Read this sample dialogue with a Life Scout about Eagle project ideas

eagle-project-hours-2013Haven’t had “the talk” with a Life Scout in your troop? You soon will.

I’m referring, of course, to the conversation between a Life Scout and his Scout leader about Eagle project ideas.

For many young men, the Eagle Scout Service Project is the toughest part of the journey to Eagle. And the first hurdle of this process is coming up with an idea.

This is when a Scoutmaster, assistant Scoutmaster or Eagle coordinator is asked: “What’s a good Eagle project?”

Marc Dworkin wants to help you.

Dworkin is, among other Scouting roles, Eagle coordinator for a troop in New Jersey. He’s written a sample dialogue between himself and a Life Scout looking for Eagle project ideas.

As Dworkin proves, this is more than just a 15-second conversation. And the best Scouters do more than simply send the Scout to search for ideas on Google. This requires a five-minute chat with the Scout. (Youth Protection reminder: Be sure to have this talk in full view of at least one other adult.)

The following dialogue is a great read to get you thinking about how this conversation could go. Give it a look, whether you’re a Scouter who wants to be prepared for when a Life Scout approaches you, the parent of a Life Scout or a Life Scout yourself.

Mr. D., what’s a good Eagle Project?

By Marc Dworkin, Eagle coordinator and assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 59 in the Northern New Jersey Council. He’s also the advancement chairman and a board member in the council.

Mr. D: Let’s start by looking at your Scout book. Eagle Requirement No. 5 says:

While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community. (The project must benefit an organization other than Boy Scouting.) A project proposal must be approved by the organization benefiting from the effort, your unit leader and unit committee, and the council or district before you start. You must use the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, BSA publication No. 512-­927, in meeting this requirement.

So, what do you think that means?

Life Scout: I guess I have to be a Life Scout before I can start my project.

Mr. D.: Almost. You can start to think about your project before you are a Life Scout and share your ideas and get input, but you must be a Life Scout before you start the planning and approval process required by the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook.

Life Scout: So is that it? Make Life, complete the workbook, get it approved and knock out the project?

Mr. D.: Yes, but a bit oversimplified. By the time you’ve made Life, you fully understand the meaning of the Scout Oath and Law, have learned leadership as you’ve progressed through the ranks and know the meaning and importance and honor of the Eagle Scout rank. You should consider all of this, as you work to select a project.

Life Scout: I can think of lots of projects to do around town for my school, my church maybe at a park. I’ve seen pictures in the paper of other Eagle Scouts who painted fences and flagpoles, or built benches in a park or school. Or maybe a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society or American Red Cross.

Mr. D.: Well, fundraisers are not allowed, and neither is regular maintenance, like pulling weeds or periodic painting. These are all good ideas to start with, but I’d really like you to give some thought as to whom your project will help and the impact it will have on the community. I like to see Scouts find community service projects which help people and organizations with a real need (and in today’s connected society, ”community” is really the whole world).

I also like to see projects where the Scouts you are leading learn from the experience, by being exposed to people and situations they would not come in contact with in their normal routine. Take your bench idea, for example.

Rather than build benches in our town park, find a school a few towns over, in an underserved community, where they could use the benches and a podium as an outdoor classroom. You could lead your workers (fellow Scouts, friends and family) to do the building at home in your garage, then deliver them and plan an activity at the school, and meet the children and teachers who will use the outdoor classroom. This is the kind of project you can proudly discuss on a college interview, and it shows you really understand and live by the Scout Oath and Law.

Life Scout: What is the approval process, and how do I know if my project is good enough?

Mr. D.: Your project proposal is reviewed by a number of people on the way to getting approval, and they all have expectations of what makes a good Eagle project. There are no requirements for the size of an Eagle project, the number of hours required to complete a project or the number of people who work on it.

You are required to demonstrate your ability to plan, develop and provide leadership on the project you select. I’d like you to find a project that will be a challenge to accomplish, one you will be proud to have completed. It must be your project, and you must take the lead in doing the work.

For starters, you can talk to me as your Scoutmaster, and we can brainstorm ideas. You may need to go talk to the organization you will do the project for, to make sure they like the idea, and see if they have any particular requirements. Next step is to select an Eagle project mentor, which can be any of the dads in the troop, who will help you complete the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook.

Then you submit the workbook to your project sponsor, committee chair and Scoutmaster for their review and approval. Then, the completed workbook is submitted to the District Advancement Committee for a final review and approval. Once you have the district OK, you can start work on your project.

I know this sounds a bit complicated, but your Eagle project coach will help you, and in some troops there are additional resources, like an Eagle Project Review Committee, who review and comment on the workbook before the committee chair and Scoutmaster sign.

