BSA releases Exploration merit badge

Sorry, Captain Kirk, but these days, Scouts and former Scouts are the ones who “boldly go where no man has gone before.”

That’s why it’s fitting for the BSA to introduce a new merit badge: Exploration. The badge — the 137th on the BSA’s list of currently available merit badges — celebrates the spirit of adventure that has inspired Scouts for more than a century.

That spirit helped Eagle Scout Paul Siple, who coined the term “wind chill,” travel to Antarctica with Adm. Richard Byrd in 1928. It helped Eagle Scout Neil Armstrong land on the moon in 1969. And it helps today’s Eagle Scouts explore the world through opportunities like the National Eagle Scout Association’s World Explorers Program.

So you don’t have to do too much internet exploring, let’s get these important links out of the way first:

What Scouts will do

After learning about the history and importance of exploration, Scouts plan, prepare for and go on an actual expedition. The expedition need not be to Mount Everest or the Marianas Trench. Scouts must plan and take a trip to somewhere of interest to them; it can be close by or far away. It can be a troop activity or a small-scale excursion.

Once there, the Scout will study something. Maybe he’ll analyze a location’s animal population, classify plant species at a state park or explore the effects of drought on an area.

The primary goal is that the Scout learns something, plans the trip (with his counselor’s OK) and has fun.

He’ll do this by following the same steps used by professional explorers and scientists:

  • Develop a concept
  • Do the research
  • Select a team
  • Create an exploration agenda
  • Secure expedition financing
  • Gather equipment
  • Make communication and transportation plans
  • Establish safety/first-aid procedures
  • Obtain necessary documents
  • Understand legal considerations
  • Establish record-keeping procedures
  • Follow outdoor ethics guidelines
  • Take the actual trip
  • Prepare a report
  • Hold an after-action review

The experts behind Exploration MB

The Exploration merit badge pamphlet itself was a collaborative effort involving some of the planet’s top modern-day explorers. The list includes Michael Manyak, a renowned consultant on expedition medicine; Lee Berger, a paleoanthropologist who has made breakthrough discoveries about the history of humans; and Scott Parazynski, an astronaut who has both flown in space and summited Mount Everest.

Though some adult explorers make their discoveries alone, Scouts must have qualified supervision during their expedition. The merit badge counselor could serve this role, or it could be fulfilled by an expedition advisor OK’d by the counselor. Either way, the Youth Protection policy of two-deep leadership applies.

Who makes a worthy expedition advisor? School science teachers, museum educators, park rangers, nature instructors or anyone with scientific knowledge.

The future of new merit badges

The Exploration merit badge, officially released in December 2016, is the BSA’s first new merit badge since Animation in May 2015.

It also could be the last new merit badge for a little while. The BSA’s Merit Badge Maintenance Task Force has shifted its focus to improving requirements for existing merit badges.

Speaking of, that’s why Scouts and merit badge counselors should always check this site for the latest requirements before starting a merit badge.

Exploration MB at the 2017 National Jamboree

This summer, National Geographic will team up with the BSA as a presenting sponsor to offer Scouts the opportunity to begin earning the Exploration merit badge during the 2017 National Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

Scouting Newsroom has more details.

How to promote the Exploration merit badge

Feel free to use the image below or this flyer (PDF) to promote the merit badge in your troop, district and council.


  1. Wouldn’t the obvious Indiana Jones reference on this patch be more appropriate for the Archaeology merit badge since, after all, he was not technically an explorer, but rather an archaeologist funded through the University?

    Just thought I would throw it out there, lol.

    • Indiana Jones was an archeologist, a very bad one. Very few artifacts he looked for made it out alive, but man, do I love the nod to him and the endless arguments we can have over his “scouting career”. 10 out of 10. 🙂

      • A bad archaeologist? From what I saw he was mostly running for his life. He kept as many artifacts as possible from being destroyed or captured by Nazi’s, who would have sold them into private museums.

