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Making a bucket list plan as opposed to a shortest time to Eagle plan

My oldest Scout joined late in Webelos and has primarily scouted during the quarantine. The online format wasn’t very productive for the den which only met a few times in total but we made the most of it as a family. Camped and hiked extensively, earned every adventure pin and a few of the awards, and did the religious emblem and a bunch of religious patches. I wish I had known to have done a few things differently to have really maximized what was available as I feel like I’m starting to understand the process of cub scouting just in time for crossing over, but I’m also really proud of what we accomplished.

We’ve watched and read a whole lot of scouting blogs about how the culture of Scouting should be, about the structure, the differences between Cub and Boy Scouting, and all of that and I’m not finding the guidance we need for that sort of “what you should know” culture for actually living all that out. I’m hoping you can point me to it or paint a picture for us.

My scout really wants leadership growth, mentorship, and fraternity (and still needs healthy support for being able to sustain those roles) and is highly motivated by achievements and awards. We like the blogs/descriptions for Eagle in 2 years not because we actually care about an Eagle in 2 years (though I also wouldn’t be opposed if it worked out that way and expect it could be done in 3-4ish pretty reasonably just because that sort of thing is personally important and fulfilling and instills a sense of responsibility and ownership in my scout) but because those Eagle in 2 year plans provide very easy-to-follow paths and expectations for time frames and investments on what to expect and when. The seemingly endless books, pamphlets, videos, blogs, websites, PDFs, etc are streamlined into a very simple A, B, C progression. We really need that, but in a way that isn’t just the text-based minimums but communicates the full picture in that same format.

What we’re hoping to find is an expanded “path” that includes more of the awards, camps, activities, milestones, etc for a well-rounded experience or if that doesn’t exist then to collect enough input to line that fuller concept up in our own heads. If it matters, my scout is social, kinesthetic, playful, a natural Tom Sawyer style leader, and likes cooking, camping, hiking, travel, and keeping things fresh and moving, which lends itself well to taking on any task or obstacle one at a time as they arise. Write a paragraph on how a ham radio works? It’ll take months. Fix this broken radio even though you have zero knowledge or experience? A few youtube videos and trying things out later and you’ll have a working radio and a verbal report all about how it works and why you should get a different one that works better in some way.

It is understandable that the usual request the internet of things answers is trying to check boxes for the least amount of work to get the title so the usual response is vague and extolling the importance of the community and growth, but we’re starting from a place where the community and growth is the whole reason we’re here, we’re disconnected from that because of Covid, and we just need the cultural facts to fill in the picture so we get moving in the right direction to keep my scout engaged.

One practical example of this is frequent online encouragements to sign up for any merit badge universities because they’re costly but get so much done. Our council announced some online for the days after crossing over. I had no idea what to sign up for and really didn’t have the money to put to it but also felt like I needed to consider it, especially the ones offered multiple times and already having sold-out sessions. They’re popular for a reason, right? But when I looked at what was offered, it looked like a couple days of online civics lessons, for example. We’ve been doing that for a year and could cover the same content easily for free. I made a spreadsheet with a page for each month and went through the handbook, selecting and grouping requirements upfront for the whole year, signing off with date and description as completed. Not having an idea of the bigger picture, I don’t have a clue if I’m missing something here–is that streamlining all the merit badge university is doing, too? But that’s just a tiny zoom-in on the big picture not being clear.

What I need to know is: what should we expect to have on our bucket list plan as opposed to a shortest-time-to-Eagle plan?


It took me a while to get through your post, and you’ll probably be disappointed in my relatively short response. I don’t have a resource for you. But I will take a step back to give you my perspective of the program as an Eagle Scout and now Cubmaster with two kids currently in the program.

First, Scouts BSA is youth led. It needs to be what your scout wants to do. It’s also noteworthy that rank requirements (other than Merit Badges) must be signed off by the Scoutmaster or their delegate. There are lots of ways to have a successful scouting journey that don’t involve earning Eagle. It’s about who the young person becomes. I’ve known many former scouts who didn’t even get close to Eagle but who credit scouting and their Scoutmaster for moulding them into the productive member of society they became.

