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23 minutes ago, gblotter said:

AdvanceCamp was yesterday, so I'm reporting back on the experience.

The quality of merit badge classes varied widely. Some were very well-organized. For example, the Emergency Preparedness merit badge had boys moving between different stations to learn and demonstrate skills. The Trail-to-First-Class program was excellent, too, with many stations staffed by skilled volunteers (including older Scouts instructing younger Scouts). Those experiences were better than anything we could generate at the troop level - raves and praise all around.

I’m not judging your troops choice to experiment with Advancecamp, on the contrary, I applaud the effort to look for quality program activities.

That being said, what can camp provide that your troop can’t? Could this be a learning experience?

Barry

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7 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

That being said, what can camp provide that your troop can’t?

We are a small troop of just 30 Scouts. I think we do a great job with the limited resources available to us, but our talent pool reflects the size of our troop. Taking advantage of a much larger talent pool at AdvanceCamp gave us exposure to some expertise we simply don't have in-house.

Sure - we can always "wing it" if needed, but it's inspiring to learn from true experts in the subject matter.

Edited by gblotter

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Just now, gblotter said:

We are a small troop of just 30 Scouts. I think we do a great job with the limited resources available to us, but out talent pool reflects the size of our troop. Taking advantage of a much larger talent pool at AdvanceCamp gave us exposure to some expertise we simply don't have in-house.

Sure - we can always "wing it" if needed, but it's inspiring to learn from true experts in the subject matter.

Ok, that wasn’t the question. But let’s be careful, 30 is reasonable  size troop program for doing advancement within the program. Many of us have led programs of around 30 Scouts without having to “wing it”, as you say. 

What I asked and was really leading to is, did your troop learn anything to improve your troop program.

I don’t think a single troop that improved their program didn’t learn some of the improvements from outside troop activities. 

Barry

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2 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

Many of us have led programs of around 30 Scouts without having to “wing it”, as you say.

Congratulations on being superior.

2 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

What I asked and was really leading to is, did your troop learn anything to improve your troop program.

Sure - I always take away tips and tricks whenever I can.

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7 hours ago, gblotter said:

Congratulations on being superior.

Sure - I always take away tips and tricks whenever I can.

I think what Barry is hinting at is did you shortchange your youth leadership of teaching opportunities and character development in favor of learning from "true experts"? Scouts may want to get the knowledge without having to teach it themselves, but since Scoutcraft and skills instruction aren't actually one of the Aims of Scouting, having them teach it to their troopmates is a better way of encouraging their personal development, even if they miss things an expert would know. In the same vein, did the scouts in the troop learn ideas they can use to improve their own ways of teaching, or will the next crop of Scouts be expected to "go learn from the true experts"?

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On the topic of troop size, I'd ask a very different question.

  • question: What limitation do you feel you face in your troop?
  • follow up to others: How do you address the kind of limitation in your troop.

On the topic of size - we all see size differently.  Rather than saying 30 is too big, too small, or just right, I think I'd be most interested in learning of ways different troops addressed the challenge.

BTW - We attend local merit badge colleges.  AdvanceCamp sounds like a really big MBC.  If we had something similar locally, we'd probably send a group.  If a Scout if going to earn 40-50 merit badges in his time in Scouting, I think II'd be OK having a few show up and get it opportunities.

 

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17 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

BTW - We attend local merit badge colleges.  AdvanceCamp sounds like a really big MBC.  If we had something similar locally, we'd probably send a group.  If a Scout if going to earn 40-50 merit badges in his time in Scouting, I think II'd be OK having a few show up and get it opportunities.

All depends on how MB Colleges and Advancecamps are used. If the Scouts used the programs as an additional resource for their personal advancement, great. But if they are used as planned part of the troop advancement program, then it can cause problems. Our troop never sent a group, we gave the information to the Scouts and left it up to them. 

Also, District and Council programs that cut corners or don’t follow the published policies set a bad example for troop programs. Our MB College doesn’t ask the scout to get a blue card or SM signature before meeting the MB Counselor. We found that 50% of the troops in our district didn’t even know the scout is supposed to contact the counselor to discuss the details of the meetings or that the SM signs the blue card (white card in our Council) before the scout meets the counselor. This all traced back to our MB College and summer camp. We readjusted the misunderstanding in training. 

Barry

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1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

Our troop never sent a group, we gave the information to the Scouts and left it up to them.

