Posts Tagged ‘Advancement’

The merit badge program of the Boy Scouts of America is a wonderful way to introduce boys to new hobbies, sports, crafts, and even possible careers. The awards require a Boy Scout to meet new people in the community who are the merit badge counselors. The counselor, who is knowledgeable in the badge subject matter and approved by the local Scout Council, works with the Scout to complete the badge requirements. When the counselor is satisfied that the Scout has completed the requirements he or she sings the merit badge application, commonly referred to as the blue card. The Boy Scout gives the card to his scoutmaster or troop advancement person who records it with the Scout Office.

As I stated earlier, the local council approves all merit badge counselors. Each counselor must fill out a B.S.A. application and a merit badge counselor form. He or she must also complete the online Youth Protection Training course. It is the council’s responsibility to keep an updated list of counselors.

The council may set restrictions on counselors. For example, twenty years ago , my council had a rule that a person could be a counselor for only six merit badges, and that a Boy Scout could only earn two badges with any counselor. Ten years ago, a person could be a counselor for as many badges as he thought he qualifies for, if the council agreed, and a Scout could go to a counselor for any of those merit badges.

At a recent roundtable the subject of merit badge counselors came up and I was surprised by the latest change. Our district will only allow a person to be a counselor for five merit badges. The reason for this guideline was to get the Boy Scout to meet and work with a larger variety of people within his community. While I understand the reasoning behind this, I am not sure I totally agree with it since I am involved with a Boy Scout troop located in a city of only 33oo people. How far should we expect a Scout to travel to earn a merit badge?

I was a counselor for six merit badges. Then I was able to increase that number to eight. Now, it looks like I will have to drop three of them to get down to five. I plan to drop Backpacking and Wilderness Survival, two merit badges that I have never had a Scout come to me to earn. I think I will also drop Cinematography. The ones I plan to keep are Camping, Citizenship in the Community, Collections, Hiking, and Scouting Heritage. I was once thinking about being a Chess merit badge counselor, but I guess that is no longer an option unless I drop something else.

Does your council or district have guidelines for merit badge counselors? What are they? Post a reply to this article and share them with us. I am curious to see what others are doing.

I will never forget the Hiking Skill Award. “Why?” you ask. Because back in the 1980’s, while on an overnighter at a local state park, I decided to take the troop on a five mile hike to complete a requirement for this skill award. And we got lost. The five mile hike turned into an eight mile hike. Luckily, we found someone to drive us back to our campsite. It was not a high point for a young scoutmaster. I guess you could say I learned a few things myself from that particular hike.

The requirements for the Hiking Skill Award were:

1) Tell how to take a safe hike:
a. Cross country, day and night.
b. Along a highway, day and night.

2) a. Tell how to keep from getting lost.
b. Tell what to do if you are lost.

3) a. On a map, point out 10 different symbols, including contour lines. Tell what they represent.
b. Orient a map.
c. Point out on a map where you are.

4) a. Show how a compass works.
b. Give its eight principle points.

5) a. Show how to use a compass and a map together.
b. Using a compass and a map together, follow a route you marked on the map far enough to show you know how.

6) Take a hike in the field.
a. Before leaving, have your plan approved by your leader, including purpose, route, and clothing.
b. Take a five mile hike with your troop, patrol, or two or more other Scouts. Wear the right clothing. Take the right equipment. Follow good hike rules.

7) Take a hike in your town.
a. Before leaving, have your plan approved by your leader, including purpose, route, and clothing.
b. Take a five mile hike in a place of interest outside your neighborhood with your troop, patrol, an adult, or two or more other Scouts. Wear the right clothing. Take the right equipment. Follow good hike rules.
c. After you get back, tell what you did and learned.

(There was alternative requirements for Scouts who used a wheelchair or crutches.)

I almost wish I young enough to be a Boy Scout again. The merit badge I have been waiting for has finally arrived. Scouting Heritage is has been approved and is ready for Boy Scouts to begin earning. Since I am too old to earn it myself, I will be signing on as a merit badge counselor.

The merit badge requirements have been posted at It is not going to be an easy merit badge for a boy to earn. A Scout is going to have to interview at least three different people. He needs to create a Scouting memorabilia collection. Some research will also need to be done on Scouting’s history.