It’s worth noting that many of the Eagle in two years posts likely sprung up with girls joining the program. Many older girls only had two years or less to finish from the day they joined. I don’t think that’s the optimal way to approach scouting. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend much focus on merit badges in the first year. More focus should be put on getting to First Class. Of course, I wouldn’t discourage a scout if they are pushing themselves to get their that fast either.

That said, if a merit badge is of particular interest to your scout, the intended way of completing it is for your scout to first have a conversation with the scoutmaster. The scoutmaster will give your scout a blue card and a name or two for possible merit badge counselors. A scout should not sign up for a merit badge without first having that conversation.

I’d also suggest a read of the Guide to Advancement section on Scouts BSA.

As far as a bucket list, I think it needs to come from your scout. What do they want to accomplish? Do they want to go to a high adventure base? Earn Eagle? Camp a lot? Something else?

I hope that helps in some way.


I agree with what @jacobfetzer pointed out about a lot of the program. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what you don’t know, particularly when you’re new to the program. It seems like you at least realize that there is (potentially) a lot you don’t know. Also, a key thing to remember is that, unlike Cub Scouting, Scouts BSA is not based on “annual” ranks. A scout can, if he or she wants and puts in the required effort, burn through all of the ranks in the first two-ish years. He or she could smear the ranks over the time between when they join and just before they turn 18. Advancement is only one of the methods of Scouting, and despite being a 2-ish year Eagle myself, one that I consider much less important than things like the ideals of scouting and adult association in the long run. The aims of character and leadership development, to me, are the most important things that a scout can gain from his or her time in scouting. Advancement tends, by and large, to be focused on learning skills. Character and leadership development come from experiences, and those typically take time.

In addition to what @jacobfetzer recommended about the Guide to Advancement, I would also suggest a “walk through” the resources at troopleader.scouting.org, particularly the ones about the mission, vision, aims and methods of scouting. If you are registering as an ASM or in another adult leader role at the troop level, your scout might (or might not, depending on temperament) find value in some of the information that’s presented in the adult leader position-specific training on what Scouts BSA (and scouting in general) is, and what role the methods of scouting play in achieving the aims.

There are tons of opportunities out there in Scouts BSA, from High Adventure bases to individual awards, camporees to national and world jamborees, opportunities for service through your unit and through BSA organizations like the Order of the Arrow, leadership roles in the unit and in the OA,…The greatest thing about being youth-led is that the opportunities are largely created by the youth themselves, with adults facilitating their plans. I would recommend, with 20/20 hindsight, taking a breath, looking at all of the “cool scenery” in scouting, and your scout trying to figure out what most interests them, then pursuing that plan.

Particularly for a scout just bridging from Webelos, it’s less of a race than it is a through-hike on a long and fascinating trail. There’s never enough time to take every side trail, so enthusiastic scouts come back as scouters to do it again. :wink:


I’d like to add to Charley and Jacob and say Eagle does not mean end of the journey. I have seen some scouts that didn’t handle the deadline well. They knocked out MB and requirements like that’s all they were in scouting for. They worked hard and earned their Eagle fairly quickly but instead of dropping scouts they stayed in. They slowed down and paid more attention. They started having fun and have become some of the best “instructors” in the unit. The main thing is to let your child lead the journey. You know your kid, follow your kids lead and be there to help when they ask. There are many ways to approach the journey the important thing to remember is it’s their journey.


Very helpful! Thank you!!

My scout says leadership, activity, and tangible achievements in a healthy and active group of friends are the personal goals. The youngest Eagle ever (definitely would not be a stopping point, just the step before the next personal challenge), or the youngest Eagle at Jamboree, or the highest fundraiser, I can’t even recall the list of brainstorming ideas as it joyfully embraces whatever new ideas and opportunities are presented and strives for the top, adjusting down only when required by reality. Rockets and hiking and camping and cooking–it’s all just a means to the primary desire for active friendship and a place for growing as a leader–that is really my Scout’s heart, to be physically active among friends who appreciate and challenge the natural gifts that are being developed. The simplicity of what this entire thing is, at its core, about.

