Ask the Expert: Interpreting Camping merit badge Requirement 9a

When it comes to life-changing experiences, there’s no substitute for camping.

And when it comes to the Eagle-required Camping merit badge, there’s no substitute for Requirement 9A.

It reads as follows:

9. Show experience in camping by doing the following:

a. Camp a total of at least 20 nights at designated Scouting activities or events. One long-term camping experience of up to six consecutive nights may be applied toward this requirement. Sleep each night under the sky or in a tent you have pitched. If the camp provides a tent that has already been pitched, you need not pitch your own tent.

That one paragraph has caused a few Scout leaders some consternation. Bill, a district-level training chairman, sent me this e-mail:

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Ask the Expert: The BSA’s ‘active’ requirement, revisited

Updated | May 7, 2013

Can a unit set attendance requirements?

Can Scouters mandate, for example, that Scouts show up for at least half of all meetings and outings?

When I first received this question in 2009, the answer was no. But that was back when Bryan on Scouting was called “Cracker Barrel.”

Times change. (As do advancement requirements and names of blogs.)

Today, the answer is yes — with certain limitations. Read on to learn more.

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Can packs, troops, teams, or crews participate in political rallies?

The Boy Scouts of America might be the most patriotic organization in the U.S.

But don’t take that to mean we endorse any one political party.

The same applies to your pack, troop, team, or crew. You and your Scouts should Do Your Duty to Country but not by endorsing any one candidate.

During election years, though, the line between patriotism and political favoritism becomes thin, making it important to remind you of the BSA’s official policy on Scout participation in political rallies.

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions and the BSA’s official answers: Continue reading


Ask the Expert: Why does silver outrank gold in Scouting awards?


Ever since its debut in 1904, the Olympic gold medal has represented the pinnacle of athletic achievement.

But if gold signifies the best in sports, why does the Boy Scouts of America use silver to represent its top awards?

Take the Eagle Palms, introduced in 1927, as an example. An Eagle Scout who earns five merit badges beyond the minimum amount (and meets other requirements) will receive a Bronze Palm. He’ll get a Gold Palm for 10 extra merit badges and a Silver Palm for 15. Continue reading

Ask the Expert: Do the hours worked by family members count on an Eagle service project?

The Eagle project—that last mile on the long, satisfying climb toward Scouting’s highest honor—tests a boy’s ability to organize a meaningful service project and then lead his peers in its completion.

It’s all outlined in the Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project workbook, available here (link opens PDF).

The “leading others” element of the project was on the mind of Dave Lannom of the Middle Tennessee Council recently.

Here’s his question:

Can the hours worked by family members of an Eagle candidate be counted in his Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project?

What if the candidate has siblings in the Scout troop or Venturing crew? Can those hours be counted?

First, let’s clarify one thing. There is no minimum number of hours required for an Eagle project.

Yes, a boy must record the number of hours that he and each participant worked, but there’s no required number. The workbook specifically states, “The length of time spent should be as adequate as is necessary for you to demonstrate your leadership of two or more individuals in planning and carrying out your project.”

In other words, a boy should consult his Scoutmaster, Coach, or Advisor to determine whether the time planned will be “adequate.”

But which names should be recorded in the workbook? The instructions tell boys to record “Scouts, Venturers, or Other Individuals” who participate in the project. That can include family members, says Christopher Hunt, team leader of advancement at the BSA. Here’s what he told me:

The requirement simply indicates the Scout must give leadership to others.

It does not say who the “others” may or may not be. Neither does it say how many others are to be included; thus it simply must be at least two.

Long story short, Dave, the answer is: Yes, a boy should record the efforts of his siblings just as he would any project volunteer.

Thanks for the question!

Your turn:

Have a puzzling, Scouting-related question? Send me an e-mail, and I’ll try to track down an answer. Just put “Ask the Expert” in the subject line.

Ask the Expert: Why is the Eagle Scout age requirement 18?

A boy must complete all requirements for the Eagle Scout Award by his 18th birthday, but why?

That was the question posed by Scouter Kim. H. She writes:

“Why do Scouts have to complete their Eagle requirements by their 18th birthday rather than by the time they graduate from high school?”

Some Scouts graduate high school early or late, so I’m sure fairness for all guys has something to do with it. But for the official answer, I asked the expert, Chris Hunt, team leader of advancement at the BSA National Office.

Here’s what he told me:

At the age of 18, in the Boy Scout and Varsity Scout programs, a young man is considered an adult, and thus no longer eligible to earn a youth member’s rank. At that age he may register as an assistant Scoutmaster, and assist in providing adult-level supervision at meetings and on outings.

So there’s your answer, Kim. I hope that clears things up.

Have a question about the BSA? Send it to me, and I’ll try to track down the answer.

Which uniform should a Council Executive Board Member wear?


