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Time For Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts 2.0?

Time For Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts 2.0?

This week’s column is going to be a journey into the past and then a leap to some possible futures. Since I started at MAKE, and later teamed up with Ladyada at Adafruit, I’ve always wondered what the future of education might be like, and what the future of traditional organizations for kids, like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, will be like in a very modern, tech-savy world (with more and more people living in cities). To me, social networks and the maker movement are the perfect intersection of where the kids of today are. But I don’t see “leaderboards” for skills yet, I only see them for video games. I don’t see kids adding skills they’ve earned to their social networking profiles, I mostly see check-ins, bands, movies, and status updates. While historic groups like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, for many, are sometimes associated with camping and selling cookies, I think there might be something new ahead: a peer-to-peer way of sharing and celebrating skills using the internet (think Khan Academy). I think the scouts will ultimately go this way too, becoming “Scouts 2.0”.

Let’s jump in, but first, a quick tour of Boy Scout and Girl Scout past.

Boy Scout Past


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, with over 4.5 million youth members in its age-related divisions. Since its founding in 1910 as part of the international Scout Movement, more than 110 million Americans have been members of the BSA. The BSA goal is to train youth in responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance through participation in a wide range of outdoor activities, educational programs, and at older age levels, career-oriented programs in partnership with community organizations. For younger members, the Scout method is part of the program to inculcate typical Scouting values such as trustworthiness, good citizenship, and outdoors skills, through a variety of activities such as camping, aquatics, and hiking.


In 2011: 2,723,869 youth members, 1,047,038 adult members and 111,668 units (source: media kit). It’s also a pretty big business (501(c)(3) non-profit organization) with over $133 million in income (2008). This is not only impressive in terms of kids and resources, but historically, to be called a Boy Scout has always meant: honestly and “scout’s honor.”

Mayor of New York City and business tycoon Michael Bloomberg said that the BSA’s Scout Law required of all Boy Scouts — a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent — are “all the American values … Americans have quaintly simplistic ways and direct ways of phrasing things … I think it’s one of the great strengths of this country.”

Stamp Us 1950 3C Boy Scouts Of America
When you hear the “Scout Mottos,” such as Be Prepared, it’s something every maker here can related to.

Boy Scout Present


In recent times, the Boy Scouts, like any organization, has gone though challenges. Here’s a recent article from Geekdad “After 100 Years, Are The Boy Scouts Still Relevant?“. From 1998 to 2008 there are membership declines of up to -26%. With 2.7 million members now, the Boy Scouts has about half of its peak in 1972. The Geekdad article asks important questions and is filled with firsthand stories about being a scout and what it can do for a kid.

It’s hard to speculate exactly why numbers are declining (there are forums dedicated to this), but the easy guess is that parents are busy and the world of technology is often very hard to compete with. The parents (and 20-somethings) I’ve talked to researching this article all said that when both parents work and school is all about test taking, it’s hard to imagine doing more. Families are more mobile now, so being part of a troop for years can be fragmented. They also said, “It’s hard to find a kid that wants to go camping instead of playing video games.” But video games are now built around earning points, showing off status on a leaderboard, getting and unlocking achievements, just like earning a Merit Badge. And that brings me to badging.

Merit badges go hand-in-hand with scouting (Boy and Girl Scouts). What a great way to show and share something a kid has learned, and therefore earned. Earn enough and you’ve got a sash filled with skills.

Merit Badges


Merit badges are awards earned by youth members of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), based on activities within an area of study by completing a list of periodically updated requirements. The purpose of the merit badge program is to allow Scouts to examine subjects to determine if they would like to further pursue them as a career or a vocation. Originally, the program also introduced Scouts to the life skills of contacting an adult they hadn’t met before, arranging a meeting and then demonstrating their skills, similar to a job or college interview. Increasingly, though, merit badges are earned in a class setting at troop meetings and summer camps. Each merit badge has a pamphlet (booklet) published by the Boy Scouts of America associated with it; the pamphlet contains information on completing the requirements for the badge. Scouts must meet up with their Scoutmaster to receive a signed blue card in order to begin working on a merit badge. The Scouts then contact a counselor that is registered for the particular merit badge they are interest in doing to see which requirements they need to complete before meeting up with the counselors. The Scout would meet with a counselor to demonstrate that he’s completed the requirements. The counselor would then ‘sign off’ on each one. After completing the merit badge, the Scout can then buy his merit badge patch.

There were 57 original badges in 1911. As of September 2011, there are over 127. Merit badges are seemingly endless for the Boy Scouts. Geocaching, Inventing, and Chess are recent editions, and in April of 2011, the Boy Scouts introduced the Robotics badge. Now we’re talking; however, the first thing my partner Limor asked me was, “Why doesn’t the Girl Scouts have a robotics badge, too?”.

The Girl Scouts


And that brings us to the Girl Scouts. Starting one year after the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts also have been around for 100 years, and in fact, on March 12, 2012, it will be exactly 100 years. President Barack Obama signed the “Girl Scouts of the USA Commemorative Coin Act” for the 100th anniversary celebration, there will be a new cookie, a “Girl Scouts Rock the Mall: 100th Anniversary Sing-Along,” and events all over the USA. It’s going to be a big month this month for the Girl Scouts. How did it all get started?

The Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) is a youth organization for girls in the United States and American girls living abroad. It describes itself as “the world’s preeminent organization dedicated solely to girls.” It was founded by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912 and was organized after Low met Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, in 1911. Upon returning to Savannah, Georgia, she made her historic telephone call to a distant cousin, saying, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight!” GSUSA aims to empower girls and to help teach values such as honesty, fairness, courage, compassion, character, sisterhood, confidence, and citizenship through activities including camping, community service, learning first aid, and earning badges by acquiring other practical skills. Girl Scouts’ achievements are recognized through rank advancement and by various special awards. Girl Scouts welcomed girls with disabilities early in their history, at a time when they were not included in most other activities.

As of 2010, the Girl Scouts have over 2,303,388 youth members and 878,904 adults (you can read their annual report here). Also a non-profit charity, the Girl Scouts is a successful “business” too. For 2010 their total income was $81.5 million.

Their mantra: “to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.”

The Girl Scouts also have their own challenges: membership fell by 250,000 in just five years. Depending who you ask, The Girl Scouts are generally considered more progressive than the Boy Scouts — they have a “don’t ask, don’t evangelize” policy on sexuality, and the word “God” is optional in The Promise.


Most of all, the Girl Scouts are usually associated with their yearly cookie sales. We all love these cookie, so much that it seems to have brought the dough: in the 2010 program year, three million girls sold 198 million boxes for a record $714 million in cookie revenue. I always wondered how it worked — it’s a pretty straightforward trademark licensing deal.

Does any of the money from cookie sales go to Girl Scouts of the USA (the national Girl Scouts organization)?
A: Girl Scouts of the USA is paid a royalty for use of the licensed trademarks by its licensed vendors based on gross annual sales volume. Girl Scout councils do not provide any portion of their cookie revenue to Girl Scouts of the USA. No other revenue from cookie sales goes to Girl Scouts of the USA. Girl Scouts of the USA provides contractual services and approves all educational materials developed by the bakers, as well as providing coordination and training for national media, safety standards, leadership programs and sale guidelines.



