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SteveMM

Choosing merit badges for a Scout's first summer camp

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28 minutes ago, Saltface said:

Our regular camp is a mile higher in elevation than our town. No one in their right mind does Swimming there. Too cold.

Interesting. Camp Alexander in Colorado with an elev 8200 ft. has a heated pool. 

They also do a Polar Bear swim one morning in their small lake.

 

32 minutes ago, Saltface said:

A lot of first-years have difficulty scoring enough points to complete Archery or Shotgun Shooting. They're really popular merit badges, so there's too much waiting in line for range time.

We typically ask the camps we visit for a free Troop time at one of the ranges. They never turned us down. It's not for advancement, just troop fun time. 

Barry

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Posted (edited)

My bottom line: we have no business telling a scout what MBs to take when. My advice to scouts:

You need eight electives for advancement to Eagle, and 5 more for each Palm you'd like to earn. So rack those electives up as early and as often as your scout spirit emboldens you. If you happen to be interested in an Eagle-required badge, go for it. But never let a required badge get in the way of earning an elective of interest to you.

Then,

When you reach 1st Class, start picking the required ones that you feel ready to knock out for your next rank. If you haven't done so already, that's one a month for Star, one every other month for Life, and one a month for Eagle.

That said, in separate conversations I tell the boys in our troop that when I collapse, I want as many scouts around me who know what to do to forestall my demise. So, 1st Aid, Lifesaving, and E-Prep are very high on my list of "to master as soon as you feel able". But that's got nothing to do with their advancement and everything to do with our survival when dark days arrive!

Son #1 earned archery his first year ... and swimming, but that was a family imperative because we spend half our weekends on a Great Lake. Son #2 partial-ed in swimming ... because lightning disrupted every day they were to do surface dives. Seven years, and he never took the time to go and check that one off. :mad: Wound up Hiking the snot out of our county at age 17.8.

In conclusion, @SteveMM your new scout (and his parent) was given excellent advice, and your son was given sub-par advice.

Edited by qwazse
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6 hours ago, SteveMM said:

I was talking recently to the parent of a brand new Scout in our troop, and asked what merit badges his son is taking at summer camp in a couple of weeks.  He said he'd had a discussion with our SM, and was told that the Scout should choose anything he wanted, just have fun this first year, and worry about advancement later.  When he listed off the badges this Scout was taking, I had to clamp down on my tongue.  They were all "elective" badges, with not one that will help with the Scout's advancement.

When my son went to his first summer camp (which was four years ago this week, by the way) it was suggested that he take swimming, cooking, or first aid (or all of the above) plus whatever else he wanted.  It was a good mix of required badges and fun badges.  The reasoning behind this was twofold.  First, a number of requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class are found in those merit badges.  Second, they're Eagle-required badges that he would need eventually anyhow.  I would add that these merit badges teach necessary skills that every Scout should have.

Do you think this new Scout parent was given bad advice, or am I focused too much on advancement?  While I get that there shouldn't be a rush to advance, I think stagnation is just as bad if not worse.  I don't think it's good for a boy to remain at the Scout rank for a year.

I agree with the Scoutmaster.  Scouts should take as many fun merit badges as they can at summer camp.  Yes, I would suggest swimming and first aid (not cooking, it's very involved, and cooking requirements used in cooking MB shouldn't be used for rank advancement, IIRC).  That said, I think, besides for 17 year old Life Scouts, the book badges should be banned at summer camp--no Citizenship, Personal Management, Family Life, etc. should be taught at summer camp.  

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3 hours ago, TMSM said:

I have yet to see good results from a 1st year scout program and they seem to teach the same things we do in our weekly program. We highly encourage scouts to take Swimming and FA their first year and the other 2 or 3 is based on interest. This allows them to complete requirements in 2nd and 1st class. Advancment is one of the methods and it should be encouraged but not dictated.  

I agree with you 100%. BSA should get rid of the 1st year Scout Programs at summer camp.  I agree with you about Swimming and First Aid, but other than that, Scouts should have fun (and swimming for most of them is fun).  

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Some of the trail to First Class programs at summer camp are good.  A lot depends on the camp and the people teaching the skills.  It's a good starting point for Scouts, but a good troop program will repeat a lot of the skills.  IMO, this is a good thing, because many of the skills are perishable, so the Scouts need to keep repeating them, in order to retain the skills.

We also recommend first aid and swimming.  Keep in mind that Scouts also need 8 elective merit badges for Eagle Scout rank, so fun merit badges at summer camp will also help them with advancement.

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I dont understand "required" merit badge statement.  You have to have a total of 21 by the Eagle level.  Some are specific to advancement, while others are open to a scouts interest.  Therefore, all 21 are "required".  So, ANY MB earned go toward the required 21.  Interesting how adults put artificial restraints on a youth's path towards skills and leadership.  I've seen thousands of paths, most lead to the same destination.  Enjoy the scenery and hike at your own pace.

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The current requirements for Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Boy Scouting, involve earning 21 merit badges including the 13 in this list[4]:

  • Camping
  • Personal Fitness
  • Personal Management
  • Swimming, Hiking, or Cycling
  • First Aid
  • Citizenship in the Community
  • Citizenship in the Nation
  • Citizenship in the World
  • Cooking
  • Family Life
  • Emergency Preparedness (E-Prep) or Lifesaving
  • Environmental Science or Sustainability
  • Communication

The above 13 are considered the "Eagle Required" badges.  All others are "electives" and can be whatever the scout chooses.  There are none required for advancement until Star and Life which require six MB (4 required) for Star and 5 MB (3 required) for Life, for a total of 11.  Ten more must be earned for Eagle for a total of 21.

