lake-tahoe

Cooking, Sustainability merit badges to become Eagle-required

Updated Nov. 1: Answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about these changes.

Updated Dec. 18: Here are the new requirements for Cooking MB.


Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, this badge will get a silver border.

Moms and dads, prepare the needle and thread!

Sustainability and Cooking merit badges will join the list of Eagle-required merit badges over the next 14 months, the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board announced today.

Sustainability, a new merit badge, will join Environmental Science as an Eagle Scout option after its debut at the 2013 jamboree.

Cooking, meanwhile, will become Eagle-required as of Jan. 1, 2014.

The total number of merit badges required for the Eagle Scout Award will remain at 21. In other words, instead of 12 Eagle-required badges and 9 elective badges, a Scout must earn 13 Eagle-required and 8 elective badges.

Why the change? The goal is to “reflect a better balance of the needs of youth and our nation today and in the future,” according to the BSA’s resolution. Personally, I like it. Keeping up with the ever-changing world means questioning the way things have always been done.

Sustainability becomes more important as our population increases while resources decrease. And a boy who reaches Eagle without skills in cooking and healthy eating habits hasn’t become fully “Prepared. For Life.” in my opinion. I think the BSA’s board got it right on here.

What do you think?

For the list of Eagle-required merit badges as it looks now — and as it will look in 2014 — follow the jump. 

Current list of Eagle-required merit badges

Earn a total of 21 merit badges, including the following:

  • First Aid
  • Citizenship in the Community
  • Citizenship in the Nation
  • Citizenship in the World
  • Communication
  • Personal Fitness
  • Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving
  • Environmental Science
  • Personal Management
  • Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling
  • Camping
  • Family Life

List of Eagle-required merit badges, effective Jan. 1, 2014

Earn a total of 21 merit badges, including the following:

  • First Aid
  • Citizenship in the Community
  • Citizenship in the Nation
  • Citizenship in the World
  • Communication
  • Personal Fitness
  • Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving
  • Environmental Science OR Sustainability
  • Personal Management
  • Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling
  • Camping
  • Family Life
  • Cooking

Lake Tahoe photo: Some rights reserved by CaDeltaFoto

257 thoughts on “Cooking, Sustainability merit badges to become Eagle-required

  1. Bravo on requiring the Cooking Merit Badge for Eagle, but the brief description of this “Sustainability” Merit Badge sounds to me suspiciously close to early 18th-century Malthusian nonsense. So-called “experts” have been claiming for centuries now that population growth would soon outstrip our natural resources, but it simply hasn’t happened. Be careful with this Merit Badge, Scouters, and ensure you have some economists on the panel that can help walk some of the zealots back, if necessary. “Falsehoods don’t become truths just because they become fashionable.”

  2. Pingback: Cooking, Sustainability merit badges to become Eagle-required » Troop 836

  3. Hopefully BSA will revise the cooking MB requirements. The food guide odor amid is no longer used! Check out My Plate for tthe current guidelines.

  4. There are too many “required” merit badges. We have moved to making all of those Scout skills that we used to get belt loops for into basic requirements. Shouldn’t we continue that through Eagle? Scouts have to cook to get First Class, so adding Cooking merit badge is redundant. Sustainability, which smells of political correctness, is equally redundant with Environmental Science. Up the rank requirements and let the boys find themselves through their “elective” merit badges!

    • Wayne, I am an Eagle Scout from 1976. I respectfully disagree about your comment on having too many merit badges on the required list. The required list will only grow to one more required, making 13. The total number of badges will still equal 21. If anything, we should not be dumbing-down requirements for Eagle. The rank is supposed to be the “Sterling standard” of Scouting and good citizenry for male youths. And what is stopping a boy from earning more elective merit badges? Nothing. Only their drive to do so.

      I *do*, however, agree with you that basic Scout skills should continue through Eagle. I think some boys fail to learn them well the first time around, then forget them or don’t apply them as they advance.

