My 5 favorite merit badges I earned as a Scout

Scouting was a big part of my life from ages 6-18 or so.

I started in Tiger Cubs, which is the earliest one can join and is for boys in first grade, and earned every rank in Scouting, becoming an Eagle Scout. To this day being an Eagle Scout is one of my proudest accomplishments.

Along the way, as many know, Scouts earn merit badges once they become Boy Scouts. In order to become an Eagle Scout, one has to earn 21 merit badges; certain ones are required along with optional ones, sort of like how one takes mandatory and elective classes in college in order to graduate.

There’s nearly 150 badges one can earn—just over 300 Scouts have ever earned all the merit badges, including this bro from north Texas—and once a Scout turns 18, he can no longer earn any more merit badges or become an Eagle Scout. I certainly didn’t earn all of them, but here’s my five favorite badges I did earn—and note the silver edge vs. the green edge on each badge; silver edges mean the badge is among those required to be an Eagle Scout, and the green edges are electives.

Archery: This was maybe the easiest badge to earn because I’m somehow quite an archer despite not being a super duper great athlete. We had to make our own arrow, learn about shooting a bow and arrow, and how to string a bow, among other things. I also learned that if one is left-handed like I am, it’s much harder to find a bow that is made for lefties! I’m pretty sure I destroyed the other Scouts at summer camp who were earning this alongside me in target shooting.

Space Exploration: This one was cool because we got to shoot off model rockets and learn about the history of space exploration. Since I’m a huge aviation nerd and already knew the history of space exploration, this was an easy one to earn, too—I probably could have taught the course myself. If you or your kids are bored, try launching a model rocket sometime. It’s fun! I hope to make a multistage rocket someday. I’m sure our summer camp counselor would be proud of me.

Cycling: Apparently this is now among the required badges one earns to become an Eagle Scout, as it was not required, hence the green edge, when I was earning this badge about 25 years ago. I’m assuming it’s now an either/or deal: One can earn either Cycling or another badge to meet the requirement for becoming an Eagle Scout, as it seems odd that Cycling specifically would be required. Anyway, my dad was the counselor for this merit badge, and a bunch of us guys earned this one together. Another sport I’m somehow good at is cycling, so this also came naturally to me—not that a more difficult merit badge wouldn’t be any fun to earn; it’s just nice when you’re an average athlete at best and a merit badge is suited for you.

Indian Lore: This badge was among my favorites because we learned how to make arrowheads and fish with minimal materials just like the Native Americans in the area once did (I don’t like that I have to type “once did”). We had a counselor who was a flintknapper by trade, meaning he made arrowheads, axeheads and knives for a living out of flint—making those objects is an art that is difficult to master, and they can be sharp enough to shave with. I think Native American culture is interesting, and I even took two Native American history classes in college. While earning the badge, I can remember a close friend and I fishing in chest-high water in the lake and catching fish with just a kernel of corn. I wish life was still that simple.

Small-boat Sailing: This badge was perhaps my favorite one because it was something out of the ordinary. We learned how to navigate a sailboat that was a little smaller than the average car. We eventually became pretty good at tacking, or being able to sail perpendicular to the direction of the wind, too. Our instructor was a British guy, and my buddy and I—the same one I fished with for my Indian Lore badge—liked him so much that we invited him to our troop’s campsite for dinner one night at summer camp. At the end of the week, he gave us British mementos—I got a container of British Tic-Tacs (give the guy a break, he was really far away from home and didn’t have much on him). I somehow kept the Tic-Tacs for years and never ate any of them. I think I threw them out somewhat recently. I hang on to way too much stuff—which will likely be the subject of a future post!

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