The application for Merit Badge AKA the “Blue Card, is a little piece of paper that will get even the most level-headed Scouts doing the dance of the blue card.
Just sit back and watch as a Scout realizes that he’ll be 18 in a few months. The line dance for a visit with the Troop secretary is reminiscent of scene from Urban Cowboy.
I was recently asked about the process of the Blue Card and how we do it in our Troop. The reader has asked to remain nameless, but I am glad that this question came up. I can not tell you how times I have had conversations about such a simple thing, but something that is sometimes more confusing than a rubics cube.
Our reader asks; “Anyway would you share how your Troop handles Blue Cards, from the time the Scout asks to start a merit badge and is give the Blue Card through completion and where the Blue Card goes and who handles what.”
So here it goes… I’ll let you behind the curtain of how Troop 664 does the Blue card dance. There are actually two ways that we do this. I will explain the regular way that we do it and then how we do it for summer camp.
First. The Scout expresses interest in a merit badge… He picks the merit badge and goes to the Troop Secretary and asks for a blue card.
Then, the Scout fills out the Blue card. He fills out the whole front of the card leaving only my signature space blank. He fills out the back of the card with his name and the name of the merit badge he is going to work. He can leave the name of the counselor blank.
The Scout then brings me the blue card and I sign the front of the blue card. This allows the Scout to start working on the merit badge. It also gives me an opportunity to talk with the Scout about the badge and answer any questions that he may have. If I know who the counselor for that merit badge is, I give the Scout the information, if I don’t I have the Scout return to the Troop secretary and she will look up the counselor and give the Scout the information, phone number etc.
The Scout then works the merit badge. The counselor fills out the card and confirms that the Scout met all of the requirements. Once the merit badge is complete, the counselor signs and dates it and gives it back to the Scout.
The Scout will then bring the completed blue card back to me. I then sign the card and have the Scout give the blue card to the Troop secretary. She records the completion date and merit badge into the Troop master software and takes the first part of the card and files it with the Troop records. The Scout gets the remainder of the card. Most counselors do not retain their copy.
The Applicants record is stapled to the merit badge certificate as is the actual merit badge. The Scout is presented the merit badge at the next court of honor.
That completes the Dance of the Blue card.
The only difference in this process for summer camp is this. I will pre sign a bunch of blue cards. I then hand them out on day 1 of summer camp. The Scout takes the blue card and fills it out and takes it to the first session of the merit badge class.
At the completion of summer camp, the blue cards are returned from the summer camp staff to the Scoutmasters. I sign all the completed merit badges and make a note of the partials.
During summer camp, I track the merit badges being worked daily. I keep a chart in my notebook of who is working what badge at what time. Then I follow-up daily at the “Scoutmaster cabin”. The camps in our council all make daily progress reports available. If by Wednesday, it does not look like progress is being made, I have a little chat with the Scout. It is the Scouts decision to work the badges and I will not force or push the Scout to complete the badges at camp. I do “Highly encourage” them to get them finished, but at the end of the week.. it will be up to him.
When we get home, I turn over all of the blue cards to the Troop Secretary and she records and goes through the same process as stated above.
So there it is.. The Dance of the Blue Card… I sure hope that helps.
Leave your questions, comments, and suggestions here on the blog or feel free to drop me an email.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Last night at our Troop meeting I gave my annual Summer Camp talk with the Scouts. This is never a popular talk with the parents because I kind of go against the grain when it comes to conventional wisdom regarding “Camp”.
The rub comes when I tell the Scouts that the number priority of Summer camp (aside from being safe) is to have as much fun as you possible can. Do not worry about merit badges. Take a few and have fun.
I harken back to my Scouting days and the memories I have of Summer camp. 1978 at Camp Freedom was the best time I can remember. The fun we had purposely falling out of our canoes, shooting bows and arrows and never earning the merit badge, time spent with my best buddies swimming and goofing around at the water front. Fishing at the lake, singing songs in the dinning hall and just having a great summer camp experience. That’s what it is all about.