When I first read the requirements I thought that requirement #4 would be one that would limit many boys from earning the badge. It states:

  1. Do ONE of the following:
    1. Attend either a BSA national jamboree, OR world Scout jamboree, OR a national BSA high-adventure base. While there, keep a journal documenting your day-to-day experiences. Upon your return, report to your counselor what you did, saw, and learned. You may include photos, brochures, and other documents in your report.
    2. Write or visit the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas.* Obtain information about this facility. Give a short report on what you think the role of this museum is in the Scouting program.

I missed in 4b where it states “WRITE or visit” the national museum. Good thing I read it a second time.

What do you think about this merit badge? Are you as excited about it as I am? Leave a comment.

Are you a Boy Scout? Would you like to do something different this year, the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America? How about earning a merit badge from the early days of Scouting that have been off the books for years? The BSA is bringing back four merit badges that you earn this year only. The badges include Signaling, Tracking, Pathfinding, and Carpentry.

These badges must be completed before December 31, 2010, or you lose out on your chance to earn something from Scouting’s history.

For more information checking out the blog of Scouting Magazine, the Cracker Barrel, at

I was a scoutmaster for several years when I noticed that we had a number of Boy Scouts who would go along on many of the outings, but would not show up regularly for troop meetings, and would not take the time to earn their advancement. I talked to them. I encouraged them. But it did not make a difference. They would not put forth the effort to earn their ranks and merit badges.

As a scoutmaster, I feel it is important for a Scout to continue forward on his advancement. I do not expect every boy to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, but I do expect them to make a steady progress. While I am willing to work with the boys on some things, I believe the Boy Scout needs to take the responsibility to keep moving forward.
Out of my frustration came an idea. If a Scout did not earn a rank or merit badge within the last six months he would not be able to attend an outing until he did. Summer camp and high adventure bases would be excluded. I think I brought this up to the Patrol Leader Council before we began enforcing the “Those In Need Of Advancement” policy, which became known as TINOA. Any Scout on the TINOA list would not be able to go along on an outing.
Have you ever had an idea which seemed like a good one at the time, but it turned out not to be as good as you first thought? Have you ever had an idea backfire on you? Have you ever had an example of the Boy Scouts proving themselves smarter than you?
The TINOA policy actually worked fairly well for a couple of years. The boys began to work on their advancement a bit. After a while though, I began to notice that some of the older Scouts began missing quite a few activities. When I questioned them about it they replied, “Well, I am TINOA. I can’t go on the outing.” They had begun using the policy as an excuse to miss troop activities. They could use the policy to skip activities instead of using sports, families, friends, or girls as the excuse.
The policy had backfired. The troop soon dropped it and never brought it back. I have heard it said that the Boy Scouts of America has the program working pretty well and that we do not need to change it with addition requirements. TINOA was a good example of how you should not mess around with a good thing.

Have you heard about the Scouting Heritage Merit Badge yet? No? Well, that is probably because there is no such merit badge… yet. On the BSA Innovation Engine (found at ) there are a lot of ideas thrown around for new merit badges. This one happened to catch the eye of Cubmaster Chris and I as we recorded a new episode of the Leader’s Campfire podcast last night. During this episode we discuss some of the ideas found on the BSA Innovation Engine, along with Jerry from The Scoutmaster Minute podcast.

The idea for a Scouting Heritage Merit Badge was posted by alobdell. He, or she, gave this merit badge some serious thought before submitting it to the engine. Here is what he/she wrote:

Include Scouting Heritage as a Merit Badge. Many of our Scouts do not know about the movement of Scouting. Requirements could include some of the following.
1. Write an essay about one of the Founders of Scouting. Make a presentation about the origin of Scouting to a non-Scout group such as a Church or civic organization.

2. Learn about Careers in Scouting.

3. Exchange letters with a Scout in another Scout Council.

4. Learn about the World Scouting Organization

5. Conduct an interview with a Veteran Scouter

6. Meet a Scouting Professional

7. Visit your Scout Council Headquarters

8. Learn about the BSA’s Adventure Bases
9. Attend a District Rountable or District Meeting
10. Make a display of Scouting information and material for your community to be open to the public for at least one week.

