Update: BSA Historic Merit Badge Program


UPDATE (04/01/10): The Historic Merit Badge Program has been released. Click here for details.

You may have heard rumors that the Historic Merit Badge Program
has been
canceled. Not true.

What is true is that the BSA is putting finishing touches on
the program now, and the end result will be well worth the wait.

The Youth Development team plans to release the program
soon, and once that happens, it will consist of much more than just adding Signaling,
Tracking, Pathfinding, and Carpentry to 2010’s list of available merit badges.

The team wants today’s Scouts to get a sense of what Scouts
in the 1910s experienced. They want Scouts to earn the merit badges in ways
similar to those used by Scouts back then. The world has changed drastically in
100 years, but the fundamental lessons of these merit badges have not.

In the spirit of being green and making the program
accessible, you won’t be able to get printed materials for the merit badges.
Instead, have your Scouts go to scouting.org.

They’ll have access to scans of the original pamphlets for
each of the four historic merit badges. However, because the language and techniques
used in those badges comes from the early 20th century, the BSA has been hard
at work crafting supplements that will help put the requirements in a modern

The site also offers program implementation guide, a
camporee guide, a Boy Scout resident camp guide, a training session guide,
press releases, and other materials that councils, districts, and units can use
to promote the program.

Stay tuned to Cracker Barrel for additional news as we get


  1. How about a target date? These program guides cannot be useful unless we can mold them into scheduled events. With the new program and budgetting requirements, it will be really tough to pull together an approved major program and allow for completion of the activities before year’s end. Come on guys, help us help the initiative.

  2. oh, I feel much better now – not an apology for jumping the gun, not a launch date, not a specific link where resources will be found.
    just more hype like what started this frustrating mess.
    Why should anyone believe anything posted here without a reference to something that backs it up? not I.

  3. I think this program would have be great if they would have started it at teh begaining of the year. I think if it isnt ready now and they only can work on it till the end of the year i think the national office needs to scrach this program.

  4. Well this is a totally useless non-news post.
    So what was originally a year-long, 12-month program is now going to only be available for 9-months?!?! That only 66% of the originally promised time! What has the BSA been doing for the past 4 months? I think they should expand the window for these badges to 1-year after the date the requirments and resources are released to give scouts a full and proper year to earn these. This is crazy, what could have possibly be taking so long?

  5. OMG!!!…Get it together already, will ya BSA??? How many more false starts will there be? First Cub Scout Academics and Sports Belt Loops and Pins announced and released before the requirement, now the Historic Merit Badge Program, with requirements that were not officially released only to be pulled back, and now just like everyone else has said, more hype and nonsense…I think someone’s overpaid in the Marketing Department or someone needs to take that mole that’s leaking information from BSA National to second hand sources out! Those people are getting ridiculous!!!

  6. The BSA knows that many of your boys are anxious to get going on these exciting patches. Rest assured in knowing that a typical boy could earn many of these patches in an afternoon, so there’s plenty of time to “live as 1910 Scouts lived.”

  7. I disagree that any of these patches could be earned “in an afternoon”. My plan is to run signaling for our troop, and I can tell you that there is NO way that the boys can learn Moris Code, Symaphore Flags, and the Wigwag system (which is essentially almost a lost system) in a month, let alone a day!

  8. It seems the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing right now. I understand there are separate task forces and entities working on these projects, but there’s no excuse for incomplete release of information.
    I know there are lots of growing pains right now with the restructuring, but communication is the first stage of success, guys.

  9. Yes a typical boy may be able to earn any of these patches in an afternoon, but it will take some time to recrute, train, and qualify any new merit badge counselors.
    It is sad to see all the negative posts but I too wonder why, if our motto is “To Be Prepared.” Then what kind of example are the “professionals” setting for our scouts?

  10. I’m sure that a modern teen could probably text 20 words per minute with an afternoon’s practice. But if we are talking about skills like Morse and semaphore, that is going to take a bit longer, due to the unfamiliar nature of these skills.
    It is a shame that there has been such a hitch in the roll out. But I’m thrilled that they are being offered at all.
    I do wonder what the meaning of soon is. It is pretty much too late to include this in our local spring camporee.

  11. Wow! Learn semaphore and Morse code well enough to send and receive messages in one afternoon! I’m afraid that most of our boys are going to feel bad that they’re not “typical”.