      Also, you need to look at a recent blog post from Bryan, “Calendar of New Merit Badges”: http://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/merit-badge-calendar/

      It shows several current badges that will receive critical updates and Cooking is among them. According to the blog post, it is rumored to include requirements that fit the BSA’s healthy living initiatives, so I wouldn’t dismiss Cooking as glorified basic requirements. Reserve that judgement for when the updated requirement update comes out near the end of this year.

      Finally, as far as Sustainability merit badge goes, I am reserving judgment until I see the actual requirements. It will be the Scout’s choice to earn it OR Environmental Science. I highly doubt the National Council made these changes blindly without good reason.

  5. I dont care either way… but Sustainability going from a non badge to required in one step ? I dont like that. Sounds like another dose of Family Life, to make better PR and make the scouts more PC

    • Once they’ve earned the MB, they’ve earned it. They do not have to re-earn it. They list it on their Eagle application.

  6. As a scouter, farmer, and teacher I too have some concerns about the Sustainability Merit Badge. If it is done well it could be an excellent addition to the Natural Science family of badges, however on the other hand if it is being done for PC reasons it could be very detrimental. I certainly hope that whatever is presented is based on sound science and not the pseudoscience of political correctness.

    • Required merit badges reflect the direction people want Boy Scouting to go. I am fine with keeping the existing required badges and letting the youth discover merit badges in new fields they find interesting.

    • Orienteering is going the way of GPS. I don’t agree there. Scouting Heritage should be the FIRST MB they should get – for Tenderfoot rank. Geocaching is a minor hobby – elective is fine there. Can’t disagree on Pioneering, though Wilderness Survival would be preferable in my mind.

  7. Sustainability merit badge, what? Is this another PC merit badge like Family Life. Is homosexual awareness to be added as a requirement for Disability Awareness Merit Badge.

  8. Bryan!! What do you mean “Moms and dads, prepare the needle” Boy Scouts are big enough to sew their own patches. :P

    On a more serious note, it’s a shame to see wholesale disdain for the Sustainability MB. BSA has always been at the forefront of conservation, or did you guys’ handbooks not come with those pages?

  9. Pingback: Major Changes for Eagle Rank, Use of Scout Oath and Law Announced | Backpacker's Blaze

  10. I am fairly ambivalent about cooking it is ok. Sustainability I dont think should be an eagle required right off. I wish they would increase the number of eagle requireds or make all the merit badges harder. It seems like way to many scouts are reaching the top of scouting ranks.

  11. I think they should add sewing as a merit badge and make it required for Tenderfoot. Then they could sew on their own badges. :-) At least that is what I tell my Scout….LOL!!

  12. Great move. I like the idea of adding the cooking merit badge. judgement is still out on the sustainability badge.

  13. I think that sustainability is basically a natural off-shoot of environmental science and may be a way to get scouts to think outside themselves as to their impact in greater society. So many of them are too self-centered, it is their world and we, and the troop, just happen to live in it – maybe this will enable them to grow a bit.

  14. As a Eagle scout from 89, the cooking MB seems to me to be redundant. Cooking was something we had to learn and do early on. Mabye that was just the troop I was in, but that was one skill you started early and build on the whole time we were in scouts. As for the other one I do like some of the required badges having two options. I guess it comes down to what requirements make up that badge.

  15. I like cooking MB as a required MB. On my first camp out a a scout I learned about cooking from my patrol leader, he was a good teacher and I have never forgot the tips.

    I cannot say anything about sustainability. I know what it is but nothing about the MB.

    I see a lot of suggestions about adding many more MB,s to the required list. A lot of MB,s today are very specific and do not appeal to all scouts. Required MB,s should reflect scouting’s main ideas. While most MB,s do relate, not all qualify as key merit badges. Lifesaving used to be required, I know several fine scouts who did not get Eagle simply because the could not swim well enough to get it. One of the best improvements I have seen in required MB,s is the either or options on a few.

    We should remember that merit badges are meant to introduce scouts to new things as well as teaching skills along the way. The purpose of First Aid MB is not to train the scout to be a paramedic, but to give knowledge of basic first aid skills.

      • Sorry to be sending these back but I just wanted to show you how many I have got of the same one

        Kenneth R Calfo Sr.

