St. Anselm's Troop 13 took its annual trip to Boy Scout camp Ten Mile River during week 2 of the summer camp season. I was signed up to be an astronomy counselor and loaded the car with numerous props to use as enrichment items with whomever was doing the normal classes. What I didn't quite realize was that I was going to end up teaching the class.
That was okay, but if I'd known ahead of time I would have spent a little more time thinking about the curriculum and how it fits in with the actual badge requirements. I think I did the scouts a disservice by being insufficiently prepared and it is certainly the case that there were at least a few items on their checklist that we could have ticked off and didn't due to my lack of planning.
The astronomy merit badge, like several of the other technical/academic badges, are not badges that can be completed in a week. Among the requirements are the need to observe and sketch the location of one of the major planets over the course of a month. Can't finish that in a week! The hard part is trying to figure out how to manage the class so that the scouts get a good start on the badge requirements, particulary since some of the badges can be finished in a week and there is a strong push to do so. Week two was a good week for doing astronomy as the moon was in the 3rd quarter making for dark evenings for stargazing and identifying constellations. Unfortunately, I need a plan that will work no matter what the moon phase is.
I think what I will recommend, and what I will do next year, it to plan two observing sessions with the aim of helping the scouts to complete the requirements of identifying the required 10 constellations, 8 bright stars, and sketching the position of the Big Dipper over the course of 2-3 hours. Even near the full moon, it should be possible to complete those. Of course, the issue is that the scouts are supposed to identify them, not me. So the first night, I would play tour guide, and the second night allow them to play that role. I'm somewhat torn on whether or not I would allow them to identify the constellations using a planisphere, leaning toward "yes" on the theory that if they actually learn to use the tool, it will help to launch them on the way toward what they need to know for the other requirements. One of those other requirements includes (as one option among several) to plan and execute a 3-hour observing session.
In any event, I hope to do a little better on this one next year.