By Melany Gardner
Oct 21, 2015

I Didn’t Expect To Learn This at Wood Badge

As a professional Scouter, I expected a lot from Wood Badge. Being relatively new to Scouting, I looked to others around me to tell me what this adult training was all about. Volunteers reminisced about Wood Badge as if they were telling you how they climbed Mt. Everest last year, encouraging me by saying things like, “You just have to go.” Co-workers proudly displayed seemingly odd animal themes in their cubicle decorations and would equally urge, “You will love it!” Even my first roundtable as a district executive began with a Wood Badge beads ceremony where I awkwardly watched from the front of the room as different people stood up to sing about how they were getting old and “could (insert random animal name) no more.”

Mel Wood Badge 2

My fellow Eagles.

A little confused, hesitant, but intrigued; I signed up. What followed was a profound experience I did not expect and I struggle to find words to explain.

I could tell you about the famous Wood Badge leadership training. How from project planning, to EDGE teaching, to decision-making and problem-solving, we were immersed in the theory, principles and attributes of a good leader.

Or, I could tell you how we used the Boy Scout patrol method to put that training into immediate action. How proud I felt after being announced as a member of the majestic Eagle Patrol. How our diverse patrol learned and grew together, sharing our unique perspectives to strive to be our best selves in Scouting and in life.

I could tell you about the games, the skits, the songs and the pranks. How, all in good fun, we mischievously captured other patrol’s totems. Or how I laughed watching 50+ year old men sing and dance like no one was watching.

Mel Wood Badge 4

We had some beautiful fall scenery as our Wood Badge backdrop at Tifie Scout Camp.

Or I could tell you about the amazing power of a group with purpose. How in less than 3 hours our course built a 150 feet railroad-tie-lined wood-chip-filled trail as service for Tifie Scout Camp.

I could even tell you of interfaith worship services in a beautiful outdoor “chapel” made by an opening in a grove of early-autumn trees. How the holy spirit touched our hearts as we pondered our duty to God. How wood badgers gave generously to the Messengers of Peace to further the cause of international peace through Scouting.

But of all the things I could tell you I learned, felt, or did, I want to tell you what I know now—what this whole Scouting thing is about. Guess what? It’s about the youth.

At Wood Badge, I expected leadership principles and skills to be taught. I expected to learn the patrol method. I expected silly songs, goofy skits; I even expected some mountain top spiritual and patriotic moments. What I did not expect was this overwhelming sense of dedication to helping youth. I want to help all the youth in my reach. I want to find the one and bring them back. I want to run a superb program focused on teaching the Scout Oath and Law, and duty to god and country. I want to know about their life, listen and be their friend.

Mel Wood Badge 5

I had a lot of fun designing our totem and carving it into leather.

I noticed this in others as well as they had that “ah ha” moment of clarity. This program we call Scouting is all about the eternal happiness and welfare of the youth. This program is not to make dutiful monthly camping trips, or to have forced weekly activities. It’s not about money, leadership, or skills. It’s about that boy in your troop who’s struggling, who’s searching for direction in his life. It’s about forgetting yourself and serving them with all your heart.

So I think about the whole Scouting movement, all the ups and downs of the organization throughout the generations; of the world’s current state, and I reflect on only one thing… do we often forget our purpose? Are we getting so lost in the politics and the “he said, she said”, “that problem, this problem” that we forget the reason Scouting exists? It’s about the youth. 

Scouting is the greatest tool I know to affect the lives of boys for good. Because of my job, I have the privilege of hearing many life-changing stories of Scouting, so I believe it works. All the adversary needs is for good men to do nothing. All he needs is for us to argue among ourselves, ignoring our duty to the youth in our reach. While we argue points of politics, we lose precious time to affect those lives.

I wish everyone could go to Wood Badge and feel that special feeling of duty to the youth. Please, get trained, give your heart to this cause, and save lives. You won’t regret it.

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9 thoughts on “I Didn’t Expect To Learn This at Wood Badge

  1. AvatarSandra Smith

    Great Article Mel! Thank you for sharing your experience! I am so glad that you enjoyed Wood Badge. I had the same feelings and you have been able to put in down in words that are very inspiring! I love that you truly understand the purpose of scoutings- It’s about the youth!! Keep up the great work!

    1. Melany GardnerMelany Gardner Post author

      Thanks Sandy! I’m grateful for all the work you guys put into making it a worthwhile course. The spirit that needed to be there for me was there and you especially helped a lot!

  2. AvatarRay

    Thank you for sharing this, Mel!

    I’ve been part of a lot of different training experiences during my years in Scouting. I have learned a lot. I have had a lot of fun. It has made me a better leader. But only Wood Badge was truly life changing. I see the world through different eyes now. And it’s much better.

    1. Melany GardnerMelany Gardner Post author

      Thanks Ray. It’s really kinda surprising what mountain-top experiences focused on worthwhile things can do for a person. Wood Badge was a wonderful for me, and I hope to do more trainings like it, and/or be on staff in years to come.

  3. AvatarCool Chris

    Thanks Mel,
    I was caught off guard with what I came away from Wood Badge with. You’re right, it’s about the boys. The interfaith service during the first week was very touching and left me feeling grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a great organization. As an adult, non-scouter; I am slowly understanding my role and finding my own value as an adult scouter. Wood Badge has resulted in less trepidation of what I am going to do with my boys. Our Scout Committee has met and they are gaining the vision as well. Hope to get some of them committed to attending.


    1. Melany GardnerMelany Gardner Post author

      Very true, Chris. I’m glad you feel less stress after going to Wood Badge. I’m sure by getting your committee involved, you can really make a difference for the boys. That’s certainly one hard thing about going to Wood Badge; you come back all inspired, but it’s hard to give that inspiration to someone who did not have the experience with you. That’s one reason why I think it’s important to have stake-run Wood Badge courses, so you can catch the vision all at the same time.

  4. AvatarJody Smith


    Thanks for the article. It really touched my heart. I am thankful for the Scouting program and the chance to serve the youth. Wood Badge has opened my eyes to a better way.

    1. Melany GardnerMelany Gardner Post author

      It’s so very true that Wood Badge can open your eyes to using Scouting in a better way. While I don’t have a Scouting position that directly interacts with youth right now, Wood Badge opened my eyes to my true purpose and how I can hopefully inspire other adults who do work directly with the youth to see Scouting as their ultimate tools to bringing their boys eternal happiness. I wish everyone would go to Wood Badge!

  5. AvatarSM Ron

    Wood Badge – Melany got it!
    We tend to get ourselves into a rut of habits. We hear “we’ve always done it that way.”
    The opportunity to attend Wood Badge training hits the reset button our methods and the process of earning the Wood badge beads renews our commitment to our mission. It’s about helping young people reach their full potential. Melany got it! If you are reading this pass, this along. Tell your fellow Scout leaders, “you can earn the Wood Badge beads too. ” Take that first step and sign up.


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