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Scout to Merit Badge Counselor Ratio

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Is there a policy or recommendation of scouts to merit badge counselor ratio?  If so, could you please direct me to where I can find it?

 

Thanks,

Scotty

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2 Scouts (or 1 Scout and a buddy) meeting with 1 counselor. 

Source: explanation given to Scouts, found in Boy Scout Handbook, for earning a merit badge.

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Should state that this is the minimum. I don't think there is a maximum recommendation. I've always held that the more you have, the quality starts to fall. Some scouts are doing great, others are doing their best to skate. 

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Suggest a review of the Barriers to Abuse as two scouts with a counselor is no longer acceptable - https://www.scouting.org/health-and-safety/gss/gss01/#a 

Adult Supervision

Two registered adult leaders 21 years of age or over are required at all Scouting activities, including meetings. There must be a registered female adult leader 21 years of age or over in every unit serving females. A registered female adult leader 21 years of age or over must be present for any activity involving female youth. Notwithstanding the minimum leader requirements, age- and program-appropriate supervision must always be provided. (FAQ’s)

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1 hour ago, Buggie said:

Should state that this is the minimum. I don't think there is a maximum recommendation. I've always held that the more you have, the quality starts to fall. Some scouts are doing great, others are doing their best to skate. 

The Boy Scout Handbook says nothing about "register for a merit badge class" or "participate in a merit badge workshop." Neither does the Troop Leader Guide. Both say for the Scout to contact the MB counselor, and that the Scout must have a buddy whenever they meet with the counselor. The Troop Leader Guide says

"The Scout sets up and—along with another Scout, a relative, or a friend—attends his first appointment with the merit badge counselor."

From that, it seems to me that the recommended program is one or two scouts meeting with a counselor. If one scout meets, he/she brings along someone else, although that person need not be a scout.

Edited by LVAllen

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55 minutes ago, RichardB said:

Suggest a review of the Barriers to Abuse as two scouts with a counselor is no longer acceptable - https://www.scouting.org/health-and-safety/gss/gss01/#a 

Adult Supervision

Two registered adult leaders 21 years of age or over are required at all Scouting activities, including meetings. There must be a registered female adult leader 21 years of age or over in every unit serving females. A registered female adult leader 21 years of age or over must be present for any activity involving female youth. Notwithstanding the minimum leader requirements, age- and program-appropriate supervision must always be provided. (FAQ’s)

From the currently posted Guide to Merit Badge Counseling:

The counselor must be sure the Scout has either another registered adult or the Scout’s parent or legal guardian present at all instructional sessions.  

51 minutes ago, LVAllen said:

The Scout sets up and—along with another Scout, a relative, or a friend—attends his first appointment with the merit badge counselor."

This is from the handbook, but is superseded by the changes made last fall requiring 2 registered adults over the age of 21 (so much for those 18 - 20 year old ASM's) at any Scouting activity.  From the extensive reading I did after this change was announced, it appear that having the Scout's parent or guardian present is the only exception to that second adult being registered.

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There are three issues at play.

The first is how many scouts can meet with a merit badge counselor at once?

  • For many meetings the, ideal would be two. This is because
    • for many badges (e.g., 1st aid, lifesaving) the scout needs a buddy with/on whom to demonstrate skills.
    • more than two, and there might be too many interruptions to teach the class well.
    • even if the material could be taught 1-on-1 ...
      • Anything is more fun with a friend.
      • Even if the scout has no interest in earning the badge, he can learn something from observing.
      • The second scout may have an idea that the counselor and scout haven't thought considered.
  • For some meetings for some requirements, however, it's better to have a patrol of scouts.
    • For example, a counselor might set up a fishing day where scouts can work on requirements over a 4-6 hour period.
    • In that time, scouts can be fishing when they aren't checking in with the counselor to demonstrating a skill.
    • Accompanying adults can help set up lunch or keep the counselor's coffee mug full.
  • A classroom situation is largely discouraged because nobody really knows the maximum number before quality of learning degrades. It depends on the scouts and the counselor.

The second is how many other adults need to be present before BSA winds up in more legal trouble?

  • The answer is one other adult to make two in the room/field.
  • Either all youth present have brought their parents, or one other registered 21+ year old is present.
  • If even one scout is female, one adult must be 21+ year old registered female.
  • If all scouts are male, none of the registered adults/parents need to be male.
  • BSA has assured the public that it is going to these lengths to safeguard our youth.

The third is how many other adults need to be present to keep scouts free of abuse?

  • The answer is we don't know.
  • We do know that an average predator will be deterred by multiple youth sticking together.
  • An above-average predator will be deterred by another adult.
  • Somebody thinks that an above-average predator of girls will be deterred by another female adult.
  • We also know that exceptional predators will at times collaborate.
  • Nobody knows how many exceptional predators exist. Nor do they know how many adults may be willing or manipulated collaborators with them. Nor do we know how often such vile persons can find an accomplice/dupe under the auspices of the BSA.
  • We can only hope it is less often than when scouts were permitted to meet with their counselor one-on-one.
Edited by qwazse

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Thank you for the input and insight.  The impetus for my question is that my son, who has profound dyslexia, participated in an eight hour Environmental Science Merit Badge workshop.  The online registration process did not allow for any notes about a scout's dietary restrictions, medical issues, or special needs.  The workshop consisted of 16 scouts and one scouter (MBC).  The format of the workshop was lecture, extensive note taking and "filling in the blanks" of the ES merit badge worksheet (which was required even though the worksheet itself says it cannot be used as a requirement).  My son told the instructor of his learning difference, which he said he would do what he could, and then continued with the program of note taking.  At the end, the MB counselor made my son wait until he had every other scout signed off and then started to ask my son questions from his empty worksheet.  Realizing that the process was going to take longer than he wanted, he abruptly ended the questions, told my son go back to his council, do it there, and refused to sign off on requirements. 

