Advancement in Summer Camp

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Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby milominderbinder2 » Wed May 28, 2008 1:23 pm

This is the discussion for the Advancement in Summer Camp page on meritbadge.org.

This text is quoted from the BSA Advancement Policies #33088 © 1989, 2007 Printing.

In particular note that:
* Summer camp counselors should award partial credit when it is earned.
* Each Scout must still be reviewed individually by the counselor to ensure completion of the badge's requriements
* Summer camp counselors must still maintain the exact standards as outlined in the merit badge requirements
* Scouts with disabilities must still meet the exact requirements even in summer camp.

Please note needed corrections here.

- Craig
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby Seascout » Mon Aug 01, 2011 8:10 pm

We are noticing a disjunct in BSA policy concerning exactly this topic. In a perfect world, all summer camp merit badge counselors would be qualified and would review each scout in his classes for each point of the merit badge he is teaching. The reality is sometimes much different to this.

We understand that once a Council approved merit badge counselor has signed off on a requirement, it is deemed to have been met. Period. We also note that the criterion the counselor should have held does not change simply because of the summer camp setting. So what happens if/when a blue-card is signed off by a counselor for criterion which were obviously NOT met? (We had one boy for whom a canoeing merit badge was signed off who had not been allowed in the canoe because he was classified as a non-swimmer. Each time we have kids earning badges at summer/winter camp, there are at least a few questionable approvals - if not this extreme.)

Because of this, our troop policy has been to have an appropriate local merit badge counselor go over the each badge with the boys - not in a testing kind of way, but simply checking with him to see if he actually did each of the activities required. If he reports that he didn't, or if it is obvious that the requirement could not have taken place at summer camp, the counselor makes arrangements with the boy to finish the badge properly so it can be awarded. This seems to be approved by the BSA policy which does not permit merit badges to be awarded at camp, but leaves final approval and awards to the troop committee.

Do other troops have a similar policy? If not, how do you handle the flagrant, if only occasional, abuses of a policy that would simply hand out the summer camp earned badge without question?

Our policy has been questioned as being in violation of BSA procedures by a couple of parents. I'd be interested in feedback as to how we are handling this.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby smtroop168 » Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:26 pm

Welcome to the Forum.

Seascout wrote:We are noticing a disjunct in BSA policy concerning exactly this topic. In a perfect world, all summer camp merit badge counselors would be qualified and would review each scout in his classes for each point of the merit badge he is teaching. The reality is sometimes much different to this.

We understand that once a Council approved merit badge counselor has signed off on a requirement, it is deemed to have been met. Period. We also note that the criterion the counselor should have held does not change simply because of the summer camp setting. So what happens if/when a blue-card is signed off by a counselor for criterion which were obviously NOT met? (We had one boy for whom a canoeing merit badge was signed off who had not been allowed in the canoe because he was classified as a non-swimmer. Each time we have kids earning badges at summer/winter camp, there are at least a few questionable approvals - if not this extreme.)

Because of this, our troop policy has been to have an appropriate local merit badge counselor go over the each badge with the boys - not in a testing kind of way, but simply checking with him to see if he actually did each of the activities required. If he reports that he didn't, or if it is obvious that the requirement could not have taken place at summer camp, the counselor makes arrangements with the boy to finish the badge properly so it can be awarded. This seems to be approved by the BSA policy which does not permit merit badges to be awarded at camp, but leaves final approval and awards to the troop committee.

Do other troops have a similar policy? If not, how do you handle the flagrant, if only occasional, abuses of a policy that would simply hand out the summer camp earned badge without question?

Our policy has been questioned as being in violation of BSA procedures by a couple of parents. I'd be interested in feedback as to how we are handling this.


Here is BSA Policy:

Procedures for advancement in camp are established by the council advancement committee in compliance with national procedures, and under the direction of the council executive board. The camp director and program director, and the committee responsible for camp program should be included in the process. Resident camp standards require a letter from the council advancement committee approving merit badge counselors. There are no camp-related exemptions from the qualifications. No council, committee, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to or subtract from advancement requirements. Camp counselors and those assisting them, regardless the circumstances, must comply. If requirements as written cannot be completed at camp, they must be done elsewhere.

Once a registered and approved counselor has passed a Scout on its requirements, a merit badge cannot be taken away. Nor does unit leadership have the authority to “veto” it. Even if a merit badge counselor were found to be improperly documented, it would be a rare occasion when a Scout would be penalized for a failure of an adult volunteer. Unsuitable counselors or those who do not follow BSA procedures should be reported to the local council. There must be attention to each individual’s projects and his fulfillment of all requirements. We must know that every Scout—actually and personally—completed them.

So here's my take on what you're doing...it is not correct and you are retesting (a.k.a "simply checking") and you should be raising cain and wire-brushing the camp director and council advancement commitee. Obvious situations like the non-swimmer must be addressed..my question is how did the scout get a blue card to start Canoeing from his SM????

