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Partials & Blue Cards


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#1 ddubois

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 04:40 PM

I'd like to have a discussions about Merit Badge partials (and maybe blue cards). What has been your and your units experience with boys who get partials? What are best practices for handling them?

I understand, in theory, a boy can contact a Scoutmaster and ask for a MBC contact, then arrange for a MBC to help him finish up the incomplete requirements and acquire the MB. From what I have seen in practice, partials never get completed; it's more likely the boy takes the class again a few years down the road and get the MB at that time. My boys have accumulated a large catalog of partials from multiple summer camp / winter camp/ MBC events over the years, while in different Troops.

Also, the Scouts getting copies of blue cards for events where MB completion has occurred a MB event, either for completions or for partials, has been very hit or miss. I haven't seen Troops be very diligent about about the process, in fact, so much so, that I'm not 100% sure what the process is supposed to be. Thoughts? Comments?


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#2 Col. Flagg

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 05:12 PM

A few comments:

  • Troop Role
    • Help obtain list of MBCs from district or council.
    • Inform Scout (and parent) about rules when meeting MBCs.
    • Provide blue card signatures and processing when done.
    • SMCs with the Scout when there are issues or questions.
  • Scout Role
    • Everything else.  ;)

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#3 TAHAWK

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 08:07 PM

"Classes" may not be a "bad" idea, but they are not the BSA desired way to go.  

 

Our troop Advancement Chair reminds Scouts about partials (never reminds parents but answers questions if asked) and tries to get them to plan completion.  The SM may have a "conference" with the Scout on the same subject.


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#4 JosephMD

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 08:08 PM

@ddubois did I run into you on reddit/r/bsa?

 

I'm the advancement committee in my son's troop.  I get all of the blue cards back from summer camp, completed or not.  The completed ones I record and it is all good.  The partial ones, I make a record of the progress (we use scoutbook.com) and return the blue card to the scout with instructions on finding a counselor and maybe a recommendation for a counselor if it is one I know. 

 

A lot of MBs remain partial, but some get done.  We have a couple of outstanding cooking partials from before it was required!  And one of the troop ASMs is a counselor for that merit badge!


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#5 qwazse

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 08:19 PM

1. Lead a horse to water.
2. Drinking it is on him.

Those instructions on the blue card? That's the process.

The point of partials is to help a boy who wants to earn a MB do so at his own pace in multiple venues of his choosing. Meanwhile, if by getting a partial, a boy at least tries a new skill, he has expanded his horizons.

Have your oldest scouts give tips on how they keep track of partials. When a boy earns an MB by completing a partial, while you're awarding it to him, ask him what he did to complete it.
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#6 fred johnson

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 08:02 AM

My experience is it's best to let the boy manage the process as much as possible.  It's his advancement.  He can keep incomplete blue cards in his handbook or a zippered pocket in the handbook cover.  Trying to track partials (etc) inserts the adults too much into the process.  It's supposed to be the SM who works with the scouts, not the ASM in charge of XXX and the ASM in charge of YYY and the committee member in charge of ZZZ and the .... Let the scout track it.  

 

Partials are fine.  Scouting is about exploring life.  If he tried a merit badge and did not finish, that's his choice.  And that's absolutely fine.  My oldest had 20+ incomplete merit badges and still had 30+ at time he earned Eagle.  Personally, it shows a smart scout who doesn't waste time on a bad experience or something that doesn't interest him.


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#7 ParkMan

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 08:19 AM

I agree to letting the scout manage this as much as possible.  Learning to follow up on things like this is a good life skill.

 

That said - I'm a believer that sometimes we all need a little helping hand.  

 

So, what we do:
- our advancement coordinator records the partials in Troopmaster.  It's really not that much work.  He gets an email listing the partials and then takes 10 minutes to update them.  If he stays current, it's not a big deal.

- the scouts are provided paper copies of their advancement records - including partials - once a year or so.

