When Cebastian started to work on his first merit badge, I had no idea what a merit badge was, why does he need them in the first place, and what to do with them. This will be especially helpful for Cub Scouts who are transitioning to Boy Scouts.
What is a Merit Badge?
A merit badge is a record of completing work towards a specific area of study. There are currently 137 merit badges, and I expect that will continue to grow in the upcoming years. It is great because it really opens up the kids/teens to a variety of areas. This will help them understand what they like doing or are interested in. Cebastian really liked what he learned and did when he got the Environmental Science and Geology merit badges. He now plans to study Geology when he goes to college. Some are easier than others, but you want to make sure that you work on the Eagle-required merit badges at a minimum. However, I encourage your child to get as many as he/she can.
Which are the Eagle-Required Merit Badges?
There are currently 21. I will warn you that this could change because when Cebastian started Boy Scouts, the Cooking merit badge was not required. It became one of the merit badges needed to make Eagle a couple of years after he started. Here is the current list:
- First Aid
- Citizenship in the Community
- Citizenship in the Nation
- Citizenship in the World
- Personal Fitness
- Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving*
- Environmental Science OR Sustainability*
- Personal Management
- Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling*
- Cooking, and
- Family Life
In an upcoming post, I will give you the strategy that the existing Advancement Chair shared with me, and Cebastian followed.
What is the Merit Badge process?
When Cebastian started getting merit badges, he was confused and I was as well. It is not that hard when you know the process.
Step 1 – Find a merit badge that you want to get – this can be an area that interests you, going to summer camp, a troop merit badge counselor announced he/she is starting a merit badge workshop or a merit badge university another troop or yours is hosting.
Step 2 – Get a blue card – The blue cards in our troop are held by the Advancement Chair. This can be a different role depending on how your troop functions. If the Boy Scout is getting the merit badge that interested him/her, then see if your troop has a Counselor list. It’s easier going with a Merit Badge counselor that is in your troop, then another one.
Step 3 – Talk to a Scoutmaster to sign the blue card – Before you can start any work on a merit badge, you should have one of the Scoutmasters in your troop sign off on it. A good Scoutmaster will have a five-minute conversation with the Boy Scout to see why the boy/girl wants to get the merit badge and when it will be completed. This will also help your Boy Scout start building the communication skills that will help him/her in the future.
Step 4 – Get Counselor to sign the blue card when all the requirements have been completed – This is very important especially when the counselor is not affiliated with your troop. There was one time that Cebastian and his sister (she was in the Girl Scouts) went to an Engineering Day at MITRE. He forgot to get the counselor to sign off on the Robotics merit badge, so that means it was null. However, for him, it was good that he did that because then he never would have gotten the Geology merit badge.
Step 5 – Turn in the blue card – Again, the person your child gives the blue card to depends on your troop. For Cebastian, he would turn it into the Advancement Chair who would keep a record of all the merit badges. We use a tracking system that helps keep track of merit badges, service hours, reports (these will be used for the Eagle Scout reporting as well). Part of the blue card should get returned for your child’s records.
Step 6 – Get merit badge during your Troop’s Court of Honor – Get the formal merit badge card and merit badge during your Court of Honor (COH). If you can’t attend, then get it from the person who usually manages all of the merit badges later.
What do I do with all these merit badges?
This is very important. When your boy scout submits his/her Eagle Scout binder to the council, he/she will need to make sure that there is an accurate record of the merit badges. This is why these merit badges need to be kept. From advice from the other parents in the troop who had older kids, we got a binder with baseball card sheet protectors. In one protector, we have the blue card, the formal card, and the merit badge.
There have been a few times when I was the Advancement Chair that the troop’s record and the boy scout’s records were not in sync. Having the blue card, which is the most accurate record for a merit badge, helps with any discrepancies. It even happened to Cebastian when he was filling out his Eagle Scout application. We found out that one of the dates was wrong. We showed it to the Advancement Chair, and he quickly updated it in his records.
Hopefully, this helps you understand the importance of merit badges and that your Boy Scout will need it for his/her entire journey. Also, it is nice for when your child has his/her own kids. It will be nice memorabilia to share with the family.