What a year, what a movement.
Despite the ongoing challenges that 2021 placed in their paths, Scouts everywhere made an impact on their communities during the past year. Cub Scouts built confidence and enjoyed eye-opening experiences with their families. Scouts embraced outdoor adventures, practiced leadership and performed acts of selfless service. Venturers, Sea Scouts and Explorers challenged themselves while developing skills they’ll carry into careers or college.
And Bryan on Scouting tried to cover it all. With at least one new post every weekday — 289 posts in all — we shared breaking Scouting news, essential advice for leaders and inspiring stories sure to bring a smile to your face (if not an occasional tear to your eye).
We’re proud to report that you responded in a big way. Our blog averaged more than 12,000 page views a day in 2021, amounting to nearly 4.5 million views this year.
We know that 2022 will bring even more adventures worth sharing. But before we step boldly into the new year, let’s look back at the posts that interested you most in 2021.
Here’s how this list works: We’ve calculated the 21 posts that received the most page views in 2021 and were published in 2021. For posts from previous years that still received clicks in 2021, check out the “Oldies but Goodies” section at the end.
Where did we get all these ideas? Many came directly from you, the loyal Bryan on Scouting reader. And so in 2022 and beyond, please keep sending in story ideas. You might just see your suggestion become a future post.
Finally, one last note on behalf of myself and my fellow Bryan on Scouting contributors: Thanks for reading!
21. Eagle Scouts, Be Prepared to apply for NESA scholarships
Earning the Eagle Scout Award brings a wealth of benefits to young people. While most of those benefits are priceless, at least one could be worth thousands.
As we wrote in October, the National Eagle Scout Association will distribute 65 Eagle Scout scholarships in the 2022-23 academic year. Though the post was from October, the deadline to apply for one of these scholarships has not yet passed: Jan. 31, 2022.
Eagle Scouts may apply for NESA scholarships beginning in their senior year of high school through their junior year in college. So get going, and good luck!
20. Six things to know about the positions of responsibility for Star, Life and Eagle
A teenager’s life is full of responsibilities. Their life in Scouting is no different.
We call them “positions of responsibility,” and they come with a title like patrol leader, den chief or quartermaster. They also come with a patch for the left sleeve of a uniform shirt — an outward symbol that others are counting on them.
In this post from June, we offered six things you need to know about Scouting positions of responsibility.
19. Scout Ranger program might be the National Park Service’s best-kept secret
From Acadia in Maine to Joshua Tree in California and beyond, our country’s national parks hosted 237 million people in 2020.
But despite the continued popularity of these wide-open spaces, there’s one National Park Service offering that remains lesser known. It’s the Resource Stewardship Scout Ranger program, which offers an oval-shaped patch to Cub Scouts and Scouts who participate in “organized educational activities or volunteer service projects for a minimum of 10 hours at one or more national parks.”
For this post from October, we talked to a Scout who was the first to achieve it at his local park service site.
18. 20 ideas for unique Eagle Scout service project beneficiaries
While schools and religious institutions are the most popular beneficiaries of Eagle Scout projects, they aren’t the only options.
The BSA only says that Eagle projects must be “helpful to any religious institution, any school or your community.” And to expand things even further, the Guide to Advancement specifies that “your community” need not be restricted to something down the street or even within your town. It can actually mean the “community of the world,” meaning anywhere on the planet is fair game.
In this post from January, we shared some helpful advice for Scouts looking for unique Eagle project beneficiaries.
17. Points in history: Three things to know about why Scouts use the fleur-de-lis
It’s worn by kings and queens, Pelicans and Saints, and Scouts and Scouters.
It’s found atop iron fence posts at private homes and famous landmarks, including London’s Buckingham Palace.
And, perhaps most important of all, it has its own emoji: ⚜️.
Where else might you find the fleur-de-lis? Why did Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell choose it to represent Scouting? And what does the symbol mean today? In January, we offered three points you need to know.
16. The long, winding road of an 80-year-old would-be Eagle Scout
There are lots of folks out there who almost made the rank of Eagle but never finished. Almost all of them will say they regret it.
Bruce Cowan’s story, though, is different.
To tell it, we have to start at the beginning, when a young boy not yet old enough to join Boy Scouts jumped from a swing at the height of its path, injuring his elbow, and changing his life forever.
15. Before you meet, make sure you screen for COVID-19
If 2020 was the year of the virtual Scouting event, 2021 was the year of returning outside.
