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Scouts come to Northern to learn for merit badges


January 13, 2020

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Boy Scout Latham Johnson, 12, inspects a kitchen sink plumbing setup for missing pipes during the Hi-Line Boy Scout District 2020 Merit Badge College at Montana State University-Northern Saturday.

Editor's note: This version corrects the title of Bill Lanier and the age of Severin Heimbigner in a photograph caption.

Scouts from all across the state gathered Saturday at Montana State University-Northern for the Eighth Annual Hi-Line Merit Badge College program, where scouts can work and earn merit badges while working with a number of different instructors. 

Event organizer Bill Lanier said that it was the first year they have had the event entirely at the university. He added that, previously, the Merit Badge College was held in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

"It's kind of been a dream of mine from the very beginning," Lanier said.

The Merit Badge College offers 11 different courses on merit badges for scouts, including welding, plumbing, chemistry, environmental science, chess and fingerprinting, he said. He added that scouts are generally 11 to 18 years old and having the scouts be able to have classes at Northern is a great asset to the scouts as well as the for the university. 

The Hi-Line Merit Badge College is one of five merit badge colleges across the state and includes four different scout districts, Lanier said. He added that scouts come from all across the state for the Hi-Line Merit Badge College, including scouts from Great Falls, Billings, Cut Bank and Shelby.

The Merit Badge College has a number of instructors and professors instructing classes for the scouts, he said

"You can't get anything that's better than getting an automotive instructor teaching automotive, a chemistry teacher teaching chemistry, a plumbing teacher teaching plumbing," Lanier said.

Lanier added that he wanted to thank all of the instructors who helped put the merit badge college together as well as all of the school faculty who assisted in organizing the event. He said it is a great way for Northern to show off what it has available.

"I can't say enough good things about the staff here at Northern who was assisting us," he said.

He said that he spoke with Northern College of Technical Sciences Dean Dave Krueger and Krueger expressed interest in having the college participate in the merit badge college in the future.

"It's a natural fit," Lanier said.

He said moving the merit badge college to Northern allows them to offer more things for the scouts, although they may need to think about a bigger place on campus to hold the event next year.

He said that some of the instructors for the merit badge college were not from the university but were also professionals in the fields they were instructing, such as a representative of U.S. Department of Agriculture teaching environmental science merit badge and having members form Hill County Search and Rescue instructing the fingerprinting merit badge.

"We have people who are experts in their fields actually teaching these classes," he said.

Lanier said another great benefit to having the merit badge college is it gives scouts from all over the area a chance to meet and create friendships.

"A lot of them have already met each other, a lot of them already know each other and they have renewed friendships that they may have met or made in scout camp," he said. "It's really neat."

He added that it is really important the scouts leave learning something about fellowship.

"It's a win-win for everybody," he said. "... It's great to have something like this."

Lanier said Havre's merit badge college is the longest-standing in the state.

Troop 559 Second Class Scout Latham Johnson said that he was having a good time at the event and while he was there he was working on his plumbing and fingerprinting merit badges. He said it was great to have Montana State University-Northern plumbing instructor Lorren Schlotfeldt instructing the plumbing merit badge and all of the merit badge courses he took that day were very interactive and fun to do.

While working with Schlotfeldt, Johnson said, they worked on a number of different things, such as putting pipes together and making a model of a house.

"It was pretty fun," he said.

He added that he picked merit badges that interested him and he would like to come back again next year to earn more merit badges.

Troop 1438 Tenderfoot Scout Logan Witmer said that he was taking chess and fingerprinting merit badges. He said the instructors kept the courses very interactive and fun. He said it is much more enjoyable to have an instructor working with him to earn a merit badge.

Fingerprinting instructor Hill County Search and Rescue Vice President Randy Root said it was his first year teaching a merit badge course and, although he was nervous at first, he had a lot of fun at the event.

"It went better than expected," he said. 

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

MSU-N Welding Instructor Chuck Terry signs off on Boy Scout Carl Estes merit completion during the Hi-Line Boy Scout District 2020 Merit Badge College at Montana State University-Northern Saturday.

Having events like the merit badge college available for children is important for the community, he said. He said children don't have as many activities to do as when he was young, and having a merit badge college is great because it is fun and informational. 

He said that he was a scout when he was younger, but a lot has changed since he was younger, but it is important that children still have access to learn and gather skills the scouts make available.

He added that all of the scouts were really excited to get their fingerprints done, but the challenging part was keeping everyone engaged during the history portion of the course.

He said he learned how to fingerprint while he worked at the Hill County Detention Center and it was fun passing his knowledge to the scouts.

"Hopefully, they learned something from me, and I learned a lot from them," Rood said. "It was pretty rewarding, actually."


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