This is how to earn a merit badge

Scouting-101-logoMerit badges cover topics like American Business, Woodwork and everything between. As of this writing, there are 136 different merit badges a Boy Scout can earn.

A young man who dreams of becoming an Eagle Scout, the highest honor in Boy Scouting, must earn at least 21 merit badges.

But how? Today’s Scouting 101 topic: How to earn a merit badge. The info is lifted straight from the Guide to Advancement, page 49 (section

But first, an important reminder from the Guide:

Earning merit badges should be Scout initiated, Scout researched, and Scout learned. It should be hands-on and interactive, and should not be modeled after a typical school classroom setting. Instead, it is meant to be an active program so enticing to young men that they will want to take responsibility for their own full participation.

The recommended process for earning merit badges

  1. The Scout develops an interest in a merit badge and may begin working on the requirements.
  2. The Scout discusses his interest in the merit badge with his unit leader.
  3. The unit leader signs a blue card and provides the Scout with at least one counselor contact.
  4. The Scout contacts the counselor.
  5. The counselor considers any work toward requirements completed prior to the initial discussion with the unit leader.
  6. The Scout, his buddy and the counselor meet (often several times).
  7. The Scout finishes the requirements.
  8. The counselor approves completion.
  9. The Scout returns the signed blue card to his unit leader, who signs the applicant record section of the blue card.
  10. The unit leader gives the Scout the applicant record.
  11. The unit reports the merit badge to the council.
  12. The Scout receives his merit badge.

For more explanation, consult the Guide

These 12 steps offer a great overview, but they don’t tell the whole story. For that you’ll want to review Section 7 of the Guide to Advancement.


  1. Unfortunately, you have Units that believe that the Scout needs to be tested additionally as they dont “trust” their Merit Badge Counselors.

    Show me an ASM that is qualified to teach all 100+ badges and I will show you an untrustworthy, paranoid soul.

  2. What I mean by that is after the Scout has gotten the badge signed off, they will go over the workbook and test the Scout again – “To make sure” the Scout has a PhD in that particular badge.

    Evidentally, they either do not understand, or do not care what the intention of the MB program is, and discount the MB Colleges, Universities that are out there.

    Our troop hosts a outdoor merit badge college that brings BP’s original thoughts of how Boys should learn – and folks climb out of the woodwork – but those who have to continually re-test. Even if we have PhD’s in the field instructing the badge.

    To me – those volunteers can be safely moved out of the programs.

    • When a MBC signs off on the Blue Card, the Scout hands it in to the Scoutmaster for PROCESSING with the Advancement Chair so the badge can be awarded. The SM nor anyone on the Committee has the “authority” to deny, delay, or ‘retest’. A signed blue card is SIGNED. Done. End. Congratulate him on his accomplishments and ask him what badge he plans to work on next.

    • Your comments are pretty harsh Matt. I assume you have had some experience(s) in the past that prompts this. I’m COR for a unit where 4 of our scouts came back from summer camp with Small Boat Sailing merit badges. The boys are either Scout or Tenderfoot. I was impressed because I consider Small Boat Sailing to be a rigorous badge. It is similar to qualifying as an Apprentice as a Sea Scout. But when quizzed about their experience none of them could tie any of the six knots required in the badge. None could effectively explain the treatment for the 10 illnesses and injuries that may occur while sailing and none demonstrated CPR using an approved training device. None could develop a float plan. BUT they did sit for some lectures before going out on a lake and having some fun sailing a boat. I’m not paranoid and do not need a PhD to know that my boys don’t deserve that badge. I won’t retest them, I won’t take the badge away. But I will discuss with with the Scout Executive the Council’s vision for approving scouts for merit badges where requirements are winked at. The only real result of this is youth that are short changed in their scouting experience.

      • You do have some recourse but it may be too late now. In the Guide to Advancement 2015, Section Limited Recourse For Unearned Merit Badges. Read that section and it will explain how to handle a situation like you experienced.

        Also in the GTA, Section Reporting Merit Badge Counseling Concerns is a form to submit when you have issues with a merit badge being completed and approved.

        I also have concerns about Smallboat Sailing Merit Badge being offered at summer camp by Scouts who never sailed a boat before, and completing the MB with only one hour a day for five days or less of instruction. My wife in her younger days was somewhat of an accomplished sailor and owned a sailboat when I met her; so I know a little bit about sailing. Maybe not a whole lot but I know enough to doubt the quality of Sailing Merit Badge at summer camp.

