by Casey McKenzie Smith for the Alamo Area BSA
I took on being a Cubmaster with some reluctance and a big whopping share of insecurity. During the transition, my predecessor talked me into taking this course called Wood Badge. He made it sound like a breezy leadership course that would just be a little inconvenient as far as how much time it’d take, but that was about it.
HE WAS A LYING LIAR WHO LIES! It’s a very intense, draining, out-of-your-comfort-zone course that takes place over six days of camping with strangers and then you CRY.
But it was something I’m glad I didn’t let my fear make me miss out on! I didn’t love every second of it (I’m looking at you, Evil Winning Game), but I came out on the other side with a much, much, MUCH better education about Scouting, camping, adventuring, leadership, and service. It gave me energy and passion I definitely didn’t have before to bring home and apply to my kiddos and my community, to try to help spread kindness, service, and thoughtfulness.
Best of all, I got to do it with six other people who started as intimidating strangers and ended as sweet, funny, genuine, LOUD, smart, smart-ass, resourceful, irreplaceable friends.
DID I MENTION THEY MADE ME CRY BECAUSE THEY ARE JERKS?”
History of Wood Badge
In 1911, Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, took the first steps in training Scouting’s adult leaders by organizing a series of lectures for Scouters. He made great strides in the following years, culminating in 1919 with the establishment of Wood Badge training. Wood Badge recipients now number more than 100,000 and can be found in all corners of the world. A Scouter participating in Wood Badge has the opportunity to:
- Understand Scouting as a family of interrelated, values-based programs providing age-appropriate activities for youth.
- Recognize contemporary leadership concepts and discover how they are relevant to the Scouting movement.
- Apply the skills learned as a member of a successful working team.
- Revitalize their commitment to Scouting by sharing in an inspirational experience which provides Scouting with renewed leadership.
Many Scouters consider Wood Badge to be a peak experience of their Scouting careers. It has served as a source of training and inspiration to thousands.
The Wood Badge
Lord Robert Baden-Powell conducted the first training program for Scoutmasters at Gilwell Park in England, in 1919. Wondering what to award the graduates, he recalled a necklace of wooden beads that he had acquired in South Africa in 1887 during a campaign against the Zulus. Baden-Powell had found the necklace, which had been worn by Zulu Chief Dinizulu, in a tribal camp that the chief had abandoned in escaping capture by British Troops. The necklace, over 3 metres long and made from beads of yellow acacia wood, was a badge awarded to great chieftains and the bravest warriors.
To create the first Wood Badge, Baden-Powell took two of the original beads and strung them on a leather thong given to him at Mafeking. These original wooden beads were then used as a template for beads made in beech wood.
This tradition continues today. Leaders are presented with the Wood Badge upon completion of Advanced Level Wood Badge training.