But doing so safely meant following some expert guidelines designed to keep Scouts and families safe. In January, we shared some of that advice and links to guidelines that have been regularly updated throughout 2021.
14. Take note of these 11 key changes in the 2021 Guide to Advancement
Sports leagues have rule books, computers have instruction manuals and the Boy Scouts of America has the Guide to Advancement.
In this post from August, we shared essential information about the 2021 update — the latest evolution of a living document that’s updated every two years to ensure it meets the realities of packs, troops, crews and ships from across the country.
13. Road test: Can you figure out the Scouting message in this license plate number?
When heading out behind the wheel for an evening errand or weekend adventure, remember to follow the Scout Motto and BPRPRD. If you spot a motorist in distress, try to keep in mind the Scout Slogan and DAGTD.
Do all those things, and your fellow travelers won’t be surprised to see you’re an EGLSCT, EGLMOM or EGLDAD.
In the universe of Scouting-themed personalized license plates, some four- to seven-character combos are pretty easy to figure out. Even with some letters removed, we still quickly recognize phrases like Be Prepared, Do a Good Turn Daily, Eagle Scout, Eagle Mom and Eagle Dad.
But others take a bit more cleverness to decipher. In March, we shared one such example.
12. Scouts can help protect the environment by earning the new Environmental Protection Agency award
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Environmental Protection Agency last year, the Boy Scouts of America and EPA signed a memorandum of understanding to create a special award, encouraging those in the Scouts BSA program to strive to protect the environment.
The award, which features a patch, requires Scouts to earn environmental and community health-focused merit badges and participate in a service project. In January, we shared all the details you need.
11. Everything you need to know about Scout Sunday 2021, Scout Sabbath 2021 and Scout Jumuah 2021
Each year on Feb. 8, the Boy Scouts of America celebrates its birthday. It’s a date officially known as Scouting Anniversary Day.
But this is more than an excuse to eat an extra s’more and commemorate another year of Scouting adventures. It’s also when packs, troops, crews and ships honor a Scout’s “duty to God.”
Through a trio of faith-based celebrations known as Scout Sunday, Scout Sabbath and Scout Jumuah, young people give back to the chartered organizations that give them so much. We offered this guide back in January.
10. Catching up with Roger C. Mosby, the BSA’s newest Chief Scout Executive
From Cubmaster to Scoutmaster to committee chair; from running the human resources department at Kinder Morgan to running his own consulting firm; from president and CEO of the Boy Scouts of America to, now, Chief Scout Executive.
In July, Roger C. Mosby sat down with us to talk about what’s happened over the last year-and-a-half, why he feels good about the position we’re currently in, and how Scouting can remain as relevant as ever as we head into the future.
9. Let’s close the debate on open-toe shoes vs. closed-toe shoes at Scouting events
It’s a question that’s been asked for decades: Should Scouts wear open-toe shoes or closed-toe shoes?
In May, we heard from a volunteer named Kari Grantham, who writes: “We have lived in several states while Scouting, and every unit has said no open-toe shoes — only closed-toe shoes. So we just kind of went with that. I have never seen this in writing as a BSA policy, so I am curious what the truth is.”
We shared the official guidance for Kari — and everyone else.
8. Her Eagle Scout project helped firefighters stay safe
After battling a blaze, firefighters are often wet and dirty. And for some, they are wet and dirty going to put out a fire.
Firefighters with Station 1 in Gainesville, Fla., had this problem. Not only was their turnout gear (pants, jackets, boots, etc.) soaking wet and covered in soot after fighting a fire, they had no efficient way of cleaning and drying it before heading out again.
Linda Mentz found a solution and made it her Eagle project. In March, we shared the inspiring tale.
7. Ignoring the doubters, he completes multiyear, $20,000 Eagle Scout project
In life, you’re going to encounter doubters. Ethan Anderson heard them, and Ethan Anderson dismissed them.
For his Eagle Scout service project, the young man from Tennessee led a team of Scouts and volunteers in the construction of a blacksmith shop at the Historic Ramsey House.
Ethan raised $20,000 and spent more than two years working on the finished product: a 12-by-15-foot log cabin with a cedar shake roof and brick forge. In his final report, Ethan calculated that he and his volunteers put in 1,555 hours (the equivalent of nearly 65 days) on the project — “but in truth there were probably more hours.”
