Earning A Merit Badge

These are the steps that a Scout in Westchester-Putnam Council takes to earn a merit badge, as outlined in The Official Boy Scout Handbook:

 1. The Scout gets a Merit Badge Application from his unit leader. This "blue card" must be signed by the unit leader on the front of the form indicating that the Scout has approval to work on the merit badge. The unit leader will sign the card again after the Scout has completed the requirements and the Merit Badge Counselor has signed the card. The unit leader will give the Scout the name of one or more qualified Merit Badge Counselors for the merit badge the Scout wants to earn.

 2. The Scout contacts the Merit Badge Counselor, usually by telephone or email, and introduces himself. The Merit Badge Counselor should explain the requirements to the Scout. The Scout and his buddy then meet as appropriate with the Merit Badge Counselor until the Scout completes the badge's requirements.

Anytime a Merit Badge Counselor meets with a Scout, the Merit Badge Counselor must follow the Scout Buddy System. Without exception, a Scout must have a buddy with him at each meeting with a Merit Badge Counselor. A Scout's buddy can be another Scout, a parent or guardian, a brother or sister, or a relative or friend. Remember, the Scout brings the extra person, not the Merit Badge Counselor.

If the merit badge subject relates to a job or profession, then the Merit Badge Counselor's place of work is probably the best place to meet with the Scout. Subjects related to hobbies usually will be handled in the home. For a few subjects, coaching will happen in the field or where special equipment is at hand. Rowing, Rifle Shooting, Swimming and Astronomy are good examples. The Scout Buddy System must always be followed.

 The Scout should bring a signed merit badge application to the first time meeting. There is space on the application to track the Scout's completion of requirements. A Scout has from the time he begins working on a merit badge until he reaches his 18th birthday to complete the merit badge. Any requirements approved by a Merit Badge Counselor can be used by the Scout with another Merit Badge Counselor towards completion of the badge before his 18th birthday.

 3. The Scout is encouraged to get the merit badge pamphlet on his subject, although it is not required. He may be able to borrow a copy from his unit library or from a local public library. The Scout may also buy a copy from the Westchester-Putnam Council Scout Shop.

 4. The Scout learns and does the things that the pamphlet describes as being required for the badge.

 5. When he is ready, the Scout calls the Merit Badge Counselor again to make an appointment. He brings along the things he has made to meet the requirements or proof of what he has done such as a photograph of the project or adult certification. His unit leader might, for example, certify that a satisfactory bridge or tower has been built for Pioneering, or that the required meals were prepared for the Cooking merit badge. Remember the primary job, in addition to coaching, of the Merit Badge Counselor is to certify that the requirements have been met. When proof such as these are presented, the Merit Badge Counselor is encouraged to question the Scout, and necessary, to contact the adult or unit leader who signed the statement.

 6. The number of counseling sessions depends on the difficulty of the subject and the preparation and ability of the Scout. When the Merit Badge Counselor is satisfied that the Scout has done what is required, the Merit Badge Counselor signs the Scout's merit badge card.

 Each Merit Badge Counselor must maintain the exact standard as outlined in the merit badge requirements with nothing deleted and nothing added.  The Scout is expected to meet the requirements as stated - no more and no less. Furthermore, he is to do exactly what is stated. If it says "show or demonstrate," that is what he must do. Just telling about is not enough. The same thing holds true for such words as "make," "list," "in the field," and "collect, identify and label." On the other hand, the Merit Badge Counselor cannot require more of a Scout than is stated.

 If the requirements as stated are the limits, what there is for the Merit Badge Counselor to do other than help the Scout with the specifics of these requirements? Actually, the Merit Badge Counselor can go far beyond them in the Merit Badge discussions with the Scout. He probably will welcome the Merit Badge Counselor's willingness to share with him the real world knowledge well beyond the requirements, and the Merit Badge Counselor will be making a real contribution to him by doing so. But it isn't required. That's the key. The Scout does not have to show his knowledge of those things beyond the requirements.

 Many merit badge subjects can acquaint a Scout with the job opportunities in various fields. In these cases the merit badge work is a real exploration in an adult work experience, showing him whether or not he has the interest or ability along such lines. His activity can also show him what educational requirements a subject area has. The final choice - the selection of what he is going to do with himself in life - is up to one person; the Scout himself. However, he will appreciate the Merit Badge Counselor's help in showing him the relationship of his merit badge work to his life as he goes to school, into business or a trade, and on into adult life.

 7. The Scout gives the signed form to his unit leader who will get the badge for him and will present it to him at an appropriate time such as a Court of Honor.

  The Merit Badge Counselor assists the unit leaders in the program of advancement which the unit leader helps each of his Scouts plan. Often, the unit leader will help the Scout select the merit badges he will earn for a particular award. Whether he does or not, he is always interested in the Scout's progress. You should feel free to discuss his work with the unit leader at any time.

8. 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 fi nd 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.