Top 20 for 2020: The most-read Bryan on Scouting posts of the year

The Scouting trail has continued uninterrupted for 110 years, enduring along the undulating contours of American history.

Through it all, Scouts have shown ingenuity, tenacity and selflessness. They’ve helped their communities navigate world wars, crippling recessions, natural disasters and global pandemics.

It seems that whenever an obstacle blocks the path, Scouts refuse to turn back. They step up.

That trend continued throughout the difficulties of 2020. Even during the COVID-19 outbreak, Scouts found safe ways to continue learning new skills, earning merit badges and helping their communities.

Here at Bryan on Scouting, we’ve covered it all through daily posts designed to entertain, educate and inspire. I want to say thanks to those loyal readers for being here throughout 2020 — whether you read two posts this year, 20 or all 272. (Many of those posts were inspired by you and your amazing Scouts, so be sure to keep sending in story ideas.)

We’re proud to say that we recorded more than 5 million page views in 2020 alone, a clear sign that the community of adult volunteers remains strong.

But which posts made the most impact? Today, let’s look back on 2020 by reviewing the top 20 posts from the year.

As in past years, we’re only sharing the most-clicked posts that were actually published in 2020. For older posts still gaining attention in 2020, see the “Oldies but goodies” section after the list.

20. ‘Why I hire Eagle Scouts’: An HR executive weighs in

When Dan Churay, the head of human resources for a major corporation in Houston, is scrolling through the electronic résumés of applicants, two words pop out like they’re rendered in neon lights: Eagle Scout.

“Eagle Scouts have a special edge in leadership skills,” Churay writes in a essay that was shared far and wide on LinkedIn, Facebook and Bryan on Scouting. “Eagle Scouts are leaders with a built-in set of core values, a trained sense of how to achieve objectives with the resilience to persevere, to overcome obstacles and roll with the punches.”

The entire essay is worth visiting (or revisiting) and sharing with families in your troop.

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Victoria sits on the bench she built for her Eagle project

19. ‘CBS Evening News’ profiles Scout’s quest to join Inaugural Class of Female Eagle Scouts

Victoria Rader didn’t join a Scouts BSA to make national news. She simply wanted to “do the same activities, the same merit badges, the same amount of work” as her Eagle Scout brother.

But when the city of Scottsdale, Ariz., shared a tweet about Victoria’s Eagle Scout service project, the news spread fast.

Before long, Victoria found herself on the CBS Evening News, watched by more than 5 million people each night.

“I wanted to make sure that my answers were a reflection of who I am and what I believe in,” she says. “I wanted to represent my troop and, in a way, every female Scout who has started this journey with me, all over the nation.”

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Capt. Rotruck (above) commands the hospital aboard USNS Mercy, while Capt. Olmsted (below) commands the ship itself.

18. Captains of the USNS Mercy, the hospital ship docked in Los Angeles, are Eagle Scouts

Wherever good people help others through bad times, there’s a good chance Scouts are there.

In March, the Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy arrived in Los Angeles to help the COVID-19 fight. When it pulled into the harbor, it carried at least two Eagle Scouts.

Capt. John Rotruck, the commanding officer who runs the hospital inside the ship, is an Eagle Scout. He earned Scouting’s highest honor in 1987 as a member of the BSA’s Central Florida Council.

And Capt. Jonathan Olmsted, the civilian Ships Master who runs the ship, is an Eagle Scout, too. He earned the award in 1989 as a member of Troop 101 in San Rafael, Calif., part of the Marin Council.

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17. Good Turns during the coronavirus: Acts of Scouting service you can do from home

In March, during the earliest days of the pandemic, Scouts and Scout volunteers were already searching for ways to help others in their communities.

That explains the rapid popularity of this post, which proved that acts of Scouting service didn’t end because Scouts were stuck at home.

“We don’t stop being Scouts just because our meetings are physically on hold,” says Leah Nehls, a volunteer from Ypsilanti, Mich. “We have plenty of opportunities to do good and be a positive impact in our communities during times when people are feeling scared or trapped in their houses.”

Nine months later, the six ideas we outlined in the post are still great ways to help your community.

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Eamon and an image of the Mars rover

16. Cub Scout one of nine finalists to name the 2020 Mars rover

In January, a 10-year-old Webelos Scout from Pennsylvania became one of nine finalists in NASA’s contest to name the 2020 Mars rover.

Eamon Reilly wrote an essay explaining his choice for the name: “Tenacity.”

While that name wasn’t picked, the winning name also came from a Scout. (I didn’t know when writing the original post that another Scout was among the finalists.)

For the follow-up post in April, I interviewed Alexander Mather, a Scout from Troop 1853 of the National Capital Area Council, whose name “Perseverance” was chosen for the rover.

Perseverance launched on July 30 and will land on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.

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Andrew Stokes, wearing Scout uniform

15. Eagle, Quartermaster, Summit and more: He earned the top award in every program

It started with a Cub Scout religious emblem Andrew Stokes earned at age 8. Then the awards kept piling up as Andrew enjoyed everything Scouting had to offer.

