2011 Merit Badge Information

posted Nov 19, 2011, 6:06 AM by Paul Diming   [ updated Nov 12, 2014, 5:33 PM by Aj Mezynski ]
From Mr. Wheeler on 11/18/11:

Greetings Troop!  The topic of this message is merit badges.  I’ve had a few questions lately so thought I’d offer information and background about our merit badge program.

In years past, and this is still and option, our older scouts would participate in a camp program offered at Rock Enon called Eagle Week.  At this camp offered each August, with lots of prerequisites satisfied, a scout could complete several Eagle required badges.  A couple of years ago we took a look at this and thought we could do a better job with the badges and keep it close to home if we offered them ourselves.  Attempting to offer badges at Wed meetings was quite difficult.  Thus was the beginning of the Thursday night MB program.  The intent was to keep our older scouts on track with MBs needed for their bid for Eagle and offer a quality learning experience.

Soon after we began the Thursday program we tried to occasionally offer a MB for the younger scouts or one that the PLC was particularly interested in.  The PLC continues to drive our MB offerings.  They requested all of the Citizen MBs that began this fall and a run of the three longer time line badges of Personal Management, Personal Fitness, and Family Life.  There are only so many Thursdays so this MB run has taken up quite a bit of the time line.  

Merit badges in general come into play during a scout’s rank advancement towards Star and certainly for Life.  Scouts working on skills for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class are not primarily focused on MBs.  Summer camp, however, offers an excellent opportunity to accomplish badges that appeal to younger scouts, particularly the second year Ottari attenders. 

The focus of our Thursday MB offerings continues to be primarily for our older scouts and to offer MBs the PLC has asked for.

Sometimes we limit the scout age and/or rank permitted to attend a MB class.  As we’ve discussed before, the intent is to provide each scout with a quality learning experience.  Often that means assuring the scouts attending the MB have the maturity and application opportunity of the badge topic.  A 16 year old scout taking the automotive MB is certain to be vastly more interested in this topic than a 13 year old, for example.  Merit badge instructors are authorized complete authority by BSA to limit their class age or rank as they see fit.  

We often have folks suggest that we offer a MB at a Wednesday meeting.  Experience has proven that MBs taught at our Wednesday night meetings have been less than successful and are quite difficult to instruct.  An average Wed night attendance of 60 scouts makes for a challenging teaching environment.  We focused the Wed nights towards larger audience topics, patrol work, SMCs, BORs, guest speakers, COH/family nights, and preparing for our monthly events.  It is well known that the Wednesday meetings are a week point of our program.  Many scouts grumble about them.  Each SPL with my assistance try to offer a Wed program that will interest the scouts and still get needed Troop business done.  At each PLC we carefully plan out the Wed meeting program and we try to include a component of fun activities.  However, Wed meetings have more of a business aspect than a fun ratio as things must be done to keep our activities, Troop, and rank advancement on track.  

A key component often overshadowed by our Thursday MB program is that any Scout may self-initiate a badge with an instructor at any time.  Normally this only takes an e-mail or visit at a meeting to get things rolling.  The badge attempted should be within the ability of the Scout and a Scout is not to begin a self-initiated badge without contacting a MB instructor and the Scoutmaster first.  An instructor may ask for additional participants to join with a Scout to maximize the instructor’s time.  A Scout self-initiating a badge and receiving personalized attention during his effort is a time honored strength of a typical Scouting program.  A posting of current T2860 MB instructors is on our web site.  There are also MB counselors available through the Arrohattoc District and Heart of Virginia Council.  

It should be noted that our sponsor, Woodlake United Methodist Church, has been instrumental in supporting our program, to include our Thursday night MB classes, by providing reserved space scheduled up to a year in advance.  Without such strong sponsor support we would simply not have a Thursday MB program.  

I hope this helps you to understand how things got started and why we offer MBs as we do.  T2860 in my humble opinion provides an excellent MB program with quality instruction and outstanding teaching facilities.  The Scout response to our Thursday night MB offerings has been extraordinary with most classes having 25 or more Scouts attending.  The impact our parent instructors have had on our scouts and our program cannot be overstated.  Many of you have offered your time and resources to instruct our Scouts.  That is an amazing example of service to others that I assure you is not lost on our sons.  

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about MBs or any other aspect of our Scouting program.

Thank you,
Mark Wheeler