Scout Leader Helps Archives - Page 2 of 2 - I Want My Eagle

Preparing For Winter Camp – Backyard Prep

Preparing For Winter Camp

Preparing for winter camp is one of the “scary” things a lot of scouts struggle with.  Today I wanted to share with you another winter camping preparation activity that we have done for years with our scouts shortly after the Wool Sock activity that I shared in another blog post.  We pick a Friday night in January, since the Klondike Derby is in February, to do a preparatory overnight camp in the Scoutmaster’s backyard.  This activity does a few things for the boys.

First, it provides them a safe and semi-comfortable environment to test out winter camping.  Since we are just in the backyard, it is very easy to give them access to and indoor warm facility if they freak out on their first experience, as we all know some boys do.  It is much better to have them have a problem now in this environment than up in the mountains.

Second, it provides them an easy way to learn a lesson if they didn’t bring the right equipment.  They can run home or call their parents to get what they forgot quickly.  When this happens, they won’t forget it on the “real” winter camp out in February.

Third, it helps them learn what happens on a winter camp when they play in the snow and get wet in a safe learning environment.  We have had scouts come to this camp, then have a snowball fight, get all wet, then find out they can’t stay warm and sleep like that. Instead of being in a dangerous situation, we have the house right there to get them in, and get them some dry clothes and warm them up.

When you have young scouts that are 11-12 years old that have not attended a winter camp yet, it helps to do some small preparatory activities to ease their way into winter camping like this.  As a scout leader you do not want to take scouts for the first time to a Klondike Derby without some kind of preparation.  If you do this and get all the way up in the mountains and find out that some of the scouts are not prepared or are struggling and want to go home, this makes it very difficult.

Lastly, this also has provided an opportunity for nervous parents that are hesitant to send their boy to winter camp to let go a little bit, knowing that they are just across the street.  Once they know their son can make it overnight and loved it, they are significantly more willing to let their son go to the Klondike Derby without worrying so much.



New Scout Requirements 2016 – What To Know

There are a few articles that I wanted to share and bring to your attention so you all know what is changing in the new scout requirements.

Scout Rank Changing:

scout requirementsARTICLE: Bryan On Scouting – BSA Blog – Scout, currently a joining badge, to become its own rank – Bryan Wendell


Other Rank Changes:

scout requirements

ARTICLE: The Boy Scout Blog – Things Are a Changin’—Transitioning to the 2016 Boy Scout Requirements – Pualani Graham

Two important things to remember about the new requirements are:

  1. Whatever rank you are working on now, you can continue that rank with the current requirements with your next rank changing to the new ones in 2016.
  2. In 2017 you will be required to only use the new requirements for all ranks.

Preparing For a Winter Camp – Wool Socks


When trying to teach scouts about winter camping and what they need to do to prepare for one, it has always been a challenge.  There are always some scouts that don’t bring the right gear to stay warm.  Also, once they get up there, they get wet and find out the hard way that getting wet is not the right thing to do either.  That is the best way to have scouts hate winter camping.

We have a boy in our scout troop that hated camping when he moved into our unit and we found out that the ONLY camp he had been on was a winter camp and was not prepared.  It was miserable for him, so he thought all scout camps were that way.  If they are miserable, they will not like it.  I have to admit, when I was the Assistant Scoutmaster until a couple of years ago, I wasn’t extremely excited to go winter camping either.  Winter camping is one of the funnest and most rewarding types of camps to me now.  If you are prepared, it is very cozy and you learn a great life skill that you may have to use one day if you ever face a disaster.

One of the very effective activities that we have done with our scouts is the wool sock versus the normal sock test.  We like to do this outside if there is snow but if there isn’t any, we use ice water buckets as seen in the picture above.  Scouts remember activities that are fun and teach them something.  If you just tell them to wear wool socks, they will not think it is important and will forget to bring them.  If you have them experience the difference in a safe environment before they go camping, they will remember.