Taking away from camp a life time of memories is more valuable than any merit badge. Parents often times view summer camp as an advancement opportunity, and it is certainly there for the taking, but cranking out merit badges without having fun is a waste of summer camp.
I encourage the Scouts to take a merit badge or two, participate fully in the evening programs, make new friends, and emerse themselves in the camp experience.
Our younger Scouts are heading off to camp this Sunday. The older guys hit the Trail at Philmont next week. Both of the trips offer great life time experiences that needs to be taken advantage of. Getting wrapped up in what I get out of it by way of cloth is not the focus and when it becomes the sole purpose you miss out on the wonderful Scouting experiences that are part of camp!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Scouting Magazine’s blog, Bryan on Scouting recently posted an article discussing 25 ways Scouters can make the most of Summer Camp.
I found it interesting some of the comments made, by and large, they were spot on. I thought this was one worth sharing.
So check out the article share your thoughts (both here and there).
Have a Great Scouting Day!
A long time ago a Scouting mentor of mine told me that the secret to success in a Troop is PROGRAM, PROGRAM, PROGRAM. When you have a strong program you have Scouts that stay in Scouting, you have good advancement, you have Trained leaders, you have active Scouts and Scout parents. PROGRAM, PROGRAM, PROGRAM!
The outdoor program is Scouting’s classroom. It is why Scouts join and stay in Scouting. Without the outdoor experience it’s just another club.
Outdoor adventure is the promise that we make to these young men when they join Scouts.
Here is what the BSA’s website (Scouting.org) has to say about the outdoor program, I have highlighted a few key words in this excerpt from the site.
In the outdoors, boys have opportunities to acquire skills that make them more self-reliant. They can explore canoe and hiking trails and complete challenges they first thought were beyond their ability. Attributes of good character become part of a boy as he learns to cooperate to meet outdoor challenges that may include extreme weather, difficult trails and portages, and dealing with nature’s unexpected circumstances. Scouts plan and carry out activities with thoughtful guidance from their Scoutmaster and other adult leaders. Good youth leadership, communication, and teamwork enable them to achieve goals they have set for themselves, their patrol or squad, and their troop or team.
Learning by doing is a hallmark of outdoor education. Unit meetings offer information and knowledge used on outdoor adventures each month throughout the year. A leader may describe and demonstrate a Scouting skill at a meeting, but the way Scouts truly learn outdoor skills is to do them themselves on a troop outing.
Scouting uses the patrol method to teach skills and values. Scouts elect their own patrol leader and they learn quickly that by working together and sharing duties, the patrol can accomplish far more than any of its members could do alone. The patrol succeeds when every member of the patrol succeeds and Scouts learn that good teamwork is the key to success.
Exercise and fitness are part of the outdoor experience. As Scouts hike, paddle, climb, bike, or ride, their muscles become toned and their aerobic capacity increases. When they work as a patrol to plan menus for their outings, they learn to purchase cost-effective ingredients to prepare flavorful and nutritious meals.
Service to others and good citizenship is learned through such outdoor activities as conservation projects, collecting food, building trails and shelters, and conducting community service projects that promote healthy living. Through helping other people, Scouts learn to appreciate how they can share themselves and their blessings to those in need. By giving service to benefit others, Scouts gain a sense of personal satisfaction.
Your outdoor program is essential to the success of your unit. Getting the Scouts out side and active is the method in which it all comes together.
Lets talk a minute about types of activities… CAMPING! I don’t care how you camp… camp! Backpack, tail gate, sleep in cabins, whatever.. just get out and camp. And when you camp.. make it for more than 1 night. 1 night is not enough to excercise the important parts of the Patrol method. Camp! Place NO RESTRICTIONS on camping or activities in your unit. Sumer camps and National High Adventure bases place age and rank restrictions on certain activities. These are in place to reduce lines, give older Scouts incentives, and maintain certain levels or risk management. At the unit level as long as you have QUALIFIED and WELL TRAINED Leadership… the sky is the limit. Younger Scouts can do amazing things when you let them. So take them climbing, Kyaking, swimming, rafting, canoeing, backpacking… The sky is the limit.
Never say no to your PLC! Let them plan and carry out great outdoor adventures!
