Young Cultivators Merit Badge: Do Your Eyes Light Up? Beginner Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,760 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—9,508 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Make It Easy/Do Your Eyes Light Up? Beginner Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, I once again visited my go-to, would-be, wanna-be, newbie farmgirl sister (or as she would say, sistah), Piper. I was just as thrilled with this badge earning as she was—maybe a smidgeon more even—and we got to work ASAP (As Soon As Piper … fixed her hair, ate breakfast, checked her social media, watched an episode of something or other, ate a snack, sent several text messages, and fixed her hair again).

In order for Pipes to earn her Beginner Level badge, she needed to learn a few things from Yours Truly, aka Jane the Brain. Namely, we needed to identify common tools used around the house and garden. I was secretly super-excited about this for a few reasons:

  • I love tools
  • I love wearing my tool belt
  • I lost the charger to my cordless drill and was hoping we’d find it ASAP (As Soon As Piper … well, you know the drill. Ha! Get it? Drill?)

Anyway, we started out in the house and I was surprised at how few tools she could actually name (manicure set aside). Then she shocked me even further by admitting her school—like most others—had eliminated Shop Class.

Whaa? Who put who in the what now?

This was a travesty. I mean, who was going to keep everyone in constant birdhouse supply? What about homemade mailboxes, or crooked picture frames? What, no ashtrays as Christmas presents anymore? (Okay, maybe that one, no one will miss too dreadfully. Although they are handy for storing jewelry.)

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer via Wikimedia Commons

I couldn’t believe my ears. And beyond what these poor lost sheep weren’t learning in their non-existent Shop Class, where were all the ex-Shop Class teachers going?

Was there a halfway house for fired Shop Class professors? Were they hanging out like juvenile delinquents on the steps of Home Depot? Were they getting tatted up, pierced, joining a biker gang, and causing chaos due to their lack of purpose? Were they lying face down (gasp) in an empty aisle at Lowes?

I had to put the poor lost men and women of Shop Class on the back burner, though, as I focused on Piper. I wiped away a single solitary tear in memory of those who had gone before us as I lovingly showed her the license-plate birdhouse I had made in ninth grade.

“The rusted steel cut off part of my pinky and gave me tetanus,” I reminisced nostalgically. “It was the best time ever.”

“Um, yeah, okay, Auntie. What’s this funny looking thing?” Piper held up a post-hole digger.

There’s no better way to teach than to learn by doing, so we spent an hour putting a fence around my herb area in my garden. And by ‘we,’ I, of course, mean Piper. I sipped on some iced tea and fondly remembered my days in Shop Class.

The day was a success: Piper learned the identities of most of my tools, I took a trip down memory lane, and we found my drill charger when Piper went to plug in her cell phone. Thanks, sistah!

Photo by edward stojakovic via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Cindi says:

    I am really loving your time with this delightful future Farmgirl. The demise of shop class and home economics in the schools has long been an irritating thorn in my side. At first I didn’t know why it bothered me so. I mean, how many of us groaned at the thought of having to go to shop class? But now as many years have passed without it, it is clear that the opportunity for these youngsters to learn very useful things has also resulted in depriving them of a chance to feel a real sense of accomplishment. Your apprentice has no idea what a wonderful gift you are giving her, but one day she will and you will forever hold a special place in her heart. Oh, and one day she will impress the socks off some young suitor with her post hole digging skills!

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    The elimination of “vocational” classes in public education has been a huge loss for many kids. Parents all want their kids to go to college. But what they fail to understand is that we still need plumbers, AC/heating experts, construction workers, welders and all the rest. Many community college today have these careers in the form of certificate programs and associate degree programs to meet the needs and wishes of interested students. I worked with a man who was in charge of the career and development programs for our county schools and he reminded me one day that if your car breaks down on the roadside, do you want a car mechanic to stop or a brain surgeon? Somehow we have stigmatized these important careers as “for dummies or flunkies” instead of giving them the respect they deserve.

    Your young cultivator badge is very important, I believe, for young people because they are not going to get any encouragement or classes in our schools. I am a firm believer that if youngsters get exposed before they hear that “smart people don’t do those things” and get jaded about doing them, they are less likely to shun away from exploring.

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