The history of wood badge beads in the Boy Scouts

Dale Copeland, Cherokee Council President, is wearing Wood Badge Beads he received for training he completed.

The first Boy Scout Troop in North America, formed in Pawhuska in 1909 and chartered in England, celebrated 110 years with a Boy Scout Parade followed by a reception for Eagle Scouts at the Community Center in Pawhuska on September 28. The Cherokee and Cimarron Councils participated.
During the Eagle Scout reception, Dale Copeland, Cherokee Council President, shared about the beads he wore around his neck as part of his uniform.
“These are wood badge beads. Lord Baden-Powell started the Boy Scouts in England and one of the first things he realized was that the boys needed adult leaders to help them stay on track and accomplish their goals. So, the first thing he did was set up a training, which he called wood badge. It was small wooden beads. He wanted it to be a recognition but he didn’t want it to be too ostentatious,” Copeland said.
“When leaders go to training, over several weekends or several days, you do what is called a ticket or a list of tasks. When you finish that, you get two wooden beads. That signifies you’ve completed wood badge training. If you staff a wood badge course, you get a third bead. If you are a course director, you get a fourth bead. I have never seen one, but, if you are the worldwide director, there are six beads. There have only been three of those in the history of Eagle Scouting. (verify this or leave it out).
August was the 100th anniversary of the first wood badge course, taught by Lord Robert Baden-Powell.
Copeland recalled being in Japan in 2006 for an event called Fuji Awards, similar to Eagle Awards in America. He met a Japanese gentleman, and they could not converse due to the language barrier but they both had wood badge beads.
“There’s just a connection there, whether it’s Zimbabwe or Japan or Germany that the wood badge training is an adult training that’s done around the world,” he said.
The course deals with different areas of leadership – communication, planning, execution, teamwork, problem resolution, and lasts all day. They’ll do a two or three weekend course or an all week course.
Cherokee Council Scout Executive Philip Mba Wright shared some additional history. He said that Baden-Powell, while serving in the British Armed Forces, had gotten the idea for the wood badges when he visited the Bantu Tribe on the continent of Africa. The Bantu chief had wooden beads. When Baden-Powell asked him about the beads, the chief said they were a symbol of wisdom. Baden-Powell liked this concept and used it to create wood badge beads earned when Boy Scout leaders completed courses of study.
To learn more about the Boy Scouts, contact the Cherokee Council at 918-336-9170. Their office is located at 520 S. Quapaw in Bartlesville.
Eagle Scouts reception Sept. 28 at Community Center in Pawhuska.

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