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Scouts attend Merit Badge College

Feb. 18, 2012 @ 10:45 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Marshall adopted the motto, "Be prepared," Saturday as it welcomed the largest-ever group of Boy Scouts and troop leaders for the annual Merit Badge College.

More than 500 scouts and leaders converged on the campus for a day of interactive learning in a partnership between the university and the Tri-State Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Attendance was up more than 100 registrants from last year's event.

"It's been growing a little bit each year as more and more boys find out this is a good way to earn their merit badges and it's a really good, fun experience," said Steven Mewaldt, chairman of the psychology department and himself a longtime Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts leader. "I think the kids go home and talk to their friends about it and then their friends want to come and participate the next year.

"We're even drawing scouts from areas outside of our local council now, from Charleston and various places in Ohio."

Scout Chase Barker said he enjoyed the experience of being on a college campus as much as being able to earn two badges in one day.

"I think it's cool just being here at Marshall, but I'm also glad I have the chance to earn the badges," he said.

Merit Badge College began with early-morning registration in the Memorial Student Center, followed by morning and afternoon sessions. The idea is that Boy Scouts get an opportunity to earn up to two merit badges and work with Marshall faculty members in their particular areas of expertise.

"The really good part of this experience is that the boys get to do these merit badges where they get to work with people who have the experience and expertise in different fields. They can do camping and hiking with their troop leaders, but where else are they going to get to study chemistry with a chemist or art with an artist?" Mewaldt said. "I think, for the professors, too, they're hoping to get kids interested in their field, whether it be chemistry or archaeology or something else."

Mewaldt said several community members also participated, including a merit badge offering on citizenship, one on engineering and another on law. One of this year's more popular offerings, robotics, was limited to 16 because of the amount of computers and robotic equipment available.

"There are merit badges required for Eagle Scout that are popular simply because they're required for Eagle Scout, but with others, we try to give them their first and second choices of classes," Mewaldt said.