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mashmaster

Interesting discussion last night

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By way of example ...

Cooking: if a boy wants to rally his patrol and cook up supper during the meeting, I'm all for it. Did it before, tasted good, I'll gladly come back to the trough. The boys also did a great job cleaning up the kitchen.

If somebody thinks the boys deserve some kind of teaching on all the ways they can poison their food, I'll spit nails and tell them to offer the lecture on another evening/weekend. Will put a sign-up list for it right next to the one for Klondike derby.

I might change my tune if the session microscopes and specimens, or maybe a visit to the hospital to cheer up victims of an E. coli outbreak ...

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When I was about a year into Boy Scouts, I attended a Merit Badge day sponsored by the local NESA chapter.  I remember it fondly, actually, because I earned the Engineering MB with some professors from Georgia Tech.  Though, I also remember having those Andy Capp's hot fries for the first time and reading the lyrics to Whitney Houston's hot jam..."I believe that children are our future..." on the wall of the gymnasium where the event was held. :D

I guess like anything, MB clinics/colleges/fairs are what you make of them.

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We had a mom asking about MBUs, especially since some were being advertised. Both the SM and I told our stories on why we discourage them: folks are generally given the MB.  She kept going on and on about MBUs, and we both kept telling how locally they giveaways.

She didn't see a problem with that.

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I'm generally skeptical about them as well, but my oldest is interested in going to an out-of-council one because my nephews are going (it's in their council). Only a few hours drive and he'd get to hang with his cousins, meet some other Scouts, and camp in a patrol with some new guys (yeah, an overnighter MBC, who knew?). I don't know that he's all that interested in the offerings to be honest. So if it's a more a camporee than an easy patch grab, I'm inclined to let him go. I think a lot of it has to do with context, the topics, setting, and quality of instruction. The last being the biggest x factor.

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Our Troop does not offer Merit Badges as part of the troop meeting. We have tried it, it is boring and a logistics problem. (What do the Scouts who already have the badge do?)

Scouts, buddies, or patrols can work on a badge during our Troop Meeting if they'd like, or schedule time before the meeting to meet with the MBC. 

Warning rant ahead:

Many of our Scouts do the local merit badge college. I no longer counsel merit badges at merit badge colleges, because frankly, the pass rates for the badge I counseled (Communications) was abysmal, and I have more entertaining things to do on three Saturday mornings than having scouts sit in my merit badge class and come out with partials because they don't do the prework or prepare the presentations they need for the badge. Badges should be a individual or small group thing. Rant over. 

Some badges and counselors do well in the Merit badge college format, but I finding it lacking vs a buddy pair of scouts working with a counselor. 

Edited by Sentinel947
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6 minutes ago, Sentinel947 said:

Our Troop does not offer Merit Badges as part of the troop meeting. We have tried it, it is boring and a logistics problem. (What do the Scouts who already have the badge do?)

Scouts, buddies, or patrols can work on a badge during our Troop Meeting if they'd like, or schedule time before the meeting to meet with the MBC. 

Warning rant ahead:

Many of our Scouts do the local merit badge college. I no longer counsel merit badges at merit badge colleges, because frankly, the pass rates for the badge I counseled (Communications) was abysmal, and I have more entertaining things to do on three Saturday mornings than having scouts sit in my merit badge class and come out with partials because they don't do the prework or prepare the presentations they need for the badge. Badges should be a individual or small group thing. Rant over. 

Some badges and counselors do well in the Merit badge college format, but I finding it lacking vs a buddy pair of scouts working with a counselor. 

I commend you for not just passing them.  I have seen so many just pass everyone.  That frustrates me.

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Just now, mashmaster said:

I commend you for not just passing them.  I have seen so many just pass everyone.  That frustrates me.

The mediocrity was astounding. The last year I volunteered, I had around 25 Scouts. I think 4 of them completed the badge. There was prework, req 5. Communications requires them to come up with some presentations or speeches for requirements 3 and 6. that they probably needed to complete outside of class time. Those were the requirements the Scouts did not complete. Since there were so few presentations they even had time in the class to work on them, but again, 4 of 25. The few that did give speeches and the develop and teach a skill req did wonderful stuff. However, I left that final session vowing to never "teach" merit badges at one of those events again. So far I haven't broken it. 

I did teach Rifle Shooting merit badge when I worked at the local scout camp. I had something close to a 95% pass rate. None of the Scouts who got incomplete badges had it because they couldn't shoot, but because they would skip a day. I'd let them know they could come down during open shoot and finish whatever they missed, but they almost never took me up on it. Only one who did was a boy who left camp because he was sick. Something about leading horses to water right?

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We rotate through a few of the Eagle required with some specific classes outside the meetings every couple of years.  Cit in the Community, Personal Management, Family Life.  Scouts do most of the work outside the class.  Class is really a time to check on how they are are doing, what needs to be done. Each MB has some specific instruction needed.  Just coming to the classes will not earn the MB.  They have to do and present the work, do the time period tracking etc.

As noted if scouts are active there are multiple opportunities for advancement. 

 

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8 hours ago, mashmaster said:

So, last night we had our committee meeting.  And there was a long discussion about how come the scouts aren't getting more merit badges.  Why aren't we doing merit badges at meetings, cover the 11 Eagle MBs every year during the meetings.  I seemed to be the only one that got the fact that getting merit badges and ranks are not the primary point of scouting.  That most of the time, the parents care far more about them than the boys.  If the boys want to earn merit badges they can but being active and having fun it the most important part.  

