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robert12

How to get more out of Eagle Projects

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First a bit of background.  -I am an Eagle Scout and I have served as a district advancement chair where I approved Eagle Projects and as well as chaired EBORs, and I currently am a EBOR member for my district and serve on our councils advancement committee.   I have reviewed dozens of Eagle projects either on the front end as a district approver or on the back end as a EBOR member.  I have seen some really good projects and some that were "eh" at best.

I was having a conversation with a fellow leader and his wife about the quality of some of the Eagle projects of late out of our district.   I gave them the hypothetical example of a project involving planting a handful of flowers at the base of a flag pole at a volunteer fire department. I told them this would be an acceptable project if a few conditions were met:

  • The candidate gave leadership to two individuals, one scout dug the holes and the other one planted the flowers. 
  • Flowers had never been planted at the fire department, so it would not be viewed as routine maintenance
  • It passes the five tests laid out in the G2A during the approval process:
    • The project provides sufficient opportunity to meet the requirement.
    • The project appears to be feasible.
    • Safety issues will be addressed.
    • Action steps for further detailed planning are included.
    • The young man is on the right track with a reasonable chance for a positive experience

When you think of an Eagle project this is not what you would normally think of, but with the current rules in the G2A and the Eagle Project Workbook this would have to be an acceptable project.

How do you get more out of Eagle projects yet stay within the guidelines that we have to follow?  I think one key is with the unit appovers, they need to be urging scouts to do more.  But what is "enough" and how do you define that without crossing any of the aforementioned guideline?

 

Edited by robert12

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I think you could use "scale and impact" to get more out of Eagle projects:

GTA section 9.0.2.11 Routine Labor
"But the real test has to do with scale and impact."


Navigating the Eagle Scout Service Project; Information for Project Beneficiaries
"Routine labor, like a service a Scout may provide as part of his daily life such as mowing or weeding a church lawn, is not normally appropriate.  However, if project scale and impact are sufficient to require planning and leadership, then it may be considered."


Planting a handful of flowers at the base of a flagpole doesn't sound like it would provide much in the way of scale or impact (or planning and leadership, for that matter).  However, a bigger landscaping project probably would.

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I agree with with the quote @Thunderbird found. Anything can scale up to the point of requiring leadership. Planting 6 flowers is easy. Planting 600 requires leadership.

15 hours ago, robert12 said:

 

  • The candidate gave leadership to two individuals, one scout dug the holes and the other one planted the flowers. 

I suppose it's difficult to measure leadership. At least one way is to ask what would happen if the leader wasn't there. In this case a Webelos scout could have decided the flag pole needed flowers, asked mom to buy a pack of 6, and planted them. So what did the scout in your example provide? All he did was make a task list that was completely unnecessary.

Another way of looking at a project is asking how much preparation went into it. We just rejected a project that involved painting stain onto a wood shack. The stain and brushes were provided. All the scout had to do was get the labor to show up. We asked the scout to ask the benefactor if there weren't more things that needed to be done in the area around the shack. It turns out they have drainage issues. That requires figuring out possible solutions, talking to the city about the best way to solve the problem, working with the benefactor, asking for donations. It's substantial. And the shack will get stained.

There's also vision. The vision is typically solving some problem. The plan fills in the details of how to solve the problem. In the flower planting case there really aren't any details to fill in. If the vision is to plant flowers than I'd ask why? If the vision is to make the landscaping look nicer than it's easy to show that the plan, adding some flowers, isn't going to have much impact. But doing a landscape design of the entire area around the flagpole is much more substantial.

We have run into many project proposals that just didn't have much to them. In every case we've been able to work with the scout to expand the vision to be something they were proud of. The too simple proposals are usually just a case of a scout not caring and wanting to be done with it. And that's a good description of a project that has no leadership.

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I think it's very important that issues be addressed on the FRONT end of the projects.  So, encourage the scouts to think big.

At the same time, Eagle projects are not necessarily gigantic projects.  One Scout builds 3 picnic tables.  That's OK.  Another Scout raises $10k to place a professionally made electronic sign in front of the fire department.  Another scout gets a handful of guys to pull out invasive species weeds in a large park area for a work day of invasive species removal. 

It's up to the adults to make sure that the project is meaty enough, and at the same time, make sure they are not forcing a scout to jump throrugh too many hoops to make him unsuccessful.  I was recently frustrated when a person in our Troop delayed a Scout's project to build a gardening structure, because he wanted to make sure that the gardening structure would be used effectively by the beneficiary, but that was a large scope add, to bascially create the gardening club to support the structure. I think they ended up compromising, and the beneficiary is going to handle the future use, the Scout was planning and managing the construction. And that is OK.

