There are no dull merit badges, only dull instructors

Scouts aren’t exactly stumbling over themselves to take Personal Management, Emergency Preparedness, or Citizenship in the Community/Nation/World.

But with a little advance planning and creativity, you can bring seemingly dull merit badges to life.

Start by studying every requirement for ways to turn lectures or pen-and-paper exercises into something hands-on.

Then consider these tips from our friends on Facebook and Twitter

  1. Dalton L Smith
    Any first aid class is more exciting with fake vampire blood. Stock up now. It makes an important lesson more realistic.

    Mon, Oct 22 2012 11:39:24
  2. David Mohn
    I have fun when I do merit badges as a veteran of nearly 1000, I watch the eyes of the. Boys and change it up when I see fatigue set in. Get them on their feet, and be excited about what you share, not teach but share your passion. I have had groups as large as 70 and team teach, get them working with each other. Of course it helps to have the local air museum available with a lot of excited volunteers. Cooking is another, when we are done the boys are very capable their reward is great food after all they deserve it!

    Mon, Oct 22 2012 16:10:31
  3. Mike Lampkin
    Genealogy – I use Harry Potter as my example for the simple family tree and events timeline. The boys aren’t expecting to see that and love it.

    Mon, Oct 22 2012 10:08:34
  4. Scoutmaster1320
    @scouting We always try to have a dull merit badge associated with something fun related. The best is to go somewhere or doing something.

    Mon, Oct 22 2012 11:58:44
  5. RussAnna Bolin Dudley
    Cit in the world- I like to set my teaching space with lots of items from different parts of the world, bring food from different parts of the world, play games, invite guests, and always strive to present the material in a manner that is appealing and memorable to the scouts.

    Mon, Oct 22 2012 10:43:55
  6. Ashley Litton
    I taught Citizenship in the world and to teach my scouts the countries of the world we showed them the animaniacs video.

    Mon, Oct 22 2012 09:58:56
  7. Janet Johnson
    Well, for starters, YOU have to be excited about the subject and by that I mean a little over the top excited. We shouldn’t be a merit badge counselor unless we’re truly interested in the subject, but sometimes (due to poor presentation or communication skills), we don’t show our enthusiasm well. Let yourself go, put yourself out there and and get downright giddy about your topic and that energy will infect the boys.

    Mon, Oct 22 2012 10:01:46
  8. Mat Greenfield
    Bryan, you have to check out the Zombie Edition of the Emergency Preparedness merit badge! More than 75 Scouters have downloaded it so far!

    Mon, Oct 22 2012 14:54:51
  9. Mat Greenfield
    I’m also planning to teach the Personal Management merit badge using lessons learned from Video Games!

    Mon, Oct 22 2012 14:56:26
  10. Isaac Berry
    @Mat: I teach Personal Management at summer camp, and I find that relating it to something the kids are interested in is a fantastic way of getting them interested and engaged in discussion. However, you have to be careful to keep the conversation tightly reigned, otherwise it’s very easy for them to get off-topic, and once they’ve started to wander, it’s easier to herd cats than to get them back on track.

    Mon, Oct 22 2012 19:16:44
  11. Kyle Chelius
    Pulp and Paper (I teach it for Scout College) – I use an online Jeopardy game to cover alot of the material. (Actually, Jeopardy can be used for alot of “boring” subjects…)

    Mon, Oct 22 2012 12:11:53
  12. T.J. Wallace
    Personal Management was a lot more fun with 2-liter rockets. Planning, budgeting, and project development all led to a zone-wide rocket launching competition. I was amazed (and entertained) at the creativity. For the record: balloons didn’t work, but using soda instead of water created more pressure.

    Mon, Oct 22 2012 18:23:01

What do you think?

What are your tried-and-true tips for making any merit badge more fun? Share your comments below.

Photo from Flickr. Some rights reserved by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

16 thoughts on “There are no dull merit badges, only dull instructors

  1. I totally agree with the heading. ALL merit badge councilors should be as excited to help these scouts as the scout is to earn the badge.

    • I agree Bryan. Seems Scouting counselors would benefit from Interpreter Training, much like National/State Park Volunteers go through. Or, encourage/recommend reading a few books by Tilden or Sam Ham. That would help get the points across much better!

      • Jennifer, I’ve seen a lot of Scouts totally bored out of their skulls by some of these “interpreters”. This is not a reflection of the interpreter, but the boy’s readiness, interest or motivation.
        The most critical component of learning is always the learner.

  2. I totally agree with the heading. ALL merit badge councilors should be as excited to help these scouts as the scout is to earn the badge.
    As a councilor my creed is ” To Earn It You Gotta Learn It”. I don’t pass them off to make them happy. I pass them off when they have fulfilled the requirements. If I can add to their knowledge so much the better but I do not make them do additional requirements. Using vampire blood is excellent since that gives realism to a first-aid situation. No where is a simulated bloody situation required. I hope as councilors were pump up the expectations so the scout can excell.

