Bryan on Scouting

Can one activity fulfill two (or more) Scout requirements?

Can you really take out two birds with one stone?

That’s the gist of a question I get a lot from Scouters: Can an activity used to meet one Scout requirement count toward the completion of another?

The short answer? It’s complicated.

The long answer? For that, let’s look at section 4.2.3.6 (page 28) of the Guide to Advancement

Times when it’s OK

There are times when one activity can be used for two Scout requirements. Take camping nights, for example.

To earn Second Class, a Scout must participate in five separate troop/patrol activities, two of which include overnight camping. (In 2016, that number jumps to three from two.)

To earn the next rank, First Class, he must participate in 10 separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), three of which include overnight camping. (In 2016, that number jumps to six from three.)

But I omitted the most important words of those requirements: “Since joining.”

That means the five activities used for Second Class count toward First Class as well. That’s an example of one activity (or, technically, five) being used toward multiple requirements.

Safety-related requirements are another good example. A Scout who learns CPR for one requirement doesn’t need to relearn it for another, as long as his Scoutmaster or merit badge counselor believes he still remembers the skill.

Times when it’s not

Some requirements appear to be candidates for double duty but really aren’t. Take the merit badges Communication and Citizenship in the Community.

Communication, requirement 5:

Attend a public meeting (city council, school board, debate) approved by your counselor where several points of view are given on a single issue. Practice active listening skills and take careful notes of each point of view. Prepare an objective report that includes all points of view that were expressed, and share this with your counselor.

Citizenship in the Community, requirement 3:

Do the following:

a. Attend a meeting of your city, town, or county council or school board; OR attend a municipal, county, or state court session.

b. Choose one of the issues discussed at the meeting where a difference of opinions was expressed, and explain to your counselor why you agree with one opinion more than you do another one.

Each requires the Scout to attend a public meeting, but that’s where the similarities end. From the Guide:

For Communication, the Scout is asked to practice active listening skills during the meeting and present an objective report that includes all points of view. For Citizenship, he is asked to examine differences in opinions and then to defend one side. The Scout may attend the same public meeting, but to pass the requirements for both merit badges he must actively listen and prepare a report, and also examine differences in opinion and defend one side.

So while he could attend the same meeting for both requirements, his post-meeting activities are different. For Communication MB, he’ll need to prepare the report. For Citizenship in the Community MB, he’ll need to have a conversation with his counselor. The distinction is subtle, but it’s important.

A challenge

The last two paragraphs of the relevant section in the Guide are powerfully written. They challenge both the Scout and his leader to think about their motivations behind counting one activity for two requirements.

The Scout is challenged to consider whether to “undertake a second effort and make a greater difference in the lives of even more people.” The Scouter is asked whether he or she wants to “produce Scouts who check a task off a list or Scouts who will become the leaders in our communities.”

4.2.3.6 Fulfilling More Than One Requirement With a Single Activity

From time to time it may be appropriate for a Scout to apply what was done to meet one requirement toward the completion of another. In deciding whether to allow this, unit leaders or merit badge counselors should consider the following.

When, for all practical purposes, two requirements match up exactly and have the same basic intent—for example, camping nights for Second Class and First Class ranks and for the Camping merit badge—it is appropriate and permissible, unless it is stated otherwise in the requirements, to use those matching activities for both the ranks and the merit badge.

Where matching requirements are oriented toward safety, such as those related to first aid or CPR, the person signing off the requirements should be satisfied the Scout remembers what he learned from the previous experience. Some requirements may have the appearance of aligning, but upon further examination actually differ. These seemingly similar requirements usually have nuances intended to create quite different experiences.

The Communication and Citizenship in the Community merit badges are a good example. Each requires the Scout to attend a public meeting, but that is where the similarity ends. For Communication, the Scout is asked to practice active listening skills during the meeting and present an objective report that includes all points of view. For Citizenship, he is asked to examine differences in opinions and then to defend one side. The Scout may attend the same public meeting, but to pass the requirements for both merit badges he must actively listen and prepare a report, and also examine differences in opinion and defend one side.

When contemplating whether to double-count service hours or a service project, and apply the same work to pass a second advancement requirement, each Scout should ask himself: “Do I want to get double credit for helping others this one time, or do I want to undertake a second effort and make a greater difference in the lives of even more people?” To reach his decision, each Scout should follow familiar guideposts found in some of those words and phrases we live by, such as “helpful,” “kind,” “Do a Good Turn Daily,” and “help other people at all times.”

As Scout leaders and advancement administrators, we must ask ourselves an even more pointed question: “Is it my goal to produce Scouts who check a task off a list or Scouts who will become the leaders in our communities?” To answer our own question, we should consult the same criteria that guide Scouts.