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Virtual Eagle level MB taken by nonranked 12 yo

If it helps at all, my son is in the exact same situation. He just crossed over and COVID-19 started. I have been a Den Leader, Pack Committee Chair and now at Asst. Scoutmaster. I attended Woodbadge as well as a scout when I was a boy. I have some experience with how scouting works and what it looks like.

My son has been doing Eagle Required Online Merit badges during the entire COVID-19. He has taken them from all across the country and I have yet to feel like he is getting some sort of tone downed version. He has spent hours and hours on Zoom, Google Classrooms and Go-To Meetings. He then spends hours and hours and hours doing the requirements, documenting them, submitting them back to the counselor (and they all want you to submit in a different way).

I have seen counselors go through the Merit Badge information over the course of four days and then schedule weekly meetings to check back and encourage kids to get them done.

All in all, it has been a great experience and has kept him fully engaged in scouting. He is disappointed that he hasn’t gotten his Scout rank yet, but he is happy that he has gotten so much work down for his Star and Life Ranks because of the Merit Badges.

Finally, Personal Fitness, Family Life and Personal Management have been a God Send during these tough crazy times. These three merit badges have brought our family together as we look at budgets, chores, exercise together, etc.

I hope that helps rest your fears about what is happening with Online Merit Badges.

Thank You,


One final thing I wanted to share. When I was a boy I LOVED scouting. When I joined a Troop and saw all these cool requirements I was so excited. I sat at home and learned my First Aid, my knots, the buddy system, etc.

I went to my Scoutmaster to get signed off on it and he told me I needed to wait and get signed off along with the other boys. I was bummed.

Months went by. I went back to the Boy Scout Manual and started reading more and it said I could complete these requirements at my own pace independently of other scouts. I build up the courage and went back to the Scoutmaster and showed him what it said and asked if I could get some requirements checked off. He told me he didn’t want the Patrols to get out of balanced so I had to continue to advance with the rest of the kids my age.

I quit a few months later as a Second Class.

I would encourage everyone to let kids find their own path to Eagle, especially during these weird times. Support them!



I will echo what Stuart is saying. My twin sons crossed over in February, and didn’t have enough time before the shut down to finish Scout and Tenderfoot requirements with the troop.

Some of these online Merit Badge classes have been a godsend - keeping them excited and interested in Scouting while we can’t meet and have the social aspect that being a part of the troop brings.

When we see another council or group offering online classes, we always take a look to see which ones interest them and which ones fit into our schedule. But they fill up fast, so we sometimes get what we get.

My older son (1st class) wanted to take the Sustainability class, so the younger boys took it too. They are only 10 (11 years old tomorrow) and haven’t officially achieved Scout rank, but the instructor was amazing. She did two 90 minute presentations on back to back Thursday nights. She answered a bazillion questions from the scout during the WebEx meeting and made sure they understood the expectations for a difficult badge.

They are just about finished with their one month projects conserving water and energy at home, and have watched all the YouTube videos the counselor sent them. They’ve learned a ton (probably more than they learned from e-school at the same time) and had a great experience. They are super excited about earning their first Eagle required badge and are taking the work seriously.

I’m grateful that they were allowed to join this class - even at their age - but had the council put an age or rank restriction on the class (especially if it were a physically in-person class), I would totally understand the need to allow older boys access to the Eagle Required Merit Badge Counselors first.


This is the problem I have with scouting some adult leaders think there gods and have the say as to what a Scout can do for requirements. Scouting is youth lead and youth ran. its there to teach them Leadership and knowledge. I say let him take the merit badges if he meets the requirements of the badge then he earns it. The adult leaders that make restrictions as this is a eagle level or life level or star level is missing the point of scouting. just a humble thoughts from a Eagle Scout, Cubmaster, Asst Scoutmaster,


Maybe we should celebrate this young man starting on some Merit Badges. Not yet earning the rank of Scout shouldn’t stop him from that. There is no requirement in the Merit Badge program that limits a Scout by Rank. Maybe with him achieving the completion of a few Merit Badges it will give him momentum towards earning his first 4 ranks. Maybe working on online Merit Badges will keep him from entering depression during a tough time during COVID. Maybe he won’t get very far but will still learn something during the program that will help him live a good life. Instead of trying to restrict this young man, maybe when he asks for approval from his Scout Master, the Scout Master can also encourage him to work on rank requirements as well.