In this activity, we have them put one wool sock on one foot and then a normal sock on the other.  We then have them walk around outside in the snow for a minute.  If we don’t have snow, we bring a tarp and buckets filled with ice and water and have them put their feet in and hold them there for a minute.  After they do this, we have them tell us which sock keeps their feet warmer and then explain why. They learn the lesson well.

Believe me, they do not forget to bring wool socks to winter camp after this activity.  The boys look forward to this activity every year.  The older scouts ask us, “when are we doing the wool sock winter test activity again?” so  they can watch the newer scouts take the challenge.  The older scouts also can also help explain to them why to wear wool socks which cements the concepts in even better. – District Eagle Project Tracking Tool

eagleprojecttracking is a district tool that we developed over a 5 year period in the Mt. Nebo District to track all eagle candidates coming in for their project approval through the board of review that all districts can use.  We also use it to communicate with all Eagle Coaches and District Advancement Committee members.  Check out the short demo video of what you can do with this tool.  There is also a more detailed video you can watch on

See what districts are saying about it:
I absolutely love using this tool!  The Eagle Project information is accessible to each Eagle Coach as well as all relevant documents and helps them track the young men they are working with.  I was able to sort the records and look at boys that are getting close to their 18th birthday and give them a phone call to motivate them.  I can’t imagine being the District Advancement Chair without this tool.  This will make your position so much more enjoyable.
        – DaLayn Bing (Mount Nebo District Advancement Chairman 2011-14)
I think this website tool is awesome and I wish all districts used it!  It helps keep track so no one gets lost in the cracks.
        – Debby Robert (Utah National Parks Council Eagle Secretary)

Please share this with anyone that you think would benefit from this tool!

Don’t Forget – Most Commonly Skipped Eagle Requirement


Without question, the most overlooked requirement for Eagle, and the one that most kids are shocked about is the Life Purpose and Statement of Ambitions essay.  Yes, there is an essay that you have to write for your Eagle Rank!  Sorry, I know how much this hurts to hear that.  🙂  (Two of my life purpose(s) are sitting by me in the picture above.)

I would say about 90% of Eagle Candidates that I have coached are surprised when I bring this up and read to them the requirement right out of the book or on the Eagle Rank Application.  Here is what it says:

In preparation for your board of review, prepare and attach to your Eagle Scout Rank Application a statement of your ambitions and life purpose and a listing of positions held in your religious institution, school, camp, community, or other organizations, during which you demonstrated leadership skills. Include honors and awards received during this service.

The reason it is the most overlooked requirement is because the sentence begins with “Successfully complete an Eagle Scout board of review.” Most don’t read the rest of the requirement.  Do not make this mistake!  I wrote a blog post a few days ago about Filling Out Your Eagle Rank Application Correctly.  Check it out: Part 1 and Part 2

When my oldest son was working on finishing his Eagle paperwork, we made this mistake and found out, when he thought he was done and wanted to turn it in, that he had to write an essay and that just about killed the whole momentum.  Seriously!  After all that work and pain of filling out all the forms, it was the last straw on the camel’s back for him.  He was tough and completed it anyway and is glad that he did.

The key to helping scouts have a smooth and great experience is to have them read everything before they begin.  Read through the requirements again while they are working on it.  Then read them again at the end to make sure they have done everything and there are no surprises.

There is a reason why only 4-5% of all registered boy scouts attain the Eagle Rank.  It is because they are not willing to endure to the end and compete it.  Go for it and do it!  I have never heard anyone say, “I regret earning my eagle.”  But I have heard the opposite quite a bit.

Filling Out Your Eagle Application Correctly – Part 2

headerIn our continued effort to make the Eagle Application more understandable and seem less threatening, we move on to the second page of the application. Today’s post will explain these further sections and how to fill them out correctly and painlessly.