That’s not all. Pictured above are some other recent merchandising efforts. There are even Girl Scout cookie pop-up stores coming.

In the annual report, it says the following:

With the single largest entrepreneurship program for girls on earth, Girl Scouting has an unmatched track record in building women leaders. Illustrious alumnae include the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court, the first woman to serve as president of Harvard University, and the first woman to anchor a network evening newscast.

“Growing up, nothing got my competitive juices flowing like selling Girl Scout cookies. I would always compete with my fellow troopers, not only selling cookies but eating them too. Frozen Thin Mints were my favorite.”

—Katie Couric, ABC television personality;
former anchor, CBS Evening News

New Badges

Screen 20050307165844 Nycscout


The Girl Scouts also have their own merit badges ( article and Neatorama) and recently added some financial-themed badges, like Good Credit and Savvy Shopper, to some techy ones, like Website Designer and Inventor. After they announced these badges in October of 2011, I spotted this interesting quote.


Girl Scouts of the USA spokeswoman Alisha Niehaus explained in an interview that the Girl Scouts themselves helped to develop the new badges, which provide an even broader experience for the young women involved in the group. Having such a wide variety of activities encourages girls to try new things and learn skills that will enrich their lives.

“You can make your Girl Scouting experience what you want it to be,” she says. Maybe one of today’s Girl Scouts will grow up to be the next Ada Lovelace.

Now we’re talking! So I think I’ve been able to show some of the past and present of these two groups — now it’s time to talk about the future. Or least some possible futures. This is where I think the maker movement, the technology world, and these organizations all intersect.

The Future? Scouts 2.0


In 2009, Ladyada and I thought it would be cool to reward anyone with a soldering badge. We didn’t see any merit badge for soldering so we designed our own. The plan was to create a few dozen maker-skill badges that did not exist. As the maker movement has taken off, I’ve talked with lots of parents and educators who are coming up with their own curriculum because nothing exists for many of the new maker skills. MAKE has a Learn to Solder skill badge, too. They want to have achievements and make it fun, but it’s a challenge. Competing with the internet is always hard too.

The world is changing rapidly, kids are growing up fast, and often both parents are working. The trend of humankind is to live in big cities and for all of us to be connected with various devices at all times. Kids are playing network-connected games and unlocking achievements or “checking in,” but is there a way to also include skill building in all of this? I think so.

This is where the future of the Scouts comes in (Scouts 2.0 is a fun way to think of it): the merit badge systems they have in place are perfect ways to teach, share, and celebrate skills. However, the badges seem to be lagging behind the times. While the Boy Scouts finally has a Robotics badge, how long will it take for the Girl Scouts to have one? What about a bio-hacking badge, a 3D printing badge, a laser cutter badge? These are all skills for the 21st century that millions of girls and boys should be learning.

The badges should not just be physical ones you sew on, or can only earn by taking a camping trip — they should be digital as well and flow from social profile to social profile. Like it or not, we’re all going to have a social networking profile in some way. If you’re an adult, maybe you’ve barely escaped it, but the kids today? It’s the default. So, I’ve come up with a list of ideas for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts (and any other group that does badges). It’s a work in progress and I’ll revisit this later with more ideas, which are actually predictions, and some, I’m trying to help make happen. I’m mostly focusing on the badging and online thought experiments, but this is all about your ideas too!

  • Merit badges go digital: Boy and Girl Scouts award badges on their own social network(s).
  • Earn a badge online? It’s on Tumblr, Tweeted, added to Facebook/Google+ profiles.
  • Skill building: Use Google+ Hangouts to learn skills from troop leaders in other locations.
  • Nationwide leaderboard: Kids compete to earn the most skills over time.
  • Khan Academy for merit badges: Every video is online, every manual to earn a badge is a wiki. Merit badges go open source.
  • 553657605497-1


  • New badges, the maker set: 3D printing, laser cutting, microcontrollers (Arduino), bio-hacking, programming (HTML 5, app dev, Linux, Processing, etc), educational UAVs, soldering.
  • A new distributed “troop” that’s virtual, based on interests, not geography.
  • Kickstarter for Girl Scouts. They’re training girls to be the ultimate business persons with these cookies, so why not make it possible for other businesses to come out of the Girl Scouts?
  • 70-3

  • Millions of kids are using iPhones and iPads, so an app that keeps track of their merit badges and ways to earn more of the digital ones.
  • “Mobile app/digital” versions of badges: It should be possible to check into skills just like checking into a location. There are privacy and location issues, more so with kids, but this is the world we’re in now. Every kid has a supercomputer with them, so maybe we can work toward figuring out ways to celebrate skill earning with them. There’s already an official Girl Scout Cookie App in iTunes (above).
  • Uniforms can be optional, but wearing something you made should be mandatory, from wearable electronics to fashion.
  • Which org will have the most repositories in GitHub? Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts? In the future, your repos and forks are all that matter.
  • Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts partner with hackerspaces, makerspaces, TechShop, Maker Faires, and FabLabs to have on-site workshops to earn badges and skills. Every Girl Scout should have access to a discounted membership at TechShop if there’s one in their area.
  • Or, go one step further, the local Girl/Boy Scout Troop IS a membership-based hackerspace for kids.

It’s an easy guess, but if I had to place a bet on the future and what organization will do this, I would say the Girl Scouts have the best chance of really adopting most of these. So instead of just putting ideas out there, I’m going to offer up the badges you saw above that I worked on at Adafruit with Limor, our designer Bruce, and our team. If the Girl Scouts want to use the badges we’ve designed to modern-up their merit badge offerings, we’ll work with them to make it happen. I really don’t know what’s possible, but I’d love to see kids earn 3D printing badges. These are just some of the ones we made — there are other ones we asked permission to use.

For example, Instructables gave us permission to make a badge. It would be awesome to see the Girl Scouts use Instructables and work with them directly.

Pt 716
Not only that, I have a real, working prototype of the digital badge system as well. This is a leaderboard system we developed, and for now we have five beta testers. Each week or so, Ladyada awards a badge to a young person who she’s seen, who has made something.

Pt 717
They sign in to the site, get a real/physical badge sent to them in the mail, and the digital profile is online to show and share. We’re working on an API — there’s an XML feed for now of recently earned badges. This too is something we’d love to chat about with someone at the Girl Scouts to see what’s possible. I’m sure there are cookie sale ranking possibilities too : ) But the thing I’m most interested in is maker badges being added.

There are many many efforts going on with badges, from FourSquare to the Mozilla Foundation. I’d like to see organizations like 4-H also consider these ideas and possibilities. 4-H IS the new generation of bio-hackers! When you add up the number of kids in 4-H, FIRST, Boy/Girl Scouts, and the kids who come to Maker Faires, we really have a chance for all of them to interact in amazing ways using the internet. And maybe, just maybe, we can make earning skills as popular (and fun) as being on a video game leaderboard. Or who knows, maybe this can be the start of a completely independent Scout effort, “Hacker Scouts” — one that is born in the 21st century and starts from scratch.

Now it’s your turn — post up in the comments real, actionable ideas for these groups to consider. Don’t talk about what’s wrong with these groups, stick to what’s right and offer up new ideas using all the great tech we have to bring together skill learning and kids.


