Merit Badges are the second main area of the Boy Scout advancement program. Unlike ranks, there is a degree of choice in the merit badge program. A sub-group of merit badges are known as Eagle required merit badges. To earn Eagle Scout, most of these badges must be earned although some are "either/or" badges. The remainder of the badges help with earning ranks as well as Eagle Palms after the Eagle Scout award has been earned.
Boy Scouts may work on merit badges from the time they join a Scout troop until they turn 18 years old. There is no time limit for completion of merit badges other than age 18
Because our troop has the fast track program, we actively encourage the boys to work on and complete the requirements of the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class. However, it is understandable that some boys are excited to hit the ground running and want to earn a merit badge or two. There are two ways merit badges are earned, through a class, such as at summer camp, or on his own with a merit badge counselor signing off on the individual requirements as they are completed.
Some merit badges are more difficult than others and may be suited to the older boy. If your son wants to get started on a merit badge on his own, for the first one I suggest going to Meritbadge.org and browsing through the list of 121 badges and their lists of requirements, and looking for areas your son has a strong interest or is knowledgeable. Some merit badges that younger boys have had success completing are: Fingerprinting, Sports (if he plays competitive sports), Music (if he plays an instrument), Reading (if he reads different genres for school), Scholarship. There are also worksheets that can be printed out for the boy to fill out for the questions. A merit badge counselor will want to personally see all requirements completed; unlike in Cub Scouts when the parent could just vouch that the boy completed the requirements. The Scout is responsible for keeping the blue card while the MB is in progress and for keeping his own record of the MB once it is complete. Many scouts have lost their blue card while in progress, and therefore lost all record of their work completed.
The eagle required merit badges are badges that all Eagle Scouts must complete and have a white or silver border. The scout choice badges have a green border.
The scout can ask the Scoutmaster for help finding a counselor for the merit badge he has selected. The Troop maintains a library of MB books and the Scout can check out a MB book through the troop librarian. When the scout is ready to start, he will obtain an application, “Blue Card”, from the Scoutmaster and contact the MB counselor. The scout and the counselor will discuss how the scout plans to complete the requirements.
When the merit badge is complete, the boy will present the blue card to the MB counselor who will sign off the blue card and give two parts of the blue card back to the boy. The scout will keep one part and give the other part to the Advancement Chair who will submit it for awarding at the next Court of Honor. When the scout receives the badge at the Court of Honor, he will sew the badge to his sash, and keep the card that came with the badge. Many boys keep these cards with his copy of the blue card, in three ring binder pages usually meant for baseball card collecting. It is important for the scout to keep all this documentation in case a question arises later during his application for Eagle Rank.