In a second-floor lab classroom within King’s College’s Mulligan Physical Science Center, a group of boys stood around a blue tarp on the floor.
The boys, wearing their full Class “A” Boy Scout uniforms, were learning how to make a table out of a refurbished wine barrel to earn their model design and building merit badge.
“One of our Scout mottos is ‘thrifty,’” said Josh Klein, an assistant scout master from Mohopac, N.Y., who participated in the program with his son, Owen. “Being thrifty and being able to help the environment in terms of reclaiming things. And being able to be self-sufficient and do things on their own.”
On Jan. 4, the Boy Scouts of America’s Northeastern Pennsylvania Council participated in the 22nd Merit Badge College program on the King’s campus. The single-day event, which ran from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., is designed so the nearly 250 participating Scouts from both inside and outside the local area can earn badges for rank advancement while also gaining experience in topics ranging from technology to genealogy.
Dave Srebro, the director of camping and programming for the Council and one of the lead organizers of the event, said the event is planned throughout October. The organizers decide which merit badge courses will be offered through popularity at the previous year’s event, whether or not the badge is required for rank advancement per the badge handbook, and on availability of an “expert” instructor for the badge.
Around Oct. 31, the final schedule is posted and, on Nov. 1, Scouts could sign up for classes and begin completing requirements for those badges in advance of the event. The registration cost — $30 until Dec. 11 and $40 after Dec. 11 until registration closed around Christmas — included a light breakfast and lunch.
Mark Barbernitz, the Northeast Pennsylvania Council CEO, said prerequisites included some written work, reporting, and record-keeping that had to be turned into the counselors before arriving at the program. While some of the Scouts will earn certificates that state they’ve earned the full badge, which means they’ve completed all of the requirements, some of them will only earn partial badges, which means they still have some requirements to fill.
“It’s not a doctoral thesis,” Srebro said. “It’s stuff they can work on over Christmas break or in that time frame. Some of it’s very simple stuff, some of it’s a little more involved.”
Joseph Breck, a Tunkhannock resident, spent four hours working toward his metalworking merit badge and learned how to make a cooking pot out of a recycled aluminum can. Breck, 13, also took a class to earn a badge in personal management — the last badge he needs to become an Eagle Scout.
Breck said this was his second year attending the program and that he would come back next year.
“You get to meet a lot of new people,” Breck said. “You get a lot of different things.”
Srebro said of the 250 participants who are taking an average of two classes apiece, about 500 badges will be attempted “and/or earned.” Barbernitz said the diverse merit badges offered in the program give the Scouts a way to learn life skills, careers and hobbies.
“People really like it,” Srebro said. “The Scouts enjoy coming. It’s a great opportunity for them to learn a lot, to earn a few badges. It’s a great experience for them.”
Srebro said another aspect of the program is the college-feel to it. The Scouts sign up for classes online, get homework, get a schedule, and have to find their way around campus to get to the various classes.
While Srebro hopes the Scouts “soaked up” information from the experts, he also hopes they got a “snapshot” of what a day at college would be.
“We pass on the values of scouting to the young people,” Barbernitz said of the volunteers’ motivation. “We pass on scouting to the young people, and the inspiration we’ve learned from scouting to the new generation.”