Ask the Expert: Can a troop prevent a Scout from earning a merit badge at a workshop or summer camp?

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Updated May 15 with some clarifications.

Not all merit badges are earned in the traditional troop setting.

Enterprising Scouts can earn them at council-run merit badge “colleges” or workshops, summer or winter camps, or on their own with a registered counselor.

But some troops restrict or even prohibit this practice, insisting that merit badges must be earned under their own roof — with only troop-sanctioned counselors.

True, the Guide to Advancement says Scouts must discuss their choice of merit badge counselor with their Scoutmaster, but some troops take it one step farther, declaring that merit badge workshops themselves aren’t kosher.

Is that OK? That’s what a Scouter named Thomas wondered in an email last week. In his troop, Scouts cannot earn Eagle-required merit badges at events like workshops, instead needing to earn those merit badges in-house. He writes:  Continue reading


Ask the Expert: Can merit badge progress begin before a Scout gets his blue card?

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?If a Scout camps several nights with his troop before getting a signed blue card from his Scoutmaster, do those nights count toward his earning Camping merit badge?

That’s what a Scouter, who I’ll call James, wondered last week in an email. James wrote:

I have a question concerning when a Scout must have a blue card. Our troop has a merit badge counselor that told boys that none of their camping nights count prior to them getting a signed blue card from the Scoutmaster.

It seems that I have read that this is contrary to BSA policy. Could you point me to a specific BSA reference for this?

Well, James, there’s no greater authority on this than Christopher Hunt, advancement team leader here at the BSA’s National Office.  Continue reading


The most- and least-popular merit badges of 2012, and what that info tells us

Which merit badges had Scouts rushing to counselors and Moms and Dads rushing to the sewing machine last year?

Here’s your answer. In January 2012, I presented a list of 2011′s most- and least-popular merit badges based on sales numbers from the Supply Division. This year’s numbers come from the BSA Program folks and are based not on sales but on the actual number earned, meaning they should be more accurate.

As you’d expect, the 12 most-earned merit badges from 2012 were all Eagle-required. Those merit badges provide extra motivation for Scouts to finish them on their journey through the ranks. But the badges that ranked 13 to 130 have some interesting takeaways:

Continue reading


Play to win: Game Design merit badge released

The final cover (click to enlarge).

The final cover (click to enlarge).

Let me stop you right here. I know what you’re thinking, but, no, this is not a merit badge Scouts earn by playing video games.

Now that I’ve dispelled that common misconception, here’s the real story: Game Design merit badge — released today — teaches Scouts how to create, test, and refine a game from one of four categories.

It’s the BSA’s 131st current merit badge and it’s likely a one-size-fits-all badge—appropriate for super-athletic Scouts as well as those who are less so. And perfect for the right-brainers and the left-brainers.

Today, March 6, is the official release date, but the merit badge pamphlets are still being printed and shipped. So, they won’t arrive in Scout Shops until later this month. The quickest way to get a pamphlet may be online, with an order to scoutstuff.org. This way, you’ll get your pamphlet right from the source. I don’t see the pamphlets on the site just yet, but keep checking back.

As for requirements, I’ve got a full list below. But most of the work revolves around creating an actual game in one of these four categories:

  • Electronic (games for computers, game systems, or mobile devices)
  • Outdoor/Athletic (sports or games like capture the flag)
  • Tabletop (dice-based games, board games, card games)
  • Pen and Paper or Role-Playing Games

Here’s the full list:

Continue reading


Merit system: What you can do at the 2013 jamboree

2013jamboreelogo-200x326Staff spots are filling fast for next summer’s national Scout jamboree.

And if you want to be among the first counselors to teach a merit badge at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, now’s the time to make that interest known.

They’re already full at Programming and Robotics merit badges, but Janice Downey and the Innovation team still need knowledgeable, enthusiastic volunteers for these four merit badges:

  • Chess
  • Game Design
  • Search and Rescue
  • Sustainability

You need to be already committed to staff the jamboree either full- or half-time. When you register, be sure to choose Merit Badges as your preferred staffing area, and send an e-mail to merit.badge@scouting.org. Be sure to include your Scouting experience and areas of expertise.

If you’re not yet registered, that’s OK. You can apply now. If you’re already registered and haven’t committed to a specific position, let Janice know and she’ll track down your staff application. She’s looking for volunteers of all ages, including members in the harder-to-find age range of 18 to 35.

One final note: If the fact that there will soon be Game Design, Sustainability, and Programming merit badges is news to you, perhaps my Calendar of New Merit Badges might interest you. It’ll keep you in the loop on all news of merit.


FAQs about Cooking and Sustainability merit badges

When I announced that Cooking merit badge and the new Sustainability merit badge would join the Eagle-required list in 2013 and 2014, a lot of you had questions.

You asked about rollout plans, what happens with Scouts nearing the end of the Eagle trail, and an explanation of what will be covered under Sustainability merit badge. At the time, I was silent.

But today, courtesy of Advancement Team Leader Christopher Hunt, I’ve got some answers. Here they are:

Continue reading


There are no dull merit badges, only dull instructors

Scouts aren’t exactly stumbling over themselves to take Personal Management, Emergency Preparedness, or Citizenship in the Community/Nation/World.

But with a little advance planning and creativity, you can bring seemingly dull merit badges to life.

Start by studying every requirement for ways to turn lectures or pen-and-paper exercises into something hands-on.

Then consider these tips from our friends on Facebook and TwitterContinue reading


Found ‘em! Search and Rescue merit badge requirements released

The search is over.

The hotly anticipated debut of Search and Rescue merit badge — the BSA’s 130th current merit badge — has finally arrived.

Search and Rescue merit badge, or SAR for short, has an official earn date of Monday, Aug. 20. That’s the first day Scouts can start working on requirements for the merit badge.

Of course, your Scouts will want the official merit badge pamphlet and emblem, both available at your local Scout Shop or online at ScoutStuff.org.

Follow the jump for info on merit badge counselors and the complete list of requirements.  Continue reading


My Two Cents: Does the BSA offer too many merit badges?

Whenever a new merit badge comes out, a handful of well-meaning volunteers usually ask that question.

“If you’re adding Welding merit badge,” they write, “which one will you take away?”

For me, though, the beauty of the BSA’s merit badge program lies in its diverse selection. Too many choices? No such thing.

Walk into any bookstore, and consider the thousands of books on display. The store knows that no two readers are alike.

No two boys are the same, either. And the Boy Scouts of America understands that. Continue reading