My oldest son has been a Boy Scout for about six months now. I’ve gone on and on (and on and on and on) about the virtues and benefits of the Scouting program. If you haven’t guessed yet, I intend to go on a little more, right now.
Along with several of his friends in his troop, he’s actively on the hunt for Merit Badges. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the program, Merit Badges are – and aren’t – tied to a Scout’s advancement. There are certain Merit Badges he’ll need to make rank (there are twelve specific ones required to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout), but any Scout can pursue the requirements for any Merit Badge at any time, regardless of age or rank. The only thing he needs is enough interest to start, and enough drive to finish.
There are, at latest count, over 120 to choose from. They include activities/interests that most people associate with Boy Scouting, like Camping, Hiking, First Aid, and Indian Lore. There are some that are obviously in line with the Boy Scouts of America’s commitment to shaping tomorrow’s leaders – they can earn three different Citizenship Merit Badges (Community, Nation, and World), as well as American Business, Scholarship, and Public Speaking. Some are geared towards things they do for fun – Cycling, Skating, and Golf…which may rival the Cub Scout’s Pinewood Derby for “level of father involvement.”
There are some that I was surprised to see on the list. Turns out, Boy Scouts can earn Merit Badges for Composite Materials, Dentistry, Pulp & Paper, and Nuclear Science. The newest one is Robotics, and several Summer Camps are even incorporating it into their schedules of activities. I’m secretly hoping that my son will pursue the Home Repairs and Plumbing Merit Badges, but I’m not holding my breath…
The key person in the Merit Badge Plan (aside from the Scout himself) is the Merit Badge Counselor. This is an adult with a keen level of interest, knowledge, and experience in the specifics of a particular Merit Badge. His or her responsibility is to:
1. Assist the Scout as he plans the assigned projects and activities to meet the merit badge requirements.
2. Coach Scouts through interviews and demonstrations on how to do the required skills of the craft, business, or hobby.
3. Certify the Scout after determining whether he is qualified for the merit badge.
“A Guide for Merit Badge Counseling,” http://www.scoutmaster.org
This system of Merit Badge Counseling, in and of itself, is a terrific way to teach these Scouts another valuable life skill: Networking. When you have an interest you want to pursue further, who do you call on? When you have an endeavor you want to take to the next level, whose aid do you enlist? Whenever we can, we turn to those whose passion or profession (or ideally, both) is in line with our quests, right?
That’s the way it should be, and I’m glad my son is part of an organization that recognizes and promotes the value of networking, or, as they call it, the Patrol Method.
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