        About 25 years ago I was grousing about this at the summer camp our troop attended. It was on the last day and we were picking up our packets of all the merit badge completions and other items. I commented quite vocally how this badge can be earned in a week by Scouts who never sailed before, and were virtually landlubbers.

        A Scouter overhearing me pointed to the wall where there was a large chart of all the merit badge patches and said, “They’re .95 cents apiece, that’s how they can do it in a week.”

        I was back in Scouting after almost a 30 year hiatus so this was very shocking to me, however 25 years later, I’m not shocked at all.

      • Yeah, they are – and if you want the Truth – harsh as it is – you get it.

        80% of the Scouts who go for the rank of Eagle forget most of the knots before they get there – to me – it is normal.

        A unit leader and committee is not the gate keepers to the advancement program. The fastest they can get it into their head – the faster they can develop programs that backup what they learned.

        As I said – you show me an ASM that can teach all 100+ MB’s or a Troop Committee Member that can do the same, and I will show you a Vegetarian Alligator.

        There is a complaint form that goes to your council’s advancement committee for issues such as that – and if your unit is failing to use it – then they are not properly working the system.

        Summer Camps have a great number of resources available to them – that being said – they also need to be held accountable for ensuring that no one gets by without fulfilling the requirements. It is NOT the unit’s responsibility to retest the Scout – but plan ample opportunities that places the Scout in a position to practice what they learned.

        As I said previous – to me – those who want to throw the advancement portion under the bus are al-la-carting the Scouting program – and it is a problem in most troops – should safely be removed from the program.

      • so tell me an eagle scout that can remember every merit badge they took, it wont happen, a merit badge is to give a scout general knowledge of the skill, not to make them a master or trainer, after time , all scouts will loose alot of the knowledge if not continued to do that skill, so merit badges are not rank they are merit badges. I have had horrible experienced with merit badge counselors and scout masters tell me that I can not be there or couch my son while he is earning or completing these requirements. As a trained scout leader and merit badge counselor , this is so far from the truth. I see alot of units use merit badges to control how advancement is made, i know unit CORs the tell me 13 and 14 year olds dont need to be eagle scouts, ( I agree ) but that does not mean you have to be super hard on getting a merit badge. once you take the fun out of scouting , a boy will not want to be part of anything, if they have tried and failed because the counselor or the trained leaders are sabatoging the process they should not be in that process. Its a merit badge not a degree or certification, make if fun and teach the scout , have them grow, the information they receive wont stick but the process and fun they had will, ask your life scouts or star scouts about merit badges they earned as second or first class and see how much they have retained, so going back to the retest WHY? . WHY make them so hard, if a scout is having issues(especially young scouts) with the process help them so they know the process next time. Help the scout , dont try and derail their spirit , they wont get it back once you break it, one more thing before i leave , make sure the scout doesnt have learning disablities (ADHD OR ADD) these will comfuse those who dont know , and make the counselor think the scout is being disrespectful or un courteous , we all are here as trained scouters to help , guide ,mentor and couch these young men into positive citizens. why do we make it so hard, go by the requirements and develop a person , dont degrade a child

  3. I find this list interesting as it puts the initiative on the scout to start working on the requirements and the merit badge counselor just verifies that the requirements were completed. I hear the complaint all the time that “merit badges aren’t being offered” and thus scouts cannot earn them. So we have to recruit parents to come in and “offer” the merit badge. That can be nice for things that are better done together (like a hike or observing the city council meeting). But this article emphasizes the notion of counselor rather than teacher. Very interesting.

    • I never offer a Merit Badge “Class,” but rather a Merit Badge “Opportunity.” Everyone, Scouts & MBCs, have busy lives today & it makes sense that instead of doing 2 Scouts at a time, it is better time management if the MBC does a few more at the same time. That being said, I have seen some Merit Badge Colleges where there are 30 Scouts in a Classroom being lectured at and that is definitely not the intent.

      When I offer the American Heritage Merit Badge twice a year at the National WWI Museum for 24 Scouts, I have 4-8 other assistants who are all qualified MB Counselors so the ratio is actually somewhere between 3:1 to 4:1. I also have the Scouts come prepared with several prerequisites along with research on other requirements–all related to WWI, if possible.