  3. I love teaching the Citizenship ones! For the Cit. of the World I set up the room like the UN. I give Scouts who check in a large tag with the name of the Country they chose. I have a huge display of items from around the world. I give each a passport and as we complete an item it is stamped in their book. I have games using chop sticks, I have them guess what the items I brought are used for.. its a BLAST

  4. Pingback: Dull Badges? No! | American Heritage Girls Kansas/Missouri

  5. I learned at National Camp School back in 1972 that a person’s attention span in minutes is equal to their age in years and never exceeds 20!

    So make sure you break up lecture type sessions into small parts and intersperse the hands on parts in between them. Feel free to add related hands-on activities, if needed, to keep things interesting. While you can’t add requirements to a badge, you can offer extra activities as an optional supplement.

    For example, when teaching Radio Merit Badge, we often add a short hidden transmitter hunt to break things up, as a fun thing and example of a Ham Radio activity to the course. The kids love it even though it’s not an actual requirement to get the badge.

  6. The title isn’t Merit Badge Teacher, it’s Merit Badge Counselor. Our job isn’t to teach the merit badge to the boys but to help them learn the merit badge, question them to make sure they understand what they did and a sawed any questions they may have. I don’t agree with merit badge classes where instructors teach the merit badge to a group of boys and then sign them off at the end of the class. I know a lot of troops do this. These “merit badge factories” is not the way merit badge counseling was designed.

  7. C G – I think you’re on the money there. The topic is missing the old third leg of the stool. The Scout himself. It doesn’t matter how interesting the counselor or the merit badg is, if the Scout has no interest or motivation. I’ve seen this particularly when an 11 or 12 year old Scout who is not ready for it but has been told by his Scoutmaster that he needs to take Environmental Science or he walks home – I realize they are just trying to motivate Scouts to get required badges early, but the Scout often sees it as something he just needs to get through rather than the really great learning opportunity that the badge provides. Likewise, when the SM determines what badges the Scouts will earn when or the SM decides the program.
    It also brings up another imprtant point. In my mind, merit badges are too often treated as classes, like school. A teacher stands in the front of the room and lectures (a good one might demonstrate) and the Scouts fill out the worksheet. This is great for getting regular advancement quickly, but completely misses the point of merit badges and counselors.
    The MB should be the Scout’s exploration of the topic guided by the counselor (hence the name). The counselor introduces a Scout to the subject and they should explore, read and find out about the topic and try things out. The idea is to experience a bit of it. The typical MB Roundup where the counselor teaches a class for two hours, the Scouts turn in the worksheet and get a blue card really shortchanges the boys.

  8. I’ve found that turning Merit Badges into themes really helps. How about a Zombie version of Emergency Preparedness, or a Special Ops version of Wilderness Survival? has made both of those merit badge lesson plans and the Scouts LOVE IT! How the counselor presents the topic makes a big difference. We’ve got to find ways to engage the Scouts. They spend all day in a classroom, and Scouting is suppose to be FUN!

  9. I am not concerned if a scout gets upset and quits because they do not want to do certain REQUIRED merit badges. In fact, they DO NOT DESERVE to be such. As a father who served as a scoutmaster during the time when his oldest son was a scout, I can tell you that he, not I, lives with his lack of effort to obtain the Personal Management Merit Badge. He earned 33 merit badges and obtained the Life Rank. He did this by age 15. All he needed was that ONE mb and his Eagle Project. I told him that if he didn’t that one day, soon or down the road, he could regret it. He joined the Navy during his senior year, graduated and served upon a submarine for six years as a NUKER. He applied for the Seaman to Admiral program for OCS. No Eagle rank meant he lost out on an immediate higher rank upon graduation of boot camp. Today, after graduating from U VA. in Poly Sci. and ACCOUNTING, he is an accountant. Go figure.
    The increase of scouts presented the Eagle rank, from less than 2% to 7%, simply shows the ease in which merit badges and projects are accepted. You want better scouts? Get Leaders who truly LOVE scouting and Scouting Standards. Stand up to parents/guardians that gripe and complain that requirements are too tough and demand the troop accept mediocrity. Of course January 1 will soon be here. I can only imagine the limp acceptance then.

  10. I sat through a one hour presentation on the Citizenship of the Nation merit badge where all the instructor did was stand in front of the boys and lecture or read out of the book. It was horrendous! I wish he had seen this site before he taught the class.

  11. According to the GTA, we are merit badge counselors not instructors. While we should make a merit badge fun and interesting, I disagree that we have to entertain the scouts. Everything in life is not entertaining. Sometimes we have to work hard. What are we really teaching these scouts?

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