Archive for the ‘Advancement’ Category


Merit BadgesDuring the last seven months we have seen three new merit badges introduced to the Boy Scout merit badge program (Scuba Diving, Geocaching, and Scouting Heritage). We have also seen the return of four merit badges for this year only (Signaling, Tracking, Pathfinding, and Carpentry). But did you know that the BSA is not done yet? Two more merit badges should be introduced this year, the Inventing and the Robotics merit badges. Yes, that is right, two merit badges for the tech savvy Boy Scout.

According to the Lake Huron Area Council’s Website:

These badges are being introduced because they received positive feedback in a youth interest survey.  If five new merit badges seems like a lot, it is. By comparison, the BSA introduced just six new merit badges between 1992 (Collections) and 2006 (Composite Materials).  But the new badges aren’t the only innovation. In the past it took three years to create a merit badge. Now, that time has been cut to just less than a year, helping to keep the badge topics and content fresher than ever.

Sounds the like BSA has stepped up their game a bit, don’t you agree? What do you think about all these new merit badges in such a short time period?

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    The Environmental Skill AwardAfter six skill awards that began with the letter C (which is half of them, by the way) we arrive at the Environment Skill Award. Some of these requirements made it to the new rank requirements in the late 1980′s. Some of them almost seemed like they were preparing the Boy Scout for some of the environmental themed merit badges. Here are the requirements:

    1) a. Tell what is meant by environment.
    b. Describe how plant life, animal life, and environment relate to each other.
    c. Explain the oxygen cycle.
    d. Explain the water cycle.

    2) Tell how sun, air, water, soil, minerals, plants, and animals produce food used by man.

    3) a. Make a three hour exploration of a forest, field, park, wetland, lake shore, ocean shore, or desert. Make a list of plant and animal life you recognize.
    b. In the outdoors, spot and name ten wild animals by site or sign (mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, mollusks).
    c. In the outdoors, spot and name ten wild plants.
    d. Know how to identify poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.

    4) Do one:
    a. Study a plot of ground, ten square feet. Report on the plants and animals you find.
    b. Make a closed terrarium that includes animals, OR make an aquarium that includes both plants and animals.
    c. Keep a daily weather record for at least two weeks. Tell how weather affects the environment.

    5) Display at least six newspaper or magazine clippings on environment problems.

    I can not help but think how easy it would be to compete that last requirement with all the oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico at the moment, and all the talk about global warming.

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      Learning to cook is an important part of the Boy Scout program. After all, a hot meal on a cool damp camping weekend helps to brighten the day. Besides, I do not know many teenage boys who do not like to eat. Learning to prepare the food is a skill that will serve a Scout well as he grows older and leaves home and his mother’s home cooked meals. Boy Scouting can help him learn how to cook more than a frozen pizza or canned soup.

      The Cooking Skill Award was a popular belt loop for Boy Scouts to earn during the 1970′s through the 1980′s. I am sure that part of that popularity was due to the fact that the skill award was required to earn the First Class Rank. The award not only taught a boy how to cook, but also fire building skills and safety skills using tools like pocket knives, axes, and saws. The requirements for the Cooking Sill Award were:

      1) Show you know how to buy food by doing the following:
      a. Plan a balanced menu for three meals – breakfast, lunch, and supper.
      b. Make a food list based on your plan for a patrol of eight Scouts.
      c. Visit a grocery store and price your food list.
      d. Figure out what the cost for each Scout would be.

      2) Sharpen a knife and an ax properly and gives rules for their safe use.

      3) Use a knife, ax, and saw correctly to prepare tinder, kindling, and firewood.

      4) a. Locate and prepare a suitable fire site.
      b. Build and light a cooking fire using not more than two matches.

      5) a. In the outdoors, cook, without utensils, a simple meal. Use raw meat (or fish or poultry) and at least one raw vegetable, and bread (twist or ashbread).
      b. In the outdoors, prepare, from raw, dried, or dehydrated food, for yourself and two others: (1) A complete breakfast of fruit, hot cooked cereal, hot beverage, and meat and eggs (or pancakes), and (2) A complete dinner or supper of meat (or fish or poultry), at least one vegetable, dessert, and bread (biscuit or bannock).