      We then have “discussions,” each MBC taking 1 or 2 of the requirments,trying to get participation from the entire group. The MBCs observe which Scouts are participating & those that are just sitting there doing nothing. We break for a museum tour & lunch in between going through the requirements.

      At the end, each Scout has to approach one of the MBCs and demonstrate that they have met each of the requirements. For those that participated fully, this only takes a couple of minutes. For those that thought they could get by just listening to others talk, it can take quite a while for the Scout to meet the requirements.

      Those prepared can earn the Merit Badge that day. Those that are not, usually can’t.

    • That is how it has always been. The Scout shows an interest and gets the MBC’s info from the Scoutmaster, Skipper, or Adviser as the case may be. The only change is that they no longer want you meeting with an MBC one-on-one.

      MBs were never meant to be classes. Rather the opportunity to learn a new skill or develop a new hobby. Merit badge colleges are a relatively new thing, and the last edition of the Troop Program Features didn’t even mention having troop meetings turn into MB classes.

      “OUTING is three-fourths of ScOUTING.” William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt.

  4. #4 is interesting to me as I don’t recall ever being contacted by a
    Scout. Usually it is an adult, parent or Scout Leader that calls. With “Two Deep Leadership” also extending to the phone, I guess this is where we are at today.

    • I always have my son call the counselor. Usually my son and I talk about what days work best for our schedule in advance, and I’ll be in the room with him when he calls in case an alternate date needs to be found or if some other issue crops up, but it is all on him.

    • When I get a call from a parent or the young man’s leader, I gladly talk to them about the process and then follow it up with, “Now all you have to do is get the Scout to contact me, since he is the one who has to earn the merit badge.” Association with adults being one of the 8 methods of Scouting and all, the (sometimes scary) concept of contacting an adult you don’t know is an important step of the merit badge process.

    • 1.a or 2.a should state “Have a knowledge of the requirements.” Dog Care, “Do you have a dog?” “No, but I would like to get one!” Motor Boating, “Can you list the on the water boat handeling requirements? “No, I haven’t looked at the requirements.”

      • Defintely understand the first. As for the second, the first meeting when working with the Scout (& his buddy, sibling, parent present) is to set the stage, expections, schedule, & what do you know so far. Maybe the well-prepared Scout (very few) could finish it in the first session with a MBC. Most others will need a second visit or more to complete it.

        Some of the more difficult MBs (Surveying) will require teaching a skill by the MBC as I doubt if any Scout is going to show up for a Surveying MB already knowing how to do it.

        I wouldn’t turn the Scout away for not knowing the water boat handling requirements, but would talk with the Scout about the rqts & how they seem them completing them.

    • And I would reply with, “Why are YOU talking to me?”

      Bravo to my Scoutmaster who will shut down parents and NOT handle any “scout business” with “Mommy & Daddy”. He tells them (with a smile on his face), “this isn’t how this works. You son needs to talk to me, not you”.

  5. The one I struggle with is #6 (bring a buddy). That works great if you take your troop to a merit badge class, but want if your son is doing a badge on his own? I actually much prefer that – he has done both merit badge classes and one-on-one sessions and he will be the first to say he gets much more out of meeting with a counselor on his own.

    I know everything a scout does should be on the buddy system, but it is hard enough to coordinate our schedules without adding another child to the mix. Plus, if it is my son and another scout and I, do we need to have another adult to have two-deep leadership to then drive to a counselor’s house? That seems like overkill. I have always felt that if I go with my son, then I am both the buddy and the two-deep leadership. I bring a book to read and do not say a word as he and the counselor talk.

    • Read the guide to advancement section 7. The buddy need not be a Scout. It can be a brother sister, parent etc. if need be.

      Also, you do not need two deep leadership for Merit Badge counseling, just no one child on one adult private meetings.

  6. I have an issue with the scout already completing things before he has even met the counselor. The point of the counselor is to cover requirements so the scout knows what to and what is expected. Otherwise why have us?

    • The 2015 GTA addresses this specific instance as in Para when it says “Even though Scouts may benefit from reviewing requirements with a counselor before pursuing them, a boy may begin working on a merit badge at any time after he is registered. It is the counselor’s decision whether to accept work or activities completed prior to the issuing of the signed blue card. Common sense should prevail, however. For example, nights already camped as a Boy Scout, or coins or stamps already collected, would count toward their respective badges.”

