Top 5 merit badges Scouts could earn while completing assignments for school

Here’s a word problem to ponder: How can one homework assignment count twice?

Easy. By getting credit for that work at school and in Scouts.

Turns out several merit badge requirements align perfectly with schoolwork. And there’s no BSA rule against going for double credit. (Same goes for service projects done at school. The Guide to Advancement says that “counting service hours for school or elsewhere in the community and also for advancement is not considered double counting since the hours are counted only once for advancement purposes.”)

Makes that 10-page essay seem a little more palatable, huh?

Now that school is back in session, let’s look at the top 5 merit badge Scouts can earn while completing homework, group projects or other school assignments.


When taking a test, you’re supposed to answer the easy questions first. I’m going to apply that same theory to this list of school-related merit badges.

The Scholarship merit badge, where Scouts must show an improvement in their grades and demonstrate good leadership skills at school, is the most obvious inclusion here.

But here’s another fact about test-taking: Sometimes the obvious answer is the correct one.


Scouts who find and read six books from a variety of genres have completed the most time-consuming step for the Reading merit badge.

To find those books, the Scout must work with a merit badge counselor or a librarian — perhaps a school librarian.

My favorite requirement for the Reading MB is the four service hours needed for requirement 4. Scouts could complete that by volunteering at their school library or reading to children.


Allow me to paraphrase William Shakespeare: All the world’s a stage, and the Scouts who are part of the cast or crew of a school musical or play should work concurrently on the Theater merit badge.

That’s pretty much what he meant.

While Scouts design sets or costumes, memorize lines or install stage lighting for a school production, they can check off one requirement after another.

That is, assuming they take the effort to do so. After all, as Shakespeare actually wrote, “it is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”


Choose a sample program and then modify the code or add a function or subroutine to it. Then debug and demonstrate the modified program to your counselor.

That merit badge requirement might sound like gibberish to those of us who grew up in the days of dial-up. But today’s teens? They’re nodding their heads in understanding.

That’s why more and more schools offer classes in computer programming, where students learn skills that employers crave.

It’s also why the BSA in 2013 released the Programming merit badge, giving Scouts a STEM-focused introduction to a skill that is both fun and practical.


Athletics merit badge challenges Scouts to improve their performance in activities like running, weightlifting or basketball.

They must show improvement over a three-month period, tracking their progress and using math skills to see how much they’ve improved.

This merit badge could easily be completed in a season of school sports or semester of PE class.

That is, assuming schools still have PE class.

For extra credit, read this note about merit badge requirements

The Guide to Advancement states that a merit badge counselor can consider any work toward requirements completed prior to the initial discussion with the unit leader.

Here’s the exact reference, Section

Typically after the unit leader signs the blue card, the Scout contacts the merit badge counselor and sets an appointment. Even though Scouts may benefit from reviewing requirements with a counselor before pursuing them, a Scout may begin working on a merit badge at  any time after registering in Scouts BSA, or becoming a qualified Venturer or Sea Scout. 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 Scout in Scouts BSA or as a qualified Venturer or Sea Scout, or coins or stamps already collected, would count toward their respective badges.

In other words, it’s possible to complete merit badge requirements even before getting a blue card from a unit leader and finding a merit badge counselor.

Still, a Scout’s best bet is to find a counselor before working on a merit badge. This just eliminates any potential snags down the road.

After all, once a badge is started there’s no time limit for completing it — other than the Scout’s 18th birthday.

What’d I miss?

What other merit badges belong on this list?

Remember the rule: This is a Top 5 list, not a Top 6 or Top 7. If you add one, you must say which one you’d remove.

More in this series

Click here for more “Top 5 merit badges” fun.

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.