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Merit Badge Classes

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Many good comments in this thread. As a MB counselor I agree with Buffalo Skipper that some are better done in a group setting, be it at a unit level, merit badge midway or a set up group. I really like Citizenship in the World as a group effort for the older scouts. Where the requirement (e.g. 4c) says "pick 2 of the following..." in a group setting all of the scouts research and learn about all of the organizations. This also works for other MBs where the scouts(s) have research choices. I learned the hard way, during a Citizenship in Community session when the scout handed me the equivalent of a term paper for the "...explain to your counselor the history of your community requirement. When I asked what is this he replied that it's requirement # (whatever it was then). I said thats nice, now you tell me about your community and its history. The scout got very upset and told me that was it, his mom spent a lot of time typing it up. Needless to say that that scouts family thought I was the biggest so & so MB counselor around and would not recommend that another scout from that unit contact me. However, the buddy that was with him and the buddy's parent thought that I handled it correctly. The accompanying parent, who was also a counselor for some other MBs, later told me he learned a lesson from the experience and we both think that group discussions in a lot of MBs is valuable.

That being said, group efforts can be a really good way of doing many MBs.

One other thought, a group session by its very nature covers the two deep, no one on one, contact issue. And a counselor, I always seem to learn something from the scouts.

 

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Yah, da problem with MB classes isn't so much that they take away from patrol method/youth leadership (they do), it's that they mis-use advancement method.

 

There's nothin' wrong with a PLC decidin' that wants to go canoeing, eh? But if they want to go canoeing, da focus should be on canoeing, not on badges and certainly not on conducting a "class."

 

So they go canoeing. New fellows learn how to fit a life jacket and launch safely and paddle forward. Guys who've been canoein' a few times work on steering strokes and draws and such. Older fellows who have been canoeing with da troop on more outings over the years get to practice and demonstrate rescues or teach.

 

At some point, one of those older fellows decides he wants the badge and goes with a buddy to a counselor. The counselor runs him through da paces, gives him pointers, pushes him a bit. Maybe corrects or updates a couple things he learned in his troop. Then presto, he's got the badge, and is now a resource for his troop.

 

Point is that da kids' interest and kid-run program leads naturally to advancement recognition for the lads who are interested in reachin' that level. The program drives advancement; advancement doesn't drive da program.

 

Troop meeting MB classes, MB camporees and universities, etc. are all examples of advancement drivin' the program. That doesn't work well. It's a sign of bein' adult-run (because boys don't think that way), it's a sign of poor use of youth leadership and patrol method (because it's boring, and youth aren't involved except to be on da "receiving end"). It's a sign of poor use of Outdoors Method, because lads should be running and swimming and poking and prodding and explorin' and getting tired, not sittin' and listenin' and doin' homework. And it's a sign of weak advancement, because boys learn at different speeds and have different commitment levels. So settin' it up with an expectation that they'll go the same pace and finish together either means you're really slowin' down the fast lads, or more likely really pencil-whipping da badges of most of the boys.

 

No exception for First Aid. First Aid skills are somethin' that if you learn 'em in a weekend class you'll forget 'em by the next month. For boys who are learnin' those skills from scratch, yeh want 'em to be using 'em often, and repeating and practicing. Takes a couple of years of growth and reinforcement. But we only award a badge for what a scout is able to do, eh? Not for sittin' through a class.

 

Beavah

 

Beavah

 

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"I think that Baden would roll over in his grave if he found out that this is the basis for a camporee."

 

"What do you think?"

 

I think we shouldn't give a rats behind what Baden thought. He did after all, he died in the pre-nuclear age and liked to hang out with Mussolini.

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I think Baden Powell would not be turning over in his grave, but he would be spinning like a lathe!

 

And I don't think it would be merely because of merit badge factories, eagle mills and the like. It would also include the uniform changes, softening of standards and getting away from the basics.

 

I agree with Beavah, da scout gets da badge for what he is able to do, not for sittin in da class. The class provides a means to teach the skills and allow for some practice, but I don't think it would be enough by itself to earn the badge. Afterall, you don't pass a high school or college class just because you sat in the class and maybe turned in homework, you had to pass the test, show some proficiency.

