7.0.0.1 The Benefits Of Merit Badges

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7.0.0.1 The Benefits of Merit Badgesshould prevail, however. For example, nightsalready camped as a Boy Scout, or coins or stampsalreadycollected, would count toward their respectivebadges. A merit badge counselor—once he or sheis satisfied a Scout has met all the requirements—signs in two places: on the reverse of theApplication for Merit Badge (to theleft) and on the Applicant’s Record (in the middle).These two parts are returned to the Scout. Theapproving counselor should retain the part of thecard called the Counselor’s Record for at least oneyear—in case questions are raised later. If theScout did not complete allthe requirements, the counselor initials those thatwere fulfilled in the spaces provided on the back ofthe Applicant’s Record part. This is called a“partial” (see “Partial Completions,” 7.0.3.3). Oncea registered counselor signs that all requirementshave been met, the Scout should meet with hisunit leader to discuss hisexperience. The unit leader then signs theApplicant’s Record portion and returns it to theyoung man, who should retain it in his personalpermanent records. For very large events—suchas the national Scout jamboree—the NationalCouncil may approve an alternative format andsizing for the blue card. This is done through theNational Advancement Team.There is more to merit badges than simplyproviding opportunities to learn skills. There ismore to them than an introduction to lifetimehobbies, or the inspiration to pursue a career—though these invaluable results occur regularly. Itall begins with a Scout’s initial interest andeffort in a merit badge subject, followed by adiscussion with the unit leader or designatedassistant, continues through meetings with acounselor, and culminates in advancement andrecognition. It is an uncomplicated process thatgives a Scout the confidence achieved throughovercoming obstacles. Social skills improve.Self-reliance develops. Examples are set andfollowed. And fields of study and interest areexplored beyond the limits of the schoolclassroom.7.0.0.2 About the Application forMerit Badge(“Blue Card”)It is important to note the “blue card” is thenationally recognized merit badge record. It hasbeen updated from time to time and carries theinformation needed for proper posting and forevidence and reference as needed later. The cardhas three parts: the actual “Application for MeritBadge” portion, the “Applicant’s Record,” and the“Counselor’s Record.” It requires a totalof four signatures—two each from the unit leaderand a merit badge counselor. The unit leader signsfirst on the front of the Application for MeritBadge portion and gives the entire blue card to theScout. See “The Scout, the BlueCard, and the Unit Leader,”APPLICATION FORMERIT BADGENameAddressCityis a registered Boy Scout Varsity Scout Venturerof No.Troop, team, crew, shipDistrictCouncilI have discussed this merit badge with this Scout andrecommended at least one merit badge counselor.7.0.0.3.Date Signature of unit leader34124All merit badge requirements must be met while aregistered Boy Scout or Varsity Scout, or a qualifiedVenturer or Sea Scout. Accomplishments beforejoining, or while a Cub Scout, do not apply. In theevent unit leaders or other volunteers discoverthat any merit badge counselors are not followingmandated procedures regarding the use of bluecards or working with the requirements as theyare written, they should complete and submit tothe council advancement committee theReporting Merit Badge Counseling Concerns formTypically after the unit leader signs the blue card,the Scout contacts the merit badge counselor andsets an appointment. Even though Scouts maybenefit from reviewing requirements with acounselor before pursuingthem, a boy may begin working on a merit badgeat any time after he is registered. It is thecounselor’s decision whether to accept work oractivities completed prior to the issuing of thesigned blue card. Common sense1

(found in the appendix). Unit leaders shouldregularly review the policies and proceduresrelated to the merit badge process with Scouts,parents,and leaders, and counsel them on proper methodsas the need arises. Though it may not have beenclearly stated in the past, units, districts, and localcouncils do not have the authority to implement adifferent system for merit badge approval anddocumentation. In anycase, through the years, many councils have creatednew forms and approaches to the process, someincluding IT components. In an effort to gather andconsider these potential best practices, councils arenow asked to submit descriptions and copies oftheir blue card alternatives to the National Designand Development Department.again speak with the unit leader to verify that thecounselor is properly registered and approved.Whateverthe source, all merit badge counselors must beregistered and approved for the merit badges theycounsel. See “Counselor Approvals andLimitations,” 7.0.1.4, and “Registration andReregistration,” 7.0.1.5. A