On Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, over 50 Scouts BSA members, scatted across 12 Montana cities, discussed topics from Covid-19 relief to farming with U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.
Tester, joining from his home in Washington, D.C., chatted casually with the young men and women attending the Citizenship in the Nation Virtual Merit Badge Class, answering questions for over a half-hour.
“It’s great to be speaking to the Boy Scouts of Northwest District, Montana Council,” said Tester. “And I’ll tell you why. It’s because you guys are our next generation of leaders.”
Due to the popularity and ease of tools like Zoom and Google Classrooms, Scouts throughout Montana’s rural pockets and urban centers are not only connecting to each other but to counselors and speakers, like Sen. Tester, they otherwise would not be able to meet.
In a time when gathering in large groups is prohibited and finding safe and appropriate meeting spaces is difficult, Montana Council, Boy Scouts of America sees online classes being a vital tool for a youth’s advancement, working in concert with the organization’s incredible outdoor programing.
“Virtual merit badge classes help keep the Scouting program going,” said Barbara Oxford, Northwest District Committee Vice Chair. “For Scouts who are dedicated to earning the rank of Eagle, and might be running out of time, these classes could be critical to reaching their goals.”
Although Northwest District services Flathead and Lincoln Counties, the technological abilities to span district and state borders are obvious.
“Having Sen. Tester join us and turn what could have been another boring virtual class into a truly memorable experience for these Scouts is an honor,” said Oxford.
The guest speaker for the upcoming Genealogy Merit Badge Class will be Nick Sheedy, a Bigfork, Mont., native and lead genealogist for the PBS series Finding Your Roots.
“Montana is a big state. Virtual training, meetings, and merit badges are important now for safety,” said Betsy Eubanks, who heads Screen-Boosted Scouting, a series of online training resources. “In the future, adding virtual opportunities to in-person Scouting will make our Scouting Program even more accessible to youth and leaders in every part of Montana and in every kind of weather.”
The merit badge classes are currently focused on Scouts from 11- to 17-years-old in Scouts BSA. Barbara said they are exploring adding a STEM Nova Awards class – a class that explores STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields – for Cub Scouts.
“The important thing to remember is that Scouting continues in our state and across the nation,” Said Dirk Smith, Montana Council Scout Executive and CEO. “We have incredible opportunities happening right now, every day, that are building the ethical leaders of tomorrow – through outdoor experiences and adventure and now through more opportunities online to safely connect, learn and grow.”
Class sizes are limited to 50 Scouts and are free to all Scouts in Montana Council. In the upcoming months, Oxford said they will be hosting courses for the Scouting Heritage, Chemistry and Genealogy merit badges.
Information is posted to the Northwest District Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/nwmtbsa – as soon as the course is open for registration. Scouts need to speak to their Scoutmaster to register.
Genealogy Virtual Merit Badge Course – Part One
Thursday, January 7, 20201 – 6 p.m.