      6) After each cooking, properly dispose of garbage, clean utensils, and leave a clean cooking area.

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        Does conservation come to mind when you think about Boy Scouting? It probably does to most people. Conservation has been a part of the Boy Scout program since its beginning in 1910, one hundred years ago. What we think about conservation has changed somewhat as a society and Scouting has been right there to lead the way among our youth.

        The Conservation Skill Award of the 1970-1980′s was a great example of the Boy Scouting program teaching these principles. Unfortunately, many of these requirements were not kept in the newer rank program. The requirements for this skill award were:

        1) Show by what you do that you follow the Outdoor Code when you are in the outdoors.

        2) a. Explain the main causes and effects of water pollution. Tell how we can have clean water.
        b. Explain the main causes and effects of air pollution. Tell how we can have clean air.

        3) a. Make a list of present major sources of energy and the major alternate sources.
        b. Make a list of ten ways in which you and your family can save energy.

        4) a. Take a walk around where you live for two hours and make two lists related to conservation. List things that please you. List things that you feel should be improved.
        b. Plan and carry out your own conservation project. Get it approved by your patrol leader before you start.

        5) Take part in one or more of these projects with you patrol or another Scout:
        a. Clean up a roadside, picnic ground, vacant lot, stream, lake shore, or ocean beach.
        b. Work on erosion control of a stream bank, gully, or trail.
        c. Plant trees, do forest improvement, or insect control.
        d. Improve backyard or other wildlife habitat.
        e. Help with energy conservation.

        This was a great skill for teaching conservation. It would have been nice to see more of it kept when the advancement program changed.

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          When the skill award program existed during the 1970-1980′s there was one skill award that was not very popular with the Boy Scouts of Troop 68. The Community Living Skill Award was not the most earned belt loop of the twelve. I know that I did not earn it as a Scout, but then advancement was not a big part of my troop’s program when I was a youth. Here are the requirements of the Community Living Skill Award:

          1) Explain what is meant by the terms: public utility, public service, government, community problems, community organization, volunteer or private agency, government agency, ethnic group, tradition, resources, crime resistance.

          2) Do three of the following:

          a. Make a list of five organizations working in your community. Visit one. Tell what it does.
          b. List five activities that take place in your community during a month. Explain the reason for each. Take part in one. Tell what you did.
          c. Make a list of five community problems. Explain how each affects you, your family, and the community.
          d. Tell some of the history, traditions, contributions, and ways of living of two ethnic groups in your community.
          e. Visit your police department. Find out what you can do to reduce the likelihood of crime in your home and neighborhood. Tell about your visit.
          f. Take part in a service project that will help a volunteer or private agency in your community. Tell what you did.

          3) Describe two public services. Visit a place that provides one of those services. Tell about your visit.

          4) Show that you know how to get around using a map or transportation schedule.

          At the bottom of the page is a short footnote that explains that “community” is the place where you live.

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            The third of the skill awards (alphabetically) is the Communications Skill award. As I was looking over the requirements I remembered the Scouts completing one requirement during a court of honor opening in the early 1980′s by introducing themselves to the parents and family members by using sign language. The 911 emergency phone number was not widely used yet so requirement #1b was an important one. The requirements for the Communications merit badge were:

            1) Do the following:
            a. Make a phone call correctly and answer properly.
            b. Show how to make an emergency phone call. Put these emergency phone numbers near your home phone.
            c. Do two of these: 1) Introduce a guest. 2) Make an announcement. 3) Tell of some special past event.

            2) Teach a Scout skill to two or more Scouts.

            3) Get a message to others without speaking or writing using two of these: silent Scout signals, manual alphabet, sign language for the deaf, Indian sign language, sports signals, morse code, semaphore code, or Scout trail signs.

            4) Tell how to get to a place selected by your Scout leader. (it must be 1 km away and not in a straight line.) Use speaking, writing, and sketches.

