Last year Scouting celebrated its 100th birthday in the United States. The Scouting program has remained focused on using the patrol method to teach young men leadership skills and useful outdoor knowledge. The format and structure have remained pretty constant (at least in the Boy Scout part of the program) for the last 50 years. In Cubs the Lion badge is gone and there is an expanded Weblos program. There is now Venturing and Learning for Life. Fifty years ago neither of these programs existed. The ranks of Scouting have remained a constant.
However, saying that the program structure has been constant does not mean that the program has not grown and adapted and modernized. Each year a new requirements book is published in January which reflects the changes for the year. Generally some of the basic requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class Scout are tweeked or modified. This year the changes were to the Life and Eagle ranks. For Life there was an additional option added for teaching the EDGE method to another Scout. EDGE stands for Explain, Demonstrate, Guide and Enable. For the Eagle rank the 2009 printing of the requirements stated that Bugler was a leadership position that could be used in meeting leadership requirements. This was incorrect and the change will be incorporated in the new revision.
The merit badge list also is changing to reflect the times and the changes in the Scouting program. Four merit badges were only offered last year. They were considered “Historical Merit Badges” and could only be earned during the 100th anniversary year. They were Carpentry, Pathfinding, Signaling and Tracking.
Several new merit badges were released in 2010. They reflect a move to technology and the increasing role electronics play in our current environment. The new merit badges are Geocaching (treasure hunting using a GPS to hide and find containers), Inventing, and Scouting Heritage. Several merit badges had changes to the requirements so make sure you are working with current information.
The latest merit badge was released this month, April 2011. It is the robotics merit badge. Matt Myers is the BSA executive in charge of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math efforts in Scouting (STEM). His job is to give Scouting a technology and electronics focus for the future. Ken Berry, who is the assistant director of the Science and Engineering Center of the University of Texas at Dallas, was responsible for developing the requirements for the merit badge. The plan is to have the initial merit badge presented by a robot at a special ceremony. The Scouting Advancement committee expects as many as 10,000 Robotics merit badges to be awarded the first year.
In addition to having the initial patch awarded by a robot, there is another exciting event planned for the Robotics merit badge. The plan is that on the April 29 launch the Space Shuttle Endeavour will take 100 robotics patches on the flight. After they return to Earth, the patches will be given away by way of contests that will be found on the Robotics page of Boys Life.
There are many exciting programs in Scouting. We have come a long way from Metal Working, Basketry and Pioneering. But these basic Scouting skills will still serve us well in times of emergency or natural disaster.