Hopefully you have seen the Pathfinder Handbook Prerelease of 3 chapters of our new handbook. If you have, you’ve seen that there are 101 new badges, plus pins, special awards and other updates. It might be a lot to take in. There is an announcement on the Outdoor Service Guides website that explains the highlights of this program. But as leaders, there is more that you need to know about for getting the most out of this new program. Let’s dive in to what you need to know as a Pathfinder Leader!
First, let’s look at that 101 badges. If you are familiar with the older pathfinder program, you may have noticed that the badges in it were mostly focused on the outdoors and many, especially the senior level badges, were incredibly difficult to earn. The new program expands our pathfinder badges to include not just outdoor skills and civics, but also life skills and arts and crafts badges. The inspiration for these new badges came from several other scouting programs with emphasis on looking at badges scouts were earning 75 years ago. The committee did a lot of research to look at what scouts were doing when scouting was new. The goal of focusing on classic and traditional scouting skills was emphasized, but requirements were modernized. In a few cases, badges were added that are completely new, but that reflect the values of Outdoor Service Guides.
What to Earn When
Pathfinders can earn 2 special proficiency badges before completing Tenderfoot. This was done to accommodate pathfinders who join out of sequence from the rest of the group. So if all your other pathfinders JUST finished Tenderfoot and you add a new teen to the group, they can jump in and earn badges with their friends. It may also help adult leaders to engage pathfinders better in the program, if earning Tenderfoot is taking a long time. Pathfinders who move up from timberwolves may be able to earn tenderfoot quickly, but those new to scouting have a lot to learn!
Within each color coded section of badges, there are harder and easier badges to choose from. This was done intentionally to make it possible for 11 year old pathfinders to earn some badges, but to also have badges that challenge older pathfinders. In general, regular special proficiency badges should be doable for those ages 11-14, and the senior level badges are designed for those ages 14 and up. The older program required pathfinders to have completed First Class to even work on senior level badges, this meant we had very few pathfinders earning those upper level awards. In our new program, 14 year olds who have earned Second Class, or younger pathfinders who have earned First Class can earn senior level badges. This was done to create a better program for older pathfinders who need new challenges.
As a Pathfinder Leader, you should familiarize yourself with the variety of badges and be aware of the different levels of challenge. Older pathfinders can and should continue to earn special proficiency badges that interest them. They do not need to stick with just the senior level badges. Many senior level badges require earning special proficiency badges from the first group, so a scout with a new interest may earn both in a single year.
In the outdoor, green, badge section, there are badges a leader may wish to plan to work on with their pathfinders in a way that builds skills. You can explore the outdoor badges and select ones that encourage the skills your pathfinders need to develop, or complete badges in areas they wanted to work on anyway. For example, the Camper badge can be earned by pathfinders who are car camping and still learning the skills of life in camp. The Backpacker badge is designed to get your scouts interested in backpacking and demonstrating those skills. If you are new to scouting, these badges should help you make a list of skills to work on with your pathfinders. By earning Camper and Backpacker, you are preparing your pathfinders to be able to earn First Class and take a First Class Journey. There are also badges for Bicycle Camper and Canoe Camper that can prepare a pathfinder to take their First Class Journey by bike or canoe. Create a scaffold that works for your pathfinders, and your program.
It is important to take time to look at the Pillar Awards, even if your pathfinders are younger. While it is great for pathfinders to choose their own badges to work on, knowing they may want to earn those Pillars may influence which badges you choose to work on as a troop. Each pillar award requires pathfinders earn about 10 badges in a specific area and do other activities that go beyond badge work. Some of those badges are specifically required, and for the rest scouts get to determine which badges they will earn. To set up your pathfinders for success, you may want to have your entire group work on earning the Community Service badge needed for the Torchbearer Pillar. By completing and documenting just 2 service projects each year, your pathfinders would eventually complete the required number of service projects as part of normal participation in your group.
Pillars are high level awards, and you should encourage your pathfinders to look at earning them once they have begun to earn multiple badges. There is no reason to burden a new pathfinder with needing to earn a pillar award, but high school age pathfinders should be encouraged to stretch themselves to earn these. Earning 3 pillars qualifies a pathfinder for our highest award, the Polaris Award. The Polaris Award is a star pin that pathfinders can continue to wear on their uniforms when they become Rovers. We hope it will be something of note that pathfinders can put on resumes and applications to denote their own hard work.
First Class is one of our Pillar Awards and it is ideal that all pathfinder leaders look at what it takes for a pathfinder to earn that award. If your pathfinders enjoy camping and learn to backpack, bike camp or canoe camp, they are well on their way to being able to earn First Class. While it is important that the pathfinder be interested in that accomplishment, it is important that leaders support them in learning those skills. It is not practical for a pathfinder to make their First Class Journey their first backpacking trip, though it can be done. Pathfinders who backpack with their group, are going to have an easier time tackling the requirements for First Class.
In this new program, we added a very modern update, the addition of pins that are awards for achieving multiple badges in an area of interest. These pins are our version of gamification. Gamification is a way that employers entice employees to do more. It creates small awards that are designed to entice a person to go a step beyond. The concept for OSG Pathfinders is that after earning one or two badges in a pin group, the pin may entice them to earn further badges in that group. Each pin represents a set of badges that are of a similar theme generally grouping together special proficiency badges and senior proficiency badges. In this way, it also encourages pathfinders who have just been working on the special proficiency badges, to look at those senior level badges to take their learning a step further.
As your pathfinders earn badges, you may want to encourage them to look at the pins and see if they want to work towards one. Pins can be worn in addition to the earned badges, or as a replacement for those badges. As pathfinders outgrow uniforms, the simplicity of moving over pins instead of rows of badges to a new uniform may appeal to them.
Pathfinders who earn pins are also one step closer to earning the badges required to complete pillars. There is NO requirement to earn any pins as part of the pillar system. It is just one way to help pathfinders be motivated to go further with the program.
The final part of this prerelease is a set of medals and awards that have historically been a part of many scouting programs. Each is updated for OSG, but has a long history in scouting. These awards include Medals for heroism, saving a life, and exceptional merit. There is also a new Thanks Award that can be given to anyone who has performed a special service to the group. Each of these will require you to reach out to your Regional Commissioner to submit why your pathfinder (or other in the case of the Thanks Award) deserves this award. This means that our regional commissioners can help give these special pathfinders extra congratulations and share with our community their exceptional service.
Please make notes of any issues with the program, once you’ve read through these 3 chapters and as you use them with your pathfinders. While the other chapters of the Pathfinder Handbook are in process, there is time to make corrections and changes to these 3 chapters. The committee would like for you to contact them and tell them if you find directions are unclear, badge requirements too hard or confusing or any other issues with the book. You can even let them know if you find grammar errors that need correcting. You can also have your pathfinders write directly to the committee with their feedback. Contact them at email@example.com and let them know what you think!
If we all work together, this book can be even better than it is now!