            5) Take part in or plan an emergency mobilization for your patrol or troop.

            6) Know five emergency distress signals.

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              The Citizenship Skill Award was probably the first skill award I earned when I was a Boy Scout in the mid 1970′s. In fact, it was probably the first Boy Scout award I earned since it was required for the rank of Tenderfoot Scout. I went on to earn several of them, along with a few merit badges.

              The Citizenship Skill Award requirements were:

              1) a. Describe the flag of the United States. Give a short history of it.
              b. Explain why you should respect your country’s flag. Tell which special days you should fly it in your state.
              c. Using a flag, and with another Scout helping you, show how to hoist and lower the flag, how to hang it vertically and horizontally on a wall, and how to fold it.
              d. Tell when to salute the flag and show how to do it.

              2) a. Repeat from memory the Pledge of Allegiance. Explain its meaning in your own words. Lead your patrol and troop in the proper ceremony of reciting the pledge.
              b. Tell about the meaning of our National Anthem and how it was written.

              3) a. Explain the rights and duties of a citizen of the United States.
              b. Tell about two things you have done that will help law-enforcement agencies.
              c. Explain what a citizen should do to save our resources.

              4) Do one of the following:
              a. Visit a community leader. Learn about the duties of the job or office. Tell your patrol or troop what you have learned.
              b. Learn something about a famous U.S. person of your choosing. Tell your reasons for picking that person and give a short report of what that person did to gain this recognition.
              c. Make a list of ten things, places, or sayings, that have some relationship to the history of the United States. Explain their meaning.
              d. Know the history and tradition of your state, commonwealth, or territorial flag.

              As I was writing these requirements I was flooded with many memories of Boy Scouts completing these requirements over twenty years ago. I also began thinking to myself, this was a great skill award. Some of these requirements have made it into today’s rank requirements, but several of them were lost in the shuffle. This award is one of the reasons I wish the BSA would not have dropped the skill award program.

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                When I was a Boy Scout in the mid 1970′s we needed to earn belt loops called skill awards for the first three ranks. Each skill award was based on a certain set of skills, such as camping, hiking, or swimming. There were twelve belt loops a Boy Scout could earn. The Citizenship Skill Award and one other were required for Tenderfoot. Hiking, First Aid, and one other skill award were required for Second Class. A Scout needed to complete the Camping, Cooking, and one other skill award for First Class rank, in addition to the First Aid Merit Badge.

                When I became a Scoutmaster in 1981 it was easy to use the twelve skill awards as monthly themes for the younger Scouts. Twelve awards, twelve themes. It worked well. Then, in the mid 1980′s, the National Office decided that skill awards would be discontinued and new rank requirements would be created. I hated to see the belt loops dropped from the program, but we had to move on and follow the new “improved” advancement program.

                I thought it might be fun to look back at these old awards and what the requirements of each one were at the time. So today, I start with the Camping Skill Award.

                1) Present yourself to your leader, properly dressed, before going on an overnight camping trip. Show the camping gear you will use, including shelter and food. Explain how you will use the gear. Show the right way to pack and carry it.

                2) Go on two overnight camping trips with your troop, patrol, or other Scouts, using the gear. On each overnight camp, do the following:
                a) Carry the gear on your back for at least 2 km to your camp. After camping, carry it 2 km back.
                b) Pick a good place for a tent. Pitched a tent correctly in the place you picked and sleep in it overnight. Store the tent correctly after use.
                c) Make a bed on the ground. Sleep on it overnight.
                d) Follow good health, sanitation, and safety practices. Leave a clean campsite.
                e) After each trip, tell your leader what you achieved and learned. Tell how good camping practices proved useful.

                3) Whip the ends of a rope. Tie the following knots: square knot, sheet bend, two half hitches, clove hitch, taut line hitch, and bowline. Show their correct use.

                4) Lash poles together with the following lashings: square, shear, and diagonal. Show their correct use. Use lashing for making a simple camp gadget.

                As you can see, all of these requirements are still a part of the Boy Scout advancement program. They have just been broken up into the first three ranks.

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