Our council, our district and the units within our district have all done an excellent job promoting and providing camping opportunities for our boys. As we know, the outdoor experience – camping, hiking, etc… – represents a critical path for boys to learn leadership and other skills for life.
But we also know Boy Scouts is more than just camping. Indeed, the capstone of any Boy Scout’s career is the Eagle Scout project – an activity that emphasizes leadership and community service and may or may not include an outdoor element.
BSA offers boys a path of discovery beyond outdoor activities that may influence the direction of one’s Eagle project or, indeed, one’s career or lifetime hobbies. This is the Merit Badge program – a vital part of the entire Boy Scout Experience.
At the September 9th, 2010 Towpath District Boy Scout Roundtable, we discussed a proposal inspired by the Jamboree’s “Merit Badge Midway.” In a nutshell, the proposal is as follows: every so often – say, no more than once a month – a Towpath District Troop would host an event that would allow boys to earn a “rare” merit badge. By “rare” we mean a merit badge not usually offered at Massawepie or Merit Badge University. The length of the event can be anywhere from an evening to an all-day Saturday event (and anything in between). The length would be determined by the Merit Badge Counselor, the Merit Badge Requirements and the host troop.
For example – and I’ll pick one that is not considered “rare” (it’s offered regularly at Merit Badge University) – with “Collections” all the boy needs to do is to assemble a collection and answer a few questions. A similar merit badge – Coin Collecting – was offered at the Jamboree Midway and was completed on-site with the boys buying a few dollars worth of coins.
In another example, we might want to partner with a commercial or non-profit establishment to have them provide the venue and the expertise for a particular merit badge. The Rochester Museum and Science Center already offers this with some science merit badges, but we can consider other alternatives. For example, does anyone have a contact at “Petco” to see if they would be willing to sponsor at “Pets” or “Dog Care” merit badge? N.B.: Both of these would have long prerequisites: 2 months for Dog Care) and 4 months for Pets.
In the end, the “Merit Badge Midway” program might be viewed as a potential pilot project that, if successful, might be adopted by the entire Council. The Niagara Council in Buffalo is already doing something similar to this. I hope to secure a speaker for our next meeting who has experienced our neighboring council’s program.
All our troops have merit badge counselors and no doubt some of those counselors handle “rare” merit badges. It is therefore a natural assumption to assume troops are putting on these “rare” merit badge programs already for themselves. What we are asking is if any troop would be willing to broaden the invitation to other troops in the Towpath District (and possibly other nearby troops).
So, here’s what I’d ask everyone to comment on below:
- What “rare” merit badges do the boys in your troop have an interest in?
- Do you already have merit badge counselors for “rare” merit badges? (If so, what are the merit badges?)
- Would your troop be willing to host the first “Towpath Merit Badge Midway” program?
We’ve already got 4 “rare” merit badges that will disappear in three months – the throwback “Historic” merit badges – Carpentry; Pathfinding; Signaling and Tracking. Is any troop willing to take on any one of these four and invite boys from other troops to participate? As a corollary, does anyone have any contacts at Home Depot to host the Carpentry throw-back? (Let’s discuss this last item at the next meeting, because, if no one has an existing relationship, I will contact them personally on it.)
Please comment below so everyone can see. Thanks.