It’s fascinating to watch young people communicate these days. Technology and social media in particular has rapidly changed the way we communicate – reducing conversations to 140-character tweets, six-second Vines and, of course, all of the abbreviations, acronyms and emojis.
These forms of communication aren’t the only way we talk to each other – there are many other nonverbal languages that are valuable to understand. And that’s why our new merit badge – Signs, Signals, and Codes – provides a great crossover between new and long-standing forms of communication. The new badge gives Scouts the opportunity to learn about a mix of nonverbal languages like American Sign Language, Braille, Cryptography, Morse Code, semaphore, trail signs, and yes – emoticons.
Great leaders often set themselves apart as expert communicators. Learning these diverse methods offers our Scouts the opportunity to sharpen both the communications and leadership skills that will serve them well later in life – and potentially connect with a wider universe of people in a meaningful way.
A recent column in the Washington Post reports that our new merit badge is a “throwback” that gives young people skills they rarely learn today while giving them an opportunity to teach older generations about new forms of communication. We’re always looking for teaching opportunities for Scouts, but, as I read through this article, I got excited thinking about all of the ways Scouts teach and inform us as leaders. This is a good reminder that we have to provide activities that kids today want to do for our organization to thrive and grow – and our Scouts are helping to show the path forward. This badge is just one example of how we can take youth-guided innovation and make it work with our long-standing methods to deliver a quality Scouting experience that appeals to a variety of interests. The Sign, Signals and Codes Merit Badge, as the Washington Post article points out, became one of the top 20 merit badges earned in its first year.
Our merit badge program offers many opportunities to have a lasting impact in value areas of peer leadership opportunities, goal setting and achievement; positive role models; ideals and opportunity to serve. I urge you to bring ideas forward on how our methods can leverage our merit badge programs – and others – to help Scouting thrive in the future and challenge your Scouts to continue to do the same!