Wood Badge is Scouting’s premier adult leader training. It was a mystery to me before I took the course, but it turned out to be simple to understand and very useful to my work in Scouting.
Wood Badge is much like any modern corporate leadership course but it does not cost $3000, it is outdoors, and it is fun. The first Wood Badge course was presented in 1919 to train Scoutmasters but now any Scouter can particpate. I was a Cubmaster when I took it.
It’s worth noting that ‘Wood Badge’ is two words (not ‘woodbadge’).
A Wood Badge course has three components: classwork, patrols, and tickets.
The classwork covers communication, setting goals, group dynamics, leadership styles, lots of good stuff. This is the part that is the most like a traditional leadership course.
Patrols are the fun part of Wood Badge. You are in a patrol during Wood Badge. Yes, you get to do Scouting without the boys around. Every patrol has a flag and a yell, they take turns as program and service patrol, and compete in inter-patrol games to practice the skills. You work together in your patrol, cooking and cleaning, running a flag ceremony, doing a project, on latrine duty, and on an overnight outing.
Tickets put these skills into practice after you get home. You choose five items to work on over the 18 months after the in-camp training. When you have completed your tickets, you can wear the Wood Badge. Your tickets can apply the skills in any part of your life, but almost everyone has a few tickets that help their home unit.
As a Cubmaster, I had two tickets to help out new Wolf Den Leaders. One was to write teaching helps for the Wolf Achievements with notes about special-needs Scouts, another was to use part of the adult meeting for Bear Den Leaders to pass on advice to Wolf DL’s and the same from Webelos to Bear. Another Cubber in my patrol put together new parent packets for her Pack. A few years later, BSA National published similar Wolf meeting plans, even using the same “red marker” trick to practice bandaging a small cut.
If you are trying to implement the patrol method in your troop, I strongly recommend Wood Badge. You will live the patrol method for a week. You will be Patrol Leader for a day and experience why it is the most important position in the troop.
I was in the Owl Patrol, and we were that annoying patrol that gets everything done and still has time for free swim. It was great, but we probably didn’t learn as much as the patrols we saw struggling to become an effective team. Every member of our patrol finished their tickets and we still keep in touch, nine years after the course.
You may be thinking, “Wow, I wish the Scouts could take this course!” Well, they can. NYLT (National Youth Leadership Training) is essentially the same course without tickets.
Wood Badge is a serious commitment of time, either a week or two long weekends plus the tickets, but it is well worth it. A lot of participants apply what they learn at work as well as in Scouting. Plus, you are tied into an international group of trained Scouters, going back to the first Scoutmaster training course at Gilwell Park in the UK. Many countries have their version of the course, and they all wear wooden beads on a thong, the Wood Badge.