163 thoughts on “Time For Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts 2.0?

  1. Bob says:

    My daughter participated in Destination Imagination for a couple of years. It seems more maker-oriented to me than the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.

    1. Brian Halligan says:

      Destination Imagination (especially the technical challange) is one of the most maker oriented activities for kids. Unlike the robotics programs that provide a standard kit of parts, the kids in DI are given a problem and a budget and re-using, repurposing and dumpster diving is encouraged. Having done if for a number of years I have seen some interesting solutions like a remote control robotic dog made from a VCR and a bicycle powered by compressed air.

  2. Ryan says:

    Badges reminds me of Mozilla’s initiative:

    Lots of opportunities to celebrate accomplishment, but I always worry that setting up any sort of rules and rewards encourages gaming of the system. In the end it is more important for makers to be able to publish/share what they have done, but badge systems can be a way to communicate a rough idea of a person’s skills before you have time to look through their actual projects.

    1. Phillip Torrone says:

      i have a link to the mozilla effort(s) in the article: for the system i’m working on it’s more peer-to-peer and skill sharing vs certification and testing, but there’s room for everyone :)

  3. Dave Khaliqi says:

    I am getting ready to stand up a STEM/maker camp for elem and middle school kids at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs called STEM By Me for this summer. I want to build in a badge system both online and physical. Can I get my hands on the badges that you have designed? The camp is both a summer and an ongoing Saturday tinker camp model that will inc soldering, soft and squishy circuits, Arduinos, 3D printing, etc. I want some badges!!!! Great post!

    1. Phillip Torrone says:

      hey dave! just drop me an email, i’m trying to figure out the best ways to do this with STEM/maker camps!

      1. dklon says:

        I think it would be even more awesome if the badges themselves were 3D printed. Could even make that part of the 3D Printing Badge.

      2. thebuffyproject says:

        Is there anything going on with STEM/Maker in NYC? This is a terrific idea; and, your badge system for tech skills sounds like a much-needed expansion to what exists. What other groups are doing projects like this for kids/teens? There wasn’t anything like this when I was a girl and I want to help out!

  4. Mark White says:

    Also, until the Boy Scouts of America become more inclusive (i.e., ending their policies of discrimination and exclusion), I think that other outlets will be a better choice for promoting making, creativity, and technical skill building. The Girl Scouts, on the other hand, is a great organization for this kind of thing.

    1. Hank says:

      My sons are in scouts (one cub, one scout) and while the local leaders are good people, I find the national level BSA policies to be quite offensive. But the kids like going camping with their friends and doing the other activities, so we keep going (and paying for the activities we do).

      Every year I get the Fair Share handout telling me how much I should pay to help support the BSA’s mission. I’ll start sending money when they stop being bigots.

      1. ishron says:

        Scouting is very much dependant on local parents involvement. Scouting is only as good as the volunteers who devote their time to kids. After 15 years as a scouter and getting my kid to Eagle Scout, I can tell you that this is one program for kids that is worth the effort. The outcome is a well grounded kid who has a good sense of who he is and what is his place in the community.

        Put down the phone, push away from the keyboard, turn off the TV and volunteer. Make a difference in your kids life! It is just one evening a week and maybe a day on the weekend. The payback is 10 fold.

      2. Ralph says:

        If you think that the Nat’l Organization is bigoted, then who should remedy that?
        The adult leaders in the local Troops and Districts, who else? This is a program for youth, and it is the adult leaders in direct, day-to-day contact with the boys that set (and reinforce) the best examples for behavior. Only when the boys directly witness how respected adults behave can any other toxic behavior by the program be neutralized.
        If you don’t like the way that the Nat’l Organization’s antics filter down to the local level, then your best bet is to get in there, volunteer, and show the boys how it is done right.
        That is how it is done with our Troop, and it works just fine. We have a surprisingly high percentage of Scouts who make it all the way to Eagle (including the most unlikely of all, my son.)
        A major benefit of all this is that you get to have fun, too!

    2. Just Kelly says:

      Thank goodness I’m not the only person who thinks so! I realy think the BSA needs to be left in the past whee it belongs. It’s time for a newer, better program for kids. One that prepares kids for the 21st century, not the 19th.

    3. Bob Straub says:

      All of the ideas about incorporating more tech, etc., as described in the article are great.

      Re Mark White’s remarks on ending discrimination and expanding inclusiveness, I agree. GSA is slightly better than BSA on these matters, but both need to shed their past membership policies, for both leaders and scouts. This would be a great goal to add to Scouts 2.0. As non-believers, my wife and I led a Cub Scout den and a Girl Scout troop about 25 years ago. We just didn’t tell anyone what we believed, or didn’t. I suspect we and our son and daughter would have been given the boot if the organizations knew. Too late! Nyah, Nyah! And our boys and girls did just fine. Non-believers are people with good morals and character, just like the rest of the world. We set good examples and never tried to impose our beliefs on our scouts.

  5. Time For Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts 2.0? « adafruit industries blog says:

    […] MAKE | Time For Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts 2.0?. Phil talks about some of the things we’ve been working on here at Adafruit towards the end of the article… This week’s column is going to be a journey into the past and then a leap to some possible futures. Since I started at MAKE, and later teamed up with Ladyada at Adafruit, I’ve always wondered what the future of education might be like, and what the future of traditional organizations for kids, like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, will be like in a very modern, tech-savy world (with more and more people living in cities). To me, social networks and the maker movement are the perfect intersection of where the kids of today are. But I don’t see “leaderboards” for skills yet, I only see them for video games. I don’t see kids adding skills they’ve earned to their social networking profiles, I mostly see check-ins, bands, movies, and status updates. While historic groups like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, for many, are sometimes associated with camping and selling cookies, I think there might be something new ahead: a peer-to-peer way of sharing and celebrating skills using the internet (think Khan Academy). I think the scouts will ultimately go this way too, becoming “Scouts 2.0″. […]

  6. Isabel says:

    Girl Scouts already have the capacity for each girl to create a badge of her own design.

    1. Phillip Torrone says:

      do you have any more info on this? i bet we can link to how a girl scout could make their own 3d printing badge, laser cutting, etc!

      1. Nicki says:

        The site for Make Your Own Badge goes live March 19th. Just saw that date published by GSUSA.

      2. Isabel says:

        Oh, they do not physically create the badge, but there is an online site where they define the requirements and then design the pattern for the badge. The badge itself is made and mailed to the girl.

      3. thebuffyproject says:

        I was just checking this out. It’s totally cool that the girls can design their own badge and i love that it gets made and mailed to them based on their design. However, there is a lot to be said for having outside recognition that this is a skill worth having. Learning self-determination is great, but the process of making it through adolescence is itself proof that the kid made it through that “badge.” A little validation can go a long way. Having official badges for these still somewhat unusual skills teaches girls that society thinks these are things that they can and even should learn to do. Even if they choose not to get these particular badges it still broadens their expectations of what girls can and should accomplish. That’s incredible stuff!

        So. How do I help out?

    2. Liz says:

      we made our own badges 10 years ago…Girl Scouts has always encouraged trailblazing!

