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mrkstvns

Eagle-required merit badges that have alternatives --- an observation

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A scout must earn at least 21 merit badges for the Eagle rank. 13 of these must be Eagle-required.  Of those 13, 10 are specific badges and 3 have alternatives.

It's interesting to note that in all 3 cases, the first listed merit badge is always chosen most often by the boys (according to the popularity lists published in Scouting magazine).

  • Swimming is 9 times more popular than Hiking and 12 times more popular than Cycling (in 2017, Swimming was earned 62,057 times, Hiking 7,084 and Cycling 5,742)
  • Environmental Science is 7 times more popular than Sustainability (55,703 vs. 7,295)
  • Emergency Preparedness is twice as popular as Lifesaving (43,351 vs. 20,748)

I wonder what conclusions we might draw from this...

 

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1 minute ago, RememberSchiff said:

The most popular option is the easiest. 

Perhaps....though I think Lifesaving might be easier for a lot of scouts because it is usually offered at summer camp (though it requires good Swimming and First Aid skills).

As a MBC for Sustainability, I don't find it to be a lot harder than E-Science, though it does require keeping logs for up to 4 weeks, so nobody is ever going to come out of a class without a partial. E-Science though can usually be completed at summer camp without partials (though typically as 2 class blocks), so from that perspective, yeah, I guess E-Science might be perceived as "easier" than Sustainability.

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My gut feelings...

  • Swimming over Hiking
    • Swimming MB is 9 times easier than hiking.  Absolutely true ...
    • I'm surprised cycling isn't more popular than hiking.   Cycling MB is fun and can be a great troop program.  ... But there are many back-packing troops.
  • Env Sci MB over Sustainability
    • Env Sci MB is not exciting, but a "sustainability" MB sounds duller than dull.  I can't believe a scout would ever choose it.
    • Troops have a history of pushing Env Science MB.  Sustainability MB is newer.  
  • Emergency prep over Lifesaving
    • I'm always surprised Lifesaving is not chosen more.
      • If you have Swimming MB, Lifesaving MB is just a little bit more ... aka easiest path
      • And Lifesaving MB is useful ... aka something to boast about
      • And Lifesaving MB is in the water ... aka fun.
      • And Emergency Prep MB can be very dull ... aka painful
      • And Emergency Prep MB has parts that are just out of date / old / not useful.
Edited by fred8033
  • Upvote 1

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5 minutes ago, ItsBrian said:

I must say the cycling merit badge was fun though. 😀

Hiking is pretty fun too.  Just doesn't lend itself well to a summer camp schedule because it requires  one 5-mile hike, three 10-mile hikes and one 15-mile hikes.  That's a lot of walking...

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Good points, Fred!

Cycling might be fun, but it requires several trips, plus it's not a badge that's normally offered at summer camp, hence, no easy opportunity...

I also find Em.Prep boring compared to Lifesaving, so am surprised that so many scouts prefer Em.Prep.

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I think it has to do with age. Younger scouts can easily earn swimming at year 1 or 2 at camp. Most are at the pool all the time at that age, so parents really want them to have that skill down. I remember at that age hiking and cycling were rough.

En.Vi.Sci has been around for a lot longer. Most camps have cabins chock full teaching aids for it.

I loved Lifesaving because I was also trying to advance in ARC classes at that age. And those classes provided my first real physical challenge that I thought I could overcome.

My boys were indifferent about it. One did Lifesaving, the other (because he never completed swimming early on) did E. Prep.

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Easier to find Emergency Prep merit badge classes year round. Some troops offer them in Sept which is Emergency Preparedness Month. It is also frequently offered at Merit badge universities year round. Lifesaving merit badge classes are harder to find outside of summer camp.

What I typically see is a scout takes Swimming at first summer camp. At that time , the scout is usually 11 and  without many of the Lifesaving prereqs - SC and FC requirements, swimming skill, and endurance. Before those prereqs are fulfilled, a year or more later, the scout has already earned Emergency Prep.  

 

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22 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

Emergency prep over Lifesaving

  • I'm always surprised Lifesaving is not chosen more.

 

In my summer camp, Lifesaving was tough.  Recovering the 10 lb weight in water with 6” of visibility was tough.   I was a strong swimmer but took in a fair share of water coming up as our councilor would throw the weight in a different points to make us search (without vision) at the bottom of a muddy lake.   Most of the scouts I was with never succeeded.... on second those scouts probably just did it later in a pool.... Outside of that, it was fairly easy if you are a good swimmer.

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2 minutes ago, Eagle1993 said:

In my summer camp, Lifesaving was tough.  Recovering the 10 lb weight in water with 6” of visibility was tough.   I was a strong swimmer but took in a fair share of water coming up as our councilor would throw the weight in a different points to make us search (without vision) at the bottom of a muddy lake.   Most of the scouts I was with never succeeded.... on second those scouts probably just did it later in a pool.... Outside of that, it was fairly easy if you are a good swimmer.

Times change.  When I was a scout, we did Lifesaving (and Swimming) in a lake.  All of the MB summer camps that I've seen in and around Texas have pools.  While the kids still need to retrieve weights, they have it easier than us because they don't have the added challenge of murky water.

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Swimming can be earned in a day or a week at summer camp (if the Scout knows how to swim), plus, there is some overlap with the rank requirements.  Also, many people consider learning how to swim to be an important life skill.

I know Scouts who enjoy hiking, but they don't enjoy writing, so they don't want to do a written hike plan or write a reflection after every hike.  They also don't like doing the hikes in a particular order.  There are important reasons for requiring a hike plan and doing the hikes in order of increasing distance (conditioning), but I can see why the Scouts might not want to do a bunch of writing in order to earn the hiking merit badge.

The 50 mile bike ride is a bit daunting.  Cycling also requires some equipment, which not everybody has.  Cycling is the most expensive of the Swimming / Hiking / Cycling group.

Hiking and Cycling are much more difficult than Swimming for younger / smaller Scouts.

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33 minutes ago, Thunderbird said:

Hiking and Cycling are much more difficult than Swimming for younger / smaller Scouts.

Much harder for all scouts period.  

I'm always surprised by the major difference of difficulty of the eagle merit badges.  Some are significant work.  Some are almost automatic.  

  • Upvote 2

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My son, and other scouts, really don't like swimming in the lake at summer camp. He chose to do the Hiking merit badge for that reason. I did the hikes with him. It certainly is harder than Swimming.

Cycling might be done less often due to fewer counselors, too.

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Hiking — not every troop is located conveniently near longish trails. In my state, the longest trail is 8.1 miles, and most are 2-3 miles. A Scout has to stack multiple short trails in close proximity or do a loop multiple times, and that can get old and boring real darn fast.

Livesaving - I earned this one as a younger Scout, and it dissuaded me from getting my lifeguard certification. Fighting off-slash-rescuing the burly 6’3” “drowning” aquatics director was enough for me. It was a tough badge to earn and that put many people off it.

Edited by shortridge

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