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  • That pesky Eagle Project

    I have read numerous tales of woe over the years in these threads, and I've observed my share of them first hand as well...all of them surrounding some concern or conflict arising from some part of the procedure for the Eagle Project or else the project itself.
    I earned my Eagle rank and never did a project. There were a lot of others who did the same thing at that time because there was no such requirement. So I'm wondering...has anyone considered that perhaps this requirement isn't needed? What are the actual benefits to the boy from this requirement as opposed to doing everything else? What is lost if that requirement went away? What would be gained?
    I'd be interested in reading the various views on this.

  • #2
    Having watched my oldest son do his Eagle project, and talking to my brother about my nephew's Eagle project, I think there are a lot of things that are taught by the project. First, is dealing with bureaucracy--in my son's case, the troop bureaucracy, the church bureaucracy and the District bureaucracy. Second, dealing with adults outside of scouts at a totally different level. My son went to a parish council meeting, and presented his plans. This gave a 14 yr old the chance to basically deal with adults as an adult. He had to present his plan (and several alternatives) in front of about 20 adults, not all of who he knew personally. Third, the chance to lead on a fairly big project. My son built a walking Stations of the cross, which involved raising money, then building "bird house" type housings for 14 bas-relief depictions of the Passion of Jesus, and installing these on 6' 4x4 posts installed around the perimeter of the church. He led a group of 11-14 yr olds to do this, and did a great job. IMHO, the Eagle project is a way for teens to guide meaningful projects, which is something that no other area (outside of scouting) really encourages teens to do. I would reduce the number of merit badges before getting rid of the Eagle project.


    • #3
      I spend a lot of time working with boys from TF on doing "projects". They can take the lead on any activity the patrol and/or troop may be doing.

      I had one boy research a patrol-method summer camp, register the troop, sign up all the boys, arrange for MB's, line up transportation and generally do everything else to get the boys to the camp. This boy was a Star scout at the time, age 14, all which in the general troop operations would be done by a SM or ASM.

      I had another boy run the entire popcorn operation for one year. He did everything except sign for the popcorn when it arrived. It was the most effective popcorn sale ever done by the troop. The boy was not yet FC, nor old enough to go to Philmont.

      Each of these activities required more leadership than most Eagle projects out there. For Eagle projects, both of my Eagles were warned by council that the scope of their activity was too big for an Eagle project, 1) Clean out an 4 acres of swamp with pond to restore back into city park land status (even had a food tent to serve the workers who came to help out), and 2) all the outside landscaping on a new mission church that was built in town, clean up construction debris, then plant trees, shrubs, and sod.

      In my estimation, the two Eagle projects were a great benefit to the sponsoring organizations, but did nothing to show what an Eagle project would/could do for advancement. These boys had done many "Eagle type" projects during the course of their normal scout development. The church cleanup/landscaping Eagle was the same boy that 2 years earlier did the Summer Camp project.

      From what I have seen in the leadership development of Eagles coming out today, the project did nothing to prove anything in terms of putting together their leadership skills on a project. Over the course of the past 30 years I have seen more adult leadership done on many of the Eagle projects than the boy himself, yet they got credit for the project.

      If they wish to drop the Eagle project requirement, fine. I don't have a problem with that, but that doesn't mean it's not business as usual in my troop.

      By the way, I haven't got the paperwork in on my new troop, but the boys are already lining up two activities, 1) campout (the boy taking this one already knows of cabin availability and cost and is working on menus at the present time), and 2) swimming at the local pool. The boy doing this will be calling the school to find out open swim times and costs). Most of these boys crossed over from Webelos in January. None of them are Scout rank as of yet but all are 11 years old.

      Personally, for me leadership Eagle projects really don't mean a whole lot.



      • #4
        I think the quality of projects depends on the Scout and his unit. Packsaddle, what would you replace The project with? If anything?


        • packsaddle
          packsaddle commented
          Editing a comment
          Well, I don't know that I WOULD replace know me...a seething mass of indecision. I just observe the wide range of successes and failures associated with 'the project'. I have observed some boys who, from outward appearance and from personal conversations, didn't get much benefit from the project. It was a chore that they suffered through because it was the only thing left separating them from the rank. This not so much a result of a bad attitude as it was their intense shyness with respect to working with others. They were GREAT backpacking companions, enjoying the quiet and solitude while displaying excellent outdoorsmanship at all times. They were, in many respects, 'uber'scouts....except that they hated having to manage other people and the details of doing a project like this. Just a different personality type, I guess. They will probably never be administrators or managers. But I'd pick them for a survival situation every time.

