BSA discourages use of unofficial merit badge worksheets

expertlogo1Merit badges aren’t easy to earn. They’re meant to challenge the mind, to build character, and to educate through trial and error.

Unofficial merit badge worksheets hasten this process — but not always in a good way. These printable documents are meant to help Scouts complete requirements by filling in the blanks. Sure, they can be time-saving tools, but too often they’re used in the wrong way.

That’s why the Boy Scouts of America discourages — but doesn’t ban — the use of these worksheets, which are available online.

What does that mean? Look for requirements with verbs like “discuss,” “show,” “tell,” “explain,” “demonstrate” or “identify.” Requirements like those aren’t meant to be completed by filling in a blank on some worksheet, says Chris Hunt, team leader of the BSA’s Content Management Team.

Merit badge worksheets are “permitted only for fulfilling requirements where something is to be done in writing,” he says. And merit badge counselors may never require the use of merit badge worksheets and may, if they choose, refuse to accept them, Hunt says.

This has been a rule in the Guide to Advancement for a couple of years, but it’s worth clarifying. So here goes …

What are merit badge worksheets?

Unofficial merit badge worksheets, sometimes called workbooks, are fill-in-the-blank documents for Scouts working on merit badges. Some counselors will print copies for Scouts and use them while teaching the merit badge.

These worksheets list every requirement, even those with verbs like the “discuss,” “show” or “tell,” and include blank spaces with each.

Why are they discouraged?

Unofficial merit badge worksheets emphasize speed over education.

Take the First Aid merit badge as an example. Requirement 3d says, “Show the steps that need to be taken for someone suffering from a severe cut on the leg and on the wrist.”

On one worksheet I found online, that requirement is listed with a big blank space, ostensibly for the Scout to write out the steps. That’s not OK.

The Scout should “show” by literally showing these steps to his counselor — not writing them down. The reason’s simple: Scouts learn better that way.

What does the Guide to Advancement say?

Here’s the relevant section, 7.0.4.8 Unofficial Worksheets and Learning Aids, 2015 Guide to Advancement (PDF).

Worksheets and other materials that may be of assistance in earning merit badges are available from a variety of places including unofficial sources on the Internet and even troop libraries. Use of these aids is permissible as long as the materials can be correlated with the current requirements that Scouts must fulfill. Completing “worksheets” may suffice where a requirement calls for something in writing, but this would not work for a requirement where the Scout must discuss, tell, show, or demonstrate, etc. Note that Scouts shall not be required to use these learning aids in order to complete a merit badge.

What does the BSA say?

Hunt offers this further explanation and rationale. Please read the whole thing and ask your fellow merit badge counselors to do the same.

When merit badge requirements are developed, they are meant to challenge a Scout’s thought process, to cause him to learn and practice skills, to help him explore areas of interest and dispel misconceptions, and to bring about interaction with others — especially positive adult role models.

Worksheets are a shortcut. They present on paper what should be arrived at through thought and interaction — through asking questions and trial and error. They often tend to create or support an atmosphere of “get the merit badge finished as efficiently and quickly as possible,” when the objective should be a significant learning experience that builds character, citizenship, and physical or mental fitness.

Worksheets can prevent struggling with requirements, when it is the struggle that can lead to retention of lessons learned.

We don’t like worksheets, and we’re reasonably sure our founder would be horrified by their very existence. That said, we realize their use is extensive and that prohibiting them would be unrealistic. That’s why they are permitted only for fulfilling requirements where something is to be done in writing.

Worksheets must not be accepted in fulfillment of requirements that call for “showing,” “demonstrating,” “discussing,” or whatever else the written word does not fully accomplish.

Furthermore, Scouts must never be required to use worksheets. The decision to use them belongs to the Scout. Not one merit badge requirement says anything like, “Use a worksheet downloaded from the Internet to…”

Merit badge counselors may refuse to accept worksheets but they are not allowed to require their use.

For more information, refer to the Guide to Advancement, Page 2, “BSA policy on Unauthorized Changes to Advancement Program” and Page 53, topic 7.0.4.8, “Unofficial Worksheets and Learning Aids.”

Important postscript

Once again, unofficial merit badge worksheets only may be used for completing requirements when the requirement specifically instructs a Scout to write something.

That said, one set of worksheets online includes this disclaimer at the top:

The work space provided for each requirement should be used by the Scout to make notes for discussing the item with his counselor, not for providing the full and complete answers. Each Scout must do each requirement.

If Scouts use this space solely to make notes for a verbal discussion with their counselor, that’s fine. It’s only a problem if the Scout submits the written notes as a substitute for completing the requirement.

In a sense, taking notes on one of these merit badge worksheets should be no different from taking notes in a spiral notebook. A Scout wouldn’t turn in his notebook to fulfill a requirement, but he should be allowed to use those notes for a discussion with his counselor.

It’s an important distinction, all aimed at making earning a merit badge a challenging, rewarding experience for the Scout.

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174 Comments

  1. It would be great if this information could be passed around to the merit badge counselors, many of whom require these worksheets. My son has gone to many counselors who tell him upfront to make sure he has the worksheets with him and filled out. When I explain the information you describe so well above, I’m often told that they were instructed to do so as a CYA paper backup in case there are questions later, at a merit badge counselor orientation put on by the council. Others have said, “this is how I do it, if you don’t like it, you can find another counselor who doesn’t require their use.” For some merit badges, that’s easier said than done.

    • I really like the MB workbooks available. They are fantastic guides for counselors and Scouts to prepare for MB requirements. I use them frequently, but NEVER require their use. When we sign on to become MB counselors we have agreed, by registering for this position, to fulfill our counseling responsibilities according to the requirements as prescribed by BSA for each individual MB. AND we may not “add to or delete any . . . requirements” — I take that to include that I am not allowed to “require” a Scout to prepare for or complete MB requirements via a specific workbook.

      I personally like the organization of the workbooks, and often recommend a Scout consider using one along with a folder and other “tools” to help keep his notes and MB preparation organized. However, I NEVER REQUIRE a Scout to use it. It is inappropriate for any adult MB counselor to reprove or turn away a Scout for not using a MB workbook. It’s up to the Scout to determine how to prepare, and up to the counselor to test his preparation according to the MBs requirements and materials in the MB pamphlet. After all, aren’t we in this service to assist our youth in learning to make better decisions about their lives now, to help them to become the best adult they can be? — even to the smaller point of allowing them to learn the best way for themselves to organize how they prepare for a MB?

      All “tools” are made for a good purpose, and often there are many tools available to complete one simple task. A MB workbook is a tool, but it may not be the most useful tool for every Scout. MB counselors who “require” a specific workbook for a Scout to prepare for or present their MB requirements are doing a disservice to the Scout, to him as an individual. Sure it may mean more time (and perhaps out of our own comfort zone) to be presented with umpteen different ways from as many different Scouts. However, we didn’t sign up to be a MB counselor to do it our way, but to guide them in finding their way.

      The following excerpts are copied directly and pasted here from the Merit Badge Counselor Information (application) form 34405WEB Revised February 2013, 2013 Printing (http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/34405.pdf), p. 2:

      “What’s It All About?
      “The merit badge counselor is a key player in the Boy Scout advancement program. Whatever your area of expertise or interest—whether it is a special craft or hobby (basketry, leatherwork, coin collecting), a profession (veterinary medicine, aviation, engineering),
      or perhaps a life skill (cooking, personal management, communication)—as a merit badge counselor, you play a vital role in stirring a young man’s curiosity about it. By serving as a counselor, you offer your time, knowledge, and other resources so Scouts have the
      opportunity to broaden their horizons. And in doing so, your mission is to combine fun with learning.

      “You are both teacher and mentor to the Scout as he learns by doing. By presenting opportunities for growth via engaging activities like designing a Web page (Computers), performing an ollie and a wheelie (Snow Sports), or fabricating rope (Pioneering), you may pique a young man’s interest and inspire a Scout to develop a lifelong hobby, pursue a particular career, or become an independent, self-supporting adult.”

      These are reasons I am a MB counselor.

      And further down the page:

      “Counselors may not add to or delete any merit badge requirements. Group instruction is allowed where special facilities and expert personnel make this most practical, or when Scouts are dependent on a few counselors for assistance. However, any group experience must provide attention to every individual candidate’s projects and progress, and assure each has actually and personally fulfilled all the requirements. If, for example, a requirement uses words like “show,” “demonstrate,” or “discuss,” then every Scout must individually do so. It is unacceptable to award badges on the basis of Scouts sitting in classrooms and watching demonstrations or remaining silent during discussions.”

      I take my responsibility seriously, and have fun with the Scouts while they learn from my experience or skills. And when they have completed the requirements satisfactorily, regardless of how they’ve prepared, they go away having earned their MB, knowing I have “[provided] attention to [his] individual . . . projects and progress, and [he is assured he] has actually and personally fulfilled all the requirements” BSA set forth for the MB.

      THAT’s the REAL service and responsibility of MB counselors.

  2. Pretty much common sense, of course we should not let a written paragraph replace showing, doing etc. That being said, I find the worksheets a great tool, and continue to use them.

  3. Sorry, but this concern is off base. The problem isn’t the worksheets. Everything you described is a problem with what the Counselor allows. I LOVE it when a Scout uses the preparation worksheets. It shows me they have read the booklet, at least enough to find the answers. That doesn’t change our session one bit, though. We still discuss, explore, show, observe every bit. But the Scout is usually more prepared than one who just skimmed the first few pages and hopes I’ll spoon-feed him the rest.

    • As I said above, if they’re used as a note-taking tool that leads to an in-depth discussion, that’s fine. Trouble is that’s not always the case.

    • Well said! Nothing wrong with a Scout being prepared to show, discuss, demonstrate, etc., and the worksheets can help them do that.

    • “Read the booklet”??? Oh, how I wish that were true of all the boys I’ve come across. Worksheets, online stuff, guesses. . Sometimes they express surprise when I show them the MBBooklet. “There is?” Wow.” Very often, they will come to a session expecting a taught class, rather than being ready to discuss, perform, show, etc.

      • Read? They read NOTHING, especially the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook. They will call me with a question about their service project and when I tell them the answer is in the Workbook the other end of the line goes silent.

        When a Scout brings in to the Council Service Center his Eagle Scout Application and Workbook to be approved and verified prior to his Board of Review, he’s given a one page instruction sheet on how to proceed next. One of the items instructs him to forward a copy of his paperwork to his District Eagle Adviser one week prior to his Board of Review. Would you like to take a guess how many do this? Less than 20%; the other 80+% haven’t a clue they were to do that. This is just one of many written instructions they do not adhere to, or follow.

        I know they can read and do not have a comprehension problem because almost all of them have a current NJ State Driver License, and they had to read the 126 page Driver Manual in order to pass the test; so they can read; and they read it cover to cover until the pages are dog eared. If if was required they would translate it from Latin into Greek.

        No, this is a priority issue, and Boy Scouts are just not that much of a priority.

      • The official BSA MB booklets are a useful help in learning about and obtaining a MB -BUT-
        the Purchase and Reading of such booklet is NOT and a REQUIREMENT.

        An industrious Scout should be able to obtain all the information needed for any MB from the use of his local (or school) library and today on the Internet (with it’s dangers and misinformation). [Note: every MB booklet last few pages includes references to added sources of information]. Also, teachers, parents and other sources of information in the community.
        The MB booklet is just a simpler and organized summary of the needed information.

        • Good point that they are not required. The Summer Camp we last attended required no reading and no knowledge for many merit badges as there was no individual testing. Attendance = merit badge.

          Most merit Badge pamphlets are helpful. Not all. The WIlderness Survival pamphlet, as the worst example, is a collection of missing information and misinformation, many of which omissions and misstatements being contrary to other BSA publications.

        • I’m not a big fan of the pamphlets (or school textbooks for that matter). I’d rather the boys research it on their own. That’s why I think the worksheets are useful. THey are a good way to organize their research. The bad part about worksheets is that they seem to much like school 🙁

    • I have found that the workbooks are helpful for the long-term Eagle-Required badges, like Family Life and Personal Management. They are a great way to keep notes and comments the scout makes during his work on the badge.

      As a scoutmaster from a large troop, 100 plus scouts, I find them to be really useful when more than 10 scouts want to participate in a badge. It also works well when scouts are starting a badge at camp or in another troop and then want to finish it with my troop.

      They are really helpful for scouts who have problems with organizational skills and other developmental issues. Scouts with speech issues have used the workbooks to provide assistance with their discussions.

      I agree it is an issue in some cases, but only a small number that I have seen.

      In the badges I counsel, I encourage them to use the workbooks, but they are not required. I have unfortunately had scouts hand me a completed workbook and a blue card and expect the badge. That’s when I have to tell them that discussion is not equal to writing a paragraph. An appointment for discussion then follows.

  4. The work sheets are a great tool for helping the Scout organize and progress toward completing a merit badge. They certainly are not the sign off of the badge; but give a good picture of the progress being made. Young men today have a very complex life and need to learn to use tools to simplify keeping track of progress on their goals.
    In my career in Engineering I created many work sheets so the progress on a car development could be easily understood. We use them on our race team to track the preparation of cars in the shop and at the track.
    I teach this method to Scouts in leadership training. Once the work sheet is developed, it is not just on paper, but also pictured in their mind.

  5. I will always follow the requirements when counseling badges. As a Scoutmaster I teach my scouts to “look for the verb” when signing off rank advancement. I do the same when counseling merit badges. I believe the use of the worksheets is an aid to the scout, teaching him to organize his thoughts, take notes and study the material. If a requirement calls for an action – then action it is. If it is describe – describe can mean in writing too. I have had scouts that prefer to use the worksheets for these reasons. I have had scouts that tell me they don’t want to use the worksheets because it is too much like school – I can appreciate that and we sit down for a chat. I never take the worksheet as completion of the requirements. Here is the hook – I disagree with what I see as an underlying message of this article – if it is not Official BSA, then it is not ok. Meaning if the BSA can’t make money off the sale of the publications then you can’t…err…shouldn’t use it.