      The Key Word in this is “common sense,” but I think some MBCs are on the too lenient side while others are on the other end of the continuum and are too draconian. Before my son met with his Family Life & Personal Management MBCs for the first time, he already completed both his 90-day charts. Both accepted the charts. A visit with the Family Life MBC first might allow the Scout to choose a better project to do for his family or for the family to do together (to meet those 2 rqts) than if he just did them before the initial meeting.

      There are a few MB requirements that state the Scout must consult with the MBC for doing something. For those, there is no option. If not stated, it is up to the MBC to decide to accept something done before the initial meeting, but after the Scout crossed over to Boy Scouts. If the Scout is now 17 & doing CITN & tries to count his visit to the state capital building in 8th grade, I probably wouldn’t let that go as in our area there are many options to complete the federal facility option. For those in areas w/o much & the state capital is 5 hours away, the MBC might need to give it some consideration.

      In all decisions, the MBC should use “common sense” to ensure the Scout meets the intent of the requirement.

    • Often is is an experience or activity that leads to the interest in the merit badge. For example while on vacation the summer my son visited a nature center/planetarium and participated in a rocket building and launch class. This led to an interest in space and he is now working on the astronomy and space exploration merit badges. The counselor accepted this “prior” activity for the requirements.

  7. Most of my working merit badges these days is at the council Merit Badge Academy. My adult to Scout ratio is 8-1 (I don’t dare go any higher as the construction phase of the merit badge uses super glue and x-acto knives!). My wife acts as the second counselor. There is a “power point” section to the merit badge, but I burn CDs with the information, so note taking is forbidden in my “classes” – this usually gets a cheer from the scouts. I had an article published about Railroading merit badge at the academy which can be downloaded for free from the following url:

    • Sounds like the badge you council doesn’t get wrapped up in a day. Do you think the boys who come back to you later to finish it are more prepared because they did not have their heads buried in a notebook?

    • It appears that you are teaching a class and not counseling a Merit Badge. Merit Badges are not to be taught they are to be completed by a youth learning the subject through discussion with a counselor and personal study on the their own. MBs are about doing not sitting and listening to a lecture.

  8. Just to emphasize, there should be no delay between

    “The Scout returns the signed blue card to his unit leader, who signs the applicant record section of the blue card.”


    “The unit leader gives the Scout the applicant record.”

    This is how we make sure the triplicate record-keeping maintains it integrity.
    SM’s dog eats blue cards? There’s still the boy’s and MBC’s copies.
    Boy’s dog eats blue cards? There’s still the SM’s and MBC’s copies.
    MBC’s dog eats blue cards? There’s still the boy’s and SM’s copies.

    Of course, the SM’s copy should get transferred to a back-up (e.g., council advancement records, etc …), but that 4th level of coverage is a back-up for the other three.

    • The SM should not be keeping the unit copy of the Blue Card he should be passing it on to the Committee Member responsible for tracking advancement.

    • Details, details. From the boy’s perspective, it’s the unit leaders. Who holds it at any given time for the purpose of archiving And reporting is a committee decision. But, I agree, that an advancement chairperson could be that person.

    • After the counselor signs off, the Scoutmaster still has the option to NOT accept the record. S/he signs AFTER the counselor, and if the SM feels the Scout did not or could not have completed all the requirements, the Guide To Advancement does have a procedure for questioning that work. See “Limited Recourse for Unearned Merit Badges.” See also “Reporting Merit Badge Counseling Concerns,”

      And note that the “blue card” isn’t the official record of completion. It’s the Advancement Form, either paper or via Internet Advancement.

      • Sorry, you re incorrect. The SM can not deny a scout a MB once it is signed off. You are referring to “unearned MB’s – that is different from a SM’s own interpretation of if the scout earned it. The SM is NOT an expert on 139 MB’s.

      • Just remember, that the provision for “unearned” badges SPECIFICALLY STATES that is should be a VERY RARE instance to believe/suspect that a badge is not properly earned. It (Advancement policy) is not some backdoor “BSA Approval” for a SM to put a “review process” in place as part of his standard handling of signed blue cards.

        Only in VERY RARE cases, where there is a significant and reasonable belief that the badge wasn’t properly earned, is this “policy” to be used.

