Everyone involved in the Boy Scouts of America recognizes the importance of providing a quality learning experience for their scouts. The objective of this guide is to ensure the merit badge program of our council gives each Scout personal growth and development, and not simply the receipt of a ‘patch’ because they attended an event.
Your District and Council Advancement Committee members have the responsibility of overseeing the merit badge program, including camp, merit badge midways, fairs, clinics, or similar events. This guide has been compiled to help you put on a high quality event that you can be proud of. The foundational base for this guide is the current version of the BSA’s Guide to Advancement (33088).
Merit Badge Events can be attractive to “guest experts” assisting registered and approved counselors. Slide shows, skits, demonstrations, panels, and various other techniques can also be employed, but as any teacher can attest, not everyone will learn all the material. Because of the importance of individual attention and personal learning in the merit badge program, group merit badge events should be focused on those scenarios where the benefits are compelling.
There must be attention to each individual’s projects and his fulfillment of all requirements. You must know that every Scout—actually and personally—completed them. If, for example, a requirement uses words like “show,” “demonstrate,” or “discuss,” then every Scout must do that. It is unacceptable to award badges on the basis of sitting in classrooms watching demonstrations, or remaining silent during discussions.
It has been reported that Scouts who have received merit badges through group instructional settings, have not fulfilled all the requirements. To offer a quality merit badge program, your District and Council Advancement Committees will ensure the following are in place for all group instructional events.
•    A culture is established for merit badge group instructional events that partial completions are acceptable expected results.
•    A guide or information sheet is distributed in advance of events that promotes the acceptability of partials, explains how merit badges can be finished after events, lists merit badge prerequisites, and provides other helpful information that will establish realistic expectations for the number of merit badges that can be earned at an event.
•    Merit badge counselors must be registered and approved.
•    Any guest experts or guest speakers, or others assisting who are not registered and approved as merit badge counselors, do not accept the responsibilities of, or behave as, merit badge counselors, either at a group instructional event or at any other time. Their service is temporary, not ongoing.
•    Counselors agree to sign off only requirements that Scouts have actually and personally completed.
•    Counselors agree not to assume that stated prerequisites for an event have been completed without some level of evidence that the work has been done. Pictures and letters from other merit badge counselors or unit leaders are the best form of prerequisite documentation when the actual work done cannot be brought to the camp or site of the merit badge event.
•    There is a mechanism for you, unit leaders, or others to report concerns to the District or Council advancement committee on summer camp merit badge programs, group instructional events, and any other merit badge counseling issues—especially in instances where it is believed BSA procedures are not followed. (See Appendix B)