  7. Adafruit’s online “skill” badge are now LIVE and in beta! « adafruit industries blog says:

    […] can read about it on CNET and Phil’s article at MAKE towards the end talks about some of our thinking behind this large project we’re pleased to […]

  8. Tandy Wilson says:

    Awesome! The Girl Scouts of Los Angeles actually had a robotics badge and we are working to get it back. We have several all-girl all Girl Scout First Robotics teams in California and I know they are springing up all over the country. I am a long time GS and a maker/artist. The new set of badge books just came out this last Fall, so while we gained some badges we also lost some that were great. The new make your own badge applies every year, i.e. the girl or troop can make a new one each year at each level, so that has lots of possibilities.
    It is interesting that I read your article this morning, after just finishing a survey with GS about how technology could be used in the future for all aspects of Girl Scouting.

    I love the ideas that you have come up with and I hope to pass them on!

  9. Brian D says:

    On a semi-contratrian note I think that adding tech based badges is a great idea (also badges that demand /celebrate creativity and risk taking(can we have a Robinsonesque Spectacular Failure badge?)) the idea of cyberfying scouting is a bad one. There are plenty of ways for kids to get virtual applause and peer to peer learning but Scouting has always encouraged real world doing and growth through encountering genuine challenges. Real life is about doing real stuff with people around you, some of whom you may not like. I am not against adding a virtual layer to the scouting experience, it would add richness and resources, but the core of what Scouts has to offer is interaction with the real world. Shop Class as Soul Craft is one of my favorite books.

    1. Phillip Torrone says:

      3d printing and laser cutting are very real, physical things – the online/digital versions could extend, enhance and magnify all skills earned. every kid has a cell phone and is on a social network, it’s crazy not to be part of that in some way and celebrate making things.

      plus, it’s the 21st century, every kid should learn linux, javascript and know how to use github :)

  10. Brian D says:

    On a more positive note I think every hackerspace in America should adopt a Scout troop by the end of March. Call your local council and get some contact numbers. Find out what tech badges are available and offer to have classes. Hold an open house. Hackerspaces are supposedly devoted to education and broadening the techy base. Let’s make an effort to justify that claim.

    1. Bill J. says:

      Brian D – Going one step further, makerspaces can act as the “Chartered Organization” for a scout Troop or Pack.

      Scouting is dedicated to growing good and vibrant citizens; in recent years, however, the scouts have become overwhelmingly chartered through religous organizations as schools, libraries, and others have raised exceptions to some of the BSA’s policies. In essence, a self-licking ice cream cone got going – as Packs and Troops looked for new community partners, it’s gotten harder to make the BSA more inclusive.

      Our Pack, for 50 years, had been sponsored by a PTO until about 5 years ago, when the PTO pulled sponsorship. We had been a very inclusive pack, with a mix of faiths and family situations reflecting the school we were in. In the past few years, our membership and diversity has decreased. Our church sponsor hasn’t put any new requirements on us; however, there are some families who haven’t joined due to not wanting to be associated with a congregation outside of their faith.

      While I am convinced that Scouting’s spiritual component is a vital part of raising well-rounded boys, I would love to see a resurgence of cross-denominational packs and troops, and I think that finding new civic organizations, such as makerspaces, with which to partner could be vital to expanding scouting’s reach.

  11. Caleb Robertson says:

    I see that you put a lot of work in to this but I am a Boy Scout and I feel this is not boy scout relevant it is suppoesed to teach kids about the outdoors and nature and being a good person not about technoligy (there is a robotics, engineering, energy, electrical, electronics and nulcear science merit badge though.) But I do very much so agree their should be a program that helps get kids supply to engineering at a young age like hacker space for kids. This I do not think would fit under the boy scouts but it is true their needs to be engineering clubs for kids (I actually have an enginnering class in middle school!)

  12. tonyv says:

    A large percentage of the girls participating in the Northern California First Lego League Robotics competition are girl scout teams. Indeed, the locally famous ‘Space Cookies’ are a Girl Scout based First team that has run the First Lego League competition at NASA-AMES for the last three years.

  13. Caleb Robertson says:

    Here is a list of all the merit badges i feel are scout related
    Automotive mechanics
    Composite materials
    Enviormental Science
    Graphic Arts
    Home repairs
    model design and building
    Nuclear Science
    space exploreation
    veteraniy medicine
    wood carving
    if you want to see the requirements click this
    (sorry for typos)

    1. Caleb Robertson says:

      Sorry for no clarification these are boy scout meritbadges

      1. Phillip Torrone says:

        great list! i’d like to see these for the girl scouts and also badges like 3d printing, laser cutting, soldering (engineering covers it, but soldering could be on its own). i’d also like to see the badges you listed below in a digital format so kids can add them to their social networking profiles… and of course, be on a leader board for skills earned.

  14. o4tuna says:

    I think this is a wonderful idea! It’d be very cool to have some facebook integration, so that a scout could display their badges right at the top of their page. Heck, I want some, too…

    1. Phillip Torrone says:

      bingo! with almost everyone on facebook, what a great way to show the skills you’ve earned “we are what we celebrate – dean kamen”.

      1. Isabel says:

        Most Girl Scout Councils do have Facebook pages and troops can upload photos of whatever they do – from camping to service projects to STEM events.

  15. Lee says:

    My daughter added the soldering badge to her Girl Scout sash just this weekend. Well timed article.

  16. Mike Walton (settummanque) says:

    This is great, but I think you’re forgetting the intent of the merit badge program as it applies to the Boy Scouts of America. Earning a merit badge is NOT “learning new skills” but rather being “exposed to a hobby, vocation or personal interest” while spending time with someone who has excelled or participated in that hobby or vocation. The Scout learns a little about the topic, either demonstrates their understanding or shares the experience with others (other Scouts, other members of the community, parents), and the counselor approves of his knowledge and understanding. No, the Scout doesn’t “purchase” the badge — he is AWARDED the badge at a Scouting ceremony upon local approval.

    So creating “digital merit badges” is no big deal — if a Scout wants to display the fact that he’s earned the Robotics merit badge, there’s nothing keeping him from displaying the merit badge as a graphic on any number of social networking sites. Will he do so? Only if he wants to be labeled a “geekazoid” or worse by his peers! We’re at least another 20 years or so before personal accomphishments are acceptable by YOUTH to be plastered all over the latest version of social media. We adults already “get it” and that’s why I’m saying that it’ll take a few more years before our young people will “get it too”.

    With regard to putting Boy and Girl Scouting together?? I don’t see it occuring any time soon, although both organizations have been in private discussions concerning sharing camping and other resources. You’ve correctly stated the case why the BSA has been declining in membership, but you’ve also failed to do a bit of homework. The BSA experienced a loss of membership shortly after World War I and again after Vietnam. In both cases, thanks to some creative ways to experience Scouting in our inner cities and rural areas; and thanks to some creative and engertic volunteers who pushed Boy Scouting in their states instead of just within their communities — the BSA jumped back up in membership (and financial support too).