- a couple of times a year we schedule a merit badge catch up night.  Merit Badge counselors for some of the more common merit badges are at a troop meeting.  Scouts get a copy of their partials and have the opportunity to go and talk with the counselors. They can chose to talk to them or not.


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#8 krikkitbot

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 08:37 AM

In my opinion, partials are up to the scout to manage/misplace. Their responsibility, not the troops' nor the scouters'. My eagle son, trying to get one more palm, recently dug through his room and found several partials that he started at his first summer camp and completed them. 

 

Onus is on the scouts (or the helicopter parents to nag their own kids).


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#9 fred johnson

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 09:35 AM

In my opinion, partials are up to the scout to manage/misplace. Their responsibility, not the troops' nor the scouters'. 

 

Yeah, I must admit staying organized is a good life lesson to learn.  

 

MBs have relatively little value.  The value is becoming an organized person or a self-starter or one of many other character traits reflected by someone who completes merit badges.  

 

That's why I like to keep the adults out of it.  It's a natural lesson coming out of the structure of the program.  IMHO, those are the best lessons. 


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#10 Col. Flagg

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 09:45 AM

We tell our guys:

  • Buy a three ring notebook.
  • Buy these inserts.
  • Take a picture of all rank and blue cards. Load them to Google Drive.
  • Put all your rank and blue cards in the notebook.
  • Put the notebook in a secure place in your room.
  • Ditto with the rank pages of you handbook.

That way you always know where your stuff is AND you have a back up in the cloud in case your house burns down.


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#11 DadScouts

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 10:18 AM

For summer camp the camps give the Troop all partials.  I use to put them with the completed cards and patches to be handed out at summer camp.  I stopped doing that 2 years ago and toss all partials in a big envelope.  Not a single Scout has asked me about them in those 24 months.  (I do record the partials in Troopmaster though - actually not sure why after reading this thread.  May discontinue if a couple helicopter parent "leaders" in our Troop don't squawk.  As a MBC I would review with the Scout all requirements "completed" at a summer camp anyway before awarding the MB, that is if a Scout every asked me to finish a partial MB.)  


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#12 T2Eagle

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 11:10 AM

In my experience the largest number of partial MBs come out of summer camp.  Thankfully we don't have MB days, universities, etc. around here and so I don't have to deal with that. 

 

If scouts are signing up to retake the class it is possible that they don't understand that they could try to complete the badge on their own.  A troop should at least make sure that their scouts understand that possibility

 

Having said that, for some of those badges the easiest way to complete it is probably to try to finish the requirements at camp the next year whether that's by signing up for the badge all over again or by trying to get in the missing requirements during open area times.  Some of the most common examples of this that I've seen are Climbing, any of the Boating MBs, and the shooting MBs.  For shooting it's getting a high enough score on enough targets; since there are very tight restrictions and when and where scouts can shoot as scouts it is not uncommon for summer camp to be the most likely venue.  For Climbing and Boating weather plays havoc with completion: thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday at camp mean the areas are closed and there is just no way to complet the badge.  In theory a scout could find someone with a small sailboat to borrow for completion, or go to a climbing wall, but that just may not be as practical as waiting until the next summer.

 

There are other common summer camp MBs that we do see completed:  the nature type badges come to mind, things like Astronomy, Nature, Reptile and Amphibians, Oceanography, etc., usually the scout needs to do more research and report writing to complete these, and often if a scout was intrigued by the material they'll get around to finishing them up.

 

The big take away I think is making sure your scouts really understand the MB and partial process, and then let them handle it as best meets their own curiosity and needs.


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#13 qwazse

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Posted 25 March 2017 - 07:47 AM

Some of our scouts retake a class even after they've earned the badge. So that's never a problem.

@DadScouts, I understand the temptation to micromanage. Resist it. If a scout thinks you have his partial from last year when in fact he never earned it, his helicopter parent is going to blame you when he is 17.9 and has only earned 20 MBs.
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#14 TAHAWK

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Posted 25 March 2017 - 08:04 AM

Pay your bills, including property tax, without monthly reminders, do you?  

