MERIT BADGE FAQ
What are merit badges all about?
Merit badges offer Scouts a unique opportunity for exposure to many different field—all potential future hobbies or even a life’s work. There are currently well over 100 merit badges Scouts may earn. A Boy Scout may earn MBs at any time – only occasionally are there particular rank requirements, other than having reached the rank of Scout.
Our Troop encourages boys who have not yet reached First Class to concentrate their efforts on rank advancement, but that does not preclude earning a few MBs along the way. Merit Badge Colleges and Summer Camp afford such opportunities, in addition to working with Merit Badge Counselors in the Troop.
Scouts and parents should understand that the goal of earning merit badges is not just rank advancement or a patch to sew on a sash. The goal of merit badges is consistent with all other aspects of the Scout’s advancement: the Scout learns. You will see marked differences between Scouts’ merit badge experiences depending on the setting and the counselor. A merit badge earned in a 2 hour Merit Badge College setting or earned in a large group at summer camp may not have the same impact on the Scout as one that he earns working with a local counselor over a 2-month period. If there is a merit badge that is potentially a strong area of lifetime interest for the Scout, he may want to take this into consideration as he decides when and where to earn it. The easiest way to earn a merit badge is not necessarily the best in the long run. According to the BSA National Council statistics in 2000, 17 out of every 100 Scouts chose a vocation from exposure to a merit badge.
How do I earn a merit badge?
- After picking the merit badge you wish to earn, see the designated Adult leader in the Troop who distributes blue cards to discuss your plans and find an approved Merit Badge (MB) Counselor. For Scouts in lower ranks, the Adult may want to see that you are also actively working on your next rank, to assure that the pursuit of the merit badge will not be a hindrance to rank advancement. This discussion is similar to a short scoutmaster conference, and will also cover your talents, interests and goals. You will also discuss the choice of an appropriate registered MB Badge Counselor with whom to work on this Merit Badge, and whether there may be upcoming options for MB colleges, clinics or Troop academies (which are conducted periodically to cover Eagle-required MBs; with a few exceptions, all Eagle-required MBs must be earned under the guidance of a Troop 794 registered MB Counselor).
- Obtain a Merit Badge blue card from the Adult leader for blue cards, with the leader’s signature indicating approval to start. This is your ticket to begin working on the badge. You must fill in your contact information, and the requirement numbers for that particular MB in the grid section.
- Obtain the relevant BSA Merit Badge Pamphlet and read it in its entirety.
- Contact the Merit Badge Counselor to set up an appointment, if you have not already done this.
- Proceed under the guidance of your Merit Badge Counselor and fulfill the listed requirements for the merit badge. Have the MB Counselor initial and date the requirements individually on your card, as they are satisfied. The Scout should be sure the counselor initials and dates EACH requirement number on the blue card’s grid individually, not with a line down a column of requirements.
- When all the requirements have been completed, the Merit Badge Counselor dates and signs the card in the two places indicated (there are three parts of the card: the troop’s segment; one for you; and one for the MB Counselor to keep). Do not obtain the Scoutmaster’s signature on your own. You should then photocopy or scan both sides of the card for your records, and give the completed card to the Advancements Chair.
- The Advancements Chair will have the Scoutmaster sign your portion, record the completion information, and you will receive your MB at the next Court of Honor (along with your portion of the blue card)!
Earning MBs is fun and rewarding. Some people have discovered their careers or life-long hobbies as a result! Be sure that you carefully guard your blue cards, though. It’s no fun starting over just because you couldn’t keep track of the paperwork. You may want to occasionally photocopy or scan them, as well as your initialed rank advancement pages (just in case the dog eats the originals), so you have back-up proof of what you’ve accomplished.
Is there anything that lists all the merit badge requirements in one place?
Yes. The easiest source is www.meritbadge.org, where you can find rank and merit badge requirements as well as worksheets for merit badges. Also each year BSA publishes a “Boy Scout Requirements” book for that year (usually coming out in February or March), available at the Denver Scout Shop, which lists all rank and merit badge requirements. Note that this publication is not a substitute for obtaining and reading the individual Merit Badge Pamphlets, which contain the actual subject matter for the merit badge in addition to the requirements list.
Are parents allowed to counsel my merit badges?
Yes, if your Mom or Dad is a registered counselor for that MB, you may earn it with them. If not, they must register as a Merit Badge Counselor. The Scout will benefit most from working with a variety of outstanding adults. Troop 794 also encourages parents to try to assemble groups of Scouts, including their son(s), to work together on a merit badge—either in a one-time clinic or in periodic academy sessions similar to those offered at Merit Badge Colleges.
What about partial Merit Badges?
While there is no time limit (other than the Scout’s 18th birthday) on completing the requirements for a merit badge, it is strongly encouraged that Scouts follow through and finish what they start in a reasonable timeframe. If too much time is taken, the merit badge requirements may have changed.