    • If the BSA put out a competing worksheet/workbook, I could see your concern. But there isn’t one.

      There are merit badge pamphlets, and yes, the BSA wants Scouts to use those when earning the merit badge. If worksheets are used instead of pamphlets, that’s diminishing the learning experience for the boy.

      • I never accept or encourage the worksheets alone. We have a Troop Library where they can borrow pamphlets, and if we don’t have one that is needed – we buy one.

        I also agree with another comment regarding Summer Camp Counselors and their quality of group instruction…but that is a discussion to be had locally.

        • Matt, I agree that Summer Camp Counselors don’t always provide the best instruction. The group setting is not ideal for merit badges. As a public school teacher I understand that there is a balance between costs, efficiency, and depth of instruction. This same balance comes into play with summer camp. On top of that, counselors are often young, and not extensively trained or prepared to teach scouts who are rambunctious and may be in the MB class because they didn’t get into what they wanted. I think this might be a great topic for future discussions here.

      • I disagree that worksheets provide diminished experience if used instead of pamphlets. The learning experience is in fulfilling the requirements, not in reading a pamphlet. Merit badge pamphlets can spoon feed a lot of the answers in the simplest way possible. I find boys who prepare using resourses other than the pamphlet have a better understanding of the subject than those who prepare using only the pamphlet. This is true if a worksheet is or is not used..

        Of course, both those groups have a better understanding than those who show up without any preparation and expect me to give them all the answers and sign off without them retaining any information.

        Mostly the lake-away from this discussion is to focus on the “action” part of each requirement: write, discuss, explain, show, etc. Some can be done entirely on a worksheet; for others, notes on paper can only act as a springboard to fulfilling the requirement.

  6. With regard to merit badges in general, it would be great if counselors working summer camp would take the lesson to heart. It has been my experience that few (if any) Scouts show up to a MB “session” (not ‘class’) with a MB-pamphlet. Yet they come home with it signed off. I’ve had Scouts advise their fellow Scouts to wait to take MB’s at summer camp because it easier there.

    Likewise we should in no way glorify those Scouts who have “earned then all”. As much as I LOVE to see Scouts set lofty goals, this should not be one of them.

    If the object is “meant to challenge a Scout’s thought process, to cause him to learn and practice skills, to help him explore areas of interest and dispel misconceptions, and to bring about interaction with others — especially positive adult role models.” then I would be very skeptical that little of the aims were met in the process of a kid putting 130+ patches on a MB sash. Such a mixed message?!?!?!?

      • Where does a “13 year old Eagles” comment even belong in this discussion? The requirements for Eagle are not as hard as folks make them out to be. None of the Eagle-required merit badge requirements are outside the capacity of a mature 12 year-old, and once First Class is achieved (ideally within 1 year of joining) the rank requirements are based on merit badge tally, position and rank tenure, and hours of service. Nothing that can’t be done by a boy from 11-13. The hardest milestone is the eagle project, and I’ve seen 13 and 14 year-old scouts plan and lead those projects as well or better than 16 and 17 year-old scouts. A motivated scout should be encouraged and treasured. Not maligned and held back. We need more 13-year-old Eagles, not less.

        • I agree. I have only had one Scout earn his Eagle at 13, but an observation I have made over the last 900+ Eagle boards of review I have run over the last 25 years is that generally, at the time of his Eagle BOR, the younger the Scout is, the more mature he is. That 13 year old was one of the most mature and committed Scouts I have ever met. At now age 21 he is still involved (with a crew). Many of the 18 year olds earning Eagle are really just barely mature enough to get through the Eagle requirements. I love the boys who earn Eagle at 15 or 16. They are some of the best.

        • My comment sort of ties on to Tracker1’s comment about badges earned at summer camp. In my opinion, some scouts rush, or are rushed through merit badges and ranks and don’t really get all they can out of it. that’s the gist of it.

      • My grandson got it at 14. But he could have had it at 13. He got his LIFE in February 2010, but he sat on his project for 18 months, completing it in November of 2011, and going before the board in January 2012. Good thing? He got the Eagle centennial patch!

        I was SM for 4 years. Did I push him? You BET! I watched 4 of our boys over those 4 years get everything done except the project and/or 1 or 2 badges. Usually those that required work at home and over a long period – ie: finance and fitness.

        I cried for them literally. I was told by council to get on their ass. Yes, that’s what they said, but only to me….not to the scouts or any ‘group’. I told them I pushed as far as I felt comfortable doing. In the end, it is their decision.

        But I hate it when I know that 10 years from now they are going to look back and feel tons of regret. Also, I talked to many employers who say they want to know if you are an Eagle, but don’t tell them you made Life. To them it shows you didn’t have the initiative to complete a project, which means you won’t in the workplace either. That’s their words, not mine.

        Everyone knows that if they wait until 16, there’s a good chance they won’t complete it. Girls, Cars, Sports, School, extra-curricular activities. And many things like BAND REQUIRE attendance even at after school/weekend functions which prevents their participation in scouting events.

        It’s all about the maturity level. The hope is that between the parent, the scout, and the SM they can figure out how hard the scout can go. Some cannot handle that stress, others do just fine. I don’t know any 13 year old scouts, though.

      • If you don’t like 13-year-old Eagles, then change the requirements. Personally, I hate 17-year, 11-month-old Eagles.

    • Wow, really? You’d discourage and minimize the work of one of the few Scouts who sets the goal for himself to “earn them all.” You’d assume that just by setting that goal, that boy didn’t learn or practice the skills addressed by each of the merit badges as he worked? What is the magic number of merit badges a boy can complete and be appropriately “challenged?”

      If a Scout completes a MB as it was meant to be completed, he will learn and practice the skills addressed by the merit badges, whether he completes 21 or 121. I, for one, would encourage a Scout to attempt as many of the merit badges as he can during his Scout career. If he chooses to complete many or all of the merit badges, he may happen upon a skill he didn’t know he had or a hobby he didn’t know he was interested in that he ends up loving. He may change his future goals based on completing one of the less-frequently earned badges. He will perhaps push himself to overcome fears related to some of the more high-adventure types of merit badges (scuba or climbing, maybe) in order to reach his goal. I DO think such a goal and such effort should be applauded!

      If your concern is that the boy who earns all 130+ merit badges really didn’t do the work to earn those badges, then that’s an issue with the MB counselors the boys works with, not the Scout himself. I know two young men who completed all of the merit badges attainable during their Scout career. Both were homeschooled students and both spent an incredible amount of time outside of the Scout meetings on Scout activities, merit badge work, and service. I commend both for their effort and have no question they EARNED every one of their badges.

      These young men who are both now volunteering in various positions with BSA and Venturing served as wonderful role models for my young Scout, who in watching them decided he, too, wanted to earn all of the merit badges available. My son has worked hard! He has completed ALL of the requirements for each merit badge he’s attempted and he has EARNED every one of his 50 merit badges to date.

      Please refrain from discouraging boys from setting lofty goals and WORKING toward those goals. Whether or not my son earns all 130+ merit badges before he turns 18, he’s learned a lot about setting a goal, working hard, and not being discouraged by nay-sayers such as yourself. He has also learned that he can overcome many of his fears with practice and patience, and that he doesn’t always know whether or not he’ll like something until he gives it a try. This, in my mind, is what Scouting is all about!!

  7. So this whole artical is really all about the counselors who will only accept a completed workbook as the only thing to complete the MB and not actually following the requirements.

    As stated at the bottom this is how they should be used and how I use them “The work space provided for each requirement should be used by the Scout to make notes for discussing the item with his counselor, not for providing the full and complete answers. Each Scout must do each requirement.”. I’ve had scouts tell me it’s all written down see, Please sign me off and I point out that some sections says show, discuss, etc and that is what they are to do.

    If used properly they are a great tool for scouts to collect and track what they have and have not done. Not all scouts learn and remember just by doing, some need to write and read thier notes to actualy remember the details nessary to do a task. Work with someone who has ADHD and you have to adopt to thier learning style within the bounds of the requirement. Show still means show, discuss means discuss.

  8. This is why I don’t like MB Colleges, pow-wow or what ever you area calls them. It seems that the average counselor passes out the worksheets the teaches the MB to the kids so all they have to do is regurgitate what they heard and fill in the blanks and many just copy what their friend wrote. No studying or hands on is required in many of these classes just be there listen and fill in the blanks. This is also why I don’t like how MB are taught at camps but I want my boys to go to camp so its just something I have to put up with.

    • A friend of mine in another council told me he had a Scout in his troop obtain nine (9) merit badges at a ONE DAY merit badge venue. He said he drilled the Scout on the requirements and he had all the answers (the Scoutmaster made him stop what he was doing).

      At the same venue another Scout in the troop obtained seven (7) merit badges. When my friend questioned the Scout he knew absolutely nothing, but it does not matter; he’s got the seven merit badges.

      The Troop Committee Chairman questioned how the counselors could of tested all the requirements in that short time; but it really doesn’t matter, next year they will let them attend again.

      • Bob, the SM that “drilled the Scout on the requirements” that had been signed off by the MB Counselor was out-of-line as an attempt at re-testing.
        – This is clearly against BSA policy! –
        To ask a few general questions about the MB venue day’s program and what the Scout(s) learned would be appropriate and friendly, but not re-testing, even with the Blue Card being reluctantly accepted and the MB presented. .
        Any questions about the MB venue program and individual sessions should be expressed to adult Scouters, organizers of the venue {especially along with volunteering to help with the next even — not just criticism}, and DE. Never back to the young Scout.
        Also, not announcing or allowing Scouts in a Troop to attend a Council approved event (especially as individual Scouts), would raise serious BSA policy questions.

        I can see some MBs, such as Reading and Scholarship, Painting and Home Repairs, where the big work requirements have been done by the Scout, and all that is left is a little chat in-person with the MB counselor for the remaining requirements, being quickly signed-off for the well prepared and organized Scout.

        • “[S]erious policy questions”? Indeed. As the summer camp merit badge mills present serious policy – and values – questions.

          Much interest in handing out merit badges; less interest in the integrity of the process. A “Scout is . . . .”

          What could be done if integrity was important?

        • Tom asks “What could be done if integrity was important?” The BSA could ban summer camps from offering merit badges. Most staff members are too young to be official merit badge counselors – and the blue cards are signed by some older staff member who has never met the scout. And all those with little imagination who can not fathom summer camp without merit badges, the BSA summer camps could offer fun and adventure – just like all the non-BSA summer camps do. Philmont is another example of fun and adventure without merit badges. I really was surprised after an extended time away from the BSA and returned with my oldest son to find how summer camps had turned into merit badge mills. It is such a shame. My youngest son has now gone to BSA summer camps for three years now, but he’s done with them. So next year he is off to a Canadian Provincial Jamboree and to our own troop trip to Alaska. And that’s about right. The BSA is a “middle school” program, and it is up to troops to figure out how to keep high school kids engaged.

        • Whoa! Lots of comments about disappointment with summer camp as merit badge mills. Where is the Troop leadership in this process. Just because your unit is at summer do your Scouts have to participate in merit badges? Plan a summer camp program that is fun, offers adventure, games, challenges, etc. without coming home with five “unearned” badges for every Scout. Get your PLC on board with the process….you’ll be amazed with what they can do. Most of our Scouts do not want to sit in merit badges all day….especially not with a great lake full of fish and surrounded by great trails within 200 yards of every campsite.

        • As it happens, we are not returning to the “Mill.” Instead we will patronize a camp that prides itself on Scouts actually earning MB’s.

          But blaming the “addicts” and not the paid “pushers” seems a tad myopic. The “mill” has filled all seven weeks. Proving that dishonesty pays?

          What could be done if integrity was important?

    • It really depends upon the counselor. At one MBU, I know that the counselor will NOT sign off that it was completed, unless evidence of all the work required is done. That’s why I give out my contact information so that they can contact me after the MBU for me to sign them off.

      BUT at the same MBU, one counselor essentially gives out the MB. Son took that class, had a lot of fun in it, BUT did a fraction of the current requirements. Counselor is out of date requirements and not even doing all of them.

  9. The worksheets are very useful for all scouts, particularly the younger ones. It allows a visual of what they have accomplished, what is still missing.
    The concerns voiced are, in my opinion, wrong. It is not a way to expedite the MB but allows a scout to make notes and have them all together allowing for easy tracking of information etc.
    Discuss with your counselor…. It may well be a week or better before you can discuss what was observed at a school board meeting or a court house visit or other so taking notes of the ideas/points to discuss to help jog the scouts memory is a great tool and enables them to learn a lesson for their professional life where note taking in meetings is very common. Should those notes replace the discussion or elevate showing a skill? Absolutely not and I doubt that was ever the idea of the space provided. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the MBC to follow the requirements before signing off completion.

  10. What a shame that something that should serve as a valuable tool to assist with BSA merit badge completion is being discouraged by BSA. As several others have stated, it’s not the merit badge worksheets that are the problem, but how some counselors and Scouts are choosing to use them. This misuse is what BSA should be targeting, not the worksheets themselves. With minimal training and education of its approved MB counselors, the MB worksheets could be used to compliment and assist in the boys’ learning as they complete their merit badges.

    We encourage our sons to use the worksheets. The worksheets have repeatedly served as a valuable organization tool in their MB completion. They help the boys to stay focused as they read through the merit badge books (which we do purchase for every MB the boys are working on) and as they prepare to meet with their counselor to discuss, show, etc. in order to fulfill the requirements.

    Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Address the true problem with the worksheets (how they are sometimes used), and then encourage them to be used to their full advantage, please.