Expertlogo1 In our little corner of the Boy Scouts of America's national headquarters, the staff of Scouting magazine is surrounded by experts who know just about everything there is to know about the program we love.

That's why we started the "Ask the Expert" series last year. Whenever you have a BSA-related question, send it to us, and we'll track down the answer. 

A recent question about uniforms came to us from Don in Dallas.

Don writes: "Which uniform should a Council Executive Board Member wear? Can he/she wear the Venturing uniform?" 

To find the answer, we asked Bill Evans of the Youth Development team. Here's Bill's response:

We allow district and council volunteers and staff to wear any uniform they wish.

I once visited Salt Lake City where they had all the council officers and council commissioners in Venturing uniform when they were doing just Venturing related stuff.

I have seen the same with the large Middle Tennessee staff [pictured above] as they were demonstrating their commitment to growing and supporting Venturing. Even wearing of the Venturing uniform to Boy Scout-oriented events, such as camporees, promotes the importance of staying in the program to our youth.

So wear the uniform you want, Don. The BSA is just happy that you've chosen to dedicate so much of your volunteer time to the program!

Thanks for the question, Don, and thanks to Bill Evans for the response.

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?



UPDATE: Bugling merit badge has been reinstated as a separate merit badge. More details here.

Have you been searching for an answer to a Scouting-related question? Ask the Expert is here to help. Send us your question, and Cracker Barrel will seek out the answer.

This week we hear from Bill Nelson, a Scouter in the Grand Canyon Council. Bill writes:

The Bugling merit badge is no longer on the site, and it looks like the Music merit badge requirements have changed to absorb Bugling. What’s happening there?

That’s a great question, and it’s one that a lot of Scouters are asking. Diane Leicht of the BSA’s Youth Development team tells us that the Bugling merit badge will be discontinued in 2011 and its requirements will be merged into Music merit badge. Here’s her full response:

The revised merit badge pamphlet that merged Bugling into Music was released earlier this year. It won’t be official until the 2011 Boy Scout Requirements book is released in January 2011.

Scouts may continue to earn the Bugling merit badge using the old pamphlet until that time. If Scouts have a copy of the new merit badge pamphlet with Music only, they can choose to earn the Music merit badge and complete the new bugling option as part of the requirements for the Music merit badge.

The two merit badge pamphlets below illustrate this change. Previously, Music and Bugling were two separate merit badges that shared a pamphlet (below, left). With the new pamphlet (below, right), Bugling is no longer a separate badge, and bugling-related requirements become an option for Scouts seeking the Music merit badge.


Ask the Expert: Does Bugler fulfill the “position of responsibility” for the Eagle Scout award?

Expertlogo1 Have you been searching for an answer to a Scouting-related question? Ask the Expert is here to help. Send us your question, and Cracker Barrel will seek out the answer.

Today's question comes from Arlene Freeman, a Scouter in Austin, Tex. She writes:

Does the Bugler position fulfill the "position of responsibility" for Eagle Scout?
If it does, when did the position become effective for Eagle rank?

The simple answer is: No, it doesn't count as a position of responsibility. For the explanation, we went to Michael Lo Vecchio, program assistant for youth development. Here's his answer:

Bugler is not a leadership position for Eagle Scout. It was inadvertently listed in the new 12th edition of the BSA Handbook, the 2010 Boy Scout Requirements book, and on the and Web sites. It has been removed from the Eagle Scout Rank Application.

The sites and books are in the process of being updated. Thanks for the question, Arlene!

Ask the Expert: Is it a violation of BSA policy to have “closed” meetings?

Expertlogo1 Have you been searching for an answer to a Scouting-related question? Ask the Expert is here to help. Send us your question, and Cracker Barrel will seek out the answer.

We received the following question from Janet Riley:

Our Patrol Leaders Council is a closed meeting. When my son wanted to present some camping ideas to the PLC, he had to get special permission from the SPL to do so.

I was specifically asked not to come in [to the meeting] when my son did because the SM said it would be perceived as “interference.”
I am the committee chair and told our Scoutmaster that it is a violation of BSA policy to have closed PLC meetings. Who's right?

Janet is referring to Youth Protection Guidelines, which every adult volunteer must know. Here's the specific excerpt she cited:

"No secret organizations. The Boy Scouts of America does not recognize any secret organizations as part of its program. All aspects of the Scouting program are open to observation by parents and leaders."

To interpret the rules, we asked Joe Glasscock. Here's his response:

This is an issue where both sides have a point. The PLC meeting is a closed meeting, not a secret one. I can see the Scoutmaster's point that having a lot of extra people would be a distraction.

On the other hand, any parent, and certainly the Committee Chair, should be allowed to attend with the understanding that they would be seated in an outer circle and would not have voice in the decisions of the PLC.

We hope that clears it up for you, Janet. Thanks for your question!