2014 Merit Badge Rankings: Which Were the Most and Least Popular?

Posted on March 25, 2015 by Bryan Wendell in Merit Badges

Step aside, First Aid. There’s a new king of merit badges.

The Cooking merit badge, which joined the Eagle-required list on Jan. 1, 2014, was last year’s most-earned merit badge. First Aid came in second after being No. 1 every year since at least 2009 — the first year for which statistics are available.

A whopping 99,908 Scouts earned the Cooking MB last year. That was nearly 19,000 more than First Aid.

What were Nos. 3 through 136? Find the complete list and tons of analysis after the jump.

About the Cooking MB’s Big Leap

Now that Cooking is required for Eagle, we can expect to see it near the top of the merit badge leaderboard for some time. But its rise to No. 1 in 2014 might have been a one-time thing.

A revised Cooking merit badge pamphlet and new requirements were released in 2013. During 2014 (and 2014 only), a Scout could use either the old or the new requirements — his choice. Either version counts toward Eagle, and it looks like a ton of Scouts decided to go ahead and earn Cooking using the old requirements last year.

(By the way, any Scout who begins work on the Cooking merit badge on or after Jan. 1, 2015, must use the new requirements.)

Cooking merit badge’s new spot atop the rankings is the big news for 2014, but it isn’t the only noteworthy statistic.

Where I Got These Numbers

As with my 2014 analysis of the 2013 data, these figures come from Local Council Charter Applications. That means they’re based on the actual number earned, not on sales of the badges. Some troops purchase extra emblems in anticipation of future badge earnings, so sales numbers can be skewed.

The Top 25

As you’d expect, Nos. 1 to 13 are Eagle-required merit badges. These are the merit badges Scouts must earn on their journey to Eagle, so they’ll always top the list.

Nos. 14 to 22 — Rifle Shooting, Fingerprinting, Archery, Leatherwork, Wilderness Survival, Wood Carving, Kayaking, Canoeing and Fishing — are offered at most summer camps, giving Scouts a convenient opportunity to earn them while spending a week at camp with their friends.

Same with No. 25, Lifesaving.

But let’s consider Nos. 23 and 24: Art and Chess. They aren’t summer camp staples, and they’re not exactly stereotypical Scouting topics.

To me, these two show how well-rounded most Boy Scouts are. The Art merit badge taps into a boy’s creativity and artistic spirit, while the Chess MB harnesses his brain’s cognitive abilities.

Chess could be the fastest-growing new merit badge. It debuted in September 2011, and it’s been in the top 25 every full year since (2012, 2013 and 2014).

The Bottom 10

There are no bad merit badges. There are some merit badges, however, that aren’t earned as often as the “big guys.” Scouts who have one (or more) of these merit badges on their sash can feel pretty good knowing they’ve done something few other Scouts have done.

2014’s rarest merit badges were: Gardening, Composite Materials, Landscape Architecture, Drafting, Surveying, American Labor, Journalism, Stamp Collecting, American Business and Bugling.

How rare were these merit badges? Well, consider this: Last year, more Scouts earned the Game Design MB than these 10 merit badges combined.

Does your Scout have more than one of these rare merit badges? Wow! Let me know in the comments section.

By the way, if you’re up for a challenge and are qualified, why not offer to be a merit badge counselor for one of these rare merit badges in your district or council?

Movers and Shakers

Which merit badges saw the biggest jumps? Which saw the biggest falls? Here goes …

Top 5 gains:

  • Game Design: 114 to 51 (+63)
  • Sustainability: 131 to 84 (+47)
  • Programming: 133 to 113 (+20)
  • Cooking: 15 to 1 (+14)
  • Search and Rescue: 58 to 49 (+8)

We already discussed Cooking’s big jump. The other four are relatively new merit badges. These often take two or three years to gain their footing as more and more Scouts learn about them. Nice to see these catching on with Scouts so quickly.

Top 5 drops:

  • Cinematography: 67 to 97 (–30)
  • Model Design and Building: 105 to 118 (–13)
  • Dentistry: 98 to 108 (–12)
  • Truck Transportation: 111 to 122 (–11)
  • Sculpture: 50 to 60 (–10)

The Cinematography merit badge dropped so much because it no longer exists. It has been replaced by the Moviemaking merit badge, which debuts at No. 79 on the 2014 list.

As for the other four, the drops are probably a result of normal merit badge fluctuation.

5 Merit Badge Showdowns

Watch as these similar merit badges go head to head. The MB’s 2014 ranking is in parentheses.

  • Kayaking (20) floated by Canoeing (21). I guess two blades are better than one.
  • Snow Sports (65) froze out Water Sports (105). I guess Scouts prefer their H2O of the solid variety.
  • Coin Collecting (87) was collected more than six times more than Stamp Collecting (134). Don’t tell the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Fishing (22) caught on more than Fly-Fishing (92). Just be patient, Fly-Fishing.
  • Orienteering (36) found a way past Geocaching (37). These two were in a tight race last year, too, with Geocaching coming out ahead. Let the debate between GPS devices and map and compass continue.