unit leader shouldconsider making more of the process than justproviding a signature. The opportunity exists toprovide inspiration and direction in a young man’slife. Preliminary merit badge discussions can leadto conversations about talents and interests, goalsetting, and the concept of “challenge by choice.”The benefits can bemuch like those of a well-done Scoutmasterconference. The discussion a Scout is to have withthe unit leader is meant to be a growth-orientedand positive conversation. The unit leader shoulddiscuss any concerns related toworking on the merit badge and provideappropriate counseling. It is then the Scout’sdecision whether or not to proceed with the meritbadge. The process is intended to inform the Scoutabout what he may encounter alongthe way, and perhaps to give him suggestions onhow the work might be approached. It also has thepurpose of keeping the unit leader up to date withwhat the members of the unit are doing. Becauseof the counseling opportunity involved, it is the unitleader’s responsibility to sign blue cards. In the roleof giving leadership to the delivery of the troopprogram, a Scoutmaster, for example, has a betteropportunity than other leaders to get to knowthe youth. This background with the Scouts allows aunit leader to add greater value in the discussionand counseling intended to take place with thesigning of the card. However, in circumstanceswhen this may be impractical—for example, inlarge units or when the unit leader may be absent—the unit leader maydelegate authority to sign cards and conduct thediscussions. This authority should be entrusted to aknowledgeable assistant unit leader.7.0.0.3 The Scout, the Blue Card, andthe Unit LeaderA few merit badges have certain restrictions, butotherwise any registered Boy Scout, Varsity Scout,or qualified Venturer or Sea Scout may work onany of them at any time. Before he begins workingwith a merit badge counselor, however, he is tohave a discussion with his unitleader. That a discussion has been held isindicated by the unit leader’s signature on theApplication for Merit Badge,No. 34124, commonly called the “blue card.”Although it is the unit leader’s responsibility tosee that at least one merit badge counselor isidentified from those approved and madeavailable, the Scout may have one in mind withwhom he would like to work. The unit leader andScout should come to agreement as to who thecounselor will be. Lacking agreement, the Scoutmust be allowed to workwith the counselor of his choice, so long as thecounselor is registered and has been approved bythe council advancement committee. However, see“Counselor Approvals and Limitations,” 7.0.1.4, forcircumstanceswhen a unit leader may place limits on thenumber of merit badges that may be earned fromone counselor. The Scout may also want to takeadvantage of opportunities at merit badge fairs ormidways, or at rock-climbing gyms or whitewaterrafting trips that provide merit badge instruction.This is also acceptable, but the Scout must stilldiscuss the merit badge with theunit leader and get a signed blue card. Should aScout want to change counselors, he should once7.0.1.0 About Merit BadgeCounselors7.0.1.1 Qualifications of CounselorsPeople serving as merit badge counselors mustmaintain registration with the Boy Scouts of2

America as merit badge counselors and beapproved by their local counciladvancement committee for each of their badges.This includes those working at summer camp or inany other group instruction setting, or providingWeb-based opportunities. See “CounselorApprovals and Limitations,” 7.0.1.4. There are noexceptions.“The Sweet Sixteen of BSA Safety.” These 16points, embodying good judgment and commonsense, can be found at www.scouting.org/HealthandSafety/Sweet16. CPR instruction, wherever it is required, must betaught by people currently trained as CPRinstructors by a nationally certified provider.Several such providers are mentioned in the Guideto Safe Scouting. The following merit badges havespecial qualifications orcertifications for either the merit badge counseloror the supervisor of certain activities that may beinvolved. Counselors and advancementadministrators should consult the merit badgepamphlets for details and to maintain awarenessof changes and updates as pamphlets are revised.GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT 45For example, Scoutmasters must register as meritbadge counselors and be approved for any badgethey wish to counsel or sign off in their troop.Before working with Scouts, counselors must havecompleted Youth Protectiontraining within the last two years. They must bemen or women of good character, age 18 or older,and recognized as having the skills and educationin the subjects they cover. It is important, too, theyhave good rapport with Scout-age boys and unitleaders. It is acceptable for a counselor registeredin one council to approve merit badges for Scouts inanother.This is an important consideration, especially inareas where counselors are scarce, when Scouts areaway from