  12. In my opinion all discontinued merit badges should be available to all current scouts if they meet the requirements. According to past annual reports congress, merit badges like beekeeping and rabbit raising were earned many years after they had been discontinued.

  13. This is not Rocketry Scouters. How hard is it to track and identify?
    How hard is it to know about your own neighborhood, town or township. If they don’t know enough to answer the simple questions and use a map then take them a drive around without an electronic toy in their hands. Make them look around.
    In Carpentry the hardest thing is eye hand coordination to not hit the wrong nail.t, rip and plane a board by hand and make something simple but useful.
    Signaling takes some effort but not three months like some MBs.
    We went to a Historic MB week-end. Pathfinding take less than an hour IF the Scout is ready. Tracking have your pictures ready and the rest is an hour at the most if the venue is in the right location. City sidewalks and paved streets make it hard to track.

  14. >>”a typical boy could earn any of these patches in an afternoon”<<
    Only Pathfinding could be done in that amount of time, only Pathfinding. The rest take some real work.

  15. Scouts do not need a year to earn one or all four. All we need are the requiremnts to determine who is qualified to be a Merit Badge Counselor for each one.
    It would have been much more convenient to have these available at the Scout Fair.

  16. I don’t see how they can complete these in an afternoon. The signaling merit badge shows that they have to learn Moris Code, Symaphore Flags, and the Wigwag System (which is essentially a lost system). There’s no way they can learn even one of those requirements in an afternoon.

  17. Wow! Learn Morse Code and Semaphore well enough to send and receive messages in one afternoon! Wow, again! I’m afraid that many of our Scouts are going to feel bad that they don’t fit into the “typical boy” category!

  18. Earn them in an afternoon? Have you seen the requirements for Signaling? How are the boys to learn Morse Code and Semaphore in an afternoon? We’re supposed to have a merit badge weekend for these next month in our district. So I’m starting to teach these skills to our boys next week. I’m not sure how we’re going to get them proficient enough with it in only a month. Maybe BSA will change the requirements by then?

  19. Come on, folks, give BSA a break. Theyt’ve only had 25 years since the last ‘big’ anniversary celebration (75th) to get ready for this.

  20. Scouting Magazine wrote: “Rest assured in knowing that a typical boy could earn any of these patches in an afternoon, so there’s plenty of time to ‘live as 1910 Scouts lived.'” I suppose that the author of that comment thinks that being able to earn a merit badge in an afternoon is a good thing. At least he or she called them “patches,” not “merit badges.” If they can be done in an afternoon, there is no “merit” to them.

  21. Will these 4 special MB offer at 2010 National Scout Jamboree? My son is attending the Jamboree and will be wonderful to earn them at a special event like Jamboree. Please let us know.

  22. As a Scout from the sixties that had to learn Morse Code for First Class and tried his hand at Semaphore and Wig Wag; there is NO WAY that a Scout is going to learn those skills in one day, one week or one month! The BSA jumped the gun on this and now has egg on it’s face! The only decent thing to do is to give the Scouts one year from the actual roll out of the program. That still doesn’t allow time for the recruitment,training and/or refreshing of skills by the Merit Badge Councilors.

  23. @Bill Rice: I agree. There is no reason not to allow all of the historic merit badges to be available to interested boys. The cost issue can be circumvented simply by posting the last version of materials as PDF files, much as they are doing for these four. Even patch inventories can be eliminated by licensing the designs and allowing councils or even troops to order patches as needed. A similar proposal has been posted at ideas.scouting.org for the past year.

  24. Tracking requires “skillfully” tracking — not simply showing the basic requirement once. If yours boys are earning these in an afternoon, you deserve a merit badge mill designation. Don’t cheat them. Some of mine have already started the Signaling and have been working for 2 months on it. No WAY can any boy do Signaling in 1 day. There are three parts to it, and each takes a substantial amount of time. Quit watering down the program!
    I want an explanation as to the hold-up. If it’s manpower, there are TONS of us who are complaining that would be happy to help ;-).