The 2014 merit badge rankings

OK, enough analysis. Here’s the complete list.

Those marked in blue are Eagle-required. Those marked in orange are new, meaning they debuted in 2010 or later.

* On required list for Eagle Rank
** Required for Eagle (must complete Cycling, Hiking or Swimming)
*** Required for Eagle (must complete Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving)
**** Required for Eagle (must complete Environmental Science or Sustainability)

Want the complete numbers from 2009 to 2014?

Here you go. Now you can import the data into your favorite number-crunching software. Let me know what you discover while playing with the numbers.

NEW – STEM-botics Camp at Camp Spencer

Looking to get away for a 2nd week of summer camp – devoted ENTIRELY to STEM merit badges?  

If so, the STEM-botics Camp at Camp Spencer might be for you!


Is your Scout interested in our STEM-botics camp?  Seeing that it is a brand new program to not only the Baltimore Area Council, but Scout Camp in general, we are offering an opportunity to learn more.

On Saturday, April 11th at the Council Service Center (701 Wyman Park Drive, Baltimore) we are having multiple sessions to further explain the program. Along with this, there will be time to answer any questions you or your Scout might have about the camp.

We are going to open up the discounted rate of $340 per Scout to those who attend this Q&A meeting.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Daniel Ksiazek

Details:  Stem-botics Flyer (web) 3.15

Signs, Signals and Codes Merit Badge Requirements Released

Posted on February 26, 2015 by Bryan Wendell

For decades, teens have used their own language — one of emojis, shorthand and coded messages passed in school hallways — to communicate without words.

And now, for the first time, those skills could translate into a merit badge. Today the Boy Scouts of America officially releases Signs, Signals and Codes merit badge, the BSA’s 135th current merit badge. (You can see the complete list here.) Look for the merit badge pamphlet now at your local Scout Shop and at ScoutStuff.org.

Requirement 9c is one straight out of 2015. It asks Scouts to discuss text-message symbols, also known as emoticons or emojis, and share their 10 favorites. Then comes the fun part: “see if your counselor or parent can identify the meaning or usage of each symbol.”

Think you know what all those symbols mean, mom or dad? Get ready to prove it to your Scouts.

Signs, Signals and Codes merit badge isn’t just about emojis.

The badge covers a number of nonverbal ways we communicate: emergency signaling, Morse code, American Sign Language, braille, trail signs, sports officiating hand signals, traffic signs, secret codes and more.

Some of the coolest requirements: Write a six-word braille message. Use trail signs and markers to create a one-mile trail for fellow Scouts to follow. Invent a secret code and send a 25-word message to a friend or fellow Scout for him to decode.

Sounds pretty awesome. I see just one thing to complain about: Why wasn’t this around when I was a Scout? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Signs, Signals and Codes merit badge requirements

1. Discuss with your counselor the importance of signs, signals, and codes, and why people need these different methods of communication. Briefly discuss the history and development of signs, signals, and codes.

2. Explain the importance of signaling in emergency communications. Discuss with your counselor the types of emergency or distress signals one might use to attract airborne search-and-rescue personnel if lost in the outdoors or trying to summon assistance during a disaster. Illustrate these signaling examples by the use of photos or drawings.

3. Do the following:

a. Describe what Morse code is and the various means by which it can be sent. Spell your first name using Morse code. Send or receive a message of six to 10 words using Morse code.

b. Describe what American Sign Language (ASL) is and how it is used today. Spell your first name using American Sign Language. Send or receive a message of six to 10 words using ASL.

4. Give your counselor a brief explanation about semaphore, why it is used, how it is used, and where it is used. Explain the difference between semaphore flags and nautical flags. Then do the following:

a. Spell your first name using semaphore. Send or receive a message of six to 10 words using semaphore.

b. Using illustrations or photographs, identify 10 examples of nautical flags and discuss their importance.

5. Explain the braille reading technique and how it helps individuals with sight impairment to communicate. Then do the following:

a. Either by sight or by touch, identify the letters of the braille alphabet that spell your name. By sight or touch, decode a braille message at least six words long.

b. Create a message in braille at least six words long, and share this with your counselor.

6. Do the following:

a. Describe to your counselor six sound-only signals that are in use today. Discuss the pros and cons of using sound signals versus other types of signals.

b. Demonstrate to your counselor six different silent Scout signals. Use these Scout signals to direct the movements and actions of your patrol or troop.

7. On a Scout outing, lay out a trail for your patrol or troop to follow. Cover at least one mile in distance and use at least six different trail signs and markers. After the Scouts have completed the trail, follow no-trace principles by replacing or returning trail markers to their original locations.