First, Requirement #4 (as seen below in picture):  This requirements surprises many scouts and parents.  In fact, we’ve dedicated an entire blog post to explalin all about this requirement.  (See “Which Leadership Positions Count Towards Scout Rank Advancement“)  The most important thing to remember here is that the required 6 months of leadership will not begin to accrue until AFTER your Life Rank Board of Review date.


Requirement #7 is very commonly overlooked.  Most scouts and parents read the first sentence and think, “Oh, this is the board of review.  I will do that at the end.”  Be very careful to read the whole requirement closely.  My oldest son and I fell into this very trap when he was finishing up his Eagle Scout paperwork.  The remainder of the requirement reads: “In preparation for your board of review, prepare and attach to your Eagle Scout Rank Application a statement of your ambitions and life purpose and a listing of positions held in your religious institution, school, camp, community, or other organizations, during which you demonstrated leadership skills. Include honors and awards received during this service.”  In other words, each Eagle Scout candidate needs to write an essay discussing what he wants to do with his life.  This should be 1-2 pages double spaced.  Along with this essay, a list of all leadership positions and awards should be listed on another page.  If this is enough to scare you off because you don’t like writing essays, just remember, it will likely be the easiest essay you will ever write; it is all about yourself.

The last part of the application is about getting signatures.  The Eagle Scout candidate, Scout Leader, and Unit Committee Chairman all must sign.

That’s it!  You’re done with the Eagle Scout Rank Application.  The rest will be filled out during and after your Board of Review.

I hope this information has helped answer any questions you may have had about this form, and clarified any ambiguities. It was a very frustrating and puzzling process for me as a parent to go through with my first son (even with the help of a great Eagle Coach).

Feel free to comment below if you have further questions or let us know how this helped you. is a tool that districts can use to make tracking approvals and board of review a snap. Check it out in this post: District Eagle Project Approvals with

Filling Out Your Eagle Application Correctly – Part 1

headerThe main purpose of this post is to help scouts, scout parents, and scout leaders better understand the Eagle Application Form and how to fill it out correctly.  As an Eagle Coach I was asked most frequently about the Eagle Application Form.  Scouts and parents were often confused and I want to demystify this process and make it easier.

Some parts of the form are very straight forward, so I will not cover those.  Instead we will look more closely at the sections for which I fielded the most questions.

First, on the front page a scout is asked to provide the dates for when he became a Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, and Venture Scout (shown in the picture below).  This form does not necessarily need to be filled out by the scout/parents.  These dates must be reported correctly.  There are two options to insure that your dates are accurate.  (1) Call your local council office to learn the exact dates and fill them in yourself.  Or (2) leave the squares blank and have your District Advancement Chairman get them from the council and fill them in when your application is turned in.  The dates from the First Class and Star ranks must be the same as when your council has them recorded.  It is extremely important that you do not guess on these.  If you are in doubt, find out or leave them blank for now.


The second, and by far the most confusing, part of the application is requirement #2 (as seen below this paragraph).  There are a few gotchas with this one.  Sometimes it requires multiple explanations to understand.  Think of this part as a list of references, like a job application. Fill out all information.  Your board will need a way to contact each one.  The easier it is for board members to get a hold of your references, the smoother the process will be.  If your religious leader or educational reference is your dad, put your mother’s name in the Parent/Guardian line (and vice versa).  The educational reference can be a teacher, coach, or principal; or any other adult educational person who will give a good reference.  The Employer reference DOES NOT need to be provided if you are not currently employed.  (Past employers do not need to be listed, only current employers.)  The “Two other references” can be anyone who will give a good reference AND who are not a relative OR current scout leader.  This portion is meant to compile a diverse list of references.  The most important thing to remember when choosing references, is to pick familiar people who will speak well of you.  These persons will either be contacted by your district board or they will need to write a letter of recommendation for you.