Last weekend our Troop did a 10 mile Backpack trip over 2 nights (2.5 days). The whole Troop did the event. We have 17 brand new Scouts in the Troop and for a few this was their first camp out. We trained them to pack their packs and reduce their loads. We did a shake down before we left to ensure they were all prepared.. then we went. On Saturday, we gave the first year Scouts the option to carry their packs or have them forwarded to the next camp location. Most of them carried their packs.. and after many adjustments.. they all did very well. The best part is they challenged themselves. They pushed themselves and did their best. I am proud of them.
This is the adventure that they joined the troop for. Remember.. They joined Scouts.. we did not join them! You have to deliver the promise!
PROGRAM, PROGRAM, PROGRAM!
The outdoor program is an essential part of the Scouting movement. It is universal, it is the class room of Scouting, it is… The Promise of Scouting!
Pictured above are some of the Scouts that went on the backpack trip this last weekend. Most of the Scouts pictured are in the new Scout Patrol.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
At last nights Roundtable I was pleased to see a great turn out in the Boy Scout break out. Last nights attraction was Camporee and what units can do to get ready for it. We had about a half hour left so I thought it would be worth our while to talk a little District talk with the leaders that took their time to be at the break out.
Now first of all.. I have said it before, and I am sure I will say it again.. at Roundtable we typically are preaching to the choir, but there were plenty of newer faces in the room, so putting on my District Chairman hat, I stepped up front and spent a few minutes sharing some district news, reported back a little on the District Journey to Excellence Score card, and made myself available for questions.
Summer camp. This became a big subject last night. There are way to many units that still have not reported a summer camp sign up for this year. It is a fact that Scouts that attend summer camp stay in Scouting longer. We looked at the numbers. Only 1/3 of the scouts signed up for our council camps are from our council. That means that lots of units from outside of our council are flowing into our camps. That’s a great thing, except to say, that means that lots of Scouts in our council are not going to summer camp.
Retention. Summer camp leads us to retention. IF lots of Scouts are not going to summer camp, then its no wonder why they are not staying in Scouting. Our numbers show that we are doing well crossing Webelos into Boy Scouts, and we are doing a great job getting boys to join Scouts “off the street”. But we are not doing the best we can to keep them in Scouting. It is no surprise that boys leave the program when they are not engaged. If they are not having fun, or participating fully in Scouting, they will leave. I mean, why stay?
Program. Back when I was a new Scoutmaster, a mentor of mine shared with me that regardless of everything else the key to a successful unit is the program. He said Program, Program, Program! I have shared this here before to, my “Field of Dream” philosophy. If you build the program, they will come.. and stay. Monthly camp outs, Summer camp attendance, advancement focus, service opportunities all add up to great program. Youth leadership that is driven to lead to the next adventure keeps them excited and wanting more. A solid program at the unit level is the answer to most if not all of the problems we face in the Scouting movement.
Which brought me to the final point of the evening. What is the role of the Council and the District? Resourcing. It is not the role of the Council or the District to run units. They are there to assist in the administrative tasks, financial opportunities, and resourcing of program (materials, camps, etc). I think too many people wait around for the Council or District to do things for them. The unit is where Scouting happens. It is where Scouts become men of character, good citizens, and discover fitness. If you wait around for the council to do that, you will never be a successful unit. The council and district can not build you a program that is successful. They can assist with the resources that will help your success… but wait around and you will fail.
A question came up about the DE and his role. Again, he is a resource manager. He is there to raise funds, develop relationships in the community to build and grow scouting. He is there to assist units in training, growing, and ensuring that the promise of Scouting is being delivered in those units. But wait for him to do the work at the unit. You will fail. This is not a bad thing. This is the way Scouting was designed. Scouting is owned and operated by the volunteers that care to serve our youth. Bottom line. We are Scouting and we Deliver the Promise. We, the volunteer. Our District committee is made up of volunteers, our Council committee is made up of volunteers, but more importantly, our units, Packs, Troops, and Crews are made up of thousands of volunteers that every single day do something to deliver the promise of Scouting to the great kids that come seeking fun and adventure.
