Boy Scouting provides a series of surmountable obstacles and steps in overcoming them through the advancement method. The Boy Scout plans his advancement and progresses at his own pace as he meets each challenge. The Boy Scout is rewarded for each achievement, which helps him gain self-confidence. The steps in the advancement system help a Boy Scout grow in self-reliance and in the ability to help others.
The Scout Handbook is both a reference for the skills a scout needs to advance through the ranks, and his primary record of completed requirements. It is not unknown for these Handbooks to get lost, mislaid or left at home. However, it is essential for scouts to bring them to troop meetings outings.
Scouts advance with the help of the troop and its boy and adult leadership, in a three stage process:
- At a meeting, an advancement skill is explained and demonstrated to a scout, and the scout is given time to practice the skill.
- Between meetings, the scout practices the skill on his own, with the help of his book and/or other scouts.
- At a future meeting, the scout demonstrates this skill to an adult or boy leader, and it is signed off in his handbook.
Thus, each scout’s handbook is the primary record of his advancement. Merit Badges earned are also recorded in the Handbook (see Merit Badge section below). The troop keeps track of the each scout’s progress in a software program called Troop Master. Troop Master serves both as a backup record, and for leaders to use when planning activities that support the advancement needs of the scouts.
All Scouts when joining a troop must pass the joining requirements listed on page 4 of the Scout Handbook for the Scout Badge. Scouts who have just crossed over will recognize these requirements â€“ they are very similar to the requirements for the Arrow of Light.
Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class
The first set of ranks – Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class – is designed to teach the camping, first aid, and safety skills needed to go camping to new Scouts. Some Scouts can do all of the requirements in less than a year, some will take longer. All Scouts go through the same advancement program no matter how old they are or when then join.
You may pass any of the requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class at any time. For example, if you fulfill a First Class requirement before you are a Second Class Scout, you may check off the First Class requirement as completed. You may not receive a rank, however, until you have earned the one before it.
Rank requirements are signed off by your fellow Scouts. A Scout who is two ranks above the rank you are working on is allowed to sign off. For example, a First Class Scout (or above) can sign off on all Tenderfoot requirements. For an online primer to rank advancement, check out the National Council Rank Requirements Videos. Click on any of the rank badges and then choose a requirement to see a short clip about the requirement. For an introduction to Boy Scout Merit Badges, see the National Council Merit Badge Introduction.
The Path to Eagle: Star Scout, Life Scout, and Eagle Scout
Once a Scout has reached First Class and learned the basic skills of Scouting, he is ready for the challenge of becoming an Eagle Scout. The Path to Eagle has three ranks, Star Scout, Life Scout, and Eagle Scout. Here the requirements for advancement consist of earning merit badges, doing service projects to help the community, showing that you can lead other Scouts as a patrol leader or some other leadership position, and demonstrating to others that you have Scout spirit.
One requirement that Boy Scouts have for rank advancement is that whenever you complete the requirements for a rank you need to have a Scoutmaster Conference. At this meeting the Scoutmaster will review the requirements with you to make sure that they have been learned correctly, he will help you to set up the goals for the next advancement, and he will have you share your ideas about the troop (how its going from your viewpoint, what you would like the troop to do more of, problems you see occurring, etc.).
Board of Review
All rank advancements, except for the Scout badge, require a Board of Review. The members of a Board of Review are adult leaders in the troop, except for the Scoutmaster or any of his Assistant Scoutmasters. The main purpose of the Board of Review is not to retest the skills a Scout has learned, but to see what the Scoutâ€™s spirit is and how the troop is doing is helping the Scout along and meeting Boy Scout objectives. A great resource for learning about and participating in a Board of Review can be found online here.
Court of Honor
When you complete a rank advancement you will usually be given the badge at the next troop meeting. At times the troop will hold a special meeting called a Court of Honor. This is a formal ceremony to recognize you and your fellow Scouts for rank advancement and other Scouting achievements. This event is held with an audience of family, friends, chartered organization officials, and troop leaders.
A merit badge is an invitation to explore an exciting subject. With more than a hundred to choose from, some merit badges encourage you to increase your skill in subjects you already like, while others challenge you to learn about new areas of knowledge. Many of the merit badges are designed to help you increase your ability to be of service to others, to take part in outdoor adventures, to better understand the environment, and to play a valuable role in your family and community. Earning a merit badge can even lead you toward a lifelong hobby or set you on the way to a rewarding career. Visit the National Council website and check out their merit badge primer at www.scouting.org.
Merit Badges are recorded in the Scout Handbook, and then entered in Troop Master. The most important evidence of a scout’s earned Merit Badges are the 2.5″ x 3.75″ Merit Badge Cards signed by a Merit Badge Counselor. These are best kept in a 3-ring binder, in transparent plastic sleeves, 9 pockets to a page. This binder can also be used to store 8.5″ x 11″ documents that have been 3-hole punched.
There are many opportunities to earn merit badges. Summer camp and Merit Badge University held in March/April each year are the most popular. At times during the year a parent or other adult will offer a specific merit badge in his field or hobby. There are 21 merit badges required for Eagle, 12 of which are specific “Eagle required” badges. These badges must be earned on the path to Eagle, with 6 earned for Star and 5 for Life. The scout handbook lists the options for each. The Eagle required badges are:
- First Aid
- Citizenship in the Community
- Citizenship in the Nation
- Citizenship in the World
- Personal Fitness
- Emergency Prep OR Life Saving
- Environmental Science
- Personal Management
- Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling
- Family Life
To work on a merit badge, a scout must find a Merit Badge Counselor for that badge. There are many adults in town and in the area, and the troop leaders can help you find one. Before you meet your counselor you must obtain a Blue Card from the Scoutmaster. It is a three-part card that your counselor will use to record your achievements. The Scoutmaster must sign the blue card, indicating that you are ready to work on the badge. Once you have completed the requirements, the counselor will return two sections of the card to you. You must ask the Scoutmaster to sign off on completion on the scout’s portion of the card. You should then submit the remaining section to John Solman, the Advancement Chairperson.
A great online resource for merit badges and their requirements, including worksheets, can be found at meritbadge.org.
There are two other Scout awards that are usually of interest to new Scouts: The Totinâ€™ Chip and the Firem’n Chit.
When a Scout demonstrates that he knows how to handle wood tools (knife, axe, saw) he may be granted totinâ€™ rights. Until a Scout has earned his Totinâ€™ Chit he is not allowed to carry a pocketknife. If a scout is found handling wood tools incorrectly, a corner of the Totinâ€™ Chip card is often cut off. When all four corners are gone, so are the Scoutâ€™s totinâ€™ rights.
The owner of a Firem’n Chit has demonstrated knowledge of safety rules in building, maintaining, and putting out camp and cooking fires. Until a Scout has earned his Firem’n Chit, he is not allowed to carry matches.