I’m totally open to whatever is fulfilling and just want to know enough to point toward ideas that might connect those hopes and desires to practical opportunities because quarantine plus transition into a new troop plus slow speed as we learn plus something like that civic class I saw would lead to my scout tuning out very fast and I want to start things off in a way that makes it sustainable for the long haul, which I know for my scout means to go big and hit the ground running and that out of that friendship and community can take the baton and sustain it.

I was just frustrated with what we were finding being either the box-checking Eagle-as-goal route or the complete undermining of achievements as worthy pursuits, as if a kid who really desires and thrives in that space of healthy and loving competition and growth is missing the point. I’m bookmarking everything mentioned here to get the fuller picture. Thank you!


@Wheelie - I would echo what everyone else has posted. My son bridged over and kept on his initial track of being timid and in the background for at least the first 16 months. But over time moved forward to being SPL, and then last year forming his own venture crew and working his eagle project. The journey is the key. Never push… sit back and leave the driving to us.


My 2 cents…

Scouting should be about the journey, not the patches. The patches come during the journey.

Scouts BSA is about providing a youth opportunities to grow in so many ways. Service, leadership, all the points of the Scout law. There are no extra awards for getting to Eagle as fast as possible - and focusing on the awards and ranks can detract from a Scout truly learning to be a leader and providing cheerful service to others.

Youth find leadership not-so-easy to master - but this program provides great opportunities for them to practice.


I am in full agreement. That’s why we’re here. What I’m asking is what kinds of things commonly make up this journey. I get it isn’t focusing on Eagle or merit badges, but I have a kid who likes to focus on that sort of thing as a part of the journey and I’d like to have the broader picture on our radar so that that isn’t our only input.

I’m thinking, “At resident camps, we generally see the kids bond into a cohesive unit while exploring their leadership and resourcefulness. These are commonly taken as a pack one week of the Summer and some kids or patrols independently do a second week over the summer or another holiday like Spring Break and most consider this a highlight of their years. They usually earn 5-7 merit badges in the process, often in otherwise difficult to obtain skills like shooting sports and survival.”

“There are high adventure camps available which some units attend on a regular basis, but most scouts do not do this because of the costs involved and the ability to do more frequent and engaging things in a Venturing crew. Those who love it, of whom there are many, tend to be this type and appreciate these things.”

“There is Jamboree every four years. Almost no one says it was an enjoyable experience, but a scout who has a focus on global issues and cross-cultural communication would find it particularly beneficial.”

“There are service project oriented awards which progress on one another. A child with an interest in this area will often receive three such awards in sequential order. These take a substantial time and investment so those with another focus like merit badges or STEM awards might typically get 0-1 of the conservation and humanistic awards.”

“The time we spend playing sports together after weekly pack meetings is really essential to family and troop cohesion. We give space for children to play.”

I made all that up, but that’s really the kind of thing I’m hoping to find more of. Not in marketing terms of potential but in the reality of lived scouting life.

no one says Jamboree is enjoyable? maybe you are around the wrong group


The thing is, though, what’s on the radar depends a huge amount on what your scout and their fellow scouts in the troop want to be on the radar. It’s hard to be too specific because of the wide scatter among different units, and even within the same unit over time. The answers to these questions largely come from asking your fellow scouts what they did and what they thought. The scouting experience is primarily “local”, and heavily dependent on the folks with whom you scout. If the troop isn’t a good fit, find another one.

I was injured both years that my troop went to Philmont when I was a scout, and my son is just now old enough to go, so I’ve never been. Nearly everyone I know who has gone says it was one of the best trips they’ve ever taken. I have been to the White Mountains in New Hampshire and the Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico, hiked chunks of the AT, JMT, and PCT, and all sorts of “smaller” adventures in between. I’ve been on canoe trips where we were intercepted by a tropical storm. I worked my tuchus off every year to earn enough money to do summer camp and the various trips. I didn’t get to do everything our troop did, but I got to do a lot.

The troop I serve as an ASM generally has a Philmont crew every year, despite the cost, because the scouts want to go and with enough lead time, saving up to do so is feasible, if difficult for some. Another option on that front is, for youth involved in the Order of the Arrow, you can get a huge discount on the up-front cost of going to Philmont as part of OA High Adventure by spending one week there doing service (e.g. trail building/maintenance) and then spending one week with your OA-HA crew adventuring.