It was great to be able to talk with some of those volunteers last night. As I looked at the room and saw the faces of the BSA, people that really care. I know that all is well. The numbers are the numbers, and they will come around. The people care and will do what ever it takes to develop those programs to make Scouting the greatest.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Spending time with your Scouts on C.O.P.E courses is a wonderful experience. Scouts are challenged to step away from what they know is comfortable. The team building exercises and challenging tasks push Scouts to push themselves, not only for the sake of pushing themselves, but for the sake of the team. Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience courses test the Scouts to do their best.
The other thing that C.O.P.E teaches is the idea that Scouting is among other things a “Personal Experience”. Now it is wrapped up within Patrols, Troops, and buddy teams, but at the end of the day, it is up to the Scout to demonstrate self-reliance and have an attitude that he is willing to accomplish any task that he gets the personal experience. Our Method of Advancement is one way that is completely a personal experience in Scouting.
The Scout is responsible for his advancement. If he wants to be an Eagle Scout, there is nothing in his way except for himself. The requirements are clearly outlined in his handbook, he has the support of his Adult leadership, and he is driven to complete the task. Advancement is up to him. Not his buddies, his Scoutmaster, or parents.
The merit badge program is much like the advancement method in that it to is a personal experience for the Scout. There are required merit badges, but by and large with the large amount of badges spanning every vocation, hobby, sports, and skills, the Scout can pick and choose what he likes, wants, and needs to move forward with his Scouting experience.
Last night I talked with many of the new parents about Summer camp. They had questions about merit badges and what we expect the Scouts to do… more so… what merit badges I expect the Scouts to earn while at camp. My answer was received better by some parents than others. My answer was that it was up to the Scout on what he earns and how many merit badges he try to earn. My expectation is that they have fun at Summer camp. If that means 6 merit badges or no merit badges I am ok with that. “But we are paying a lot of money for summer camp” a parent said… yes I understand that. What do you think you are paying for? In my opinion we pay for the personal and shared experiences that are found only at Summer camp. Summer camp is a week-long C.O.P.E course. There are challenges, skills, and tests all week. How the Scouts handle those both as individuals and as a team determines the success of the week at camp. Merit badges and how many the Troop can earn is not the measure of success. In the end, not one merit badge will lead to a memory that they share. I can tell you stories all day long about the summer camps that I attended from 1978 to 1984. But I can only tell you 1 story about a merit badge, and it really had little to do with the badge, it had more to do with me falling asleep and getting lost while trying to earn it. My expectation is that the Scouts have fun and build a catalog of memories. I want them to have a great Personal Experience in Scouting.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
The winner of the first SMMPhoto contest is Dominic Galloro!
There were many great pictures submitted.. but this one seemed to capture the spirit of summer camp and the adventure of Scouting for me. Three guys with a common goal.. just blowing their lungs out.. and the fire is still not that big!
You don’t have to be the next Ansle Adams to win at shooting Scouting pictures.
I want to thank everyone for sending in your pictures. This was a tough decision given the big number of pics I had to look through. I was glad to see that everyone had a great Summer Camp season and more importantly the Scouts had fun!
And I suppose that is what this winning picture shows me.. these three guys are having fun. Oh and I know that the big stick over the fire pit.. yeah.. there will be some poking going on with that later.. right guys…
OK.. Dominic send me your contact information and I will get the book in the mail to you!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Troop 664 after the Polar Bear Swim
Last week at Summer camp, my SPL and I had the chance to sit in a row-boat together for 1 hour and 12 minutes. During that time we talked about the week, leadership, attitudes, and his future. It was one of the best hours I have ever spent in my life. During that hour I met a new young man.. up until then, he was just another Scout that stepped up to meet the leadership challenge. He has always been active and one of those guys that you can always count on.. some would call his type the core of the Troop.
I appreciated the fact that he was very open with the discussion and his sense of humor really came out.
I recorded our conversation and invite you to listen in. SMMPodcast #93 is all us and a few guys swimming their mile swim.