        HAVE A NICE DAY/NIGHT

        IN GOD WE TRUST

        GOD BLESS AMERICA

        GOD HELP AMERICA

        If we forget that we are a nation under God. Then we will be a nation gone under!

        I love my country but I fear my Gov.

    • Agree Cooking is an essential life skill and a good choice for a required merit badge; however, unless thoroughly revamped, the Cooking merit badge requirements are not geared at all toward learning to cook. Current Cooking requirements duplicate Camping and other requirements/merit badges and are heavily weighted to planning lengthy menus for the out-of-doors. How about learning to cook and serving a few good meals one at a time rather than jumping into the deep end with a need to cook for a group for an outdoor weekend? I’d much rather my son learned to cook in order to help out at home or feed himself well once he’s independent, and would leave the over-emphasis on outdoor cooking to other merit badges or at least eliminate duplication. Our scouts are encouraged to take lightweight, just-add-water food on backpacking trips to keep weight down and enjoy the experience, so the Cooking requirements tied solely to backpacking seem pointless. And, if you can earn the Cooking merit badge without being able to throw together a spaghetti dinner, how applicable is it to preparing for life?

      • I just signed up to be a Cooking MB counselor and TOTALLY agree with you. I’m not wanting them to be the next FoodNetwork Chefs – but something that introduces them into something more than planning meals for a hiking/camping trip would be good. All them, God willing, will be bachelors someday and I want them to know more than how to make a one pot meal in foil. ;-)

  16. I am an Eagle Scout from 1976. I respectfully disagree with those who think there may now be too many merit badges on the required list. I earned my Eagle rank in 1976 and had to earn 24 merit badges, only 10 from a required list that has now undergone a few changes since then (Safety merit badge was dropped and other options added). The new required list will only grow to one more required, making 13. The total number of badges will still equal 21. If anything, we should not be dumbing-down requirements for Eagle. The rank is supposed to be the “Sterling standard” of Scouting and good citizenry for male youths. And what is stopping a boy from earning more elective merit badges? Nothing. Only their drive to do so.

    I *do*, however, agree that basic Scout skills like cooking should continue through Eagle. I think some boys fail to learn them well the first time around, then forget them or don’t apply them as they advance.

    Also, a recent blog post from Bryan, “Calendar of New Merit Badges” (http://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/merit-badge-calendar/) shows several current badges that will receive critical updates and Cooking is among them. According to the blog post, it is rumored to include requirements that fit the BSA’s healthy living initiatives, so I wouldn’t dismiss Cooking as glorified basic requirements. Reserve that judgement for when the updated requirement update comes out near the end of this year.

    Finally, as far as Sustainability merit badge goes, I am reserving judgment until I see the actual requirements. I’m sure it won’t be a duplicate of Environmental Science because sustainability would have to include economics in the equation, and that can be tough for younger boys to grasp. I highly doubt the National Council made these changes blindly without good reason and it’s important for the organization to have a good balance with traditional Scouting while trying to keep modern boys engaged in the program.

    • I agree. I am an Eagle Scout (1992) and my son crossed over to Boy Scouts in 2011. He currently has ten merit badges (4 Eagle, 6 elective) and about to pin on First Class. He hasn’t be pushing to get merit badges completed (going at his own pace and selection) and already he is almost half way there. 21 merit badges is not difficult to achieve.

    • I, too, am an Eagle Scout from the Class of 1975. I had to earn 24 merit badges (later changed back to 21). Having continued to work with the program since then I have always bemoaned the dropping of Cooking from the required Eagle list. It’s about time it came back in. I believe it was all related to the then move away from the outdoor program. Camping with out Cooking is like salt without pepper. So, good! I would’ve agreed,anyway, to 22 total if they had put Cooking back in. Let’s get back to what it should be and get away from merit badge mills. I hate the fact that the program tries to push the boys through before they turn 15 and discover the two fumes (gasoline and perfume): most really don’t “get it” until they are older anyway….punching a punch list for the sake of a punch list is not productive. Oh, by the way: my Eagle Board of Review was comprehensive – I was responsible for demonstrating skills and knowledge from Tenderfoot to my last merit badge as a Life Scout. National has put that off limits, which is a real shame. I expect an Eagle to be compentent in everything in the Handbook, cover to cover – period.