8. For THREE of the following activities, demonstrate five signals each. Tell what the signals mean and why they are used:

a. Sports official’s hand signs/signals

b. Heavy-equipment operator’s hand signals

c. Aircraft carrier catapult crew signals

d. Cyclist’s hand signals

e. An activity selected by you and your counselor

9. Share with your counselor 10 examples of symbols used in everyday life. Design your own symbol. Share it with your counselor and explain what it means. Then do the following:

a. Show examples of 10 traffic signs and explain their meaning.

b. Using a topographical map, explain what a map legend is and discuss its importance. Point out 10 map symbols and explain the meaning of each.

c. Discuss text-message symbols and why they are commonly used. Give examples of your favorite 10 text symbols or emoticons. Then see if your counselor or parent can identify the meaning or usage of each symbol.

10. Briefly discuss the history of secret code writing (cryptography). Make up your own secret code and write a message of up to 25 words using this code. Share the message with a friend or fellow Scout. Then share the message and code key with your counselor and discuss the effectiveness of your code.

Full-size versions of the pamphlet and badge

Feel free to use these images in your unit or council marketing materials to promote this new merit badge.

Powder Horn 220-15

Interested in High Adventure?

Looking to help us take our Troop program to the next level or help get the Venturing Crew started?

Consider Powder Horn!
April 16-19, 2015
Broad Creek Memorial Scout Reservation

What is PowderHorn?
In Scouting, Powder Horn is the vessel to sustain the spirit of the outdoors in our youth today.  Along with the spirit of the outdoors, you will also gather knowledge to share, motivate and direct youth.  Powder Horn will give you the necessary skills to oversee a high adventure program.  It will also help you identify local resources for your group’s program. 
What do I need to do before the course?
Complete the following on-line trainings at MyScouting.org:
  • Youth Protection: Boy Scout or Venturing
  • Safety Afloat
  • Safe Swim Defense
  • Weather Hazard
  • Climb on Safely
  • Trek Safely
What will we do?
Powder Horn is organized around the Venturing Program’s High Adventure elements and Boy Scouting’s High Adventure Merit badge elements.   It is intended to help adult leaders get started finding and using the resources for high-adventure programs.
Planned topics include:  
  • Backpacking
  • Cave Exploring
  • Communication
  • Conservation Projects
  • Cooking
  • COPE
  • Cycling/Mountain Biking
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Expedition Planning
  • First Aid
  • Fishing
  • Land Navigation
  • Leave No Trace
  • Mountaineering
  • Outdoor Living History
  • Physical Fitness
  • Plants and Wildlife
  • Shooting Sports
  • Watercraft
  • Weather Forecasting
  • Wilderness Survival
  • Working with Teens
  • Winter Sports
Why come to Powder Horn?
Come to experience an opportunity to get the hands on knowledge and practical resources to provide a challenging and fun outdoor program for your older youth.
What others have said about attending the course:
       ”Walk the walk, talk the talk, pack the pack!”
       ”I learned what I needed to have a high adventure program.”
       ”Great fun while learning the essentials of high adventure programming.”
Who can attend Powder Horn?
All registered adult leaders and youth (14 and up) are welcome.
All participants must be registered members of the Boy Scouts of America. Adults must have completed Leader Specific Training for your registered position. Youth participants must have a letter of recommendation from their Scoutmaster or Advisor .
Course Director:  Ron Herning

Building Resilience – 7 Cs and Scouting

An author was being interviewed on the radio in the background as I was working away at my desk. He was discussing building resilience in young people. As I listened I thought “Hey! Who is this guy? This sounds a lot like Scouting!”

This got me thinking about the big ideas that form the foundations of the Scouting method and a specific instance of what I suppose you’d call “spontaneous inspiration.”

In 1907 Baden-Powell took the first Scouts camping on Brownsea Island and Italian Physician Maria Montessori opened her first Casa dei Bambini in Rome. While their efforts were directed at different age groups they were independently inspired by similar ideas and methods. Montessori and B-P expressed mutual appreciation of each other’s work later in life.

Of course the basic concepts behind their methods weren’t created by Baden-Powell or Montessori; their genius was assembling those concepts into methods. What each created has been been validated over a century of scientific scrutiny, a validation that testifies to the powerful resonance of the ideas themselves.

Back to the radio; it turned out Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg was being interviewed and after listening I got a copy of his book Building Resilience in Children and Teens. As I read I recognized Scouting explained with greater definition, clarity, and order; a “high resolution” version of familiar landmarks.

As the title indicates Ginsburg begins by introducing resilience;

If we want our children to experience the world as fully as possible— unfortunately with all its pain, and thankfully with all its joy—our goal will have to be resilience. Resilience is the capacity to rise above difficult circumstances, the trait that allows us to exist in this less-than-perfect world while moving forward with optimism and confidence.