 

In the end, I suppose it doesn't really matter what Baden Powell would "think", ask yourself if you're helping deliver the program?

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Its really a nice platform. Its a good network..

===========

Ema

(This message has been edited by a staff member.)

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Merit badge classes seem to be here to stay, so instead of debating them, let's make certain that they are not abused. I made a suggestion to the committee that we hold a contest to encourage scouts to earn badges on their own, away from camp. The prize was a $50.00 REI gift card. Each badge got one entry. Eagle required got two. THe reason was because we had seen that many boys only earned badges at camp and then never completed partials on their own. It worked well. I think out of 25 boys, 8-9 of them had entries. My son happened to finish up about four of the long term ones during the contest period. (He would have finished them anyway) The deal is that MB Classes must require the boys to participate, learn, demonstrate and do everything. Pre-requisite stuff needs to be done before the class and books need to be studied well beforehand. One of my boys just crossed over. He is taking First Aid at camp. He's a little young but it was the only decent choice in that block. He will be well prepared.

On a little differnt tack, for second class, scouts must interview a community leader. I invited a federal judge, who was a friend to my neighbor. THe scouts knew well befrehand that he was coming and were told that they must ask a serious question or I would not sign off on their book. In such a group setting, it was very interesting and wide ranging conversation, even though the judge was a raving liberal and kept trying to postulate his bias.

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I honestly was surprised at how summer camp (at least in our council) has changed since I was a kid. Back then, you were able to earn one, at best two merit badges during summer camp. This is because you still had to practice all those camp chores you've been learning along the way, like cooking, KP, trail maintenance, etc. Plus you had more swim time, exploring time and what not.

 

Now, summer camp is just a merit badge camp. Today the kids don't practice their cooking or camp chores, because they are at merit badge class. They don't become better swimmers, because they don't practice, they are at merit badge class.

 

Add to that the merit badge camp-o-ree, troop meeting merit badges and special Eagle Merit Badge camps and yeah, it's advancement driven.

 

Now, I've seen a patrol decide to work on Wilderness survival together, and do the campout part together. But it was not part of a troop regular activity. I've seen a PLC arrange a campout, where Scouts could do some of the outdoor requirements of Environmental Science. Those, I thought, were good because the Scouts decided, and the Scouts still finished the badges individually.

 

I guess I'm just an old curmudgeon, and think these merit badge factories have taken some initiative away from the youth. If they only earned badges at camp, and didn't finish partials, or work on their own, then they didn't have much initiative to begin with. I don't see why you'd need to pay money or raffle Scouts a gift card for earning merit badges. Isn't the recognition and sense of accomplishment enough? I'm a believer if you gotta be dragged across the finish line, you didn't really want it in the first place. I've seen parents do that with little kids and sports, "Score a soccer goal today and I'll get you that new Nintendo game," and didn't like it then either.

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Yep the concept of summer camp changed since your time. I know when I went to CS dad and lad in 83 at the local camp, we had to cook and eat outside. i remember seeing the L frame packs and small garbage cans lashed to them that was used by the patrols to pick up their supplies for cooking that day. By the time I went to camp, they had a dining hall.

 

I have mixed emotions on summer camps and MBs. One hand I see it as an excellent opportunity to work on and possibly earn the MBs. Let's face it you are in a scouting environement 24/7 that week, and I can see someone earning a few MBs and getting partials in others. BUT it is camp, and you do need to have fun. You need to schedule down time to go swimming, boating, rifle range, or climbing tower for free time.

 

IMHO the push to turn summer camp into "BS summer school" came about b/c of the helicopter pareents who push their sons. and that attitude puts pressure on leaders who in turn pressure the CD and PD of camps.

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>>Merit badge classes seem to be here to stay, so instead of debating them, let's make certain that they are not abused.

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A lot of good discussion here. In my troop I am the "merit badge guy." The SM has delegated to me the responsibility of keeping track of all the merit badge counselors for our district and helping the boys find a counselor to work with them on their badges. Right now I am looking over the requirements for all the badges our scouts have signed up for at Summer Camp and making sure they are aware of any pre-requisites they should have completed before getting to camp.