 

Renew your licenses without reminders?  

 

Operated on one notice of a future test or paper due with no reminders from anyone else?  Starting at 10.5 years old?  Admirable.

 

Kind

Helpful

Friendly

Coach

Mentor

 

Don't do something because you may be unfairly blamed for something if you do?

 

Brave

 

Model

 

 

Just asking.


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#15 T2Eagle

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Posted 25 March 2017 - 11:04 AM

Pay your bills, including property tax, without monthly reminders, do you?  

 

Renew your licenses without reminders?  

 

Operated on one notice of a future test or paper due with no reminders from anyone else?  Starting at 10.5 years old?  Admirable.

 

Kind

Helpful

Friendly

Coach

Mentor

 

Don't do something because you may be unfairly blamed for something if you do?

 

Brave

 

Model

 

 

Just asking.

Thanks TAHAWK, I give a similar answer to folks who gripe about and criticize scouts not getting the final requirements of Eagle done until near their 18th birthday:  If you file your taxes on April 15th is that late or is that getting them done on time?


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#16 ddubois

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 01:00 PM

Yes, I was on reddit.

 

Can someone walk me through the process when a MB camp / MB college is involved?

 

Are blue cards "supposed to" be issued by the Troop and given to boy in advance of merit badges they will be taking at one of those events?  In my experience, some Troops do that, some don't.

 

Are the blue cards "supposed to" be written on by the camp's MBC staff?  IME, you don't get that service done for the unit; you just get an email or a print out.

 

So, assuming the unit only gets a printout, is the Troop advancement person or SM supposed to fill out the blue card based on the printout?  Or is the correct process that the Troop and the Scout work together to track down another official MBC to have them do the signoffs for what was done, then hopefully, subsequently, do the signoffs for the not-yet-completed requirements if it was a partial?  In my experience, nothing like this is happening.  In fact, IME, the boys don't even have blue cards that are partially filled out, with individual requirements that were done, when they get partials.

 

I didn't intend for this discussion to retread Ye Ole' Boy-Led Versus Adult-Led ground, but rather a discussion on what best practices are for the leaders or the MBC staff, for those things that fall under the adults' purview.

 

Last question: What's the lifetime of the blue card?  Is it effectively useless when finished -- i.e. is the boy supposed to retain a copy of the blue card to indicate he has done the MB for his eventual Eagle BOR, or is the awarded white merit badge certificate card sufficient for this purpose?


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#17 TAHAWK

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 02:50 PM

Yes, I was on reddit.

 

Can someone walk me through the process when a MB camp / MB college is involved?

 

Are blue cards "supposed to" be issued by the Troop and given to boy in advance of merit badges they will be taking at one of those events?  In my experience, some Troops do that, some don't.

 

          THE BLUE CARDS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE HANDED TO THE SCOUT BY THE SCOUTMASTER, WITH HIS/HER SIGNATURE, TYPICALLY BEFORE THE SCOUT BEGINS WORKING ON THE MB HE HAS SELECTED BUT NOT ESSENTIALLY BEFORE.  B.S.A., GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT AT P. 43.

 

Are the blue cards "supposed to" be written on by the camp's MBC staff?  IME, you don't get that service done for the unit; you just get an email or a print out.

 

         NORMALLY, THE BLUE CARDS ARE WRITTEN ON BY THE SCOUTMASTER, THE SCOUT, AND ONE OR MORE REGISTERED MERIT BADGE COUNSELORS.  STAFF STATUS IS NOT RELEVANT.  THE CRITICAL WRITING IS THE CERTIFICATION OF COMPLETION OF REQUIREMENTS SIGNED SOLELY BY THE REGISTERED MERIT BADGE COUNSELOR WHO TESTED THE SCOUT ON THOSE REQUIREMENTS.

 

       NO COUNCIL IS AUTHORIZED TO USE ANY OTHER SYSTEM FOR REPORTING PROGRESS ON A MERIT BADGE.