The following policies apply to ALL Scouting units and districts.
No council, committee, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to, or subtract from, advancement requirements. There are limited exceptions relating only to youth members with special needs. For details, see section 10 In the Guide to Advancement, “Advancement for Members with Special Needs.”
Individual districts, chartered organizations, and units, are not authorized or approved to rewrite or create their own advancement policies or requirements. The annual Boy Scout Requirements publication and the Guide to Advancement document advancement requirements, policies, and practices, which must be followed. Each Scout and registered adult agrees to follow BSA policies when they sign their application to join the Boy Scouts of America. With national standard policies and requirements that we all follow, the experience of a Scout should be similar wherever he participates in an advancement event.
Policies and Guidelines that must be met to assure a quality merit badge event:
1.  Merit Badge Applications (Blue Cards): Each Scout attending the merit badge event MUST have a Blue Card that has been signed by his Unit Leader or authorized designee.
See Guide to Advancement “7.0.0.2 About the Application for Merit Badge (Blue Card)”, and “7.0.0.3 The Scout, the Blue Card, and the Unit Leader”. It is important to note that the ‘Blue Card’ does not need to be blue. Historically, the card stock used to print the application has been blue, but its legitimacy is not diminished if you print on plain white. If a Scout shows up without a signature on his card, ask him where he got the card. If the Scout indicates the unit leader knew of his desire to begin working on the badge, but forgot to sign—or if there are other compelling extenuating circumstances—you may proceed with the initial session and ask him to get his unit leader’s signature prior to the next meeting.
2. Individual Attention and Learning: Because of the importance of individual attention and personal learning in the merit badge program, group instruction should be focused on those scenarios where the benefits are compelling.
3. The biggest challenge to group instruction: Is the monitoring of each individual Scout’s progress. The larger the group, the more difficult it is to maintain a degree of personal attention to every participant. If the group becomes too large, then more counselors must be brought to bear, or other methods must be used to assure that every Scout actually and personally fulfills every requirement. If this challenge cannot be met, then group instruction must be abandoned. Awarding badges to Scouts on the basis of sitting in classrooms watching demonstrations or remaining silent during discussions is totally and completely unacceptable. From “The Essentials of Merit Badge Counseling”
4. Completing the Requirements: There must be attention to each individual Scout’s projects and his fulfillment of all requirements. The Counselor must know that every Scout—actually and personally—completed the requirements as stated. If, for example, a requirement uses words like “show,” “demonstrate,” “explain” or “discuss,” then every Scout must do that.
Unless participants have completed many or most of the requirements ahead of time, it should be rare that Merit Badges can be completed during a one day event. Few if any merit badges lend themselves to such a fast pace. If the event is operated according to BSA policies and procedures, most Scouts will get a good start on the requirements with the ability to finish them later with another registered and approved counselor. From “The Essentials of Merit Badge Counseling”
NOTE: It is unacceptable to award badges on the basis of sitting in a class and watching demonstrations, or remaining silent during discussions. Nor is it acceptable to consider that completed Merit Badge worksheets, constitute completion of the requirements.
5. Qualifications of Counselors: Qualified counselors are essential to Scout success. Persons serving as merit badge counselors must be registered with their BSA Council. Counselors must be men and women of good character, age 18 or older, and be recognized as having the skills and education in the subjects for which they are to serve as merit badge counselors. They should have the ability to work with Scout-age boys.
See “7.0.1.1 Qualifications of Counselors”.
6. Youth Protection Training: Use only Counselors whose Youth Protection Training (YPT) is current and up to date. Counselors whose YPT expiration date is more than 12-months will be dropped from the council approved list. This is not open to negotiation or discussion.
7. Safety: The health and safety of those working on merit badge requirements must be integrated with the process. Besides the Guide to Safe Scouting, which is available online at http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/34416.pdf, the “Sweet 16 of BSA Safety” must be consulted as an appropriate planning tool. It is available at http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/512-025_WB.pdf
8. Merit Badge Counselor Training: All merit badge counselors are required to be trained. They must understand the Boy Scouts of America’s aims, methods, and mission. It is also important they know how Scouts can grow as they learn through the merit badge process. Contact your District or Council Advancement or Training representative for more details.

