Friday, July 18, 2014

Merit badges and the future of our boys




This past Wednesday, I had the privilege of being included in a Boy Scout merit badge training session at the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands center.  The instructor is my friend, Chrissy Butcher and if you haven’t met this lady with the cherub-like disposition and quick smile, you need to. 

I arrived early, as I am wont to do and set up a few items common to the particular subject being covered and we chatted a bit as the boys began to filter in.  Now I have a bit of a teachers background and am pretty far removed from what little Boy Scout training I’ve had and immediately I saw that my mentality towards training needed to slow way down and I mean way down.

In order from left to right: Andrew Beck. Jase Fowers. Caden Crooks, Baytown Bert,
Robert Lopez, Kolton Wingate, Austin Gary, Ricky Shepherd, Nate Eitel, Justyn Putnam 
I have a bull in a china shop mentality when it comes to most everything I approach and rarely take breaks once I start.  For merit badge training, the BSA has a lot of criteria and pages of material to satisfy and Chrissy teaches quite a few of these qualifications and after the usual roll call type stuff was over, she began.

I sat off to the side and watched.  Just guessing mind you and not wanting to insult any of the Scouts, I would put their ages around 12 years; some more, some less.  One boy in particular was enjoying himself above and beyond the others and liked to talk.  I imagine his little score card at school has a lot of marks on it and I was the same way when I was his age –happy go lucky.

This class was all about the – you guessed it, right?  The geocaching merit badge and what they are expected to learn frankly surprised me.  The game is simply not as difficult as the Scout leaders have outlined, but then again, this brings up another observation.

These boys have no idea how much information is being placed before them through this Boy Scout program training.

It became obvious to me 10 minutes into the class and prompted me to quip more than once, “Geeze, boys, the answer is basic Scouting.”  Chrissy graciously allowed my outbursts, as she knew what she was in for with me present, as this is not our first class together.  As I’ve related in my other columns, my Dad was a woodsman of tremendous experience and knowledge and taught my siblings and I a whole bunch of outdoor savvy, without us realizing we were being taught.  Just like the Scouts.

Add into it my own experience I’ve gathered as a hunter, certification as an Emergency Care Attendant, and Hunter Education Instructor training under Judge Jimmy Johnson and I know a thing or two about the outdoors, survival, and woodsmanship – now plus in the thousands of hours I’ve spent in the woods with snakes, spiders, ticks, chiggers, skeeters, and thorns and throw in some feral hogs – all of this learned the old fashioned geocaching way and I rapidly saw the boys did not fully recognize how they are being prepared for the future.

They were there mostly to get the geocaching merit badge – so seeing I had to make a trip to Texas City, Chrissy once again let me off the leash.

The boys are good boys.  I know; I see no tell tale negative sign despite our modern times.  These boys, if they stick with the program and avoid the pitfalls of our worldly culture, are truly the future hope for America.

Each portion of the training had a cause, effect, and remedy section and Chrissy meticulously covered each division, asking the young Scouts for input.  The boys were free to offer solutions and often their lack of putting the dots together would cause my discomfort.  Now mind you, these are 12 year old boys and that is something I had to keep telling myself.

For instance, when first aid was mentioned, they would mumble out an offering like this particular instance was unique and most of them had the First Aid Merit Badge.  Now here is where I saw the gaps.  They saw first aid as separate for each merit badge or dilemma.  First aid is first aid and a whole lot of it is the same regardless if you are camping or on the back porch.  Burns, cuts, shock, CPR, and the list rambles on like a Led Zeppelin song. 


Nate Eitel, Crissy Butcher, and Jase Flowers.  These boys are from Troop 105, 208, and 264.
I’ve said this for years and I’ll repeat it here; teach someone 3 things and if they can put the dots together, you just taught them 10 things.  This dot connects to this dot to this dot.  Some call it common sense.

The same goes for safety.  If you learn about safety and get a merit badge for it and five years later use a Weed-eater without ear plugs and safety glasses, you didn’t connect the dots.

Like I said before, I am not criticizing the Scouts or their marvelous program and I’m especially impressed with Chrissy’s ability to teach the boys with a mother’s touch – something I certainly wouldn’t have recognized as necessary.  I even got her jokes which went right over the boys heads.

Be prepared.  The Boy Scout motto is a good one and probably the one thing I truly retained with my brief brush with the organization, but being prepared not only means having the tools, it means taking the training to heart and connecting the dots.  No one can truly teach the dots part; it has to be acquired on your own, in the field, at home, or in the workplace.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another great article in The Baytown Sun (and this Blog) this morning! DDC

Anonymous said...

Good blog Bert. Thanks for imparting your geocaching wisdom on the scouts. Crissy is an awesome naturalist and Merit badge counselor. She is the Activities Chair and a merit badge counselor for our troop. I enjoy working with her very much. Boy Scouts is a good program. As the Advancement Chair for our troop, I deal with merit badges daily. I teach several, although I can say I really don't know anything about geocaching. I would like to learn how to geocache one of these days. TF

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bert. Goes a LONGGGGGG Way (back)! SL

Anonymous said...

Troops 105, 208, and 264 want to say thank you for taking time out of your day to come speak to the scouts about geocaching. KCL

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for coming out to talk to the scouts. My son was talking all the home about what all you told them.

Anonymous said...

WOW THAT IS THE DAUBER ROOM AT THE WETLANDS-I NEED TO GO BY AND THANK THEM... Ken Pridgeon

Anonymous said...

Crissy has really built up the scouting programs at BNC. She has also done some work with the Girl Scouts. Maybe they will get more active out there when word gets around. I've always found the kids to be attentive and inquisitive when I've taught spinning and natural fibers but I don't think I would be a very good full time teacher. That takes special people like you and Crissy and the rest of the Wetlands staff. VMC

Anonymous said...

Awesome blog Bert Marshall! CB

Anonymous said...

Boy Scouts was the second best portion of my life. You see, our Scoutmaster died just as I was advancing to Eagle Scout and no one stepped up to take his place, therefore I was denied my Eagle Scout status.

The best portion of my life was my 24 years in the U.S. Navy (1971-95) with duty in Vietnam, Panama, Egypt, Desert Storm and Sailing the 7 Seas! JK

Customer service is not what it used to be

I was called by a local business today to pay for a maintenance service on my in-ground pool. My debit card on file had expired. ...