As others have shared here, my son is a new crossover scout. He loves achievement. He understands there is hard work associated with getting to that point. He has worked on 9 Merit Badges online with 5 different councils. I’ve keep tabs on him getting through these. I would say some councils are fantastic at managing their program, some are good and some are OK. All of them have ensured that he is meeting the requirements as they are written. It has led to him reaching out to Merit Badge Counselors in our Troop and starting a few more. He has learned so much even though he is only 10 (going on 11). It has given him a purpose during COVID that he has lost from some of his other extracurricular activities being shut down. It has given him a chance to socialize, meet new people and learn about things he might not of elsewhere. It has brought joy to his life that nothing else seems to be doing right now. Our family is blessed that everyone that has put on these programs is doing so for our Scout.


I have 2 12-year-old girls from my troop who are each signed up for 3-5 Eagle-required merit badges (incl. Citenships, Per Fitness, Per Mgmt) through virtual opportunities provided by our council. Both are struggling a bit and are really working hard to complete these by August. I was able to use this opportunity to discuss goal-setting and pacing oneself with each of them. So far, it seems both are learning a lot about these two life skills. I suggest engaging the youth and parent(s) via email to offer encouragement and answer possible I asked questions.


Seriously, I have never heard of one of those forms make a difference. Would like to hear a good story, but most of them seem to go no where.

While dealing with a Supernova for my Council I had a kid work with a Mentor in another state. Actually on the other side of the country. I got in touch with the Council he was in and eventually talked to him. We had a great talk. I made sure he was really a Council approved Mentor as required.
I would suggest you get in touch with the Council the MB Counselors are in and make sure the folks signing off on this are qualified. That’s a reasonable question. You might let the Council sponsoring this know what is happening. Either they will be happy to have it happen, or will be a bit surprised.
And, you are allowed to have a conversation with the scout involved and make your point to him. Not to say he can’t do it, but rather that instead of working on the MBs he might be better off looking at the list National put out showing the Scout to 1st Class requirements he can do at home.

An important distinction: they are NOT actually “Eagle LEVEL” Merit Badges. They are “Eagle REQUIRED” Merit Badges. Meaning they have to be completed before Eagle can be awarded. It’s not that they are for older children only; it’s that they are core requirements that all scouts should learn and complete during their Scouting career.

I hope this helps to ease your worries. They are REQUIRED to be completed before eagle, but they’re not “Eagle Level” meaning only for the more advanced. They’re basically the core of what it means to be a Scout


This is a problem. If a scout has not done the cooking requirements for tenderfoot, second class or First Class he is not ready to take Cooking merit badge. Similar problem with things like First Aid. Personally i don’t think an 11-12 year old has the capacity for Citizenship in the world. Now according to the merit badge counselor training the scout should first approach a scout leader. The scout leader is supposed to find him a merit badge counselor and give him a blue card. A blanket statement that you cannot work on merit badges is not appropriate, but direction, such as do the rank requirements first to work toward starting the merit badge would be appropriate. Then there is the problem of the Virtual merit badges. I have taught several. they just sign up. no scoutmaster approval. I don’t have a clue who is there. But no scout gets signed off for my work. I try to add value, but leave some of it for the scouts to look up. You Tube actually is useful especially for Zoom classes. It takes longer but is infinitely more interesting and useful. Lasty, I have come to understand what grading papers is. PAINFUL. I see what the scout wrote and either add a little more detail or tell him/her to go back and get more information so “I feel he actually understands the material.” What I have found that if you ask for work and do a bit of testing, not just lecture and award the merit badge, many will not make the attempt to finish. And that is the way it should be.

I think this is an unfair generalization. I’ve encountered plenty of 6th and 7th graders (and even Webelos) who are interested in “civics”. It hardly seems like the material is any more difficult than, for example, what would be done for Engineering. I’ve also seen some remarkably apathetic older youth and even adults who don’t really contemplate these types of ideas, so age is hardly a guarantee qualifier.

Yes, the Citizenship badges require the scouts to think about potentially difficult issues (e.g. contemplating the US without the Constitution or Bill of Rights for Citizenship in the Nation). At the same time, we ask them to tell us what the pledge of allegiance means in their own words, and explain the meaning of the scout oath and law as part of the Scout rank requirements. Is that so much less difficult conceptually? I don’t see it as such.


Charley, I don’t disagree with the concept you stated. I misstated. I meant citizenship in the world. When I was scoutmaster, I had to go look up many of the organizations listed even if I thought I knew what they did. But when I teach a merit badge, no one leaves with a gimme because he showed. Up. Teach, test then award the merit badge. I found that when you actually make the youth do the work of learning not you talk and he writes down exactly what you say then hands it back to you, or there is something he must do on his own, many don’t finish it. Then their mothers ask me why “I did not have the child finish the merit badge.” My answer is “I gave them the assignment and they did not do the work. It is not my job to make them finish the merit badge, they need to complete the work.” Be safe

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This is a concept we should all be able to get behind. It’s one of the reasons I dislike MB classes/weekends. That’s not to say it’s not possible to run one well. Rather, it’s a criticism of the way I often see them run.