home and want to continue advancing,or when merit badge experiences include Webbased components provided by someone in anothercouncil.Several badges involve activities for which the BoyScouts of America has implemented strategies toimprove safety, enhance the Scouts’ experiences,and manage risk.These activities often require supervision withspecialized qualifications and certifications. Meritbadge counselors who do not meet the specificrequirements may use theservices of helpers who do. Additional details canbe found below, and also in the Guide to SafeScouting and the merit badge pamphlets.General Supervision RequirementsArchery. Archery activities must be supervised bya BSA National Camping School–trained shootingsports director or USA Archery or National FieldArchery Association instructor, or by someonewho has been trained by one of the three; oralternatively, the activities may be supervised bysomeone with at least Level 1training in the operation of an archery range fromUSA Archery, NFAA, or an equivalent.Canoeing. Those supervising canoeing activitiesmust have either BSA Aquatics Instructor orCanoeing Instructor certification from theAmerican Canoe Association, American Red Cross,or equivalent; OR local councils may approveindividuals previously certified as such, or trainedby an instructor so qualified.Climbing. All climbing, belaying, and rappellingexercises and activities must be supervised by arock climbing instructor who is a mature andconscientious adult at least 21 years old, and whois trained in BSA Climb On Safely and understandsthe risks inherent to theseactivities. Training as a BSA climbing Level 2Instructor is highly recommended. Someone withcertification in First Aid/CPR/AED from theAmerican Red Cross (or equivalent) must bepresent at these activities. Swimming and watercraft activities must beconducted in accordance with BSA Safe SwimDefense or BSA Safety Afloat, respectively, and besupervised bymature and conscientious adults atleast 21 years old and trained in the programapplicable. Counselors for merit badges involvingswimming or the use ofwatercraft must be so trained, or use helpers whoare.Kayaking. Those supervising kayaking activitiesmust have formal training in kayaking and paddlecraft instruction, evidenced by either BSAAquatics Instructor or Paddle Craft SafetyInstructor certification, or kayaking instructorcertification from the American CanoeAssociation, British Canoe Union, or American RedCross, or equivalent; OR local councils may All physical activities presented in any Scoutingprogram must be conducted in accordance with3

approve individuals previously certified as such,or trained by an instructor so qualified.loading shotgun instructor. Shooting must besupervised by an NRA-certified RangeSafety Officer. If instruction and shooting are tooccur at the same time, both the RSO and qualifiedinstructor must be present. They may not be thesame person. Note that commercial shootingranges may provide RSOs. See theGuide to Safe Scouting and the BSA NationalShooting Sports Manual, No. 30931, for furtherdetails on shooting sports.Lifesaving. Demonstrations or activities in or onthe water must be supervised by an adult at least21 years old with certification in Red Cross FirstAid/CPR/AED or equivalent, and also as BSALifeguard or Aquatics Instructor or equivalent.Rifle Shooting. The merit badge counselor isresponsible for ensuring that all instruction orother activities involving any handling of firearmsor live ammunition is consistent with state andfederal law and supervised by a certified BSANational Camping School (NCS) shooting sportsdirector, or National Rifle Association (NRA) RifleShooting Instructor or Coach.Instruction or other activities involving handlingMuzzle loaders must be supervised by an NCSshooting sports director or NRA/NationalMuzzleloader Rifle Association (NMLRA)–certifiedmuzzleloader firearms instructor. Shooting mustbe supervised by an NRA certified Range SafetyOfficer (RSO). If instruction and shooting are tooccur at the same time, both the RSO and qualifiedinstructor must be present. The supervisor andinstructor may not be the same person. Note thatcommercial shooting ranges may provide RSOs.See the Guide to Safe Scouting and the BSANational Shooting Sports Manual, No. 30931, forfurther details on shooting sports.Snow Sports. Activities in the field must besupervised by a mature and conscientious adult21 years or older who is committed to compliancewith BSA Winter Sports Safety as defined in theGuide to Safe Scouting.Swimming. Demonstrations or activities in or onthe water must be conducted according to BSASafe Swim Defense and BSA Safety Afloat.Whitewater. Those supervising whitewateractivities must be certified as whitewatercanoeing or kayaking instructors by the AmericanCanoe Association or have equivalent certification,training, or expertise.All certifications listed abovemust be current.The required qualifications above for meritbadgecounseling and supervision not only assistin managing risk, but also give