 

Keep in mind that logistical/financial factors come into play with several of the badges. Camps and merit badge colleges bring in economy of scale. I don't know about you guys, but I can't buy my son a horse and saddle so he can earn Horsemanship. Buying a $70,000 ski boat to earn the Water Sports merit badge is out of the question. I feel that camp is the place to leverage resources to earn badges that would otherwise be very hard to do. In that spirit I just paid $43 in basket weaving materials for my son to do the Basketry merit badge on his own so he can save his camp slots for badges that we absolutely couldn't do on our own. He would like to do leatherwork, so I am looking for a counselor who has the tools needed so I don't have to buy those too.

 

Trying to earn every merit badge on your own without the resources of a camp or merit badge college just isn't financially feasible for most people, and I think it is against the spirit of scouting for only "rich kids" to earn the most fun badges.

 

In our troop, we normally don't have our own merit badge workshops, but we are making an exception for the four historical merit badges that are only available this year. There aren't any counselors for these badges, so I am registering to counsel all four and I'm bringing in experts in the four fields to teach the skills. All the boys will have to show they can do the skills (can you say semaphore signaling?), so I don't feel like this is a problem at all.

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I have visited Troop meetings where soon after the opening Mr. SM reads off from his prepared list, which Scouts are going where to sit with Mr. Soandso to work on the merit badge that Mr. SM has selected for them. Different groups work on different badges and come back near the end of the meeting for a closing.

This is not a good idea or how I think things should be done.

A very good pal of mine who retired from teaching was asked to cover one of the Citizen Badges for a Troop who had done this.

After the meeting he came to me saying that he thought that he'd lost it! He said that he seemed unable to control the group and hold their attention.

When I pointed out that I wasn't surprised in how the Scouts acted and went on to say that the Scouts had little or no ownership in what they were doing he agreed with me.

I have posted in the past how OJ my son refused to attend Troop meetings for about a month because the Troop leaders (Adults) had opted to meet at a local farm and cover the Farm Mechanics Badge, which he had no interest in.

That same Troop invited an expert to come in and do the then Atomic Energy Badge. The expert covered the entire subject using only lecture. I sat in for part of it.

I know I'm not the brightest light on the tree but after a few minutes the expert lost me! However at the next COH each and every Scout in the Troop received the badge. I'm not sure how dumb I really am? But I wonder if the eleven year old is really that much brighter than I am?

 

I can and do see why some badges are done in groups.

I think that the Scouts have to want to do these badges.

I'm not a fan of Troop Meetings being used for just working from MB books,however I'm OK with having a month of meetings work around a theme which might be related to a badge. I'm thinking about the outdoor skill badges like cooking.

In the early spring the District has a First Aid Competition, this seems to have been going on since BP was a Lad! I think it seems widely accepted by most Troops that for a few weeks before the competition First Aid is the theme that they all seem to work on. Many Troops enter Patrols in the competition as teams. (Sadly at times the scenarios offered are more in line with what will happen after WW III than what might happen at camp!)

Many if not most of the local Troops have their own in house MBC for First Aid.

I think I'd be happier if the badge was linked to passing a course from an outside agency.

 

Some Scouts do learn stuff better when the material is presented to a group and the group is able to discuss and question the material and information offered.

I'm 101% with The program drives advancement; advancement doesn't drive the program.

For me the big thing is all about ownership.

A Lad has to want to do a badge because it's something he wants to do. Not something that he is forced or coerced into doing.

I do see how at times the interests and even the employment of the adults can maybe steer the youth.

I like messing around with pioneering projects. I kinda, sorta managed to get the PLC to include these in the programs at camp, this led to a good many of the Scouts meeting the requirements for the badge.

Troops with doctors or EMT's as leaders seem to somehow guide scouts into that area.

I guess it's just human nature.

Still if a Scout has little or no interest in something and the leader can't find a way of selling the subject or having the Scout buy into it. I don't think forcing the Scout is what we should be doing.

Ea.

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We have 2 camps in our council both do their MB's differently and certain scouts love one and hate the other (some prefering camp 1, some prefering camp 2)..