Third, requirement #3 (as seen below this paragraph) is tricky because the dates in this section must be exactly the same as what the council has recorded.  Obtain a Unit Member Advancement printout from your unit advancement chairman before filling in this section.  Pay special attention to numbers 7, 8 & 10 as a scout must choose one of the listed merit badges to fulfill the requirement. Cross out the names of the merit badges not completed (or, if more than one has been earned, use the first chronologically earned in that group). When a scout earns more than one of those required merit badges (in the instance of 7, 8 & 10), all but the first one earned must still be crossed out. The extra earned merit badge will be used towards the Eagle Rank as an elective (merit badges 14-21).  But, only one will count in the required slot.  Lastly, use the first chronologically earned merit badges to fill in the remaining electives.  There are two reasons for this.  (1) All dates will be checked to make sure the right number of merit badges were earned for each rank according to each date of rank advancement; and (2) for eagle palms, the merit badges earned after being awarded the rank of eagle must also be correct chronologically.


We’ll take a closer look at the second page of the Eagle Application in the next blog post.  Thanks for reading and please comment with your questions or to let us know if this was helpful. Also, please subscribe to our newsletter and receive automatic updates. is a tool that districts can use to make tracking approvals and board of review a snap.  Check it out in this post: District Eagle Project Approvals with


During the years when I served as an Eagle Coach and District Project Approval Chairman in the Mount Nebo District, the most common question I was asked was, “How do I pick an eagle project?” or “How can I know if the project I want to do will be approved?”

This answer can be found in the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook.  My response was always the same: “The first thing that you AND your parent(s) should do, is read the workbook completely.  Once you have done this, we’ll talk again and pick a project you want to do.”

As an Eagle Coach, I made a practice of reading the entire workbook 3-4 times per year just to refresh my memory.  This also helped me know when to approve a project or suggest that more work was needed to qualify.  I cannot over emphasize the importance of this course of action for scouts, parents, and leaders.

The Workbook states: “Before completing any of the four forms, read with your parent or guardian, the ‘Message to Scouts and Parents or Guardians‘ on pages 5 and 6. If your project is worthy and meets Eagle Scout requirement 5 as written, the message will help you successfully present your proposal through the approval process.”  Reading these two pages is the minimum a scout and parent(s) should do; but, you ought to read the whole thing.  The workbook is the definitive source and filled with good information regarding what kind of projects will be approved.

It is also stated in the Workbook: “Eagle Scout projects must be evaluated primarily on impact—the extent of benefit to the religious institution, school, or community, and on the leadership provided by the candidate. There must also be evidence of planning and development.

Quite simply:

  1. The scout must show that he is planning this project himself.
  2. The scout must show that he is developing the project himself.
  3. The scout must show leadership himself.

There are a few other requirements enumerated in the workbook which must be followed (such as doing projects for a non-profit organization), but those three items above are the basics.  Let’s look at each of them in more detail.


If a scout approaches an organization and asks if there is an Eagle project he can do, and if the organization has a planned project for him or tells the scout that he only needs to provide labor or other prescribed assistance, this will not be a valid eagle project.  The scout must be the one to plan out the project (even with an organization’s help).


Should a scout choose a project that is his parents’ idea, for example, and proceed to follow his parents’ direction, simply performing the work; this would not satisfy the developing requirement of an Eagle project.  There is nothing wrong in getting ideas from parents and/or others, but each scout must build on it and make the project his own.  The workbook also specifies that it should not be routine labor.  Routine labor does not provide an opportunity for the scout to develop any part of the project.


In past experience, I’ve seen scout after scout get a project approved, then be afraid to get other people involved. The scout then proceeds to complete all the work on his own.  It is important to remember that the project is not the important thing.  It is the growth process and the experience the scout will gain in exercising leadership and learning how to be a leader.  In order to show leadership, a scout needs to get others from the community involved. He should not perform all the work.  He should direct and lead the project, not just do it himself.