        • That’s like complaining that the Easter Bunny isn’t a true philanthropist, or that the Easter Bunny is really bad with food because he obviously leaves candy outside to rot in little plastic eggs when it isn’t found on Easter, and doesn’t follow proper food safety protocols (by not being licensed, he doesn’t wear gloves and keeps touching the ground with his front manipulating appendages when he hops around, then doesn’t follow proper 20 second wash protocols in between).

          1) I hate to be the one to break it to you but he’s not real, He’s just a symbol, and as a symbol he’s great at the job. Yes, he doesn’t follow proper protocols but that’s not really the point here, he’s a symbol and obviously not real.

          2) Seriously? That in an adventures about Indiana Jones literally fighting for his life to attempt to stop things from being either destroyed or smuggled out of the rightful countries into private collections, you’re upset that he doesn’t stop and take a few months to diagram and document everything? And when do you suppose he would have time to do that, you think he could have persuaded Belloq and Toht to put Hitler on hold for a few months while he documented the Well of Souls? You think he could have persuaded Donovan and Elsa to just kind of wait a year or so while he documented the Tomb of the Last Grail Knight?

          Is that really the direction you want to take this conversation, because it kind of seems a little ridiculous to me to quibble that he didn’t follow proper charting/documentation protocols when he’s literally (not figuratively) busy fighting for his life. Come off it.

    • I disagree. In the Indiana Jones television show he was a Boy Scout exploring around the world. So I feel the Indiana Jones reference is very appropriate.

  2. When Exploation was first announced 2 years ago, I wasn’t terribly optimistic. I work at the Smithsonian conducting research and working with NASA-funded unmanned spacecraft.

    Having taught this merit badge recently, I have to say it is quite well done, emphasizing modern explorers in the lab and in the field.

    Two exceptions are Indiana Jones, who never took a note, photo or measurement of any site – the exact opposite of what the merit badge emphasizes – and the “discovery” of the Americas by Christopher Columbus – missing the opportunity to highlight Columbus’s noteworthy exploration and publication of his findings in a place discovered at least 12,000 years earlier. Others might consider these teachable moments.

    • Any one know how many scouts have earned this merit badge or does earning the merit badge start with the announcement date

  3. It started in December, theoretically it could have been earned outside of the pilot program, but most likely those who jumped in right away are still working through it.

    I love the fact that it is virtually impossible to earn in a weekend. I love the practicum side of this badge.

    I picked the book up last month from the scout shop, and have read it, the requirements, and must say this MB is one of my favorites as far as requirements (My all time favorite is still the original requirement for the original Inventing MB, show your patent to your MB instructor)

    As far as the Indiana Jones stuff, he is the Hollywood version of what an explorer looks like, he is Hollywood cool, trendy with the old goats, not obsolete to the youth, and one of the few Hollywood icons that doesn’t know the concept of being an Eagle Scout. Perhaps his career path isn’t exactly in line with this badge, but even there you have a teachable moment. It’s not that you can’t teach stuff not in the requirements in doing a MB, it’s that you can’t require stuff not in the MB requirements to earn it. If you are only doing the bare minimum in covering the requirements then you are doing a disservice to the scouts. Cover away, expand the horizons, challenge the minds, enlighten away.

    I love this MB.

    Yes you can go traditional mountaineering, speulunking, deep sea diving, theoretically you could even do space exploration if you fly to one of the countries selling private space trips, but on top of that you can also do exploration of your own community to meet the requirements, including urban exploration –

    well done guys, this was well crafted and my hat is tipped to you.

  4. Every MB has an “earn date” which is the first official date a MB can be earned. This is when it is loaded into scout net and internet advancement.

    • Merit badges are only for Boy Scouts. Cub Scouts can’t earn this award. If you received this link in an email, it’s probably because you are a registered leader in the BSA…if you are. If not, your council might have sent out the link in a mass email to all parents.

  5. Question for you all who have taught this or know these requirements well. I’m looking to offer this MB to our troop at an upcoming MB Day. My read of this is the Scout must plan his own expedition vs. a group of Scouts (eg: a patrol or something) planning together. Thoughts?? Thanks!

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