counselorscredibility. Scouts will see them as people ofimportance they can look up to and learn from. Awell-qualified counselor can extend a youngperson’s attention span: More will be heard andunderstood, discussions will be more productive,and true interest developed. The conversationscan lead to a relationship of mutual respect wherethe Scout is confident to offer his thoughts andopinions and value those of his merit badgecounselor. Thus it is that socialskills and self-reliance grow, and examples are setand followed. In approving counselors, the localcouncil advancement committee has the authorityto establish a higher minimum, reasonable level ofskills and education forthe counselors of a given merit badge than isindicated in “Qualifications of Counselors,” 7.0.1.1.For example, NRA certification could be establishedas a council standard for approving counselors forthe Rifle Shooting or Shotgun Shooting meritbadges.Rowing. Those supervising rowing activities musthave either BSA Aquatics Instructor certificationor equivalent; OR local councils may approveindividuals previously certified as such, or trainedby an instructor so qualified.Scuba Diving. All phases of scuba instruction—classroom, pool, and open-water training—arelimited to instructors trained and certified by oneof the BSA’s recognized scuba agencies as found inthe Guide to Safe Scouting.Shotgun Shooting. The merit badge counselor isresponsible for ensuring that all instruction orother activities involving any handling of firearmsor live ammunition is consistent with state andfederal law and supervised by a certified NCSshooting sports director or NRA ShotgunInstructor or Coach. Instruction or otheractivities involving handling muzzle-loadingshotguns must be supervised by an NCS shootingsports director or NRA/NMLRA certified muzzle-4

7.0.1.3 Venturing Consultants asMerit Badge Counselors7.0.1.2 Sources of Merit BadgeCounselorsVenturing consultants are people whose specialskills or talents are needed for a crew activity orproject. Usually they are adults recruited on a onetime basis. More information can be found in theVenturing Advisor Guidebook, No. 34655.Consultants generally would be consideredqualified to counsel merit badges related totheir expertise. To do so, they must be approvedand registered as merit badge counselors,according to the procedures below.District or council advancement committees arecharged with recruiting and training sufficientcounselors to meet unit needs. As with anyrecruitment effort, it begins with prospecting:gathering names of people who may be qualifiedto serve. This can be done in a group settingthrough brainstorming as outlined inFriendstorming On Tour, No. 510-003, orconsidered on an individual basis. Merit badgecounselor prospects are most often found fromthe following sources: Schools and colleges Parents groups Local businesses Service clubs Trade groups Religious organizations Neighborhood associations Government agencies The armed services Chartered organizations Nonprofit organizations such as the Boys & GirlsClubs of America Parents and guardians of Scouts7.0.1.4 Counselor Approvals andLimitationsThe council advancement committee isresponsible for approval of all merit badgecounselors before they provide services, althoughit is acceptable to delegateauthority for this function to districts. The processshould not be rushed to the point whereunqualified counselors are allowed to serve. TheNational Council places no limit on the number ofmerit badges an individual may be approved tocounsel, except to the extent a person lacks skillsand education in a given subject. The intent is forScouts to learn from those with an appropriatelevel of expertise. Merit badge counselors mustsubmit the Merit Badge Counselor Informationsheet, No. 34405, according to local councilpractices. The form must show each badge forwhich the counselor requests approval. Additionsor subtractions may be submitted using the sameform. It ispermissible for councils to limit the number ofbadges that one person counsels. They must notdo so, however, to the point where Scouts’ choices,especially in small or remote units, are so limitedas to serve as a barrier to advancement. TheNational Council does not place a limit on thenumber of merit badges a youth may earn fromone counselor. However, in situations where aScout is earning a large number of badges fromjust onecounselor, the unit leader is permitted to place alimit on the number of merit badges that may beearned from one counselor, as long as the samelimit applies to all Scouts in the unit. Approvedcounselors may work with and pass any member,including their own son, ward, or relative.Nevertheless, we often teach young people theGUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT 47A Guide for Merit Badge Counseling, No. 34532,can be useful in recruiting. Visits to districtmeetings, roundtables, training sessions, andother events may also uncover prospects. Whilethere, unit and district volunteer feedback may besought on the quality of those currently active.To learn more aboutFriendstorming, have yourcouncil call the national Designand Development Departmentat the national office. Thebooklet Friendstorming OnTour can be accessed atwww.scouting.org/advancement.5