Do you run merit badges at your troop meetings?

No.  Only two troop meetings a month and four patrol meetings.  MBs follow strictly from a Scout's interest in the topic.

 

From time to time, we do have presentations that are about MB topics, such as one on wilderness survival.  But the presentation was requested by the PLC to help get ready for a wilderness survival weekend that the PLC had planned. It also led into patrol competition that meeting.  It did stimulate some MB interest for a few Scouts, but that was coincidental, and it was up to them to follow up with a Merit Badge Counselor.

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We have a number of parents who teach classes.  Some of those meet before the troop meeting, some at a time convenient to all.   Most meet every couple of weeks for a couple of months.  This has worked really well - we normally have 8-10 such classes a year.

I think the key for us is that we almost never teach merit badges at a troop meeting.  

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6 hours ago, ParkMan said:

We have a number of parents who teach classes.  Some of those meet before the troop meeting, some at a time convenient to all.   Most meet every couple of weeks for a couple of months.  This has worked really well - we normally have 8-10 such classes a year.

I think the key for us is that we almost never teach merit badges at a troop meeting.  

Personally, as a current youth, don’t believe that I would learn communication skills by earning 8-10 of 21 merit badges for eagle from people I know. Yes it’s done outside a meeting, but it’s with a familiar face. 

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19 hours ago, mashmaster said:

Do you run merit badges at your troop meetings?

UGH yes for now and seem to be the focal point for now.  For the most part its leaderships fault for allowing a pushy mom to "run the show" slowly working my way in to work this behavior out. 

 

I have no issue with doing a MB and here is the formula that I have seen work.  MB covers 3 months, 1 meeting a month focuses on said MB. 

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When it turns into a class every scout meeting the Troop goes downhill fast. My troop seems to cycle into this pattern over and over. Best time we did was trying to pair up some merit badges that helped you had skills (backpacking, canoeing, geo-caching) into future campouts...then it seemed like their was a purpose and not just getting a check off. But you can't do it more often.

We had some luck running a few Merit Badges before the meeting and on Saturdays but eventually they bled into the regular meeting.

The latest push is by accomplish driven Scouts who feel like playing a game at a meeting or showing up and not getting an advancement or merit badge ticked off is a waste of time. So we have boring, boring, boring meetings with speaker after speaker relating to merit badges...we might as well give them chicken diners and make it a Rotary meeting! Funny, like others have observed it doesn't really result in many more merit badges, but since it is youth led and was their idea the Scoutmaster is letting them pilot this flaming zeppelin right into the ground. Painful to watch.

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59 minutes ago, Tampa Turtle said:

The latest push is by accomplish driven Scouts who feel like playing a game at a meeting or showing up and not getting an advancement or merit badge ticked off is a waste of time.

And what exactly is wrong with that? The boys are communicating what is important to them. Is there something "unScout-like" about working on advancement and merit badges during their meetings?

 

1 hour ago, Tampa Turtle said:

So we have boring, boring, boring meetings with speaker after speaker relating to merit badges.

If the boys are voting for it, apparently they don't think it is a boring waste of time. Are you saying the program should be more adult-driven so that the adults won't get bored at the meetings?

 

59 minutes ago, Tampa Turtle said:

... since it is youth led and was their idea the Scoutmaster is letting them pilot this flaming zeppelin right into the ground.

You seem to disapprove of the Scoutmaster's decision. Do you think he should overrule the desire of his Scouts to work on merit badges during their meetings?

 

1 hour ago, Tampa Turtle said:

When it turns into a class every scout meeting the Troop goes downhill fast.

In my experience, a troop goes downhill fast when it ignores what the boys want to do. They lose interest when they think the adult leaders are overruling their decisions.

 

49 minutes ago, Tampa Turtle said:

we might as well give them chicken diners and make it a Rotary meeting! ... Painful to watch.

It is also painful to watch an adult leader denigrate the choices made in a boy-led Scouting program because they don't conform to his particular vision.

 

@Tampa Turtle I apologize if my comments come across as harsh. Because this forum focuses so much on having a boy-led Scouting program, I just think it is important to respect their decisions if they are voting for merit badge classes.

The Scouts in our troop have also voted to occasionally use meetings for Eagle-required merit badge classes (3 or 4 merit badges per year). If advancement is important to them, why would I overrule their choice?

My observation is that when we hold merit badge classes, attendance is always high. When we have other game activities, no-shows are frequent. Frankly, when there is a mountain of homework waiting for them, playing a game at a troop meeting is indeed sometimes a waste of time when evaluating competing priorities.

As an aside, I spent some time researching an amazing new camping destination here in California perched on cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Reviewers claim it is one of the most scenic campsites in the world, and reservations are snatched up within seconds. In spite of my enthusiasm, that destination did not garner enough votes from the boys to make the cut in 2018 so I had to shrug it off. Instead, we are going camping to some other destinations that will earn them segments in a progressive patch program, because that is what is important to them. In a boy-led Scouting program, sometimes we adult Scouters don't always get what we want. This is as it should be.

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This is why constructive evaluation is important.  The leaders need to discover the problem(s), if any,  not have that conclusion dictated by adults.

Tactically-sound questions  - not statements - by the SM can lead to that discovery, because, being human, the leaders may be pleased but the ran-and-file not so happy.

Evaluation, by whatever name, was and is one of the leadership skills taught by BSA for at least the last forty-five years.

 

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