Merit badge classes, fairs and universities allow Scouts to pursue several badges in one day or weekend, often working with highly qualified counselors in unique settings. However, organizers and unit leaders must make sure Scouts and counselors aren’t taking shortcuts to boost badge counts.
Is group instruction permitted?
Yes. It’s acceptable and even desirable at times. However, each Scout must actually and personally complete each requirement before the counselor signs off.
What does ‘actually and personally’ mean?
Each Scout must complete the requirements as written. If a requirement says “show,” the Scout can’t just watch a demonstration; if a requirement says “discuss,” the Scout can’t just listen to a discussion without participating.
Who can teach in a group setting?
All instruction must be overseen by an adult member of the BSA who is registered as a merit badge counselor, approved for the specific badge and current in Youth Protection Training. However, it’s OK to use guest instructors, speakers and other volunteers to facilitate learning.
Is group instruction better for certain badges?
The approach works best when the benefits are compelling. Factors could include strong interest from Scouts in a subject area, access to counselors who might not otherwise be available or availability of special resources that could enhance the learning experience. The Rifle Shooting merit badge is a good example: It’s popular, requires a specially trained counselor and must be earned at a rifle range.
How big may merit badge classes be?
There’s no set limit, but the preference is for smaller groups, perhaps no larger than a patrol in size. Larger groups are feasible if qualified instructors are assigned to subgroups to ensure Scouts receive individual attention.
What about requirements that can’t be completed in a group setting?
It’s perfectly acceptable — and even preferable — for a Scout to leave a merit badge event with only some requirements completed. He or she can then work individually with a counselor to finish the requirements. The class should focus on requirements that work best in a group setting.
Can an event have prerequisites?
Yes. You could also simply tell Scouts which requirements they must do either before or after the event. Note that in a few cases, like requirement 1 of the Lifesaving merit badge, requirements must be done beforehand.
How do counselors ensure prerequisites have been met?
If the actual work done can’t be brought to the event, pictures and letters from other merit badge counselors or unit leaders are the best forms of documentation.
What should I do if I have concerns about a merit badge event?
See section 188.8.131.52 of the Guide to Advancement.
Where can I learn more?
Group instruction is covered in section 184.108.40.206 of the Guide to Advancement. Members of the National Advancement Program Team have developed a Merit Badge Group Instruction Guide.