importance of broadening horizons. Scoutsmeeting with counselors beyond their familiesand beyond even their own units are doing that.They will benefit from the perspectives of many“teachers” and will learn more as a result. Theyshould be encouraged to reach out.8. FAQs or suggestions covering “best practices”for counseling9. Recommendation to subscribe to the Counselor’sCompass by sending a SUBSCRIBE message to.7.0.1.6 Training for Counselors7.0.1.5 Registration andReregistrationThe council or district advancement committeemust assure counselors understand the BoyScouts of America’s aims, methods, and mission. Itis also important they know howScouts can learn and grow through the meritbadge process. To enhance the merit badgecounselor experience, the National AdvancementCommittee’s Education Task Force has developedthe presentation “The Essentials of Merit BadgeCounseling.” It can be downloaded fromwww.scouting.org/advancement, and viewedindividually, featured in merit badge counselortraining events, or delivered as part of a widerexperience covering several levels of Scout leadertraining. Where a counselor corps isorganized into groups based on the popularity orsubject matter of badges, with “head counselors”for each group (see below), there is also anopportunity for “on-the-job coaching.” This ishelpful where individual counselors need a betterunderstanding of the merit badge plan.In multicultural communities, local councilsshould endeavor to offer bilingual training andmentoring.Merit badge counselors register at no fee, usingthe Boy Scouts of America’s standard adultregistration form with position code 42.Designated members of the councilor district advancement committee shouldprovide the approval signature. The counciladvancement committee annually coordinatescounselor reregistration. This may be done as partof the local council charter renewal process. Aletter or message extending an invitation canbe sent to each counselor who is to be approvedfor another year. Those identified as not followingBoy Scouts of America policies and procedures, ornot providing services as promised, should not beinvitedto return. Volunteers who are properly registeredas merit badge counselors can renew annuallywithout completing a BSA adult application; theirnames will appear on the district roster forrenewal. Anyone who is currently unregistered, orwho is registered in another position but alsodesires to serve as a merit badge counselor, mustcomplete an adult application. The invitationalmessage or letter could include the following:7.0.2.0 Merit BadgeCounselor Lists1. Gratitude for service2. Invitation to reregister3. Reminder to maintain current Youth Protectiontraining4. Listing of merit badges each is currentlyapproved to counsel5. Contact name in the district or council who canprovide assistance and information6. Response card, e-form, or other way forcounselors to return updated contact information,preferred method for contact, merit badges theywish to add or drop, updates to their skills andeducation profile, andanything else that may be helpful.7. News and information regarding merit badge“midways” or “fairs,” counselor trainingopportunities, other activities or meetings ofinterest, and additional volunteer opportunities7.0.2.1 Getting StartedIt is the responsibility of the council advancementcommittee to maintain a current list of registeredand approved counselors, although this may bedelegated to districts. To get started, the counciladvancement committee should considerorganizing the badges intological groups, such as business and industry,natural science, communications, and publicservice, and recruiting a head counselor for eachgroup. Head counselors are not expected to beexperts in each badge, but they should be capableof recruiting those who meet the qualifications.Remember that counselor recruiting is an ongoingresponsibility. As new ones are added and othersdrop off, it is vital these changes be communicatedto the district or council advancement committee.6

The number of counselors needed for the listdepends on badge popularity. First considerbadges required for Eagle Scout rank, which areobvious “musts.” Next think about those mostpopular in the local area. Reports on merit badgesearned can be generated at your council servicecenter. For low-demand subjects, counselors mayappear on more than one district list. Urge troops,teams, crews, and ships to make as many of theircounselors as possible available district wide. Thecouncil or district counselor list is reproduced fordistribution to troops, teams, crews, and ships. Itis most efficient to set the list up as an electronicdocument that includes all counselors in thecouncil. Establishing it as aspreadsheet or database can allow sorting forcounselors willing to serve at the