  11. People ask me if advancement and earning the Eagle is easier now than when I was a Scout (late ’50s-early60s). If you look at the current requirements, they probably look more difficult. The difference is that we didn’t have worksheets, Eagle counselors, merit badge classes, teaching merit badges at Troop meetings, Life-to-Eagle sessions, Eagle week at summer camp, merit badge universities, etc. If you wanted a merit badge, you contacted the counselor yourself, arranged to visit and meet with him (very few “hers” back then) took the initiative to learn everything and then, had to convince the counselor that you had met the requirements. Then do it again and again 21 times for Eagle.

    I believe that it took a lot more personal initiative and stick-to-it-tiveness back then than now. I also believe that the actual skill material is only a part of the merit badge program and not necessarily the largest part. Rather, having a Scout summon up his courage to the sticking point, call a stranger, meet with that stranger, learn about the strangers interests and expertise in that area and convince the stranger that the requirements have been met would seem to be of great value. Much of that is lost in the way that merit badges are currently earned.

    • Thank you Neil! In a changing world, SOME things never change. I maintain the lasting value inherent in your description of how things were done back in the “olden days” will never die, and the varied roads leading to discovery, though some be less travelled, are still happily traversable. But, as it has been said…IT REALLY IS (and always has been) all about the counselor—the richness of experience he can share and the compelling perspective he can impart. God bless the BSA!

      • Larry: Yes, the world is changing and that is why sometimes the BSA needs to adapt. I am a MBC for about 7 MBs as I added CITN when I got called a week out to replace a MBC for a semi-annual MB event held at the HS Truman Library/Museum. It just so happened I was available that day, but normally that is not always the case.

        In my 5 years as a MBC with my email/phone number on the council’s MB page, I am still waiting for my first call “out-of-the-blue” by a Scout asking for my assistance. When that day comes, however, it is likely that it may take some time for the 2 of us to get together at a time where the both of us are free. I am on my troop committee & attend every meeting; I am on the District RT staff; and serve on the council’s International Committee. I also teach Sunday School at our church on a irregular basis, volunteer at the National WWI Museum, and teach a continuing education class for a local university. Then, I have a day job working for DOD as well as attending my two children’s non-Scouting activities.

        When I am asked a year in advance to serve as a MBC for our district Merit Badge Forum, those 2 Saturday mornings (4 weeks apart) are set aside for that activity. I have the opportunity to assist approximately 12 Scouts in each of the 2 sessions earn their Coin Collecting, Scouting Heritage, or one of the other MBs I counsel. The requirements I make those Scouts do would be exactly the same whether it was only 2 Scouts working at my house, YPT observed. The difference is that instead of having to spend 96 hours of my time for 24 Scouts to earn MB XYZ, it is only 8 hours.

        The issue is not the Merit Badge Forum/Fair/Roundup/Whatever, but in how the MBC presents the MB. I lead the American Heritage MB event held semi-annually at the WWI Museum with 3-8 other American Heritage MBCs. We do not “teach” the class, but facilitate the completion of it. The Scouts have to complete several prerequisites before coming and while I encourage the worksheets, they are not required to use them. There is only one requirement that must be written out & many of the Scouts at my event have spent their lunchtime writing out that requirement because it was not done before hand. At the end of the day, each Scout meets individually (YPT as we are all in the same room) with a MBC to ensure that each Scout has met the MB requirements, nothing more & nothing less. Again, 24 Scouts usually earn the MB in about 7 hours instead of me having to spend over a 100 hours to reach the same number of Scouts by doing it a pair at a time.

        The point is not that I am trying to make it “easy” on myself because I probably would work with any Scout that called me if I could schedule it, but the MB events does two things: First it puts the MBC & the Scout in the same location on a date selected well in advance so scheduling is a non-issue. Second, with no second date for a meeting, some Scouts may procrastinate but the second Merit Badge Forum date gives the Scout an end in sight for the Merit Badge.

        While Merit Badge events may not be the best way for a Scout to earn a MB, it may be the best compromise we can come up in this busy world where the MBC and the Scout have so many other activities going on. Many more than what was going on in a Scout’s life 50 years ago.

    • I think it is all about the leadership in and around the troop. The adults in the troop can serve as coaches or guides to help the scouts learn the necessary skills so that they can become scouts who live up to the oath and law. Too often, parents and other “leaders” in units only see the end game. They miss the importance of the journey, and learning through trial, error, and reflective activity. Parenting (not just from biological parents) is what makes the difference between a mature 13 YO Eagle and the just barely made it 18 YO Eagle. I am, myself, a just barely made it 18 YO Eagle, but I did a lot of growing up while earning my Eagle. Advancement was never emphasized in my troop, maybe even so much as to be at the other extreme. We did get a lot of encouragement to learn skills and behavior from our parents (leaders included), and that is what it is all about. I also know some men who would have been Eagle Scouts if the opportunity had been afforded to them, and that is where I see my role as a leader. Every boy should have the opportunity to be a scout, to learn the skills, to understand the Oath and Law, and, if he chooses, to advance in rank. Scouts who are “pushed” often don’t get what they should from the experience and sometimes end up resenting it, which is truly tragic.

    • Neil,

      Correct. Ten years ago I averaged 25-30 Eagle Scouts a year in my district as District Advancement Chairman. To compete with the merit badge mills our summer camps now offer all the required merit badges, as well as most camps. Also required merit badges are offered at one day merit badge venues.

      Since then I now average between 35-40 Eagle Scouts a years, and get this: the district has less Scouts and troops, but we have 1/3 more Eagle Scouts. These programs only help the lazy and unmotivated attain Eagle Scout because they are too lazy to get off their backsides and do the merit badges on their own. They want to be spoon fed and led by the hand, and we are enabling them.

      In 1982 the one millionth Eagle Scout milestone was reached. In 2009 the second millionth Eagle Scout milestone was reached. It took 72 years to reach one million Eagle Scouts. but ONLY 27 years to reach the second million (and we did not have MORE Scouts). I know we do not have a generation of over achievers out there, so take a guess why.

    • One of the problems I have with merit badge events is that you don’t really get to know if the Scout understands the material or how he understands it; let alone if he can actually accomplish a skill. I am a great advocate of very small groups or individual Scouts with their buddy doing a badge. It provides the opportunity to mentor the Scout in the subject and gives him time to understand at his own pace. Over the years I have found that no two boys are alike in how they learn.

      For those who are interested, go to page 53 of this publication to see how Baden-Powell looked at merit badge training: http://www.thedump.scoutscan.com/a2sm.pdf

  12. I have the boys fill out the worksheet and attach pictures of a project, or design. Where it states Discuss I have them fill that out to get there thoughts in order and then discuss. I tell each boy that if you fill it out you can use it as notes when you teach it to another boy and if for some reason a counselor isn’t registered the boy doesn’t have to do the work again but simply show his work. and it’s proof he did the work. too many times a boy gets eagle at age 11 or 12 and you find out his dad is the scoutmaster. I view the worksheet as a tool and not a handicap. Scoutmaster Wayne Ellis Troop 195 Circle Ten

  13. My son is in a troop where the scoutmaster requires filled in workbooks to be shown before a scout is allowed to earn an Eagle required MB in a seminar/workshop format.

  14. I use an 8 1/2″ x 11″ checklist I keep in a sleeved folder, which I hang onto. It’s bigger than a tiny blue card, and it’s a backup to a card in case the card gets lost, which isn’t hard. Also, I keep the folders in a laptop bag, which has my basic Boy Scout publications in, so I’m not likely to lose my merit badge records. As for worksheets, I fill them out for my use only to organize the information sprinkled throughout merit badge booklets; I don’t give them to Scouts.

    • I should also mention that, as the BSA has always emphasized, Scouts need to learn to read — not just copy and paste from the Internet. Reading that merit badge booklet teaches a Scout patience and to focus on what they’re doing. They should learn that not everything comes with hitting a few keys on their keyboards. I commend the BSA for not arranging merit badge booklet content in the same order it appears in the requirements, and for not sprinkling (essentially flagging) the requirements throughout the booklets. Scouts need to read and think. The need some people have to shortcut everything gets tiresome.

  15. Bryan…I find nowhere in the GTA or in Chris Hunt’s comments where the word “discourages” is used.

    The GTA paragraph on workbooks was added in the 2013 edition. I was part of an investigation on their use which was the impetus for the GTA addition. The scout (and his parents) were under the impression that if he filled out the worksheet, he should get the MB regardless if he every met with a MBC. If I recall there were 9 MBs in question including some Eagle required ones.

    The original author of the over 130 worksheets was providing what he saw as a tool to assist scouts in their advancement. He believed that listing all the requirements was a better way than just the “writing” ones. i do not think he every thought that they would be interpreted as some have.

    They are a tool for both the scout and the MBC and each have to use them correctly.

    • The word “discourages” isn’t used, and I didn’t include it in quotes to indicate it was.

      But Chris Hunt says this: “We don’t like worksheets, and we’re reasonably sure our founder would be horrified by their very existence.”

      If that’s not discouraging their use, I don’t know what is.

      • Bryan…Discourages is in the title of the article.

        I know Chris and he chooses his words wisely and there are lots of things he doesn’t like like abusing the Advancement Method of Scouting.

        Also I bet there are a lot of things our founder would be horrified by their existence! 🙂

        • My point is I didn’t use it in quotes. If I had, that would indicate it was a word taken from the Guide to Advancement or Chris Hunt’s words.

          Again, I stand by the use of the word “discourages.”

      • “We don’t like worksheets, and we’re reasonably sure our founder would be horrified by their very existence.”

        I agree with Chris here. And ‘horrified’ would be putting it mildly.; ‘livid’ might be a better term 😉

      • That’s right, I didn’t use the word, “discourages,” but I’ll own that as my intent. Worksheets are discouraged.

        It’s true they can be a useful organizational tool, help Scouts collect their thoughts, and so forth. Can’t deny any of that, and their use is permitted.

        The trend in the merit badge program seems to be a lot like what BP was concerned with when he said, “The Scoutmaster must be alert to check badge hunting as compared to badge earning.” From the feedback I get it seems that we’ve moved from a culture of a significant learning experience involving adult association, to one of checking off requirements. I realize, of course, that this isn’t the case universally, but I see and hear enough to know it’s an issue.

        I stand by what I said.

  16. I agree with Jeffery. How worksheets are used is entirely up to the counselor. Yes, if a counselor just takes a worksheet as “proof” that the scout has met the requirements that is a problem, but not a problem with the worksheet, rather a problem with the counselor. Worksheets are a good way for a scout to take notes on his thoughts and actions while he is not with the counselor. They can also be a good way to help him remember things he wanted to discuss. I encourage scouts to carry a notepad and pen wherever they go for this very reason. Many youth today are hard pressed to remember what they did yesterday let alone a week ago. Writing has been proven to help with memory. Do I think scouts should be given an MB book and worksheet and set off on their own to do the work and then come back to get a blue card signed? Absolutely not! Would it be better for boys to use notebooks instead of work sheets? Probably. Either way, I think we may be focusing on the wrong problem when we target worksheets as the issue.

  17. Nor does “discuss”, “demonstrate”, etc., mean “listen to a lecture in the church basement and get signed off”.
    Dean Whinery

  18. In response to the MB being taught at Summer Camps. For six years I ran an area at a summer camp. I am in my 50’s now. In my area we taught things from the books. If it said demonstrate my councilors had each boy demonstrate. We would pair them up with another boy to accomplish this. If you have had a bad experience in your area with summer camps I would suggest you talk to your local council and ask them to hire only adults as area coordinators and give these coordinators enough time in the day to check on each merit badge session to ensure quality teach methods.

  19. Brian, I wish you had used a different title with this article. Scouts are supposed to be prepared. Reading the merit badge pamphlet helps scouts to be prepared. Thinking through the requirements and taking notes on a worksheet is an option as a great way to be prepared. Using words like “discourages” and “unofficial” in conjunction with “use of merit badge worksheets” implies that good scouts and scouters shouldn’t touch these with a 10 foot pole. I think your title is really problematic if you message is that they’re “fine if they’re used as a note taking tool.”

    How about a title like, “Merit Badge Counselors: Worksheets are No Substitute for Fulfilling Badge Requirements” or “Scouts: What Does it Mean for a Scout to Be Prepared for a Merit Badge?”

  20. For Merit Badge Academy, I am careful to choose merit badges where the bulk of the MB can be done by presentation, and the rest by doing something in the class. If a scout shows up with a Worksheet in my Railroading class, they are told to just put it away, it is not used. And we end the class with the completed, tested railroad car running on the test track fro each scout. And each scout puruses the display of mult scale cars at their leisure.

  21. Really? I think this article is very short-sighted in many of its points and is overly subjective on certain others. It really should have been two paragraphs. Unfortauntely these two paragraphs are at the end of the article in the postscript.

    1. Unofficial worksheets? Is the BSA planning to come out with or sanction certain merit badge worksheets as official?

    2. Implying unofficial merit badge worksheets hasten the process of challenging the mind, building character, and educating through trial and error is short-sighted and subjective. Where’s the statistics to back this up?

    3. These worksheets ARE meant to help Scouts complete requirements. They are NOT meant to be the end all of end alls. Implying that filling these “blanks” out fulfills the requirement is assumptive on the author’s part and wrong.

    4. Worksheets being used in the wrong way? How does a boy use the worksheet in the wrong way? Isn’t it ultimately the counselor who determines the completion of a requirement? In the Guide to Advancement is clearly states that:

    Counselors agree to sign off only requirements that Scouts have actually and personally completed.

    How the worksheet is used is ultimately up to the Counselor, not the boy. The counselor is approved by the District/Council Advancement Committee and therefore the use of worksheets ultimately comes down to the education of counselors as managed by the Committee.

    5. The BSA discourages the use of these worksheets. The reasons given thus far for this discouragement are presumptive and subjective in nature and miss the bigger picture.

