Merit Badge Program

Earning Merit Badges

There is more to merit badges than simply providing opportunities to learn skills. There is more to them than an introduction to lifetime hobbies, or the inspiration to pursue a career—though these invaluable results occur regularly. The uncomplicated process—beginning in a discussion with a Scoutmaster, continuing through meetings with a counselor, and culminating in advancement and recognition—provides several learning experiences. It gives a Scout the confidence achieved through overcoming obstacles. Social skills improve. Self-reliance develops. Examples are set and followed. And fields of study and interest are explored beyond the limits of the school classroom.

Step 1: Scoutmaster/Assistant Scoutmaster Signs Application for Merit Badge (“Blue Card”)

Though a few merit badges may have certain restrictions; short of them, any registered Scout may work on any of them at any time, as long as he has the approval of his Scoutmaster. This is indicated by his or her signature on the Application for Merit Badge, commonly called the “blue card.” Talk to your Scoutmaster about your interests. Read the requirements of the merit badges you think might interest you. Pick one to earn. From the list, select a counselor. These counselors have special knowledge in their merit badge subjects and are interested in helping you.

Step 2: Get a Buddy

The Buddy System applies to working with Merit Badge Counselors, too.  Your buddy can be a parent, guardian, brother/sister, fellow Scout, relative or friend.

Step 3: Contact a Merit Badge Counselor

Get in touch with the merit badge counselor and tell him or her that you want to earn the merit badge. The counselor may ask you to come to see them so they can explain what he/she expects and start helping you meet the requirements.

Step 4: Show your Stuff! 

When you are ready, contact the Merit Badge Counselor and make an appointment to meet the requirements. When you go, take along the things you have make or done to meet the requirements.  If they are too big, take pictures.  The counselor will ask about each requirement to make sure you know your stuff and can do/have done the things required and sign/date the Blue Card when each is completed.

You are expected to meet the requirements as they are stated — no more and no less. You are expected to do exactly what is stated in the requirements. If it says “show or demonstrate,” that is what you must do. Just telling about it isn’t enough. The same thing holds for such words as “make,” “list,” “in the field,” “collect,” “identify,” and “label.”

Merit badge books are available at the Scouting Store or can be checked out of the troop library.  Merit badge worksheets can be used to help you prepare and complete the requirements.

Step 5: Recordkeeping

When the counselor is satisfied that you have met each requirement, they will sign your blue card.    Turn the signed blue card into the computer at the beginning of your next troop computer for recording.   Merit badges are awarded when  earned and recognized publicly by presenting the merit badge patch at the next Court of Honor.

Step 6: Thank your Merit Badge Counselor

Your counselor has taken time from their own schedules to help you earn your badge.  Remember to thank them for the time they spent with you.

 

References: www.macScouter.com, http://scouting.org/scoutsource/GuideToAdvancement/TheMeritBadgeProgram.aspx


Merit Badge Counselors

Qualifications of Merit Badge Counselors

People serving as merit badge counselors must maintain registration with the Boy Scouts of America as merit badge counselors and be approved by the local council.  For example, Scoutmasters must be approved for any badge they wish to counsel or sign off in their troop. Before working with Scouts, counselors must have completed Youth Protection training within the last two years. They must be men or women of good character, age 18 or older, and recognized as having the skills and education in the subjects they cover. It is important, too, they have good rapport with Scout-age boys and unit leaders.

The following merit badges have special qualifications or certifications for either the merit badge counselor or the supervisor of certain activities that may be involved

Canoeing.Canoeing merit badge counselors must have either BSA Aquatics Instructor or Canoeing Instructor certification from the American Canoe Association, American Red Cross, or equivalent; OR local councils may approve individuals previously certified as such, or trained by an instructor so qualified.

Climbing.All climbing, belaying, and rappelling exercises and activities must be supervised by a qualified rock climbing instructor who is a mature and conscientious adult at least 21 years old, and who is trained in BSA Climb On Safely and understands the risks inherent to these activities. Training as BSA climbing director or instructor is highly recommended. Someone with certification in First Aid/CPR/AED from the American Red Cross (or equivalent) must be present at these activities.

Lifesaving.Demonstrations or activities in or on the water must be supervised by an adult at least 21 years old with certification in Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED or equivalent, and also as BSA Lifeguard or Aquatics Instructor or equivalent.

Rifle Shooting.The merit badge counselor must take responsibility to assure that all instruction involving any handling of firearms or live ammunition must be supervised by a certified BSA National Camping School (NCS) shooting sports director, or National Rifle Association (NRA) Rifle Shooting Instructor or Coach. That involving muzzleloaders must be supervised by an NCS shooting sports director or NRA/National Muzzleloader Rifle Association (NMLRA)–certified muzzleloader firearms instructor. Shooting must be supervised by an NRA-certified Range Safety Officer (RSO). If instruction and shooting are to occur at the same time, both the RSO and qualified instructor must be present. The supervisor and instructor may not be the same person. Note that commercial shooting ranges may provide RSOs. See the Guide to Safe Scouting and the BSA National Shooting Sports Manual, No. 30931, for further details on shooting sports.