When a Scout returns from Merit Badge College or Summer Camp with an incomplete MB blue card, he must see either the Advancements Chair or Troop Administrator to have his completed requirements logged into his record. Then he must discuss his progress with the Adult leader who issues blue cards, who will discuss with him a Troop counselor for that merit badge. For merit badges for which we do not have a Troop counselor, the Scout should really plan to complete any stated prerequisites prior to going to MB College or Summer Camp so he can complete the MB there. As a last resort, the Scout may have to meet with the Scoutmaster for guidance.
If it is announced that requirements for a MB are about to change, the Scout may continue—or begin work—using the old MB requirements and the old pamphlet; or he may switch to—or begin work—using the new requirements and the new pamphlet when available. Unless it is otherwise stated in the merit badge pamphlet, Boy Scout Requirements, or official communications from the National Council, if a Scout chooses to use the old merit badge requirements and pamphlet, he may continue using them until he has completed the MB.
Is my parent allowed to sign off remaining blue card requirements on a partial?
Not unless one of them is the registered counselor for that merit badge, and approved by the Denver Area Council and Arapahoe District.
What about lost blue cards?
If a Scout loses a blue card for a merit badge he has in progress, he has two choices. If the work is recent, and his MB Counselor recalls what tasks have been completed, the Adult leader can issue a new blue card for that Scout, and the counselor can re-sign those requirements. The only other option is for the Scout to start over on that MB.
May I just keep a supply of blank blue cards handy?
No. Blank blue cards are held by the Adult leader to whom the authority has been delegated to issue blue cards, and are only given out after the Scout, merit badge, and counselor have been identified on the card. No other Adults, merit badge counselors, or Scouts should be in possession of blank blue cards. If you have any, please return them to a troop Adult leader. This insures that merit badges are not begun without the required signature and counselor identification.
Will a previous experience or achievement count towards a merit badge requirement?
In general, no work done prior to starting on a MB will count towards that badge. You are considered to have started the MB when you have been given a blue card for the badge signed and dated by the Adult leader for blue cards, and have found a Merit Badge Counselor. That signed card is the Scout’s “ticket to start” working on the badge. There are rare exceptions, such as the important one for the Camping merit badge, for which all camping days/nights are counted for the entire time the boy has been a registered Boy Scout (not Webelos or Cub). Another might be Citizenship in the World, where the counselor might accept a preceding year’s foreign language study, or some of the field trips relating to other Citizenship merit badges. This is up to the counselor.
May I use a fulfilled requirement for a merit badge as well as rank advancement? Can the same requirement be used towards credit for two different MBs?
In almost all cases, a specific task assignment cannot be counted towards satisfaction of two different requirements. That means if the Scout works on something for rank, you cannot count it towards a MB, or vice versa. The wording of the merit badge requirement must be identical to or included and exceeded by that of the rank requirement; it must also have the same basic intent and not be started otherwise in the requirements (for example, as mentioned briefly above, camping nights count for Second Class and First Class ranks as well as for the Camping merit badge). Another exception might be where a Scout was first earning the Swimming or First Aid Merit Badges with an approved counselor and also fulfilled a rank requirement (for example, Swimming MB Requirement 3 vs. First Class Requirements 7a-c & 9a-c). A Scout that was already working on this MB might thereby satisfy some rank requirements concurrently, and should have his Swimming Merit Badge counselor initial his book for the swimming rank requirements fulfilled. If he did the rank requirement, however, and had not taken steps to start the MB beforehand, the activity would not count towards the MB even if it were identical, because the merit badge requires an approved counselor’s involvement.
Some requirements may have the appearance of aligning, but upon further examination actually differ. The Communication and Citizenship in the Community merit badges are a good example. Each requires the Scout to attend a public meeting, but that is where the similarity ends. For Communication, the Scout is asked to practice active listening skills during the meeting and present an objective report that includes all points of view. For Citizenship, he is asked to examine differences in opinions and then to defend one side. The Scout may attend the same public meeting, but to pass the requirements for both merit badges he must actively listen and prepare a report, and also examine differences in opinion and defend one side.
Where matching requirements are oriented toward safety, such as those related to first aid or CPR (such as for the Swimming, First Aid, Motorboating, Waterskiing, and Small Boat Sailing Merit Badges), the person signing off the requirements should be satisfied the Scout remembers what he learned from the previous experience. When contemplating whether to double-count service hours or a service project, and apply the same work to pass a second advancement requirement, each Scout should ask himself: “Do I want to get double credit for helping others this one time, or do I want to undertake a second effort and make a greater difference in the lives of even more people?”
Where can a Scout earn merit badges?
Scouts may earn merit badges independently, with a group of Scouts pursuing the badge together (at a clinic or at a Troop-sponsored academy), at Summer Camp or at a Merit Badge College. When pursuing a MB independently with a counselor, it is required that the Scout use the buddy system and be accompanied by another Scout when meeting privately with the counselor. While the school year may be too busy to work on many merit badges, the summer is an excellent time to earn several. The Scout should just approach the Adult leader for blue cards and tell him which MBs he’d like to earn!