        I think we’re in 100% agreement that a Scout should EARN every single thing he is recognized for, but there is a “dark side” to Scouting that cannot be ignored… the “Commandant” Scoutmaster who over-steps his role and makes Scouting far more complicated than it needs to be.

        Scoutmasters are not “leaders”, they are COACHES to the SPL and ASPL.
        Scoutmasters DO NOT “plan advancement” for the boys
        Scoutmasters DO NOT “plan events” for the troop
        Scoutmasters DO NOT have the job of “making Eagle Scouts”
        If your Scoutmaster is doing this…. find him a WEBELOS den and thank him for his service as you lead him out the door.

        Scoutmasters guide the SPL to learn how to lead the troop…even if it isn’t as efficient as an “adult” could run it. He makes sure the boys (via the PLC) plan the annual events. He makes sure that he GUIDES the PLC to put together a calendar of events that are fun and interesting and through ihs Scoutmaster Minutes each week, he MOTIVATES the boys to WANT to take ownership of their own advancement and live up to the Scout Oath & Law.

        If I had $1 for every SM I met who runs the same events every year, has the same camping trips every year, and tells their troop “follow MY plan, and in 4 years you’ll be an Eagle”….. I’d be typing this from my private island in the Bahamas.

        • Thank you.

          I just printed your post because it states the entire reason we are looking for a new troop. Every week our boys attend a scout meeting just to be (seldom) instructed by ‘called’ adult leaders, play basketball or work on church goals. (No patrols, scout lead meetings/events/camps)

          It took a few years for our sons to earn their 1st MB because we didn’t understand the process and their leaders knew / cared even less. Since then, our boys have learned to love scouting ON THEIR OWN. The have over 100 MB each and are still finding MB adventures to take part in. They know how to find MB counselors themselves, communicate effectively, do all the work on their own and resource opportunities.

          Often at COHs there is a quick lecture (directed at our sons) about how it isn’t important to earn MBs – only getting that Eagle patch on the chest is. Our family appreciates the ‘process’ and has seen our boys become more well-rounded citizens because they know how to navigate it successfully.

  9. With MB’s being the major stepping stones to higher rank advancement it would be ideal if national BSA would mandate all counselors certify by taking an online class (like they do for youth protection). No guarantees this would solve all issues but maybe trained counselors would understand their responsibilities better and make scouts meet all requirements as stated and not accept less.

    As advancement chair for my unit, I hold a MB counselor class every year with all invited and I find that some very experienced leaders still have some interesting and incorrect notions about the process and rules. This class does not prevent leaders from “retesting” and asking scouts to go beyond the requirements, but the more parents and leaders who are aware of the rules, the less likely leaders will ask for more than is required.

    • While I’m all for training I find it hard enough to get MB counselors to fill out the application and take youth protection training. The mandate many more training would just make it that much harder.

      Counselors just want to help a young man have a good learning experience with a subject that most counselors hold dear to the hearts as it ether related to their job or their hobby. Counselors do not want to have to go through allot of administration paper work just to share what they find dear to their hearts.

    • Hi! I would be really interested in learning more about this Merit Badge Counselor class you have, to educate the parents. Our Unot could really use some help with this!! Could you send me your outline?

  10. What about the Scout parents that want to be a Merit Badge counselor for all there sons merit badges. They think that Boy Scouting is like Cub Scouting where the parents sign off on everything and learn nothing. And they want there son to pass off merit badges as fast as possible so they the parent and I assume the youth can get out of Scouting. In my opinion Scouting is a journey that boys experience as they get older and more mature. Older more mature youth usually get more out of Scouting. It is very sad when parents want there son so badly to an Eagle Scout the youth misses the fantastic life journey of Scouting. The main thing, it’s hard for our Scoutmaster to be a barrier to pushy parents that want this. Other Scouts over the years have taken the journey and earned there Eagle at there own speed and have experienced Scouting and will be future Leaders in Scouting. The Advancement Guide doesn’t say a parent shouldn’t be merit badge counselor for every merit badge. It only says the youth be going to a counselor learns life skills by interacting with Adults thru the merit badge program.

    • Scoutmasters have the option of setting a maximum number of badges that a boy can earn with any specific MBC, as long as that applies to all boys in the Troop. Our SM has set the limit at 5 badges for any one Merit Badge Counselor to counsel for any Scout, including their own son. That cuts down on the problem you mention.