Our troop used to do a lot more unit-level backpacking than it does now, for a lot of different reasons. That may well change again in the not-so-distant future.

The troop goes to summer camp every year. What the experience is like depends a lot on what camp you attend and who you go with.

What I’m tying to get at is that it’s hard to give detailed advice, because the folks who have the information you want are the other scouts in your child’s unit. If they aren’t excited or comfortable, visit another unit. I took my Webelos to three different units on a tour before they bridged over from Cub Scouts.

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Being a Scout Parent is not being a Cub parent - you have to lose control. It is like golf swing the club and let your Scout fly where they will.


No, no! I just made that up as an example of feedback in the iconic and yet not universally loved category. I’d love your feedback!

THANK YOU!! That’s exactly the kind of experience I hope to share. I very much appreciate it. Seeing a diversity of those experiences really helps to envision one’s own hopes, values, and place among them!

@Wheelie - to be honest… you have to let go of the cub scout parent thing. In all of my years in working with both the pack and the troop it is that transition from cubs to scoutsBSA that is the hardest thing. I to this day have parents of scouts who were with my son in cubs who still do not grasp the concept. It is not easy but Please, please, please let it happen.


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@Wheelie - I was a Den Leader and am now a Scoutmaster - But I have tried to let my Scout scout on his own. Yes I learned in theory he could go to National Jambo 18 while a Webelos, so we talked about it - It is $2500 and you have to be a First Class Scout, that will be alot of work - “I want to go Dad”. OK it is on you to get there then - and I let him go. Helped and encouraged him, but it was his work (did get First Class in 364 days lol). He went and had a great time. As a SM and Parent I do wish he would do NYLT and NAYLE, or the local Aquatic School - but he does not want to so I do not push - it is the Scouts journey not mine
I hear of opportunities and present them to him and whole troop - there is this Merit badge college, there is this High Adventure, there is a Ironman Tri in town and they need volunteers - it is the Scouts and PLC that decide these are things we do as a unit and the Scouts decide I am doing this on my own.
Last summer my Scout was supposed to go to Poland to a Jambo - A little virus got in the way. So he is planning for Korea in 2023 for World Jambo and is already budgeting fundraising.
The more we DO things for Scouts in Scouting, Strangely the less the Scout gets out of the program. This program is about Making Leaders - If we as Parents or leaders lead them with a leash they can never learn to lead, they just follow.
It is about making Good Citizens - but if they do not learn to work through conflict and strife on their own they cannot learn that.
It is about character development - if things are handed to them as opposed to I want to do this, how do I get there - they will never develop.
Leaders, Parents and Other Scouts are there to support and advise - “Have you tried this…?”
A few troop meetings ago a Scout said in introductions “I am still Scout rank and I do not know why? (been in 2 years)” So the next meeting I brought him to my table and asked “Who is in charge of your advancement?” - “I am” he said. “Yes, where is your book? Take it to the SPL and take a look at it with them if you want a plan.”
Presenting opportunities for choice is very different than spoon feeding them.
Travel and Events | Boy Scouts of America - my troop is an -Oree troop - we are a standard size 25-35 - we sent 5 to the last World Jambo
Outdoor Adventures | Boy Scouts of America - High Adventure - and there are tons of GREAT council one now like Swamp Base FAQ's | Louisiana Swamp Base - or ones in Alaska that look amazing
Every Council has special things they do and events - go to Roundtable to hear them.
And as you sound like a very Eager Beaver (First Patrol) - GO TO WOODBADGE - Wood Badge | Boy Scouts of America - It will Help your Scout, Your Unit, Your District, Your Council, and especially YOU!

Let’s narrow this down a bit. To build a scouting bucket list, a scout should read:

  • The Scouts BSA Handbook
  • Scout’s Life magazine
  • A merit badge pamphlet of his/her choice from the troop library.
    Then, the scout should make him/herself useful to his folks to the tune of $100 per month.
    It’s that simple.

