On the morning of September 8, 1919, nineteen men dressed in short pants and knee socks, their shirt-sleeves rolled up, assembled by patrols for the first Scoutmasters’ training camp held at Gilwell Park in Epping Forest, outside London, England. The camp was designed and guided by Sir Robert Baden-Powell, a 61 year-old retired general of the British Army and the founder of the World Scouting Movement.
When they had finished their training together, Baden-Powell gave each man a simple wooden bead from a necklace he had found in a Zulu chieftain’s deserted hut when on campaign in South Africa in 1888. The Scoutmasters’ training course was a great success and continued to be held year-after-year. At the end of each course the wooden beads were used to recognize the completion of training. When the original beads ran out, new ones were whittled to maintain the tradition established by Baden-Powell. Because of these beads, the course came to be known as the Wood Badge Course. It continues to this day in England and around the world as the advanced training course for leaders in Scouting.
At the time of the first course, Baden-Powell presented a Kudu Horn he captured during the Matabele War of 1896 to Gilwell Park. Its deep booming sound (when played with skill and no small amount of courage) would summon course members to assemblies and activities and was used in courses there for many years
Baden-Powell would use this same horn to open the 3rd World Jamboree held at Arrowe Park, Birkenhead, England in 1929.The Jamboree was known as the “Coming of Age” Jamboree as it celebrated 21 years since the foundation of the Scouting Movement. A Kudu Horn is used today by many advanced leadership courses in Scouting down to the current day.
History of Wood Badge in US
Although an experimental course was conducted in 1936, Wood Badge training was officially inaugurated in the United States in 1948. Since that time it has grown and developed and become a key motivating force in the training of volunteer leaders in the Boy Scouts of America.
For 10 years, Wood Badge courses were conducted by the Boy Scouts of America exclusively for the purpose of training representatives from councils in methods of training and how to help with the leadership training programs of their own councils. Participants were required to subscribe to an agreement of service to this effect.
Since 1958, qualified local councils have been authorized to conduct their own Wood Badge courses to provide advanced leadership training for Scoutmasters and those Scouters who support troop operations. With regional approval, two or more local councils may also cooperate in conducting this training experience in a cluster-council Wood Badge course.
In the late 1960’s, the principles of leadership development were introduced experimentally into Wood Badge. By 1972, they had become an integral part of the program. The skills of leadership were emphasized in Wood Badge as a means of fostering the growth of up-to-date leadership knowledge, skills, and attitudes among Scouting’s leaders. By the late 1970’s, Wood Badge had evolved. Revisions completed in 1979 provided a continued emphasis on leadership skills, balanced by both Scoutcraft and program activities.
The course content was revised in 1994 to incorporate key elements of Ethics in Action introduced into Boy Scout training and literature between 1991-1995. Boy Scout Leader Wood Badge reinforces and supplements the materials included in the Scoutmaster Handbook, the Scoutmasters’ Junior Leader Training Kit (1991), the Junior Leader Training Conference Staff Guide (1992 and 1995), Continuing Education for Scout Leaders (1993), the Train the Trainer Conference (1993), and Scoutmastership Fundamentals (1994).
A new version of advanced leadership training, 21st Century Wood Badge, was introduced in 2003. Wood Badge continues to provide advanced training in the most current methods of the Boy Scouts of America.
A Unique Opportunity
Wood Badge Training offers a unique opportunity for learning and for leadership. Participants live and work together in a patrol with other Scouters. While they learn about the skills of leadership and the techniques of Scoutcraft, they have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the values and the methods of Scouting. They experience the fun and adventure of Scouting at first hand, and in a very special way. With other Scouting leaders, and an experienced staff setting the example, they try to live Scouting at its best.
Wood Badge is considered by many as a peak experience in their Scouting careers. It has served as a source of training and inspiration to thousands of Scouters. In their turn, these Scout leaders have affected the lives of millions of America’s youth.