Life Scout: So once I get district approval, I do the project and I’m Eagle?

Mr. D.: Not so fast. Your project should take a while to complete, maybe a few weekends over a month or longer. Your sponsor must sign off on your workbook, indicating they accept your project and it is completed.

Remember, you must complete your project, all your merit badges and leadership assignment before your 18th birthday, so timing is important.

Once you have all the requirements done, you have one last Scoutmaster conference, and then an Eagle Scout board of review. A representative from the district will be present at your board of review, and the board must be satisfied you completed all the Eagle requirements (and accept your completed project), before you are awarded Eagle.

Your take?

Thanks to Marc for sharing that dialogue with us. How do you respond when asked for Eagle project ideas?

Photo courtesy of Eagle Scout Conor Butler.


  1. In Mr. D’s last comment, he completely forgot the planning process, working with the Eagle project coach, and going over that final plan with the beneficiary. While many times some or all of that is done in the proposal phase, it needs to be completed and reviewed with the beneficiary. They have the final say on go or no-go. That detailed planning is a key step in making the project a success.

  2. What is the age of an “Eagle coach”? We have an Eagle Scout who joined the Army, but was just released for medical reasons, is19, and wants to rejoin our troop. Is he eligible?

    • At 19 he would be a JASM – he could definitely help with the Eagle Project as a mentor, but remember he is seen as a JASM until he is 21 and has some restrictions as such, but he is also an adult and thus has to follow all YPT guidelines.

      • A JASM is actually an appointed youth leader position appointed by the Scoutmaster to a youth who is 16/17 yrs old. In fact the youth could use JASM as a leadership position for his Eagle rank.

        When he turns 18 he becomes an Assistant Scoutmaster which is an adult leadership position. He would be subject to the same position training requirements as other SAs.

      • Avery, just to clarify, can you show in official sources where you see a 19-21 year old can be a JASM? According to the Glossary of Scouting Terms at the “junior assistant Scoutmaster (JASM) [is] An appointed office open to Scouts 16 years of age and older. There is no limit to the number of junior assistant Scoutmasters a troop may have.”

        Since, in a troop, a 19 year old is no longer a “Scout” but a “Scouter” (adult leader), he would not be able to hold the position of JASM. Once a boy turns 18 he can be registered in a troop as an Assistant Scoutmaster or as Unit College Scouter Reserve.

        I believe a 19 year old who earned his Eagle, would be a great resource to coach Life scouts and provide a specific responsibility and additional leadership for that young man.

    • Any adult mature enough to counsel the youth on the project and the trail to Eagle can serve in this capacity. Hopefully he has a good perspective on the variety of projects that can qualify, and understands the approval process.

      • I wouldn’t limit it to adults. Scouts who have recently completed Eagle Scout are perfect coaches! All things in Boy Scouts have experienced youth help those without experience.

    • Officially there is no age requirement listed but logic would dictate a coach would be over 18. The Guide to Advancement and Recognition section covers Eagle Project Coaches. There is too much info to cut and paste here. But here is one section that bears reading.

      It is up to the council to determine who may serve as project coaches and how they might be assigned or otherwise provided to candidates. Coaches must be registered with the BSA (in any position) and be current in BSA Youth Protection training.

      • I had never thought of a youth Eagle Coach before, but that could actually be a great idea if your troop has Eagles who would be willing to mentor their fellow scouts through the process. It would probably be a very beneficial experience for both of them.

    • He will join your troop as an ASM (not “Junior”). Technically he could have been one the year he turned 18. Remember youth protection and position specific training will be required. ASMs are eligible to be Eagle coaches. I will let others speak to specific training available for Eagle coaches.

  3. Here’s one more point to mention on the timing of the Eagle Scoutmaster conference. While there are many reasons why it’s ideal to hold it after all other requirements, that’s not required. If necessary, it can be completed before the last of the other requirements. In any case, it’s a great opportunity to check all of the documents and discuss how the Scout should prepare for his board of review.