    • I’m an MBC and an ASM for my son’s patrol. I do not sign his Scout book for advancement, I find that to be unethical, that’s me
      I’m currently working with his patrol on a merit badge, I will sign his BC for those areas that are group oriented otherwise I have him go to a different MBC to complete the 1-1 discussion requirements. This is my choice, I want to ensure he has earned his MB.
      Also I approach a MB candidate not as a teaching session but as an evaluation – does he understand the requirement? Does he understand what fulfills the requirement? Does he understand the subject content? I see it as my duty to guide or coach. Ultimately the Scout needs to show the skills or learning in a way that that is comfortable to him. That is why demonstration is a part of the MB process.

  11. The overabundance of merit badge “universities” has all but killed the merit badge counselor-scout relationship. I see parents scouring the internet for the next reasonably close council’s event and then they sign their son up. The son dutifully comes up to me at the next troop meeting and says he needs a blue card for merit badge A, B and C. I ask who is your counselor and he doesn’t know. He says he is “taking” the badge at Council ABC’s merit badge event. I have scouts who skip campouts with the troop so they can go to a Merit Badge event. I’m not talking about Life Scouts who only need one more badge for Eagle. I am talking about a second class scout who is skipping a campout, being driven 150 miles so he can get Truck Transportation or Fly Fishing merit badge. I try talking to the parents and I hear responses like, well they are sponsored by BSA councils.

    • Stan: I’ve taken my son to several out-of-council Merit Badge (MB) events, BUT never on a Troop Camping weekend. Troop activities always take priority over any Merit Badge event even though my son’s goal is to earn all the Merit Badges.

      When he does sign up for any MB event, my son reads the appropriate pamphlet & prints off the worksheet off the computer. If there are prerequisites listed for the MB event, he does them. In addition, my son & I discuss all the other requirements for the MB focusing on the ones that will be tough to do during a MB event. He then does those requirements before going to the MB event and takes photographs, gets signed statements, or brings the completed work to show the requirement was done . . . to standard. I’ve sat in on many of the sessions & my son is normally the best prepared Scout there. At his Communications MB done at a MB College (two 1/2 days four weeks apart), he was the only one in the group to complete the MB.

      Not all troops are the same. We have switched troops in the last 6 weeks, but the previous troop never worked on any Merit Badges either in troop meetings or on campouts. It was all about T-2-1 requirements. Scouts could complete MB requirements, but they had to make the effort such as my son going to the SM/SPL & saying he wanted to emcee the campfire on a troop campout for his Communications MB. Without MB events & summer camp, no Scout in that troop would earn any MBs.

      Yes, MB colleges/fairs/forums are not quite the same as calling the MB Counselor (MBC) & making the coordination to set up a meeting but is that feasible in today’s hectic world? I’ve been a MBC for 6 or 7 MBs for over 5 years & have yet to get my first call out-of-the-blue by a Scout to meet with me. Even if the Scout called, I wonder how long it would take before we could get together on a date that we both would be free. The week of 13-19 September 2015 is a great example: Sunday-Wood Badge Troop Guide for 1st Weekend; Monday–had to go to a Crew meeting to transfer some stuff to another member of the council’s International Committee; Tuesday-Troop meeting; Wednesday-District Commissioners’ Meeting; Thursday-2 Eagle BORs; Friday-Yippee, I’m free but getting things ready for the next day; Saturday-American Heritage MB at the HST Library & Museum. The next week, 20-26 September was easier. I didn’t have anything scheduled for Wed or Fri night.

      The point I am making is that everyone leads busy lives and we are not going to put the genie back in the bottle and return to the days of the 1950s & 1960s when Johnny & Jimmy Scouts would get on their bikes to drive over to see Mr. MBC. First, Johnny & Jimmy have soccer, band practice & other things to do like homework. Second, Mommy & Daddy are not going to let Johnny & Jimmy ride their bike’s to any MBC’s house. Lastly, Mommy or Daddy is going to sit in on the session so now there are 3 schedules, 2 adults & at least 1 Scout’s to coordinate.

      And by the way, Johnny Scout doesn’t have to know the name of the MBC when he asks the SM for a Blue Card. The SM is suppose to suggest to Johnny the name of at least one MBC for Johnny to go see. My son has more than a few MBs & the next time that his SM “suggests” a MBC . . . it will be the first time.