    6. Verbs like “discuss,” “show,” “tell,” “explain,” “demonstrate” or “identify.” are all action words that we ALL deal with in life in all that we do. We are enhacing our boys to be better citizens, with better character, and to “Be Preapred”. Whether it is doing homework, financial planning, preparing for a business meeting, or even interviewing for a job, at some point we all need to take notes and prepare. The worksheets offer this sort of training for our boys and should be looked at as an intangible plus to building the overall individual as we prepare them for life. Again the use of the workbook by a boy should not be discouraged but rather should be encouraged (note I did not say required) for the positives it provides.

    7. Merit badge worksheets are “permitted only for fulfilling requirements where something is to be done in writing,” he says [Chris Hunt, team leader of the BSA’s Content Management Team]. This is good information for counselors and boys alike to understand, unfortunately the placement of this statement in the article makes it sound as if all worksheets can be used for is written requirements. It isn’t until near the end of the article in the postscript that a softer tone and a more reasonable explanation for using the worksheets is seen.

    8. And merit badge counselors may never require the use of merit badge worksheets and may, if they choose, refuse to accept them, Hunt says. YES! AGREED!!!
    Worksheets are simply tools, no different than the pamphlets being highlighted, or the bookmarking of a wikipedia article by Scouts. Ultimately the determination of fulfillment of a requirement falls on the Counselor.

    9. WHAT ARE MERIT BADGE WORKSHEETS? This description is relatively accruate, however with the preceding part of the article, the “fill-in-the-blanks” reference provides a negative conentation that should not be misintepretted. The worksheets provide blanks for Scouts to make notes.

    10. Unofficial merit badge worksheets emphasize speed over education. – WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! This is presumptive and WRONG!. Many researchers have formulated evidence that note-taking combined with critical thinking facilitates retention and applications of the information.

    Further this section of the article references a requirement in the First Aid merit badge which obviously is shown as a “show” action. In my humble opinion, there is nothing wrong with a boy making notes to reference when “showing” this requirement. Show is being intepretted in this example as demonstrate. Demonstrate is a word used in other requirements to clarify the expecation. “Show” by definition is “be or allow or cause to be visible”. A boy choosing to draw out these steps and “show” the conselor would not be a variance or short cut to the requirement.

    11. What does the BSA say: Mr Hunt is quoted as saying:
    Worksheets are a shortcut. They present on paper what should be arrived at through thought and interaction — through asking questions and trial and error. They often tend to create or support an atmosphere of “get the merit badge finished as efficiently and quickly as possible,” when the objective should be a significant learning experience that builds character, citizenship, and physical or mental fitness.

    This is an opinion and should not be taken as fact. While it can not be argued that some boys may utilize the worksheet as a means of expediting their work, others may find the utilization of a workbook to be more of challenge than trying to memorize or “wing it” with a counselor. As noted before, note taking and the use of a worksheet in preparation for review with a counselor CAN improve understanding and retention. Assuming that the use of a worksheet diminishes the learning experience is nothing short of a subjective opinion.

    Mr Hunt continues to state: Worksheets can prevent struggling with requirements, when it is the struggle that can lead to retention of lessons learned.
    We don’t like worksheets, and we’re reasonably sure our founder would be horrified by their very existence

    I think our founder WOULD be horrified. Not at the use of merit badge worksheets but rather the penmanship of most of our Scouts these days. In his opinionated statement, Mr Hunt fails to see the positive points that worksheets can provide those Scouts that choose to utilze them. Not only does it offer boys the ability to practice and improve their penmanship skills, but it helps them to prepare for life after Scouts, helping to formulate their reading, research, and thoughts and giving them an example of how to organize these.

    Additionaly Mr Hunt states: Worksheets must not be accepted in fulfillment of requirements that call for “showing,” “demonstrating,” “discussing,” or whatever else the written word does not fully accomplish.

    I don’t know that any respectable counselor would accept worksheets solely for completion of a requirement without reviewing with the boy. I believe the mere suggestion of this is condescending to our professional volunteer merit badge counselors. Mr Hunt and the BSA are imposing their intepretation on the action verb words after the fact. Show and discuss CAN be completed with aid of a worksheet for boys. As noted before, if the show action verb is meant to imply demonstrate, then change the requirement to refelct this. Discuss does not say they cannot reference notes, or even the merit badge pamphlet for that matter, to aid in their completion of the requirement.

    12. In all fariness… this is where the article starts to carry some merit (no pun intendid)

    Mr Hunt’s quote is finished with: Furthermore, Scouts must never be required to use worksheets. The decision to use them belongs to the Scout. Not one merit badge requirement says anything like, “Use a worksheet downloaded from the Internet to…”

    Merit badge counselors may refuse to accept worksheets but they are not allowed to require their use.

    Absolutely and in total agreement.

    13.If you remove the first paragraph of the post script, the rest is spot on and to me is the pertinent information. Far different than that of the rest of the article.

    Just one Scouter’s thoughts

    • Excellent post, Scoutmaster Bucky. It looks to me like someone is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

      • But it does exist. What sparked this post was a letter I received from a parent whose son was being required to use worksheets for a merit badge class.

        • Then I think your article is off point or more accurately pointed at the wrong audience. The issue (as stated by many others here) is not that of the worksheets, but rather the manner in which the COUNSELORS, some MERIT BADGE DAY ORGANIZERS and even some SCOUT CAMPS utilize them as “required”.

          I hope that you replied to the letter directing them to their District/Council Advancement Committee for review. These issues can not be resolved through blog bantering and creating hype across the land. Yes, it does help educate our Scouting population, but these types of concerns need to be brought to the attention of the local Scouting program to be able to address and resolve.

      • My apologies if I ramble …

        The issue is related to your comment: “I don’t know that any respectable counselor would accept worksheets solely for completion of a requirement without reviewing with the boy.” … I think your statement is the target of the article and BSA’s concern.

        Reviewing worksheets weakens the verbs and is a shallow experience. Show and discuss becomes … I’ll justify saying you’re done by asking a question or two about what you wrote.

        It focuses more on walking requirements and less on mentoring the topic.

        Prepare becomes a euphemism for “WORKSHEET REQUIRED”.

        From what I’ve seen, many counselors now essentially review a worksheet instead of discussing or showing. The mentoring experience becomes fill-in-the-blank and show your work.

        My opinion is that the MB process is often more valuable than the MB itself. It’s the personal interactions. It’s the confidence of conversations and interpersonal skills.

        Most importantly, the MB experience is supposed to inspire further pursuit. Too often the worksheet experience leaves the scout glad he’s done and rarely inspired.

        Perhaps, BSA should include a set of test questions to evaluate the counseling environment. For example: Does the environment support success with ALL THE SCOUTS without the counselor ever seeing a MB workbook? Good. Or is it such that to get the number of scouts through, most need to show a completed workbook to get credit. Bad. In my opinion, if the counselor asks to see prep work, then it means the counselor doesn’t have time show or discuss.

        Or, another key question … does the environment focus more on completing the requirements or more at inspiring the scout? Some of the best MB counseling experiences I’ve had is sitting at a picnic table one on one with a scout. Sometimes the scouts continue to discuss and debate the topic even after the MB is done.

        • Fred

          I have to most politely disagree with a lot of what you said. I believe a majority of scouts, parents, and Scouters would disagree that the worksheet weakens the experience. Most would agree that IMPROPER use does more than weaken the experience.

          I think your conclusion that a worksheet allows for walking the requirement rather than offering a mentoring opportunity is an insult to many of our volunteer counselors who do use the worksheets, executed by the boys, as a mentoring tool to be able to assess a boy’s comprehension and understanding and not for the sole purpose of determining the completion of a requirement.

          Prepare becomes a euphemism for “WORKSHEET REQUIRED”. I don’t even know how to respond to this ridiculous statement. The first thing that comes to mind is a bit sarcastic, so I apologize ahead of time, butall I could think was… hmmmm how does the new Scout Motto sound… Be Prepa… I mean… Be Worksheet Required.

          You say (as others have implied as well) you have seen counselors review worksheets instead of utilizing the action verbs. To you and all the others out there, I ask…. Have YOU done anything to help these volunteers understand and improve on the process or have you just stood idle and let these frustrations fester?

          I personally work with Scouts, Scout Parents, and Scouters on a monthly basis mentoring them in the ways of counseling, preparing for merit badges, and preparing for life. It’s a continual education process for all involved.

          You go on to say that the environment should be evaluated; evaluated for success of ALL THE SCOUTS. This is not Cub Scouts. Everyone does not succeed in every environment. And success is not measured by completion of requirements or merit badges but rather what they take away at the end of the day. It’s ok not to have success every time one takes on a challenge, but it is not ok when extra expectations are added beyond the requirements.

          A boy can not be required to do any more or any less than the requirement states. How he gets there is the individual choice each boy makes. Some choose to use the worksheets to assist them and they should not be penalized or forbidden to use it as a resource. Nor should they peanilzed or chastized for the mis use by a counselor.

          We as the role models and mentors need to be aware that the world is changing and just because we had to walk bare foot uphill in the snow both ways to school, doesn’t mean that the boys should be expected to do the same. We need to be open to these changes…. wait until things really start turnng electronic. Electronic Pamphlets, Electronic Blue Cards, etc.

          The issue lies in the Counselor. I have been a strong supporter of making Merit Badge Counselor Training mandatory for all Merit Badge Counselors so that issues like these can be shared and passed on to our Counselors. This training should be required on a regular basis, or at least a proficiency level of understanding these rules and practices enforced through a certification process.

    • Scoutmaster Bucky … Unfortunately, I can’t respond to your lower response.

      Unfortunately, you misunderstood or mis-characterized several items and what I meant. Especially, when you said “this is not cub scouts”. I was not referring that all scouts had to succeed. I meant that the environment should be such that every scout could succeed without the efficiency of worksheets. The only way to demonstrate that you are prepared to discuss or explain is to discuss or explain. It’s a person-to-person interaction.

      The trouble is when an event has many scouts and one or two counselors and the counselors ask to see their prep work. No. That’s wrong. That’s not the requirement.

      If a counselor said “show me your prep work”, it should be enough to show a picture of the scout reading the pamphlet and a time log when he started and stopped reading it. Perhaps, a page of messy scribbles too like my mom used to keep near the phone.

      Now, I acknowledge that “Show”, “Explain”, “Describe”, “Name”, “Share” and such can all be fulfilled through email and zero person-to-person interaction. Heck, you don’t even need to meet the counselor face-to-face. You could even use an AI engine to evaluate looking for key terms and verbs. Many requirements could be completed without a living breathing merit badge counselor. So handing in a worksheet could fulfill the requirement.

      But at minimum “Discuss” demands a face-to-face, bi-directional, time intensive experience between the scout and the counselor. And to be honest, I’d hope the other words are also interpreted as face-to-face.

      Our youth have years and years of filling in forms, filling in applications and working with electronics and the written word. Their homework is now stored online in Google docs. If our scouts need anything now, it’s working face-to-face now with a living breathing person.

      Scouting is special not only because of the outdoors, but also because of the person-to-person experiences. The worksheets are bad when they compromise that person-to-person experience. And, that’s often now the norm. Time with the counselor is reduced because the scout is expected to show up with a completed form. Show up one time with your form, sit and listen for a few hours and you earn the badge.

      I do not mean to disparage your devotion or your contributions. I’ve seen this place after place. Counselor after counselor.

      Counselors expect the scout to invest the time in the badge, but the counselor doesn’t have time to invest in the scout. That’s sad.

      You did not like the questions I asserted or my asserting the environment should support success without anyone using the worksheet.

      At least I do agree with you in that the problem is more with the counselor than the worksheet itself. How about this new assertion instead. The merit badge counseling relationship should provide at least 20 to 30 minutes of interaction between the counselor and the scout. 10 to 15 minutes is marginal. Less than 10 minutes is unacceptable.

      So if you want to counsel 10 scouts, you should expect the experience to take three to five hours to get each scout his share of the counseling experience beyond just presenting the badge.

    • “I don’t know that any respectable counselor would accept worksheets solely for completion of a requirement without reviewing with the boy.”

      I agree.

      Unfortunately, it happens, and it happens frequently. I don’t know if this makes a counselor unrespectable, just lazy, or perhaps unknowledgeable about what he/she is supposed to be doing.

      The solution seems pretty simple:

      1. Add to the MBC application a substantial amount of information about what is expected from a counselor.
      2. Develop an online training course for MB Counselors, put it on My Scouting, and require its completion prior to approval of any MBC application. Require its completion prior to any renewal of a counselor.
      3. Limit the number of merit badges a counselor can apply for. 3 – 4 perhaps.
      4. Encourage the online sources of workbooks to modify them. Just adding “Notes” to the blank spaces would be a giant step in the right direction. Adding phrases at the beginning of the workbook stating it is not to be used for “verb” requirements but for notes, ideas, etc. would also help.

  22. That important postscript should be your headline. The worksheets may be useless for requirements to “show” or “demonstrate”, but they can be quite HELPFUL for the Scout to BE PREPARED for the discussion requirements.

    • Perhaps you’re right that the postscript should’ve been moved higher. But my primary intent was to convey Chris Hunt’s belief that these worksheets are a “shortcut” that create an atmosphere of “get the merit badge finished as efficiently and quickly as possible,” as he writes.

  23. I am glad to see this blog post. The worksheets remind me of elementary school, and I’ve seen some scouts come to me expecting me to want to read it to see they’ve done the work. I’d prefer to have a conversation with them. During a conversation, it quickly becomes apparent if they understand the material or not.

  24. I would like to point out that when merit badge requirements are designed the teams specifically design them so they are as enjoyable for a teen age boy to do as possible. There is a lot of ‘dooing’ in merit badges because boys like to do things. Worksheets are study aids, … are study aids fun? Can the merit badge experience be enjoyable and fun for the boy without him sitting at a desk and filling out a worksheet?