Rowing.Rowing merit badge counselors must have either BSA Aquatics Instructor certification or equivalent; OR local councils may approve individuals previously certified as such, or trained by an instructor so qualified.

Scuba Diving.All phases of scuba instruction—classroom, pool, and open-water training—are limited to instructors trained and sanctioned by one of the following agencies: Professional Association of Diving Instructors, National Association of Underwater Instructors, Scuba Schools International, International Diving Educators Association, Professional Diving Instructors Corporation, or Scuba Diving International, or be a member of the World Recreational Scuba Training Council.

Shotgun Shooting.The merit badge counselor must take responsibility to assure that all instruction involving any handling of firearms or live ammunition must be supervised by a certified NCS shooting sports director or NRA Shotgun Instructor or Coach. That involving muzzle-loading shotguns must be supervised by an NCS shooting sports director or NRA/NMLRA certified muzzle-loading shotgun instructor. Shooting must be supervised by an NRA-certified Range Safety Officer. If instruction and shooting are to occur at the same time, both the RSO and qualified instructor must be present. They may not be the same person. Note that commercial shooting ranges may provide RSOs. See the Guide to Safe Scoutingand the BSA National Shooting Sports Manual, No. 30931, for further details on shooting sports.

Snow Sports.Activities in the field must be supervised by a mature and conscientious adult 21 years or older who is committed to compliance with BSA Winter Sports Safety as defined in the Guide to Safe Scouting.

Swimming.Demonstrations or activities in or on the water must be conducted according to BSA Safe Swim Defense and BSA Safety Afloat.

Whitewater.Whitewater merit badge counselors must be designated by the local council, and certified as whitewater canoeing or kayaking instructors by the American Canoe Association or have equivalent certification, training, or expertise.

All certifications listed above must be current.

as merit badge counselors, according to the procedures below.

 

Process of Counseling

If subject matter relates to a counselor’s vocation, meetings with youth might take place at an office or work site. Hobby-related badges are usually counseled at home. For others like Rowing, Rifle Shooting, or Geocaching, learning could occur in the field where special facilities or an appropriate venue are available. Once a counselor has reviewed the signed Application for Merit Badge, he or she might begin with discussions about what the Scout already knows. This could be followed with coaching, guidance, and additional meetings, not only for passing the candidate on the requirements, but also to help him understand the subject. The health and safety of those working on merit badges must be integrated with the process. Besides the Guide to Safe Scouting, the “Sweet 16 of BSA Safety” must be consulted as an appropriate planning tool. It can be found online at “Scouting Safely,”http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/healthandsafety/sweet16.aspx.

 

The Buddy System and Certifying Completion

Youth members must not meet one-on-one with adults. Sessions with counselors must take place where others can view the interaction, or the Scout must have a buddy: a friend, parent, guardian, brother, sister, or other relative—or better yet, another Scout working on the same badge—along with him attending the session.

When the Scout meets with the counselor, he should bring any required projects. If these cannot be transported, he should present evidence, such as photographs or adult certification. His Scoutmaster, for example, might state that a satisfactory bridge or tower has been built for the Pioneering merit badge, or that meals were prepared for Cooking. If there are questions that requirements were met, a counselor may confirm with adults involved. Once satisfied, the counselor signs the blue card using the date upon which the Scout completed the requirements, or in the case of partials, initials the individual requirements passed.

Group Instruction

It is acceptable—and sometimes desirable—for merit badges to be taught in group settings. The method 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.

There must be attention to each individual’s projects and his 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. Because of the importance of individual attention in the merit badge plan, group instruction should be limited to those scenarios where the benefits are compelling.

 

Partial Completions

Scouts need not pass all requirements with one counselor. The Application for Merit Badge has a place to record what has been finished—a “partial.” In the center section on the reverse of the blue card, the counselor initials for each requirement passed. In the case of a partial completion, he or she does not retain the counselor’s portion of the card. A subsequent counselor may choose not to accept partial work, but this should be rare. A Scout, if he believes he is being treated unfairly, may work with his Scoutmaster to find another counselor. An example for the use of a signed partial would be to take it to camp as proof of prerequisites. Partials have no expiration except the 18th birthday.

 

What to Do When Requirements Change

The current annual edition of Boy Scout Requirements, No. 34765, lists the official requirements. Changes usually appear first in a revised merit badge pamphlet, then become effective the next January 1 and are published in the requirements book. Unless otherwise stated there, or in the pamphlet, the following options are allowed.

  1. If Scouts have already started on a merit badge when a revision is introduced, they may switch to the new requirements or continue with the old ones until the badge is completed.
  2. If they have not already started, they may use the new requirements and the new pamphlet.
  3. If work begins before the end of the current year, they may use the old requirements and old pamphlet until the badge is completed.

There is no time limit between starting and completing a badge, although a counselor may determine so much time has passed since any effort took place that the new requirements must be used.

 

Discontinued Merit Badges

Scouts may not begin working on discontinued merit badges. If actual effort has already begun by the time discontinuation becomes effective, and work actively continues, then the badge may be completed and can count toward rank advancement, but presentation of the badge itself will be subject to availability. It is a misconception that discontinued merit badges may be earned as long as the patch and requirements can be found.