Tips for teaching Citizenship in the World merit badge

Before she taught her Scouts what it takes to become a U.S. citizen (requirement 2 of the Citizenship in the World merit badge), Crystal Bueno didn’t do any research. Instead, the naturalized citizen from Canada grabbed her thick stack of immigration paperwork — oh, and the X-rays proving she doesn’t have tuberculosis.

“The Scouts were so happy to see all that stuff, to touch all that stuff, to understand,” the New York Scouter says.

Seeing and touching stuff was just one way she brought the badge to life for the members of Troop 187 in Brooklyn.

Power From the People

One of the highlights of the multiweek class was a panel discussion featuring troop parents who grew up in countries from India to Ecuador.

“A lot of our Scouts are first- generation Americans,” she says.

“So, having their parents and other family members participate on a panel discussion about growing up in another country — what’s the same, what’s different, about food, culture, religion, holidays, different forms of government — was an amazing and enlightening experience.” (The discussion related to requirements 3b, 5 and 7c.)

Bueno thinks troops anywhere can find similar resources if they look for them.

“I think these resources exist if people have the imagination to search for them,” she says. “Look for international events or restaurants or ethnic festivals.”

Show and Tell

Bueno’s show and tell didn’t end with her lung X-rays. She also pulled together a collection of old passports to make requirement 6c (passports and visas) more meaningful.

“The Scouts just loved flipping through them and making fun of our bad passport photos,” she says.

And a collection of Scouting stamps from an aunt offered a fun way to introduce the World Organization of the Scout Movement (requirement 4c).

“It must have been 25 or 30 different countries,” she says. “We just spread out the stamps and had the kids match up the stamps with the countries.”

Avoiding Assumptions

For requirement 3a (discuss a current world event), Bueno had Scouts debate U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war and the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. And she was sure to provide context, including telling the story of a Syrian family that emigrated to Canada and created a beloved chocolate company.

“To get 11-, 12-, 13-year-olds to read the news and understand what’s happening, it doesn’t have context,” she says. “But when you’re able to make it a personal story, then they appreciate it.”

Similarly, when it came time to compare the rights, duties and obligations of citizens in different countries (another part of requirement 2), she had the group create the first chart together, then assigned a second chart for homework.

Bueno’s advice to other counselors is simple: “Do whatever you can to make it hands-on and interactive, and not just a dry lecture. This is such an important badge. To understand your place as a world citizen is such a huge thing to wrap your head around and to learn and to appreciate.”

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