The other thing I would do is have a SMC with the scout and chat about his camp experience and talk about how the MB system works and how we expect each scout to be honest about whether or not he did all the requirements and how we can all do better the next time.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby Seascout » Mon Aug 01, 2011 11:14 pm

Thanks for your quick reply and for your feedback. I also found another forum where other leaders had discussed frustration with this issue.

We are in the process of changing our policy to conform to BSA regulations, but the quandary remains.

To clarify the situation with the non-swimmer in a canoeing merit badge, the blue card was initiated prior to the swim test at camp. The boy had passed an earlier test in the troop, but paused during his swim test at camp and was designated as a non-swimmer for that reason.

When he was awarded the badge (and another in Fishing that had a missing requirement that had been signed off), he returned them on his own to the advancement chair saying he did not feel he had earned them. He has since completed canoeing correctly and even attended Northern Tier during a recent trip there. A scout is, indeed, honorable.

And now you know the rest of the story.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby smtroop168 » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:44 am

Seascout wrote:Thanks for your quick reply and for your feedback. I also found another forum where other leaders had discussed frustration with this issue.

We are in the process of changing our policy to conform to BSA regulations, but the quandary remains.

To clarify the situation with the non-swimmer in a canoeing merit badge, the blue card was initiated prior to the swim test at camp. The boy had passed an earlier test in the troop, but paused during his swim test at camp and was designated as a non-swimmer for that reason.

When he was awarded the badge (and another in Fishing that had a missing requirement that had been signed off), he returned them on his own to the advancement chair saying he did not feel he had earned them. He has since completed canoeing correctly and even attended Northern Tier during a recent trip there. A scout is, indeed, honorable.

And now you know the rest of the story.



I see no quandry if the scout took the actions you said, it means the "ethics and values" part of the program is working just fine for this scout.

The issue is with the camp's program.

I do not participate in the other forum because they tend to attack each other vice discussing topics. They have a few on there who would be banned from this forum (and maybe they have).
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby Seascout » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:47 am

I frequently think more clearly when I think out loud among people who understand.

In this case, I'm beginning to see ways to address my discomfort with seeing badges awarded that were not properly completed (at the fault of the MBC). As the troop committee addresses the issues with council and camp, those efforts probably need to be transparent to the troop / parents. Not in a way that disrespects the scouts, but in a way that makes them aware of a need to improve the system and allows them to see that happen.

I still have a concern that in the realities of how life plays out, a kid could be placed in a dangerous situation by virtue of leaders/parents/others making an assumption that because he had earned a badge, he must have also developed the skills that badge would have conferred. "You can go on the canoe trip if you've earned the canoeing / swimming merit badges." It leaves the SM with the necessity of retesting skills for boys pretty constantly.

Yes, I know they do that already. But the assumption remains that if the kid has the badge, he learned the stuff. And not everyone who would make those assumptions is a scoutmaster.

Thank you very much for your feedback. I'll need to spend some time reading other parts of the forum. I do appreciate the quality of what you do here.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby kwildman » Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:11 am

if there are consistent problems with this camp i would address them with Council's camping person. If they are not addressed, you can always go to a different camp that you feel better serves your boys. There is quote that says Insanity is defined by repeating the same action over and over again and expecting different results.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby wagionvigil » Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:32 am

During Staff week we have a group of adults that come to camp on Friday and evaluate each program area. They look at their Lesson Plans, yes just like a teacher does at school, and the counselors do a little bit of a presentation. The team is divided into groups sometimes only one person , and got to assigned areas. Waterfront, Scout Craft, COPE/Climbing, etc.then everyone gets together over lunch to look over the results. This has solved a lot of the problems with counselors in our camp.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby Seascout » Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:51 am

I would not want to mislead anyone. The overall issue I was hoping to address is not one that exists only in our own council. We do frequently attend camps outside our own area just to give the boys a change of scenery and perspective. The majority of badge approvals are acceptable and those that are not are seldom as dramatic as the canoeing incident. But the basic ethical questions of awarding those badges without any effort to intervene on behalf of the boy remains for me.

I understand the need for guiding policy. I understand the importance of trusting our system and working to fix it when it fails. I applaud the honor of scouts who independently report issues and deal appropriately with the occasion.

But I also know there are times when our best efforts to create a perfect system, don't measure up. I'd like to think we could devise an acceptable safety net without harm to the system. Maybe we can't. But it's hard not to want to try.

Thanks again to everyone for your input. Much appreciated.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby FrankJ » Tue Aug 02, 2011 12:27 pm

While I am in agreement with the overall issue of having a quality merit badge program and wanting to insure the badges are actually earned... Merit badges are generally meant to provide an overview or sampler in a subject. I would not take having an merit badge as competency in anything. When it comes to life critical skills--Trust but verify.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby Quailman » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:12 pm

Summer camps face several conflicting pressures from all sides. They don't want SMs complaining that all they gave out were partials, yet they don't want to intentionally award canoeing merit badges to non-swimmers. They want to attract units by offering merit badges that you don't always see at summer camp, yet it is difficult to offer a quality program for these badges in a camp setting within the time constraints.