        • Kudu
          Kudu commented
          Editing a comment
          It is a testament to the destructive power of Wood Badge that neither of you thought of Baden-Powell's version of an "Eagle Project" as an alternative to paperwork leadership skills that most outdoor boys hate. You know, 50 miles of backpacking or canoe.

      • #5
        I'll take the contrarian view.

        I think the Eagle project has become over emphasized and way to focused on bureaucratic project management rather than actual service to the community. I've had more than a few members of the community ask me why the Eagle candidates on projects weren't "doing" the project rather than just "coordinating" or "managing." We talk in terms of leadership but the reality is the current Eagle Project workbook has absolutely nothing to do with leadership and everything to do with project management. I'd be happier to see projects scaled WAY back and see some service from the youth rather than having them fill out a 40-odd page project management workbook and report.

        I also fear that Boards of Review can get bogged down so badly in the project that they fail to see the whole character of the scout and the accomplishments they've made along the way.


        • #6
          I think we should fess up that Eagles have to earn 23 meritbadges, including the required Project Design and Project Management. Then all of those Eagle advisors could be MBCs for either/both badges.


          • #7
            In many ways, I can see a lot of benefit in the project; but there are also issues of concern in the prep and actual culmination of it. I would definitely like to see the paperwork simplified, ridding the candidate of about 75% of padding that usually serves little or no purpose. One page should easily allow a synopsis of a proposal. The list of materials, funding, and manpower should be as simple as possible also, with an option for clarification on the part of the board if needed. Actual working the project again only needs a very brief description, possibly even as picture captions in some cases. Included would be any notes regarding changes required and why, and possibly unusual leadership challenges. But that too should be as terse as possible. In many troops, the project is the greatest challenge the scout encounters, and how he handles it is very reflective of his character.

            I too did not have to do a project, and often wonder if I would have finished if I had been required to do so. Most likely I would have, but everything in advancement prior to that was far more challenging than what I see today, especially becoming a First Class, which generally met the title when completed. The higher ranks were mostly leadership and merit badges as they are today, with an emphasis on leadership. The required merit badges in the 50's and early 60's were similar, but the others, due to their categories, gave you a broader experience it seems to me looking back. We also had to have reference letters for advancement to Star and Life, as well as Eagle. And that meant the scout getting them from important individuals in the community and within their circle and family. My board was made up of those same type of individuals with only one actual registered scouter sitting on it. Seems to me there was a sheriff, the superintendent of Joshua Tree NM, a marine colonel, and a couple of others besides the troop or district rep.

            With that said, I would not get rid of it. But I would find a way to fix the bureaucratic overkill. I also would work to strengthen the lower rank requirements and how they are passed. The lower rank TLC sitting as a board would be reinstated, with just an adult overseer to protect against hazing or unfairness, but with no actual vote. That is one of the least wise decisions National has made in my opinion. Also, while actual complete retesting would not be allowed, some spot checking should be in my opinion.

            But, I am just one of the old guys living in another world sometimes.


            • #8
              Originally posted by packsaddle View Post
              I earned my Eagle rank and never did a project. There were a lot of others who did the same thing at that time because there was no such requirement.
              To round out the convo, what were the requirements at the time?


              • skeptic
                skeptic commented
                Editing a comment
                Locate a fifties era handbook and take a look. My books were the one with an Indian rising from a fire, 1952-59 and the last Rockwell cover with the lanky scout walking with a camp in the background, 1959-63 or so. Some interesting ideas that are still useful today in those books. The first one actually was written in 1948, but they changed the cover in 1952 and made a few other internal changes.

            • #9
              Concur, the project has become a big paperwork drill. Too much red tape, that stifles the spirit of even the best projects.

              There should be much more latitude and less layers of bureaucracy.

              But if the requirement to do a project would suddenly vanish, I'd be fine with that too. As Packsaddle pointed out, there was a time a project wasn't required. Didn't hurt the Eagles or the BSA none.

              Might be apples/oranges/off topic: why do a ticket in WB? WBers graduated from their courses and got beads, for decades, without the ticket. Same or different?


              • #10
                Instead of following along with some adult's idea of a service project, I would think it would be far better to have the Eagle candidate take the lead, organize and run 10 service projects, none of which require a whole lot of paperwork. At the board of review they could ask what their favorite two projects were and what they did to organize and run the project. Far more hands on, a lot more benefit to the community and far less stupid paperwork for everyone involved. This would also require the Eagle candidates to generate service projects that the other scouts in the troop/patrol could benefit by getting service project hours for advancement.



                • #11
                  Current Eagle projects teach a disdain for paperwork. A candidate learns that filling out almost useless forms is more important that actually doing something good that helps their community.
                  To serve the boy in his adult future, devaluing bureaucracy is a good thing. To build good character in our men, Eagle projects do little.

