Merit badges were added to the Scouting program early on to promote “merit” in the Scouts beyond the Scouting basics. Badges were designed both to reinforce important life skills (Eagle required) and to introduce Scouts to other skills and knowledge with the expectation that exposure to these topics might encourage Scouts to expand their interests into areas they may otherwise never have been introduced to. Sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm when counseling these badges can and often does have a positive effect on Scout lives in the future. Doing a fine job as a counselor can lead a Scout to a career that will serve them well for the rest of their life.
Who takes care of merit badges for the District?
A Merit Badge Counselor is a registered leader who assists Scouts in achieving merit badges. There are specific rules and training for performing this function.
- The Merit Badge Counselor training on my.scouting.org contains extremely valuable information to allow you to be a successful Merit Badge Counselor. All safety requirements and YPT guidelines must always be followed when working with Scouts.
- This is a District, not a Unit, position so it must be applied for separately – it cannot be applied for as a part of the Unit application.
- Once registered, you will remain active as long as your YPT is up-to-date. If you no longer wish to be a Merit Badge Counselor, please contact a Merit Badge Dean to inform them. This will help keep records up-to-date and keep you from being contacted needlessly.
It is important that a Merit Badge Counselor has some experience/knowledge of the subject matter. It is highly recommended that they possess the Scouting BSA merit badge book and be familiar with the requirements to earn the badge.
To become a Merit Badge Counselor, you must fill out an Adult Application for leader position 42 (Merit Badge Counselor). This must be done even if you have previously filled out an application as an adult Unit Leader, Committee Member, etc. Along with the Adult Application you must attach a signed disclosure form, a completed copy of the Merit Badge Counselor’s Information Form #34405, and a copy of your YPT certificate.
If you are already a registered Unit Leader, you should register electronically at this link and submit a completed and signed MBIF to the Merit Badge Dean. This method is highly recommended and preferred. Alternatively, you can use the quick dual application along with a completed signed MBIF. All applications MUST be submitted to the Merit Badge Deans. This allows them to register your chosen badges on their database. Anyone already registered as a Merit Badge Counselor can Add or Drop any merit badges simply by submitting a new MBIF stating this desire.
- Some merit badges require additional training and certification. All counselors for swimming/water sports should be current in Safe Swim training. Boating merit badge counselors should be current in Safety Afloat training. Lifesaving counselors must have certified Lifesaving training, preferably US Red Cross. Scuba counselors must be certified instructors. A motorboating counselor should have a motorboat driver’s license.
- Shooting sports counselors must have NRA Safety and NRA Instructor certification. Archery counselors must have USA Archery Level 1 certification, at minimum.
- Although Merit Badge Counselor training is not mandatory, it is highly recommended and easy to do. To review/take MB training, go to my.scouting.org. Go to My Training, click on Scouts BSA. Then, click on Merit Badge Counselor, and it will provide 3 videos. The main is 34 minutes, and the other two are 24 minutes and 10 minutes respectively, and will help you immensely.
*Note: COVID situations will create challenges here. Work with the Scoutmaster regarding how to complete the blue card. Zoom and other remote video methods can be used to satisfy requirements where the counselor must “observe” or that the Scout “demonstrate” a skill.
Once your application has been accepted, congratulations, you can now work with Scouts!
- It is the Scout’s job to contact you. If a parent makes the contact, encourage them to have the Scout contact you. Make sure that any communications with the Scout include a parent or Scoutmaster as per YPT.
- Each Scout should have a blue card signed by their Scoutmaster. Complete the counselor sections on the card.
- As you complete requirements, list the requirement completed and initial/date it in the appropriate section of the card. Once the badge is fully complete, sign the card, keep the counselor portion for your records, and provide the rest of the card to the Scout.
- If a Scout approaches you with a partially completed merit badge, you are responsible for helping them complete the rest of the requirements. If the Scout says they completed something, but it is not signed, you are required to have them repeat it.
- Follow the basic rule: meet the requirements, no more, no less.
This activity can be a tremendously rewarding experience for you and the Scout and can be something that the Scout and you remember for the rest of your lives. Thank you for being a Counselor!
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