I wish I was a Boy Scout – I need more skills

Ok….I’m not now or ever have been a boy, but it occurred to me this week that I really wish I had been a Boy Scout¹. See, I’ve been thinking lately about all the skills I’m lacking. Skills I need to be more self-sufficient. Skills I probably would have learned in the Boy Scouts.

Recently I saw some photos on Facebook from an old friend who has recently spent some time in Africa working with the Scout movement. He’s the decendent of Sir Baden-Powell, the founder of the scout movement so I think that gives him some sort of celebrity status in the scouts. Anyway I digress. While I was looking at his photos from Africa I got to thinking, once again, how I wish I had been a scout.

Then I read the following from Noni Mausa who commented on JMG’s blog this week:

Mastery simply involves the non-institutional teaching and practice of skills and fields of knowledge. Model: Scout Merit badges. People of all ages should be picking up knowledge, and a model of merit badge-like recognitions (for learners and also teachers) would enrich the country, make people prouder of themselves, and have something to show for it. A lot of mastery learning and teaching structure already exists, but isn’t given the recognition it deserves.

Learning new skills is an important goal for me this year. Given that I’m not going to be a scout and I have no kids who I could help through the process, I figured I should probably just look up what scouts learn and then teach myself. So I started searching the Merit Badges of the Boy Scouts of America and have decided on some badges I’m going to earn for myself!

First, here are the badges I think I’ve already earned:

Art: I took art as a subject all through High School, despite requiring mostly maths and science subjects for university. I went back to uni a couple of years ago for a certificate in creative photography, just for fun and I’ve run my own photography business. I think I’m good on this one.

Aviation: I’m an Aerospace Engineer by trade, have worked with aircraft for half my life and flown in them more times than I care to count. I think I’ve well and truly earned this badge.

Astronomy: As a kid I was obsessed with Astronomy and I was sure I was going to be an astronaut when I grew up. You can ask my parents. from the time my Dad explained the solar system to me at age 4, I couldn’t get enough.  Although I grew out of my obsession with becoming an astronaut, I guess I didn’t deviate too far from the profession, becoming an aerospace engineer instead. This is something really amazing about seeing the rings of Saturn, in a high-power telescope, looking so close you could reach out and touch them.

Computers: Having studied engineering I know how computers work and at one time knew to to program them. I spend too many hours a day in front of them, but I find them an essential element of modern day life and wouldn’t choose to be without one.

 Dog Care: If I hadn’t become an engineer, I might have almost been a dog handler. I love dogs, consider Zoe dog to be part of family and just a few years ago ran my own dog photography business. It was the best job ever!

Electronics: I learned more than I ever cared to know about Electronics at university. While I’ve probably forgotten much of what I learned I think four years of it makes me deserving of this badge.

Engineering: I’ve been an engineer for half my life. Even though I get told I don’t look like an engineer, I certainly think like one.

Entrepreneurship: I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I love to start new enterprises, come up with business plans, work out the finances and think of ways to market things. I’ve run my own business in the past, and see myself running a number of home based businesses in the future.

Gardening: This is my most recent skill for which I qualify for a badge. I’ve grown vegetables from seed, know how to deal with my garden pests organically and have built and maintained a compost bin for nearly a year.

Painting: I’ve renovated enough old houses to be well equipped to earn this badge.

Personal Management: If there is one thing I do well, it’s personal management. Remember I said I think like an engineer? Well, I tend to run my personal life like a really important project. There are goals and lists and schedules and resource management plans. You name it. Friends think I’m a little wacky. I think I have this one covered.

Pets: Yep. Done. I have managed to keep my dog alive for more than 10 years.

Photography: As mentioned previously…plenty of experience in photography.

Public Speaking: I regularly have to give briefs and presentations to large groups of people, often from a variety of nations. I’ve certainly earned this badge.

Reading: Ok….this is an easy one for me. I’ve been a prolific reader all my life. I’d read the back of the cereal box if nothing else is available.

Well….that was an interesting exercise. I guess I do actually have some skills. Some of them are probably not particularly useful in the sort of localised, expensive-energy future I envisage, but who knows where we can make ourselves useful in times of need.

Next week I’m going to choose some scout merit badges I want to earn for myself in 2010.

1. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Girl Guides or whatever. I’ve used Boy Scouts of America becuase they have the best information available on the internet.


  1. I’ve long wanted to have a series of Peak Oil Prepared badges! Of course there would be the gardening badge, also the canning badge, the sewing/knitting/crocheting/weaving/spinning badges, the beekeeping badge, the hand tool carpentry badge, the backyard husbandry badge…

    Sure, I might be a grown adult but I would wear a sash of badges proudly! 🙂

    Good luck with your new skills. Sounds like a lot of fun.

  2. Wow! You are so smart and accomplished!

    Amber, I love that idea! A way to keep track of which skills/ equipment you have and which ones you still need to achieve!

  3. Ha ha! I enjoyed that post.

    I was a browie and girl guide when I was young and loved it! I learnt how to make and cook damper, start a camp fire and so on. I can remember going for my sewing, knitting, collecting and cooking badges. I hope my daughter is interested in brownies as I would like to be a brown owl when she’s old enough. Although i’m not sure Brownies still exists??

    I’m looking forward to seeing what badges other you want to earn 🙂

  4. Great Idea Amber. I’d be in that!

    Tricia. It seems that Brownies ceased to exist in Australia in 1996. Now everyone is known as a Girl Guide. I wish there were a list of Girl Guide skills online. I’m sure they are somewhat different to the Boy Scouts.

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