The Boy Scouts of America’s National Advancement Team continuously reviews and updates matters of advancement across our programs. They work to keep requirements relevant and establish clear wording so the chances of misunderstanding are minimal.
Part of their mission is to keep volunteers informed not only on new advancement opportunities, but also ways we can better provide for the advancement of our Scouts. In support of that goal, the Advancement Team publishes updates periodically.
The most recent newsletter, for the second quarter of 2018, has a number of informational items that pertain to Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturing and Sea Scouting. Here’s a summary of some of the updates:
- The status of Scoutbook Lite. Internet Advancement was a major change in the way units report advancement to the local council. Where previously a multi-part form had to be filled out, signed and taken or sent to the council office, advancement coordinators could enter advancement online by logging in, posting the information, and printing a summary as proof of advancement for purchase of insignia. Last fall, the Advancement Team announced that a new system, Scoutbook Lite, would replace Internet Advancement. It’s intended to be a sort of Scoutbook-meets-My.Scouting interface, accessible across many platforms from conventional web browsers to dedicated apps for IOS and Android devices including smartphones and tablets. Scoutbook Lite is still coming, but it won’t be in the second quarter of 2018 as originally hoped. Development of the system continues and beta testing is expected soon, and we’re now told that Scoutbook Lite should go live “in the coming months.” From what we’ve heard, it will be a major improvement over the current system and will allow for greater convenience in entering advancement. Be patient, and stay tuned.
- Blue Cards or Scoutbook? With the conveniences that Scoutbook offers Scouts and troops in tracking advancement, one might think that the need for the paper Blue Card (formal name: Application for Merit Badge) for recording merit badge progress and completion might be able to fall by the wayside. Not so fast, advises the Advancement Team. Not all information that can be found on the Blue Card is available in Scoutbook, and as with any records stored in a database, the possibility of data loss or corruption is there, albeit minute. The signed Blue Card is still the canonical evidence that the requirements were completed, and should be kept by the Scout as a permanent record of the accomplishment. If there is ever a dispute as to whether a merit badge was completed, the Blue Card is the highest form of evidence to prove the Scout’s case.
- Keeping it simple: Local councils routinely offer informational sessions on the Life to Eagle process. These are often accompanied by council-specific publications or outlines listing the necessary steps that need to be completed, and how things are handled in that particular council. (Some troops even have their own guides to the Eagle process.) While most are brief, outlining things like the times and places that project reviews are held and the procedure for scheduling a board of review, some extend to dozens of pages and contain duplicate, outdated, or just plain wrong, information if they are not constantly reviewed and updated. The Advancement Team offers advice for those councils and units that offer such informational packets. They suggest keeping these publications short, limited to the processes unique to the council or district; avoiding rehashing information that’s contained in other, official BSA publications like the Guide to Advancement; linking to the BSA website scouting.org for official copies of forms and documents, rather than posting them on local websites; and reviewing materials periodically to ensure that they conform to national policies and procedures. It’s especially important, they advise, that councils and units don’t intentionally or unintentionally impose additional requirements beyond what the BSA specifies.
The spring issue of Advancement News also contains other items of interest, including Philmont courses for those involved in advancement; alternate requirements for the Scouting Heritage merit badge; details on Cub Scout Lion advancement; how to keep your Eagle Scouts active in the troop; news about Den Chief training; resources for merit badge counselors; help with conducting boards of review for Venturing’s Summit Award and the Sea Scout Quartermaster award; experience with including girls in BSA programs; and advice on registering special-needs youth beyond the normal age of eligibility.
Be sure to read and review the latest national advancement news if you are involved in administering or overseeing advancement in your unit, district or council.