 2 troop meetings and a weekend camp out. One mom even asked what is the purpose of weekend camping if they are not going to earn anything by being there. 

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Would it be more helpful if BSA told them?   BSA says one thing and promotes something else entirely.  E.G.: a "lock-in to watch videos" counts as a "weekend campout" for "Journey to Excellence [sic]"  Ditto for having Scouts in POR's vs actually having them lead ("Boy Scouting")

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My position is that camps have focused on the rewards "merit badges" rather than the experience.  The boys shouldn't come back to tell the parents that they earned X merit badge.  They should come back talking about what activities or experiences they did.  When I think about camps that I went to as a youth it is the experiences I remember.

 

And in my experience, most merit badges at camp are given because they are present rather than earning them.  Not all, but most.

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I like the changes. Perhaps something more about the youth that teach at camps being not qualified to be MBC but perhaps still OK or qualified to teach the material - but still requiring the material to be “explain†one, “show†one and “tell†two back with the Patrol or Troop with a certified MBC.

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I think camps can step it up one more notch by reinforcing 1st class skills.

 

So, like the swimming requirement that must be done every year before starting in on an acquatics MB, each year ...

The five scouting knots must be tied before qualifying to take scout craft.

Tool sharpening before qualifying for handicraft.

Rights and responsibilities before qualifying for shooting sports.

Identify 10 animals/plants for nature badges.

Etc ...

 

Basically, any MB being offered should only be done so after a scout demonstrates skills related to that badge.

 

That might be one way to reduce class size - meanwhile ensuring that students arrive prepared to learn.

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Furthermore, providing an adult training "intro to merit badge counseling" at camp might help new parents "raise the bar" for their camp and their kids.

 

Leveraging volunteers residing at camp who are "tried and true" MBCs is also helpful. Camp staff can introduce the volunteer as a "guest counselor" for the week.

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Anyway, I can understand that spending $500 dollars with nothing to show in return is a hard sell.  But "earning" merit badges at a camp simply for showing up and attending the classes, or worse, being instructed by a youth in a merit badge that he may have little knowledge of (reading from the MB book) or having the Scout not want to go back because he can go to school for free isn't worth $500 dollars in my opinion either. 

 

I know that this may be tilting at windmills, but I would at least like to try and improve the camp experience for Scouts. I am using the Patrol as it is a good way to size a class, as most patrols are from 6 to 8 young men.

 

I agree.  So from my perspective as a parent, someone would need to find a way to convince me that this is a better choice.  I think someone would also need a way to sell the changes to scout masters that are advancement oriented.  Maybe this is jumping ahead with regards to your thesis but even if you could snap your fingers and change summer camp tomorrow, wouldn't these people I've mentioned just go to a different one?  Just because it's a good idea to many people doesn't mean that it would be effective.  You could end up with nothing but lower summer camp attendance.  I think there has to be an effort to change and inform peoples perspectives along with any summer camp changes.  Maybe I'm wrong and there aren't as many advancement goal oriented parents and leaders as I suspect.

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I don't want to de-rail the thread and what cchoat is hoping to accomplish.  This is mostly rhetorical.

 

Why do they call it summer camp?  How boring is that?  If we have High Adventure camps, why wouldn't summer camp be Adventure Camp?  Sounds more fun to me.

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I don't want to de-rail the thread and what cchoat is hoping to accomplish.  This is mostly rhetorical.

 

Why do they call it summer camp?  How boring is that?  If we have High Adventure camps, why wouldn't summer camp be Adventure Camp?  Sounds more fun to me.

"High Adventure" is a niche market. Also, from the perspective of parents of 11 year olds, it sounds like those places you hear about on the news where kids die attempting ridiculous feats. Now, senior scouts do look for trek-type components. So, we need to market those ... along with brutally honest safety records for parents ... to scouts who feel they've accomplished summer camp, but let's not call summer camp "high adventure." It's not. Nor should it ever be.

 

Summer camp is still a big deal in Western PA. City papers have full pull-out sections advertising them in their spring issues. My Floridian contacts are all about winter camp. It's the category most parents are looking for.

 

And MB's are a totem in their own right. Heck, at a particularly slow traffic light, a popular camp (endowed by the estate of a pickle packer) had one billboard depict four MB-like medallions. (I know for a fact that they don't even award badges!) My neighborhood's most famous baristia-turned-humble-barber and his wife bought matching traveling jackets on which to sew patches from their visits to national parks. Yes they are in the Jr. Ranger Program. Shake your head all you want and mutter "steel-town hipsters", but this guy started three successful small business in his life, selling each on its upswing. If a guy like that wants little pieces of cloth in exchange for spending a few days someplace beautiful and picking up skill or knowledge along the way, why wouldn't a kid?

 

So, lets not blame the parents. Scouts want these benchmarks too -- nearly anybody would. That means we all are stuck striking the balance between making sure a variety of awards are available through summer camp and making sure that scouts come by every award they get honestly.

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I am not sure I understand the parent perspective of "paying good money with nothing to show for it".

 

Here is why I am confused. Let's say parents and Scouts have 2 options:

 

Option A is Boy Scout Summer Camp

Option B is a non-scout summer camp.

 

If Scout Camp ceases to be a merit badge factory the claim is they don't want to spend good money and not get advancement so instead they will go to a non scout camp. Why choose a non-scout camp where there is nothing to show for it?

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