This past spring, my nephew joined a troop in Cincinnati’s Dan Beard Council. Since it was his first troop summer camp, my son and I drove over to surprise him.
It was a very interesting experience. It was my first time visiting Camp Friedlander. In fact, most of my scouting experience has been in the Crossroads of America Council, especially North Star District. This visit allowed me to see some new takes on scouting.
One of the surprises was a simple system for encouraging advancement. My nephew’s troop has an advancement board. The entire free time after lunch, scouts were hovering around the board, adding their own white tiles, moving the white tiles to reflect in-camp boards-of-review completed, and otherwise planning their advancement plans for the week.
The scoutmasters had encouraged the new scouts to take a white “tile” (a small piece of wood painted white) and use colored Sharpie pens to customize their tile. Hooks and eyes were set into the tiles to allow them to hang properly.
No adults were prompting advancement conversations, but the campsite was buzzing with plans. The troop had made clear that Scoutmaster Conferences were being held Wednesday and Boards of Review on Thursday. This chance for immediate advancement and the privilege of moving the tiles quickly helped further the drama.
In the electronic age, we tend to forget old tools sometimes work best. Our own Troop 35 has the privilege of a dedicated room for scouting. As a result, they have one of the old-school advancement charts hanging on the wall. (Generic and Cub Scout and Boy Scout specific charts are available.) Each boy can easily see his own progress. In my short visit in June, I saw several scouts go over and read the chart to find out where they and their fellow scouts stood.
If you want to encourage advancement, find a way to put advancement before the boys in writing. They will tend to think about advancement more often.
Like most businesses today, BSA has built many online resources and is using social media and email lists to push that information to potential users.
Some users automatically receive these newsletters based on their position. Some users have to opt-in to the newsletter lists.
- Changes Counselors Need to Know
- Interactive Digital Pamphlets Now on Sale at ScoutStuff.org
- Be Sure to Read The Notes
- Merit Badge Myths: Fact vs. Fiction
- Completing Requirements as Stated Matters
- Beekeeping: A Part of Existing Merit Badges
What are some ways that your troop can truly excel in advancement at summer camp? If you do increase your emphasis on advancement with scouts, does it make more work for the adults? Maybe not.
Quote Posted on Updated on
One of the major projects for the District Committee is going to be making sure that the Troops’ expectations of who is a registered Merit Badge Counselor matches the District’s records.
The Guide to Advancement (2015) now has a system for automatically de-registering merit badge counselors who do not respond to emailed inquiries. Several of our former merit badge counselors are no longer registered in that position, who believe that they are. A copy of the current merit badge counselor list has been mailed to all of the Troop’s Key 3 (chartered org rep, Scoutmaster, and Troop Committee Chair).
As summer camp draws near, we in scouting are entering the height of “Advancement Season.” More work toward advancement will occur in the next 75 days than at almost any other time of the year. Some of this is due to participating in merit badge sessions for boy scouts and day camp activities for Cub Scouts.
For many years, most scouters relied on learning the rules of advancement by watching and experiencing our home unit manage advancement. We would learn to improve on these techniques by attending classes or through casual conversations with other scouters. Few of us had ever seen the Guide to Advancement.
As with most BSA publications up to 2013, if you wanted to read it, you had to pay for it. The Guide to Advancement was always a recommended book to have on a unit’s shelf, but few units purchased a copy or updated it regularly.
UPDATE: 5/7/15. Moved to top of blog. This event does not appear on district calendar because it is a council event. (This blog is a supplement for the Council’s website for North Star, not a replacement.)
The Seventh Annual Central Indiana Merit Badge University, sponsored by Crossroads of America Council, will be held at Greenfield-Central junior high school, May 15 through the 17th, 2015. Greenfield, Indiana is on I 70, 14 miles east of Indianapolis I 465 bypass.
They will be offering 61 different merit badges in 110 classes over five sessions beginning Friday evening and continuing through Sunday morning. Fees vary by session length in cost of supplies. Meals are included during the Saturday sessions. Official BSA adult training courses such as scoutmaster specific training, merit badge counselor introduction, troop committee challenge, and youth protection are available. More information at
Originally posted 4/21/15.
Many troops and packs use TroopMaster and PackMaster to track rank advancement. Scoutbook.com is a web-only competitor.
From a district perspective, one of the advantages of Scoutbook.com is that it makes merit badge counseling across the district easier. Easier for Scouts, Scoutmasters, Counselors, and Parents.