    • My son is a scout who attends these colleges you dislike. However, he has only missed one troop event, and it that case, he was already a Life scout with over us camping nights, and the outing was announced 48 hours in advance, and those plans have a history of falling through. He hated to miss, but he had made a commitment and followed through (the event also happened to be the only one ever held in our district, in our own town). My son would often not know the counselor’s because they are not listed yet, or he didn’t memorize their name. He did do the research to find the event, pick his own classes, do the prerequisites including read the pamphlet, which he had to buy with his own money because there was no troop library, he shared the event info with his troop, spoke to his sm, and actively participated in the program offered. He finds these events because he has found it almost impossible to locate a local counselor, after years of trying. His first sm would deny him blue cards unless he had found a counselor, which was next to impossible, since only scoutmaster had access to the counselor’s lists in our district. When that was questioned, the answer became that there were no counselors or to recruit his own.

    • I don’t think so. I think what killed it was the counselor-scout relationship has been disturbed by the scout-restester relationship. Like I have said – I seek out people who are PhD’s, hobbiests, for those badges that you don’t have a counselor for – I would go to the council office and tell them to give me the list so I have it.

  12. Our guys initiate the merit badge. Get the councilor with the aid of the SM or an ASM because our council locks the name of the councilors with a password on our councils site. (Gets a blue card) Makes an announcement for 2 weeks that he will be meeting with whomever, when and where. This is done so that no boy is doing it alone. However if Noone else is interested than a parent is acceptable to accompany the young man. 2 deep. We also have quite a few parents in our troop that do merit badges but encourage the boys to meet with councilors outside our troop. It has been very successful for those that have done it.

  13. I reentered scouts after a 15 year hiatus. The troop and scouts are radically changed. I am the MBC and keep suggesting bird study or other non eagle required badges. The emphasis is always on eagle required mb’s; and wait till summer camp to earn easier ones. My son has started a few eagle mb’s but to him it just feels like school and hw. Since he won’t take the lead and his friends aren’t doing them, he is in a holding pattern. He likes camp but doesn’t like being signed up for six mb classes he didn’t choose. Scouts should be fun, too.

  14. I’m curious. I’m hoping someone can help me and my troop out. I am currently striding to earn every merit badge, and I do not have enough room on my original sash for all those I have earned. My troop and I are also aware that you may only wear one sash. However, I’ve seen other scouts who have earned all of the merit badges have multiple sashes sewn together as one sash, just expanded and made up of two or three sashes. We are wondering if this sewing multiple sashes together is considered wearing multiple sashes. Anyone have any ideas or can help us?

  15. My son has earned 26 MBs, some at camp, some at clinics, some initiated through the troop (though requiring individual work), some as part of a small group from the troop that was interested (hiking, cycling, radio) and some just totally on his own (law, coin collecting, personal fitness, Family Life). It has been a really nice mix of approaches. By far the ones at camp are the easiest. However, the clinics he’s attended were one or two day clinics for just one specific badge and had pre-work required. They have been quite good and often MBs that wouldn’t be easily done without a group (Medicine, Nuclear Science)–without knowing the right people you can’t get a personal tour of a robotic surgery room or a nuclear reactor. As his troop’s new Outings Coordinator, I do scour the internet looking for clinics and opportunities to bring to their attention. With 136 badges, there are certainly many boys (especially younger ones) that don’t even know what all of their options are yet.

  16. I would add to #10, “The Scout KEEPS the applicant record in a safe place forever.” Have had a few cases lately where Troop or Council records were wrong or incomplete and that applicant record saved the day.

  17. I have been a SM for 10 years, and got my Eagle in ’92, and I have seen an increase in the number of MB days, colleges, Camporees with MBs offered. There seems to be more and more adult planned classes offered in Scouting and much less responsibility out on the Scout himself. Also a lot of parents that need “reminding” that they can’t do the badge, the call or the blue card for their son. Just an observation. I try to keep as much of the responsibility on the Scout, but it is becoming more and more of an uphill battle to let the Scouts be the Scouts.