6. Scout leaders whose troop trailers were stolen share what they’d do differently
In Beaverton, Ore., Troop 618 was “just kind of jarred.” In Columbia, S.C., volunteers with Troop 900 were “really angry.” And in Louisville, Ky., Troop 72’s leaders called what happened “really disappointing.”
The Scouts and Scouters in these three troops have never met, but they share a similarly heartbreaking story: their troop trailers were stolen.
In April, we asked what they’d do differently in hindsight.
5. Step back in time to experience a BSA Historic Trail near you and earn an award
On certain special hiking routes across the country, Scouts can look back even as they move forward.
That’s the promise of the BSA Historic Trails, a collection of nearly 300 hiking paths from 38 states, nine foreign countries and the District of Columbia designed to help young people connect with history in an immersive way.
You’ll find Historic Trails all over the United States — from the Iditarod Historic Trail in Alaska to the Barefoot Mailman Hike in South Florida. The list includes the Gettysburg Heritage Trails in Pennsylvania, the President Gerald R. Ford Trail in Michigan and the Mission Historic Trail in San Antonio. In August, we helped you get started.
4. 2021 Eagle Scout Project of the Year: He built an exhibit to honor heroes of D-Day
“Raise your hand if you know what D-Day is,” the teacher said one day in Christopher Adam’s eighth grade honors history class.
Christopher’s hand went up. He looked around, and only two other hands were raised. Just three members of the class of 25 knew that D-Day — June 6, 1944 — is the day the Allies invaded Western Europe in World War II.
For his Eagle Scout service project, Christopher helped changed that.
3. 2020 merit badge rankings: A list rewritten by the pandemic
Ever since we started publishing merit badge rankings back in 2012, the top of the list has been dominated by merit badges that are both on the list of Eagle-required merit badges and offered at most council summer camps.
But everything changed in 2020.
With the majority of summer camps not operating, the popularity of those merit badges fell. In their place, we saw an unprecedented rise in the popularity of merit badges that can be earned at home, often with a Scout’s family.
2. How this merit badge counselor helped 450 Scouts earn one of the 10 rarest badges
Exactly 1,400 Scouts earned the Landscape Architecture merit badge in 2020, according to the official numbers.
Erin McCown Foster was responsible for 450 of those Scouts — an astounding 32%. Scouts from all over the United States have taken her Landscape Architecture merit badge course via Zoom, including Scouts from Puerto Rico. She’s even had Scouts BSA members from overseas sign up, receiving blue cards from Scouts living in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Central America.
“I thought that maybe by providing these classes I could keep Scouts engaged in Scouting, provide a connection to others during a time of social distancing and maybe help other families like mine keep their kids mentally fit during unprecedented times,” she says. “In the end, it helped me get though the last year of social isolation, too.”
How did Foster make the Landscape Architecture merit badge so exciting? What can other merit badge counselors learn from her about teaching classes over Zoom? And why does she devote so much time and energy to an unpaid gig?
We asked to find out.
1. Introducing Citizenship in Society, the BSA’s newest merit badge
The first new merit badge for youth in the Scouts BSA program since 2017 officially launched in November.
Called Citizenship in Society, it provides Scouts with opportunities to learn more about our world by encouraging them to explore information on diversity, equity, inclusion and ethical leadership — and to learn why these qualities are important in society and in Scouting.
To earn the merit badge, Scouts must conduct research; explore resources; have conversations with merit badge counselors, peers, parents and community members; and identify actions they can take to ensure inclusivity and belonging in Scouting and society in general.
Oldies but goodies: Five popular stories not from 2021
Some posts were published before 2021 but still caught your eye this year. Here are the top 5, based on number of clicks:
- From 2018 (but updated annually): Meet 111 Scouts who became famous
- From 2017: The Cub Scout Six Essentials: A half-dozen items to pack on every campout or hike
- From 2012: 40 questions to ask at your next Eagle Board of Review
- From 2019: The big difference between Cub Scout advancement and Scouts BSA advancement
- From 2012: How to request congratulatory letters for your Eagle Scout
Five of my favorite posts from 2021
While these weren’t on the most-read list, I enjoyed writing each one and sharing it with you.
- New research reveals an even earlier Black Eagle Scout: Hamilton Bradley of New York
- 15 hidden gems in the ‘Scouts BSA Handbook’ that will interest adult volunteers
- How to be a zero-waste Scout troop
- Not-so-buried treasure: ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ revealed that Indy is a Life Scout
- Can you solve these Scouting-themed crossword clues from The New York Times?
What were the most-read posts in previous years?
Check out the lists from: