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stevejb

Remember the Skill Awards

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Just wondering how many of you remember the twelve skill awards from the 1970's and 1980's. I remember earning them as a Boy Scout and teaching them as a scoutmaster.

 

I have recently been writing about the skill awards on "A Scoutmaster's Blog" found at http://www.melrosetroop68.org/blog/

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I remember them well! Earned ten, I think.

 

The main benefit was the instant recognition factor. Once you completed the requirements, you received that metal belt loop right then, right there.

 

This was a huge morale factor considering merit badges were handed out at courts of honor, usually a couple months after you earned them.

 

I wore them proudly, and they are all scratched up from hiking and camping. I retired the skill awards and the web belt when I completed my Philmont trek and started wearing the Philmont leather belt.

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I remember them well and earned all twelve. Sometimes wish they were still around because they marked milestones on a Scout's way to the his rank. Earning one made you feel like you accomplished a goal and learned something pretty important. Never liked the way that the BSA discontinued them and sprinkled the requirements amongst the T-2-1 ranks. When I was a Scout and you did the Hiking Skill Award, you got a heavy dose of hiking and orienteering until you completed everything for the belt loop. I also remember my Scoutmaster or SPL looking around for Second Class Scouts to teach first aid to new Scouts. In their minds, if a Scout was Second Class, they knew the Scout knew first aid since the First Aid Skill Award was a Second Class requirement. Leaders can't do that too easily nowadays.

 

Chazz Lees

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I was already working on First Class when skill awards were introduced (in 1972, right?) so I never had to earn them. I did pass younger Scouts on them, which probably included my younger brother, who was in the "new system" from day one and eventually made Eagle. And they were long gone again by the time I "rejoined" Scouting when my son (now 18) crossed over, what seems like many years ago. When I made Second and First Class, the requirements were arranged the same way they are now (for Tenderfoot through 1st), with each rank requiring increasing levels of knowledge of a number of subjects, though the actual requirements have changed quite a bit and there is one additional level (because Tenderfoot was the "joining badge" in my day, there was no "Scout.")

 

I tend to think the current arrangement is better, as it gives the younger Scouts the opportunity to learn a broad range of Scouting skills right from the beginning, and pass requirements of increasing difficulty and responsibility as they learn their way around Boy Scouting and mature a little. At the same time, removing the time requirements for the lower ranks (which existed both in the pre-Skill Awards era and at least in the early part of the post-1972, not sure when they were eliminated) really allows each boy to go at his own pace. In our troop we have a few boys who make First Class in 8 months after joining, a few who take more than 2 years, and the rest in between.

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I also grew up with them, and I love them. In my case at least, I focused on mastering one particular basic scout skill in toto, and received SA for it. Don't know why, but it was a troop tradition during my tenure, but youth didn't wear leather belts, only adults. I believe it had something to do with the SAs becasue they were considered advancement,and that had to have paperwork filled out to get them. I say that b/c once SAs went away in '89, about 3 or 4 years later, we had a few youth start wearing their leather Philmont Belts, wheras noone saave the adults wore them before hand. And that would have corresponded for the first batch going through without SAs being abel to go tot PSR,

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NJCubScouter,

 

I'm just curious. Since you were a Scout when the requirements were pre-skill awards like there are today, was the focus on getting as many requirements signed off as soon as you possibly could regardless of knowledge acquired and retained, or was it that Scouts learned the skill, were tested without aid, and were signed off as completed? I ask because what I see today is Scouts being shown how to complete a requirement and being tested (sometimes with aid and prompts) in the minutes immediately thereafter. I wouldn't say it was a problem except that the same Scouts usually can not recall just hours later what they did to get the requirement signed off. I know that when I and my Scout friends in my troop in the 80's did the skill awards, it was almost a completion to see who could master the skills first. Once you mastered the skills, you could get the requirements signed off and award the skill award. And months to years later, we still knew the skill.

 

Chazz Lees

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I saw those at the National Office when I was there two years ago and was wondering more about their history. They looked great!

 

Thanks for that.

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I joined Boy Scouts in the 1989 transitional period...joined March 1989, so I had about 6 months of the "old" requirements before we were issued the "supplemental" pamphlet until the new Scout book arrived.