                  It will never happen, but can you imagine an Eagle Vigil?
                  Go to a solitary location and camp alone for 5 days.
                  Take food for 3 days. No electronics.

                  Study the flames of your campfire and contemplate your future. Write a five year plan for:
                  1- How are you going to improve yourself and become more self-reliant?
                  2- What are you gong to do to help your family?
                  3- Where do you want to go with your faith?

                  Find 5 types of plants that you are unfamiliar with. Identify them when you return.
                  Build a survival shelter. Sleep your last night in that shelter using only materials and bedding that you accrued from the woods.
                  Supplement your food with edible plants and protein you acquire from nature.

                  That's the type of experience that a young man can look back upon and use to support his future character.
                  Last edited by JoeBob; 02-21-2014, 09:07 AM.


                  • DuctTape
                    DuctTape commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I like it. At the very least it would force scouts into the out-of-doors and be a real test of the skills they picked up along their journey. I would include in the report a reflection on their Scouting journey up to this point; what they learned, how it was used and how it will be used in their 5 -year plan.

                    Another thought... why for only Eagle? Why not have the scout build up to this from 1st class. A one-nighter for FC, 2-nighter for Star, etc...
                    Last edited by DuctTape; 02-23-2014, 02:23 PM. Reason: additional thought

                  • Kudu
                    Kudu commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Baden-Powell called such First Class, Star, Life and Eagle projects "Journeys" and "Expeditions," the final test of each rank. However, they were based on mileage as well as nights, with the equivalent to Eagle being 50 miles through wild country on foot or afloat, or 200 miles by horseback.


                • #12
                  This is so true. Had a scout who was all excited about a potential project, but seeing the mountain of paperwork required just took the life out of it for him. Not sure what the process is trying to teach other than a disdain for paperwork and maybe a lesson in how to work in middle management or apply for a government grant.


                  • #13
                    As a scout currently working on my Eagle Project, I think there is way to much paperwork to be done. It seems like a waste of time to me.They either need to cut out all the paperwork or get rid of it all together. I really like JoeBob's idea I would love to be able to do that. It would not only test your skills but also your commitment to scouts and make you really think about your life. Of course it will never happen which is unfortunate.


                    • jblake47
                      jblake47 commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Why will it never happen?

                      What's to keep a person from doing it, not for advancement credit, but because of the value of what one would learn?

                      It really irks me at time when scouts aspire to do nothing more than just the minimum, no more, no less attitude towards advancement. Even though that's a BSA policy rule, how many Eagle scouts out there brag about having done the minimum, no more, no less?

                      OA does the overnighter thingy as a token to such an effort, but why not do a real one? Not for credit, but just for your own benefit. By the way, there is no BSA rule forbidding it. You don't need 2-deep leadership to go along, just do a plan, map out your location, get parent's permission, and then just go. You could even decide to take along your cell phone in case of an emergency. The nice thing about it, it's your vigil, YOU decide what is necessary for it to be successful. If you need a starting point in your planning, look up the First Class requirement from the early years of Scouting.


                    • nextgenscouter1
                      nextgenscouter1 commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I mean as an official BSA requirement/activity it would never happen.

                    • Kudu
                      Kudu commented
                      Editing a comment
                      "The real Patrol Leader will...find that the requirements are not something separate from Scouting. On the contrary, Scouting is the Requirements " (William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt).


                  • #14
                    Eagle in 1963. No "project", but we had to give evidence of "service to the community".
                    I can see the project notebook as a guide for boys that have had no chance to plan something (I built birdhouses and critter pens and put up shelves and such ) and build it . It is a "paint by the numbers" kind of thing (do they still sell those things?) for someone who has not "painted" before. I favor the project, think the idea is fine, helps get the Scout out of his comfort zone. I have complaint with the Scout and his leader that wait until age 17 10/12s and try to find something to do RIGHT NOW. Blood drive, book collection, puppet show at the orphanage, super one time park cleanup, I have seen /heard of alot of last minute projects that could have , in good conscience, been denied but were okayed out of a charitable notion, I guess. "Too large inscope" fora Eagle Project? Only if it doesn't succed can one make that judgement. "Too small " for an Eagle project? Very often, but it depends on the Scout, doesn't it?
                    Last edited by SSScout; 03-05-2014, 12:54 PM.


                    • #15
                      The Eagle Project used to be a way to see how the Scout thinks, how is planning and leadership ability are. I was Eagle Review Chairman for a number of years and have been the Eagle Coordinator for the troop. When they changed the form, dumbed it down in my opinion, they made it to where a kid can slap anything down on a piece of paper and turn it in. The project helps make sure the Beneficiary gets what they want and gives the Scout a taste of what he may have to do later in life.