LONDON – It used to be enough for a scout to know how to build a campfire and tie a knot.
But on Saturday scouts across Britain were trooping off to television studios and brushing up on their interview skills to earn public relations badges.
The PR badge is one of 40 new awards announced by Britain’s Scouting Association in what it is calling the largest ever revamp of its activity program.
Millions of young Scouts across the world are given activity badges for proving themselves in a wide variety of skills.
Traditionally, that has included fitness and outdoor-oriented skills like fire safety, horseback riding and cooking.
The Scout Association often updates and adds new skills to keep the movement relevant. Spokesman Andrew Thorp says the need to communicate effectively with the media is one of them.
“It’s a hugely media-driven world these days, whether it be through TV or radio or the Internet,” Thorp said. “We’re offering (young people) skills to talk about what they enjoy.”
Among the requirements for the new public relations badge: contacting a local media outlet and pitching a positive news story about scouting or writing a report about the movement and getting it published in, for example, a local paper.
Thorp said the badge was an extension of scouts’ emphasis on communications skills. “We’re still teaching communication – it’s just in a modern and relevant way,” he said.
Other new badges include a “healthy eating” badge, which Thorp said was partly a response to the increasing rates of childhood obesity.
To earn their badges young scouts would be asked to make a fruit salads and draw up lists of unhealthy foods.
There are also new badges being offered for expertise in space exploration, paragliding and “street sports” – including skateboarding, stunt bike riding and roller or inline skating.
Scouting recently celebrated its 100th birthday. The movement was created by Robert Baden-Powell, a lieutenant-general in the British army, who organized camps so that school boys could learn outdoor skills and physical fitness.
He detailed the experiences in a hugely successful book, “Scouting For Boys,” and the movement spread across the world. It now boasts more than 28 million members worldwide.