Scouts BSA Merit Badge: Using Google Classrooms for Virtual Merit Badges

This crazy coronavirus has certainly changed the world we live in. All of us are adapting the way we shop, the way we socialize, and the way we parent. We’re grappling with an overwhelming amount of information and the politicization of every decision we make, most of the time struggling to determine the lesser of two evils and feeling judged no matter where we land.

Scouter friends and parents, please know that every last one of us is doing our best to navigate absolutely uncharted waters. How about we make a deal right now to support each other in the decisions we have to make as opposed to chiding our friends and neighbors. Being helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, and cheerful is literally part of the law we swear to abide by as Scouts. Don’t ever forget that!

We can debate the cons of this horrible virus all the live-long day… in fact, most of us do and that’s alright. But why don’t we take a moment to look at some of the great opportunities that have been gifted to us as we grow through this difficult time.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”

– Plato

Plato said it best. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” If you consider the many wonderful things that have come from our new normal, you’ll start to feel a little overwhelmed with pride. Human beings are coming together and sharing generously in their expertise, time, and talents in ways that we hadn’t thought of until now. We are harnessing the power of technology that we’ve really only been using to share meme’s and research the symptoms of our imaginary illnesses.

I couldn’t help it. I’m human.

Teachers – real life super heroes – are developing an entirely brand new way of educating our children at the drop of a hat. Museums have opened access to their collections, allowing families to see exhibits from around the world. NASA is providing virtual tours and educational materials. World class learning resources are being shared for public use at absolutely no cost. Musicians are hosting concerts online to keep spirits up. Communities are collecting hand sanitizers, paper towels, toilet paper, and food items for the at-risk in their neighborhoods. Streaming platforms are changing the way we watch movies and keep ourselves entertained. Grocery stores are delivering. Don’t even get me started on mother nature springing to life in ways I certainly never thought I’d ever see.

Scouting is absolutely not exempt from the benefits of all these changes. We have so much available to us now that we can safely share with our Scouts and their families, and with the help of platforms like Skype and Zoom, many of us haven’t so much as skipped a beat or stepped foot off the advancement trail. Historically, Scouts embrace difficulty and find ways to move adversity out of their way. They know how to BE PREPARED, and where none of us saw any of this coming, they were somehow still ready.

So how do we continue to leverage these awesome opportunities to our advantage? We embrace it with open arms, realize its value and potential, and put some time into making it work for us.

As a merit badge counselor, I’ve been concerned about how the Scouts in my charge would continue to earn badges in this time of social distancing. What I’ve learned from my own children and their Scout peers is that they are absolutely flourishing in the virtual environment, and with the encouragement of their parents and leadership team, the sky is truly the limit. I was pointed to a Virtual Merit Badge Classes Facebook Group (please do a search so you can join properly) that shares a bajillion great ideas on offering virtual merit badges. Many of the counselors on the group are using Google Classrooms to guide Scouts either in a format with scheduled meetings or self-guided at the Scouts pace. By developing and offering up a merit badge through Google Classrooms, you are providing the opportunity to learn and earn to a greater number of deserving Scouts. Who knows what phases we’ll be in over the coming months – this is one way to keep Scouting alive in a virtual world.

Developed with educators across the country, Google Classrooms is free, meets high security standards, provides simple organization, and is easy for everyone to use (including you).

Sample of Pets Merit Badge BSA Google Classroom

I’ve developed a Sample of Pets Merit Badge BSA in Google Classroom and a Sample of Art Merit Badge BSA in Google Classroom (these are exact copies of my working copies of my Pets and Art Merit Badge BSA Classrooms). Click the + symbol in the upper right hand corner to select “Join Class” and use code hljr4jk for Pets and cujkd5w for Art. Feel free to poke around to see how they work, but please don’t submit work through this sample Classrooms.

  • the Stream tab is essentially a log of the activity in the Classroom
  • the Classwork tab has all of the requirements organized with supporting materials attached as downloadable files
  • the Class Drive folder houses all of your classroom materials, like copies of the merit badge requirements, workbook, and logs

Creating your Google Classroom

  1. To start, click the + symbol in the upper right-hand corner of the Google Classroom homepage, and select “Create Class”. Read and acknowledge the notice regarding use of Google Classroom with G Suit for Education (this doesn’t apply to us) and click Continue.
  2. Create your class details. I chose to name my classrooms with the merit badge name and Scouts BSA. For instance, Pets Merit Badge Scouts BSA. For subject, I use “Merit Badge”. Click Create.
  3. Once your classroom has been created, you’ll notice that Google assigns your classroom a code in the top left corner of your header image. You will share that code with Scouts who choose to utilize your merit badge classroom.
  4. You are by default taken to the Stream tab when you first enter a Google classroom. To start creating requirements, you will click the Classwork tab.
  5. To create your first requirement, click the blue +Create button at the top and choose Assignment. Use the requirement number for your title (Requirement 1), then add the requirement details to the instructions. On the right-hand side of your screen, click on the points drop down and choose ungraded. Under topic, click create topic and create a new topic called Requirements.
  6. You’ll return to your Classwork tab. Repeat this process for all of your requirements, choosing the Requirements topic you created in step 5 as you go.
  7. To create a notice about blue cards, click the blue +Create button at the top and choose Assignment. Use Blue Cards or something similar for the title and add details to your instructions. Again, choose ungraded, but this time you’ll create a new topic entitled Getting Started (or something similar).
  8. These sections and assignments are organized as most-recent at the top. You can, however, drag an entire block of assignments by clicking on their topic title (like “Getting Started”) and drag the block where you’d like for it to go.
  9. Now click on the link for your Class Drive folder. Create a folder for Requirements and Workbooks and move copies of those files from your own PC to your new Class Drive folder. You can drag and drop these files.
  10. If you have supporting documentation, like PPT templates or logs that you’ve created, you can back out of your Requirements and Workbooks folder and drop those items in your main Class Drive folder.
  11. Once you have supporting documentation dropped into your Class Drive folder, you can go one step further and link it to a specific requirement. Return to your classroom’s Classwork tab and edit a specific requirement. Click the Add button with the paperclip icon and link to the appropriate file in your Class Drive folder.
  12. You’re all set! As Scouts work on their merit badge and drop files in your Class Drive folder, you’ll receive alerts and can review what’s been submitted for completion.

