Inspiration and excitement.  Those were the two emotions expressed by those in the Cinemotography Merit Badge Class at the Merit Badge Challenge at Fairfield High School.  And those two words seemed to echo across multiple sites and communities across the Dan Beard Council.

4 different sites hosted nearly 2,000 Scouts throughout January, February, and March to help them work on Merit Badges, and more importantly, gain new experiences and exposure to interesting activities and potential careers.  “These kids have an opportunity to see and participate in things they have never experienced before,” said Tom Montgomery, founder of the Fairfield site Merit Badge Challenge nearly 20 years ago.   “Everything from creating a movie, to home cooking, to learning how to properly extinguish a fire.”  Upon my vist, the depth of opportutnites across the various sites was certainly clear.  But what stood out even more was the subject matter.  I watched as one group of Scouts worked feverishly to assemble their robot.  Using laptops to program the chips on them, disassembling, making adjustments, reassembling, and then watching as they put their creation to life.  I found myself completely enthralled as I listened to the Northern Kentucky Search and Rescue team explain to a group of Scouts how precise a rescue dog can be and showcasing some of his skills.  And I watched as Scouts faces lit up with excitement as they got to learn how to properly use a fire hose thanks to the local fire department in Bethel.

Merit Badge Challenge is a Council wide event that helps to pair Scouts with counselors and industry professionals to help them earn various Merit Badges.  Between the 4 different sites, nearly 100 different merit badges are offered.  This year’s sites included Fairfield High School, Sycamore High School, Dixie Heights High School in Northern Kentucky, and Grant Career Center in Bethel.  Scouts gather over the course of 2 to 3 Saturdays to work on multiple merit badges.  Each of the venues offer a variety of merit badge options and they try to have a little bit of fun in the process.  The Fairfield site awards a mock Oscar trophy each year for best film in its Cinematography Merit Badge Class.  The award is voted on by the youth and presented at the final closing.  “Our goal is for the kids to have some fun, gain exposure to some new things, and learn a few new life skills along the way,” said one of the leaders at the Dixie Heights site.  “We know one day they’ll look back and think to themselves ‘When did I learn that?’ and realize it was in Scouting.

Check out some of the photos and video from the 2015 Merit Badge Challenge:

Scouts experience what it is like and the proper technique to use a firehose.Scouts gather in the main area at Dixie Heights between classes.Scouts get to see two members of the Search and Rescue squad and hear about the techniques used.