How Kids Can Learn to Be Good Citizens

Dec 1, 2023

If you want your child to learn the importance of being a good citizen and impactful member of their community, consider enrolling them in a Scouting program. While the Scouting America (BSA) is well-known for its wilderness camping and survival skills training, its balanced mission also emphasizes the importance of functioning constructively in society. Given that our nation and world are currently so deeply divided, this is of utmost importance — and may be the key to a healthier, kinder, and more functional global society.

One of the ways the BSA molds kids and teens into conscientious adults is through its citizenship merit badge programs. These badges aren’t just symbols: they represent extensive training and exercises in understanding the purpose of governments and social systems. Here’s what kids (and many adults) need to know about the concept of community and citizenship, and how young people can become thoughtful, upstanding members of society.

What Does Community Mean?

The word “community” has seen quite a bit of use in recent years, which is a reflection of the fact that its meaning goes well beyond geographical boundaries. It’s about shared values, common interests, and collective responsibility. Given that each physical community can be made up of diverse smaller groups, and that each in turn is part of larger ones, it’s more vital than ever that young people learn how to get along with community members who may be different than themselves, and that they advocate for mutual justice. That’s where the BSA comes in.

In BSA programming, “community first” refers to the immediate environment where Scouts live, learn, and play. It’s where they first practice the skills of citizenship and social engagement. The Citizenship in the Community Merit Badge, for instance, requires Scouts to explore their local community, learning about its history, government structure, and the important issues it faces today.

What Does It Mean to Be a Good Citizen?

Being a good citizen means actively participating in one’s community and nation with a sense of social awareness, purpose, and responsibility. It involves understanding the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship, such as voting, obeying laws, and contributing to the welfare of others. Good citizenship also means being informed about what’s happening in the world and taking steps to make it a better place.

In the BSA, the concept of good citizenship is deeply embedded in its programs. The Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge, for example, requires Scouts to learn about national symbols, the U.S. Constitution, and how to stay informed and engaged with their national representatives. This helps Scouts to understand the interconnectedness of various layers of society, small and large, and how each can have an impact on the other. 

Further, the BSA requires that Scouts attain Citizenship Badges in order to qualify for the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest of all Scouting ranks. This demonstrates the degree to which the BSA is committed to training generations of Americans to be civic-minded.

Earning the Citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World Badges

Here’s what you need to know about each of the citizenship badges your child can earn as a Scout and what they represent.

Citizenship in the Community

This badge is often the first in the citizenship series that Scouts tackle. It focuses on understanding one’s local community and how to be an active, contributing member. Requirements include attending a public meeting, researching a local issue, and performing community service.

Citizenship in the Nation

This badge takes the concept of citizenship to the national level. Scouts are required to visit places of national historical importance, understand the Constitution, and learn how federal agencies work. They also have to write a letter to their Congressional representative about a national issue.

Citizenship in the World

The final badge in this series broadens the scope to global citizenship. To receive the Citizenship in the World Merit Badge, Scouts learn about international law, world organizations like the United Nations, and the role of the U.S. in the world. They also explore issues of global significance, such as environmental conservation and human rights.

The community merit badges in the BSA offer a structured pathway for Scouts to understand and engage with their communities, nation, and the world. These badges not only educate but empower young people to be active, informed citizens who can make a difference. As parents, encouraging your children to earn these badges will equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to be responsible members of their communities, now and in the future.

Learn Important Citizenship Skills With BSA Laurel Highlands Council

If you live in the western parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, or West Virginia, enrolling your child in the Scouting America Laurel Highlands Council is an excellent way for them to become excellent citizens in their communities, in our nation, and in the world. Scouts can earn all three related merit badges at Camp Guyasuta this winter, beginning on January 3rd, 2023.

Scouting’s programs and outdoor adventures give young people equal opportunities to try new things, provide service to others, build self-confidence, and develop leadership skills. These experiences not only help Scouts while they are young, but help them grow into exceptional men and women that respect their family, community, religion, country, and themselves.

The Scouting America, Laurel Highlands Council serves youth members and volunteer adult leaders throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania and portions of the Potomac region in Maryland and West Virginia. We aim to beneficially involve every eligible child and their family in the fun and adventure of our programs. We provide extraordinary youth development programs that develop and strengthen the values of the Scout Oath and Law. However, we can’t do it without you. Give today!



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