 

It seemed to me that the council was ill-prepared for the workshop and put the MBC in a very difficult situation without the skillset to handle it.

 

Scotty

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From the merit Badge instructions guide - 

  • Smaller Groups Are Preferred. Class sizes should be set appropriately to ensure each Scout receives high-quality,personal instruction and benefits from the counselor’s unique knowledge. This suggests that most classes should be small—perhaps no larger than a patrol in size. For larger groups, qualified instructors assigned to smallergroups should assist the merit badge counselor in order to ensure Scouts receive individual attention. Instructors should be knowledgeable about the merit badge subject, but they do not necessarily need to be registered as merit badge counselors.

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I’m sorry your son had that experience. Unfortunately, MBCs are not formally trained teachers and may not have experience working with Scouts who have dyslexia or other issues learning. It sounds to me like the ratio was less the problem and more the counselor’s inexperience and the setup of the program. 

Thankfully, your son can complete the MB the way MBs are supposed to be completed - by asking the Scoutmaster for a referral and working on the badge with the counselor and a buddy. Your son’s SM presumably knows about his dyslexia and can ask the council or district about recommendations of MBCs who may have some experience in that regard. (A local high school science teacher could be recruited to fill that role, for example.)

That said, Environmental Science is one of those MBs with a report/writing requirement that poses challenges to many a Scout. A good MBC shouldn’t let that stand in the way; whatever accommodations your son uses to get his written work done in school should suffice here (dictation, etc.).

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17 minutes ago, Summitdog said:

It seemed to me that the council was ill-prepared for the workshop and put the MBC in a very difficult situation without the skillset to handle it

Did your SM allow your son to attend this workshop without a some warning about what he was gettin to? I would think that when he went to get a blue card the SM would help him prepare.

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7 minutes ago, TMSM said:

Did your SM allow your son to attend this workshop without a some warning about what he was gettin to? I would think that when he went to get a blue card the SM would help him prepare.

My son picked up his blue card at the last meeting before the Xmas break.  It was, to say the least, a bit busy and the SM didn't really get into the particulars about an out of council workshop. 

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1 hour ago, Summitdog said:

My son picked up his blue card at the last meeting before the Xmas break.  It was, to say the least, a bit busy and the SM didn't really get into the particulars about an out of council workshop. 

I always get sad when I hear about a MB class that is an eight hour lecture.  The only time I've seen class based do well is when there is something that makes it personal and connects with the scout.  An eight hour lecture is not scouts and not how we do things.   Filling in blanks on a worksheet is not scouting and does NOT replace the requirement to interact and fulfill the expectations. 

What I mean is a class is okay if it's wood working and the scouts go to a wood shop to do projects with the guidance of the MBC.  Or it's photography and the scouts run around with cameras, etc.  Or canoeing and they have a lake with a canoe for every two scouts. 

Scouting is active.  Doing.  Moving.  Action oriented.  Power point is not scouting.  Doing worksheets is definitely not scouting.  

QUESTION - Did your scoutmaster recommend the out of council MB class?  Did you promote it to your scout?  

I say this as parents (myself too) get almost more excited about scouting than our kids.  Then we sign them up for things that we think would check-the-box or get-it-done when it might not be a good fit.

KEY POINT - I've taken my sons to MB opportunities many times over the years.  I've watched.  If my sons ask to leave because it's dry or boring or ... , I'm okay with them leaving.   Key point --> It's better to leave if it's not a good match for your son.  The badge is great and getting-it-done is great.  But, I'm really looking for my sons to have eye opening experiences at this point.  If they are not going to get that, then the badge is not worth it.  

  • Great ... Archaeology done with a park ranger at his personal archaeology dig site was great.  Brief class room with quirky college archaeology teacher added to it.  Great experience.
  • Bad ... Exploration done in a sunday school / church 2nd grade day care class room with MBC filling in without expertise clearly damaged my scout's expertise.  
  • Good ... Aviation done in a private plane hanger under the plan wing ... good.
  • Bad ... Aviation done in a small day care class room with someone filling in ... bad
  • Great ... Welding and metal working in a maintenance shed with tools and grime.
  • Bad ... 60 minutes of re-reviewing first aid before every merit badge

A class room with worksheets and a long lecture for a scout with dyslexia is not a good match.  It's better for you and your scout to leave and go spend the day at the zoo and have a nice lunch.  That class might be okay for some scouts.  Some may get the badge.  Many will definitely have a bad experience.  IMHO, don't chase merit badges.  Chase the great experiences.  The merit badges will follow.

Edited by fred8033
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I feel badly for your son, and also for the other boys. None of them "earned" the mB, and worse none gained much of anything from the "adult association" nor from the class. I AM a trained, certified educator and as a mB counselor I refuse to "teach a class" and I abhor the use of the workbooks. Scouts is not supposed to be school; nothing of the sort. I am saddened that many requirements tend to gravitate towards school-like work and districts/councils have mB "colleges". This makes advancement no longer a method, but the purpose; IMO that is wrong.

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3 hours ago, fred8033 said:

I always get sad when I hear about a MB class that is an eight hour lecture.  The only time I've seen class based do well is when there is something that makes it personal and connects with the scout.  An eight hour lecture is not scouts and not how we do things.   Filling in blanks on a worksheet is not scouting and does NOT replace the requirement to interact and fulfill the expectations. 

What makes this worse is that Environmental Science does not have to be done this way. Half of the requirements can be done by doing experiments, for crying out loud. 8 hours of lecture and fill-in-the-blanks? That sounds awful. 

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