council, district,or unit level. It is important to maintain andupdate this list regularly so that users can dependupon it.Scoutmaster, unit counselor lists should not bemade available to Scouts online.GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT 497.0.3.0 The Process ofCounselingEarning merit badges should be Scout initiated,Scout researched, and Scout learned. It should behands-on and interactive, and should not bemodeled after a typical school classroom setting.Instead, it is meant to be an active program soenticing to young men that they will want to takeresponsibility for their own full participation. Ifsubject matter relates to a counselor’s vocation,meetings with youth might take place at an officeor work site. Hobby-related badges are usuallycounseled at home. For others like Rowing, RifleShooting, or Geocaching, learning could occur inthe field where special facilities or an appropriatevenue are available. Once a counselor hasreviewed the signed Applicationfor Merit Badge, he or she might begin withdiscussions about what the Scout already knows.This could be followed with coaching, guidance,and additional meetings, not only for passing thecandidate on the requirements, but also to helphim understand the subject.The sort of hands-on interactive experiencedescribed here, with personal coaching andguidance, is hardly ever achieved in any settingexcept when one counselor works directly withone Scout and his buddy, or with a very smallgroup. Thus, this small-scale approach is therecommended best practice for merit badgeinstruction and requirement fulfillment. Units,districts, and councils should focus on providingthe most direct merit badge experiences possible.Large group and Web-basedinstruction, while perhaps efficient, do notmeasure up in terms of the desired outcomes withregard to learning and positive association withadults. The health and safety of those working onmerit badges must be integrated with the process.Besides the Guide to Safe Scouting, the “Sweet 16of BSA Safety” must beconsulted as an appropriate planning tool. It canbe found online at “Scouting Safely,”www.scouting.org/ HealthandSafety/Sweet16.7.0.2.2 Web-Based Counselor ListsOnline counselor lists present a number ofchallenges. They should only be placed on officialcouncil websites that conform to the NationalCouncil guidelines atwww.scouting.org/Marketing/Resources/CouncilWeb. Give attention to protecting counselorprivacy. Limit access to those who have meritbadge–related responsibilities, such asadvancement committee members and chairs, orunit leaders and selected assistants. Scouts shouldnot have access. Their interaction with theScoutmaster in discussing work on a badge, andobtaining a counselor’s name, is an important partof the merit badge plan.7.0.2.3 Unit Counselor ListsUnits may establish their own lists of counselors,who may or may not opt to work with youth inother units. This may be necessary in widegeographic areas. It can also be helpful to haveready counselors for the most popular badges.Recognize, however, that Scouts learn from theperspectives of counselors outside their owntroop. Note that all merit badge counselors,including those serving only one unit, must beregistered and be approved by thecouncil (or district, if authorized) advancementcommittee. Due to concerns about merit badgecounselor privacy, and since Scouts should receivethe names and contact information from the7.0.3.1 The Buddy System andCertifying Completion7

A youth member must not meet one-on-one withan adult. Sessions with counselors must take placewhere others can view the interaction, or theScout must have a buddy: a friend, parent,guardian, brother, sister, or other relative—orbetter yet, another Scout working on thesame badge—along with him attending thesession. If merit badge counseling or instructionincludes any Web-based interaction, it must beconducted in accordance with the BSA SocialMedia cialMedia). For example, always copy one or moreauthorized adults on email messages betweencounselors and Scouts. When the Scout meets withthe counselor, he should bring any requiredprojects. If these cannot be transported, he shouldpresent evidence, such as photographs or adultverification. His unit leader, for example, mightstate that a satisfactory bridge or tower has beenbuilt for therequirements were met, a counselor may confirmwith adults involved.Once satisfied, the counselor signs the blue cardusing the date upon which the Scout completedthe requirements, or in the case of partials, initialsthe individual requirements passed.Note that from time to time, it may be appropriatefor a requirement that has been met for one badgeto also count for another. See “Fulfilling MoreThan One Requirement With a Single Activity,”4.2.3.6.7.0.3.2 Group Ins

when a unit 7.0.1.0 About Merit Badge leader may place limits on the number of merit badges that may be earned from one counselor. The Scout may also want to take advantage of opportunities at merit badge fairs or midways, or at rock-climbing gyms or whitewater