With 136 different merit badges available — from American Business to Woodwork — you can’t blame a Scout for not stopping after No. 21.
The Boy Scouts of America encourages this behavior. That’s why the BSA offers Eagle palms to Scouts who earn more than the 21 merit badges required for the Eagle Scout rank.
Once he becomes an Eagle, a Scout can earn one Eagle palm for every five extra merit badges he earns. He can earn palms as quickly as one every three months, provided he remains active in his unit and meets other requirements.
You can buy Eagle palms at your local Scout shop. They’re considered “restricted items,” meaning you’ll need the required paperwork.
To better understand these impressive recognition items, here’s a step-by-step guide to how Eagle palms work.
How to earn an Eagle palm
Step 1: Become an Eagle Scout
Eagle palms are pretty rare because Eagle Scouts themselves are rare. That makes Step 1 of earning an Eagle palm — become an Eagle Scout — easily the most difficult step.
In case you aren’t aware, here are the requirements to become an Eagle Scout.
Step 2: Earn more merit badges
A Scout earned 21 merit badges to become an Eagle Scout. To get that first bronze Eagle palm, he’ll need to increase that merit badge count to at least 26.
The bronze palm represents five additional merit badges. Read about gold and silver palms below.
Any merit badges beyond the 21 required will count toward Eagle palms, regardless of when they’re earned.
In other words, if the Scout earned 26 (or 46 or 86) merit badges before becoming an Eagle, those extras count toward palms. He doesn’t need to wait until he’s an Eagle Scout to earn those extra, palmworthy merit badges.
But he does need to wait at least three months to get that first palm. Speaking of …
Step 3: Remain active in troop and patrol for three months
To earn that first bronze palm, a Scout must be active in his troop and patrol for at least three months after becoming an Eagle Scout.
The clock starts on the board of review date, which is the date he officially becomes an Eagle Scout.
He must also demonstrate Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath and Scout Law in his everyday life. And he must make a satisfactory effort to develop and demonstrate leadership ability.
Step 4: Complete a Scoutmaster conference and board of review
The Scoutmaster conference and board of review for Eagle palms will look a lot like what the Scout experienced while earning Tenderfoot through Life.
The conference is a discussion between Scoutmaster and Scout (in full view of others to avoid one-on-one time). The board of review determines the quality of his experience and decides whether he has fulfilled the requirements for the palm. If so, the board not only approves his palm but also encourages him to continue the quest for the next palm.
On that note …
Step 5: Repeat with more merit badges, more months of tenure
The palm-earning process repeats with every five additional merit badges earned. Eagle palms must be earned in sequence, and the three-month tenure requirement must be observed for each palm.
In other words, Scouts may only earn one palm at a time. A new three-month clock begins when he earns his previous palm (on the board of review date).
Example: Let’s say there’s a Life Scout who has earned 56 merit badges. Impressive!
He becomes an Eagle Scout on Jan. 1. As long as he remains active and meets the other Eagle palm requirements I list above, he can earn his first bronze palm on April 1. If he keeps it up, he’ll get a gold palm on July 1. And so on until he turns 18 or runs out of merit badges.
Step 6: Wear the right palm (or palms)
A bronze palm represents five additional merit badges, a gold palm 10, and a silver palm 15. (Related: Why does silver outrank gold in some Scouting awards?)
What about 20, 25, 30, etc.? That’s when you start combining palms. (Warning: Math required!)
Here’s what a Scout would wear at the first six palm milestones:
- 26 total merit badges (21 required + 5 additional) = 1 bronze palm
- 31 total merit badges (21 required + 10 additional) = 1 gold palm
- 36 total merit badges (21 required + 15 additional) = 1 silver palm
- 41 total merit badges (21 required + 20 additional) = 1 bronze palm and 1 silver palm
- 46 total merit badges (21 required + 25 additional) = 1 gold palm and 1 silver palm
- 51 total merit badges (21 required + 30 additional) = 2 silver palms
The pattern continues like that until the Scout runs out of merit badges or turns 18.
Step 7: Know where to wear palms
Eagle Scout palms may be worn in one of three locations:
- On the Eagle Scout square knot, which is worn by adult Scouters.
- Attached to the ribbon of the Eagle Scout medal, which is worn on special occasions by youth and adults.
- On the Eagle Scout rank emblem (patch), which is sewn on the youth field uniform.
Step 8: Keep it up until age 18
All of the requirements except the board of review must be completed before age 18, and time extensions are not available.
That means a young man who earns Eagle at age 14 or 15 has plenty of time to earn many palms.