  4. I seem to remember Harry Truman being quoted as saying that to encourage your child, you should find out what he likes and get him to do that better. Something like that. It is the same thing here. The Scout should not merely “do a project”. He should be encouraged to find something he thinks needs to be done, something he sees as an improvement , a creation, no matter how small, that makes things better. I have seen barns at the county fair renovated. New bulletin boards/kiosks built for parks. Trail swamps bridged, not merely cleaned up. Bathrooms of homeless shelters renovated. I have also seen blooddrives organized and books collected for schools in Africa and Palestine, ideas that might have been one-time affairs, but thru the Scout these tasks became repeated, on-going charities.
    The goal, as is noted above, is to do something other than “regular maintenance”.
    And he should be encouraged to keep on asking and talking about it. I sat in on a Troop committee meeting about a proposed Eagle project to improve a much used transit bus stop. The Scout was surprised to learn I worked for the Transit service and I put him in touch with the “powers that be” to get approval for the idea. He thought he would just walk in and go to work. Not quite! It is a big step for a young Scout to begin to deal with adult bureaucracy, no matter how sympathetic they might be to his desire to help. In this case, trees were cut down and back, benches and shelters were built, gravel and timbers were laid. The folks who used it the next week were pleasantly surprised. Many years later, it is still well kept.
    Find out what he likes to do and help him get better at it.

  5. Avery Moore: A JASM is a youth between 16 an 18 years old. The marine in question here would be an assistant scoutmaster, as he is an adult

  6. Junior Assistant Scoutmaster is a youth position. An 18 year old would be an Assistant Scoutmaster. If he is willing and able, then he is definitely eligible to be an Eagle Mentor.

  7. Bryan, just a point to keep in mind. Though a large percentage of young men earn their Eagle in a Troop, there are other programs that they can earn this rank in. Young men can earn Eagle in a Varsity Team and in Venturing Crews. (for Crews, they would have to be First Class already upon joining in order to continue the traditional rank advancement for eagle in the Crew.

    I have encountered Advancement Committees that have stated to me that young men in Teams and Crews do not earn Merit Badges and rank advancement; including Eagle. Once I showed them the policies that govern their Committee they often admit that they never knew this. As a Varsity Coach I am proud to say that we just had our newest Eagle Scout on 12/9/14 and we will have another once he submits his completed paperwork.

    Our last Eagle in our Church’s Crew was asked in his BOR about how he provided leadership at summer camp. The Scout said the Crew did not go to summer camp but as a Venturing Crew they had a High Adventure week where they climbed Mt. Washington. His leadership was helping and encouraging a new Crew member literally up the mountain.

    • Can you please show me where it says a boy MUST be First Class in order to join a Venturing Crew? I heard that before and all I can find is that they need to be 13 and finished with eighth grade or 14 years of age.

  8. Question? A scout’s eagle project was approved by the district advancement chair can the scout change his project to something else (no work has started yet). The benificary, the church’s property manager keeps wanting to make changes that are getting quite expensive. In addition to that he is very rude and condensending to scout and his parent. Its to the point the family doesnt want to go to their church anymore.

  9. I volunteer with BSA as well as a local conservation organization. I was asked to support boys wanting to do their Eagle projects with our group since I know BSA lingo. While I’m glad to do that it kills me when a young man comes to us and wants to be handed a project idea. We much prefer working with the boys that can tell us WHY they care about what our org does AND comes with project ideas to discuss. If they aren’t excited to work with us, but expect us to hand them a simple project just to get their rank – it speaks poorly of them, what work they do is generally pretty shabby in quality (if it happens at all), and it reflects on BSA poorly as well.
    Please don’t discourage boys who are looking at doing a project that doesn’t involve construction, but instead involves community education efforts. I see lots of simple projects that take a 1/2 day (but they get to use power tools!) that are approved, while projects that would involve really going beyond the unit and its chartering org to make a larger community impact are discouraged. Its very sad to see.
    I suggest all units help boys better identify what is important to them in their community and how they might be able to make that better, more people access it, etc. The ability to identify problems they truly care about AND address its root cause is a crucial skill! It is so much easier for them to put together volunteers to help them when they really care about what their project is, more so than the rank it will get them.

  10. Hi Marc Dworkin – If you are reading this, and are the same Marc Dworkin that I grew up with from Troop 128, then congrats on an excellent article!

    FYI, I’m the Eagle Project Coach for Troop 82 in Monmouth Council. Been doing it for the past 12 years, and have coached 45 Scouts to a successful conclusion on their projects. I also conduct Eagle Project workshops and have a great PowerPoint that I present, along with a “kit” I hand out to workshop attendees. Email me your US postal mailing address, and I’ll send it to you. (sorry, to all others reading this, I just cannot support sending this info out to everyone else).

    All the nuances and details of Eagle Projects cannot be covered in this very short article (just my PowerPoint is over 40 slides), however I think you did a great job at covering some key highlights! Spencer Morasch – Troop 128

  11. Some of these statements above are opinions and not requirements, for example “I also like to see projects where the Scouts you are leading learn from the experience, by being exposed to people and situations they would not come in contact with in their normal routine.” This is a preference, but is not a reason to reject a potential Eagle project.