After 12 years of unforgettable adventures, Andrew has earned the top award in every BSA program — the Arrow of Light (Cub Scouts), Eagle Scout Award (Scouts BSA), Quartermaster Award (Sea Scouting), Summit Award (Venturing) and Denali Award (Varsity Scouting, a program that has since been discontinued).

”This is the beginning of something great,” Andrew told Bryan on Scouting. “I will do my best to leave a legacy and change the world for generations to come through my service, leadership and anything I have to offer to God’s great country.”

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14. How to conduct a board of review through videoconferencing

Even before the pandemic made face-to-face meetings a bad idea, the BSA allowed boards of review to be conducted using teleconferencing tools like Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom.

Pre-COVID, this option was popular with young people who had gone off to college or the military as well as young people who live in remote areas.

During the pandemic, almost all boards of review have moved online, and we offered proven tips for making yours run smoothly.

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13. Updated merit badge pamphlets now available through Amazon Kindle

Technology-savvy Scouts and Scouters appreciate the convenience of having their entire Scouting library available on their phone, tablet or any device with a Kindle app (including, naturally, an actual Kindle reader).

In this frequently updated post, we share links to all currently available digital merit badge pamphlets.

By the way, if you or your Scouts prefer the printed versions, those remain available through the Scout Shop.

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James holds the James M. Stewart Good Citizenship Award

12. How your Scouts can earn the James M. Stewart Good Citizenship Award

In a 1980 speech, Jimmy Stewart called the Scout Oath, “40 words … that can make an awfully big difference.”

Jimmy Stewart made an awfully big difference himself. The Oscar-winning actor, philanthropist and military officer was a Scout in Troop 3 of Indiana, Pa. — about an hour east of Pittsburgh. As an adult, he was a dedicated friend of Scouting and received the Silver Buffalo Award, the BSA’s top honor for adult volunteers.

Stewart died in 1997, but his spirit of citizenship endures in a number of tangible ways, including the James M. Stewart Good Citizenship Award, available to members of Scouts BSA.

In this post from July, we shared how to earn the award and introduced you to one of its first recipients.

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11. Scouts, Nick Jonas to appear in latest episode of ‘Kevin Hart: What The Fit’

In April, we took readers behind the scenes of a Scouting-themed episode of the YouTube comedy series Kevin Hart: What The Fit.

Alongside singer and actor Nick Jonas, Hart joined actual Scouts and Scouting volunteers from California. They explored the outdoors, learned new skills and tried to complete merit badge requirements.

The laughs came quickly throughout the 15-minute episode, which has been viewed more than 5 million times.

That kind of public attention on Scouting is no laughing matter.

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Scouts Australia patch with bush fire smoke in background

10. Buy this patch to help our fellow Scouts affected by the fires in Australia

Like the Boy Scouts of America, Scouts Australia is a member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement. There are more than 50 million Scouts across 171 countries, and these Aussie Scouts wear the purple World Crest just like we do.

So it should come as no surprise that when Scouts in Australia needed help back in January, Scouts in the U.S. answered the call.

Our post brought added attention to Scouts Australia’s effort to sell patches to benefit Scouts who lost their homes in the country’s devastating wildfires. Their goal was to make sure those Scouts could “remain connected to Scouting as they work through this traumatic period.”

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9. These 8 museums offer virtual visits (and fulfill a merit badge requirement!)

Museums with virtual tours, coupled with new temporary guidelines from the BSA that make virtual museum visits an acceptable option, mean your Scouts don’t have to put merit badge work on hold during the pandemic.

We scouted out eight museums with virtual visit options that fulfill merit badge requirements.

Scouts can work on the Art merit badge at the Louvre, the Oceanography merit badge at the National Aquarium or the Sculpture merit badge at the Vatican Museums.

One reminder: Make sure your Scouts check with their merit badge counselor before beginning a virtual visit.

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Soldier Field wide shot

8. Eagle Scout Class of 2019: Behind the largest Eagle class ever

Soldier Field, home to the Chicago Bears, has been empty this season. But if the gates were to open, the 61,500-seat NFL stadium would just barely hold the Eagle Scout Class of 2019.

Exactly 61,353 young men earned the Eagle Scout award last year, beating the previous record of 58,659 set in 2012, the 100-year anniversary of the award first being presented.

From my perspective, this is great news. Let’s break this record every year, because the world needs Eagle Scouts now more than ever.

In February, we took a deep dive into the numbers behind this history-making class of Eagle Scouts.

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7. 2020 Eagle Project of the Year: He used STEM to build school seating

If No. 8 on this list used a wide-angle lens to examine the Eagle Scout Class of 2019, No. 7 used a telephoto lens to zoom in close on a single member of the record-setting class.

Alex Arehart, a member of Troop 85 of Beavercreek, Ohio, chose to go big with his Eagle Scout service project. He led the design and construction of a large outdoor seating area at his school, using STEM skills to create an ingenious design that will last a long time.