9. Group Instruction of Merit Badges: Class size limit, or the ratio of Scouts to counselors, is fundamental to a Scout’s success. BSA Advancement Procedures include the following: “To the fullest extent possible, the merit badge counseling relationship is a Counselor-Scout arrangement in which the boy is not only judged on his performance of the requirements, but receives maximum benefit from the knowledge, skill, character, and personal interest of the counselor. Group instruction and orientation are encouraged where special facilities and expert personnel make this most practical, or when Scouts are dependent on only a few counselors for assistance. However, this group experience should be followed by attention to each individual candidate’s projects and his ability to fulfill the requirements as they are written.”
10. Expectations: Expectations should be established, and made known well before the date of the event, as to which requirements must be fulfilled ahead of time in order to actually finish merit badges at the event. Scouts should expect to have to actively participate at the event, if they are to earn the merit badge. Simply showing up, cannot earn them the badge.
11. Guest Experts or Guest Speakers: Any guest experts or guest speakers, or others assisting who are not registered and approved as merit badge counselors, do not accept the responsibilities of, or behave as, merit badge counselors, either at a group instructional event or at any other time. Their service is temporary, not ongoing.
12. The Merit Badge Counselor’s Job: The Merit Badge Counselor must assure that each Scout meets all the requirements for the merit badge. To earn a merit badge, the Scout must complete the requirements of the merit badge exactly as stated. The counselor is not authorized to make any deletions or additions to requirements, assuring that the advancement standards are fair and uniform for all Scouts. For example, if the requirement says that Scout must discuss, then a discussion where the Scout is an active participant must occur; attending a lecture would not suffice.
13. Merit Badge Worksheets: Worksheets, such as the ones available at meritbadge.com, may be helpful, but are not official BSA materials. Use of these aids is permissible as long as the materials can be correlated with the current requirements that Scouts must fulfill. Completing “worksheets” may suffice where a requirement calls for something in writing, but this would not work for a requirement where the Scout must discuss, tell, show, or demonstrate, etc. Scouts shall not be required to use these learning aids in order to complete a merit badge. It can be suggested that they be used, but not required.
Current requirements for all Merit Badges can be found online at: http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/BoyScouts/AdvancementandAwards/MeritBadges.aspx
Before beginning any merit badge, make sure that you have checked this site to ensure that you have the current, accurate, and official requirements.
14. Merit Badge Pamphlets: It’s important that the Counselor and the Scout have and use the most current merit badge pamphlets. The content supports each of the requirements and is provided by experts in each subject. Many of the pamphlets also have an introductory “Note to the Counselor” that informs counselors of safety considerations as well as any training or special qualifications that might be needed for presenting merit badge activities. These notes represent part of the Boy Scouts of America’s risk management plan, and counselors are expected to understand and work with them. Approximately one third of the merit badges and pamphlets are updated each year, so make sure you are working with the most current pamphlet.
15. Approval Signatures: Counselors agree to sign off only requirements that Scouts have actually and personally completed. NOTE: The only way the Counselor can know that every Scout—actually and personally—completed the requirements as stated, is that the counselor must meet with each Scout (and is buddy) individually, which would be a difficult task to accomplish at a merit badge event.
16. Merit Badges are Important Learning Experiences for Scouts: The counselor introduces the Scout to subjects that may lead to a career choice or to a lifetime hobby.
17. Buddy System: BSA policy requires that a Scout present himself to a counselor with a buddy being present; however, his buddy can be a friend or relative, male or female, adult or youth, it does not have to be a Scout.
18. FUN: The most effective merit badge events are fun: Scouts will be most likely to learn in a FUN and interactive environment.
19. Preparation Is Essential: Requirements that cannot reasonably be completed during the event should be required to be done as prerequisites. Event organizers should announce all prerequisite expectations at the time of registration. Scouts are encouraged to complete the prerequisites before attending the merit badge event. Registration timing and pre-event scheduling, should permit Scouts the time necessary to complete the prerequisites and to read the merit badge pamphlet before the event. Walk-ins must receive a partial unless there is evidence of completed prerequisite work.
20. Prerequisites: Counselors agree not to assume prerequisites have been completed without some level of evidence that the work has been done. Pictures and letters from other merit badge counselors or unit leaders are the best form of prerequisite documentation when the actual work done cannot be brought to the merit badge event. Your responsibility, in addition to coaching, is to satisfy yourself that the requirements have been met. Question the Scout, and if you have any doubts, contact the adult who signed the statement. If prerequisite work is not complete to the satisfaction of the counselor, the requirements must not be approved, resulting in a partial.
21. Individual Attention to Each Scout: Attention must be given to each Scout’s projects and his fulfillment of all requirements. The Counselor must know that the Scout he is working with—actually and personally—completed each requirement as stated before he/she signs off the requirement.
22. Partially Complete Merit Badges: If all merit badge requirements are not completed during the event, the counselor should provide clear documentation of which requirements were successfully completed, and which ones remain to be completed on the Merit Badge Application (the Blue Card.)
23. Availability of Counselor after the Event: Counselors should provide contact information, and offer a means of communication for follow-up, both by scouts and by adults or counselors who may later work with the scout in connection with the merit badge.
24. Reporting Merit Badge Counseling Concerns: There is a mechanism for unit leaders or others to report concerns to the council advancement committee on summer camp merit badge programs, group instructional events, and any other merit badge counseling issues—especially in instances where it is believed that BSA procedures were not followed. See the Guide to Advancement, “Reporting Merit Badge Counseling Concerns,” 11.1.0.0. on page 79.