You have to imagine it like it's your kid's project.  Are they going to learn things?  It has to be at the right level where they are learning but it doesn't have to be award-winning, just helpful to the community and meaningful for the beneficiary. 

 

 

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17 hours ago, robert12 said:

But what is "enough" and how do you define that without crossing any of the aforementioned guideline?

I think "enough" depends on the scout.  Part of what the project should do is challenge the scout where he is in maturity and ability.  Now, that's going to lead to perceived inequities in the level of projects but that's a-ok.  Our goal isn't to stroke parent's egos, it's to support a boy's development.  To be honest, the Eagle project, as currently construed, is bureaucratic dragon that should be slain.  But that's just one guys opinion.....

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At the end of the CoH, our TC's Eagle advisor was invited to speak, gave an excellent description of how he counseled scouts with their projects. It was excellent, but I fear that I would misquote him if I tried to list his all of key points, but I really liked one bit of advice to the boys (which, indirectly was a hint to parents): pick a beneficiary who excites you and a project that you'd be proud of.

@robert12, don't lose the forest for the trees. Visit roundtables and encourage your leaders to think out of the checkbox and on the above terms.

At a local park, I made an orienteering course whose controls were former Eagle projects of the troop, some more than two decades ago. I sent the map to former SMs to double-check my way-points and make sure I didn't leave out any scouts or mistake their projects for someone else's. They were thrilled to see how their troop literally dotted that park!  So challenge scouts: years from now ... whose map will your project be on?

P.S. - On my "to do" list is a map covering our community and the many projects by scouts at large.

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1 hour ago, qwazse said:

 

At a local park, I made an orienteering course whose controls were former Eagle projects of the troop, some more than two decades ago. I sent the map to former SMs to double-check my way-points and make sure I didn't leave out any scouts or mistake their projects for someone else's. They were thrilled to see how their troop literally dotted that park!  So challenge scouts: years from now ... whose map will your project be on?

 

You reminded me of my eagle project from almost 40 years ago. The unmarked path in the park which I organized its rehab and constructed erosion controls is now a marked trail with a name. It now is also literally on the maps. Thanks for conjuring up an old memory. 

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And here is another reference from the Guide to Advancement section 9.0.2.3 “Plan, Develop …”

"A good test of any project is to evaluate its complexity.  In the case of a blood drive, for example, elements of challenge and complexity can be added so there is a clear demonstration of planning, development, and leadership."

 

Planting a handful of flowers at the base of a flagpole would not be challenging or complex, and it wouldn't require much (if any) in the way of planning or leadership.  However, the example that @MattR  gave shows how a Scout could add challenge and complexity to his project.

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3 hours ago, qwazse said:

At the end of the CoH, our TC's Eagle advisor was invited to speak, gave an excellent description of how he counseled scouts with their projects. It was excellent, but I fear that I would misquote him if I tried to list his all of key points, but I really liked one bit of advice to the boys (which, indirectly was a hint to parents): pick a beneficiary who excites you and a project that you'd be proud of.

@robert12, don't lose the forest for the trees. Visit roundtables and encourage your leaders to think out of the checkbox and on the above terms.

At a local park, I made an orienteering course whose controls were former Eagle projects of the troop, some more than two decades ago. I sent the map to former SMs to double-check my way-points and make sure I didn't leave out any scouts or mistake their projects for someone else's. They were thrilled to see how their troop literally dotted that park!  So challenge scouts: years from now ... whose map will your project be on?

P.S. - On my "to do" list is a map covering our community and the many projects by scouts at large.

Great advice on the beneficiary.  Don't limit scouts to physical maps!  We've all seen great projects that leave no trace on the land behind them.

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You can have a big impact without spending a lot of money I learned. I did my project last year and I spent around $500, with all of it being donations. I built two moving carts out of trek wood, put stone down around the building, build a horse shoe built, and some little stuff. The beneficiary is a adult day center, and was so excited just for these little things since it helps them move activity to activity. The stone helps with drainage and improved the overall look of the building and more.

On the other note, I know a Eagle who painted a basement and all the paint chipped up a week later, and spent around the same as me if I can remember.

I also dislike it when Scouts just start going to random places and asking if they need anything done, just desparate to get a project. I wish more had ideas on what they want to do.

I feel that if the project had a meaning to it, even being small, can still have a huge impact on someone.

Edited by ItsBrian
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