August 15, 2015 – Carson, California – One Hundred Boy Scouts descended upon the International Printing Museum in Carson California on a warm Saturday in August to earn two merit badges; Pulp & Paper and Graphic Arts. Thanks to over 30 museum and industry volunteers, the boys made paper, silk screened t-shirts, and printed cards they designed that day.
Ten groups of ten boys rotated every half hour to various stations set up around the museum property in order to pass the requirements for the two merit badges. On the museum grounds, volunteers helped the boys blend pulp which was then poured onto wire frames allowing each boy to take home the paper they made.
The boys silk screened their own commemorative Merit Badge Day T-shirts while volunteers taught the boys about various bindery methods and how to identify different types of printing they run across at home and at school in order to fulfill that requirement for the graphic arts merit badge.
Since the first Merit Badge Day on May 7th 2011, over 1,800 boys have been exposed to the graphic arts and paper industry at the International Printing Museum. Mark Barbour, curator of the museum, Dan Freeland, museum chairman, and I came up with the idea to host a merit badge day in order to promote paper making and the graphic arts to a generation of kids raised on iPads and cell phones. This was during a time when funding was cut in the education system for printing programs.
Fewer and fewer boys are learning about our industry and we thought there might be a desire among the boy scouts to learn while earning a merit badge. I contacted the Boy Scout National Office back then and learned that the Graphic Arts and Pulp and Paper Merit Badges were among the least popular of all the merit badges boys can earn. When my son was in scouts, I remembered that Merit badge days were popular among boys seeking rank advancement. At the same time Mark had been working on a way to get the Boy Scouts more involved with the museum so we came up with the idea of creating a Merit Badge Day.
When asked why they signed up, one boy from Orange County said he had always been interested in Printing and this sounded “Cool”. Another boy said he liked engineering and he thought a job in this industry might be interesting. A third scout said he was there because his friend decided to come and he liked the chance to make something by hand.
Because of the Merit Badge Day, the Printing Museum now has a steady stream of new visitors, the Boy Scouts now have a way to learn about our industry while earning two merit badges, and the printing industry is once again educating a group of smart and engaged boys who will soon enter the workforce. Now thousands of boys are learning about the careers and benefits of the graphic arts and paper industries.