25. Fees: Although charging fees for merit badge fairs, clinics, or similar events is not prohibited, any fees charged should be limited to recovering the costs related to presenting the opportunity, Merit Badge events must not be fundraisers.
26. Best Practices:
a.    Event organizers are encouraged to retain a list of attendees, including documentation showing which requirements were completed, specific to each Scout.
b.    Units should be encouraged to provide adult leadership for Scouts attending from their unit.

APPENDIX A
BSA Advancement Policies as noted in the Guide to Advancement. (Review the Guide to Advancement for full and complete context)
2.0.0.1 It Is a Method—Not an End in Itself
Advancement is simply a means to an end, not an end in itself. It is one of several methods designed to help unit leadership carry out the aims and mission of the Boy Scouts of America. See the inside front cover for text of the aims and mission.

2.0.0.3 Personal Growth Is the Primary Goal
Scouting skills—what a young person learns to do—are important, but not as important as the primary goal of personal growth achieved through participating in a unit program. The concern is for total, well-rounded development. Age-appropriate surmountable hurdles are placed before members, and as they face these challenges they learn about themselves and gain confidence.

2.0.0.2 Advancement Is Based on Experiential Learning
Everything done to advance—to earn ranks and other awards and recognition—is designed to educate or to otherwise expand horizons. Members learn and develop according to a standard. This is the case from the time a member joins, and then moves through, the programs of Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, and Venturing or Sea Scouts.

Experiential learning is the key: Exciting and meaningful activities are offered, and education happens. Learning comes from doing. For example, youth may read about first aid, hear it discussed, and watch others administer it, but they will not learn it until they practice it. Rushing a Scout through requirements to obtain a badge is not the goal. Advancement should be a natural outcome of a well-rounded unit program, rich in opportunities to work toward the ranks.

7.0.0.1 The Benefits of Merit Badges
There is more to merit badges than simply providing opportunities to learn skills. There is more to them than an introduction to lifetime hobbies, or the inspiration to pursue a career—though these invaluable results occur regularly. It all begins with a Scout’s initial interest and effort in a merit badge subject, followed by a discussion with the unit leader or designated assistant, continues through meetings with a counselor, and culminates in advancement and recognition. It is an uncomplicated process that gives a Scout the confidence achieved through overcoming obstacles. Social skills improve. Self-reliance develops. Examples are set and followed. And fields of study and interest are explored beyond the limits of the school classroom.

7.0.1.1 Qualifications of Counselors
People serving as merit badge counselors must maintain registration with the Boy Scouts of America as merit badge counselors and be approved by their local council advancement committee for each of their badges. This includes those working at summer camp or in any other group instruction setting, or providing Web-based opportunities. See “Counselor Approvals and Limitations,” 7.0.1.4. There are no exceptions.

For example, Scoutmasters must register as merit badge counselors and be approved for any badge they wish to counsel or sign off in their troop. Before working with Scouts, counselors must have completed Youth Protection training within the last two years. They must be men or women of good character, age 18 or older, and recognized as having the skills and education in the subjects they cover. It is important, too, they have good rapport with Scout-age boys and unit leaders.

7.0.3.2 Group Instruction
It is acceptable—and sometimes desirable—for merit badges to be taught in group settings. This often occurs at camp and merit badge midways, fairs, clinics, or similar events, and even online through webinars. These can be efficient methods, and interactive group discussions can support learning. Group instruction can also be attractive to “guest experts” assisting registered and approved counselors. Slide shows, skits, demonstrations, panels, and various other techniques can also be employed, but as any teacher can attest, not everyone will learn all the material. Because of the importance of individual attention and personal learning in the merit badge program, group instruction should be focused on those scenarios where the benefits are compelling.

There must be attention to each individual’s projects and his fulfillment of all requirements. We must know that every Scout—actually and personally—completed them. If, for example, a requirement uses words like “show,” “demonstrate,” or “discuss,” then every Scout must do that. It is unacceptable to award badges on the basis of sitting in classrooms watching demonstrations, or remaining silent during discussions.

