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.
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.