    I’ve been an adult scouter for over 20 years and I have yet to have a boy run up to me and say he really, really wanted to sit at a table and fill out a worksheet.

    • This comment says it all. Thanks, Bill.

      You’re right that filling out a worksheet was the last thing I wanted to do when earning any merit badge. That was true of merit badges with inherently thrilling subjects like Wilderness Survival and ones that seemed dull on paper, like Citizenship in the Nation, that were actually made exciting thanks to a great merit badge counselor.

    • Worksheets are a method to the end. This is helping our boys become “Prepared For Life”

      When he has to go out and apply for a job he will likely need to fill out an application. I don’t know of anyone who would classify filling out an application as fun or enjoyable, however while not necessarily required, it is a part of the process that offers a higher rate of success in the ultimate goal.

      • “part of the process” is not part of BSA’s process. Scouting is an exercise in interpersonal skills and moving and doing. Workbooks are sitting in a desk like our scouts do every day in school.

        Counselors pushing workbooks is a red flag.

        • I view the workbooks like I view the merit badge pamphlets: they are TOOL that may, stressing MAY, be used by the scout in preparing to work with a merit badge counselor.

          As Fred said, the key is interpersonal skills with an adult, and moving and doing.

          Essentially the MB process is:
          1) Going to your SM to get a hold of merit badge counselor’s (MBC) info.

          2) Contacting a MBC to arrange times to work with him on the merit badge

          3) WORKING WITH THE MBC TO UNDERSTAND AND “MASTER THE SKILLS” INVOLVED WITH THE MB (caps for emphasis; quote is from 9th ed BSHB)

          4) Once completed, turning in blue card and getting recognized.

      • But there are other means to the end that involve more in-depth interaction and association with adults. I believe this interaction–the merit badge process, as someone called it in this blog–is better for helping youth be prepared for life than filling out worksheets.

        I suppose it could be true that filling our a worksheet might help a Scout fill out a job application, though in my opinion that connection/comparison is dubious. The purpose of a worksheet, at best, is to be a tool for learning. Filling out a job application might be a learning experience, but that’s not it’s purpose. It’s purpose relates to getting a job.

        Most of the comments here have focused on the value of worksheets in getting organized. The process of getting organized, however, should come from a conversation with an adult, not from a piece of paper. This is because the interaction that takes place is actually more important than learning the subject matter. As Suzette says in a comment far below this one, some Scouts absolutely need worksheets to get themselves organized. What’s wrong with expecting the others to work with adults and figure out how to get organized–and otherwise be prepared–without the worksheet tool?

        Scoutmaster Bucky, your online merit badge experiences most likely represent the future of the merit badge program. From what I understand, Scouts who take advantage of your services learn their material and earn the badge. But there are many web-based merit badge opportunities that are essentially a joke. There are also some camp merit badge experiences and merit badge “colleges,” or whatever, that have good value, but many of them are sub par as well. The best merit badge experience is the one that emphasizes face to face–in person–interaction. For the most part, online, camp, and “college” experiences don’t compare.

        Note that though everything I’ve said thus far, represents my opinion, it also represents the stand of the National Advancement Committee.

        • Chris, I agree with almost everything you say; however, I disagree with you when you say, “The process of getting organized, however, should come from a conversation with an adult, not from a piece of paper.” I think you are oversimplifying the interaction. Maybe a scout should have a face to face, or at least an in-depth phone or email conversation with a counselor before beginning a merit badge, but maybe not. A short conversation that consists of “read this, organize your thoughts, then we will meet” (one or many times) may be an appropriate start. It depends on the counselor, the scout, and the circumstances surrounding the merit badge. A quality of character that is missing in many of today’s youth, including many scouts, is self-reliance. Yes, counselors share valuable knowledge and experience with scouts, but scouts should also be expected to take some responsibility for their own learning. Merit badge pamphlets contain good, foundational information, otherwise we would not need them at all. We could just use the requirements and be done with it. Worksheets can be a valuable resource when used appropriately. The counselor could also say, “read the pamphlet and take notes, or read this material and take notes,” but why re-invent the wheel? The worksheets I’ve seen do not contain any organizational or factual errors that would detract from a scout’s experience or learning. Some merit badge counselors, on the other hand, do make these errors and worksheets can also help to prevent that.

          Finally, I feel it necessary to point out that I have not seen and cannot find any documentation that supports your statement regarding the stance of the National Advancement Committee as it relates to the aforementioned quote. The only official statement I could find is the one in this article, and it includes nothing, either affirming or rejecting, using worksheets as an organizational aide.

        • @Jesse:
          Appreciate your thoughtful response. I’ll agree that I’m oversimplifying, but I could write pages and pages to justify my stand. It’s based on a 41 year professional career, service as a Scoutmaster, a rich youth experience, and a family history in Scouting that goes back to my grandfather. It’s difficult for me to avoid oversimplifying in the process of fitting comments into short blog posts.

          I’ll also agree that the value of worksheets depends on the Scout. But I wouldn’t agree that it depends on the counselor or the circumstances. Counselors should focus on the needs of the Scout and the circumstances chosen that will provide the best learning experience. I think you’re spot on about self reliance, but I would see that as an argument against worksheets–rather than for them. If worksheets are the wheel, then the process of reinventing it can be a powerful learning experience, from which I think most Scouts could benefit.

          As the national staff advisor to the National Advancement Committee, I can speak for the group. The national advancement chair and I are in communication almost daily, we worked in concert to organize the committee, and we’re partners in facilitating its deliberations and operations. Worksheets have been discussed at length. The speculation on how our founder would feel about worksheets is mine, but I think it likely most members of the NAC would agree with it. BP was all about having fun that was managed to produce personal growth.

  25. I think we have forgotten a much bigger problem. MERIT BADGE DAYS How are you going to do the Nuclear Science merit badge in three hours with 20 Scouts? This is where we see “items x, y and z of the worksheet” required.
    How do you interact with each Scout on each requirement to see if they understand?
    This is a problem with a lot of the STEM badges for instance.
    How do we say we have met the goals of the merit badge program by teaching (?) four merit badges in one day and include registration checking, lunch, breaks and room changes. OH, I almost forgot filling out the blue cards.

    • “Merit Badge Days” and Merit Badge Universities may not be appropriate places to conduct such merit badges. The events might be appropriate to introduce the merit badge – but to successfully complete the requirements – the counselor should sit down and discuss the requirements with the individual scouts. Same at summer camp. In my last dozen years of scouting, I have never seen this happen. Merit badges are given away. This goes to Neil Lupton’s previous post about how “in the old days”, a scout needed some personal initiative to go out and get a merit badge completed. In addition, “In the old days”, scouts actually had to do the requirements, as opposed to listen to a lecture or powerpoint presentation as is sometimes down by well intentioned by misguided merit badge counselors.

  26. The worksheets are not a problem. The problem is any warm body can be a merit badge counselor vs someone who actually knows their stuff and had training, certification, profession, or education.

    We do a disservice to youth and build false confidence in skills and level of knowledge when we allow these to be signed off by counselors who could not preform, demonstrate, or explain the skills.

  27. The creation, rise, acceptance, and required usage of these tools speaks volumes to our organization’s values and expectations. Every time an adult hands one of these to a boy they are endorsing the behavior and beliefs they empower: superficiality over knowledge, spoon feeding over discovery, speed over experience, regurgitation over understanding.

    The values we teach are the expressed sum our everyday actions. If your Eagle was earned by filling the blanks in a comic book your Scoutmaster or parents handed you, you missed reason for earning it.

    • Must respectfully disagree with you to a degree. As others have stated, the worksheets are a tool that can be used to facilitate the learning. It can help organize the Scouts thoughts for a discussion, help him remember how to do a skill while learning it, tell him what he needs for the merit badge. It’s a tool, just like a merit badge pamphlet.

      The key IMHO is the counselor. how they interact, how they teach, how they make sure the skills are mastered, etc. A lot of the problems in the article are really problems with the counselors, not the worksheets themselves.

      Blaming the worksheets for the problems is like blaming spoons for being overweight.

  28. THANKS for this post!

    I’ve witnessed far too many “Merit Badge Universities” and merit badge counselors use the worksheets as a crutch or replacement for following the requirements as written. I’ve even seen them used at summer camp and given out as “homework assignments” to boys. Additionally, I’ve encountered several instances where old and obsolete worksheets were being downloaded and distributed.

    The audience for Bryan on Scouting are committed, passionate and fully trained Scouters. HOWEVER, the overwhelming majority of Merit Badge Counselors are under-trained or completely untrained.

    Take a minute to check your District or Council statistics on untrained leaders.

  29. I teach the Merit Badge Counselor class as serve as a MBC – in addition to the official information from BSA above, I caution Scouts (and MBCs) that any written work must be in the Scout’s own words – not a simple cut and paste off of the web.

  30. I would also throw into the fire: Eagle Project Workbooks! I totally agree they are an EXCELLENT TOOL! but have heard that they are REQUIRED and you cannot go forward without it being completed. I did not have such a tool available when I did mine and the requirement is to develop and carryout the project. Again we have scouts being handed a project that needs to be carried out. This is one of the things that led to my Dad dropping out of Scouting (“Scouts doing a Blood Drive as a Eagle Project”)

    • The eagle workbook is a different situation. The workbook is a scout protection against turning an exercise of leadership and service into a bureaucratic run-around. I believe the workbook puts the control of the eagle project back into the hands of the scout.

  31. IT’s a catch 22. It’s hard to get counselors. I’m a counselor for swimming, skiing, horseback riding, shooting (all weapons)and a few others. I can DO all of the things I signed up for.

    But the only two I am semi-pro at is horseback riding and shooting since I have been breeding, training, showing horses for 43 years. And I’ve been shooting since I was 6, am NRA/BSA RSO and instructor for pistol, shotgun, rifle, and archery, and was the shooting sports director for 4-H in the 70’s.

    I’ve been swimming and skiing all my life and was certified when I was younger. I can TEACH it because I know what it is to be done. Could I do it anymore myself? Nope. Too out of shape.

    In a big city, there probably isn’t a problem getting MBC’s, but in a rural area, sometimes that’s hard. Even if you can find a professional in the field, they either don’t have time or have no interest in scouting.

    Luckily we have vets and doctors who are more than willing to give their time, and they are obviously pros. We have the nuclear plant here who are kind enough to set up BSA days for the boys to come earn badges that otherwise could not be done – like nuclear science, surveying, etc. Plus they get to tour the facility when under normal circumstances you would be shot if you entered certain areas, lol! Of course there are still a few NO ENTER areas even then.

    • Just a point of clarification: You are not a Merit Badge Counselor for weapons. Firearms and archery equipment are not weapons unless you intend to point them at someone. Same goes for pocket knives, axes and bow saws when you are teaching Toten’ Chip. I respectfully suggest that you remove the word “weapon” from your vocabulary when you counsel for or refer to these merit badges.

  32. Others have stated the same concerns that I have with this article. The true problem is with the counselors that might misuse these worksheets. The worksheets are a great tool to break down what can be a daunting set of requirements to bite-sized pieces. As with ANY advancement tool, use it well and it can be a help, use it poorly and the Scout suffers.

    Has the National Advancement Team done any sort of empirical research that would indicate a widespread misuse of worksheets or just anecdotal reports from upset parents or leaders? I certainly haven’t seen a survey on the subject, but would be glad to respond to one. I’m sorry Mr. Hunt doesn’t like worksheets. He may see them as more harmful than helpful and its unfortunate that his experience with them has been so negative as to come out against them. Again, it all comes down to merit badge counselor training. That would have been a much better article than this piece, as currently written.

  33. My son attended a council camp this past summer where each class handed out the worksheets and required them to be completed. His sustainability had them spend class time copuing vocabulary words. They had a very brief discussion the first day (50 minute classes). Then sent home to complete the workaheet. He refused to give them their blue cards back and gave them 1 month to fax him or he would assume they had no interest. My son has been to camp in 5 councils now, and everytime he is handed those worksheets to fill in. A few use them as stepping off points, but too many consider them the end all. Very frustrating.

  34. I think merit badge work books are very useful. My son is great at hands-on stuff (builds with Legos for hours, builds model ships) but is a terrible writer and speller. We find that having him use the work sheets as a tool not only reinforces what he has read in the pamphlet and the hands-on stuff he is doing, but gives him a chance to improve his writing skills.

    I also think the usefulness of work books has been driven by how merit badge requirements have evolved over time. Perhaps our founder would be “horrified” by work books, but look at how MB requirements have changed. The original requirements for many badges were simply demonstrations of skills. Now, every badge is loaded up with ‘explain’ and ‘tell’ requirements. Other posters say that having a scout fill out a work book is a fun killer, but I don’t see how explaining the “healthy plate” concept in cooking merit badge is any more fun.

    I found this web site that provides a comparison between original and more recent requirements for a number of badges.

    http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/04/15/the-boy-scouts-of-america-then-and-now-a-comparison-of-the-1911-and-modern-handbooks-and-merit-badges/

    I have to be honest, I cannot speak to the accuracy of what is listed in this website, but I found one other source and the requirements on both sites were consistent. This appears to be the entirety of cooking merit badge requirements in 1911:

    To obtain a merit badge for Cooking a scout must

    1. Prove his ability to build a fireplace out of stone or sod {31} or logs, light a fire, and cook in the open the following dishes in addition to those required for a first-class scout: Camp stew, two vegetables, omelet, rice pudding; know how to mix dough, and bake bread in an oven; be able to make tea, coffee, and cocoa, carve properly and serve correctly to people at the table.

    Compare this to the current requirement list for Cooking MB!

    This matches with my recollection as a scout that there are much more in the way of verbal requirements than there used to be. I am not saying that this evolution is a bad thing, but tools need to evolve as well and work books fill a need for what these badges have evolved into.