Chris and I agreed that this would be an excellent merit badge idea and a great idea for some sort of Cub Scout level award. To tell the truth, I thought this was one of the best ideas for a new merit badge listed on the idea engine. Chris thought this was a good idea with the 100th anniversary of Scouting coming up in 2010. Jerry had to leave us for a family function before we discussed this during the podcast, but knowing Jerry, he would give his thumbs up to this merit badge also.

Unfortunately, the BSA Innovation Engine is only open to professional Scouters to vote on the various ideas, so Chris, Jerry, and I could not leave a vote for this merit badge. However, Chris has installed a simular engine on the PTC Media site that is open for all of us non-professional Scouters to use.

Shortly after I began my tenure as a scoutmaster at the age of 21 in 1981 I was told during a training event that an adult could serve as a merit badge counselor for up to six merit badges, but a Boy Scout could only earn two merit badges with a counselor. This was to prevent the problem of one counselor, such as a scoutmaster or parent, signing off a lot of merit badges for any one Boy Scout or their own son. After all, the merit badge program is designed for the boys to get out and work with a variety of people. It made sense to me so I never questioned it.

Until this month when the subject of merit badges came up during the roundtable meeting. Since we were talking about merit badges I asked if that rule was still in effect. By the puzzled looks on everyone’s face, including the roundtable staff, I knew I was the only one who had ever heard of this rule. That was not surprising since I think I was the only one in the room who was a Scout leader back in the 1980’s.

No one in the room could answer my answer. When the district executive came in at the end of the meeting for the announcements we asked him the same question, and got that puzzled look again. He had not heard of that rule, but he would look into it and get back to us with an answer.

I received his answer on Monday by email. According to the National office there is no limit to the number of merit badges for which a person may be a counselor. However, the counselor must be approved by the council after filling out the proper paperwork. There is no limit to the number of merit badges a Boy Scout may earn with any one counselor, but he must follow BSA guidelines when meeting with the counselor.

Well, this will change the ballgame slightly in our troop. For nearly twenty-five years I have limited the boys to earning no more then two merit badges with any one counselor, except for summer camp. Even though I am a counselor for five merit badges, I only worked on two with any Scout. Now I can help the boys earn all five badges. Plus, I think I will add two more to my list that are subjects I am quite comfortable with.

You know, sometimes I think I may need to take scoutmaster basic training all over again.

The Boy Scout advancement program was quite different in the 1970’s from what it is today. Earning skill awards was a standard requirement for the first three ranks. The skill awards were a metal belt loop, similar to some of today’s Cub Scouting awards. There was twelve skill awards designed to introduce Scouts to skill areas such as camping, citizenship, first aid, and other basic Scouting skill areas.

Another change in the rank requirements was that A Scout needed to earn at least one merit badge for every rank. Yes, you read that correctly. A Scout needed to earn a merit badge for the rank of Tenderfoot, in addition to two skill awards.

Things sure have changed since then. Merit badges are no longer needed for the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class. Skill awards were discontinued in the late 1980’s. The BSA seems to change portions of the advancement program every few years to keep it relevant to today’s world, while still trying to maintain the traditional Scouting values and ideals.

I have nothing to brag about when I talk about my advancement while a Boy Scout. I was a Scout for three and a half years, but I only reached the rank of Second Class. The rank of Eagle Scout was not even in my sights. I did earn several skill awards and three merit badges, including Pioneering and Reading.

The worst thing about the advancement program when I was a Scout is that I do not remember receiving the awards. I earned them, I still have them, but I do not remember a single court of honor during my years as a Scout. I honestly could not tell you if we even held a court of honor back then. I certainly do not have any pictures from such a ceremony.

Today, I am the scoutmaster of the troop in my hometown. We now hold courts of honor four times a year, whether we have 20 merit badges and ten ranks to present, or if we only have one merit badge to hand out. We try to add some humor to the ceremony and make it fun for the Scouts and the parents while still maintaining the dignity and solemnity of the actual presentations.

As a Scoutmaster, I want the Scouts to look back and to remember their award presentations as a positive moment of their Scouting years. I hope they will not think back and have no memory of such an important Scouting event as, unfortunately, I do.