    The BSA officially doesn’t have a “career awareness program”. Exploring, which used to offer such programs and was a profit center for the BSA in the 70 and 80s went away one night and emerged as two separate programs: Venturing, which is more outdoor and arts/sciences based and is a part of the current BSA “line up” for young adults; and Learning for Life/Exploring which is a separate school and community-based program which is NOT a part of the BSA “uniformed programs” but is a part of the BSA, Inc.’s support structure. That’s where you’ll find the fire, police, medical and law Explorers. No uniforms, no BSA awards, very little local and national support.

    Finally, Makers have a point: if we’re going to have young men and women interested in STEM-related programs and solutions, then we’ve better get on the stick and recommend to the BSA some topics for future merit badges. Robotics and Welding came from SCOUTS recommending those topics to the national organization, just like Orienteering and Space Exploration was recommended back in the 60s and 70s.

    (Oh….the Electronics, Electricity, and Home Repairs merit badges all have requirements or options to “soldering” an item. We’re not totally in the dark ages as some may feel or think!!)


  17. awilden says:

    I think these are some fantastic ideas, but the virtual aspects of the proposal also worry me. I was in BSA (Life) and a lot of the most important benefits from the program were relating to the personal interaction and leadership skills that go along with the different kinds of physical adventures. The life of a troop is tremendously social, and I think should stay that way. But it’s not hard to imagine if each troop’s storeroom of camping equipment, ropes, and first aid equipment were replaced with parts and tools so that the troop meetings were much more akin to NYCResistor. In that way you get all the personal interaction goodness at the same time the kids are acquiring the technological skills for the next century…

  18. Marina says:

    Ack! I hope Make doesn’t get in bed with Boy Scouts. Boyscouts actively excludes people based on religion, lack of religion, sexual orientation, and even for merely supporting those excluded. They have also had their share of abuse scandals.

    We were sorry to decide to miss out on the positives of BSA due to their negatives but happy to find so many alternatives. Maker Faire being one of our alternate activities.

    1. thebuffyproject says:

      The only negative to Maker Faire is that it occurs infrequently, and some areas do not have access to groups such NYCResistor. Furthermore, if they do have groups, they are perhaps not kid-friendly enough. The scouts offer a cool combination of skills and social learning however they are not inclusive enough of others. Perhaps it’s time for an alternative.

  19. Andrea Cordonier says:

    Note: Three of our four children take part in the Scouting movement.

    The ideas presented show creativity and merit, but I don’t think the key to rejuvenating the Scouting movement is the offer of more/different badges. The success of the organization lies with the enthusiasm, passion, and organizational skills of the leaders. A troop is only possible if there continues to be willing volunteers who commit their time to extend the underlying values of Scouting.

    Perhaps the answer is rotational leadership, where parents (or friends) share their passions for building, the outdoors, engineering, making, arts, volunteerism, etc. once or twice a year, instead of relying on a few leaders to sustain a certain level of creative intensity week after week. I know my boys would love the addition of Maker activities.

    Here’s to subject diversity and the commitment of more passionate volunteers!

  20. Scouts 2.0, éducation 2.0, réseaux sociaux et jeux vidéos says:

    […] « Time for girl-scouts and boy scouts 2.0« , écrit par Phillip Torrone, effectue d’abord un résumé de l’histoire scout […]

  21. Dan Lyke says:

    My wife and I run a program to do crafts and build stuff with low-income families (mostly kids, we don’t get as much parental participation as we’d like), and when we went looking for a larger organization and structure to get the kids involved in, we settled on 4H.

    4H isn’t gender specific, lacks a lot of the religious baggage and bigotry of the Boy Scouts (I was one, mumbledy decades ago), encourages kids to customize and build their own projects, and already has project track curriculum for several different “robotics” sorts of things. I’m about to lead a “Junk Drawer Robotics” project near Sebastopol, the curriculum I’ll be drawing from not only encourages a whole lot of freedom in how I go about this, but also encourages a more “engineering” framework, with communication of designs and ideas between groups. More than just fabrication, but still with a healthy dose of that.

    And there’s also a very strong entrepreneurial structure at the core of 4H: Teaching kids to think about that is why the organization started.

    For “our” kids, we think 4H provides an excellent mix in with families who have the sorts of skills and attitudes that they need to learn, enough structure and support to help us to do really cool stuff, but a whole lot of freedom so that if we want to do “Junk Drawer Robotics and blowing shit up”, well… yeah, that “boom” y’all year out at O’Reilly headquarters may be coming from a field off Blank Rd…

    1. thebuffyproject says:

      I’m developing something similar on the EC for the same population. Do you have any stories, lesson plans, advice? It’s really exciting to hear there are people working in the same direction!

      1. Dan Lyke says:

        thebuffyproject: The 4H Junk Drawer Robotics curriculum is nicely laid out, 3 6 hour “projects” laid out in 2 hour chunks, with a strong emphasis on communication and collaboration. Drop me an email, or Google me and pick another contact method, and let’s exchange ideas!

  22. Travis says:

    I agree that there is room for modern merit badges but I disagree with the idea of sharing them through social media, creating leader boards, etc. When I was a Scout, earning a badge and getting to sew it onto my sash was a moment of quiet pride. I didn’t feel a need to run around to my friends and tell them that I had gained a new little circle. That wasn’t the point. I had learned something, experienced something. The badges were for me. I could run my fingers over their embroidery and feel proud of the work I had done. My friends and I rarely wore our sashes; in fact, it was quite embarrassing when someone wore it all the time. I think it would be a shame to associate this with modern society’s desire for constant peer approval.

    I also think that the more “old school” merit badges seem more relevant than ever. For instance, the wilderness survival badge requires, among other things, you to build a shelter and sleep in it for a night. If you slacked off and did a terrible job building your shelter, you had a terrible night. It’s a wonderfully tangible way to learn a lesson in self-reliance and really has not much to do with the fact that you’re camping. Further, Scouting has always encouraged young people to get out into nature. It promotes the “leave no trace” philosophy and respect for the environment. Backpacking for miles into the wilderness should never be replaced by sitting in front of a screen.

    Also, don’t think that Scouting 2.0 addresses the issues currently faced by the BSA (I can’t speak too much to the Girl Scouts). The BSA needs to address its relation with the gay community. Its current stance hurts the organization and turns off many parents. Sadly, I don’t think that much can be done about abuse. The BSA should be more vigilant about this but it is already a fairly careful organization when it comes to child safety (unfortunately, this cautiousness is reflected in a misguided way towards its stance on gay scoutmasters). Scouting has been fairly open in its views about religion, with one caveat, you can’t be atheist (you can even be “spiritual” in an unaffiliated way). I think this stance also turns off some parents and could perhaps be rectified by allowing for a philosophy/ethics studiousness in place of religious adherence. I don’t believe that the BSA should compromise more than that. Scouting is indeed about something and I think its promotion of meaningful, ethical behavior is central (is this perhaps unfair to nihilists?).

    I hope that this doesn’t sound too Luddite (I actually work in scientific computing). I’m not against encouraging scouts to get interested in technology. It’s just that I don’t think it should be the focus of scouts. Scouting kind of has its own thing going. Quite often it’s about being in nature, physical skill (there are many sporting and crafting merit badges), and learning to be a leader. I think that its current gamut of activities teaches young people quite well. As someone mentioned above, the badges aren’t quite about skill acquisition as much as they are about experience. Even when I did scouts (before the advent of the internet) some of the activities seemed quaint. Leather working. Wood carving. Archery. People didn’t do these things anymore. We had Nintendo. But that’s what was great about it. Something about those activities felt real and — I’ll use the word again — tangible. I’ll leave with this. If you asked most people who joined scouts what had attracted them to it, they’d probably say they just wanted to go camping.

  23. jarick says:

    After reading this article and many of the posts associated with it I decided the best thing I could do was get the ball rolling to see if there is genuine interest. I just threw this together quick but hopefully it can serve as a starting point for something great.

    1. thebuffyproject says:

      Jarick – Went there, saw it, love it. You weren’t kidding about just putting it up there! It’s spankin’ clean and empty of posts. I sent you an email, though and am very excited about working on this idea. It rocketh hard. Feel free to contact me about pushing this work forward.

    2. T. Janczewski says:

      I like the idea. However, rather than simply replace existing scouting with a brand new curriculum and ranks, etc, I rather see something more befitting of the maker ethos. Get rid of “ranks” and age requirements, etc.

      New Scouts should take its inspiration more from Wikipedia or Instructables than from traditional scouting. Everyone gets to create and share and the curricula is constantly evolving. If you think there should be a merit badge for digital sound editing, or for growing bacteria cultures, create it and share it. If you think there should be a merit badge for cutting yourself and not crying when you work on a project, create it and share it.

      The idea of a hierarchical and bureaucratic organization seems antiquated to me. New scouting must be decentralized, open source, and dynamic.

  24. Chad says:

    I just wanted to put my two cents in by saying I think this is a great idea, but that I do not think current Scouting activities and Scouting 2.0 should be mutually exclusive. I grew up very active in Scouting and when I look back at everything I learned and participated in, it’s like watching an Xterra commercial. Rappelling, kayaking, camping, sailing, ziplines, bonfires, knives, knots, mapmaking, it was a blast. Incorporating those kinds of activities with these tech-focused ideas would probably serve to create a well-rounded set of experiences for kids to have.

    I also think it would be unwise to teach kids to rely on a specific service, such as GitHub. As good as it is, it might not be around forever. Teaching people how to get their own subversion server running might be preferable in my eyes (then again, they’d be just as dependent on subversion’s existence, but you know what I mean)

    Again, I want to say I think this is a great idea and I would have loved to see these kinds of merit badges when I was in Scouting. Heck, reading it now makes me wish for a kind of Adult Scouting 2.0 where I could learn how to CNC and program an Arduino board and make a mobile app myself!

  25. Life Scout says:

    Silly me, I thought Scouts was about building character and becoming responsable not trophy hunting for merit badges.

    1. uxjam says:

      It definitely is—which is why we need something for kids who are otherwise being brought up by video games these days. Merit badges are just a mechanism, part of a structure that enables a relatively consistent, comprehensive, high-quality experience for kids across the country. Any Scouts 2.0 effort, whether it happens as part of an existing organization or as a new entity, must have a strong foundation of values upon which to build good 21st century citizens.

      I had an idea along these lines a few months ago and threw it over to some of my friends in CS education. Sounds like a lot of different people are tackling it from different angles, and I hope there’s something great in place to get involved with by the time I have kids. Love the idea of doing both digital and maker skills. Agree with Travis a few comments up on the importance of tangibility, though I think being able to display digital badges could be an enhancement that would both appeal to the Facebook generation, and help boost the visibility of this sort of organization. It’s just a matter of ensuring that the meaning isn’t lost with the digitization. Also agree with many folks on the importance of face-to-face interaction. Kids have to build BOTH face-to-face and digital social skills these days.

  26. Ryan Miller says:

    As an Eagle Scout, let me just say that this is really dumb. Soldering is naturally part of the electronics merit badge, which I earned. Lasercutting or 3D printing could be used to build components in any number of badges. You can easily fulfill the requirements of the computer badge with Linux (and would counselors really be available nationwide for these things?). Budgets, credit, and all that are all included under the personal management badge, which is required for Eagle. The reason girlscouts have badges for all of these things is that their badges are much more compact and easy to earn than boyscout badges (e.g. in horsemanship, which I know about since my instructor taught both girls and boys, the boyscout version requires about 3x the hours and skills). That’s not to knock girlscouts–they may earn a lot more badges for all I know.

    Sure, the proliferation of demands on student and parent time is hurting scouting numbers, but that’s no reason to give up on outdoorsmanship, the most popular set of scout activities and where they have a competitive edge. Scouting has already tried giving into the fads, as with their “varsity teams” effort starting in the 1970s youth sports craze, and it’s been a big flop.

  27. Laurie A. Couture says:

    These scouting organizations seem to be another weapon to disparage boys. While the Girl Scouts pushes messages of empowering girls, the Boy Scouts say nothing about empowering boys, but disciplining boys. Boy Scouts tend to minimize the boy in Boy Scouts and even have some co-ed programs. Not to mention the rampant sexual abuse of boys…

  28. ITTO: Young Scouts Now Earn Badges in Robotics, Biohacking says:

    […] the Girl Scouts want to use the company's badge program to "modern-up" their merit badge offerings, they would work with the organization to make that happen.While Adafruit's private, beta-level badges aren't currently affiliated with a scouting […]

  29. Deek- Relaxshacks says:

    Very interesting, and thorough article- I’m actually an Eagle Scout, so I was scout involved for a looong time (and loved it- some amazing trips, campouts, skills acquired, etc). Its true though, it seems “sitting at home and eating lunchables in front of video games” is today’s chosen after school activity. They’ve even lessened the Eagle requirements since the days when I was involved, and made it easier to achieve certain ranks. Still, its sad that interest is waning, as I’d recommend joining to anyone.

  30. Paul Rawlins says:

    I like how this article has raised awareness of Scouting. However, there is some misunderstanding/misinformation. My name is Paul Rawlins from the Verdugo Hills Council in Glendale CA. I’m a Scout Leader with Crew 382, I’m a fully trained Scoutmaster, register with the Boy Scouts of America. Merit badges aren’t JUST for collecting and showing off, there part of the learning process and character development. I’ve seen a scout not earn any rank advancement/merit badges, but was there because it was fun. Truly, the reason I do Scouting is because its fun, plain and simple. I do like the suggestions for merit badges, I myself make many things and do read this blog among others. I wouldn’t complain about not having bio-hacking, 3d printing badges and etc… on this site. I would talk to the Boy Scouts of America and try to work with them, to get bio-hacking, soldering, 3d printing and etc., as actual merit badges. They are always open to new Ideas, I would love to see these skills in my Scouts. There is technology in Scouting already to name a few, with geocaching, electronics, and computers. I will say that we use technology, but not in a electronic way. Some might say that using a compass for navigation is obsolete and just use a GPS.I use both. I will say that a compass brings the user, to be more aware of the surroundings and reduces the chances of getting lost. Its the small things, with that little extra knowledge can make a difference. Along with computers, controller boards, all kind of printers and projects. Knowledge is power, I believe that Scouting does give that power out to learn and to grow, to be better individuals. I hope that some of these get turned in to merit badges. I really do , it would be really something.

  31. markrva (@markrva) says:

    I think you’ve missed the basic purpose of scouting. It was created in England, then in the USA when Badin Powell was shocked to see how city-raised kids had no skills for survival or independence. Basic skills in feeding, clothing and sheltering are still essential so that we can all “be prepared” for emergencies or crisis. If we learned anything in our post 9-11 world it’s that our creature comforts can be taken from us.
    Once the foundation is laid, sure, you can add interesting badges and skills about everyday life in the digital age. Plus, we don’t want to drift into training for trades or jobs, that’s not appropriate in this context.
    So…how about badges for conflict resolution, first-responder skills (one step beyond first-aid), barter and trade, or sustainable farming?

    1. buffyproject says:

      That’s exactly what part of what we’re going to be teaching as some of the individual skills. Plus, these things help kids realize they have value, that they can be responsible. The skills are evidence of their transition into the adult world.

  32. Hacker Scouts FTW! « Burning Gnome says:

    […] Phillip Torrone wrote an excellent post on the history of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, pondering whether it wasn’t time for a new […]

  33. T. Janczewski says:

    This is very timely (and a little creepy). My wife and I were just talking about this exact topic last weekend. Our thoughts (which is were I think you are going with this) were that there should be an “open source” scouting (or wiki-scouting).

    First and foremost, it would inclusive to all. Each scout could design their own badge and the requirements for earning the badge. There could be hundreds or thousands of badges. It would definitely be integrated into social media. (Hey, if you design a badge, you are going to want to watch youtube videos of scouts earning your badge.) The organization would be more grassroots and decentralized as opposed to hierarchical (like existing scouting).

    We like the idea of some sort of pledge (a set of guiding principles and ideals) but the pledge would be to be curious, be skeptical, and to adhere to the scientific method, etc.

    1. Scott Grimmwise (@muskox) says:

      Buckminster Fuller would probably agree that the maker ethos is about what you do, not what you get. Accomplishments are self-evident. A “badge” is a symbolic manifestation of a self-evident accomplishment system.

      Consider replacing the emphasis on “badges” with “projects”, and replace “scout” with “young person” to keep the identity label fluid:

      “Each young person could design their own project and the requirements for working on or completing the project. There could be hundreds or thousands of projects. It would definitely be integrated into social media. (Hey, if you design a project, you are going to want to watch youtube videos of people working on your project.)”

      Louis Braille

      Louis Braille worked on designing his system between the ages of 12-15. We see his work on millions of elevators 200 years in the future! Okay, it’s the Louis Braille badge—design a new way to communicate. If it’s really good, you’ll be known for it. Design your own badge system.

      Kids should be given challenges like:

      a) Design and make something ten times deeper (or wider or smaller) than Wikipedia
      b) Design something better than a search engine
      c) Design stuff using technology we assume will be around in 20 years —anticipatory, emergent design.

      And why aren’t 10 year olds designing their own schools at this point? Khan’s Academy-esque modules mixed with social media like pinterest and tumblr, sent by text messages written in your own emoji. Stuff young people 10 years from now will be able to use. (Why shouldn’t 10 year olds design stuff for their 20 year old selves?)

  34. buzzkil11 says:

    Boy scouts already includes many “maker” level badges. There is metal working, woodworking, home repair, automotive repair, electronics, electricity, robotics, and welding is new this year, as well as others. Boy scouts in particular is about self reliance and doing and making things yourself and in teams. Girl scouts on the other hand (At least around here) has become irrrelevant. I have been extremely dissapointed with my daughter’s girl scout experience. I see the mom’s using it as social hour and not constructive daughter interaction time. It is all about the cookies (We purchased NONE this year).

    I am a huge maker fan and I love the maker merit badges that you have designed. Although not officially recognized I will still be incorporating them into my scout experience. My webelos have all soldered their robot LED pins and wear them proudly.

    Like any organization, BSA at the national level has an agenda. As a long time scouter I certainly have my own frustrations with how things are run at the top. But when you look at the core values of scouting it is hard to argue with the benefits those values are to any young man. Read the scout oath and scout law some time. Don’t get lost in the semantics of the organization. I would not trade the quality time in scouting with my sons for anything. And that is the real pay off.

  35. kristitraynor says:

    I’m a GS Troop Leader. I’ve been looking for people willing to teach my troop real skills..soldering, electronics, robotics…you name it. I haven’t had much luck. I’d love to have access to training material for me, the troop leader, so that I can pass it onto my girls. The troop leader course needs to be clear, & concise–convenient. Many of us are employed full-time and learning skills is difficult to squeeze into already tight schedules. An on-line database of skill trainers willing to work with troops would be highly indispensable. Tools and space have been another barrier to us breaking into the Maker realm. If there are local resources available (Longmont, CO) I am not aware of them.

  36. N. says:

    It seems to me that the “Scouts 2.0” designer/author doesn’t understand “Scouts 1.0” enough to be able to “fix it.” The author’s information is *very* superficial about what the program actually *is* and *does*.

    How’s this for an idea: have your local [soldering club/maker lab/school PTO/homeschool co-op] become the chartering organization for a scout troop (play an active roll in the troop committee or troop adult leadership); or just volunteer to be an adult leader in a currently existing troop.

    You’ll not only learn more about the purposes, aims, and methods of scouting, you’ll be the change you want to see in the world. *Then* I’m interested in seeing an article about how it can be improved.

  37. Marcel Chevilet Spokane Wasbhingtion USA says:

    Musings of things great and small and The Boy Scouts

    The above is offered in the true spirit of scouting and hoping the well intended but misguided will allow Boy Scouts of America to go about it’s business as a private organization while many of us encourage others to invent their own wheel for the benefit of all….
    the mean time Y’all know what to do

    Just take some lads to the forests fields and streams
    Toss them any old handbook and go cadge your dinner
    When they come for whatever
    Give them enough to scamper of to test those stalwarts Earth Wind Fire and Water
    and sit back and watch the thrills of victory and the agonies of da-feet

    done over and over soon you will be returning with Scouts who see your old problems with their new eyes and their will be hope.

    all scouting is local


  38. Marcel Chevilet Spokane Wasbhingtion USA says:

    Standardisation of Badges

    IN view of a very elaborate curriculum that was recently drawn up by one authority for standardising the tests for badges, I was obliged to criticise it in this sense:

    “I hope that the compilers are not losing sight of the aim and spirit of the Movement by making it into a training school of efficiency through curricula, marks, and standards.

    “Our aim is merely to help the boys, especially the least scholarly ones, to become personally enthused in subjects that appeal to them individually, and that will be helpful to them.

    “We do this through the fun and jollity of Scouting; by progressive stages they can then be led on, naturally and unconsciously, to develop for themselves their knowledge.

    “But if once we make it into a formal scheme of serious instruction for efficiency, we miss the whole point and value of the Scout training, and we trench on the work of the schools without the trained experts for carrying it out.

    “We have to remember that the Scoutmasters are voluntary play leaders in the game of Scouting, and not qualified school teachers, and that to give them a hard-and-fast syllabus is to check their ardour and their originality in dealing with their boys according to local conditions.

    “I could quite imagine it frightening away many Scoutmasters of the right sort.

    “The syllabus as suggested seems to go a good deal beyond what is prescribed as our dose in Scouting for Boys; and if the proportions of the ingredients given in a prescription are not adhered to you cannot well blame the doctor if the medicine doesn’t work.

    “Our standard for badge earning — as I have frequently said — is not the attainment of a certain level of quality of work (as in the school), but the AMOUNT OF EFFORT EXERCISED BY THE INDIVIDUAL CANDIDATE. This brings the most hopeless case on to a footing of equal possibility with his more brilliant or better-off brother.

    “We want to get them ALL along through cheery self-development from within and not through the imposition of formal instruction from without.”

    November, 1921

  39. A scouting movement for the web « commonspace says:

    […] Phillip Toronne wrote a piece in Make Magazine on Scouting 2.0. Some good and related thoughts in there. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  40. Mariano Tusing says:

    Vielen Dank fuer den Post. Echt gekonnt geschrieben.

    1. Isabel says:

      Here is an example of Girl Scouts exploring online alternatives to doing badges,etc. This is in addition to the many STEM projects that are going on across the country.
      One excerpt from above:
      Crain’s: Why did the Girls Scouts-Motorola Mobility Foundation partnership appeal to you?

      KC: It really stood out because Girl Scouts has a 100-year history with badges — real-life badges that they sew onto their sashes. They also have all this amazing content they’ve developed to teach girls.

      What they are looking to do now is bring that badge system into the digital age. They’re asking, ‘How do you make digital Girl Scout badges and place them into a system that not only teaches the girls how to do things, but then can also assess their performance and then award them the badge if they perform well and finish all their drills and skills and challenges and journeys?’

      Read more:
      Stay on top of Chicago business with our free daily e-newsletters

  41. Mike Neary says:

    Phil, I’m not sure your notion that scouts need to ‘go 2.0’ is valid. I recall reading in Boys Life ( BSA’s magazine ) that they ran plans for a robot back in 1959, and offered reprints well into the ’70s ( when I wore the uniform ), if not later. It seems to me that they’re currently around 2.6.35 or thereabouts.
    And as to those who decry their (BSA’s) value system, I encourage them to look up the word “tolerate.”

    1. davidcdean says:

      It might sound nit-picky, but in Scouting the badges are usually much broader than “soldering”. In that case, it’d be some small part of your Electronics badge. And those badges are supposed to mean something. That’s why you get ok’d first, go through the book for a badge, do all the lists of requirements, and finally do a formal review. Some are more involved than others, and there have always been people and places that do anything-and-everything to expediate those processes, but those are generally frowned upon.

      But part of all that is that you don’t check a list yourself and email it in with $4.95 to get something you sew on a backpack. You’re supposed to be supervised and mentored by people that know something about what you’re working on. You’re supposed to demonstrate that you’ve participated appropriately in a meaningful introduction to a subject. It’s not Foursquare gamification… you’ve got to earn something for it to have any value.

      And more important than all that, let’s remember that Scouting isn’t as much about learning to work an axe or save a drowning swimmer as it’s a series of character building exercises meant to help develop bright, decent, capable young adults that appreciate the people around them and are genuinely interested in a great big world full of opportunities and adventures. That might be 1.0 stuff, but I’d say it’s a core feature worth mainting backward-compatibility with.

      – Old Eagle Scout

  42. ITTO: Young Scouts Now Earn Badges in Robotics, Biohacking | Mobiledia says:

    […] the Girl Scouts want to use the company's badge program to "modern-up" their merit badge offerings, they would work with the organization to make that happen.While Adafruit's private, beta-level badges aren't currently affiliated with a scouting […]

  43. MAKE | Hacker Scouts: Open Lab @ Ace Monster Toys says:

    […] Time For Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts 2.0? Share this: Pin ItLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  44. Kevin says:

    You completely sidestepped the MANY social issues that the BSA has. My old troop leader was a bully who talked s**t about non Christians and homosexuals CONSTANTLY. The BSA also does not allow for gay or non-monotheistic members officially.

    Screw fixing that group, start from scratch.

  45. Hacker Scouts: Open Lab @ Ace Monster Toys says:

    […] Time For Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts 2.0? […]

  46. Derek Tombrello says:

    I think it’s a great idea! We need to stop teaching our children outmoded morals such as being trustworthy, honest and loyal. We need to quit teaching our children how to survive in nature without the benefit of modern technology. That way, in the future after all of these old-fashioned, antiquated ideas have died out with their obsolete human carriers, WHEN technology fails, and it will, even if only temporarily, there will be no one left who knows WHAT to do. As much of a geek as I am, I am still intelligent enough to realize that this world has become MUCH too dependent on technology. If the Boy Scouts are “upgraded” to replace basic survival skills with technological conveniences, that will be the final nail in the coffin of humanity – even if the effects aren’t seen for 50 to 100 years or more. Feel free to criticize me all you want.

  47. MeanPC (@MeanPC) says:

    Has anyone developed any curriculums for an electronics or robotics badge that they could share? My wife is a first time troop leader this year and she asked me about doing something electronics-related. They are 5th grade girls, so soldering would probably be out. I’ll bet GSUSA would love to listen to Limor’s input, and would probably even let her write up badge requirements/lesson plans.

    1. Isabel Danforth says:

      She should talk with people at her council. Councils have all sorts of STEM type activities going on. Perhaps she could work with some of the folks there and develop a new program within the council. If she does that, it can be publicized outside of the council also.


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  50. Tara Lenga says:

    I am about ready to begin our own Hacker Scouts in our area. Have found a few online resources and a volunteer scout leader. Any advice?

    1. Isabel says:

      As far as Girl Scouts go, most councils have what they call ‘series’. We run several in our area for Girls interested in Dogs, Marine Biology, and Animee. Leaders do have to become registered Girl Scouts, get background checks, and basic leadership training, but a group can have any flavor of theme.

      So, check out that way to get started. The above ‘paperwork’ does provide program resources, insurance, etc to support you.

    2. Isabel Danforth says:

      Girl Scouts use online access for girls to put in email addresses for the Fall Product Campaign.

      Most councils use facebook and encourage troops and girls to posts their accomplishments there. The council may also post information about girls and troops who have done projects, earned awards, etc.

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  56. Lucy says:

    I really don’t like this idea. i get the whole “Tec is moving on and camping is being left behind” sort of concept, but no. Scouts represent nature. Scouts go out to help preserve the natural landscape and this is a really erotic idea. Also, being an Girl Scout in high school, I have completed my Silver and Bronze awards, and am working on my Gold, which is equal to the Eagle Scout award. I see that you talked about all the great community projects boys do, but girls? All that I see is a person praising us for cookie and cookie products we don’t even make! You are thanking a middle aged man in a bakery or a machine house. Yes, we do sell cookies. Yes, we know that they are popular. But why do we sell cookies? To get us places. To get our ideas heard. Many girls use their cash they earn from cookies to not buy a new computer, but to go to camp. Yes, outdoors. Away from social media. Also, girl’s use this money to get their Bronze, Silver, and Gold Award projects done. What I feel you’re saying is that I as a Girl Scout should post on Facebook that I’ve sold this amount of cookies. No, I think they should put what they have earned and accomplished and not what they sold that another made.

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