What are Merit Badges?
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Merit badges are awards earned by youth members of the BSA Scouts of America (BSA), based on activities within an area of study by completing a list of periodically updated requirements.
The purpose of the merit badge program is to allow Scouts to examine subjects to determine if they would like to further pursue them as a career or vocation. Originally, the program also introduced Scouts to the life skills of contacting an adult they hadn't met before, arranging a meeting and then demonstrating their skills, similar to a job or college interview.
Increasingly, though, merit badges are earned in a class setting at troop meetings and summer camps. Each merit badge has a pamphlet (booklet) published by the BSA Scouts of America associated with it; the pamphlet contains information on completing the requirements for the badge. Scouts must meet up with their Scoutmaster to receive a signed blue card in order to begin working on a merit badge. The Scout then contacts an adult who is registered as a counselor for that merit badge in order to learn which badge requirements they must complete before meeting up with the counselor. Once these requirements are completed, the Scout meets with the counselor to demonstrate that he's completed the requirements. The counselor then 'signs off' on each requirement. After completing the merit badge, the Scout will be presented the merit badge patch at the next Court of Honor.
The award of a merit badge is represented by circular patch with an image representing the badge's topic. The patches for the Eagle-required merit badges are distinguishable by the silver ring on the outside edge. Merit badges are displayed on a sash which can be worn with the Scout uniform on formal occasions. Every year the National Council reviews and updates a certain number of merit badges. There are over 130 merit badges.
The current requirement for Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Scouting, involves earning a minimum of 21 merit badges including 13 "Eagle Required" badges from this list:
Swimming, Hiking, or Cycling
Environmental Science or Sustainability
Citizenship in the World
Citizenship in the Nation
Citizenship in the Community
Lifesaving and/or Emergency Preparedness
PLUS choose any 8 or more "elective" merit badges of your choice to learn about all sorts of new topics. Here is the official list and descriptions.
Read below for instructions on how to work on Merit Badges (MB)
Working on a Merit Badge
PAMPHLETS: You will want to understand the requirements for the merit badges you work on. CLICK HERE to view all of the official BSA pamphlets.
WORKBOOKS: You will need to print your own workbooks for each merit badge that you work on. CLICK HERE to download and print them from MeritBadge.org
BLUE CARDS: You must obtain a signed Blue Card (pictured above) from your Scoutmaster with approval **before** starting any merit badge work! Keep all 3 sections of the blue card attached. Do not tear them apart on the perforation.
MERIT BADGE COUNSELORS: You will work with a Merit Badge Counselor (MBC) to sign off on the requirements for each merit badge. When you start with a counselor on a badge, you will continue working with that same counselor until the badge is complete.
Completed Merit Badges
Once the work is completed, your MBC will sign off on the blue card and keep one of the 3 sections for their records. You will bring other two sections of the card to the meeting and turn it into the Advancement Chair to get it signed as completed by the Scoutmaster then the Advancement Chair will record the merit badge in our tracking software.
The Advancement Chair will keep the completed blue card. It will be returned when the merit badge is presented at the next Court of Honor.
You will never turn in your merit badge workbook to a counselor or the Advancement Chair - only the blue card!
Tips & Record-keeping
Remember, it is not up to the Troop, the Scoutmaster or the MBC to complete merit badges. It is not up to the parent to complete or turn in the merit badges. It is completely up to the Scout to get that done. We are not responsible for their MBs, we are merely enablers for them to be successful with the MB.
It is the scout's responsibility to keep track of the workbooks and blue cards. DO NOT LOSE THEM! You will then have no proof of your work completed.
You will want to keep all of your merit badge workbooks in a 2 inch 3-ring binder. You will also want to keep all of the blue cards and award cards that are returned at the court of honor when the patches are presented. If something happens in the record-keeping process, it is up to the scout to prove that they have met the requirements for rank advancement and Eagle. The Advancement Chair does keep digital records, but if there is a discrepancy in our records, your records will help correct a possible error or oversight in the future!