When Did Summer Camp Become All About Merit Badges?

Over the past five weeks, a united team of camp staff members from Melita, MOHAB and K-M delivered EPIC weeks of Scouting skills and adventure to over 800 Scouts in Montana at one facility only.  Many have touted this year as the best summer camp ever, which begs the question, “Why?”

First off, it has been a while since we were able to venture anywhere away from home – that certainly adds to the spirit of adventure.  Not being locked in your home or town makes a difference.  Thanks to the help of several donors and the local health department, we were able to safely operate. In fact, we were one of only about 50 BSA summer camps that were able to run this year, but I believe it is deeper than that.

Secondly, Camp Director David Richardson assembled an all-star staff.  These Scouters did everything in their ability to deliver the best possible program they could, knowing that group movement and gathering would be limited to clusters of 50 persons.  Most incredibly, they had 60 days to plan, develop and execute.  We simply cannot say thank you enough to our camp staff, our rangers and admin folks.  We are so incredibly proud of your execution and recognize you as a significant part of Team 315!

Most importantly, the restrictions required us to move folks through stations rather than allow the typical “pair up and take a merit badge class” concept. The results were overwhelmingly positive.  Scouts had more fun.  They wanted to engage more.  They wanted to become staff members themselves.  They received world-class service at a world-class camp, all while having world-class fun!

That makes me wonder – if the only reason we have youth going to summer camp is to earn a basket of merit badges, perhaps our program has concentrated too much on the finish line and not the journey. Is summer camp supposed to be like school?

I’d submit that it is not supposed to be. Certainly, our Scouts signed off on some advancement and many completed some requirements towards merit badges, etc., but that was not the only thing they did. They all learned and had a great time doing it. Scouting – a game with a purpose – sound familiar?

As we transition into one of the most important recruiting seasons in our history, I ask that we consider what happened this summer. Let’s go recruit a bunch of youth for this same kind of experience. Let’s design a program that makes learning fun. Let’s let kids have a break from school, in-the-box thinking and pandemics. Let’s create a program that is hard to say “no” to. Let’s keep the fun in Scouting.

Thanks for all you do. Dirk and I had a chance to visit with many of you and we hope you know just how much we appreciate your time, energy, talent and resources.

Scout On!

Jory Dellinger
Deputy Scout Executive