That is how our troop typically approaches merit badge colleges - we'll advertise the event and let Scouts sign up individually if they want.

However, for AdvanceCamp they require troops to sign up as a group. Individual registrations are not allowed. Because we had a group of 15 interested in attending, it morphed into a troop activity even though that wasn't our original intention.

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Not trying to come off as " being superior" here, but our troop doesn't advertise or even mention merit badge mills colleges.   Every one in our area seem has seemed much more concerned with handing out the maximum number of badges than actually teaching the scouts. In some cases the badge was awarded with only about half of the requirements  completed.  If a scout wants to go on his own he can, and no one will say anything negative about it.   But I'm not going to help him use cheat codes.

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3 hours ago, LVAllen said:

I think what Barry is hinting at is did you shortchange your youth leadership of teaching opportunities and character development in favor of learning from "true experts"?

These are the AdvanceCamp examples I had in my head.

Second Class requirement #4: Identify or show evidence of at least 10 kinds of wild animals (such as birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, or mollusks) found in your local area or camping location.

AdvanceCamp had recruited someone from a local natural history museum who brought with him museum display cases of taxidermied animals which are present in the local environment. It was super impressive - no way our troop could come close to reproducing that.

First Class requirement #5a: Identify or show evidence of at least 10 kinds of native plants found in your local area or campsite location.

AdvanceCamp had recruited a botanist who provided samples and detailed descriptions of local plant life. It is hard to match the expertise of a trained botanist.

Their presentations were fascinating, and I don't consider our boys shortchanged in any way because they learned from true experts.

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2 minutes ago, Oldscout448 said:

But I'm not going to help him use cheat codes.

Attending a council-sponsored event to earn merit badges is somehow cheating? Interesting interpretation. Are merit badge classes at BSA Scout camps also cheating?

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I can see mb classes as cheating if the boys do not complete the requirements. This happens a lot and most of the time at council or district events and camps. A boy just sitting through a presentation does not "do", "explain", "identify", "discuss", etc... as the requirement states. There just usually isn't enough time for the mb counselor to test each individual scout.

For rank advancement reqs, I encourage the boys to use activities like museum visits as a means to gain information and knowledge and then seek out an older scout to "test" them. Or have testing phase built in to the timeline of the weekend by the PL. My point is the testing phase is different from the learning phase.

Edited by DuctTape

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5 hours ago, DuctTape said:

I can see mb classes as cheating if the boys do not complete the requirements. This happens a lot and most of the time at council or district events and camps. A boy just sitting through a presentation does not "do", "explain", "identify", "discuss", etc... as the requirement states. There just usually isn't enough time for the mb counselor to test each individual scout.

For rank advancement reqs, I encourage the boys to use activities like museum visits as a means to gain information and knowledge and then seek out an older scout to "test" them. Or have testing phase built in to the timeline of the weekend by the PL. My point is the testing phase is different from the learning phase.

That's my biggest concern with this format of merit badges - quality of learning by the Scouts and engagement with the counselor.  

I just think this is bad delivery by the staff of these events when it happens.  I know it's very hard to recruit counsellors/instructors for these.  I suspect that in many cases - they get the best instructors they can and hope it works out.  

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4 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

That's my biggest concern with this format of merit badges - quality of learning by the Scouts and engagement with the counselor.  

I just think this is bad delivery by the staff of these events when it happens.  I know it's very hard to recruit counsellors/instructors for these.  I suspect that in many cases - they get the best instructors they can and hope it works out.  

The problem is the motivation of raising numbers and instead of adding opportunities for growth. When a scout follows the guidelines of the MB process, he is required to communicate with several adults before he even meets the counselor. He has to inquire of details and record some of the details on paperwork that has to be submitted to another adult for approval. All those actions require scouts to make decisions and process information. MB courses and summer camp take almost all of that away from the scout.

To makes it worse, our district requires scouts to attend the MB College all day for 8 hours. So even if the scout wanted to take one class, he was stuck for eight hours. I found that appalling and complained. The reasoning is the staff didn't want to be responsible for tracking scouts coming and going. Once in their are in until time is up and all could leave.

MC Colleges and similar programs take the character growth out of the advancement process. They can be made to encourage character growth by following the BSA advancement guidelines, but most don't do it because scout growth isn't the motivation. Change the motivation and these programs will improve the quality of learning.

By the way, I did that and was told to go away.

Barry

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