Attend and be competitive at a Klondike event if one is available.
Go to Philmont and do a trek
Volunteer at Eagle projects
Go to NYLT
Do a mile swim at a resident camp or other difficult award
Try to go to a out of council resident camp at least once. We went to Camp Emerald Bay on Catalina Island and had the best time.
Learn the flag retirement ceremony and be good at it.
Attend a Scout’s Own religious service at a resident camp/relatedly participate in Scout Sunday
Camp as a Patrol and let go of the Scout stuff for a weekend.
Just a few ideas.

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THANK YOU, Daniel!!!

Donovan: I signed up for Woodbadge, but to support the Cubs as I want the Scout to have plenty of freedom and healthy independence. In Covid times where too much of our lives is online, I’m just using the resources I have to learn in order to best point the Scout to the actual people and places who can help live out the Scout’s hopes. I’m grateful for the resources and experience! Thank you.

Qwazse: a troop library sounds like a treasure trove. Thanks!!

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As others have said, Scouting is a journey. The focus should be on that journey, and the experiences that come with it. The destination will sort itself out naturally if a scout puts his or her full attention to the journey. For some, the destination may be earning the Eagle Scout rank. For others, the destination may be enjoying the ride and the experiences.

There are probably thousands of different ways to drive from New York to Los Angeles. Some people choose the fastest and easiest route, and take the interstate the entire way. Others want to see mountains, and take a route through the Appalachian, Blue Ridge, Rocky, and Sierra Nevada mountains. Some may want to visit every National Monument & Park along the way. And others may want to see every roadside attraction that’s out there, because they enjoy seeing the world’s largest balls of twine. None of these are the “right” way to get from NY to LA, and none of them are the “wrong” way either. But each person making that journey needs to determine which is the right way for them to take, and the experiences they will encounter along the way. Scouting is exactly the same way! Each scout must decide for himself/herself what their personal journey looks like.

In every troop, there will be those youth on the “interstate to Eagle”, and there will be those who are taking their time at every roadside attraction, and there will be those who have been hanging out at a “rest stop” for months or years. Their journey is not your son’s journey, so don’t let him get distracted by the paths others have chosen to take. His journey is the only one that matters to him, so the path he chooses is the correct one for him. Visit several troops in your area, and let your son pick which troop feels will best support him in his journey.

If your son chooses to work toward earning his Eagle Scout rank, several of the Eagle-required merit badges are more of a classroom style. Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, Citizenship in the World, and Personal Management are just some that come to mind. Maybe these are badges for him to focus on when he is a couple years older. He might enjoy focusing on Swimming, First Aid, or one of the other more active Eagle-required merit badges first. Look over the list of Eagle-required badges, and see what interests him most, and start with those. It’s not uncommon for those classroom style merit badges to be some of the last ones completed.

Wood Badge is great for all adult leaders. The training is not program-specific, so don’t worry about Cub Scouts vs. Scouts BSA. The training will be beneficial for everyone, no matter the program or their position. The resources you get from Wood Badge, and the relationships you establish, will be your primary tools that help you after the training is completed.


First - it is very clear that you have a goal oriented child. The language strongly speaks to a goal orientation. So here are the kinds of goals that I would encourage were I the scoutmaster:

  • learn (cooking, or knots, or use of ax, or…) well enough to teach others.
  • work to be the person considered a “good friend” by all members of the troop(this can be done both virtual and “real world”)
  • figure out what the “adventure of my lifetime” might look like. Then go on something that approximates said adventure
  • earn a merit badge based purely on interest (then another and another)

One of the biggest things I learned as a scout was how to interact with adults. My associations helped me keep my composure when I sat next to a 2 star general’s wife in church. (It would later cause some questions when said 2 star general greeted me by name and asked how I was.) The thing was that I knew that he was both a powerful person and also still had four buttons in his uniform pants just as I did.

I would encourage your scout to look for merit badges being taught apart from “universities” and summer camp. Why?? because I strongly believe in that as one of the 8 methods of scouting.

For yourself - learn the aims and methods of scouting. Memorize them and always separate the methods from the aims. Always keep in mind the why. And if you help your scout to look for the reason why - bonus land indeed. Earning Eagle is a great goal. Knowing why you want to earn it is better.