  18. My son has been in two troops in two years with serious issues. Not once did #10 happen, despite requests. One sm would only accept merit badges done in meetings. My son went to scout camp on his own and he refused to accept the blue cards. When my son transferred to another troop, we found out he had never entered the merit badges done in meetings and he refused to release any blue cards, so my son has had to repeat them all. It has been really hard to find merit badge counselors in our area. There is an official list, but often the folks on the list are deceased (not a fun phone call for a 12 year old), have moved, have issues with scouting that they want to unload, or they just don’t want to work with scouts. We had one string my kid along for 4 months, then have no idea what they were doing or the actual requirements. Very few have been positive experiences. My scout has ended up seeking out colleges and camps to get official paperwork, as well as seeking out experts in each subject to really learn and experience the topic. We’ve tried to recruit new counselors, but few actually go through with it. They are willing to work with my son because he has sought them out and expressed interest, but they don’t want to be on a list. It’s frustrating, to say the least. At the same time, my son has learned a great deal, especially about working with people. Along the way, we’ve met new Eagle scouts that didn’t know what a blue card was. In one troop, parents signed off all the requirements and others from the district acted like that was the procedure. In another council, they insisted the parent or sm could sign off when unfinished items from camp were completed. Very few seemed even remotely familiar with the actual process or guide to advancement in the 12 councils we have visited.

    • That has got to be the worst experience I’ve heard of yet regarding merit badge counselors, blue cards, and the SM’s inactions. Incredible. No intervention from your council to the previous SM on behalf of your son for his earned MBs? Even if he had his signed blue card sections? Seems very strange and unprofessional all the way around. I hear you about the council’s out of date MBC list, as we have the same issue here. Also inexplicable… how can there be advancement and program if the roster of MBCs isn’t kept up to date?

    • I am so sorry that your son had to go through all of this. I would be happy to work with your son via phone or email. Be in touch if I can hrlp.

    • Myself, my husband, and my Mom are merit badge counselors for quite a few merit badges including some required ones. Be in touch if we can help your son.

  19. I work with Scouts on Fishing and Fly Fishing, National has a program for adult leaders who are interested in being or are already merit badge councilors for these merit. It is called Certified Angling Instructors. This coarse is put on to help councilor better understand Fishing and Fly Fishing. Not making us experts, but knowing what the task force is concerned about in both programs. Each Region has a Lead person and each section of the in the region as well has a lead. Once a section gets a trained CAI, they set out to set up a team. This allows a 5:1 ratio. Some CAI team up with organizations like Federation of Fly Fishers, or TAKE ME FISHING, these organizations as well lend help to to merit badge councilors as well as CAI. An as if was mentioned above, this is an offer to work on fishing or fly fishing merit badge. But each council back in 2010/2012 was sent out a flier looking for interested Scouters to take the coarse, some councils even flip the bill for the class or it was offered free to the first few to sign up.

    There is not reason that other merit badges with in councils can set up a program where one to two Scouters in the council over see other councilor and provide them with updates as each merit badge section has task forces that are working on better ways to present each merit badge.

    I know that the CAI program works, believe me there are a lot of fishing merit badge councilor that still think (have not purchased an updated merit badge booklet) that a scout must catch two fish. Not true any more.

    Just my dime

  20. Merit badges are not meant to make a scout a “professional” at a skill or interest but is meant to introduce, provide a basic knowledge, have an opportunity to safely try something out, learn some skills and safety, and provide resources if they chose to pursue it further to become more proficient. You can not expect a scout who had learned a knot for climbing (example), to remember how to tie that knot a short time later unless he is doing it regularly. We just forget, that’s how we work. All that said, you can’t retest but if you think the presentation of the badge requirements aren’t meeting the standard, then take action thru your district or council as needed. Just my thoughts.

    • Adults don’t remember everything they learned in every class in college, so we should not expect Scouts to remember everything that a Scout completed in a Merit Badge requirement. Sometimes, I even have to review my knots when getting ready to do some Pioneering. If a SM thinks that a Scout needs some “refresher” training on anything, assign them to teach it to some other Scouts. Have the SPL, ASPL, or an ASM review his presentation so that he can do it. Then, let him teach some other Scouts.

  21. The Patrol Method and Merit Badge program our the meat and potato’s of Scouting. Scouts learn their leadership skills, and possibly their purpose in life.

  22. If I waited on my scouts to ask to work on a Merit Badge, we’d never have any merit badges to award. Almost everything we do in my unit is geared towards completing a MB or Rank requirement.

    I also don’t use Blue Cards. The GTA may claim that the blue card is the official record for a MB, but if no one ever looks at it, how is it the official record?

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