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Camping Merit Badge requirements with no camping currently allowed

With girls only being allowed to join a little over a year ago, and several with Eagle as their goal, we now have a big issue with the Camping Merit Badge. We are a very active troop, and camp monthly. However, we have several scouts that still need tent nights to complete the Camping MB. We have already cancelled 4 short term campouts, and now summer camp. Even if we are able to camp later this year, it would be very difficult for these older scouts to get the required days. We are in a northern state, and mostly cabin camp in the winter. It would feel punitive to have their only option be to tent camp in below 0 weather to make up their remaining 10ish nights. They are active, driven scouts, and have participated in every event we offered, but we all planned on having 2 full years to complete 21 camping days. Is National considering any MB changes if it is not possible to camp this year? The Cooking MB is also impacted, as we cannot plan any hikes.

I have sent this to a contact to see if we can get an answer - we have been trying to get it.

Cooking is a pretty different story in my book.
5d - does NOT say while on a campout - so if can be done whenever just need to use fire or camp cooking tools - and with a GROUP of youth
6d - Does say on a hike, this can just be family

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This thread discusses virtual camping for this requirement:

the summary consensus is that a family campout tied to a troop planned virtual campout should be allowable but it is up to the discretion of the MB counselor.

Our Council has outright said it can count for the merit badge camping nights, and defines the virtual campout as requiring a connection with the Troop via conference call during or immediately following. They also limit it to only while actual Troop campouts are prohibited by covid and limits by counting no more than 3 nights per month during stay at home order.

Our problem is that we are in the city and not everyone has a personal tent nor a safe place to camp outside. And our troop tents are locked in our chartered organization building which can’t be opened yet.

“roof deck camping” doesn’t feel like camping, but it is all that we have right now

From our Council announcement:

VIRTUAL CAMPING NIGHTS
In light of the extended period of camping restrictions attributable to COVID-19, the following
temporary modification is being made by the PTAC Council Advancement Committee until
September 1, 2020. Virtual camping may be counted toward the required nights of camping for
rank advancement and merit badge requirements if all of the following conditions are met:
To be counted, all virtual camping nights should be a direct result of COVID-19 pandemic
restrictions and be part of a BSA unit-organized unit camping event (a unit camping event is
defined as multiple members of the unit are involved and camping simultaneously at remote
locations)
Some form of unit-organized communications should occur either during or immediately
following the event
All existing Youth Protection Policies and Digital Safety Guidelines must be followed
No more than 3 nights of virtual camping are to be credited in any month which government or
council-imposed COVID-19 restrictions are in place

9a says “under the sky or in a tent you pitched”. So, if the council/MBC are okay with “virtual” unit camps counting as “designated Scouting activities or events”, it sounds like roof deck camping would satisfy “under the sky”. Scouts might have some trouble satisfying the 9b requirements, if they don’t already have those knocked out from prior events.

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Yep, you really need to discuss this with your Council advancement team.

At our roundtable last night, our district advancement chair explicitly said virtual campouts will NOT count for merit badge completion, only for advancement.

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We are in discussions with National Staff and there should be some clarity coming out on this next week

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I don’t see anything in the Cooking merit badge requirements that says that they have to be done as part of designated Scouting or troop / patrol activities. So Scouts could potentially do them on their own as long as they otherwise meet the requirements (cook for a group of youth that is patrol-sized up to 8 people, etc.).

@JoesephBaker2 How are you reading the requirements differently? Honest question here since we have some scouts who are in the middle of working on cooking and it’s the scouts that are hesitant to try to do anything differently than on a “traditional scout campout.” 5 says serve to “your patrol or a group of youth” (which by my reading would seem to explicitly open the door to doing that cooking at a non-scout activity, though in the current conditions would require being able to interact with an alternative group of youth safely and while not breaking local health requirements). Requirement 6 doesn’t actually specify that the people served have to be youth so, while non ideal, it seems like that could be done on a family hike. I don’t want to steer them wrong if I am not interpreting it correctly.

no @BrianJackson3 you are just actually reading them just as @JenniferOlinger and I are.

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Did they gave a reason why only three days a month

It looks like they might be following the modified Order of the Arrow eligibility requirements:

https://oa-bsa.org/coronavirus/temporary-camping-night-policy-due-covid-19

That’s an interesting question, they didn’t really say. It seems like either it counts or it doesn’t - if it counts, why limit it?

However, I suspect it is really so that people don’t use this crisis as an excuse to get “easier” camping nights.

Here’s a link to their announcement:

http://pathwaytoadventure.com/media/upload/PTAC%20Advancement%20info%20update%205-4-2020.pdf

Oh, wow! I missed this. It is disappointing that BSA didn’t update their Covid-FAQ page with this information. I have been checking back to that page repeatedly.

@AngelaKoch They have recently updated the BSA’s COVID FAQs page, so take another look.

https://www.scouting.org/coronavirus/covid-19-faq/

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We have some scouts attending a virtual camp with East Carolina and other with a council in Florida and have told them that if they camp in their backyard while attending the virtual camp the camping nights will count.

We posed this question to National. The response from Scott Berger, Scouts BSA Committee Chairman is “As you know, the merit badge experience is a unique method used in Scouting. Associating with adults is also an important method. Our goal, even in these challenging times, is to preserve as much of this experience as possible. Therefore, if a merit badge counselor thoughtfully deems the intent of a requirement can be met virtually, it can be allowable. For example, if a Scout claims he/she has gained 20 nights of camping experience by camping virtually (via videoconferencing) with their troop, the counselor would likely question this and not count this as true camping experience. If the Scout had 17 night of outdoor troop camping experience and 3 virtual nights, the counselor might feel otherwise. Each situation and each Scout is different. We are blessed to have smart and dedicated merit badge counselors who should use common sense to determine if the intent has been satisfied or not. Ultimately, it is up the counselor to sign off or not.”

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Is this officially posted somewhere I can reference it?

Between two and six percent of scouts become Eagle scouts. Scouts rushing through the program and not experiencing outdoor camping are missing out on working together to solve problems that arise due to their own laziness and mistakes, They won’t gain leadership experience with their fellow scouts. They aren’t working with people that are near their own maturity level.
Camping on a rooftop means it’s too easy to run inside for warmth because you forgot to bring the correct equipment or didn’t care for it properly in transit. It denies the friendship bonds that happen when you realize you don’t have to ask mom or dad to solve your problem when you can’t open, or forgot something, and you realize you have a fellow scout that will loan you a piece of their equipement.
If your scouts just want to check off the requirements to make the rank, they’re probably doing it for the wrong reasons. The troop PLC should be working on solving this problem and telling you what they need for support. The answer isn’t relax or wipe out the requirements.

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Everything I have seen from National BSA and from our council (NCAC) has indicated that virtual camping can be used to fulfill specific rank requirements as outlined in the COVID-19 FAQ, but merit badge requirement changes have NOT been approved yet. Anything contrary to that has only been published by individual councils.

I do think that if some councils are saying it is approved and others are saying it is not, then some clarification really needs to happen on a national level - even if it is, at a minimum, to say that it is a decision for the council advancement committee to determine based on local regulations.

Well, that is already covered by the Guide to Advancement in that councils can’t add or subtract from requirements.