    • I caught that too. The phrase “I also like to see …” coming from the Scoutmaster is tantamount to an adult leader adding requirements. The Scoutmaster’s preferences have no place in the discussion and in the example it seems like Mr. D is steering the Life Scout away from projects that don’t have some diversity awareness compenent. That devalues the ideas for projects the Life Scout may have that are helpful to any religious institution, any school, or his community. Maybe Mr. D. needs to take another look at that requirement in the Boy Scout Handbook.

  12. We need clarification: One scout leader in my troop says it is okay to do a eagle project for our charter sponsor and another leader says its not allowed. Any with this would be helpful. Thanks ~ Michael

    • Requirement 5 states “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community. (The project must benefit an organization other than Boy Scouting.) A project proposal must be approved by the organization benefiting from the effort, your unit leader and unit committee, and the council or district before you start.” The requirement states “any religious institution, any school, or your community.” If your chartering organization is say, a service club, which supports various charities and non-profit support groups, the a project which benefits that service organization, and helps them direct more of their finds to their work would, I believe suffice. Page 65-66 of Guide to Advancement [ ] covers what the focus of the project is…under none of this could I find a statement that it could not be for the chartering organization. The focus in on benefit to the community, so I believe the leader in your troop who says it is not allowed is imposing requirements hich are not there.

    • If you are not doing Eagle Scout projects for your Charter Partner you are missing out on an opportunity to strengthen your relationship and have win-win moment.

  13. He may have that confused with the prohibition on any Eagle service projects for the BSA or any of its divisions or properties, which is covered in the Guide to Advancement 2013 in section “…Projects may not be performed for the Boy Scouts of America or its councils, districts, units, camps, and so forth. The unit’s chartered organization, however, is certainly a good candidate, as are other youth organizations such as the American Heritage Girls or the Girl Scouts of the USA.”
    One more thought – when these differences of opinion come up in your unit, refer to the Guide or contact your district advancement committee for advice. If they don’t know the answer they should know where to get it. Then proceed with diplomacy…

  14. Whenever a Life Scout asks me about project ideas, I ask him “what are you passionate about?”. When he gives me several things I then steer him towards those. The projects take on a whole new meaning for the Life Scout-they usually come up with ideas that are not only outstanding, but very worthy for our community; and proide a great learning opportunity to the other scouts ranking up behind him.

  15. Hi Marc, Mark Johnson of T128 here. Congrats on all the Eagle stuff. I’ve participated with perhaps 25 Eagles with my son’s troop at Harmony School. Was advisor on one and never got the ‘mentor pin’. I did see the whole gamut of Eagle Projects though, wondering how wide the approval process is.
    Most were Pressure Treated somethings with their permanent value. Cripes, they should rename Poricy Park as Eagle Project Park. I had mine there in 1974 as well as both of my son’s projects were there as well as many others.
    With all that Spencer and I remember about T128, my memories of my Eagle project indicate a far less effort on my behalf than what today’s Scouts go through. They basically become ‘project managers’ which is a tremendous skill for the rest of their lives.
    From the design, planning, proposals, funding, actual project, addendums to the proposal and final accounting, write-up and final approval, any 17yr old that completes this effort deserves my attendance at their Eagle Ceremony.
    Speaking of FSR, you should see what Spencer has done to the place.

  16. I think the idea of hosting an event for a beneficiary is too often overlooked. My oldest son built a big project but I would like my younger son to consider raising funds and giving leadership to promote and produce a fun and educational event for a local children’s organization like Boys and Girls Club. It will be key to involve scouts and give leadership. Right now he is considering doing this with a reptile rescue/educator.

  17. Boy sized project!

    No minimum of hours. A project does not have to be a huge event or multi-weekends of work days for the candidate to make an impact. No routine maintenance is clear. It doesn’t have to be a hammer and nails project. The fundraising sometimes is bigger than the project, ugh!

    It’s not about the project. A project can be free. It’s about growing the boys leadership skills to “plan, develop, and show leadership.” The project, whatever he chooses, is just a tool to that end. He needs to explain what impact or why he chose it. It doesn’t have to be a man sized project. It’s a balance. Boy sized project.

    Church, school or community has limitations in community. Community can not be for profit. For example, if a candidate wanted to plant a water wise flower bed for the YMCA in front of their business that would be not appropriate as they are for profit. If the YMCA owned a park area next to the YMCA and the candidate wanted to plant same garden there it would likely be appropriate.

    -My districts Advancement Chairman

  18. I suggest to Life Scouts that they do something they are passionate about. When they have difficulty thinking of an idea, a good source is to read the local newspaper thinking “project” as they read. Often this can prompt them to come up with something.

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