Gauging Merit in the Badge

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Science  29 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6042, pp. 500
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6042.500-d

The Boy Scout merit badge program is an informal educational experience allowing Scouts to explore a variety of subjects, including science. Scouts can earn up to 23 science merit badges. General requirements for science merit badges use verbs such as show, demonstrate, make, list, discuss, collect, identify, and label. Vick and Garvey use the revised Bloom's taxonomy, a method for evaluating educational goals on the basis of six levels of cognitive processes (remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating) to assess these requirements. Frequency counts of verbs; the actions Scouts had to take; and elements, the number of times that a Scout performed a certain skill, were used to evaluate the level of cognitive processes required to earn a science merit badge. Results showed that although these requirements involved factual recall, personal understanding, and application of the material, evaluation and creativity, considered to be higher-level thinking skills, did not receive much emphasis. Although familiarity with scientific terms is not an unacceptable goal, providing only this in informal science experiences is a missed opportunity, and Scouting and other informal education programs will benefit from the addition of more requirements that use evaluation and creation.

Int. J. Environ. Sci. Edu. 6, 173 (2011).

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