My council's Conservation Committee has put together programs for MBCs to follow at sumer camps and we visit each year prior to the first week of camp to hopefully insure that the staff has a good grounding in the subject matter and can provide a meaningful experience for all. If it were up to me I'd send all the scouts backpacking somewhere and do away with summer camp MBs .
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby lambeausam » Wed Aug 03, 2011 3:32 pm

At camp last week, none of the kids that took archery completed the badge. The instructor failed to go over one of the requirements with them. Can't remember which one, but it was one that was revised in 2009. The program director for that area apologized profusely, but to his credit didn't sign the cards as completed. Tough for the scouts to take, but in the bigger picture, the young man was honest about what the instructor in his program area actually covered.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby smtroop168 » Thu Aug 04, 2011 1:32 pm

lambeausam wrote:At camp last week, none of the kids that took archery completed the badge. The instructor failed to go over one of the requirements with them. Can't remember which one, but it was one that was revised in 2009. The program director for that area apologized profusely, but to his credit didn't sign the cards as completed. Tough for the scouts to take, but in the bigger picture, the young man was honest about what the instructor in his program area actually covered.


This is a good example of why I do a midweek status check. I caught a Cooking MB issue a couple of years ago and got it corrected before Saturday morning.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby Bill Pitcher » Thu Aug 04, 2011 9:44 pm

While on the subject of Summer Camp: has anyone experienced young kids (under 18) teaching MB's and either the Program Dir. or the Camp Dir. signing the blue cards? We've got it this year!
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby Quailman » Thu Aug 04, 2011 10:02 pm

I always thought that was SOP.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby lambeausam » Fri Aug 05, 2011 8:21 am

smtroop168 wrote:This is a good example of why I do a midweek status check. I caught a Cooking MB issue a couple of years ago and got it corrected before Saturday morning.


Midweek status checks were done, but this was a discussion item that was to be covered during class on Thursday or Friday. When the kids left class on Friday, they didn't even know there was a requirement missing. When one of our scoutmasters went over the closing reports on Friday night, he noticed that none of our Archery attendees completed the badge, yet all of the target qualifications were met. When I talked to the range program director on Saturday morning, he explained that the instructor failed to complete the requirement with the scouts.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby smtroop168 » Fri Aug 05, 2011 8:48 am

lambeausam wrote:
smtroop168 wrote:This is a good example of why I do a midweek status check. I caught a Cooking MB issue a couple of years ago and got it corrected before Saturday morning.


Midweek status checks were done, but this was a discussion item that was to be covered during class on Thursday or Friday. When the kids left class on Friday, they didn't even know there was a requirement missing. When one of our scoutmasters went over the closing reports on Friday night, he noticed that none of our Archery attendees completed the badge, yet all of the target qualifications were met. When I talked to the range program director on Saturday morning, he explained that the instructor failed to complete the requirement with the scouts.


Oh well....if the kids didn't know there was a requirement missing maybe they didn't read the current requirements??? Too bad they couldn't huddle the kids together and get it done on saturday to keep youfrom now having a headache in tracking down another MBC.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby Guerillero » Wed Aug 10, 2011 12:39 pm

You need to remember that not every SM is thrilled to see that their kids partialed. There has been more then one troop that has worked off the idea that if the scout showed up for class every day they should get the MB. I have seen SMs try to bully completes out of staff members.
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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby WVBeaver05 » Sat Aug 20, 2011 9:19 am

Bill Pitcher wrote:While on the subject of Summer Camp: has anyone experienced young kids (under 18) teaching MB's and either the Program Dir. or the Camp Dir. signing the blue cards? We've got it this year!

Yes. As Quailman mentioned it is common.

Don't have my book handy (and haven't seen, but anxiously await, the new GTA), but if I recall correctly this is OK. The director is responsible, but can use other resources (i.e. the program area staff). I know that is the way it was ("way back in the day") when I was on staff. Our waterfront director reviewed our lesson plans and observed the classes (more frequently at the beginning of the summer than at the end, of course).

I really like the idea mentioned by WagionVigil of having a review team. I'll be suggesting that here at our Council for sure.

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Re: Advancement in Summer Camp

Postby WVBeaver05 » Sat Aug 20, 2011 9:22 am

lambeausam wrote:At camp last week, none of the kids that took archery completed the badge. The instructor failed to go over one of the requirements with them. Can't remember which one, but it was one that was revised in 2009. The program director for that area apologized profusely, but to his credit didn't sign the cards as completed. Tough for the scouts to take, but in the bigger picture, the young man was honest about what the instructor in his program area actually covered.

Good for him!!

(Would have been better if he had caught it sooner and corrected the instructor so they could have earned it, but at least he didn't sign off on something not done.)

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