  25. We pulled off a Historic MB weekend, for three of the four, and it worked. I have never seen around 80 kids really enjoy themselves in a camporee style setting and WANT to earn any merit badge, let alone these. Our counselorts KNOW teh m,aterials and worked WITH teh prepared scouts to acjuiebe three merit badges in a weekend. Are they experts? No. Did they “learn” Morse Code? No. Did they DO it? YES! The spirit of the MB program is not to produce fully capabnle signalmen, or ham radio operators, but we certianly opened their minds and akllowed some imagination to flow. Our Historic MB weekend was a success!

  26. If it takes an adult in the Navy Signalman school five weeks to learn Morse Code and Semaphore I really feel BSA is miss leading these young scouts about being able to complete the merit badge in an afternoon. Even Ham radio operators need several weeks if not months to learn to send and receive Morse code to earn there liscense. Someone really needs to do some research before making a statement like “Earning a Signaling merit badge in an afternoon”.

  27. Merit badges are about the boys learning a skill — something that will have a mastery over. If we want a boy to be prepared “for any old thing” we have to ensure they are learning the skills to do it.
    So, I guess a boy can learn first aid in an afternoon, too? And you’d be willing to have him as your buddy on a 50 miler??

  28. How quickly we can get the boys through these merit badges really isn’t the point. Some boys will miss out because of the decrease of available time in planning or their age. The main point is that the we are supposed to be teaching these young men to “be prepared” and to plan and thing before acting and this is a horrible example for them. It’s not like this whole 100th anniversary thing snuck up on anyone. I think we all knew it was coming and it should have been prepared before it was released. It sends an unprofessional message to the public about who the BSA is.

  29. What about the hard charging boys who took the information posted in the 1/12/2010 Scouting Magazine, and the specific requirements posted on line and historic Handbooks for Boys and have already completed the requirements, and had them signed off by registered Merit Badge Counselors for the Merit Badges. People got really excited, the information was there and Mr. Evans announced it in Cracker Barrel, official magazine of the BSA, and they were announced by people such as Jeffrey Burger, Rocky Mountain Council. The guidance was very clear.

  30. March is gone; and with it, 1/4 of the year. If not now when? If they don’t post the requirements soon, they should either extend the date of completion or cancel the program and issue a formal apology. Scouting is about doing the right thing and leading by example. I’m missing those ideals with how this is being handled-hopefully these ideals will be part of the eventual evolution of this situation.

  31. Phil, if the requirements are the same, then Signaling requires a Scout to “Send and receive by Semaphore Code at the rate of not less than 30 letters per minute.” That’s pretty fast for someone who has experience in it; I’d say IMPOSSIBLE for a boy just learning it. Ditto for “Send and receive in the International Morse Code, by buzzer or other sound device, a complete message of not less than 35 words, at a rate of not less than 35 letters per minute.”
    Sounds to me like the boys were simply GIVEN those badges, rather than having them EARNED. No more, no less — especially the NO LESS part.

  32. I am a Civil War Reenactor and reenact the U.S. Army Signal Corps. I can teach a person the wigwag system in an afternoon and have the proficient in a few hours. So the wig-wag would be no problem. I see the problem being teaching semaphore and Morse code in a short period of time. Memorization of semaphore and Morse code take time. I am teaching Signalling at a one week summer camp and I am asking for two hours of time over six days to get this thing done.

  33. You said that the requirements would be on scouting.org by the end of the month…well it’s the end of the month! I’ve checked scouting.org and can not find them. Where are they? A Scout is trustworthy.

  34. You said that the requirements would be on scouting.org by the end of the month…well it’s the end of the month! I’ve checked scouting.org and can not find them. Where are they? A Scout is trustworthy

  35. I believe Signaling can be done and be made into a fun program for the scouts! I can see my boys enjoying sending messages with their machines they made while the other receives the message, and then vise-versa. Semaphore can also be the done the same way, and just as fun. The points of the merit badges are to give the scouts a taste of the subject, not to master it! And if they do master the subject YAY! Why do some of the scoutmasters act like drill sergeants when it comes to scouting and the merit badges? I did not see in ONE PLACE where it said to memorize or master the Morse code. It did however, say that they scouts had to send a message of not less that 35-words and not less than 35-letters per minute. Well, it could be done if they had their message ready to send. The problem is, when scout leaders start acting demanding and taking away the fun, we lose our scouts. THEN, they (DS Leaders) complain when the membership in their troop starts to drop. Come on people, give these kids a break and start thinking positive instead of bull-headed!

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