    • Good example, Ed, about the original cooking MB. Maybe the advancement committee should review all MB’s and try to minimize and eliminate the “describe”, “discuss” and “explain” and replace it with “do” and “demonstrate” as often as possible. One of my biggest gripes is the inclusion of merit badges as requirements in the National Outdoor Achievement Awards. I think that award should be about doing things in the outdoors. All the merit badges that are required to get various components just mucks it up. Especially since many MBs have often been turned into bookwork and worksheets, instead of doing and demonstrating. I have scouts in my troop who have turned bitter towards merit badges because they are too much like schoolwork. But they love to camp, hike and paddle. There really aren’t any awards for this type of scout, except to garner yet another 50 miler award.

  35. There are so many other things wrong with the merit badge program the way it is administered these days that this seems like small potatoes. Summer camp was mentioned, as was merit badge universities, and I think someone even brought up the MB at troop meetings.

    One of my peeves as that troops like to boast they they have a counselor for every (or the vast majority) of merit badges. The way they accomplish that is to have people register for dozens of badges. Would you rather earn Space Exploration from an ASM who read the MB booklet or someone who spent six months on the ISS (here in Houston we have several astronauts in the scouting program)? In addition to not getting to meet with a person who has real expertise, the boy is missing out on one of the Methods of Scouting, adult interaction. Boys gain a lot of self confidence when they have to call a MBC whom they don’t know and ask to work on a MB. This is lost when he just has to walk up to Mr. Brown during a meeting.

    Don’t get me started on the check box on the MBC form that allows a MBC to only work with boys in one unit. I think they should only be allowed to work with boys from other units but would accept removing that check box as a compromise.

    I dislike MB Universities. That’s why I sign up for them whenever I can. I figure each boy who is in my class, where I understand the program and that each one must complete every requirement, is not in a different class where the MBC might be pencil-whipping the blue card.

    I make it clear to all who work with me that I do not expect them to use the worksheets, but they may. I also tell them that MBCs may not require you to use them, and I point out the action words as the reason. Most MBs do not require anything to be written, and the few requirements that do can be done on a page or two, not ten pages of LNT-be-damned paper.

  36. BTW, I also agree with many of the posters that merit badge clinics bear more scrutiny than this work sheet issue. My son went to one at our local science museum for robotics merit badge and I was very dissapointed in the program they ran. He wanted to do the nuclear science MB work shop and I refused but agreed to haul him wherever he needed to go to take care of requirements on his own. So, we toured Fermilab, he walked down the street to the local vet to get information on the x-ray set up, built a cloud chamber, isotope models and whatever else he needed. He also completed the work book. He dragged all of this to a counselor who was very enthusiastic. It took them several hours to walk through everything and my son loved every minute. It probably took him 4 months to do everything as opposed to a 1-day workshop, but he got way more out of it. The work sheet was just one of many tools he used and it was a good way for him to track where he was at on such a complicated merit badge.

    That’s another thing I struggle with on this work sheet issue. Some of these badges are so complex. Not to pick on Cooking MB again, but look at those requirements. There are 8 requirements, with all but one having up to 8 sub-requirements, and two of the sub-requirements have sub-sub-requirements! How the heck does a kid track all of this without some sort of written tool?

  37. I find the worksheets to be of great value. My grandson uses them for every badge he works on. It helps to keep his thoughts organized and on point. Some badges required many weeks of work before he is ready to meet with his counselor. Writing things down-in his own handwriting-helps him recall his ideas when he sees his counselor. When he completed the Sustainability badge, he had a folder full of Information to discuss with his counselor….enough for a term paper.

    These worksheets also come in handy at school. I can’t count how many times he would be working on something from school and say, “hey, I did that on my Citizenship In The Nation badge! Let’s check it out on my worksheet” So I feel the worksheets are valuable tools for Scouts.

    • Scouts really shouldn’t be trying to finish the badge before meeting with a counselor. They should be working from day one (if possible) with a counselor and plan out how they will complete the badge. The counselor then meets with the Scout periodically as the requirements are completed. The counselor should be stepping a Scout through the complex badges.

      Merit badge worksheets do not replace merit badge counselors.

      • There have been many times when he has contacted his counselor during the time he is working on a badge to talk requirements over and to get his counselors advise on something that needs to be done. Writing things down is certainly an asset for anyone. We have found some counselors to be more interested in his ideas and thoughts then others. These are the counselors that make earning the badge more interesting and memorable.

        I did have a little problem with a 10 year old cold calling a complete stranger. But, he wrote out a script, made the call, arranged the meeting for all of us and is very good at it now–a confident 13 year old scout!

        • Hello Pat,

          Not completely sure why you have the problem with the cold call, but that’s the whole point. The Scout thinks that it’s a complete stranger. But you know that it’s a registered BSA Merit Badge Counselor who is a person that is voluntarily undertaking to do things because he or she cares about youth.

          And as a result — you have a confident 13 year old Scout.

        • I think it was mostly having a 10 year old calling someone neither of us knows. I knew they were BSA registered, but having protected him from strangers for 10 years and then having him call one, giant step for both of us! We both grew through the whole process.

        • “…having protected him from strangers for 10 years….” Are you saying that until he was 10 years old he never, ever, met anyone other than relatives?

  38. And Summer Camp Merit Badge “mills” run by paid Scouters — Badges given away with little or absolutely no individual testing? Is the acknowledged existence of this disgrace not MUCH more worthy of attention and action? Forget the mote and go after the boulder.

  39. I strongly disagree with your comment that the founder of scouts would be horrified or whatever by the use of the worksheets. For real? If MB counselors accept the workbook as fulfilling all the requirements completed then the issue is with the MB. But used as a tool to help the scout master the material, the new skills being taught, then what’s the issue? You’re telling me writing out one’s answers and notes to the questions / requirements is really that offensive? You think the kid who takes the time to fill out the workbook is the undeserving slacker?

    I have 2 sons in scouting. The oldest (almost 18, Eagle scout at 15, has his gold, bronze and silver palms) read the pamphlets but never filled out more than the written requirements. He met with the MB counselor and was able to demonstrate / preform / explain what he needed to do. His younger brother (13) also reads the pamphlets but likes to fill out all the workbook questions, it helps him learn the material. Does this replace the things he must talk about or demonstrate, no of course not. It’s just another style of learning. I can’t believe that that should be horrifying / disturbing to anyone involved in scouting.

    • I would have to agree with you on your post they are tools to help the learning. However I see the point of some counselors using them in the wrong fashion. Instead of going against them information on how to use them to enhance the learning experience of scouts would be best.

    • @ KLM:
      First, congrats on your sons’ Scouting achievements–getting as far as they have usually represents a family accomplishment!

      Since worksheets weren’t around during our founder’s time we don’t know for sure if they would have horrified him. That’s just speculation on my part. But he didn’t die until 1941, so I’ll speculate further, that if he’d thought the exercise of sitting down and filling out a worksheet would be valuable then he would have suggested it. What BP would have wanted, instead, was for the boy sit down with a knowledgeable adult to learn the material. Filling out a worksheet can be helpful in the same way, but it doesn’t come with the process of having a discussion with an adult. The real point here that the results of adult association are considered more important than learning the actual subject matter. But don’t get me wrong; both are important. It’s just that one is more important than the other.

      Not sure where “slacker” came from. That’s not a word I use. I think I’ve spoken from the perspective of the best experience for the Scout, and not to the nature of the Scout’s approach or energy. The little guys will generally go where we guide them. If we guide them toward worksheets, that’s where they’ll go. But it’s ok. Worksheets are permitted and may be used in accordance with the policies and procedures outlined in the Guide to Advancement. It’s just that they can serve to build in a layer of efficiency that was not intended, and thus, are discouraged.

      To further set the record straight, I didn’t I say that worksheets would be horrifying or disturbing to anyone involved in Scouting. I was speaking only about how BP might feel about them–in the context of his day and his vision for Scouting. Worksheets don’t horrify me; I just don’t like them.

      • We do have the writings of Baden-Powell that he left behind to give us a little insight into his thinking. Here is what he had to say about education, “This is briefly, that the secret to sound education is to get each pupil to learn for himself, instead of instructing him by driving knowledge into him on a stereotyped system. The method is to lead the boy on to tackle the objective of his training, and not to bore him with the preliminary steps at the outset.” B-P January 1912

        Baden-Powell stressed over and over again to all of his Scoutmasters that Scouting is not school and that many of the methods used in a classroom environment were not applicable to Scouting activities where the boy learns by doing.

  40. The problem is not the worksheets, as I see it. The problem is a counselor who wants to take shortcuts and not teach, advise, and guide a scout to earn a merit badge. I am a merit badge counselor for several badges, and I allow use of the worksheets. In the areas where the scout is to discuss, explain, or show a particular requirement, we do just that. He explains, demonstrates, and so forth. He can write notes in the worksheet, but we discuss the requirement, or he demonstrates to me that he understands and can perform the required task. . So, I will continue to use the worksheets, but I always pay close attention to the wording of the requirement and make sure the scout does what is fequired.

  41. I like the worksheets. I think it helps the boys keep their MB work well organized. I especially like the checklist and images that are included. It would be nice if BSA provided these so the boys would have a supplement to the pamphlets; however, they shouldn’t have to pay for these.

  42. The article also states that the worksheets can be time-saving tools and that they hasten the process. I hope that was directed to the MB councilors. My son has learning disabilities and he is very shy. The worksheets help him to feel confident and prepared. He reads the MB pamphlets and completes the worksheets before attending a class. It’s very time consuming.

  43. Our troop requires the scout to use the free workbook regardless of what the counselor says. Scouts will complete a badge with a counselor or at camp and be denied the badge unless they can produce the fully completed workbook. Plus when they turn the workbook in it is gone over with the scout and they have to be able to answer any questions the advancement chair has or they will once again be denied the badge. Boys in our troop really earn every merit badge they get as they will often times complete the requirements three times before being awarded the badge.

    • None of those things are supposed to happen. The MBC says when a Scout has completed a MB, no one else and retesting a scout is also not allowed.

      The advancement chair is not some sort of gate keeper of “True Scouting”

      • the Scoutmaster CAN question the Scout about HOW he earned the merit badge and HOW certain requirements were achieved, and can make him do those requirements over.

        This is spelled out in The Guide to Advancement 2103, Section 7.0.4.7: Limited Recourse For Unearned Merit Badges.

        If the Scout admits to not doing the requirement, or the Scoutmaster ascertains that the requirement was not fulfilled, then the merit badges is “unearned”, and the Scout can be required to do it over.

    • Mixed emotions on this.

      On one hand that is NOT how things are suppose to go. Once the MBC signs off on the card, it’s a done deal. No retesting on the subject; no denying the MB.

      HOWEVER, if a unit finds a problem with a merit badge counselor, ie to easy, pencil whipping, adding to requirements, too tough, etc., THEN the SM can send his scouts to a different counselor and notify the district advancement committee about the issue.

      • “On one hand that is NOT how things are suppose to go. Once the MBC signs off on the card, it’s a done deal. No retesting on the subject; no denying the MB.”

        There is a process for taking a Merit Badge back, but the troop is not where the process takes place.

        Due to Merit Badge mills, the process is routinely merited and seldom used.

    • Your troop doesn’t have the authority to add the requirement of submitting a workbook. Period. If Scouts in your troop are able to get to a counselor and fulfill MB requirements as written, only to have the Scoutmaster refuse to report the advancement for lack of a workbook, then those Scouts should just hang on to their portion of the signed blue cards until they have enough for Eagle. Then they may request a board of review, which must be granted. If Eagle BORs are done at the unit level, and your troop refused to grant one, then a Scout can request a BOR under disputed circumstances. This is all covered in the Guide to Advancement. A BOR may deny the Scout his Eagle, but the denial will eventually be overturned on appeal.

      If your troop leadership would like to discuss this with me, let them know to contact me at Christopher.hunt@scouting.org.

  44. I didn’t read all of the posts above, but I agree with those who say there are bigger problems with the merit badge program than worksheets. Used properly, and not made a requirement, I think worksheets/workbooks are an acceptable item.

    Having said that, I thought you guys would like to see what one place is offering for earning the cooking merit badge (see their after the ==== below).

    The problem here is that even after explaining to parents (one of them set it up to take a bunch of scouts to one of these classes) that the scouts won’t really earn the badge here, and won’t learn close to what they should learn from earning the badge, they will still take their sons to this place. Unfortunatley, there isn’t much the troop and its leaders can do when their scouts return with completed and signed blue cards (the place apparently has its own merit badge counselor on staff).

    I don’t think the place means to do less than a great job in helping the scouts earn the badge, I just don’t think they understand the program. It should be obvious to anyone who takes a minute to read the requirements, that you can’t correctly earn the cooking merit badge in 2 hours in this class. But some parents don’t care, it’s an Eagle badge and this is a quick and easy way to get one for their son. Once a single scout signs up for this, others will follow. Even the parents who agree this is less than a complete program won’t want their son to miss out on something that another scout is getting, so they follow along to the class with their sons.

    I especially like the last line below: “We do all the work; Boy Scouts have all the fun!”

    ====

    Cooking
    Earn merit badge during our 2-hour workshop
    Cost per Boy Scout is $20
    (Group or individual workshop available)

    Activities/requirements include:

    Safety in the kitchen – Dangers, food storage and preparation; Food born illnesses

    Food Pyramid game – Learn about food categories and daily nutrition; Food journal

    Prepare a 2 day camping menu using nutritional guidelines including costing and table setting; – Soup preparation; One pot dinner preparation

    All activities will be conducted in our professional kitchen

    Parents can participate however little or much they would like.

    We do all the work; Boy Scouts have all the fun!

    • This is the type of event that gives all of them a bad name. The Scout could plan a series of meals for their patrol & for their family, make shopping lists, & as well as go over the safety related issues. The Scout, however, could not cook all the meals that they are supposed to do for Rqt 5c to use 5/7 cooking methods to cook 3 meals & 1 dessert using 5/7 different cooking techniques; or c that requires the Scout to cook 3 meals outdoors & a dessert outdoors; or 7c to cook 2 meals & a snack suitable for trail cooking. That is 8 meals & 2 desserts in 2 hours. Even with the best organized MBC & only 2 Scouts, it would be impossible.

