Posted by Jason Petty | Scout Leader Helps
The best way to optimize a scout’s experience working on a merit badge
If each scout follows the following steps when working on a merit badge and filling out the blue card, it will facilitate a better experience and provide him with the help he needs to start, continue, and finish merit badges.
As a long time merit badge counselor and former scoutmaster, I have seen many boys get excited to earn merit badges, only to lose steam and quit because it becomes too hard and daunting for them. I learned that a little guidance, including a slight change to the usual process, will greatly help to motivate a scout to stick with it.
The first drain to any scout’s enthusiasm is not knowing how to start. A scout must know where to go and who to call to get help and direction. If a scout gets to a merit badge requirement for the merit badge that is confusing and doesn’t have a counselor to readily call for guidance, he often stops working on it. Guiding the scout and being there to help him with any questions and encouragement is a part of this process that is most neglected.
The following step by step process will facilitate a better relationship between scout and merit badge counselor, helping the scout learn the material and enjoy it at the same time.
- The scout expresses an interest in a earning a specific merit badge. If he doesn’t think to ask his scout leader for a blue card, the leaders should offer one. A scout will soon learn this step and ask as part of the process.
- The scoutmaster encourages and assists the scout in filling out as much information as he can on the blue card right then (including the merit badge, counselor’s name, etc.).
- The scoutmaster can sign his name in two required places before work is even started on the requirements (one on the front part of the blue card, another on the back).
- The scoutmaster looks up possible merit badge counselors for the chosen merit badge and fills out name and contact information. (This information may be available online or provided in a list depending upon how your local district/council publishes it.)
- The scout takes the card and calls the counselor to introduce himself and explain that he wants to work on this merit badge.
- The counselor takes this opportunity to tell the scout any information he needs to know before beginning work on requirements and gives any needed guidance. A follow up appointment to meet with the scout for coaching can be set.
- The scout proceeds to work on the merit badge requirements.
- Since the scout has this interaction with the counselor, he’ll feel more inclined to call and ask for help at anytime. This also encourages adult interaction with the scout which is one of the goals of BSA in having scouts work with merit badge counselors.
- When the Scout is finished with any requirements he should call or meet with the counselor and get those signed off along the way.
- When the scout completes all the requirements, he calls the merit badge counselor to set up a meeting to pass off his work. The scout should always bring someone with him so the meeting is not a one on one with the counselor.
- The counselor verifies all requirements are fulfilled, signs the blue card in two places (both on the back of the blue card), retaining the counselor’s portion for his/her records and returning the two remaining parts of the card to the scout.
- The Scout tears off the applicant’s portion and keeps that for his records.
- The Scout turns in the last section titled Application for Merit Badge to his unit advancement chairman for proper recording and award presentation in the next Court of Honor.
I have seen it happen more often where the scout skips the first seven steps and starts on step 8. This sets him up for failure from the beginning. Without support from his scoutmaster (who doesn’t even know he is working on a merit badge) and without a counselor to guide him through the requirements, even if a scout does complete the work, many times the scout won’t know how to find a counselor to verify and pass off his work. Additionally, the unit advancement chair is often given all three parts of the blue card. Should the scout encounter an issue with the recording of his merit badge work, without his signed portion of the blue card to prove completion, he is out of luck and may need to re-earn the merit badge again. This is very discouraging to a scout.
What can you do in your unit to implement these steps? How can implementing these steps help your scouts?