It is asked in the workbook: What Is Meant by “Give Leadership to Others …?”
“Others” means at least two people besides the Scout. Helpers may be involved through scouting or otherwise, and of any age appropriate for the work. Councils, districts, and units shall not establish requirements for the number of people led, or their make-up, or for time worked on a project. Most importantly, an Eagle candidate must exhibit leadership.

In conclusion, there is no set number of hours required for an Eagle project. I have seen projects range between 70 – 1,800 hours.  Pick a project of which you will feel proud; one that will challenge you; and one that will show the Eagle Board that you intend to plan, develop, and show leadership, and it will be approved.

The best way to optimize a scout’s experience working on a merit badge

If each scout follows the following steps when working on a merit badge and filling out the blue card, it will facilitate a better experience and provide him with the help he needs to start, continue, and finish merit badges.


As a long time merit badge counselor and former scoutmaster, I have seen many boys get excited to earn merit badges, only to lose steam and quit because it becomes too hard and daunting for them.  I learned that a little guidance, including a slight change to the usual process, will greatly help to motivate a scout to stick with it.
The first drain to any scout’s enthusiasm is not knowing how to start.  A scout must know where to go and who to call to get help and direction.  If a scout gets to a merit badge requirement for the merit badge that is confusing and doesn’t have a counselor to readily call for guidance, he often stops working on it.  Guiding the scout and being there to help him with any questions and encouragement is a part of this process that is most neglected.
The following step by step process will facilitate a better relationship between scout and merit badge counselor, helping the scout learn the material and enjoy it at the same time.
  1. The scout expresses an interest in a earning a specific merit badge.  If he doesn’t think to ask his scout leader for a blue card, the leaders should offer one.  A scout will soon learn this step and ask as part of the process.
  2. The scoutmaster encourages and assists the scout in filling out as much information as he can on the blue card right then (including the merit badge, counselor’s name, etc.).
  3. The scoutmaster can sign his name in two required places before work is even started on the requirements (one on the front part of the blue card, another on the back).
  4. The scoutmaster looks up possible merit badge counselors for the chosen merit badge and fills out name and contact information. (This information may be available online or provided in a list depending upon how your local district/council publishes it.)
  5. The scout takes the card and calls the counselor to introduce himself and explain that he wants to work on this merit badge.
  6. The counselor takes this opportunity to tell the scout any information he needs to know before beginning work on requirements and gives any needed guidance.  A follow up appointment to meet with the scout for coaching can be set.
  7. The scout proceeds to work on the merit badge requirements.
  8. Since the scout has this interaction with the counselor, he’ll feel more inclined to call and ask for help at anytime.  This also encourages adult interaction with the scout which is one of the goals of BSA in having scouts work with merit badge counselors.
  9. When the Scout is finished with any requirements he should call or meet with the counselor and get those signed off along the way.
  10. When the scout completes all the requirements, he calls the merit badge counselor to set up a meeting to pass off his work. The scout should always bring someone with him so the meeting is not a one on one with the counselor.
  11. The counselor verifies all requirements are fulfilled, signs the blue card in two places (both on the back of the blue card), retaining the counselor’s portion for his/her records and returning the two remaining parts of the card to the scout.
  12. The Scout tears off the applicant’s portion and keeps that for his records.
  13. The Scout turns in the last section titled Application for Merit Badge to his unit advancement chairman for proper recording and award presentation in the next Court of Honor.
I have seen it happen more often where the scout skips the first seven steps and starts on step 8. This sets him up for failure from the beginning. Without support from his scoutmaster (who doesn’t even know he is working on a merit badge) and without a counselor to guide him through the requirements, even if a scout does complete the work, many times the scout won’t know how to find a counselor to verify and pass off his work.  Additionally, the unit advancement chair is often given all three parts of the blue card. Should the scout encounter an issue with the recording of his merit badge work, without his signed portion of the blue card to prove completion, he is out of luck and may need to re-earn the merit badge again.  This is very discouraging to a scout.
What can you do in your unit to implement these steps?  How can implementing these steps help your scouts?