    • This is exactly the type of event that the form 11.1.0.0 in the GTA (page 81) to report Merit Badge Counseling concerns was written for. You should report this to your Council Advancement Committee now.

      From some of the other postings regarding MBC misuse of the worksheet, this form is also appropriate.

      It might also fall into the section 7.0.4.7 Limited Recourse for unearned MBs.

      • You beat me to it with your reply. I’m amazed by how many Scoutmasters do not know about this, and both are spelled out that they have recourse.

        However, another recourse is NOT to issue the Scout Blue Cards for the event in the first place. Inform the Scout that there are “other” counselors that he can go to for the merit badges and he will give the Scout their contact information. Make the parent file a complaint to the District Advancement Chairman, who in my district is me, and I will back the Scoutmaster even though the book says I really can’t.

        The Scoutmaster should inform the parent that this is how the troop does merit badges. They either agree with that or they should find another troop that will meet their advancement demands.

        I have Scoutmasters in my district that do “restrict” the participation in these one day venues. They will check for themselves the quality control for the event and if they allow the Scout to attend will only issue two Blue Cards for the Scout to earn two merit badges, in one day.

        They have my complete support and concurrence.

        • Bob,
          Remember that a Scoutmaster cannot prevent a Scout from going to a correctly registered merit badge counselor of the Scout’s choosing. It is all spelled out in the Guide to Advancement.

          Now for something controversial: When it comes to it, the merit badge program is a Council run program, not a troop run program.

        • Bill,

          I know what the GTA states: that a Scoutmaster cannot deny a Scout a scout to go to the Merit Badge Counselor of his choice. At one time they could but now they supposedly cannot. I have the feeling that if I look long enough I can find a contradiction to that somewhere; but I won’t bother. The GTA does have a few contradictions; just turn the page or two and you will read something different.

          Here is what I advised the Scoutmasters in my district to do if the issue is pushed. He tells the parent (because that’s who’s doing the pushing), “That this is how Troop XXX operates. If they do not agree with it then perhaps their son’s new Scoutmaster, in his new troop, will issue him a Blue Card and allow him to attend.’ Eventually, if the Scoutmaster denies the Blue Card for these venues enough the parent will either get on board or find another troop.

          It’s fairly safe to state that NO Scoutmaster has ever been removed by the Council for taking a stand like that, ever, nor any sanctions ever served on a troop for doing so. If the Scoutmaster won’t budge the Council Office will shrug their shoulders and tell the parent to find another troop.

          And NO, most Charter Representatives will not get involved with an issue such as this, nor take a position it.

  45. If we are discussing prevention at the pre-Blue Card stage, why would the Scout want to go forward with securing an un-earned Merit Badge if it is made clear that the MB being given, (as opposed to earned) may never, or most probably will not, make it to an Advancement Report under 7.0.4.7. ?

    (Why does B.S.A. say that “Just as we avoid penalizing Scouts for the mistakes of adults, it should be a rare occurrence that a unit leader finds the need to question whether merit badges have been earned. This procedure for recourse is limited and reserved only for clear and evident cases of noncompletion or nonparticipation.” ????

    B.S.A. knows about summer camp merit badge mills and their systematic perversion of the rules. No doubt “shocked, shocked” to learn there is gambling going on at Rick’s Cafe.)

  46. Even though this is a blog for Leaders I am I Scout I would like to quickly comment. I have had counselors require the use of a workbook especially at a MB college I have attended multiple times. The use of the workbooks comes down to a misconception about the primary source of these workbooks that everyone has managed to avoid mentioning. Many counselors may think that the US Scouting Service Project is a part of Boy Scouts of America.

    The other issue I personally have with workbooks is that when they are “highly encouraged” to be used the Scout ends up only reading the merit badge book to answer the spaces that are provided for each requirement. Then it must be asked is if the Scout really is getting the most of out of the merit badge opportunity or are they taking the easiest route to fill out the worksheet.

    • Zach,

      1) WELCOME!

      2) In regards to your question, depends upon the MBC. A good one will ask the questions, ask for demonstrations, discuss the MB etc. And the worksheet is like an outline for the Scout to help organize his thoughts, and jog his memory during the discussion.

      A not so good MBC may just allow the worksheets as the easiest route.

  47. As a long time Ecology Conservation Area director at summer camp, I find that in a few merit badges the work sheets are beneficial in orienting the Scouts through process. In most cases they are more of an impediment to the process. I have taught Environmental Science for years and because we have to have group discussions, have developed my own work sheets that are used to determine whether the Scout has been following the basic points of the discussions and presentations (also whether he has read the merit badge book). I have found these to be extremely effective.

    Conversely I grimace when a Scout comes into class with a USSSP worksheet completed, since it is rarely completed accurately. In addition the work sheets lead the Scouts to the weakest or least educational alternatives for completing the merit badge.

    • You would find if he has followed the “discussion” when you individually test him on each and every requirement as required without exception.

    • It should be up to the Scout to decide what option they choose for requirements that have different options not the Merit Badge Counselor (MBC). That being said, if a MBis being done in a group setting (whether it is 2 or 22), the MBC is likely going to choose the options that the group will complete. Thus, the MBC is going to steer the Scouts towards certain requirements.

      When I do the American Heritage MB at the National WWI Museum in KC, my prerequisites state which requirement options will be covered in the MB opportunity so the Scouts know which ones to research and work on so they can participate in the group instruction. For Rqt 4, the options are (a) NRHP; (b) local historical event; (c) find out about one’s neighborhood; or (d) visit an historic local trail. We do a & b at our MB event, but if a Scout had done c or d before they arrive at the event, that is fine. During the one-on-one time (YPT standards met), the Scout could tell his MBC what he found out about his neighborhood or about the historic trail. We would still give him credit even though the Scout chose to do different options than what the group was doing during the event. That’s the great thing about Merit Badges . . . they can be individualized for the particular preferences of each Scout.

      As for grimacing about completed USSSP worksheets, I do not. It tells me that the Scout has at least done something about the requirements before he got to me. I do not accept the completed worksheet as the same thing as “discuss,” “show,” or any other action verb unless it is “write” as in American Heritage MB requirement 1 that requires the Scout to rewrite a particular paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. I find the Scouts who have completed the worksheets usually are better prepared than those that are not. It also provides notes for the Scouts, especially the younger ones, that jog their memory as it may have been some lenghth of time since they actually completed the requirement.

      I have my own son read the entire MB Pamphlet before going to a MBevent, often aloud in our car rides. I then have him prepare a USSSP worksheet & put it in a folder along that becomes his Field Notebook for MBs such as Bird Study or to hold his work that needs to be produced (Computers or Digital Technology), or photos of projects too large to take in to show the MBC. For MB Forums/Fairs, I ask my son for the possible requirements that may be too difficult to complete at the event. I then have my son do them before the event. My son took Emergency Preparedness at a MB event in a neighboring council. There was nothing in the prerequistes about bringing in one’s personal emergency service pack (Rqt 8c) or a Family Emergency Kit (also Rqt 8c). The latter is already in our basement from when my son did something similar for Cub Scouts, but he updated it according to what was in the E Prep MB pamphlet. For the former, he already has a hiking backpack with the 10 Scouting essentials in it so he just added the additional items to make it useful for emergencies. He then laid out all the items on the living room floor and took 2 pictures of them-1 for his personal kit & 1 for the family kit. He put these photos on a PowerPoint slide & printed them out for inclusion in his folder. In the E Prep class, there was only 1 other Scout (out of 15-20 of them) that was “prepared” like my son who had brought in both kits. The MBC took the word from the other Scouts or approved it based on a discussion of what would go in the kit. I hold the MBC at fault for not going by the letter of the requirement not the Scouts. I know, however, that my son met the requirement as written, nothing more and nothing less, . . . and that having the USSSP worksheet was part of the reason why.

      • Thanks so much for sharing this. I especially love hearing about what your son does. I’m sure he learns a lot about each of the merit badge subject areas and he sets a great example by his actions in being prepared. Way to go!!!

  48. As a MBC I have the boys use the worksheets to help them stay on task. My son is Autistic and can only stay focused for a short time, the worksheet helps to remind him where he is and what he has completed. It is more of a guide to keep him on task. I find it helps parents of children with disabilities to not be overwhelmed any more then they already are. It also shows the boys they have accomplished something. I have the boys keep their copy for future reference later.

  49. Worksheet are great and they good for helping Scouts learn the material. It should never be the a sign of completion but one of preparation. The BSA probably doesn’t like worksheets because they can be use in replace of the merit badge booklets and represents a lost of revenue.

    • We at BSA are not at all concerned that worksheets might mean a loss of revenue. In fact, since merit badge pamphlets are a good source of information that could be used to complete a worksheet, we think they may actually *contribute* to revenue. But it doesn’t matter. We don’t care one way or the other. Money has absolutely nothing to do with it. We don’t like worksheets for the reasons Bryan and I have posted above.

      • The TRUE SUCCESS comes down to 2 things!

        1. The quality of the instruction provided by the Counselor.

        And

        2. The amount of effort the scout puts into earning the Merit Badge.

  50. As a deaf Scouter, I ask my Scouts to fill in the worksheets to facilitate discussion. I tell them to be prepared for discussions. Although I’m a lipreader — I don’t understand everyone I meet. The notes help me follow better. I explain to the Scouts that they’re going to work with a variety of people in their lives and we all have to adapt to differences. This is one way of adapting.

    We have email conversations as they work through the requirements. Besides, requirements have a lot of them and we can’t all remember everything. When I learn something, I’ll still be looking up things.

    Albert Einstein — “Never memorize something that you can look up.”

  51. Hello,
    My son and I are very new to Scouting. We both started Scouting over three years ago. We started while I was stationed with the Army in Germany and the Troop that my son and I were a part of was just great! It was a great Troop to be introduced to Scouting. Three years later, I am an Assistant Scout Master and I enjoying every minute of it and the time spent with my son is just awesome.

    I have my son do the Merit Badge Worksheet (MBWS) for the following reason: One, he is able to keep track where he is with his merit badges progress. When a requirement is completed to the counselor’s satisfaction, he checks it off in green highlighter. Two, like mentioned above by another individual, he can use it for notes for discussion points, e.g. he just used it in his Citizenship in the Nation merit badge where he had to identify an important speech. He was able to use the MBWS as talking points with his counselor. Lastly, my son is thirteen going on fourteen and his organizational skills are still developing. He puts his MBWS in colored folders with the documents and pictures that are needed for that requirement. He is also doing this for his school work! However, if he has to demonstrate a task or requirement, then it must be done as such, note written! Also, hands-on instruction wins over writing, e.g. First Aid.

    I applied to be a Merit Badge Counselor. When I take on that responsibility, I will review the requirements for the merit badge that I am assigned or take up. If there is an area where a group discussion will be involved, I’ll use the MBWS, but it will not be a substitute for the demonstration of a requirement! I know that there are “answer books” to some of the worksheets, but once again, they can’t help in the demonstration of a requirement. Thank you. Great Forum.

    YiS
    Bill

    • And the one includes the other.
      “There must be attention to each individual’s projects and his fulfi llment of all requirements. We must know that every Scout—actually and personally—completed them.
      If, for example, a requirement uses words like “show,” “demonstrate,” or “discuss,” then every Scout must do that. It is unacceptable to award badges on the basis of sitting in classrooms watching demonstrations, or remaining silent during discussions. ”

      Guide to Advancement

  52. Amen! I agree that the worksheets aren’t the problem in themselves, but how they are used/abused as sufficing for requirements. I’ve had parents yell at me because I declined to pass off one-word answers on a worksheet for requirements that required non-writing actions. We have arrived at the point in our area where the sense of entitlement surrounding worksheets is ruining the program. The eagle rank has been sullied nearly beyond recovery by the rampant corner cutting backed by councilors who don’t have the vision of scouting, the regular pow wow classes, summer camp staff, and so forth. I can’t tell how many times I’ve seen counselors, even council leadership, signing a blue card in a class of 30+ after nary a glance at a worksheet that only moments before was scribbled on by the scout in a feverish race to “get” the badge. I can’t tell you how many times I overhear scouts bragging amongst their peers about what they got away with in “passing” off a merit badge. Its sickening. I tell my scouts they can go down to the council office an buy all the badges they want–and then what have they gained…nothing. I also agree that the worksheets are too much like school, and that Baden Powell rolls in his grave at the notion of their being used at all. That’s not scouting at its best–its something else.

    • You know this really falls back on the parents. How I try to explain the merit badge to my kids is do the ones you wants to do but remember the ones that you have to do. My son is in drama class at school so he worked on his Theatre merit badge the last few months. This summer we are going to work on his Fitness and Family Life. I think when my kids go merit badge classes at the local wilderness center/county park that is okay for them. I have them read the merit badge class so that they can discuss the subject. I sit in the class with them to see how the instructor is doing the class. Are they just phoning it in or taking it seriously? I think the leaders/parents in the troop need to explain the merit badge process better and stress the importance of doing it right.