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That is clearly your opinion, but it is inconsistent with the Guide to Advancement.

2019 Edition: “A few merit badges have certain restrictions, but otherwise any registered Scout may work on any of them at any time.”

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From my experience, Sadly Summer camp is usually a model of what not to do with many merit badges. .


When my son was 12 he completed Swimming at summer camp, Cit in Comm, First Aid, Communications and Family Life. So don’t quickly dismiss him as “pencil whipping” the merit badges. My question would be why hasn’t he earned his lower ranks. He seems like a smart kid.
My son is 27 and just completed his doctorate in Chemical Engineering. He (and I encouraged him) to use merit badges as mini courses for possible careers. Isn’t that we are supposed to be doing?
He also got grief from the scoutmaster’s son because he was ready to go for Eagle at 14. So he waited a year. Please look at what the scout knows about the rank and advance him so he is working at his potential. Not every scout has to practically age out before achieving Eagle (If that is their goal.)
Schools especially now, are not engaging the TAG students and they are bored to tears. Encourage him to complete his ranks but don’t assume the worst of this scout.


I have been a Scoutmaster for many years. Everyone is correct that any scout can take any badge at any time. The blue card and the entire process is set up so that the unit leader signs that the scout has been counselled about the badge and a MBC has been identified. I use the signing process to make sure that the scout knows what he or she is getting themselves into. If they already have 10 partial MBs open, I strongly encourage them to finish some of the open badges first. I also tend to steer newer scouts to those which may be a little easier to attain early to get them used to the merit badge process. And for summer camp, I try to steer them toward badges that are more accessible at camp than at home like shooting badges, some aquatics badges, environmental and nature badges and arts and crafts badges. And, scouts at camp want to have hands on, not sit in a citizenship class. As a unit leader, I cannot stop a scout from taking a badge. But I require then to talk to me before they sign up for any badge, online or not. I stress this during the scouts first few meetings with the troop and I advise the parents during the new parent orientation meeting shortly after joining. Often, the summer camps put an age requirement on some badges (ie shotgun or climbing) because smaller scouts have difficulty with the badges requiring more strength as an example. But as everyone knows, every unit leader follows the guidelines differently. Hope that is helpful.


Mary Ann,

I think the comments to this post set out the BSA position well and the typical way Scout Troops operate.

Any Scout Registered Scout can take any merit badge course they wish, (except for some defined requirements), as a Leader you should be encouraging the merit badges and guiding the Scout - obviously if one of the merit badges has an age restriction on it then that is different. The key as everyone has noted is that these are merit badge required to complete the Star, Life, and Eagle rank requirements, rather than Eagle Level merit badges.

As a Troop we try to sign up our new Scouts for the Swimming Merit Badge and the First Aid Merit Badge at Summer Camp (both are classed as one of the Eagle required Merit badges) . They can not get the First Aid Merit badge without the knowledge of the first Aid requirements for Second Class and First Class but they don’t need to hold the First Class Rank to complete the Merit badge.

A Scout could go through the program from 11 to 18 an earn merit badges only and never receive the Rank award of Scout. However that is unlikely as the Scout Award is relatively simple and should be pushed by the SPL, ASPL, Troop Guides for the new Scouts etc, and if they came from a reasonable Cub Pack with an AOL Award, should know most of it anyway. Tenderfoot to First Class bit harder to get and as a troop we have several kids who enjoy the trips, summer camp, etc but are not that interested in Ranking up.

These are difficult times and really you probably should talk to the parents to encourage the Scout to review some of the rank award stuff as well the Merit Badges and set up a SM/ASM sign-off session with him. Set him up to succeed not to fail.

Turning round and saying no to Merit Badges will result in you losing a Scout who appears to be interested in learning and moving forward with Scouts, just not quite in the way you want him/her to.

The thing that has not been discussed but cannot be over-looked. Every Scout scouts differently and they are all right. Scout not interested in Advancement but loves camping great. Scout not interested in Advancement but loves learning new things in Merit Badges great. A Scout loves to serve others but never camps, great. As long as the Scout is active, however they choose to scout, is fine with this Scoutmaster.


Agreed on the topis of any badge at any time.

I think the real issue this post is highlighting is the workaround to the normal practices that have been created by the virtual COVID world where first contact is the Scout announcing that they have completed the MB required no pre-conversation with the Scoutmaster or any opportunity for the Scoutmaster to confirm that the MBC is registered. Many classes are being offered online by individuals as well as by councils; not all are vetted. This is not in line with the purposes for the merit badge program as stated in the GTA or in the Unit Leader’s Guidebook.

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