      • Scouting membership is down by 1/3 in the past decade. Unfortunetly, they had to make Scouting relavant to the times. I agree that and Eagle of today may not be the same as an Eagle of 10-30 years ago as far as requirements and testing of skills. It is what it is. Still I think we need to give a Scout credit for maintaining a balance in their life that inculdes Scouts and if they are able to Egale, give them a pat on the back for making this accomplishment. I think most people relaize that there is a difference in Scouts of today and the past.

  17. I too like adding Cooking back in as it was when I was a scout. Currently I have three scouts at Life rank and a couple that should be advancing soon. I believe, but would like to confirm, that the requirements that their MB requirements for Eagle, even if they don’t earn it until after Jan 2014, will remain what they were when the achieved Life rank…that is still the case isn’t it?

    • That is correct. If you have starting working on a rank or merit badge and the requirements are changed, you have the option to choose which requirements to follow. Only if you start a rank or merit badge after the requirements changed will you not have the option to follow the old requirements.

      • So, if my son starts working on Eagle rank before the Cooking MB becomes an Eagle required badge, he does not need to earn it, correct? Although he does like to cook and may want to earn the MB, I just want to know what his options are.

        • If he has earned the Life rank before the change officially happens (Jan 1 2014) then he can still earn Eagle with the old Eagle requirements.

        • I believe you need to check the plan with Chris Hunt as he is working the language that will be in the 2013 NBS requirements book.

          Here is the language under review right now:

          Cooking Merit Badge to be Required for Eagle Scout Rank
          Effective Jan. 1, 2014, the Cooking merit badge will be required in order to obtain the Eagle Scout rank. Regardless of when a Scout earned the Life rank or began working on Eagle, unless he fulfills all the requirements—with the exception of his board of review—before Jan. 1, 2014, he must earn the Cooking merit badge to become an Eagle Scout.

          We’ll discuss this in the next issue of Advancement News, and there will be mention in the 2013 Boy Scout Requirements Book. GTA indicates that if requirements change, a Scout may work with the existing requirements until he finishes his rank–unless otherwise stated. In this case it will be “otherwise stated” in the BSRB.

  18. Do the requirements change at all? My son just earned the Cooking Merit Badge at his first summer camp this year, will he be able to replace the badge with the silver bordered one, or have to retake the class?

    • He can replace his badge if he likes (no need to, though) and does not have to retake the class. See my earlier post about rank changes from the “Guide to Advancement.”

  19. Here’s a crazy thought… add more MB required for Eagle. 21 IMHO is a joke. Anyone can earn 21 MB. How about 13 required, 13 non at the least. When you reduce the number of “non-required” MB, Scouts lose the incentive to discover their own interests and individualizie their scouting experience to what they enjoy.

    • I agree with increasing the number of non Eagle meritbadges required for Eagle and not decreasing it. It takes more than these ” few” required badges to make a well rounded scout, which a scout should strive to be in the world he will face as he grows.

  20. I like this move. A lot, in fact (besides, cooking has always ‘felt’ like an Eagle Req)

    I do wish that they’d require Pioneering, though. It seems like it covers, along with Camping and Hiking, the full scope of Outdoor Scouting

    • I’d have to disagree with you- not that I don’t love pioneering, its a spectacular merit badge to earn and to teach- I know- but it is very much a scout nostalgia badge. It’s something that absolutely smacks of scouting… if we were living in the 1960s. However, the skills it teaches are largely useless outside its own pursuit. There are bits and pieces that could be useful somewhere along the line (how to make a deadman, or tie a trucker’s hitch) but the most useful bits have already been copied by tenderfoot through first class. After leaving the scouts, the opportunities I see for the badge to be put to use are limited, unlike all other Eagle badges (swimming, citizenship, personal management, etc.). As for rounding out the outdoors in scouting, I think it does a rather poor job. I’ve had feelings of joy, anticipation, sorrow, and ambition associated with pioneering, but I’ve never felt that one-with-the-world/completely-alone feeling while tying knots- its too cerebral, while the outdoors is visceral. For my part, if I were to round out the outdoor scouting requirements, I’d require the climbing, whitewater, or wilderness survival badges. A scout is brave, and testing your mettle in the outdoors is an experience which will hold for life.