 

Camp one I think is typical.. You can do up to 3 MB's your own choice out of the list of what they offer. The scout chooses the individual MB's. When my son started going it seemed that the camp gave out MB's regardless of it the scout did pre-req's or not.. My son was always prepared, and worked hard, but other scouts got the MB without doing all the req's which was hard to explain to my son.. It mid-way turned into having scouts go home with partials, which I was happy to see. The rest of the day was for troop activities and you had a maga list of choices to go through.. So the troops (or patrols) had time together.. My son liked this camp the best.

 

Camp two, was suppose to be more geared toward the patrol.. Each patrol chose 5 MB's to do together as a group. You worked on one MB a day. At your campsite your troop would do the cooking (no cafeteria).. Few MB's were ever completed. And each year, my son would be in a diff. patrol where there were enough young scouts needing the basic MB's where the older scouts were split over some fun electives.. The young scouts won, and my son was repeating swimming, First aid, etc over & over again.. My son did not care for this one.

 

It got to the point if the troop chose the camp he did not care for, we would sign our son up for provisional at the camp he liked, or other camps in neighboring states so he got different expirences. He just refused to go to that camp.. the expirience for patrol bonding only went so far.

 

I agree with my son, if you are doing MB's it should not be a group event, where everyone in the group must do the same MB together. It should be something that personally interests the individual scout. Also the camp should limit the amount of MB's and have plenty of time for fun activities, or for just relaxing and enjoying camp life.

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However sad we might think it might be.

Many Camps get stuck with trying to please everyone.

Upset the adults? Then the camp is no longer offered to the Scouts and they go someplace else.

Upset the Scouts? Then they quit Scouts.

Upset the parents and the see spending money for camp as being a waste of their hard earned cash.

Most parents really don't know what goes on at camp.(Much as the like to think that they do!)

They do know that when their kid gets home, he is going to crash out for the rest of the day and more than lightly the next day as well.

They kinda expect to hear how bad the food was! Mums kinda like to hear this! It makes them know that nothing can replace home cooking.

They also expect that the washer will be needed to go into overdrive in order to manage all the dirty clothes.

It can several weeks and sometimes months or even years to find out what went on at camp. Many Scouts when asked "What happened at camp?" Will reply with the good old standby answer used by Scouts for generations: " Nothing!"

When asked if they had a good time they are very lightly to get a full weather report and very little information about what went on, good or bad!

So parents are left judging the camp by the number of badges that follow their son home.

Most really don't care what went into earning these badges or how hard or easy they might have been. All they see is how many.

We must be willing to take some of the blame.

We might be guilty of maybe making too big a deal about the importance of Eagle Scout?

Ea.

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Again, good ideas discussed here. Here's a couple things our troop has done recently:

 

1. Bird Study. During the August planning meeting, the scouts selected Bird Study as the "theme" for this month. So, this month, during the 15-20 minutes of instruction time of the troop meeting, I have showed them pictures of birds, showed them how to identify birds, and discussed bird calls. And I've pointed out there is a Bird Study merit badge for anyone who is interested.

 

As a result, the scouts had a great time trying to remember the specific types of birds (NORTHERN Cardinal? Why that's just a cardinal!), and zero have asked about or tried to complete the merit badge. We all had fun.

 

2. Two first-class scouts are showing interest in the First Aid merit badge. They have both said, "Gosh, I can do all this. All I have to do is show it to the merit badge counselor?" They are going to be taking the next couple of meeting's instruction time to show other scouts their First Aid skills.

 

So, yes, we're working with merit badges in troop meetings, but they're not classes, no one is getting anything for just showing up (I tell them often this isn't Cub Scouts where that happens), and the scouts are driving what we're doing.

 

I think we're doing it "right."

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Part of the BSA Troop Meeting Guide includes skills instruction - I have no problem if, during that portion of the meeting, MB Counselors want to meet. We also let Scouts meet with the MB Counselors during pre-meeting time as well.

 

An entire meeting - no. But, to get some of the volunteers to fit us in, they ASK that they have time during a Monday night meeting. The Scouts also ask for more opportunities on Monday nights as well. I would argue it is Counselor led AND Scout led driving the offering.

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