Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Getting Ready for Camp: Camping Merit Badge

We added Camping Merit Badge to our offerings in 2011, and it was quite popular with campers. Naturally, we'll have it available again in 2012.

I don't know how it's done elsewhere, but until recently, in Ventura County Council all Scoutmasters were automatically authorized as Camping Merit Badge Counselors, on the theory that these requirements are best met as part of the normal troop outdoor program. This practice has recently been changed in compliance with BSA national policy, though I expect most troops will continue to register their own Camping counselors. In any case, we found last summer that it was interesting to get scouts from different troops together and let them compare camping experiences: how frequently their troops camp, where they go, what equipment they use, what they cook. It was an eye-opener for some of them.

If you do have boys taking Camping at summer camp, remember that there are some prerequisites, and now would be a good time to start planning to get them done. Requirement 9a is "Camp a total of at least 20 days and 20 nights...at a designated Scouting activity or event." Note that sleeping in a cabin doesn't count, and you can only use one week of summer camp toward the total.

This means that first-year Scouts really can't complete this merit badge. Because of their limited camping experience, most first-year campers also struggle with the requirements relating to outing planning, menus, etc. If you want your New Scouts to get a good introduction to the basics of camping, our Pathfinder program may be a better choice for them. The Pathfinder staff has a combined total of something like 500 nights of camping, multiple Philmont treks, NYLT, Wood Badge, and other training, and they can give your younger boys an excellent introduction to outdoor skills.

Req. 9b calls for the Scout to do two things from a list of campout activities like backpacking, rappelling and snow camping. You can get these done at camp by taking advantage of some of our free-time activities like morning hikes and evening climbing, but doing this ahead of time takes some of the pressure off at camp.

There's also a cooking requirement, 8c and d, that can't be completed summer camp.

In addition, there are a number of paperwork requirements: Planning a campout, making a menu and duty roster, etc. While it is possible to get these done during camp, Scouts can easily complete them ahead of time, and avoid having to spend their free time doing this "homework" at camp. They could even make this a patrol or troop meeting activity if there are a number of them working on this merit badge at the same time.

You can download a set of useful forms by clicking on this link. This includes a campout planning form that will help them make sure they cover all the key planning points, as well as menu and duty roster forms and some other useful items. It's a Microsoft Word file, so feel free to modify it for your own use.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Getting Ready For Camp: February To-Do List

All of us on camp staff are getting excited about the coming camp season. We've interviewed prospective staff members and are working out job assignments now. Next month we begin staff training and development. Meanwhile, here are some tasks unit leaders should be working on to get ready for summer camp:
  • If you haven’t already done it, hand out medical forms and encourage both Scouts and adults to schedule early appointments for their physical exams. Everyone planning to stay in camp overnight (including campers, visitors, family members and friends) must have the appropriate medical forms. Medical forms are good for one year and must be current to the end of camp.
  • The Annual Health and Medical Record, Parts A, B, and C (BSA Form 680-001 Rev. 2/2011) replaces all old medical forms. This form needs to be filled out completely, including inoculations with dates, a doctor’s signature with date, and consent to treat parent signature. This form is available on the Ventura County Council’s website.
  • Now is a good time to begin working with Webelos and New Scouts so that they will be prepared to go to camp with your troop. New Scouts can complete most of their Tenderfoot requirements at camp, but there are a few, like the physical fitness tests, that are best done at home. Also, hand out the What to Bring to Camp list so first-time campers have plenty of time to gather the things they need.
  • Older boys should start thinking about what merit badges they would like to work on at camp. Some badges, like Camping and Citizenship in the Nation, have extensive prerequisites that will take time to complete. We are updating the Merit Badge Planning Worksheet to reflect changes in our schedule and revised requirements for several merit badges, and will post it here by the end of February.
  • Pay your deposit of $350 per unit by February 28, 2012, to hold your reservation at Camp Three Falls.
  • A payment of 50% of your total camp fees (based on your estimated number of attendees) is due March 1.
  • Pay your camp fees in full by March 31 to receive the early-bird discount of $10 per Scout.

Monday, February 6, 2012

New Eagle Required Merit Badge at Camp

Image:2230c.gifWe are often asked, "Why don't you offer a bigger selection of Eagle-required merit badges for the older scouts?" In response to these requests, this summer we will offer Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge at Camp Three Falls. We selected this one because, out of all the citizenship badges, it seemed to best lend itself to completion in a summer camp environment, and also because it seemed to be a good fit with our historical theme and other aspects of our camp program.

To be sure scouts have a quality learning experience in earning this important merit badge, we will be strictly limiting the size of the class. This merit badge will be offered only to scouts who are First Class Rank or higher. The requirements for this merit badge are substantial and there are significant prerequisites necessary to complete this merit badge. Scouts must complete requirements 2, 3, 6 and 8 prior to arrival in camp.

We expect this one to be popular, so if you are coming to Three Falls, be sure you use our pre-camp merit badge signup system and reserve space early. (Details on merit badge signup will be sent starting in March to units with paid reservations).