      • Great post regarding Pioneering. I loved earning it as a kid. I mean, what Scout back then, in the early 70s, *didn’t* want to build a giant signaling tower or raft across the lake in something they had to make with rustic materials? Catapults, campsite gadgets…you learn to lash, you wanna build “stuff”.

        I think Wilderness Survival would be the one to add, if there is one to be considered to add to the list of required badges. That’s a badge that relies on all of your outdoor skills and teaches self-reliance.

  21. There’s a lot of comments on this topic. I’ve been thinking about this – and given all the upcoming changes, I think that it would be a good time to increase the number of required merit badges for Eagle to 25. Too many merit badges are summer camp give aways. A new scout can come back from his first year at summer camp with five merit badges. And they might not even be Tenderfoot yet. I’d suggest that Star Rank have 3 required MB’s and 3 electives. Life have 4 required, and 4 electives. And finally that Eagle have the six additional required merit badges and five electives, for a total of 25. I can only think of one recent Eagle scout in our troop who had not earned at least 25 MB’s.

    • In our troop, new scouts are required to take
      The trailblazer class which is 3 hours, so the most they will earn is 2 merit badges

      Trailblazers is a good intro class into scouting and summer camp for the boys

    • Instead of increasing the number of MBs, why not address the issue of Scout Camp being a MB factory. We had a Scout that did not even come to camp get credit for earning a MB.

      Boys that take badges @ camp often do not get the full experience of earning the badges that they take, but just get rewarded for going to class.

      • When I was scoutmaster, not that long ago, our troop’s policy was that Tenderfoot Scouts could take one merit badge, Second Class two, First Class three or maybe four, depending on the merit badges and the camp. The emphasis for first-year Scouts was to work on First Class skills, either in the camp’s Trail to First Class program or back at the campsite with senior scouts and ASMs.

        Shameless Plug: Not every camp is a merit badge mill, but you do have to be selective. At the camp where I am currently program director (Camp Three Falls, Ventura County Council) we offer only four periods of merit badges, with longer periods so there is more teaching time. I know of a few other camps that have similar schedules. And we put a lot of resources into our Trail to First Program and encourage younger Scouts to participate in TTFC rather than taking several merit badges.

        Camps these days are competing for your business, and they will run merit badge mills if that’s what they think people want. If you want quality instruction, support the camps that offer it.

        • The Scouts in my Troop really like Camp Three Falls. I spent several days there with some Webelos a few years back and had a great time! (who knew it could go down to the high 30s in July in SoCal, though??)

        • When I went to my first summer camp, 1978, our troop had it’s own “Trail to First Class” program. Each new scout took canoeing, swimming, pioneering and basketry. Lots of “Scout-stuff” and fun, without being a “MB mill” and, earned 4 merit badges, covered the ground in many skill awards, and hooked the boy on the fun (with a purpose). And we still had plenty of time to ENJOY the camp.

  22. I think scouts have a much higher capacity for learning than even the current minimum requirements suggest. So if the number of required and total merit badges required for Eagle increased, I think they would still do it. How many scoutmasters and parents would tell their scouts that earning Eagle with 13 required/21 total merit badges is workable, but more than that is too tough so don’t try? Personally, I would push for even more by adding a few more electives so the scouts will branch out a bit more in other areas. They can already complete the simple electives in almost no time (art, basketry, etc) so requiring a few more electives will have them do something that takes a bit more time to explore.

  23. Will this change be required for all Eagle candidates after 1/1/2014, or will Scouts who have achieved a certain level of progress be “grandfathered?”

    • If you have starting working on a rank or merit badge and the requirements are changed, you have the option to choose which requirements to follow. Only if you start a rank or merit badge after the requirements changed will you not have the option to follow the old requirements.

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