The merit badge counselor is a key player in the Boy Scout advancement program. Whatever your area of expertise or interest—whether it is a special craft or hobby (basketry, leatherwork, coin collecting), a profession (veterinary medicine, aviation, engineering), or perhaps a life skill (cooking, personal management, communications)—as a merit badge counselor, you can play a vital role in stirring a young man's curiosity about that particular topic. By serving as a merit badge counselor, you offer your time, knowledge, and other resources so that Scouts can explore a topic of interest.
If you are not yet a merit badge counselor, it is easy to become a volunteer. You will need to register with the Boy Scouts of America, through your BSA local council. This entails contacting the local council, then obtaining, completing, and turning in the "Adult Application." The council will then process the application. (Every applicant is screened.)
The Scouting program emphasizes helping young men develop character, citizenship, and mental and physical fitness. Among the handful of methods used to build on these aims of Scouting are adult association, leadership development, and advancement.
Besides parents and relatives, schoolteachers, religious leaders, and possibly coaches, most Scout-age youth don't have much contact with many other adults or professionals. A Scout's association with his merit badge counselors provides an excellent way for him to grow and gain confidence through exposure to quality adults who serve as positive role models and mentors to him. Meeting people from business and community leaders to trained specialists and enthusiastic hobbyists, a Scout can experience a chance for personal growth and a positive life-altering experience while in pursuit of a merit badge.
Here are some simple tips that every merit badge counselor should keep in mind.
Make the Scout feel welcome and relaxed.
Stimulate the Scout's interest by showing him something related to the merit badge subject, but don't overwhelm him; remember, he is probably a beginner.
Carefully review each requirement, start with easy skills or questions, and encourage practice.
Insist that the Scout do exactly what the requirements specify. Many of the requirements involve hands-on activities that call for a Scout to show or demonstrate; make; list; discuss; or collect, identify, and label—and he must do just that.
Don't make the requirement more difficult—or any easier—than stated. A Scout may undertake more activities on his own initiative, but he cannot be pushed to do so.
During testing, the Scout might need help in a particular area or with a certain skill, and may need to be retested later to ensure the requirement has been fulfilled.
Encourage self-evaluation and self-reflection, and establish an atmosphere that encourages the Scout to ask for help.
Take a genuine interest in the Scout's projects, and encourage completion.