It is sometimes reported that Scouts who have received merit badges through group instructional settings have not fulfilled all the requirements. To offer a quality merit badge program, council and district advancement committees should ensure the following are in place for all group instructional events.
•    A culture is established for merit badge group instructional events that partial completions are acceptable expected results.
•    A guide or information sheet is distributed in advance of events that promotes the acceptability of partials, explains how merit badges can be finished after events, lists merit badge prerequisites, and provides other helpful information that will establish realistic expectations for the number of merit badges that can be earned at an event.
•    Merit badge counselors are known to be registered and approved.
•    Any guest experts or guest speakers, or others assisting who are not registered and approved as merit badge counselors, do not accept the responsibilities of, or behave as, merit badge counselors, either at a group instructional event or at any other time. Their service is temporary, not ongoing.
•    Counselors agree to sign off only requirements that Scouts have actually and personally completed.
•    Counselors agree not to assume that stated prerequisites for an event have been completed without some level of evidence that the work has been done. Pictures and letters from other merit badge counselors or unit leaders are the best form of prerequisite documentation when the actual work done cannot be brought to the camp or site of the merit badge event.
•    There is a mechanism for unit leaders or others to report concerns to a council advancement committee on summer camp merit badge programs, group instructional events, and any other merit badge counseling issues— especially in instances where it is believed BSA procedures are not followed. See “Reporting Merit Badge Counseling Concerns,” 11.1.0.0.

“It is permissible for guest speakers, guest experts, or others who are not merit badge counselors to assist in the counseling process. Those providing such assistance must be under the direction of a registered and approved counselor who is readily available onsite, and provides personal supervision to assure all applicable BSA policies and procedures—including those related to BSA Youth Protection—are in place and followed.”
7.0.4.8 Unofficial Worksheets and Learning Aids
Worksheets and other materials that may be of assistance in earning merit badges are available from a variety of places including unofficial sources on the Internet and even troop libraries. Use of these aids is permissible as long as the materials can be correlated with the current requirements that Scouts must fulfill. Completing “worksheets” may suffice where a requirement calls for something in writing, but this would not work for a requirement where the Scout must discuss, tell, show, or demonstrate, etc. Note that Scouts shall not be required to use these learning aids in order to complete a merit badge.

7.0.4.10 Charging Fees for Merit Badge Opportunities
Council, district, and multiunit merit badge fairs have become increasingly popular over the past several years. While they provide a service to our Scouts, they should not be presented as fundraisers. There are many other methods available to raise the funds necessary to operate the Scouting programs at any level.
Although charging fees for merit badge fairs, clinics, or similar events is not prohibited, any fees charged should be limited to recovering the costs related to presenting the opportunity. Local councils and districts may also include in the fee a reasonable contribution to the council’s overhead and administrative costs. Using merit badge events as fundraisers, however, is discouraged, and councils may exercise their authority not to approve them.
In considering whether to approve outside organizations, businesses, or individuals for the presentation of merit badge opportunities, the same limitations should be placed on fees. Any fees should cover only those costs directly related to presenting the opportunity. Such costs could include wages an organization or business pays to employees who present classes. However, if employees are to serve as merit badge counselors and sign blue cards, they must take Youth Protection training, become registered, submit to a background check, and be approved by the council advancement committee.
The Boy Scouts of America is proud of its tradition of volunteer service. It does not endorse merit badge opportunities where fees are paid directly to individuals, or to groups of individuals, especially if the individuals are looking to Scouting as a source of income that could be considered taxable. The council advancement committee should not approve merit badge counselors who will not honor the tradition of volunteer service.
7.0.4.8 Unofficial Worksheets and Learning Aids
Worksheets and other materials that may be of assistance in earning merit badges are available from a variety of places including unofficial sources on the Internet and even troop libraries. Use of these aids is permissible as long as the materials can be correlated with the current requirements that Scouts must fulfill. Completing “worksheets” may suffice where a requirement calls for something in writing, but this would not work for a requirement where the Scout must discuss, tell, show, or demonstrate, etc. Note that Scouts shall not be required to use these learning aids in order to complete a merit badge.