At different times during the year, Merit Badge Counselors in the Troop may offer to counsel a particular merit badge for any interested group of Scouts. If a Scout decides to join such a group in the pursuit of a MB, he is strongly encouraged to work on it through completion. Parents should encourage their sons to set timelines for finishing their merit badges. It is not the counselor’s job to hound an unmotivated Scout or nag him to completion. He or she is simply a resource; if the Scout wants to earn the merit badge, the counselor is there for him.
Summer Camp affords another opportunity—usually Scouts sign up for the merit badges they wish to earn before summer camp. They can usually earn up to four merit badges at Summer Camp. Parents should encourage each Scout to plan what he is going to do so he uses the time at camp wisely, but help him be realistic, especially the first year. Expecting a Scout to earn 4 merit badges at the first Summer Camp is probably not realistic. A young Scout will likely spend some time working on rank requirements; he also has a new experience to get used to, and has to figure out how things work. Many Scouts only earn one or two merit badges at first Summer Camp.
Note that there may be prerequisites for certain MBs. If the Scout does those prerequisites and documents them prior to going, he can complete the badge there. If not, he will be left with a partial and need to follow up with a Troop counselor.
Merit Badge Colleges are periodic (usually annual) district-sponsored events, which focus on helping Scouts earn MBs. There are usually about a dozen different merit badges offered (including a few Eagle required—please note that Troop 794 does not accept completion of these MBs at a MB College, because the material is not covered in depth). There will most likely be registration fees and possible meal costs associated with the MB College. Note that Scouts must register individually for each MB College according to the MB College’s requirements, they do not register through a troop. Contact the Arapahoe District at the Denver Area Council office for specific dates. Register early for the best chance to get in the merit badge classes desired.
There may be prerequisites for certain merit badges. If the Scout does those prerequisites and documents them prior to going, he can complete the badge there. If not, he will be left with a partial—and, similar to Summer Camp, he will need to follow up to completion with a Troop MB Counselor. Also note that it may be necessary beforehand to request blue cards from the Troop Adult in charge of blue cards (although some MB Colleges provide a white sheet showing work done on each MB, similar to those used at Summer Camp).
When are merit badges awarded?
Merit badges are awarded at the Troop’s quarterly Courts of Honor. If a Scout misses the Court of Honor, he should see an Advancements Chair to obtain his merit badge(s), ranks card(s) and Mother’s pin(s).
What do we do with Merit Badge Patches?
The MBs are sewn on the Merit Badge Sash, available for purchase at the Denver Scout Shop. Note that there are two sizes available. If the Scout is big enough to wear the larger sash, it will save a lot of re-sewing later by getting the bigger size. The sash is normally worn at Courts of Honor and Boards of Review, but not at the weekly meetings or on campouts. We encourage you to sew a name label inside the sash, in case it is lost.
Are there Merit Badge Counseling Opportunities and Guidelines for Parents?
Yes—we need parents to sign up as Merit Badge Counselors! The qualifications are simple: you must be a man or woman of good character, age 21 or over, and be recognized as having the skills and education in the subjects for which you are to serve as a Merit Badge Counselor, as well as have the ability to work with Scout-age boys. While counseling MBs consistent with your profession or education is desirable, it is also perfectly acceptable to counsel MBs that have been among your hobbies or strong areas of interest, in which you have amassed more than average knowledge. Only a few MBs require additional safety qualifications of the MB Counselor (for example, range certification for the shooting MBs).
You will need to register through the Troop as a BSA Merit Badge Counselor, which involves completing a couple of forms and submitting them to the Denver Area Council. There is no cost involved to register as a MB Counselor, and the rewards of working with the Scouts and sparking their interest in a new subject is great! (Merit badge counselors need not be a parent from our Troop or even a Scouting parent. You may know friends from work, neighbors, or relatives who have skills in a particular area and who would be willing to teach their skills to interested Scouts. They must fill out all the registration forms to be eligible before starting to counsel the Scouts.)
Online information, “The Essentials of Merit Badge Counseling,” is available at www.scouting.org. There is also periodic in-person training for MB Counselors available at such events as the University of Scouting (usually held in late October). Troop 794 also holds information sessions for parents interested in becoming MB Counselors. There are also descriptions of MBs, as well as worksheets, available at www.meritbadge.org (while the worksheets are very helpful to have the Scouts fill out, check that the ones posted match current MB requirements).
It is important when counseling to have the Scout read the associated Merit Badge Pamphlet, available at the Denver Scout Shop or at many libraries, including our own Troop Library. It is also important that the counselor preserve the integrity of the merit badge program by having the Scout meet the requirements as stated—no more and no less. The Scout is to do exactly what it says in the requirements. If it says, “show or demonstrate,” that is what he must do. Just telling about it isn’t enough. The same thing holds true for such words as “make,” “list,” “in the field,” and “collect,” “identify,” and “label.”