  53. I have watched (in horror) at camps where “instructors” have asked kids to pass their blue cards forward, then tell the kids “read chapters 1 thru 3 in the workbook.” While the kids are “reading”, the instructors dutifully initial all of the requirements covered in chapters 1 thru 3. When kids are finished reading, they get their initialed bluecards back. Then, with initialed bluecards back in the hands of the Scouts, the “instructor” randomly asks Scouts questions from the worksheets. If a Scout can’t answer a question, the instructor then just asks the question of the next Scout. If nobody answers the question correctly, the instructor simply spoonfeeds the answer, then moves on to the next topic. But the spot-check is irrelevant because the bluecard sections are already initialed, and not every Scout is quizzed individually so the instructor doesn’t have a clue who actually read anything, and who merely pretended to be reading. The next day, the process is repeated with “hand your blue cards forward, and read Chapters 4 thru 7.” Rinse, lather, repeat, 5 days of rubber-stamp signoffs. In the end, NOTHING is learned, very little (if anything) is likely to be retained, But the Scouts don’t care because they can trade in their signed-off bluecard for their merit badge. The instructor is happy because he can brag about “how many Scouts pass my course” (hint: ALL of them pass the course, whether they know a darned thing, or whether they fall asleep and haven’t heard a thing.) Parents are happy that their “Scouts got tons of merit badges so they must have learned sooooo much at camp.” And the Scoutmasters and advancement chairs feel great about handing out merit badges to so many Scouts.

  54. Reading the comments, I think some doth protest too much. I think the article was right on point. Absolutely, if the worksheets are used properly, they are a tool that can help – but in the process we are giving up one of the benefits of the merit badge process. I know people will vehemently disagree with me, but the worksheet takes away from the Scouts opportunity to develop organization skills. In my first year of high school science, oh so many years ago, the teacher started the year with note taking worksheets – to help us develop and learn how to take notes by example. Through the year, the level of worksheet dropped off, until 3/4s of the year through, there was no worksheet. Yes, the class was designed for learning biology, but the side benefit was that we learned note taking. Likewise, the merit badge should be an opportunity for a Scout to learn and develop the ability to learn with a mentor and by himself – to learn to organize thoughts and data for himself. Worksheets totally defeat that process. Sure, using them for some early merit badges can give him an idea of how to do it, but reliance on the worksheets is crippling the Scout’s development process.
    Let’s be honest, merit badges fulfill several parts of the program. The Scout learns about interesting vocations or avocations he might never otherwise experience. He gains experience talking and working with adult professionals – and learns how to properly interact. He develops the ability to understand how to use a mentor. And he learns to organize, plan and present his work. If done properly, the experience is one of the greatest training and development programs available anywhere today.
    But then there’s reality. We all know they are being misused. I don’t believe any of us really needs a study or survey to figure it out. But who’s to blame? Well, like the three legged stool, the leaders, the scouts, and the parents all have a part in this. Parents want their boys to succeed, and often forget the race is more important than the finish. They want their sons to learn and develop these skills, but often aren’t taught how the program really works to accomplish it all. The boys are being urged to advance by parents and leaders, and want to do so. I guarantee no boy wants to sit and fill out a worksheet, but of they can do it and get the badge over with, they will follow the easiest route before them. And leaders – both unit leaders and MBCs, often are just trying to get the program delivered but often don’t have the resources to do it very effectively. How many units don’t have full committees, and Districts aren’t really doing that much better?
    So how do we solve it? You can immediately ban all worksheets, but as you can see from the posts there would be rebellion. I think we really need to focus on what a merit badge is and why we do them. And Council Camps are the place to start. They become the role model for everyone else. Since the MB worksheets have been on the web, I’ve seen camps become classrooms to collect worksheet answers. The most egregious example is watching an Environmental Science class taught by a 14 year old who is reading definitions so the boys can fill out their worksheets, ans they all watch as another 14 year old pours vinegar water on a plant and the by tells them what to put on the worksheet, and in the end, it was worse than sitting in a really boring school classroom. But the boy “finishes” the merit badge. The council camps stepping up to address this would go a long way to help put the worksheets back in the proper place. There’s no problem having a 14 year old manage some of the few lectures and help with Scout’s questions, as long as there is a qualified adult counselor there, filling in gaps and chatting with each Scout. The Scout having to sit with a Counselor will cut down the number of MBs he might earn during camp, but that’s not a bad thing.
    A parent can also step up. As a parent, my son’s troop was pretty bad about giving away MBs. I worked with my son to ensure he completed all the requirements. After all, it is my son, and I’m ultimately the one most concerned with his development.
    Leaders can also do their part by stepping up their program. Use your MB counselor list to come and introduce a merit badge topic for the month. In my 35 years as a MB counselor, I’ve only been asked to come into a troop and discuss a MB a few times.
    Personally, as parents and leaders, we need to guide our sons and Scouts more in the “how” to advance than the advancement itself. Just like everything else in Scouting, early on it’s more hands on, then let them go.

  55. How about create official workbooks that make those points clear? Make the language of the individual requirements indicate that the Workbook is to be used for Planning or Documentation purposes. First quote the requirement. Then indicate that the scout can plan how you will show your Scoutmaster how to…in the space below” Include a signature space for actually showing the scoutmaster, etc…. and the date.”

    There are reasons why these are popular. Why not use those reasons to make something volunteers and scouts can use that is in keeping with the intent of the program.

  56. Slightly OT, but in the same universe:

    What about Counselors who add “prerequisites” that the candidate must have accomplished before the candidate can earn the badge?

    Does calling added work a “prerequisite” and placing it in time before the candidate is allowed to “start” avoid the admonition that “new requirements or additional work may not be added”?

    • No one, for any reason, is allowed to add to the requirements as printed in the official Requirements book. You should notify your District Advancement Chairperson when this happens. Make sure you can document your notification.

  57. Having been a scout leader in one of the most remote areas of America where the closest scout store is either a 2 day car/ferry trip or a plane trip away. These scout sheets were invaluable. As with anything thing if it is miss used I can see were there can be some concern. Just remember A scout is …..

  58. As a Cooking Merit Badge Counselor, I find that the worksheets are EXTREMELY useful with menus, pricing, lists, etc. I encourage the scouts to use them, but if they don’t, they can show me their lists on regular paper. I also ask that the scout have their backpacking and camping cooking initialed or signed-off by their leader (a requirement for the badge.) The Cooking Merit Badge class that I offer is for the food-borne illnesses, home kitchen safety, and examples of proper storage and transport of food. The actual cooking has to be done outside of the class.

  59. The worksheets are fine. As long as you do actually what the requirements states who cares if your notes are on a worksheet with the requirements listed or a piece of paper with the requirements numbered out. If the counselor does not understand the words “show”, demonstrate” and “tell” then they probably should not be a counselor.

  60. As a professional Instructional Designer, I specialize in simplifying and clarifying experts’ instructions for adult learners. Massive amounts of information, disgorged in relatively disorganized fashion are difficult for all learners to engage.

    Adolescents are challenged even more than adults in their attempts to learn new skills and knowledge–they are in the throes of massive physical, emotional and mental growth.

    Why would we adults NOT provide a way to simplify and clarify merit badge information, and tasks? Checklists, reminders, organizers, visual aids, and others are performance aids.

    Unless the merit badge is “Project Management,” adults involved in helping Scouts learn should seek out performance aids and encourage Scouts to use them.

    In addition, the massively complicated Scouting rules and regulations are a mess for an adult to make sense of. This is why Scouting “outsiders,” adults with no prior experience of Scouting are hesitant to get involved.

    To help Scouts and Scouting Outsiders, I’ve produced performance aids for the most complicated Eagle-required merit badges. They are included in a guidebook that provides an Outsiders’ view of assisting Scouts down the path to Eagle:

    http://www.unofficialeagleguide.com

  61. If BSA really had a problem with the most popular worksheet website, they could do something about it as there is blatant copyright infringement including the merit badge art.
    When I run a merit badge class I print and hand out the sheets for note taking and to track progress. I also share my contact info so I can sign off on the requirements not done with me present, such as research or writing a letter. I meet with the scouts and review those requirements once complete. There may be some counselors or SM’S which simply accept a filled out worksheet but the fault is on them not doing their duty.

  62. How does discouraging ‘speed over education’ mesh with council sanctioned events such as Merit Badge University? These are essentially ‘pay 15 bucks and receive a merit badge in 1 day’ events for almost every badge offered that day.

  63. In my experience, that is not the case. My son has attended a number of merit badge colleges. From what I saw, if boys do not do the required work, they do not earn the merit badge. In his case, he didn’t have certain parts done and had to contact a counselor later on to finally earn it.

  64. One more reason I’ve been a little disappointed with scouting after 25 years of leadership. Its become all about ranks and the eagle and but not the experience. Can you imagine scouting without the Eagle? The kids may get more out of the program. Team building, challenge.responsibility and living in the beauty of nature. Forget about the rank. Let the kids take care of that.

    Gosh I’m tired of merit badges and rank advancement. Lets go hiking instead.

    BK
    ASM T442,1995-2016
    Philmont Advisor and Contingent Leader 200, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2017

  65. The problem is not the worksheets, it is the short-cut shoddy manner in which merit badge workshops are run. Last year my son went to one for chemistry. Now we were all set to do the requirements at home (new to the program). However that is when we found out that all work must be completed under a merit badge counselor, so we dutifully began to search for one. What we got was” “there is only one available in the area and he runs a workshop at the local college”. So my son got all jazzed up and we were excited that he’d be able to work in a real college lab. However, the day came and all the boys did was watch demonstrations for 4 hours. The only thing they got to do was make the ice cream in a bag. Boring and he definitely came out with little more knowledge than when he went in with. Fast forward to this year….Citizenship in the Nation…again workshop style. They were required to show up with a worksheet and sat there for hours just filling it in. Merit Badge complete. Again….my son remembers little and cares even less. Now I understand the idea behind the Counselors and why “mom and dad” should not be the go to person for everything, but what exactly is all this accomplishing? I’m pretty sure the boys know the system is being gamed and I think the lessons being taught by these workshops and filling in worksheets are deplorable. Just my take. There have been several instances like this at summer camp, too. For the “fishing” badge, my son said his counselor was on his cell phone most of the time. He wasn’t taught much and no one was available to help him learn the “skills”involved in fishing. I guess we could do backup at home, but what exactly is the purpose of joining the scouts and having merit badge counselors, then?

  66. As a parent, an educator, a BSA Lone Scout Counselor, and a facilitator of Academic-Life-Scout-Spiritual-Social-Skills development (especially with home schooling, military families and Student-Scouts with Special Education Needs [SENs]) — these workbook sheets are PERFECT as a TOOL to aid in engagement AND focusing our young “E.2.B!*” (* = Eagles To Be)
    Audit trail, et al is a major concern. Remember the phrase “Be. Know. Do.” (I learned it as a young Soldier in the late 1970’s).
    Learning by DOING is the key.
    Also, the NUMBER ONE Merit Badge SHOULD be: READING! (Then, of course, THEATRE).
    YIS,
    Capt. Rick. Killeen, Texas.

  67. . I have read the article and reviewed the comments and postings and while I agree with the main arguments opposed to using worksheets I would like to say that they can be and are beneficial in a number of ways. Most would agree that we all learn in different ways; visual vs literal vs hands-on. That is why Scouting uses all of them when teaching new skills and ideas. It is also apparent that Scouts come to this learning at different stages in their ability to absorb new knowledge without regard to their age or grade level. In teaching basic skills and handicrafts, we commonly use the EDGE method. However, when teaching more complex subjects, particularly in the STEM areas, it is critical that we provide the Scout with a means to organize his thoughts and document his learning much the same as one would use a journal. Yes, words like; tell, discuss, show and demonstrate cannot be performed by using a worksheet. However, “list, record, plan, draw or diagram” require that some form of written or pictorial document be prepared. Worksheets provide Scouts with a way to document the many lessons that will lead to a more complete understanding of a complex subject. They also provide for a way for a Scout to organize his thoughts, plan his approach to completion of a particular merit badge and schedule his efforts so that he may complete the required tasks within a set time frame.
    The MB Worksheet is a tool. It is not required nor should it replace the demonstration of learning necessary to completing a merit badge successfully. While I often provide a worksheet to a Scout I never accept one as a demonstration of his knowledge. It belongs to the Scout who may use it as a guide and a means to record critical data and organize his material for continuous review. When used in this context it becomes an asset to learning not only the topic at hand but to a method of learning that can be applied to any complex subject or time critical task.

    • Maybe someone should create a generic loose-leaf MB workbook?
      Some of the pages will be ruled. Some ruled and numbered (for lists), some graph paper (for diagrams), some charts (for progress tracking), some blank (for drawings), etc …

      The scout takes the sheet that most closely matches the verb in the requirement, fills in the MB name requirement number at the top, and jots down whatever he thinks he needs on the page.

      Son #2 figured out that he could do that on his smart phone, and be prepared as he ever was for meeting a counselor.

  68. As a merit badge counselor, I will stop using the merit badge work sheets just as soon as one of my scouts comes home from camp and can show me that he has mastered the skills needed for all of the merit badges he earned. I had one scout come home with the pioneering merit badge. I asked him how they made rope (I make rope occasionally and wanted to see if they had done something new to me). He responded that they did not actually make rope but they talked about how it was done. That is NOT what the requirement says, though! I have seen many other instances of the same type of thing. I have gotten to where I do not care if my own scouts even go to summer camp because I know the merit badges they get will not be covered as completely as they would be if they were done in the troop.

    As a merit badge counselor, I encourage my scouts to use the merit badge worksheets to get their thoughts down. If it says demonstrate, I still make them demonstrate. If they are supposed to explain it, I make them explain it. If we are supposed to discuss it, we discuss it. If they have a brain lapse and need to look at their workbook for some help, that is fine with me as long as they are not using the workbook as a crutch. If they show they have mastered the skills required and can meet the requirements, they pass in my book.

    This is just BSA trying to steer leaders away from using decent resources that are FREE and well thought out. If BSA would come up with something just as good or better, then I would be willing to look into it. As it is, I see these workbooks as a good means of getting the thoughts on paper and recording that the work was actually done. Get real BSA, don’t you have enough problems without worrying about something like this.

    • Camps that fail to counsel properly are another bugaboo. The only solution is to commit to sending your scout to a different camp and informing both camps’ directors on why you are doing so.

      I always loved counselors whose focus was the scout, not the particular materials he came with.

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