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Regarding First Year Camper programs, my council was spoiled for a long time. We had a retired Marine running our program. Firm, demanding, but fair.  You having problems with something and needed extra help learning, he was there for you. Scouts who went through him learned something. I thought all FYC programs were like his.

I was wrong.

I have seen some great ones, some good ones, some not so good ones, and some pathetic ones over the years. I t depends upon the staff. You need phenomenal staff to run the FYC program because IMHO, it is the most important one. It is the program with the most impact, and has the possibility of either making or breaking Scout's interest in the program. @ItsBrian has a heavy burden as FYC staff to maintain.

 

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What Qwasze   said.....  Here's a summer camp:  https://vimeo.com/66719272   

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I'm the ASM in our troop who guides the "first year" program and every year many of the new scouts and their parents ask for guidance around merit badge selection. It's not a matter of "telling" anyone what to take, it's a matter of helping guide them towards common-sense choices that really will meet the needs of the scout.

Those choices are definitely going to vary from troop to troop and camp to camp. 

Our troop *does* incorporate much of the Tenderfoot -> First Class skills into its regular program, plus we add in activities specifically geared towards the new scout patrol (like a 5-mile hike, an orienteering event, a Totn Chip class, etc.)  Because of that, our younger scouts don't really need the "First Class Emphasis" programs at summer camp.

My recommendation to first-year scouts and their parents is what most folks here have said:
* avoid the "classroom" merit badges and most eagle-required merit badges, but...
* take Swimming MB (cools you off during the day, it's fun, and it prepares you down the road for Lifesaving and many of the aquatic activities the troop does)
* focus on FUN, consider....
  - a waterfront merit badge:  Canoeing, Kayaking, Rowing are all fun and good choices for a first-year scout
  - a shooting sports merit badge:  camp is an ideal setting and Archery and Rifle Shooting are ideal for a first-year scout
* focus on something unique that isn't readily available in-troop or in our local community.  Consider...
  - Horsemanship MB
  - a camp craft, perhaps Leatherwork or Wood Carving
* don't overschedule: leave some free time each day to try something new or just goof off with friends

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My son just completed his first Boy Scout summer camp.  earned swimming -  and totally think that is a great 1st year merit badge is the scout is a decent swimmer.  He also did Trail to First class.  And he and the other boys in the troop who took the course loved it.  Was it perfect, no.  Was it enough to make them smarter and more confident in scouting, 100% yes.  It is not the only time they will learn or tie knots, for example, but gave them a great foundation.  

He also earned Pioneering, which he did to be more confident in knots and so he would learn how to build structures.  Loved it.  

We were advised to take a balanced mix at camps, and it worked wonderfully.  He learned a ton, be became so much more confident outdoors, and left excited to be a scout.  What else should a first year scout come away with?  

 

PS- but I like the idea of first aid next year.  

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9 minutes ago, Navybone said:

PS- but I like the idea of first aid next year.  

First Aid is not a bad choice for first year either, but I don't recommend it for our troop because we have a couple of first-rate First Aid counselors, including one who is a nursing professional and one who is certified as a first aid and CPR instructor. These folks put on an in-troop workshop that's at least twice as long as a typical summer camp's First Aid MB class and it's a heck of a lot more fun to do things in troop with your friends and fellow scouts.

First Aid merit badge workshops are often readily available in most communities. It's a badge that is easy for the scouts to earn during the school year, so I don't recommend our boys spend their summer camp time on it when they could be out doing canoeing, archery, horseback riding or some other fun badge that is not always available close to home.

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On 7/2/2019 at 1:08 PM, SteveMM said:

I was just looking at the requirements for Cooking.  Did they recently add the below line?  I don't remember it when my son took the merit badge.  I'm pretty sure they definitely doubled up, using these merit badge requirements for advancement.  Given this statement, I retract my suggestion of Cooking as a good first year merit badge, unless the Scout has some interest in cooking in general.

The meals prepared for Cooking merit badge requirements 4, 5, and 6 will count only toward fulfilling those requirements and will not count toward rank advancement or other merit badges. Meals prepared for rank advancement or other merit badges may not count toward the Cooking merit badge. You must not repeat any menus for meals actually prepared or cooked in requirements 4, 5, and 6.

Double-dipping on cooking has never been allowed. Separate cooking for Rank, then for Cooking and Camping Merit Badges. I agree that Cooking is a bad Merit Badge to take at camp, especially if your Scout's Troop has a good in-house MBC for it, along with a few experienced Scouts who are great camp cooks.

 

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On 7/3/2019 at 9:13 AM, mrkstvns said:

First Aid merit badge workshops are often readily available in most communities. It's a badge that is easy for the scouts to earn during the school year, so I don't recommend our boys spend their summer camp time on it when they could be out doing canoeing, archery, horseback riding or some other fun badge that is not always available close to home.

Great point also.  Make it fun!

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The more I read the opinions in this thread (and thanks for them, by the way) the more I realize that my son HAD to do it a little differently than some Scouts.  Since he missed a lot of meetings in the spring and fall due to travel soccer, he needed to make up those badges somewhere.  He has never missed a winter camp or summer camp, but did miss a majority of the merit badge weekends that the troop attended.  So, it behooved him to sprinkle in some non-fun badges at camp.  Thankfully, it never seemed to bother him, and he always enjoyed camp.

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