If you’ve been involved with Boy Scouts in Las Vegas for the past few years, you are well aware of the popularity of merit badge workshops. Sometimes these are advertised as merit badge midways or speed merit badge events. These merit badge crash courses are offered throughout the year, often times hosted by a local Boy Scout troop and run out of their regular meeting place like a church. In Las Vegas, we also have access to the annual Scout Expo which is put on the by the Las Vegas Area Council and attracts nearly 5,000 Cub and Boy Scouts every spring.
In general, I am not fan of these group merit badge workshops (even the one sponsored by my local area council at Scout Expo) because during my brief 1-year experience as a Scoutmaster, I have rarely witnessed a quality merit badge program facilitated in this “speed” format.
With this in mind, here’s an I recently sent out to the members in Troop 770 to clarify my position:
Scouts, Scouters and Parents—
After being a Scoutmaster for only one year, I’ve learned a lot about how “modern” Scouting is facilitated at the unit, district and council level. As you may know, I not only serve as the Scoutmaster for Troop 770, but also in numerous council-wide roles. As a result, I have both a grass roots and top level view of the modern Scouting program and with the support of our other Scoutmasters and Committee members, we are instituting a new Troop 770 policy regarding the now popular 1-day and half-day “speed merit badge workshops” offered by local troops and other organizations. Mind you, when I was a Scout, the only place to earn a handful of merit badges was at week-long summer camps where a Scout could earn 3 to 5 merit badges over the course of one week so these speed classes are new to me as well. That said, here is our policy in a nutshell. This applies to all Troop 770 Scouts moving forward:
First, you must get prior approval from our Advancement Chair (Ms. Rachel Gewelber-Williams) or any Troop 770 Scoutmaster BEFORE you begin work on a merit badge. This approval can be given in person at a troop meeting or via email.
Second, once approved, you will receive a BLUE CARD (typically immediately) which you fill out NEATLY and hand back to me or Ms. Rachel for signature. You will keep the signed blue card with you and turn into Ms. Rachel (or me) after your merit badge counselor has signed off on your blue card.
As a general rule, we WILL NOT approve any Eagle required merit badges that are offered at the “so called” speed merit badge workshops or even at our Las Vegas Area Council’s Scout Expo as it is generally not possible (even with a great merit badge counselor) for you to properly complete the requirements for an Eagle merit badge in a 2 or 4 hour session. If you want to embark on completing an Eagle required merit badge on your own (in other words not as part of a program we are offering inside of Troop 770), Ms. Rachel will refer you to a qualified local merit badge counselor (often times a parent in our troop or our sister Troop 912) who you can work with.
For non-Eagle required merit badges, we WILL generally approve your participation in speed merit badge workshops under the following conditions:
A. You acquire and READ the merit badge pamphlet BEFORE attending the workshop. (We have a small library available or you can download them from the Internet).
B. You complete ALL pre-requisites stated BEFORE attending the merit badge workshop and do your best to show evidence of having completing the pre-requisites to Ms. Rachel or any of our Scoutmasters BEFORE you attend the workshop.
C. You provide us at least one-week notice of your request via email or in person so we can look into the workshop offered.
D. You turn in your completed merit badge workbook along with your counselor signed blue card once you’ve completed the workshop.
Finally, although we may approve your participation in outside troop 770 sponsored merit badge workshops, we do not endorse the practice of troops charging fees for merit badge workshops and food served at such events for fundraising as it is our opinion (shared by many in the BSA) that using rank advancement as a fundraising tool is inappropriate and taints the purpose of rank advancement. That said, certain merit badges require materials that have a legitimate cost (such as woodworking, metalwork, etc…) and a small fee can be appropriate.
We will go over Merit Blue Cards at our next troop meeting so you are all familiar with how to properly fill them out.
If you have any questions about this, please bring it up at next Wednesday’s troop meeting.
Brian ‘PR’ Williams
Scoutmaster, Troop 770
Webelo Transition Chairman – Bighorn District