Pandemic-prompted changes to Scouts BSA advancement requirements expire March 1

Consider this our formal nomination for the 13th point of the Scout Law: A Scout is resilient.

Over the past year and a half of the pandemic, Scout units have modified their procedures to ensure that Scouts have a safe, meaningful and memorable journey along the Scouting trail. (For the latest guidance, consult the BSA’s COVID-19 FAQs.)

In May 2020, the BSA did its part by introducing a set of requirement modifications to address the obstacles and speed bumps the pandemic has placed along a Scout’s advancement path.

But as we near the start of the pandemic’s third year, it is time for those adjustments to be retired.

On March 1, 2022, all temporary changes to Scouts BSA advancement requirements will expire, and Scouts will return to the original, unmodified requirements.

What changes are rolling back?

On May 7, 2020, as the COVID case counts continued to rise, the BSA introduced a set of modifications to requirements for the Camping merit badge as well as the Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class ranks.

Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class

Here are the original modifications to the Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class requirements, as posted in May 2020.

Many of the changes involved tweaked verbs. For example, instead of demonstrating how to display, raise, lower, and fold the U.S. flag (Tenderfoot requirement 7A), Scouts could tell how to do it.

Scouts also were permitted to complete some requirements virtually, allowing for activities like virtual museum visits and virtual patrol or troop campouts.

Swimming requirements deferred

Because many public swimming areas were closed during the pandemic, the BSA allowed a temporary deferment of two swimming-related requirements: Second Class requirement 5B and First Class requirement 6A.

  • Second Class requirement 5B: Demonstrate your ability to pass the BSA beginner test: Jump feet first into water over your head in depth, level off and swim 25 feet on the surface, stop, turn sharply, resume swimming, then return to your starting place.
  • First Class requirement 6A: Successfully complete the BSA swimmer test.

Learning to swim is a critical life skill, so the BSA did not remove these requirements altogether. Instead, the requirements could be deferred until the Scout’s next rank (through Life, but not Eagle).

Also, we should note that the swim test is still required for Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat. Those key safety features are critical if units take part in aquatics.

Requirement 9B of the Camping merit badge

Requirement 9B of the Camping merit badge challenges Scouts to add “Scout fun” to camping by enjoying activities like backpacking, biking or rappelling while on a camping trip. That requirement was made optional during this period.

All the changes listed above will end on March 1, 2022.

Please note: When the changes were first announced, the BSA shared that “these requirements will be reinstated with 30 days’ notice to our Scouting family.” Consider this blog post part of that notice.

What are the new (or, technically, old) requirements?

Beginning March 1, 2022, Scouts and Scouters should follow the requirements as written on this page on

If you’re a browser bookmarker, that’s the page you’ll want to file away. There you’ll find the most up-to-date requirements for rank advancement and awards.

For merit badges, use this link to ensure you have the latest and greatest.

As you return to the original requirements, remember this sentence from the Guide to Advancement (section “Members must meet current advancement requirements as written for merit badges, all ranks, and Eagle Palms — no more and no less — and they are to do exactly what is stated.”

Are virtual Scouting activities, like merit badges, still OK?


Adult volunteers, including merit badge counselors, should continue to follow the Guide to Advancement and Youth Protection regulations.

As for virtual instruction, consider this guidance from Guide to Advancement (

It is acceptable — and sometimes desirable — for merit badges to be taught in group settings. This often occurs at camp and merit badge midways, fairs, clinics, or similar events, and even online through webinars. These can be efficient methods, and interactive group discussions can support learning. Group instruction can also be attractive to “guest experts” assisting registered and approved counselors.

Slide shows, skits, demonstrations, panels, and various other techniques can also be employed, but as any teacher can attest, not everyone will learn all the material. Because of the importance of individual attention and personal learning in the merit badge program, group instruction should be focused on those scenarios where the benefits are compelling.

There must be attention to each individual’s projects and fulfillment of all requirements. We must know that every Scout — actually and personally — completed them. If, for example, a requirement uses words like “show,” “demonstrate,” or “discuss,” then every Scout must do that. It is unacceptable to award badges on the basis of sitting in classrooms watching demonstrations or remaining silent during discussions.

That last line, which we’ve bolded for emphasis, means that 100-person online merit badge classes, where Scouts do nothing more than stare at a screen for a few hours, do not follow the Guide to Advancement‘s guidance.

About Bryan Wendell 3282 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.