What About Blue Cards?

Where all units require that Scouts have merit badge participation approved before they begin seeking out a counselor, some may even require that they have a physical blue card completed by adult leadership as well.

In the case that your Scout has a unit-provided physical blue card, encourage them to mail it to you for your completion. Send it back to them as quickly as possible!

In the case that your Scout needs for you to provide a physical blue card, you can find several fillable and printable PDF templates online. I like this one from the website.

If you have a ScoutBook account and have updated your Positions to include Merit Badge Counselor, you can be added as a Connection to participating Scouts, manage their Merit Badge progress and issue a blue card.

Classroom Syllabus and Youth Protection

Because some Scouts might opt to use this Classroom as a self-guided and self-paced merit badge opportunity, I like to create a syllabus that outlines how the classroom works, how “assignments” should be submitted, and how to contact me. A copy of my Pets Merit Badge – Google Classroom Syllabus can be found in my Sample of Pets Merit Badge BSA classroom Class Drive folder (linked above).

If you create a Google Classroom, you must ALWAYS keep Youth Protection in the forefront of your mind at all times. Ensure that your training is completed and up-to-date, ensure that parents are present in all virtual meetings, and always include an adult in all correspondence with the Scout. Read my post, Scouting Tech: Youth Protection in a Virtual World for lots of great information and resources to keep you and your Scouts safe!

Deleting a Google Classroom

You can delete a Google Classroom on the Google Classroom homepage. Click on the three horizontal dots and select Archive. Then, click on the three horizontal lines at the top of your screen and select Archived Classes. Locate the class you want to delete, click on the three horizontal dots and select Delete. This cannot be undone – the Classroom and associated Class Drive folder have been removed.

Look Wider Still

We are absolutely living in a time where virtual Scouting is paramount for keeping Scouts interested and on the advancement trail. Offering to share your merit badge counseling experience with a wider group of youth can be what keeps them from quitting the program.

What do you think about virtual merit badge counseling? What other programs do you use? Have you tried Google Classrooms? What would you add to this post?

Yours in Scouting,

Other Posts that Might Be Helpful

Scouting Tech: Youth Protection in a Virtual World It seems to me that social distancing has brought the world closer than ever, from apartment complexes in Italy and China singing in concert, to authors performing Facebook Live readings for the masses, singers and songwriters performing free concerts from home, artists sharing tutorials so we can release our collective creativity, educators hosting live classes and providing our students with more materials than could ever be imagined so they can stay on track, and anyone with a sewing machine making face masks to share with medical professionals on the front line all over the world. Human beings are just the coolest! We really get things done! Above all, Scouts never give up! Despite the space between us, we still find ways to come together. Incredibly, we live in a time where programs that connect us are readily available and, most of the time, free to use.

Scouting Tech: Online Conferencing Tools for Virtual Meetings We’re navigating some seriously uncharted territory right now, trying to find ways to maintain some normalcy and keep the kids from physically turning into the Fortnite character they’re obsessively playing. It’s been pleasantly surprising to witness the outpouring of knowledge and generosity in the last week; the sharing of wisdom and resources is truly inspiring. Guys! We’ve got this! I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking up ways to keep my Scouts on track. My den of AOLs was expecting to bridge in April, and I’m hopeful we still can, but not meeting in person has put a huge damper on the last of our den plans. I had all these great ideas – a fireside program, s’mores, reminiscing on the years we’ve spent together, encouraging them to be brave as they take the big leap into a boy-led Troop.

Scouting Tech: Free Cub Scout and Scouts BSA Backgrounds for Virtual Meetings If you’re looking to switch things up in your next Zoom meeting, and hide the piles of Scout Stuff stacked up in your room, consider virtual backgrounds. I’m sure you’ve had Scouts floating in space or enjoying a tropical vacation in recent meetings, and maybe you’ve wondered how. If you’re able to use the virtual backgrounds without a green screen, or used your Scout Skills to make one for your next meeting, you’ll need to find some cool backgrounds. There are TONS of freebies out there, but I thought I’d take some time to create Cub Scout and Scouts BSA -specific images that are free to use.

Published by Look Wider Still

Rebekah is the mother of two wonderful sons, Michael and Nate. She and her husband, Mike, married in 2002 and have built their family on a foundation of adventure. Between geocaching, camping, hiking, cooking, fishing, crafting, reading, and snuggling their Irish Terrier, Bentley, they enjoy a long and happy career in Scouting. The boys come from a long line of Scouters, including Eagles on all sides. Mike has served as assistant den leader, treasurer, and Pack Committee member, and Rebekah has served as den leader and Cubmaster for Pack 521 out of Mechanicsville, Virginia.

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