“For me, what’s the point if it’s going to be gone in a few years or if it’s not going to be used?” Alex says.

For his efforts, Alex received the Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award.

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Bear Grylls chats with actress Cara Delevingne fireside during filming of National Geographic's "Running Wild With Bear Grylls." (National Geographic/Jeff Ellingson)
Bear Grylls chats with actress Cara Delevingne fireside during filming of National Geographic’s “Running Wild With Bear Grylls.” (National Geographic/Jeff Ellingson)

6. Why is Bear Grylls wearing a World Crest on his sleeve in his TV show ‘Running Wild’?

An eagle-eyed viewer of the National Geographic show Running Wild With Bear Grylls spotted a purple World Scout Emblem, which BSA members call the World Crest, on Bear Grylls’ right sleeve.

The host wears the patch in a nod to his role as the first Chief Ambassador of the Scout Movement. Grylls accepted the volunteer position in November 2018, pledging to “promote Scouting worldwide, champion youth education, and inspire more adults and young people to join the Scout Movement.”

Eager to see the World Crest featured in such a high-profile (and high-adventure) context? The show has been renewed for a sixth season, but no release date has been announced.

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5. 2019 merit badge rankings: Which were the most popular?

First Aid remained the champ, with Swimming close in its wake.

But the big surprise in our annual analysis of merit badge numbers was the Camping merit badge, which staked out a spot in the top three after spending years in seventh or eighth place.

2019 was a big year for the American Business and Backpacking merit badges, too. The pair saw their earn totals skyrocket by 166% and 78%, respectively. The news wasn’t so great for the Plant Science merit badge (down 21%) or Dentistry merit badge (down 22%), however.

Where did your favorites rank? Check the complete list to find out.

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The campus of Florida State University — one of several schools that responded to our questions about how their admissions office perceives the rank of Eagle Scout. Photo by Denis Tangney Jr./Getty Images
The campus of Florida State University — one of several schools that responded to our questions about how their admissions office perceives the rank of Eagle Scout. Photo by
Denis Tangney Jr./Getty Images

4. Can being an Eagle Scout help you get into college? Here’s what 17 schools told us

Bryan on Scouting contacted dozens of colleges and universities across the U.S. — everything from large public schools to small liberal arts colleges.

The question was simple: “What kind of effect does being an Eagle Scout have on a prospective student’s application to your school?”

In October, we shared 17 responses in a post that proves how the Eagle Scout Award can give applicants an extra edge.

“A lot of applicants will do something once or twice, but to be an Eagle Scout requires years of commitment and dedication, and our admission committee is keenly aware of the time needed to achieve this rank,” says Jeff Schiffman, director of admission at Tulane University in New Orleans. “It’s definitely one of those few extracurricular activities that can help an applicant stand out.”

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3. The Congressional Award: An impressive honor Scouts can earn just by being Scouts

To earn the Congressional Award, the highest recognition Congress bestows on young people, a 13.5- to 23-year-old must meet certain goals in four key areas: voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness and expedition/exploration.

If that sounds a lot like what young people do in Scouting, you’re right. That’s why, in 1999, the BSA became partners with the Congressional Award Foundation, which remains Congress’ only charity.

In July, we shared how Scouts can earn this résumé-boosting award just by being Scouts. But read carefully, because your Scouts must register for the award before counting any work toward its requirements.

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2. Advancement during COVID-19: Eagle extensions and more

Our two top posts were direct products of the pandemic — posts nobody at Bryan on Scouting could’ve contemplated writing back in January or February of this year.

In this post, we shared an important message from the BSA to young people concerned that the coronavirus outbreak would prevent them from completing Eagle Scout rank requirements before their 18th birthday. That message: Don’t worry; we’ve got your back.

For the latest guidance on advancement during COVID-19, you’ll want to bookmark the BSA’s coronavirus FAQs, available here.

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1. Merit badges for social distancing: 58 badges Scouts can complete at home

In March, during the pandemic’s earliest days, we heard from countless Scouting families asking how they can continue Scouting from home.

It’s in that spirit that we created this list of 58 merit badges that:

  1. Don’t involve visits to public places or companies.
  2. Have requirements that can be completed indoors or in an average-size yard.

For even more Scouting at Home resources, be sure to visit this page.

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Oldies but goodies: Five popular stories not from 2020

Some posts were published before 2020 but still caught your eye this year. Here are the top 5, based on number of clicks:

  1. From 2012: Cooking, Sustainability merit badges to become Eagle-required
  2. From 2018: Can packs, troops or crews participate in political rallies?
  3. From 2014: Four options for retiring worn-out flags
  4. From 2018 (but updated annually): Meet 110 Scouts who became famous
  5. From 2016: A parent helped build that Pinewood Derby car? Yes, that’s the point

Five of my favorite posts from 2020

While these weren’t in the most-read list, I enjoyed writing each one and sharing it with you.

What were the most-read posts in previous years?

Check out the lists from:

About Bryan Wendell 3106 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.