“Resilient” is the best one-word answer to the question “what do we want our children to be?”

We know that Scouting is aimed at building character. How do we define character? I think the character we are aimed at and the qualities of resilience are one and the same. Ginsburg expands on this short-hand term by defining the “Seven Crucial Cs of Resilience”;

  • Competence: When we notice what young people are doing right and give them opportunities to develop important skills, they feel competent. We undermine competence when we don’t allow young people to recover themselves after a fall.
  • Confidence: Young people need confidence to be able to navigate the world, think outside the box, and recover from challenges.
  • Connection: Connections with other people, schools, and communities offer young people the security that allows them to stand on their own and develop creative solutions.
  • Character: Young people need a clear sense of right and wrong and a commitment to integrity.
  • Contribution: Young people who contribute to the well-being of others will receive gratitude rather than condemnation. They will learn that contributing feels good and may therefore more easily turn to others, and do so without shame.
  • Coping: Young people who possess a variety of healthy coping strategies will be less likely to turn to dangerous quick fixes when stressed.
  • Control: Young people who understand privileges and respect are earned through demonstrated responsibility will learn to make wise choices and feel a sense of control.

See what I mean? The 7 Cs are a good definition of the Scout law and the Scout oath. Dr. Ginsburg has crafted a practical, compelling tool for building character; the main aim of Scouting (and parenthood). If you strive to be a better Scouter and/or better parent I recommend studying Building Resilience in Children and Teens.

Building Resilience in Children and Teens Kindle edition on Amazon

Building Resilience in Children and Teens Paperback edition on Amazon

Visit the Fostering Resilience website

The post Building Resilience, 7 Cs and Scouting appeared first on Scoutmastercg.com.

Powerful Musical Tribute Shows the Lasting Impact of a Quality Leader

Posted on February 18, 2015 by Bryan Wendell

It doesn’t take much for a Scout leader to have a profound impact on the life of a young person.

Put another way: “The smallest gesture can spark a life.”

In the case of Cub Scout leader and Nashville singer-songwriter Dean Madonia, that leader was a Scoutmaster named Ernest.

Ernest was so special to Madonia that the musician was inspired to write a moving song about the man.  It’s called “Doesn’t Take Much Light (To Shine in the Dark).”

Watch the song performed by David G Smith below. It’s a reminder that the impact of a quality Scout leader can last a lifetime.

OA Members: Earn the Arrowman Service Award to Wear on Your OA Sash

About the Arrowman Service Award, an OA patch you can wear on your sash

Posted on Bryon on Scouting blog:

2015 is the Order of the Arrow’s 100th anniversary, and every good centennial celebration needs a patch to match.

If you ask me, the OA really knocked its 100th anniversary patch out of the park.

It’s the Arrowman Service Award, a patch youth and adult members of the Order of the Arrow can earn and wear on their OA sash.

The goal is to encourage Arrowmen to recommit themselves to the OA, increase their level of service and participate in the OA’s wide-ranging centennial celebrations.

Along with patches issued during the OA’s 50th and 60th anniversaries, this patch is one of just three patches the Order of the Arrow has authorized to be worn on the sash.

Yes, on the sash itself. The award may be worn only on the traditional OA sash (not the red one available at the National Order of the Arrow Conference). You’ll want to sew it so its lower edge sits one-half inch above the upper Brotherhood bar.

Speaking of, being a Brotherhood member or attaining Brotherhood membership in the OA is one of the primary requirements, though there is an exception for Arrowmen inducted as Ordeal members after Jan. 1, 2015.

There’s no limit to the number of Arrowman Service Awards that can be given per lodge, provided the lodge’s advisor and staff advisor/Scout executive approve each candidate’s completed requirements.

Arrowmen can work on the requirements from July 16, 2014, until Dec. 31, 2015.

Arrowman Service Award requirements

To earn the award, Arrowmen need to complete requirements in three categories: personal growth, Scout service and centennial participation.

Requirements for youth:

Requirements for adults

Still have questions?

Learn more here or see these helpful FAQs (PDF).

February Outing – Posting by Troop Historian

Posted by Troop Historian, Nathan T.

This month’s outing was about teaching a few Webelos from Cub Scout packs 883 and 678 and introducing them to our troop.

What we did was teach them about some first aid and how to tie knots.  A little later, we began to build fires for s’mores and skits later on. For dinner, there were tacos, hamburgers, and hot dogs.

After dinner, we all went outside to do some skits and eat s’mores. Two of the skits were the giraffe skit and “If I Were Not a Boy Scout.”

After all of that, we went to bed in our tents and tried sleeping. Then, the next day, around 9 AM, we began to pack up and then left around 11.