I hope you enjoy the time spent with James, my SPL, as much as I did.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Ok.. so fair warning.. I am going to rant in this post. I know that I try to keep this blog positive.. but this is something that I must get off my chest. Why you may be asking? Well its because what I am about rant about is a fundamental part of Scoutmastership. And when I hear what I heard while at Summer camp, well it flat out worries me that there are Scoutmasters out there that are failing their Scouts.
Let me explain…
While at Summer Camp last week all of the Scoutmasters met daily at the program cabin. Each day the staff would give the Scoutmasters a run down of the days events and take any questions or concerns that we may have. On Tuesday night the Scouts would have to cook dinner in camp, so on Monday night, the commissioners gave the SPLs a meal order form. This form had all the basics on it, the SPL was to scratch off the items that they would not need, sign the form, have the Scoutmaster initial it, and then turn it in on Tuesday morning. Pretty simple.
So on Tuesday at the Scoutmaster meeting, the staff reminded us that the SPLs would be turning these forms in. As soon as the staff made the comment three Scoutmasters (well we will call them Scoutmasters.. after all they have the patch on their uniforms) began to laugh. The program director asked what was funny. The Scoutmaster in question stated “Not sure you can trust an SPL to get it done..hahaha” One of the other Scoutmasters suggested that he never saw the form and that the staff should had given the form to the Scoutmaster.. after all, he would be the one doing the cooking.
My jaw hit the deck and smoke began to appear from my ears. I told myself to just shut up and let it go. And then the following statement came ooozing out of this Scoutmasters mouth. “You can’t trust a boy to this stuff”. WHAT?
I looked at this dude and asked him if he ever heard of Youth Leadership? He looked at me and said.. uh yeah.
I asked him if he was embarrased? He said what for? I asked him if he ever trained the SPL.. I mean after all.. it is the Scoutmasters job to train the Senior Patrol Leader.. right? He replied its hopeless.. he’s just a kid. I asked again if he was embarrassed. Again he said what for? I shared with him that I would be embarrassed if I would have said something like that, especially on a deck full of Scoutmasters. He told me that I would not understand. I asked him to help me understand why he would not train a Scout to lead, I asked him to explain to me why he had no faith in the Scout. I asked him to share with me what he thought his responsibility was as a Scoutmaster when it came to training, coaching, and teaching the SPL. He looked at me with a puzzled look.. that was all could take. The staff at that point stepped in and said they would take care of it.
So there it is… This saddened me. I was dumbfounded at the lack of training this Adult offered his Scouts. I am saddened that the Scouts of his unit will not get opportunities or the trust of an adult allowing them to be successful. It is tragic that the Scouts of his unit are getting the benefit of the full Scouting program. I can only imagine how the rest of the program in that Troop is lacking. At the end of the day, it’s the Scouts that will suffer.. but then again.. what they don’t know.. well, yes it will hurt them in the long run.
They do not have a leader willing to Train them, Trust them, and let them lead.
An hour in the middle of the lake in a row-boat made me feel much better.
END OF RANT.
I apologize for the negative post. I try not to do this, but this one has been on my mind since Monday of last week and I could not let it go another day.
Please everyone.. Be a good Scoutmaster! Train them, Trust them, and Let the Boys lead!
Have a Great Scouting day!
Break is over, Summer camp was an awesome experience and I need to share more with you once I collect me thoughts.
I will share this with you today however. Shared Experience!
One of Scoutings treasures is the shared experience of your Scouts and you. Summer camp is one of the best times to have the shared experience and make memories that will last forever.
On the last night in camp, we sat around the camp fire. Our SPL was talking with some of the guys about how great camp was and then I spoke up about the memories that were forged this week.
We went around the fire circle and talked about merit badges, mile swims, catching fish, hanging out with friends, and being part of a great troop.
This year is Camp Pioneer’s 75th Anniversary. The guys of the Troop pledged to come back in 25 years for the 100th. We all decided that we would come back to Camp Pioneer to celebrate together. I’m in!
I had a great time with the Scouts this week at camp. They are all a part of a wonderful shared experience I will never forget!
Have a Great Scouting Day!