 

So, assuming the unit only gets a printout, is the Troop advancement person or SM supposed to fill out the blue card based on the printout?  Or is the correct process that the Troop and the Scout work together to track down another official MBC to have them do the signoffs for what was done, then hopefully, subsequently, do the signoffs for the not-yet-completed requirements if it was a partial?  In my experience, nothing like this is happening.  In fact, IME, the boys don't even have blue cards that are partially filled out, with individual requirements that were done, when they get partials.

 

       THE ONLY PERSON AUTHORIZED TO SIGN FOR COMPLETION OF ANY OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR EARNING A MERIT BADGE IS A REGISTERED MERIT BADGE COUNSELOR FOR THAT MERIT BADGE.  COMMITTEE STATUS, STAFF STATUS, OR STATUS AS A SCOUTMASTER IS NOT RELEVANT.  A COMMITTEE MEMBER OR OTHER SCOUTER COMPLETES THE ADVANCEMENT REPORT THAT IS SUBMITTED TO THE SCOUT'S COUNCIL.

 

     YOU ARE EXPERIENCING VIOLATION OF THE MANDATORY RULES OF BSA.  WORSE THAN COUNCILS MAKING UP THEIR OWN PAPERWORK IS THAT MERIT BADGES ARE COMMONLY AWARDED WITH NO TESTING BY, OR NO INVOLVEMENT WHATSOEVER OF, A REGISTERED MERIT BADGE COUNSELOR FOR THE MERIT BADGE, WHICH IS INVALID.  THE MERIT BADGE HAS NOT BEEN EARNED IN THOSE CASES.

 

I didn't intend for this discussion to retread Ye Ole' Boy-Led Versus Adult-Led ground, but rather a discussion on what best practices are for the leaders or the MBC staff, for those things that fall under the adults' purview.

 

Last question: What's the lifetime of the blue card?  Is it effectively useless when finished -- i.e. is the boy supposed to retain a copy of the blue card to indicate he has done the MB for his eventual Eagle BOR, or is the awarded white merit badge certificate card sufficient for this purpose?

 

     THE BLUE CARD IS EVIDENCE OF COMPLETION OF REQUIREMENTS.  IT IS SUPPORTING EVIDENCE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT REPORT SUBMITTED TO COUNCIL BY THE UNIT, WHICH REPORT IS THE FINAL, OFFICIAL RECORD.   IN COME CASES WHERE ADULTS DROPPED THE BALL, THE BLUE CARD HAS ALLOWED AN ADVANCEMENT REPORT TO BE FILED AFTER THE SCOUT'S 18TH BIRTHDAY TO "SAVE" HIS EAGLE.  THIS IS WHY ONE COPY IS TO BE WITH THE SCOUT, ONE WITH THE COUNSELOR, AND ONE WITH THE UNIT - JUST IN CASE..


Edited by TAHAWK, 26 March 2017 - 03:07 PM.

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#18 Cleveland Rocks

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 02:53 PM

Blue cards are to be issued by the Scoutmaster when the Scout requests one from him/her. That should be the case for a MB college as well as an individual working on a MB.  The only exception I've seen to that is at our summer camp, where the blue cards and records are kept/printed electronically. But prior to that, we would issue hundreds of blue cards for summer camp.

 

Not sure what you mean by "supposed to be written on by the camp's MBC staff". The MB counselor at camp should definitely be filling out his/her portion of the blue card.

 

If the unit is only getting a printout, I would insist that the camp/college issue blue cards. That's the official record, not a printout.

 

The lifetime of the blue card is until the Scout has dropped or aged out of Scouting. The blue card is to be retained by the Scout as proof of completion. That's the official record, same as the handbook is the official record for rank advancement.  GTA 7.0.0.2: "It is important to note the “blue card” is the nationally recognized merit badge record."

 

When there's questions, always refer to the Guide to Advancement section 7.


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