 

As far as I remember I earned 6 skill awards and when I was 17 (1995/96) I would sometimes where my web belt with my skill awards be instead of my leather one because the younger boys thought they were cool.

 

I'd have to look at my old book, but I think I earned Tenderfoot and 2nd Class under the old requirements. Tenderfoot right after summer camp (August) and if we were working a current rank you could either use the old requirements and finish or use the new ones.

 

Like someone said earlier, I liked the time requirement between ranks, plus you could see who had what SA's and you knew who you could ask for help on a subject.

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I earned them as a Scout, and I miss them now as a Scoutmaster. My instructors were the Leadership Corps (in my Troop - all Eagles). It gave me a great focus on specific skill sets, instead of them being scattered.

 

I also like the natural progression from T - 2 - 1 that I think is missing now. I regularly have Scouts who ask for a Scoutmaster's Conference after finishing all requirements for both 2nd and 1st class over a weekend.

 

I still have a few in a box somewhere.

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Skill awards were awesome!

They provided for instant recognition AND boy leadership. Our patrol leaders taught the skills and signed them off. SM or SPl presented the belt loop at that meeting or the next meeting.

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Brotherhoodwww:

 

Let's see,

Stevejb is writing about them in his blog and taught them as SM

 

Desertrat77 said that he recalled the instant recognition

 

CHLees3rd observed that they marked milestones on a scout's way to his rank and that relative to hiking SA that a heavy dose of the skill was involved, not just a check in the box. He also commented the his old SM and SPL used other boy leaders to teach skills to other newer scouts. In another post, he commented on the long term memory and recall of the skill.

 

Eagle92 focused on skill mastery before going on to another skill award.

 

Eaglescout96 said that one scout could see another's skill award and ask him for help if needed. (presumably, because he had mastered the skill)

 

Horizon commented that he misses them as a scoutmaster now, but used his leadership corps (Eagle scouts) to teach the skills.

 

I recall how they reinforced a skill, not just doing the requirement once, but really driving home the skill. Skill awards provided for boy leadership and instant recognition.

 

I guess the reason they don't seem to work quite as well for cub scouts MAY be that scouts are not doing the teaching and that there isn't mastery of a skill. Cub scouts can do an activity and get a belt loop.

 

Sorry you seem bitter about this. If I had a magic wand, I would implement the old Skill Award program immediately. Skill awards provided for boy leadership, quick recognition and skill mastery. Isn't boy leadership part of boy led, boy run?

 

 

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BROTHERHOOD,

While the recognition is the same, a metal loop worn on the belt,two completely different programs with different purposes.

 

Boy Scout Skill Awards were earned once a basic Scout skill was learned, i.e Citizenship, First Aid, Hiking, etc. They were part of the rank requirements, thus you had to earn them in order to get Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class. Plus since those ranks at the time did have time requirements, i.e. be active with your troop for X time, they provided immediate recognition for mastering skills. As I noted, in my troop only adults wore the leather belts, and I believe it's b/c of the Skill Awards.

 

Now if memory serves, the CS Sports Program came out in August 1984 as part of the BSA's Diamond Jubilee. They were additional things you could do, and were not required for any CS rank. Later the Academics program was added, and a few Webelos activity badges require specific belt loops to be earned in order to get the AB. Thus it's completely optional whether you work on belt loops and pins or not until Webelos. Also the sports and academics program is desigend to allow the scout to try new things (belt loop), acquire new skills if desired (pins) and grow physically and mentally. Sorry I can't go into details, but the Sports program was intro'd when I was a Webelos so I never worked on any, and I haven't worked with webelos yet.

 

So again that program is a complete option to use with CSs, while SAs were essentially mandatory if you wanted to advance.

 

Hope this helps.

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Eagle92,

Thanks for additional clarity.

In my youth, scouts wore web belts with the skill awards, but, once a scout went to Philmont, he had the option to wear a leather belt.

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Brotherhood's comment got me thinking about skill awards differently. I'm still pro-skill awards, but why did they go away? Did many Scouts and Scouters not like them? Are there any of them here who would not mind commenting? I know there has been research done that showed Scouts who did not make First Class within a year generally dropped out of Scouting. Were skill awards a major obstacle for them to make First Class? Since most of the skill award requirements are still in the current ranks, were the skill awards themselves causing Scouts anxiety and impeding their advancement? Just curious.

 

Chazz Lees

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